2019 NFL Mock Draft: Mike Tanier's Final Projections

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterApril 23, 2019

2019 NFL Mock Draft: Mike Tanier's Final Projections

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    This is my final mock draft of mock draft season (hooray!), and it has been scientifically engineered to mimic the first round of a real draft.

    • Real drafts are full of surprising trades. This mock draft is full of surprising trades.
    • Real drafts feature teams reaching for quarterbacks. This mock draft features teams reaching for quarterbacks.
    • Real drafts feature great prospects sliding while teams reach for quarterbacks. This mock draft has a few sliders.
    • Real drafts feature teams like the Raiders and Giants doing counterintuitive, counterproductive things. This mock draft...you get the idea.

    So get ready for surprises, foregone conclusions, lots of in-depth analysis, some wishful thinking, a little bit of guessing and a whole lot of fun.

    And if you don't like your team's pick, you won't have to dwell on it for long. After all, the real draft starts Thursday.


1. Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

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    Jeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press

    The Cardinals sure have pulled out all of the used-car dealership tactics over the last two weeks to make it appear as though they're wavering on Kyler Murray:

    Hey pal, I just talked to my sales manager, and he's a real stickler, you know? Anyway, I talked him into letting you drive off the lot in that convertible if you agree to the 21.9 percent APR financing and the Josh Rosen detailing package. Keep in mind that Nick Bosa was looking at the exact same car last night. Uh-oh, that's him on the phone right now!

    With loose cannons like the Raiders and Giants in possession of multiple first-round picks, the Cardinals were wise to appear both unsold on Murray and not too desperate to trade Josh Rosen. But they're in too deep to just send Rosen an apology card and an Edible Arrangement and play it off like the whole offseason didn't happen. 

    Selecting Murray comes with high disaster potential, especially since the Cardinals haven't done much to upgrade their offense to support either young quarterback. But at least it points the team in a direction. Drafting a defender and pretending the Murray courtship was just some galaxy-brain smokescreen would be a sign that the Cardinals were busy outsmarting themselves instead of trying to turn their franchise around.  

2. San Francisco 49ers: Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    This is both a safe pick and essentially a foregone conclusion, so instead of justifying it, let's take a look at how the 49ers defensive line will stack up with Bosa in the fold:

    • Nick Bosa, edge-rusher: He's good, healthy and won't have to do it all himself on this line.
    • DeForest Buckner, defensive tackle: He got tired of waiting for the edge-rush cavalry to arrive and recorded 12 sacks up the middle last year. Now the pass-rush cavalry is here.
    • Dee Ford, edge-rusher: He recorded 13 sacks for the Chiefs last year. Ford is most effective when he's bookended with another rusher and can count on interior support to keep the quarterback from stepping up. See: Buckner and Bosa.
    • Disappointing first-round pick, defensive tackle: Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas are still on the roster? Go figure! Look for one of them to play the 3-tech position and the other to be enticing draft-day trade bait. Or the Niners could keep both and have some excellent defensive line depth. 

    That's a defensive line with 50-sack potential. And if Jimmy Garoppolo turns out to be as good as he's getting paid to be, it will make the 49ers a dangerous NFC sleeper. 

3. New York Jets: Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky

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    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan made it clear a few weeks ago that the Jets were willing to trade down from the No. 3 spot. Wonder how those trade talks went...

    MACCAGNAN: "Hello, Diamond Dave? It's Big Mac!"

    GIANTS GM DAVE GETTLEMAN: "Oh, hey Mac! I saw the local area code and thought this was one of those nice phone calls about my auto warranty. It keeps expiring, no matter how often I give them my credit card number! Anyway, what's new?"

    MACCAGNAN: "Well, we have the third overall pick, and you have two first-rounders and need a quarterback, so..."

    GETTLEMAN: "Nah. We're good."

    MACCAGNAN: "Really? We just thought that with Eli getting old and you guys rebuilding..."

    GETTLEMAN: "We're good."

    MACCAGNAN: "OK...um...well, what being able to draft about Quinnen Williams or Josh Allen?"

    GETTLEMAN: "Hog mollies..." (Homer Simpson drooling sounds).

    MACCAGNAN: You sound interested. So, maybe we can do business?

    (Sound of old rotary phone receiver being ripped from someone's hands)

    GIANTS OWNER JOHN MARA: "Listen here, whippersnapper. We're the New York Football Giants, and we don't trade up in the draft like some sort of Canadian team. Peddle your goofballs elsewhere, you hippie!"

    (Angry phone slam)

    Assuming the Jets can't find a trade partner, they'll settle for an edge-rusher with Khalil Mack-esque upside. That's quite a consolation prize. 

