By Nick Beare
Full disclosure: I am not an NFL insider. I don’t have connections with teams or front-office executives. I didn’t interview any players for this piece. I am no more qualified to predict what will happen on April 28 than any other basement-dwelling braggart. That said, my intentions are pure and genuine. Mock drafts are a guilty pleasure of mine and I know I’m not the only one. So, using a combination of film study, team needs and rumours from real analysts, I’m diving in to try and predict what I think will happen with the small caveat that the specific players I choose are less relevant than the position, or, more specifically, the type of player chosen (Ex. a speed receiver vs a big-bodied possession guy). Enjoy:
The consensus number one choice for months now. I don’t think we’ll see any surprises.
Kind of a weird fit with Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner already in place for the Niners at defensive end. They could go safety, but it seems a little high.
3. Jamal Adams, Safety, LSU
Adams is a rare player and the Bears need to add talent. This may seem high for a safety, and it is. Drafting a safety this high means he immediately becomes one of the highest paid players at his position. Risky, but Adams may be that good.
Everything the Jags have done screams running back. They should admit their mistake in drafting Blake Bortles and draft a quarterback, but I’m not sure that this staff has the stomach for it.
I almost expect someone to trade to this spot to take a QB. The Titans have a solid roster, but Lattimore is likely the best player available. Could be a receiver.
6. O.J. Howard, Tight End, Alabama
O.J. Howard is drawing a lot of Greg Olson comparisons. He’s an athletic freak for his size (6’6, 250 lbs). He has every athletic tool you look for in a matchup-winning tight end, and boasts excellent blocking chops as well. It may seem high for a tight end, but it appears as though he’s viewed as a special talent.
Match made in heaven. Fills a hole and adds a serious playmaker on defense.
8. Jonathan Allen, Defensive End, Alabama
Allen was thought to be a top three pick at one time. Poor testing and injury concerns drop him into the Panthers’ lap.
9. Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee
The Bengals need help along their line. A wide receiver could be the pick here.
10. Mike Williams, Wide Receiver, Clemson
The Bills lost almost their entire receiving corps this offseason. With Sammy Watkins and newly signed Andre Holmes as the only viable receivers on the roster, this position needs an upgrade.
11. Taco Charlton, EDGE, Michigan
The Saints need defensive help in the worst way. This would be an over-draft in my opinion, but Charlton’s name is getting top 15 buzz, and pass-rushers are always at a premium.
The Browns finally get their guy. They may have to trade up to get him, either in the early first or back into the first to get him. But they will get a quarterback. I am quite sure of that.
13. Corey Davis, Wide Receiver, Western Michigan
Larry Fitzgerald is in the twilight of his career, Michael Floyd is out of the picture and John Brown had an injury-filled season last year. Suddenly what seemed to be a strength for the Cards a couple years ago may be a weakness. Davis is the best receiver in the draft in my opinion and getting him at 13 is a steal for Arizona. Could QB be the pick here?
Corner is a clear need for the Eagles and Conley is a long, rangy, press-cover man. I would not be surprised to see a running back or receiver taken here. I just think the Eagles need to lean defense. But the talent of a John Ross or Dalvin Cook may be too tempting to pass up for Howie Roseman.
15. Reuben Foster, Linebacker, Alabama
A steal here for the Colts, who I think might end up with an offensive lineman. But the fact that one of the best off-the-ball linebacker prospects to enter the draft in years has fallen here forces their hand.
The depth of this class really starts to show itself in the next few picks as players with top-notch talent fall into the late teens. O.J. Howard is drawing a lot of Greg Olson comparisons, and players with his ability rarely fall this far. There are several teams picking higher than 16 who may take this player. Howard is an athletic freak for his size (6’6, 250 lbs). He has every athletic tool you look for in a matchup-winning tight end, and boasts excellent blocking chops as well. Complete player.
