This page will continuously update as I evaluate more prospects and write profiles.
Year: Redshirt Sophomore
The Good: Someone who knows the bare minimum about football can take one look at Anthony Richardson and say, “yup.” That’s how much Richardson looks the part, and his physical running style matches his size. Richardson is a true dual-threat QB; he’ll immediately become one of the league’s more lethal runners at the position and he can hum a 101 MPH fastball with such a quick release. He’s got the full package of mobility: scrambling, play extension, evading sacks, and throwing on rollouts. I was pleasantly surprised by Richardson’s intangibles given his “project” label. He’s willing to stand tall in the pocket, has a good sense of timing, and is smooth when given plays to work through progressions. He rarely puts the ball in harm’s way too, whether that’s because he throws the ball away or takes off running. When things are going right for Richardson – which isn’t that uncommon on tape – he has the look of the first overall pick.
The Bad: That said, I wouldn’t endorse taking Richardson with the first overall pick. I write it annually around this time of year that “raw” is my least favorite adjective to describe prospects, but it’s valid in Richardson’s case. He’s young, both literally at 21 years old on Draft Day and figuratively with only one season as a full-time college starter. You can tell that he’s green when he misses open throws, goes overboard with velocity, and struggles throwing to certain areas of the field; I think that could all sort itself out just with more reps. There are parts of his game that will require improvement with more than just patience. His mechanics are inconsistent; Richardson will unnecessarily drop his arm slot and lose accuracy – and he’s not particularly accurate to begin with. His pocket management needs work too, which is my biggest concern with Richardson as I continue to prioritize that skill more and more in my QB evaluation. He currently doesn’t do his offensive line many favors, as Richardson will routinely settle in unfavorable spots in the pocket, bail when he should step up and vice versa, and hold onto the ball when there is a hot read. Lastly, while I push back on this becoming a barometer of NFL readiness, Richardson didn’t give Florida much of a chance vs. Georgia in 2022 while CJ Stroud, Will Levis, and Bryce Young (twice) each handled themselves well against the Bulldogs.
The Bottom Line: I’m definitely a fan of Richardson, which candidly I didn’t expect given my general outlook on quarterbacks and the way that the Draft community is talking about him. Context is important for every prospect, and I think it’s especially important in Richardson’s case. I hated Florida’s scheme and playcalling in 2022, with Billy Napier and Rob Sale (offensive line coach of 2021 Giants) taking over from Dan Mullen. Their WRs were also mediocre and Richardson faced constant pressure around his tackles, which he was constantly sent into by the playcalls. I’m not totally excusing his 53.8% completion percentage, but Richardson really didn’t get much help. I don’t expect Richardson to ever contend for the completion percentage title in the NFL, but he should settle closer to 60% and, honestly, the frequency that he connects on splash plays make the incompletions worth it. I won’t be upset if Richardson begins 2023 as a backup, but I think he’d more capably survive as a rookie starter than others seem to think. Depending where he and others land in the Draft, I could see myself having some action on Richardson as a dark horse Rookie of the Year winner. His ability is truly special and I think his platform for archetypal QB play is high enough to justify an early gamble in the draft.
Grade: Mid First Round
Pro Comp: Cam Newton
Year: Redshirt Senior
The Good: Levis certainly has the intangibles in spades: size, athleticism, Hulk-like strength, psycho competitor, sells play action, etc. Sentences like that about prospects are usually followed with a quick “HOWEVER…” – and I do have many negatives to report about Levis – but I don’t want to undersell that Levis is legitimately uber toolsy for a quarterback and looks the part of a field general. He has a HUGE right arm; I tracked one flick-of-the-wrist throw that went 65 yards in the air. Levis has his fair share of throws to the sidelines on tape that generate “oooh ahhh” reactions, and he can split zone coverage with the best of them. When Levis makes a quick decision it’s usually quality, and that translates well to RPO game. Although I have a hunch that some of his displays of creativity on the field were premeditated or scripted, Levis still has flashed enough nuance to suggest that he’s a true QB and not merely a big-armed athlete being pigeonholed into the position.
The Bad: I expect things for Levis to go poorly through the air for his first 1-2 years in the NFL…if not longer than that. He’s generally inaccurate and, while whoever drafts him will surely get to immediate work on his footwork, I don’t think it’s wholly fixable with his release and chaotic approach to passing. He’s not natural at scanning the field and going through his progressions; that process usually comes along with pump fakes and/or flat-footedness in the pocket. His anticipation and timing aren’t good enough yet and that leads to some ugly decisions, particularly against zone. Levis also has a bizarre lack of feel at times, and that will translate to a high sack count with fumbles in the league. There isn’t much touch in his throwing arsenal either and I expected better deep ball results given his arm strength.
The Bottom Line: There is plenty of work ahead for Levis, though I wouldn’t label him a “project” in the sense that he’ll require time set aside with pro coaches just to get onto the field. Levis should be a 2023 Week 1 starter; he played in a pro-style offense at Kentucky and I have some confidence that he’ll pick up the playbook quickly. He should definitely land within an organization that is openly rebuilding though, and that team will have basically no alternative besides totally catering its offensive identity to Levis’ strengths. He has enough upside to be a good NFL starter in a West Coast offense with plenty of talent around him, but the floor is naturally quite low when you need to make qualifying statements like that about a kid who isn’t even in the league yet.
Grade: Late First Round / Early Second Round
Pro Comp: Blake Bortles
School: Ohio State
Year: Redshirt Sophomore
The Good: CJ Stroud is awesome, and there is a ton of proof in the tape despite him only turning 21 this past October. He made 24 starts in his Ohio State tenure, and in every one of them he’ll make at least one throw that wows you. Stroud throws with such impressive drive and can fit a pass into any window and drop a dime to anywhere on the field. He’s not a one-trick pony with a laser beam for a right arm either; Stroud is deadly accurate, can throw with finesse, and almost always gives his receivers a high-percentage chance to come down with the ball. I was blown away by Stroud’s poise and control of his offense. He does not fit the bill of recent Ohio State QBs whatsoever. While JT Barrett, Dwayne Haskins, and Justin Fields could attribute much statistical success to the OSU wideouts and Ryan Day’s scheme, Stroud is a smooth operator on his own. He’s calling out signals pre-snap and usually makes an accurate read on the defense before the play, and he’s fully capable of making adjustments on the fly too. Stroud knows how to use his eyes as a weapon and consistently throws with anticipation. I loved to see jumps in his game from 2021 to 2022. Pocket movement and active feet were immediate strengths for Stroud, but as a sophomore he added further mobility to his game by way of evading pressure and picking up first downs with his legs. He started to show more common flashes of creativity too. Stroud is the best passing prospect to hit the NFL Draft since Trevor Lawrence.