4. Oakland Raiders: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    The Raiders added Antonio Brown, left tackle Trent Brown and linebacker Vontaze Burfict this offseason, along with some useful supporting players. The moves are guaranteed to work, so long as...

    • Trent Brown turns out to be a top-tier left tackle rather than a product of the Patriots system, which most big-money free agents from the Patriots turn out to be.
    • Burfict keeps the penalties and suspensions to a minimum and doesn't look as much like a defender in decline as he looked in 2018.
    • Brown, Jon Gruden and the higher-ups in the Raiders organization all act like agreeable, low-maintenance professionals.

    The chances of all three of those events simultaneously happening are (punches calculator buttons) about 0.04 percent. Uh-oh.

    So, the Raiders need to do something safe and low-risk with this selection. And what can be safer or lower-risk than a stalwart defensive lineman from a prestigious program who can help upgrade a pass rush that generated only 13 sacks last year?

    Yep, nothing but safe, down-the-middle selections for the Raiders in this mock draft.

    (In the mock draft business, we call that ironic foreshadowing.)

5. Trade! Redskins (from Buccaneers): Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    The Buccaneers are soft-rebooting under new coach Bruce Arians and will be looking for extra draft picks. Washington is the NFL's worst organization in terms of long-range planning (among other things) and cannot afford to let another season sneak up on it with a "hope the journeyman has a career year" quarterback situation.

    So, the Skins mock-trade the Nos. 15 and 76 picks in this year's draft (they have two third-rounders) and some 2020 draft goodies to the Bucs for the right to move up and select Duke QB Daniel Jones. It's the ultimate Skins-style deal: paying too much for the kind of player they should already have.

    Jones is the perfect quarterback for a team that thought Kirk Cousins was the perfect quarterback and that handing him gobs of franchise-tag money each year was the perfect way to pay him. And for all of Jones' shortcomings (or, more appropriately, his lack of overwhelming strengths), he's a better option than hoping Case Keenum recaptures the magic of 2017.

    If not Washington, some team is likely to make the Buccaneers an offer here to climb over the Giants and take whichever quarterback it likes best.

6. New York Giants: Devin White, LB, LSU

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The Giants are what an NFL franchise would look like if it were being operated by three angry and conflicting sets of fanbases:

    • The "Get Rid of the Bad Apples" fanbase made the Odell Beckham Jr. trade and other salary-shedding deals (the Olivier Vernon trade, letting Landon Collins walk) because it resents players who make a lot of money.
    • The "Respect the Legend" fanbase believes Eli Manning should be preserved at all costs like a national park, so it engineered the deals to clog the roster with aging veterans like Golden Tate and Antoine Bethea.
    • The "Let's Tank!" fanbase is cool with Eli starting and Beckham leaving because it wants to draft Tua Tagovailoa someday, but if it mentions "analytics," the other two fanbases team up to give this one an atomic wedgie and drop some more money on a veteran.

    The Giants aren't actually run by message-board straw polls, but by an organization that passed up multiple chances to move on from Eli over the past two years. They're now more motivated by justifying those past decisions than making future good ones. They aren't looking for a quarterback to replace Eli, but a quarterback who gives them justification to keep starting Eli. 

    That means they'll draft the best available defender with this pick and justify it the same way they justified selecting Saquon Barkley over Sam Darnold last year.

    The Giants haven't drafted a linebacker in the first round since Carl Banks in 1984. But White is really good and Dave Gettleman: a) inherited Luke Kuechly in Carolina, so he knows the value of having a top linebacker around and b) won't let the perception that linebackers don't have enough impact to merit top-10 picks stop him, just as it didn't stop him from drafting Barkley. 

    And the Giants can always pick up a quarterback later in the first round, right?

    That's what they'll be telling themselves on draft night. 

7. Trade! Raiders (from Jaguars): Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    Remember how the Raiders selected nice, safe Quinnen Williams a few picks ago? Well, they only have so much nice and safe in them.

    Here's why we have them mock-trading the Nos. 24 and 27 picks to move up and select Lock:

    • The Raiders added many veterans in the offseason, so they aren't as needy as many 4-12 teams.
    • Jon Gruden doesn't have the patience to rebuild, so the prospect of three first-round picks doesn't excite him much.
    • Gruden coached Lock at the Senior Bowl. Lock looked good, and their personalities seem to fit. (Lock has a sense of humor, which he will need.)
    • Any team that wants a particular quarterback in this draft had better leapfrog over the Broncos, Dolphins, Bengals and the Giants' second pick.
    • The Raiders still have the No. 35 overall pick after this trade, so they will be able to add another pass-rusher.
    • The Jaguars have multiple needs. Sitting here and taking an offensive tackle (Washington's Andre Dillard is a popular choice) is a great way for them to go 7-9 next year, and they know it.
    • Are you convinced that the Raiders are totally on board with Derek Carr? Didn't think so.

