With the NFL season reaching week 6 and seeing some teams put together less-than-ideal starts to their campaigns, it is time to start welcoming some of those franchises to Draft Season.
And we know what that means… It means we can start to look at prospect and team fits and start to have a little bit of fun with our mock drafts and as it is October I will look to put out one mock a month as a minimum, although as draft season draws closer they will of course become more frequent.
Before we get into the picks, remember, it’s still early in the season, the draft order used here will change and does not matter. Nor do the picks much either – Of course stocks will go up and go down over the coming months, and this series of mocks will be used as a tool to track progression and most of all, have fun. Although for clarity, I have used the Tankathon draft order.
Anway, even though I said that, you’ll probably still have your comments so let’s get into it…
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Evan Neal, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
This could be the year, a draft rarity, an offensive tackle goes first overall. Evan Neal is an athletic freak (named #1 in Bruce Feldman’s Freak List), he is experienced both in a blue-blood programme and also in multiple spots on the offensive line. Oh… and he is super-sized, super-powerful and he can block in both the pass and the run game too.
Neal is a snatcher of souls in the run game who plays with fantastic violence and leverage. He will mow down whoever is unfortunate enough to be in front of him and drive them into the ground, before carrying on up the field in search for another target to destroy.
- Detroit Lions – Malik Willis, Quarterback, Liberty
This will seem like an odd choice and super early, and it is! However, there is some logic to this pick too and a road to this happening.
Firstly, as we can tell with a offensive tackle going first overall, this QB class is, well… iffy. So it’s going to be about upside; there is no Trevor Lawrence type prospect in the 2022 draft, that much is clear through the early throes of the season. Malik Willis has the upside to be the best passer of this class in a few short years.
Willis would also arrive in a position to be able to sit for a year behind Jared Goff – The former Rams QB isn’t going anywhere with $30m worth of dead cap on his contract for the 2022 season.
- Houston Texans – Matt Corral, Quarterback, Mississippi
It is surely a matter of time until DeShaun Watson is no longer associated with the Houston Texans anymore, Tyrod Taylor is only signed through the end of the current season and Davis Mills is clearly not ready to be an NFL quarterback at this present time.
So, with what will surely be a top-10 selection in April’s draft, there is only one position that the Texans can go for here.
Matt Corral has every chance in being the first QB off the board but at this point he’s not quite elevated himself to that privileged position as of yet.
The Ole Miss QB has a huge arm, he’s got athletic traits which make him a threat on the ground and whilst he’s not got the NFL measurables in terms of height and weight, he has been really productive in Lane Kiffin’s offense with the Rebels – There are plenty of ingredients that make Corral and enticing prospect for NFL teams.
- New York Jets – Derek Stingley Jr., Cornerback, Louisiana State
I had to double and triple check the Jets’ depth chart when I was choosing this next pick, I simply could not believe how bad the cornerback room is for this team.
Giving them Kayvon Thibodeaux was the other option here, considering that regardless of position, the Jets just need good football players at this point and for my money, Stingley and Thibodeaux are the best two available in this draft. However, the fact that the Jets have recently invested in Carl Lawson and Jonathan Franklin-Myers in free agency, and Quinnen Williams in the draft, I felt that the secondary outweighed the defensive front in terms of need at this point.
Stingley is instantly the star player on the defensive side of the ball alongside Quinnen Williams, to add to the likes of Zach Wilson and Mekhi Becton on the offense. The Jets would still be a couple of cornerstone pieces away and probably expecting to continue the rebuild in 2022 but adding Stingley and having another first rounder later makes the picture nicer.
- Philadelphia Eagles via Miami Dolphins – Kayvon Thibodeax, Edge, Oregon
It feels kind of bizarre to be penning a talent like Thibodeaux as low as fifth overall here, he is that good. I think come April his absolute floor, barring injury, is five, and what affects the final draft position of each team.
Even if a team in the top 5 has picked a pass rusher recently, they will be considering taking Thibodeaux – In all honesty, he could have easily gone first overall to the Jaguars here too.
Thibodeaux is a polished player in both pass and the run games – It’s actually crazy how underrated he is as a run defender by draft fans, it might even be the better side of his game right now.
That’s not to say that the Oregon man is Jadeveon Clowney because he can get after the QB plenty too, it just speaks to how complete of an edge defender he is, and that’s special.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Kyle Hamilton, Safety, Notre Dame
If the Eagles manage to pull this pair of first round picks off I can imagine Howie Roseman will be doing backflips in the war room.
Kyle Hamilton is another top-5 talent in this class; a truly versatile back end defender who is adept at being a deep middle of the field (MOF) defender, but as well as his sideline to sideline range, he also possesses the skills to play through the trees and come downhill to make a tackle.
He can line up deep, he can line up in the box, in the slot, can cover punts on special teams, he’s 6’3 but can change direction due to oily hips and he can introduce our podcast.
The next do-it-all safety is hitting the NFL in April 2022 and whoever gets him can stop playing checkers on defense and start playing 4D chess.