The Bad: He’s not particularly fast. Besides that, I don’t have much. Otherwise, I’d say that his top flaw at this point is trouble with disguised coverage and overcommitment to pre-snap reads, but honestly that’s the case for some of the NFL’s best QBs and generally gets better with reps. It’s important not to forget that Stroud is extremely young. I jotted down a few cons from his freshman tape: his motion was prolonged and his release was too pronounced, which both contributed to some misses. But then he mostly cleaned up his technique as a sophomore. Stroud was pretty purely a pocket passer during his freshman season but then, while that does remain his strength, Stroud started making plays outside of the pocket during this most recent season. Sometimes he’s a bit robotic in his decision making, but damn…I’m nitpicking at this point.
The Bottom Line: Clearly, I’m high on CJ Stroud. He has tremendous arm talent, good size, and seems to be a sharp kid and admirable leader. To wrap it up, I want to push back against two narratives. 1) Stroud was fortunate to become the starter at OSU with Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jeremy Ruckert, and Nicholas Petit-Frere in his supporting cast. And then 4 of those 5 were drafted, and Smith-Njigba was injured for most of the season…and we’re not supposed to care? Marvin Harrison Jr. is amazing, I know. But Stroud was essentially the lone year-over-year holdover in that offense and didn’t miss a beat. 2) Is this praise an overreaction to the Peach Bowl against Georgia, where Stroud almost single-handedly took down a budding dynasty? No…I had this extremely high grade on him before concluding his evaluation with that game. If it did boost his stock, it went from a Top 5 pick to a Top 1 pick.
Grade: Top 5 Pick
Pro Comp: Justin Herbert
This is the first of many quick profiles that I’ll write for prospects that I analyze ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft. My feelings on prospects, as well as my Grade and Pro Comp, are subject to change as I watch and learn more about them in the Draft process…but these are my initial takeaways.
The Good: Young is an exciting prospect, and not only because he’s an escape artist in the pocket who can find a throwing lane from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage. Young is advanced at reading the field for his age, both pre-snap and as the live play breaks down. He absolutely shreds zone coverages and his general sense of timing is strong. I love that his eyes consistently start downfield, which allows him to anticipate and complete low-percentage throws. He’s quick to move through his progressions, and he almost never misses a throw to the short and intermediate levels of the field. Young is poised and extremely tough, and he handled himself well against most of the bigger and stronger defenses that he faced (including twice against 2021 Georgia).
The Bad: Young is so small that his size will make him a historical outlier, and he doesn’t have the thick build or speed of other small QBs taken near the top of the draft either. His arm strength is subpar too; he doesn’t consistently throw with drive and there isn’t much power behind it. Maybe I have heard one too many comparisons to Russell Wilson, but I expected better deep passing from Young. He has a fair share of underthrows and outright misses on deep balls. Young is self-aware of his physical limitations, but they are limitations nonetheless that do show up on tape. He has a few bad habits – holding onto the ball for too long, taking extra steps in his drops, etc. The magic moments are offset by plenty of avoidable sacks, which naturally could cause concern at his size.
The Bottom Line: Bryce Young’s size will dominate the narrative over the next few months, and as annoying as it will inevitably become…it’s fair. I foresee the typical talking point becoming something along the lines of “he’s a near perfect prospect aside from the fact that he’s 195 pounds,” but that’s just not true. Young has areas for improvement; fortunately, they are things that are largely fixable/learnable. Preferably, he begins 2023 on the bench. His arrow is pointing up after his 2022-23 season at Alabama, as weird as that sounds after he won the Heisman Trophy in 2021-2022. Young stepped up his game when it came to creation, all without sacrificing efficiency or accuracy. I’d like to see him end up in an offense that routinely gets him on the move and allows him to throw on the run, which is the most exciting element of his game to me. He’s not system-proof but he does have star potential.
Grade: Mid First Round
Pro Comp: Mark Brunell
On the flip side of the Mock Draft that I dropped yesterday, in this version I am going to take stabs at how the events of Thursday/Friday nights could actually unfold – 2nd round picks included this time too!
I want to make clear that I am not shooting for a perfect score here. Will I gloat if I snipe a late pick or two? Inevitably. But there are a billion mock drafts across the Internet where you can find 64 picks of chalk if you so desire. Here, my goal is to outline conceivable outcomes across the board, but with some picks and trades mixed in that deviate from expectations.
I am well aware that Travon Walker has moved into the driver’s seat as the favorite to first walk onto the podium. With the betting markets now reflecting that shift, we are well beyond the point of Walker to Jacksonville as a smokescreen. Still, I keep Hutchinson here for a few reasons. One, he’s the consensus better prospect. Two, as a Dave Gettleman survivor, I am sympathetic towards the victims in waiting of a senile GM who escapes retirement to torpedo a franchise into a 20-year deep hole, so I am hopeful for Jags fans that Doug Pederson and the coaching staff’s calmer and saner heads prevail over Trent Baalke. Three, I just think the first round will be more fun if Hutch goes 1 and Detroit becomes a total mystery at 2. And in that scenario…
TRADE: DET trades 1/2 to NYJ for 1/4, 2/38
…the Lions don’t even pick at 2! I think they will try to get the hell outta this spot if Hutchinson is off the board – assuming they don’t culturally vibe with Kayvon Thibodeaux. According to draft value charts, the Lions would actually be selling Pick 2 at a discount here, but without blue-chip QBs in this draft it should be deemed as acceptable value.
For the Jets, they use the extra 2nd rounder acquired from the Sam Darnold trade to guarantee that they leave Vegas with Ekwonu – who I have a hunch is the top player on their draft board. I know many Jets fans don’t identify OT as a team need compared to WR/EDGE/CB, but I’m with Joe Douglas and the front office on this one. Take a deep breath and put aside Mekhi Becton’s 13 rookie starts to acknowledge that this is a kid who can barely stay on the field, reportedly was tipping the scales closer to 400lbs than 350lbs, the coaching staff has basically openly revolted against, and now is a no-show at voluntary minicamp. Even if you’re a Jets fan who does envision Becton as part of the future, you think that George Fant on a 1yr/$11mil deal is a good reason to pass on an blue-chip prospect at arguably the second most important position in football? Ickey would be a dream fit in the LaFleur style offense.
I see this spot as Travon Walker’s floor. You hesitate to compare any prospects to Hall of Famers, let alone a prospect with a good amount of baked-in projection like Walker, but it’s not crazy for the Texans to look at Walker’s traits and compare him to another freaky and versatile Georgia Bulldog alum in Richard Seymour, who was drafted sixth overall en route to becoming a key figure in the Patriots dynasty.