    After this trade and selection, we can look forward to a Carr-Lock controversy full of loaded Gruden comments (and Antonio Brown input), followed by a season of Lock performing his Patrick Mahomes Lite imitation while flinging the ball deep to Brown and any teammates who earn Brown's approval (mostly Brown).

    That's entertainment, folks.

8. Detroit Lions: Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State

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    Jim Lytle/Associated Press

    The Lions are on page two of the Bad Organizational Plan Playbook.

    They were on page one last year: blaming everything on the last regime (alienating players, firing holdover coaches, trading veterans). Page two involves bringing in "your own guys," like former Patriots Trey Flowers and Danny Amendola, more in an effort to (ugh) change the culture than upgrade the roster in any coherent way.

    Montez Sweat is a common Lions selection in many mock drafts because they moved on from Ziggy Ansah somewhere between pages one and two, Flowers doesn't satisfy all of their pass-rushing needs, and edge-rushers are the gift certificates of this year's draft: plentiful, valuable and perfect for the team that doesn't know what it wants. 

    Flowers, Sweat and Damon "Snacks" Harrison would form the backbone of a nasty pass-rushing front four, so there's that.

    Page three of the Bad Organizational Plan Playbook is titled: "Blaming the Veteran Quarterback, Drafting a New One and Demanding Two Years of Job Security While You Develop Him." So stay tuned, Lions fans! 

9. Buffalo Bills: Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Congratulations to the Buffalo Bills on not being hilarious anymore.

    The Bills enjoyed a productive offseason, making substantial additions (John Brown, Cole Beasley, Frank Gore and Tyler Kroft, and that just covers the skill positions) without suffering significant losses or grossly overpaying anyone.

    The rebuilt Bills offense should be effective and entertaining. And while Josh Allen may be just a trebuchet on roller skates, there's nothing silly about the Bills pinning their fortunes to him in a league where teams are climbing over each other for Daniel Jones and singing the praises of Joe Flacco.

    So, let's skip the usual roasting of the Bills and give them Jawaan Taylor, who's arguably the best offensive lineman in this class (there's no real consensus) and a fit for their run-heavy offense. The Bills added Ty Nsekhe and LaAdrian Waddle in free agency, but both are better stopgap starters and multiposition backups than long-term solutions at tackle. 

    The next step after ceasing to be a punchline is competing for more than just the second-place trophy in the AFC East. Taylor will help the Bills take that step, although the no-longer-funny Jets will also have a say in matters.

10. Denver Broncos: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

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    Matthew Holst/Getty Images

    To understand why the Broncos won't take a quarterback in this draft, you need to think like team president John Elway. And thinking like Elway requires both an unhealthy amount of self confidence and the type of vision quest usually associated with peyote and sweat lodges.

    Fortunately, I'm a qualified herald of the mighty Broncos storm demigod and can explain his reasoning to mere mortals:

    • Elway believes Joe Flacco is still a franchise-caliber quarterback. The years between 2012 (when Flacco's Ravens beat the Broncos en route to the Super Bowl) and today have no meaning to Elway, because time operates differently up on Misty Mountain.
    • Elway also believes the 2015 Broncos defense is still intact. Again, years are mere seconds to an immortal.
    • Further, Elway thinks that drafting Courtland Sutton and finding Phillip Lindsay hanging around the complex and giving him a helmet last year erased five years of horrendous drafts and instantly gave the Broncos a playoff-caliber offense.
    • Finally, the Broncos' inability to find a quality tight end is the one failure Elway may consider accepting as a potential shortcoming on his part. In Elway's mind, Fant is both the missing piece of a Super Bowl puzzle and a chance for him to prove his divine omniscience once and for all.

    To simplify: Elway thinks Lindsey is Terrell Davis and Sutton is Ed McCaffrey. Fant will be his Shannon Sharpe. And no, that doesn't make Flacco Elway. It makes Elway Elway.

11. Cincinnati Bengals: Cody Ford, Guard-Tackle, Oklahoma

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    (Bleacher Report visits Bengals headquarters. Walks through weeds and uncut grass. Knocks on door.)

    BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, Bengals! We know you're in there. We can hear you binge-watching Law & Order: SVU. Open up! It's time to make your mock draft selection.


    B/R: But this is your chance to upgrade your roster!

    BENGALS: Oh, you think that's easy? What are we supposed to do? Draft players and hope they make the team better? Hope a bunch of rookies will develop into useful players?

    B/R: Um...yes?