17. Haason Reddick, Linebacker, Temple
Reddick’s workout at the combine boosts his draft spot into the late teens. He’s a freaky athlete who can rush off the edge, but projects as an off-the-ball linebacker in the NFL.
4.22. That is the number many reference when talking up John Ross. But he isn’t just just a speedster. He’s an effective route runner and all-around receiver who I think is a better prospect than Will Fuller, who was drafted in this range last season. The only concern with Ross is his extensive injury history.
I’m weary of Dalvin Cook. It’s been pretty well documented how poorly he did at the combine, and, historically, running backs who put up numbers like he did do not go on to have great NFL careers. That said, his tape is outstanding, and the Bucs have a need at running back.
20. Garrett Bolles, Offensive Tackle, Utah
Don’t be fooled by the additions of Menelik Watson and Ronald Leary. The Broncos still need long-term help along the O-Line, especially at tackle. Bolles may not have the ceiling that a couple other prospects have, but he’s the most NFL-ready.
21. Charles Harris, EDGE, Missouri
Ziggy Ansah is entering his contract year and the Lions are lacking talent across their front seven anyway. An upgrade is needed and Charles Harris would be a solid addition.
22. Zach Cunningham, Linebacker, Vanderbilt
I think the Dolphins would love for Haason Reddick to fall, here but Cunningham is a good consolation prize. He immediately steps in as the starter on the weak side.
OBJ, Brandon Marshall and David Njoku stretching the seam? Whew. What an addition this would be for Eli Manning and co. Njoku is an outstanding athlete who should not be able to move as well as he does based on his size.
24. Tre’Davious White, Cornerback, LSU
The Raiders don’t have a ton of holes to fill. A tackle to eventually replace Donald Penn or Austin Howard is a possibility. But I think they need an upgrade at corner in the nickel spot an eventually outside.
25. Deshaun Watson, Quarterback, Clemson
The Texans get the talented Kizer who had a rough 2016 season but posseses all the necessary tools to be a starting quarterback. The reports of him almost quitting football after a bad spring practice are concerning, but he flashes better than just about anyone in this class, and the Texans can’t keep this saga at QB going any longer.
26. Ryan Ramczyk, Offensive Tackle, Wisconsin
The Seahawks need tackles. Russell Wilson was running for his life last season, and he paid the price for their horrible line. There are a couple options here including Alabama product Cam Robinson, but for now Ramczyk is the pick.
27. Patrick Mahomes, Quarterback, Texas Tech
How long can the Chiefs twist in the wind with Alex Smith as their starter? He’s a good player, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chiefs look for a replacement. This is a pure luxury pick, but the Chiefs have a solid roster and could go several different ways.
This is such a Jerry Jones pick. I don’t even know how Peppers fits into their defence, but they just lost multiple defensive backs and have a need at linebacker, so, Peppers claims to be able to do both. Bottom line is he’s a great athlete than will at minimum make an impact in the return game as a rookie.
29. Christian McCaffrey, Running Back, Stanford
Putting McCaffrey in this offense almost isn’t even fair. But, with Eddie Lacy and James Starks no longer with the team, running back is a need and McCaffrey is an exceptional prospect who can hurt you between the tackles as well as in the passing game, where I would imagine he would be used extensively in Green Bay.
30. Carl Lawson, EDGE, Auburn
The Steelers love to draft pass rushers early, and they happen to have a need at that spot. Lawson fits the bill.
31. T.J. Watt, Linebacker, Wisconsin
I half expect J.J. Watt’s brother to be picked a lot earlier than this based on reputation alone, especially with a class of pass rushers that is all over the place outside the top 2. But I think this is a good spot for Watt and it adds another rusher for the Falcons who suddenly boast a beastly defensive front.
32. (from Patriots) Adoree Jackson, Cornerback, USC
The Saints add to their putrid defense with the athletic Jackson. You could easily flip the two picks I have here for them (in terms of position) and I don’t think anyone would be surprised. They need to go defense heavy in this draft.