If there is a kneecap-biter of a player at WR, it’s London. Beyond appealing to Dan Campbell, you have the SoCal connection with GM Brad Holmes, and just listen to this recent quote from Receivers Coach Antwaan Randel El: “I’m trying to draft two and bring in one. We throwing to him, we don’t care who is covering what, we know he can go up and get that. My guys know we haven’t had that guy yet.”
Joe Schoen’s tenure a couple of months into the Giants GM job has been defined by pay cuts and back-roster moves. He hasn’t made his first landmark move yet, and I do think that’s a notably important thing to get right. By drafting Neal to jump right in at right tackle, this pick would send a message of stability to the fanbase while providing a good combination of safeness and upside on the field.
TRADE: CAR trades 1/6, Sam Darnold to SF for 2/61, 3/105, 2023 R2, Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel
OH YES. I wrote in yesterday’s mock draft that Carolina should be trying like hell to get out of this pick, and I do expect them to pull it off by the time they are on the clock. Now, do they foresee themselves dropping all the way to 61 for their first pick, especially with Scott Fitterer and Matt Rhule on hot seats? No, but I do think it’s likely that they view Jimmy G as their best available QB option for 2022 contention, and one of their biggest roster holes is slot receiver: hello, Mr. Samuel. Deebo is from the Carolinas…the Panthers have the most cap space in the league…see where I’m going here? I have read the reports that Jimmy G isn’t expected to get traded before the draft and that John Lynch doesn’t want to trade Deebo, so I don’t expect this to actually go down – but these stars do align!
For the 49ers, the logic is easy. They are good enough to win a Super Bowl now, and Kyle Hamilton would make their defense that much better. You don’t have to squint too hard to see shades of Ronnie Lott’s game in Hamilton, and the guy who submits the draft card for San Fran is…John Lynch. For the trade framework, I used the Julio Jones 2011 NFL Draft trade:
Pick 27 = Deebo
Pick 59 = Pick 61
Pick 124 = Pick 105
Future R1 = Jimmy G + Future R2
Future R4 = Taking on Darnold’s $18mil
TRADE: NYG trades 1/7 to PIT for 1/20, 3/84, 2023 R1
Rooney Mara tells her uncles to get on the line and work out a deal. Even if that’s not exactly how it goes down, the Giants have leaked it far and wide that they would like to trade back for a future pick(s), and I’m honestly pretty confident that Pittsburgh is going to make a big move for a QB on Thursday night. The outbound GM who decides to stick around for one last year might be the scariest thing in sports, especially when Kevin Colbert watched Ozzie Newsome depart Baltimore with Lamar Jackson as his final first round pick and will look to pull off the same type of legacy move with Willis.
TRADE: ATL trades 1/8, 4/114 to MIN for 1/12, 2/46
Apologies for any confusion with the trade-a-palooza here, but the Falcons like the Panthers are in a pretty gross place organizationally and will likely field calls for this pick to get more help elsewhere. I also have a tough time envisioning the Vikings not leaving this draft with Stingley, and they have a gauntlet of CB-needy teams slated before them in SEA/NYJ/WAS. Beyond having an obvious positional need and just wanting to keep Justin Jefferson happy, Minnesota brought back Patrick Peterson in a pretty clear mentorship role and hired LSU’s DC as their DBs Coach. Bettors: it’s absolutely possible that Sauce goes Top 7, but I would endorse sprinkling some action on Stingley as First CB Drafted for this scenario.
Have a best coach in mind for an uber-talented LA kid with a bold personality? I buy that a lot of decision makers around the league believe the Thibodeaux crap but he’s not making it beyond Pete Carroll.
The Sauce Slide™ ends at 10. I’m sure the Jets war room ran many internal mock drafts where they were satisfied with the final outcome of sticking at 4 and taking Sauce there.
Washington isn’t keeping their cards too close to the chest in that they want a WR and preferably one of the Ohio State boys. I’d imagine they lean Wilson at this much of a premium.
Until I see otherwise, I don’t trust the Falcons front office to look past the shiniest toy on the board after the Kyle Pitts pick. This would actually be a pretty solid outcome for Atlanta though, picking up an extra 2nd rounder to still land Williams, who’s a decent bet to end up as the best long-term outcome in this WR class.
TRADE: HOU trades 1/13 to NO for 1/16, 3/98
You’re telling me that Mickey Loomis is going to sit on his hands until Pick 16 as Charles Cross tumbles down the board? This is the same guy who traded a future 1st rounder to move up for Marcus Davenport.
Baltimore loves length and burst at EDGE, and while I have reservations about Johnson’s college production – just like I did with Odafe Oweh last year – there is no doubt that Johnson has those traits. Even if Johnson doesn’t pan out as a pass rusher, he would make the Ravens even that much harder to run on.
Howie Roseman has a few disciples running teams around the NFL, one of whom is Andrew Berry in Cleveland. Berry has formed the league’s best CB duo moving forward in Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome; here are their Combine measurables:
Ward: 5’11, 183 lbs, 31.25” arm length
Newsome: 6’0, 192 lbs, 31” arm length
Not exactly hulks out there. Nobody questions that McDuffie can play, and I don’t think Philly will overthink his size either. (Avonte Maddox has Bottom 10 wingspan for CBs in Combine history.)
I wrote earlier that Houston can convince themselves that they are nabbing a Richard Seymour clone in Travon Walker. Well, now they do the same for Vince Wilfork with Jordan Davis. Re-pairing the Georgia big boys is sound strategy early into a complete roster overhaul.
Not gonna lie…I have NO idea what direction the Chargers go with this pick. Their roster is one of the league’s more complete and their official prospect visits have largely been with Day 2-3 guys. I can’t sell myself on them taking a WR3 or reaching for a RT at this pick either. And I’m not sure who would trade up for who at this spot. So – and I swear if you read my previous Mock Draft that had Walker going highly too that the Walker Family is not paying me – I have them going with the Michigan State RB. Fellow progressive teams like the Browns and Packers have invested in two-man backfields, and the Chargers have swung-and-missed on late round picks recently to share the workload with Austin Ekeler. The Athletic’s Consensus Big Board has Breece Hall ranked 36th and Walker ranked 40th, and I think Walker as the superior runner makes better sense for LA with Ekeler already locking up third downs. Tom Telesco took Melvin Gordon 15th overall so this isn’t out of character for him.
There is a negative percent chance that the Eagles leave this draft without at least 1/2 first rounders used in the trenches. Karlaftis fits the Eagles benchmarks for defensive linemen to a T with his size, power and hand strength. Bringing back Derek Barnett on a 2yr/$7mil for the primary purpose of negating void years wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of his services, so Karlaftis would join the Eagles in a top reserve role with the hope that he’d naturally replace Brandon Graham down the line.