    BENGALS: Hey, this is the real world, bucko. You don't just go to some box store and find football players. We're working with the options we have. That's why we're hunkered down with our existing roster, eating ice cream straight from the carton with the shades drawn.

    B/R: Tell you what: How about we make the pick for you? Cody Ford is a rugged, physical offensive lineman. He could immediately start at guard and have an impact almost like what Quinton Nelson did for the Colts line last year. Or he could replace Bobby Hart at right tackle...

    BENGALS: Here we go with the Bobby Hart thing again. Leave us alone, or we're calling the police as soon as we figure out what Vontaze Burfict did with the phone!

    Sigh. Sometimes you fill out the mock draft by picking players you think teams will select. Other times, you just hope the teams remember to show up for draft day.

12. Green Bay Packers: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

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    Holly Hart/Associated Press

    The Packers haven't selected a skill-position player in the first round of the draft since they spent the No. 24 overall pick on Aaron Rodgers in 2005. They have not selected a receiver, tight end or running back in the first round since they took Javon Walker at No. 20 overall in 2002.

    That draft strategy worked for the Packers for many years, in part because of their ability to find Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams and others in the second round. But the Packers have a new coach, new scheme and new approach, so it's time to reload Rodgers' arsenal without waiting until the second round.

    Matt LaFleur's Sean McVay/Clan Shanahan-flavored offense requires an all-purpose tight end whose presence on the field does not dictate tendency. Hockensen can block in-line on running plays, flex out as a receiver and do a lot of damage as a receiver off play action. He'll make the Packers less predictable and more versatile, two things their offense needs. 

13. Miami Dolphins: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    So far, we have mocked four quarterbacks off the board in the first 13 selections, including Haskins, whose stock has reportedly either slid or was never high in the first place, and Daniel Jones, who most draft beatniks hate the way Game of Thrones fans hate people who post spoilers on Twitter.

    Meanwhile, we have not selected any cornerbacks, and the draft board is still loaded with potential Pro Bowlers at numerous positions, plus wide receivers who look like they were plucked from the Marvel universe.

    In the mock draft biz, we call this "The 2011 Scenario."

    Cam Newton was selected first overall in 2011, despite predictable predraft chatter about his inexperience and immaturity (think: tall Kyler Murray). Teams then went on an unfortunate Jake Locker/Blaine Gabbert/Christian Ponder run early in the first round, motivated more by fear of not having a quarterback than any perception that the selections were all that great.

    The Dolphins have the option of sitting back and letting Ryan Fitzpatrick start for a year while they build elsewhere. But that's an option few teams are eager to pursue since it gets coaches and general managers fired.

    Dolphins GM Chris Grier and new head coach Brian Flores are old-school, and they'll make an old-school decision: Haskins is a big, sturdy, major-program quarterback with a strong arm and a high-character reputation. Grier and Flores will build around that and worry about the details (like Haskins' need for a surgically clean pocket to operate in) later.

    So concludes the quarterback-heavy portion of this mock draft. If your team needs a quarterback and didn't draft one, it's either out of luck or is about to make a regrettable decision.

    Sorry, Giants fans. 

14. Atlanta Falcons: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    The Falcons have selected 12 defensive players in the first three rounds of the draft since 2013, including four first-rounders. All they have to show for that is one of the most anonymous defenses in the leaguea unit that ranked 31st in Football Outsiders DVOA last season and has never finished higher than 22nd, even when winning the NFC.

    The Falcons excel at drafting defenders who either max out as not-quite-Pro-Bowlers (Desmond Trufant, Deion Jones) or tease them with talent but never develop (Vic Beasley, Ra'Shede Hageman). Oliver has the potential to fall into the latter categoryhe's a frenetic, undersized interior defender who didn't always see eye-to-eye with his coachesbut the Falcons are better off taking some risks than playing it safe and hoping their defense climbs from 31st to 27th or so in the rankings.

    Place Oliver next to Grady Jarrett in the middle of the Falcons line and things will get interesting. And things haven't been interesting on the Falcons defense for a long time.

15. Buccaneers (from Redskins): Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    The Buccaneers allowed a league-high 110.9 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks last season. Several veterans in the secondary aren't returning: Brent Grimes (who didn't feel he was paid enough to shadow Antonio Brown and Julio Jones; coaches should have been paid less for thinking he could do it) and professional grass-guarder Chris Conte.

    That leaves the Buccaneers thin at defensive back, and their best-known cornerback (Vernon Hargreaves) has missed 22 of a possible 32 games over the past two seasons.

    Greedy Williams is 6'2", ran a 4.37-second 40 at the combine, started for two seasons in the SEC and put up some remarkable analytics. According to the Sports Info Solutions Rookie Handbook, he allowed his receivers to catch only 60 percent of catchable targets and gave up a minuscule 43.3 passer rating on throws to his receiver, both of which ranked second in the nation.