- New York Giants – DeMarvin Leal, Interior Defensive Line, Texas A&M
A pick which I wouldn’t pull the trigger on if it was me, but this is the fun of a predictive mock draft, you have to get in the mind of Dave Gettleman.
Firstly, Gettleman loves a big man early in the draft, I feel like he gets fixated on the measurables and either speed or power (or both) of certain players and then once he’s decided on them he takes them regardless. Even if he could trade down a few spots and still get his guy, he’s just going to take his guy.
He’s either going to do that or take a linebacker, although that seemed to be more of a habit when he was in carolina.
I feel like Leal serves the dual purpose of firstly, satisfying Gettleman’s need to draft a big trench player, and secondly adding to the Giants front, which is actually very good.
Leal can take up the same positions on the defensive line as he currently does at A&M, aligning from 0-4i techniques, and occasionally outside of the tackles (which he did more prior to this season), which allows Dexter Lawrence to maybe be shift back to nose tackle where he can two-gap and free up Leal and Leonard Williams to get after the passer on the interior. Add in the speed of Azeez Ojulari and the Giants front is looking healthy.
Just how Gettleman would want it.
- Atlanta Falcons – Sam Howell, Quarterback, University of North Carolina
Coming into the season, Howell was probably most people’s second rated quarterback, behind Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, so there can’t be too much shock that I’m giving him to a team in the top 10.
However, the QB class is murky at this point and truth be told, I don’t love any of the prospects from what I’ve seen so far this season off the back of the previous games and film I’ve seen of these guys.
That said, this is a team/player fit that I like; Howell worked well at UNC with a strong run game in 2020 with Javonte Williams and Michael Carter providing that, Falcons HC Arthur Smith will want to install a similarly strong ground game during his time in Atlanta, he just doesn’t have the pieces yet.
Howell is also a strong armed QB who can push the ball vertically to targets like Kyle Pitts, and he also works well off play-action, so again that meshes well with what I’d imagine Smith will want to do from year 2 onwards.
Howell is also from a town in the western portion of North Carolina, so he’s from less than 200 miles from Atlanta too.
- New England Patriots – Andrew Booth Jr., Cornerback, Clemson
Andrew Booth Jr. is one of my favourite players in this entire draft class. He’s a former 5-star recruit, he’s reportedly a star in the classroom (2 time ACC-honor roll) as well as the field and he has the length, coverage ability and athletic traits to be a true number one cornerback in the NFL.
Of course, we can say this about a heck of a lot of prospects, especially at the cornerback position – If we take you back just over 12 month, the first mock draft we did before the 2020 season, as a group we mocked 8 corners in the first round as a group.
Corners catch the eye, everyone needs them and the best ones are so, so valuable.
Booth is also a fantastic open-field tackler too which again elevates him on my grading scale too, although that said, this is a predictive mock, not what I would do.
From a team building standpoint, the Patriots need to replace recently traded Stephon Gilmore and JC Jackson is an unrestricted free agent once this season is done.
- Indianapolis Colts – Treylon Burks, Wide Receiver, Arkansas
Whilst this could be seen as a surprising choice, again I think there’s a roadmap to Burks being selected as wide receiver one in the same way that I feel Malik Willis can be the first QB off the board.
The NFL in 2021 is full of creative offenses, whose coordinators and coaches are always on the lookout for versatile playmakers who can be used in a range of ways. A team’s WR1 no longer has to be a 6’3 X receiver who runs 9-routes and jumps higher than everyone else, it can be a guy like Treylong Burks who has the 6’3 frame and the 5XL glove size, but he also has the agility, the Yac-ability and he’s multiple enough to be able to line up both outside and in the slot.
Burks is just as capable of taking a screen or a swing pass and creating for himself as he is making an acrobatic catch down the field.
He will need to expand his route tree at the NFL level but I think Burks has every possibility of being an all around offensive weapon in the pros. Let’s look at what guys can or could do.
- Miami Dolphins via San Francisco 49ers – Darian Kinnard, Offensive Tackle, Kentucky
The Dolphins have spent a lot of day one and day two draft capital in their offensive line over the past few years; Austin Jackson, Liam Eichenberg, Robert Hunt and Michael Deiter, as well as day three picks on Solomon Kindley and Greg Little.
The issue is the Dolphins are no closer to a solution for their line as a whole and it may have also cost them their QB because as things stand from a confidence standpoint, Tua Tagovailoa looks shot to pieces when he’s playing, and how much longer will Miami persist with the Sophomore QB? Especially since rumours of a trade for DeShaun Watson just won’t go away.
Miami needs to remodel the offensive line, so picking firstly, a good offensive lineman and secondly, a lineman with versatility would be a great place to start, Kinnard has that guard/tackle flexibility and is one of the better prospects in the class.
Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt and Liam Eichenberg are all too new to cut bait on, so the right side needs some attention. Kinnard and Hunt could form a hugely violent partnership on the right side – Whilst the line isn’t performing at the moment, those four could be a decent combination for whoever is throwing the passes in the coming years.