I reject the narrative that the Saints flipped picks with the Eagles for an additional first rounder this year so they can lump them together to make a mega-trade up; I just think they believe that they are two impact players away from contention. Considering they went 9-8 last year with 10 games started by Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, and Ian Book, maybe it’s not the worst thought. Unless you think they hosted Tyrann Mathieu on a free agent visit as a courtesy and are comfortable with Daniel Sorenson as a starting safety, I’m going to guess that’s the position after OT they have in mind. The Saints gave a big contract to Marcus Maye, who is best aligned as a deep safety, so Cine would have the freedom to do what he does best closer to the line of scrimmage.
This is another safe pick for the Giants, who currently have Blake Martinez fresh off an ACL tear at one ILB spot and Tae Crowder at the other. While I do not expect much early movement on the linebacker class with the amount of decent prospects at the position, the league collectively sounds much higher on Lloyd than the rest of the group.
The Patriots need a cornerback and Gordon has the best remaining combination of size and athleticism. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.
The Packers love themselves a good reach for extremely young and extremely athletic prospects, and more often than not it works out for them so they probably aren’t going to buck that trend now. Smith just turned 21 this month but has the power of a fully developed NFL veteran. Between him, Elgton Jenkins, and Jon Runyan, Green Bay can deploy those three versatile players at LG/RG/RT in any order and it will probably work out.
Kyler Murray publicly cries for better protection via cryptic Instagram posts and typo-filled press releases from his agent and in return he gets…a 187lb wide receiver. As annoying as Kyler is and as bad as Steve Keim is at his job, this would actually be a pretty great pick. The Cardinals have managed to assemble the slowest offense humanly possible, so Olave would tilt the field for them. His floor is basically the peak production of Christian Kirk.
Even with Zion Johnson still on the board, I have a feeling that the league values Kenyon Green much higher than the media. I would believe that Dallas is particularly higher on his youth and power with the way they team-build and run their offense. The whole in-state thing doesn’t hurt either.
What a win this would be for Buffalo. The Bills have low-key had pretty bad offensive lines over the past couple of seasons, and they lost some guys this offseason too. Zion could show up and immediately become their best offensive lineman. He’s a Top 10 player on my Board.
If you have read all of my NFL Draft content up until this point, well, first, thank you. You also might have noticed that I haven’t once written Penning’s name, and that is because I do not think he is a good football player. Having the lack of composure and technique that he did at 22 years old at the FCS level was enough for him not to crack my Top 60, but I do think he still gets picked in the first round with his size and speed. Mike Vrabel would likely welcome his nastiness.
Wyatt feels like one of the top candidates to surprisingly drop out of the first round altogether, but Tampa wouldn’t be scared off by his age (24) and he could become an instant full-time starter on their defensive line at 3-tech lined up next to Vita Vea.
Watson leaves the frigid temperatures of North Dakota and his green and yellow uniform behind for…ah, crap. I do think the Packers not only take a WR in the first round for the first time in 20 years, but I think they’ll take a second one by the end of the next round too. If they plausibly pair a lottery ticket with more of a sure-handed guy, you might as well start with Watson coming off arguably the greatest Combine ever by a WR. Some work is needed with him, but he’s explosive enough to probably step right into Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s role without much more coaching.
Hill will likely go in the first round with his weird combination of quickness and wingspan, and the Chiefs would throw him right into the Honey Badger joker role. While I might not be the biggest endorser of Hill, Steve Spagnuolo would have some ideas for what to do with him.
There are a few places the Chiefs could go with their second of back-to-back picks, but I have them taking Mafe. Although he’s already 23, Mafe is still coming into his own as a pass rusher. That level of intrigue mixed with the fact that Mafe could contribute SOMETHING in 2022 to the Chiefs barren EDGE group gives him the advantage over a couple of other guys.
TRADE: CIN trades 1/31 to SEA for 2/40, 2023 R2 (Denver)
Seattle moves back into the first round and turns the two 2nd rounders acquired in the Russell Wilson trade into the QB that could become Wilson’s long-term replacement. Ridder is a mature and composed QB, basically the Dr. Jekyll to Drew Lock’s Mr. Hyde. I do not think it’s a smokescreen that Ridder was the only QB invited to Seattle for an official pre-draft visit. All indicators are that the Seahawks are looking to offensively revert back to their more run-heavy days, and Ridder has the 4.52 speed and game management experience to helm that offense.
I have slowly bought into the idea that Detroit will take a QB at this spot. (It would make things a whole lot easier for them to also have the extra second round pick that they gained earlier in this mock draft.) Howell would not put any extraordinary pressure on Jared Goff – though it’s not like he doesn’t deserve it – and could ride the bench for weeks while working on his mechanics with NFL coaches. It’s a similar circumstance to what I wrote while mocking Howell to Washington in my previous version: either Goff reverts to form and he’s still under contract, Howell looks better than expected and seizes the job, or neither impress and Detroit still has two first rounders next year to pick a better QB prospect. For the short term, it’s also worth noting that Detroit’s current backup QB is Tim Boyle.
If you made it this far, I sincerely appreciate it. Follow along on draft night and beyond on Twitter @Real_Peej
In this Version 1/2 of mock drafts that I’ll release within the next 48 hours, I am playing GM for each NFL team. I am not aiming for prediction accuracy whatsoever here; simply what I, PJ Moran, believe would be the best use of draft capital for each team.
Thibodeaux is the top player in the class by my estimation, and he fits a need for the Jags nicely even after their shopping spree in free agency. Thibodeaux and Josh Allen are actually pretty similar profiles, so having those two to bookend the defensive line will allow the Jags DC to place his focus elsewhere.
Completely natural fit that Dan Campbell & Co. must be dreaming becomes a reality on Thursday night.
Bit of a wild card here, which makes it perfectly Texans. Where do you go with a roster that needs literally everything? Personally, I’d seek a potential culture changer at an up-the-middle position. Safety might not be that position that first comes to mind, but Lovie Smith could see Hamilton as his next Brian Urlacher, Nick Caserio could see him as his next Rodney Harrison, and Jack Easterby could see him as his next Bible study group member. (Jumping to some Notre Dame conclusions with that one.) Anyway, Texans also pick again at 13, so they should swing for the fences with this pick.
Some might think this is a bit rich for London, but I do not. He would be the long-term solution at the X-WR spot where the Jets have been missing a target-hog for years. This selection would be a massive step in creating the best possible surroundings for Zach Wilson.
The Giants would welcome this scenario of zero drafted OTs and CBs with open arms. With everyone at those positions available, I lean Neal. The RT position has plagued the Giants for nearly a decade now – from Bobby Hart to Nate Solder – and Neal is the perfect fit to end that suffering. With him and Andrew Thomas anchoring the offensive line, the new front office could move forward with rebuilding the rest of the organization.