    Williams is available this late because of the quarterback run and concerns about his tackling and physicality. NFL coaches always make a big deal about cornerbacks' tackling and physicality. Then they realize they need someone both willing and able to shadow Julio Jones and do whatever they can to draft defenders like Williams.

    Since we sent the Bucs an extra third-round pick from Washington in our mock trade, let's also give them Texas A&M running back Trayveon Williams, a bigger version of Alvin Kamara to help a running game that averaged only 3.9 yards per rush last year. 

16. Trade! Kansas City Chiefs (from Panthers): Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

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    Darren Abate/Associated Press

    The Panthers have so many needs that it makes sense for them to trade down for extra picks. The Chiefs have an extra second-round pick from the Rams and a chance to reach the Super Bowl if they can upgrade their secondary. 

    The Chiefs' projected starters at cornerback next season are Charvarius Ward (a youngster they acquired from the Cowboys last preseason; played OK down the stretch), Kendall Fuller (the sweetener in the Alex Smith trade; quality slot corner) and Bashaud Breeland (former human target for quarterbacks avoiding Josh Norman; spent last year in Green Bay). They need an upgrade that might not be available at No. 29.

    Murphy is the top-ranked cornerback on many boards, and his ability to anticipate pass routes and break up plays (and produce turnovers) make him a perfect fit for the Chiefs. Opponents are going to throw 50 passes per game playing catch-up with Patrick Mahomes. They won't be able to avoid the ball-hawking Murphy.

    Editor's Note: Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Chiefs traded the pick used in this scenario as part of a package for Frank Clark from the Seattle Seahawks. 

17. Trade! Jaguars (from Giants): Andre Dillard, T, Washington State

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    (A rotary phone rings once again in East Rutherford)

    GIANTS GM DAVE GETTLEMAN: Tommy! How in the health are you?

    JAGUARS PRESIDENT TOM COUGHLIN: Hello, David. I am just calling to see how things...

    GETTLEMAN: Sure, we'll trade down.

    COUGHLIN: Since you mentioned it, we do have an interest in Andre Dillard, because he would be an ideal pass protector for Nick Foles. And we want to get ahead of the Vikings. But you know, we can't offer both of the first-round picks we got from the Raiders.

    GETTLEMAN: Doesn't matter.

    COUGHLIN: We can package one with one of our two third-rounders.

    GETTLEMAN: Sounds good.

    COUGHLIN: So, do you want the 24th pick and the low third-rounder we got from the Rams or the 27th pick and our own...

    GETTLEMAN: Doesn't matter.

    COUGHLIN: David, are you sure you have a plan up there?

    GETTLEMAN: Tommy, you just signed a 30-year old career backup for $88 million. Your receiving corps is a mess, your offensive line needs work, your running back can't drive 55, and your cap situation is such a mess that you're struggling to keep your defense together. Are you sure you have a plan?

    COUGHLIN: (awkward silence)

    GETTLEMAN: (awkward silence)

    COUGHLIN: Good doing business with you, David.

    GETTLEMAN: Anytime, old buddy.

18. Minnesota Vikings: Jonah Williams, G/T, Alabama

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    The Vikings are the football equivalent of the handsome, bland guy the pretty girl is involved with at the beginning of every romantic comedy. You know, the guy she ditches for the hunky troublemaker.

    There's nothing at all wrong with the Vikings. There just isn't much right about them, either. Everything from Kirk Cousins' extended scholarship to their maxed-out cap situation to Mike Zimmer's insistence on a run-heavy offense suggests they're as good now (or were as good in 2017) as they will ever get.

    Williams is a fine prospect who fills a critical need. He will make the Vikings better. But drafting him is like when the bland guy feels threatened by the other dude in the romcom and tries to prove he is "fun" by wearing a new hat. The hat doesn't make him fun. It just makes him Alden Ehrenreich in a hat.

    The Vikings with a better interior line are just Cousins handing off for slightly more yards per carry in a Wild Card Round loss. 

19. Tennessee Titans: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The Titans had a quietly productive offseason. They added Adam Humphries (quality slot receiver), Rodger Saffold (interior line reinforcement), Cameron Wake (veteran edge-rusher with enough gas in the tank to make it to the next exit) and Ryan Tannehill (an upgrade over Blaine Gabbert) without losing much or breaking the bank.

    But the big story out of Tennessee is that Marcus Mariota gained 5-10 pounds. The football world reacted to the news in the usual ways:

    "Hooray! The extra weight will make Mariota more durable!"