- New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks – Adam Anderson, Edge, Georgia
Adam Anderson was a bit part player in his previous seasons with the Bulldogs but now he’s into a full-time starting role he’s exploded and become a really key piece of what is an unbelievable unit.
Anderson is an explosive edge rusher with excellent bend and burst, with the ability to turn the corner and get to the quarterback. Teaming Anderson up with the aforementioned Carl Lawson, Quinnen Williams and Jonathan Franklin-Myers gives the Jets the foundations of a really young front seven who can begin to put consistent pressure on opposing QBs – Something a defense-minded HC like Robert Saleh had when he was calling defense in San Francisco.
Stingley and Anderson to kick off the draft, that’s a pair of defenders with a really high ceiling.
- Washington Football Team – Jaxon Kirkland, Offensive Tackle, Washington
A pick that has been made with pure upside in mind – Jaxon Kirkland has all the length in the world at 6’6 and whilst he’s maybe slightly slender, he has the frame to put on more weight.
He’s strong, has a decent anchor and he can move in space – Everything you would like in a rookie lineman.
Kirkland has played well at left tackle for the Huskies so far this season and whilst the Pac-12 isn’t exactly known for its defensive play, he’s has experience of going against some really talented and productive edge rushers that he’s gained during his time in Seattle.
Kirkland also has experience at playing guard, so to me, with the upside available it’s a great pick at this value, but you have the safety net of getting a decent floor given the flexibility and at worse you’re going to be getting an NFL calibre guard at worst.
For Washington, they have a need at tackle and they could also use an insurance policy against losing Brandon Scherff, as their star left guard is under the franchise tag this season.
- Minnesota Vikings – Kaiir Elam, Cornerback, Florida
The second of the picks that I wouldn’t make but again, knowing the tendency of Mike Zimmer and Rick Speilman who both absolutely adore using early round picks on defensive backs, I can see Elam being a realistic pick for the Vikings.
For me, the way I feel about Elam reminds me of how I felt about fellow Gator, CJ Henderson before the 2020 draft; I was down on Henderson and I’m lower on Elam than most seem to be.
Looking at my grading of Elam, I’ve got a low grade on him for tackling and noted some issues with footwork – He seems a bit anxious and can overreact and mis-step when he’s dealing with speedy or more precise route runners which leaves him exposed when it comes to double moves.
In terms of the Vikings’ investment in corners recently, it’s not gone so well since none of Xavier Rhodes,Trae Waynes, Mike Hughes or Jeff Gladney are currently on the team, and whilst Mackensie Alexander is he did spend some time with Cincinnati in 2020 before returning to Minnesota. They really need a corner to stick on the roster and be a cornerstone piece, because Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland are sticking plasters at the moment.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Spencer Rattler, Quarterback, Oklahoma
The Ben Roethlistburger era is all but over in Pittsburgh and the Steelers will not want to enter a Brown-esque QB churn for the next few years as they search for their next guy.
I can see the Steelers being even more keen to bring in the new era quickly considering they still have a playoff worthy defense which they will not want to waste.
Rattler brings big, big upside with the arm talent he possesses and whilst there has been evidence of poor attitude with Rattler but I do feel like Mike Tomlin is the sort of Head Coach who would keep a young passer on the straight and narrow.
The Steelers could potentially move from one QB to the QB and avoid a major rebuild, it would really just be about putting the receivers and offensive line around Rattler and go again.
I’m not sure I’m in love with this pick either and it’d be my final one in this run but it would certainly give Pittsburgh fans some excitement and a QB who can throw the ball further than 20 yards through the air.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
If at the end of the season Kansas City is picking at 16, then something will have gone badly awry, so it sort of makes this pick redundant because they’re still likely to make the postseason and therefore be picking a handful of picks higher at least.
Nonetheless, this is currently has the order stacks up so I will go ahead and pick the Chiefs an absolute humdinger of a pick to close out this mock draft.
Hutchinson is a player I fell in love with during our Summer Scouting series and it seems that our guy Raj has similar feelings towards the Michigan edge defender – Hutchinson comes in super high in Raj’s first big board of the year, which you can check out HERE.
If the Chiefs got Hutchinson, they could move Chris Jones to his more natural position in the middle of the defensive line and pair him with Frank Clark coming off the edges to form a fearsome threesome up front for the Arrowhead faithful. Clark has been disappointing so far in his Chiefs career so I’d expect Hutchinson to become Kansas City’s best edge defender in no time.
So what would they be getting?
A really big, powerful rusher who is technically refined and has a quick first step. Hutchinson also has the size and versatility to kick inside and perhaps rush next to Chris Jones if the down and distance dictates that – And believe me when I say, good luck blocking those two guys on the interior.
So that wraps up part 1 of my October mock draft – Check back tomorrow for part 2.
Follow Lee on Twitter – @Wakefield90