TRADE: CAR trades 1/6 to BUF for 1/25, 2/57, 4/130, 2023 R1, 2023 R4
Without another pick in this draft until 137(!!!), the Panthers should be doing everything in their power to get out of this spot for more picks. It might be tough to find a buyer, especially one at this steep of a price, but I am giving my stamp of approval for Buffalo to throw more chips into the middle of the poker table for a player of Sauce’s caliber. The Bills are ready to win now and Sauce teamed up with Tre White and Buffalo’s Pro Bowl safety duo would make them nearly impossible to throw on.
The Giants would probably be pretty devastated with this outcome of getting jumped for Sauce, but in that event McDuffie should not be viewed as a consolation prize. Forget the history of Wink Martindale and longer cornerbacks; the Giants should absolutely not pass on the best player available at a position of need – and I do have McDuffie ranked slightly ahead of Derek Stingley (also short-armed) – for the schematic preference of a new 58 year old DC who just got fired by the Ravens.
TRADE: ATL trades 1/8 to BAL for 1/14, 2/45, 4/119
Atlanta suddenly finds itself with arguably the league’s worst roster – Jacksonville, Detroit, and Houston included – so they too should be looking to trade out of the Top 10 to stockpile more picks. The Ravens being the Ravens have FIVE 4th round picks at the moment and usually don’t pick in the top half of the draft, so look for them to get aggressive for a premier player. Enjoy trying to run on Calais Campbell, Michael Pierce, and Jordan Davis.
This is another stinky roster with holes everywhere, but arguably none more glaring than cornerback. Seattle currently does not have an NFL caliber CB1 or CB2…I’m sure that does not sit well with Pete Carroll. It’s nearly universally agreed upon that there is a Top 3 group at cornerback in this year’s draft class with a sharp fall-off after them, so Seattle grabs the last of the bunch with back-to-back 2nd rounders still in hand to address deeper positions.
Ideally I would have taken a defensive player here after mocking Drake London to the Jets at 4, but with both Kyle Hamilton and the Top 3 CBs off the board I avoided reaching and went back to the offensive side of the ball. I’ll go deeper into the Jets/Ekwonu pairing in my upcoming predictive mock draft – spoiler alert – but for now I’ll just say that this is a pick that Jets fans would be happy with in 3 years, and maybe even by the end of next year.
Washington is stuck in the purgatory of not drafting poorly enough and not spending foolishly enough to avoid being among the league’s worst teams but constantly among the league’s most mediocre teams. It feels like they pick between 10-15 EVERY year, and besides ownership the primary reason behind this organizational quicksand is the 21st Century revolving door at QB. Now, while I hate how Washington acquired Carson Wentz, I can get behind bringing him into the building. I can REALLY get behind it if they supplement that trade with a QB pick at 11. Remember in 2016 when Dallas drafted Dak Prescott without much fanfare and then it became immediately apparent by the preseason that he could play? Does that outcome sound so bad to Washington fans?
If you are going to commit to Kirk Cousins like the Vikings did this offseason, you better beef up the running game with Dalvin Cook as much as possible. Minnesota with Zion would suddenly have one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the league.
There is a non-zero chance that Houston leaves Picks 3&13 with Hamilton and Walker…but in reverse order. Walker at 3 would be rich for my liking, but at this spot he would be a great building block for the Texans.
After picking up extra 2nd and 4th rounders by trading down into this spot, Atlanta takes a mulligan on the decision to draft a tight end with the fourth overall pick last year and this time kickstarts a rebuild in the trenches like they should. The Falcons have the worst WR room in the league and it isn’t close, but I can’t talk myself into grabbing one here with the draft class depth at that position and the clear regression that Calvin Ridley experienced in Arthur Smith’s offense last year.
Wideout is an obvious option here, but I don’t like the ideas of 1) using mid-first rounders on non-alpha WRs (see: Jalen Reagor) or 2) using first rounders on the same position three years in a row regardless of how badly the previous picks might have turned out (see: Jalen Reagor). Philly should remain in playoff contention next season and Brisker would be an immediate starter. He would remind Eagles fans of Malcolm Jenkins.
I have Cross graded a tier(s) below Neal and Ekwonu, but he’s still a young, talented, and likely ascendent prospect. LT is clearly the Saints biggest roster need, and with them perpetually in win-now mode this pick is a rare case of drafting for both the short and long terms.
TRADE: LAC trades 1/17 to DAL for 1/24, 2/56
Chargers get back the 2nd rounder that they gave up for Khalil Mack, and the Cowboys jump a handful of teams to take one of the last available first-round caliber EDGE prospects. After getting left at the altar by Randy Gregory, Karlaftis would fit like a glove on the Dallas defensive line opposite Demarcus Lawrence – see the comp for Karlaftis on my Top 50 board.
There is a 0% chance that this pick occurs on Thursday night, and I’m sure that even the notion of it elicits a lukewarm reaction at best from Eagles fans. But man, I think it’s a match made in heaven. If Miles Sanders was ever meant to be an NFL lead back – I’ll allow anyone to first watch a montage of him trying to anticipate run lanes before answering that question – then it definitely was not meant to take place in the power running offense that Philly has unleashed with Jalen Hurts under center. Enter Walker, who runs with controlled fury and has the size to take on 200+ carries immediately. With an extra 1st round pick, why not use it on a player who could make your team 2-3 wins better right away?
Olave to New Orleans at this spot would be an excellent marriage of value and positional need. Besides the obvious match of Olave’s speed on the Superdome turf, I really like the idea of his refinement in that offense that has so desperately lacked it at WR whenever Michael Thomas has been unavailable.
This is an uncomfortable reach, especially when Ridder isn’t even the highest ranked QB available on my board (Malik Willis), but this is just how things fell for the Steelers and I do think Ridder is the best choice to step right into a starting QB job for a team with plenty of the pieces in place. I would trust him to admirably navigate Pittsburgh’s shambly offensive line and get the ball out to Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool in space. By no means would I compare Ridder to Russell Wilson, but this hypothetical outcome of Ridder batting with Mitch Trubisky reminds of when Seattle paid Matt Flynn in the offseason just for Russ to win the starting job by Week 1.
New England has a glaring need at cornerback, but it’s too much of a burden to place on the 21st overall pick to expect him to immediately flourish in that role in a Bill Belichick defense. The Patriots have had success at finding late round gems at CB, but also don’t be surprised if they trade up or make a move for a veteran on the block (cough, cough: James Bradberry). Instead, they take Ebiketie, who is NFL ready and could take some of the pass rush load off Matt Judon.
I know, I know: it’s not wide receiver. I have been clamoring for Green Bay to take one for years like actual Packers fans, but in this situation I’d advise that they stay patient and first address one of the few other roster weaknesses with a potentially elite prospect in Lloyd. After years of linebacker instability, the Packers suddenly would have both of the ILB spots in their 3-4 base defense solidified for the next half-decade.