    "Oh no! The extra weight will make Mariota less durable!"

    "Good grief! Are we really talking about a 220-pound athlete gaining a few pounds like it's a big deal?"

    "Oh yeah. Marcus Mariota is still in the NFL. Forgot about him."

    Anyway, the Titans can afford to take the best-player-available approach in the draft. Gary isn't flashy, but he's a great infrastructure defender who fits the Titans system. Drop him into a 5-tech role next to Jurrell Casey and in front of Wake or Harold Landry, and Gary will produce extra sacks for his teammates, even if he doesn't get to the quarterback often himself.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida

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    Mark Wallheiser/Associated Press

    Who the Steelers should draft:

    • A sports psychologist
    • A behavioral psychologist
    • Jennifer Melfi, Tony Soprano's psychologist
    • A social media director with the power to turn off and/or melt players' phones
    • The "This Is Fine" dog
    • A therapy dog that the psychologists or social media director can snuggle when they are having bad days
    • Some skill-position reinforcements, perhaps? (That would ruin the "we meant to do that" vibe they are going for with the Antonio Brown/Le'Veon Bell departures. But that's the point.)
    • A quarterback of the future, so we could spend the offseason waiting for Ben Roethlisberger to deign to speak to him, creating lots of extra work for the psychologists, social media directors and doggos.

    Who the Steelers will draft:

    An edge-rusher, because Burns is great, fits their (increasingly outdated) system, and they always draft edge-rushers. Because there's nothing to see here, OK? The Steelers are keeping calm and carrying on. This is fine! THIS. IS. FINE.  

21. Seattle Seahawks: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

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    Butch Dill/Getty Images

    Here's how Russell Wilson's receiving corps currently shapes up:

    • Doug Baldwin: Underrated player and respected team leader. Had knee and shoulder surgeries this offseason and told a Seattle radio show that he may need even more surgeries.
    • Tyler Lockett: Led the team with 57 catches and 10 touchdowns last year. Fits best as a No. 2 receiver.
    • Jaron Brown: Remember when you had Cardinals receiver John Brown as your fantasy flex in 2014, and you got excited when you thought he scored a touchdown, but then it turned out some other J. Brown on the Cardinals scored that touchdown? This is that guy.
    • David Moore: A seventh-round pick out of East Central University in 2017. Moore had a few big games last year, but let's not get carried away and pencil him in as a starter if Baldwin is unavailable.

    This unit could use an upgrade unless the Seahawks plan to pay Wilson $157 million to hand off 45 times per game or do everything himself. (Both are real possibilities, unfortunately.)

    Imagine Metcalf, with his CGI physique and 4.33 speed, running straight up the sideline (running straight is his specialty) and either hauling in a Wilson bomb or posting up his poor cornerback in the end zone while Wilson scrambles. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

    Metcalf could easily score a dozen touchdowns with a quarterback like Wilson. And Wilson deserves some new weapons.

22. Baltimore Ravens: N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    The Ravens need wide receivers but don't like to draft them. The organization has drafted only three receivers in the first three rounds since 2007: Breshad Perriman (Round 1, 2015: oft-injured bust now bouncing around the league); Torrey Smith (Round 2, 2011: has had a fine career as a peripatetic deep threat/locker room leader); and Yamon Figurs (Round 3, 2007: returned punts for a few years).

    It's hard for the Ravens to find what they want in most draft classes: a Steve Smith type with a veteran receiver's skills but a linebacker's attitude, or an Anquan Boldin, who is a lot like Steve Smith but less quotable. The Ravens don't necessarily want 4.4 speed; they want someone to fight through a crowd of defenders for the football and drag them after the catch for a first down. And with gifted-but-erratic Lamar Jackson now at quarterback, that's the sort of receiver they need.

    Harry is as close as the Ravens can get to what they want: a tough guy who doesn't have metahuman measurements but will do everything he can to get open and get the ball.

23. Houston Texans: Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss

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    Max Becherer/Associated Press

    Let's see how the Texans' offseason checklist is going:

    • Acquire a receiver to take septuple coverage off DeAndre Hopkins: Not done.
    • Upgrade the offensive line so Deshaun Watson survives to sign his second contract: Does signing what's left of Matt Kalil count? No? Not done.
    • Sign Jadeveon Clowney to a long-term contract: Not done.
    • Spend lots of money in the secondary and sign AJ McCarron as Watson's backup: Done! Wait...how did these items even get on the checklist?

    The Texans have a lot to do in the draft, and the offensive line should be their top priority.

    Little is the Daniel Jones of offensive linemen: a guy NFL coaches like because they think they can coach someone with his raw tools into being a great player, as opposed to someone who has slightly less impressive tools but is already close to being a great player. He's perfect for an organization with a knack for outsmarting itself.