TRADE: ARZ trades 1/23 to JAX for 2/33, 3/65
For a team picking in the back-half of the first round, I really do not care for the Cardinals roster. There isn’t remotely one player still on the board for them who would make me feel better about their organizational direction. On top of that, they don’t have picks in Rounds 4 or 5, so I chose to slide back 10 slots and turn one pick into two. For the Jags, it’s obvious: take this seriously for Trevor Lawrence. I love the idea of young QB/OC pairings, and Doug Pederson can attest to the impact a mobile center can have on an offense after years of coaching Jason Kelce. They also have an extra 3rd rounder to burn after picking one up in the CJ Henderson trade.
When a team has nearly everything and a QB on a rookie contract, you turn your plus into a plus-plus. Williams would bring an infusion of speed into the Chargers WR room, and it would be a hell of a show to watch Justin Herbert do his best to try to overthrow him.
My brain and my heart are a house divided in this scenario for the Panthers. Malik Willis is staring me in the face and the value here would be solid, but I just cannot get myself to place him on an offense led by Matt Rhule, Ben McAdoo, Robby Anderson, Christian McCaffrey at $64mil, and Cam Erving as the current starting LT on the depth chart. I really think this regime deserves to reap what they have sown on the offensive side of the ball, so instead of Willis the defense is rewarded with Hall, who needs some time to reach his full potential but until then would contribute towards a nice DT rotation of Derrick Brown/Matt Ioannidis/Bravvion Roy.
Tennessee is at an interesting crossroads coming into this NFL Draft. Is 2022 the last hurrah for the Titans built around Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry? Or is that year…already a thing in the past after their 2021 first round playoff exit? It’s really hard to say as a neutral observer and I’m not decided on which way I personally lean. Players like Willis and Tyler Smith are intriguing from a developmental perspective, but I’ll give Tannehill some credit and instead go with Garrett Wilson, who would nicely complement the play styles of AJ Brown and Robert Woods.
TRADE: TB trades 1/27 to SEA for 2/40, 3/72, 5/145
What difference does a fifth-year option make when your team is anchored by a 45 year old QB? Tampa only has four picks in the Top 240 as it stands, so for me it’s a no-brainer to triple the pick volume for players who can chip in right away in 2022 with Brady still in town. While not a pick that I would make at 9 – clearly by nature of this exercise – Seattle taking Willis that early wouldn’t be all that outrageous. They get him much later now while still holding a good amount of draft capital via the Russell Wilson trade.
Packers fans wait 20 years for a first-round receiver and when they finally get one it’s a guy who ran a 4.65 40! This would play out as a joke on Twitter but I would freaking love this fit for Green Bay. They take pride in WR size and physicality and Bell has it. Obviously no rookie is going to step right into Davante Adams’ cleats, but there isn’t a guy in this class who I’d pick to do a better impression of Adams over Bell.
I’m not sure that any match of first round prospect and team would be more beautiful than this one. Pitre was born to play in Steve Spagnuolo’s aggressive and blitz-happy defense. I can already hear Jim Nantz yelling “PITRE!” when he makes a huge play in a January playoff game at Arrowhead.
I considered a pass-catcher here, but I really don’t think the group of Kelce/JuJu/Valdes-Scantling is as bad as the heat it’s taking. No, those WRs aren’t good, but the Chiefs also have two picks in each Round 1-4. The Veach/Reid/Mahomes leadership trinity gives the Chiefs more flexibility to plan for the future than any other team, and they cash in on that security by drafting Ojabo fresh off his Achilles tear.
CB2 is the only need that truly jumps out to me on the Bengals depth chart, and Gordon is still here for the taking. Bengals live in a press-zone scheme that Gordon has familiarity with from college. “No questions asked, hand in the card” type of pick here.
It’s tempting to place a QB here for fifth-year option purposes, but I’m not moving mountains for Matt Corral or Kenny Pickett and I don’t like either of them in Detroit either. Also, let’s not forget that other positions are expensive too, notably WR as of late, so the fifth-year option can come in handy elsewhere. Like I said in my writeup for Burks, I project him as an X-WR in the NFL – which is where the Lions are crying for help. Burks/DJ Chark/Amon-Ra St. Brown all of a sudden would be a respectable WR corps.
Thanks for reading! Within the next 48 hours: “What COULD Happen” version of a mock draft. Follow me on Twitter @Real_Peej
88 NFL Draft prospects evaluated this year; here are the Top 50 in my eyes. Methodology: I’ll watch a highlight reel to get the gist of the player, do some background reading, and then watch 3-6 full games of tape – amount of time depends on the consensus caliber and position of the prospect, and I usually try to watch at least one game from a previous season too.
Positional value is weighed but not ultimately the final factor in my rankings. For example, I would not endorse drafting Kenneth Walker 11th overall, but I also do not think there are 10 players in this draft better at their position than Kenneth Walker. Hopefully that makes sense!
New for 2022: I spent a lot of time mapping out NFL pro comparisons for each prospect, so I hope you enjoy them. I haphazardly threw out player comps in years past (shoutout Justin Herbert to Josh Freeman) but this year I put much more intentionality behind them because NFL Draft scouting is supposed to be fun, and I also do see the value in having players in mind for readers who don’t spend days of time crunching amateur footage on YouTube like me. For the player comps, my intention is not to predict that the prospect will be as good as the selected comparison. Still, I did do my best to land in the general area of NFL impact that I think the prospect could have, though at the end of the day the comparisons are more about play style and measurables.
Tweet-Length Review: Even without a perfect grade, KT is no slouch as top dog. Freaky athlete with raw power and explosive burst around the edge. Can be moved around with his length and IQ and will immediately impact vs run in NFL. Arrow pointing up w/ pass rush skills. No attitude concern from me.
Pro Comparison: Khalil Mack
Tweet-Length Review: Sauce is the cleanest prospect in this draft. His length is obvious, but he also brings elite quickness, positioning, and physicality to the table. Rare mind at CB who will live in press man coverage. 2021 production was nearly perfect. Only depends how highly you value CBs.
Pro Comparison: Troy Vincent
Tweet-Length Review: The consensus top prospect, Hutch is a relentless pass rusher with elite movement and hands. Like he did at Michigan, he’ll convert pressures into sacks. Short-armed without much bend, so there’s a chance he banks on effort over skill wins. But his floor is like Trey Hendrickson.
Pro Comparison: TJ Watt
Tweet-Length Review: A mammoth who moves like he’s 30 pounds lighter, Neal won’t get mistaken for Jon Ogden or Orlando Pace for his finish or solo protection. But he’s plenty long and strong, plays clean, and works well on the line. Has flashed dominance and could unlock it staying at one position.
Pro Comparison: Andrew Whitworth
Tweet-Length Review: Psycho competitor at WR whose high point catches and body control make his basketball background clear. London is a rare separator for his size with good YAC ability. Some of the most dominant WR tape you’ll ever see. No, he’s not fast, but stick him outside and forget about it.
Pro Comparison: Mike Evans
Tweet-Length Review: Neither a Derwin James style CB/S hybrid nor a Jamal Adams style LB/S hybrid, Hamilton is in desperate need of a rebrand. Perfect mold for the modern NFL safety but just…bigger. Incredibly rare instincts with the hard hits, TE coverage, and recovery you’d want from any safety.
Pro Comparison: Harrison Smith
Tweet-Length Review: All-time specimen whose tape backs up his legendary Combine. Davis is both an immovable double team eater and a sudden force who can swim or rip by any IOL. Would like to see less finesse, but Davis should be a run stuffer and TFL machine – especially if he sticks around 340lbs.
Pro Comparison: Haloti Ngata
Tweet-Length Review: Tough as hell with clear football IQ, McDuffie will make any team better. Played mostly zone at UW but is also sticky in man coverage with quick hips and feet. Has plenty of speed and physicality. Teams stopped throwing at him. Won’t be a high count INT guy, but he’s a baller.
Pro Comparison: Denzel Ward
Tweet-Length Review: Olave is as smooth as savvy as it gets at WR, and he’s coming down with any ball thrown near him. Has a mix of releases to fool DBs off the line, and he can also cook them with speed that might be better than his 4.39 40. He’s skinny and has no YAC boost, but Olave just produces.
Pro Comparison: Calvin Ridley
Tweet-Length Review: Quick and flexible, earns leverage then drives or turns DTs. High connect rate at second level that modern NFL OCs crave, but also the old school strong base and finishing mentality. Aware, active, and holds his own. 22 y/o OG isn’t flashy but Zion could be in Pro Bowl next year.
Pro Comparison: David DeCastro
Tweet-Length Review: Highest graded RB in my 3 years of prep. Full package as a runner. Excellent vision and burst, can run around you or through you. Home run hitter who also moves the chains. Elite production on a bad MSU offense. Inexperienced route runner and bad pass blocker, but Walker can RUN.
Pro Comparison: Dalvin Cook
Tweet-Length Review: Freakishly built with play style at UGA that was freakishly ordinary. Versatile, hard edge setter, gap filler. Lethal speed/power combo flashes, but Walker’s general pass rush execution isn’t there and he’s better with a hand in the dirt. NFL teams: don’t screw him up; he’s good.
Pro Comparison: Jadeveon Clowney
Tweet-Length Review: Ferocious puncher, easy mover, makes watching the OL fun. Ickey is a compact body-tosser with a mean streak who’s perfect for a zone rushing attack. Technique in pass protection needs to improve: oversets, hand timing, using his length. But he’s trending upward at a key position.
Pro Comparison: La’el Collins
Tweet-Length Review: Williams has another gear that 99% of WRs don’t, but he’s no one-trick pony. Strong-handed alpha type who’s not afraid to go over the middle. Good catch radius and can JUMP. One-year wonder body catcher who struggles with feel and physical separation is scary, but he’s that fast.
Pro Comparison: Will Fuller
Tweet-Length Review: Elite athlete, lightning in his breaks, and at his best 1v1. Ball skills were on full display during LSU title season. But in 2019, Stingley took his lumps too: got turned around, opened shoulders early, and just outmuscled. Limited tape since but I think he’ll be more than fine.
Pro Comparison: Chris Gamble
Tweet-Length Review: Deep ball thrower who looks his best in the pocket but proved in 2021 he can run well when needed. Poised, tough, and smart. Howell has top-heavy mechanics and too much trust in his NFL-average attributes. But he’s young and improving with his footwork, timing, and progressions.
Pro Comparison: Dak Prescott
Tweet-Length Review: Charged up bull rusher with athleticism matched by his brute strength. Karlaftis put on 3 years of tape of wrecking pockets and winning with quick and powerful hands. He does have stiff ankles and can play out of balance, which shows up vs the run. But he’s an NFL built 4-3 DE.
Pro Comparison: Demarcus Lawrence
Tweet-Length Review: Explosive 330 pounder, wins leverage, tosses linemen with ease. Performance vs Clemson put any strength-of-competition concerns to rest. Also had silly reps at Senior Bowl. Right now, wins just by being fast and strong. Won’t work in NFL. If his technique is unlocked, watch out.
Pro Comparison: Akiem Hicks
Tweet-Length Review: Equal player high and low, Brisker has good deep instincts and range and also looks like a small LB playing in the box. Lowers his shoulder and hits hard. Incredible recognition. Angles need work and probably won’t make many plays on the ball, but he’s a fan-favorite in waiting.
Pro Comparison: John Johnson III
Tweet-Length Review: Over-ranked relative to other boards, love this profile and love Bell. Has the size, hands, and route-running precision. Excellent possession WR, sneaky shift, hard to tackle. Yes, he tested poorly. But Bell is an athlete, just more with body control and hand-eye coordination.
Pro Comparison: Robert Woods
Tweet-Length Review: Patient and uses hands well to mirror and neutralize. Cross is very athletic for OT, gets upfield fast, and flashes insane recovery ability. Just so damn young. Gives up ground and gets beat by advanced moves, holds too much, not enough run reps. Get the hype but pump the brakes.
Pro Comparison: Jake Matthews
Tweet-Length Review: Always works towards ball and won’t come off the field. Lloyd is patient, long and smooth. Moves well in all directions and can flip hips and run in coverage. Don’t buy him as EDGE/LB hybrid like Utah used him, especially at 23 y/o in Pac12. Not a burner or thumper but just good.
Pro Comparison: De’Vondre Campbell
Tweet-Length Review: Enigma of the draft cycle, Burks is a YAC beast bigger than everyone with nimble feet. Could have lined up in backfield then caught 50/50 ball on the next play. Ton of talent but also telegraphs routes, has tight hips and a short stride. Gotta find right role; I think it’s X-WR.
Pro Comparison: Dez Bryant
Tweet-Length Review: If there’s an eval that will age poorly, might be here. Wilson has special body control, agility, concentration and tempo. Highlight reel routes and catches on tape. But his frame is really small and he plays like it. Worry he needs scheme help or will just get bullied in NFL.
Pro Comparison: Santonio Holmes
Tweet-Length Review: Possibly the best bender in this class, Ebiketie works OT’s outside shoulders like a pro. Couple of go-to moves already under his belt too. NFL long and strong. Grad transfer production is concerning and he’s not a freak, but I’m betting he was just late to put it all together.