    The Texans could also dip into the receiver pool with this selection. Or they could draft an edge-rusher or something. After all, why should they stop ignoring their critical needs now?

24. Trade! Patriots (from Various Teams): Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

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    FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 18:  Jeffery Simmons #94 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs walks off the field during a game againstf the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Bulldogs defeated the Razor
    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    (A rotary phone rings yet again in East Rutherford)

    BILL BELICHICK: Hey Dave, it's B-Belly.

    GIANTS GM DAVE GETTLEMAN: Bill! What can I do ya' for?

    BELICHICK: I'm doing that thing where I rip you off with a draft-day trade.

    GETTLEMAN: Sounds good.

    BELICHICK: Did you hear me, Dave? I'm telling you that I'm doing the stereotypical Patriots thing where I outsmart you. I'm basically a vampire asking to get invited in so I can turn everyone you love into undead children of the night.

    GETTLEMAN: Sounds good.

    BELICHICK: I'll give you No. 32 along with one of the many third-rounders I somehow acquired to trade up to 24. But I'm totally not selecting Jeffery Simmons, a top-10 talent at defensive tackle who slid because of character issues and injury concerns. He's a Boar Bonnie, or whatever you call big defenders. I'm, uh, taking a running back. No way you need another running back, right?

    GETTLEMAN: Sounds good. Eli and I will see you at the Super Bowl, old buddy.

    BELICHICK: (Hanging up with a sigh). This isn't even fun anymore.

25. Philadelphia Eagles: Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    After months of research, tape-grinding and soul-searching, I finally found a comp for Josh Jacobs: Ronnie Brown.

    Brown spent his Auburn career in a committee backfield with Cadillac Williams. Williams earned the bulk of the carries in their final two seasons, but Brown was a productive rusher and receiver off the bench, and both backs were among the top 10 players selected in the 2005 draft. Brown (second) went ahead of Williams (fifth).

    Brown became a productive committee back for the Dolphins for a half-decade, gaining over 1,000 yards from scrimmage three times and sparking the brief Wildcat revolution in 2008 when he took some shotgun snaps.

    Jacobs was a high school quarterbackthere's the Wildcat anglewho spent his college career as the second or third guy in a rotation. He has the tools of a workhorse back but may be a better fit in a league that no longer needs workhorse backs. Give Jacobs 15-20 touches per game, rotating with Jordan Howard and running through six-man defensive boxes in the Eagles run-pass-option package, and he can bring his explosive, tackle-shedding style to every snap without wearing down.

    There's precedent for a college "backup" running back getting drafted in the first round and going on to have a productive career. Although Brown never quite became a superstar, he never played for an organization as strong as the current Eagles, either.

26. Indianapolis Colts: Johnathan Abram, S Mississippi State

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    It's easy for me to figure out how the Colts will draft: GM Chris Ballard likes players who I like.

    Every player the Colts drafted last year appeared in my notes as "draft crush," "sleeper," "swell dude to interview" or just lots of smiley faces and hearts.

    It's like Ballard and I are on some weird wavelength. Maybe I learned about good scouting and roster construction by watching him and his mentors. Or maybe (gasp) he reads me and borrows my ideas!

    OK, that's a little far-fetched.

    Anyway, Abram fills a need for a strong safety to pair with Malik Hooker. He's an all-purpose defender who can be used the way the Chargers use Derwin James, and he's as likable off the field as he is dangerous on the field. (Though he could stand to be a little less dangerous on the field).

    Also, in case Ballard is reading this: Look for Kansas State cornerback Duke Shelley, Wyoming defensive end Carl Granderson, Central Florida defensive tackle Trysten Hill, Wake Forest guard Phil Haynes and all the guys mentioned in this feature in later rounds. You're welcome!

27. Jaguars (from Raiders): A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    The Jaguars receiver corps is in disrepair, and Nick Foles is the sort of quarterback who needs to be elevated by his supporting cast as opposed to vice versa.

    This receiver class is stacked with prospects who are great at many things but terrible at one thing, which is why there is no consensus about how to rank the top guys. So figuring out who Tom Coughlin, Dave Caldwell and Doug Marrone will select comes down to a process of elimination:

    • D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss: Too ripped. Football fuddy-duddies like their receivers in shape, but not Metcalf's kind of in shape. Also, he's off the board.
    • Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, Oklahoma: Too small. Nicknamed "Hollywood" because he's from Hollywood, Florida, but still (nervous side-eye).
    • Hakeem Butler, Iowa State: Dropped passes are the only thing more likely to give old-school coaches nightmares than cable news programs.
    • Parris Campbell, Ohio State: Slot receivers weren't starters in 1977 and they aren't starters now, dagnabbit.
    • N'Keal Harry, Arizona State: Good choice, but already off the board.
    • A.J. Brown, Ole Miss: Perfect! Not too big, not too small. Versatile, but not a pure slot guy. Good measurements, great film. And he blocks! Old-school coaches love a receiver who blocks!

    Brown is actually a great fit for the Jaguars, too. They'll just reach that conclusion in a very roundabout Jaguars kind of way.

28. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    If this mock draft teaches you anythingwhich is highly unlikelyit's that an early quarterback run is likely to push top talent down the board.

    Wilkins is an excellent defensive tackle prospecthuge, disruptive, versatile enough to play multiple gapswho fills a need for the Chargers. If he isn't available here, Mississippi State's Jefferey Simmons or Michigan's Rashan Gary probably will be. If they are all off the board, Wilkins' teammate Dexter Lawrence (342 pounds of fun) or Notre Dame's Jeremy Tillery (a first-rounder in a typical draft year) will be.

    And if there's a run on defensive tackles as well as a run on cornerbacks, the bottom of the draft board will be loaded with top edge-rushers (something the Chargers don't need), intriguing receivers (maybe), safe, stout offensive linemen (another maybe) and players at other positions who can help a good team right away.

    In other words, this is a great draft for teams that don't need a quarterback to be picking in the late 20s. Wilkins will help the Chargers make the most of it while it lasts.

29. Carolina Panthers: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    The Panthers mock-traded down earlier because they have too many needs to just wait their turn each round and hope for the best. As a reward, they get a solid all-around defender and system fit who would be a top-15 selection in a draft that wasn't overstuffed with pass-rushers.

    The Panthers had the oldest defense in the NFL last season, with an average age of 28.9 years (adjusted for snaps so one 38-year old backup doesn't skew the data), per Football Outsiders. The departures of Julius Peppers, Thomas Davis and others automatically make the Panthers defense younger, but that doesn't make it better.

    Ferrell isn't quite as good as Peppers in his prime, but he can fill the shoes of the Peppers we saw in 2018.

    We sent the Panthers an extra second-rounder in our mock trade with the Chiefs, so let's use it on Charlotte guard Nate Davis, a small-program mauler who can help upgrade an offensive line which needs a lot of help. 

30, Green Bay Packers: Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    Here's another example of the caliber of defensive player who could be sitting on the board at the end of the first round.

    Baker doesn't fill a specific need for the Packerstheir young secondary played fairly well last season and is likely to get betterbut a starting-caliber cornerback with great size, speed, quickness, technique and determination on contested passes is too good to pass up with the 30th overall pick.

31. Los Angeles Rams: Devin Bush, LB, Michigan

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Rams defense allowed a league-high 5.1 yards per rush last season, despite the presence of Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers on the defensive line.

    Their biggest issue: linebacker Mark Barron, an undersized former safety, was playing through injuries and couldn't take on blockers or chase ball-carriers like he used to. Running backs who managed to break through the front four often had plenty of room to run.

    Barron is now with the Steelers, paving the way for Bush, an athletic linebacker and big hitter. Bush is a perfect fit behind a line which will absorb blocks so he doesn't have to, allowing him to chase running backs and crash the A-gap untouched now and then as a blitzer.

32. New York Giants: Will Grier, QB, West Virginia

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    Brad Tollefson/Associated Press

    We had a lot of fun at the Giants' expense in this mock draft, but now it's time to get serious for a moment.

    (House lights dim.)

    This is an awful draft for selecting a quarterback of the future. Grier may look like a reach here, but most fans wouldn't blink if we mocked him the Giants at the top of the second round. And Grier—whose film is a mix of tasty highlights and alarming mistakes in a less-than-ideal ratiohas higher upside than Daniel Jones and perhaps Dwayne Haskins.

    By making the Giants trade down twice, we armed them with extra third-round picks. Let's give them Kansas State tackle Dalton Risner in the second round, then versatile Ohio State defensive lineman Dre'Mont Jones and tall, toolsy Vanderbilt defensive back Joejuan Williams with the mock extra picks in the third. 

    Throw in Devin White and some late-round picks, and does this really look like a bad draft class for the Giants?

    OK, yeah, it still does.

    But there's no getting Odell Beckham Jr. back and no time-traveling to select Sam Darnold last year. At least our mock draft has the Giants wheeling and dealing, filling as many needs as possible and trading back instead of overdrafting in this weak quarterback class.

    Unless Kyler Murray slips, Giants fans are likely to be disappointed Thursday night no matter what the team does.

    Murray won't slip.

    And the Giants probably wouldn't draft him if he did. 


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