Pro Comparison: Josh Sweat
Tweet-Length Review: Center is low on positional value chart, but also don’t see Linderbaum as this generational OC prospect. Like him quite a bit; crazy strength, cuts off linemen quickly, wins the pad level battle, centers his punch. But also tiny-armed and more of a wrestler than blocker/helper.
Pro Comparison: Corey Linsley
Tweet-Length Review: Even if the Internet lied to you that he’s Josh Allen x Lamar Jackson, Willis has a live arm and strong legs. Can throw with touch then uncork it 60 yards. Still, BAD pocket tendencies and iffy ball placement. Inconsistent and got picked on at times. But he’s got some stones.
Pro Comparison: Jalen Hurts
Tweet-Length Review: Gordon has the size and raw athleticism needed to play press zone in the NFL. Good tackler, competes hard, and got better by the game. There’s plenty of technique to clean up: staying lighter on his feet, turning his head earlier, etc. Already like him though; think NFL will too.
Pro Comparison: Chidobe Awuzie
Tweet-Length Review: Pitre lived in the slot at Baylor and caused chaos behind the LOS. Plenty of traits to love: contact balance, uncanny timing, patience in coverage. Also red flags: age, undersized, and mainly no clear NFL role. But good things happen when he’s around the ball and he’s got JUICE.
Pro Comparison: Micah Hyde
Tweet-Length Review: Tall, twitched up, quick handed with power to piledrive OGs. Sounds good? Well, Hall doesn’t know what he’s doing yet. Tweener who played situationally at UH. Needs to master his niche and learn to play with control. By adding 20lbs, off to good start to become a force at 4-3 DT.
Pro Comparison: Arik Armstead
Tweet-Length Review: Well-known field general of UGA defense, Dean is twitchy with great burst. Finds the hole and hits it hard. Just so wary of undersized LBs, especially one who skips testing. Issues with tape too: not the cleanest tackler, impatient, coverage might be limited to RBs. We’ll see.
Pro Comparison: Jordan Hicks
Tweet-Length Review: BIG boy who pancakes religiously. Basically lesser Ikem Ekwonu. Smith is athletic with good nastiness. Quick to engage, held his own vs good teams. Just a total mess in protection right now; some fixable, some not. Unsure if he’ll evolve from OG to OT in NFL, but he has time.
Pro Comparison: Robert Hunt
Tweet-Length Review: Tough, quick, and shifty craftsman at WR who looked like the best player on the field at every BSU game. Best out of slot but can hang on the outside too. Runs full route tree. Shakir has average size and T-Rex arms, and he won’t stack or survive press. He’ll catch EVERYTHING.
Pro Comparison: Amon-Ra St. Brown
Tweet-Length Review: Most NFL ready QB in the class, Ridder is plug-and-play with developed anticipation, timing, and pocket mobility. Hits targets in stride. Deep passing stinks, arm is ok, generally inaccurate, not a pretty ball. Awesome athlete but see him more as a game manager than creator.
Pro Comparison: Alex Smith
Tweet-Length Review: Quick strike QB with plus arm. Can throw to anywhere on the field. Corral is a twitchy scrambler who climbs the pocket and leaves it out on the field. Have doubts his small stature + reckless play style will survive NFL without Lane Kiffin’s RPO offense to help, but he’s tough.
Pro Comparison: Jeff Garcia
Tweet-Length Review: Line up Ojabo as far outside as possible and let him cook. Has more rush chops than credited for and a rare knack to force fumbles. More of a speed rush specialist right now though, which is not the best role for an Achilles tear! Would have ranked 10-15 spots higher pre-injury.
Pro Comparison: Yannick Ngakoue
Tweet-Length Review: Awesome line-mate with raw power and grip strength. Green sustains well in run game and is dominant at times. One of least athletic top prospects and it shows. A&M took advantage of his size and willingness; will flourish at OG in NFL. Gonna be HUGE, 325lbs and just turned 21.
Pro Comparison: Gabe Jackson
Tweet-Length Review: Wyatt is a quick power generator who looks shot out of a cannon when he’s on. Pain in the ass of a blocking assignment, can blow up any play. I’m skeptical though: played at 23 y/o and don’t buy he’ll stick at Combine weight of 305lbs. More of a wrecking ball than disciplined DT.
Pro Comparison: Daron Payne
Tweet-Length Review: Before breakout Senior Bowl and Combine, Watson was the guy who ran down Trey Lance’s deep balls. Absurd downfield separation, legit speed. Hate “raw” label but it applies to Watson. Needs to better attack ball and learn creativity in routes. Probably worth the coaching needed.
Pro Comparison: Tim Patrick
Tweet-Length Review: Case of “tape don’t lie” because Spiller’s testing sucked. Not great for RB! Productive three-down back, very good receiver. Decisive one-cut runner who can get dirty yards up middle or turn corner. Not a home run hitter or TD machine. Young, mainly needs confidence and patience.
Pro Comparison: Joe Mixon
Tweet-Length Review: Perfect sized RB, can get small AND falls forward. Hall cuts upfield but creative/instinctive running is his calling card. Massive Combine caught me off guard; only “good” athlete on tape. No truck stick and not too sudden. Possible fantasy RB1, but possible 5 year career too.
Pro Comparison: David Johnson
Tweet-Length Review: Odd man out in UGA’s LB corps, Tindall was most explosive of the bunch. Plays low to the ground and meets RBs in the hole with impact. Good athlete who soars into the backfield. Limited reps but has some coverage skills too. Might get stuck in the box in NFL but dude’s a missile.
Pro Comparison: Devin Bush
Tweet-Length Review: Ladder-climber who plays taller and wider than his already big frame. Tolbert is smooth with good breakaway speed and downfield separation. Wins 50/50 balls and has experience winning in space. Older prospect who lacks precision and great ball skills, but he should hold his own.
Pro Comparison: Corey Davis
Tweet-Length Review: Ultra competitive CB, crashes down on plays at LOS like his life depends on it. Not many guys this athletic and physical, Booth looks can’t-miss at his peak. Plays at one speed, which isn’t a good thing in his case. Will lose assignments and balance flying around. Needs to chill.
Pro Comparison: Trae Waynes
Tweet-Length Review: Tone setter, great speed, checks the physical boxes. Cine has shown he’s instinctual near LOS. Just a total freelancer of a safety. Lots of inexplicable moments on tape, whether it’s crashing box too early or abandoning his zone. Range isn’t much, might cash checks as an enforcer.
Pro Comparison: Brandon Meriweather
Tweet-Length Review: Dulcich has the wingspan, hands, and speed to be a total mismatch. Releases, route tree, and YAC ability are solid too. Won’t ever pass protect and his run blocking needs work. Might not ever make it into heavy personnel in NFL or rack up double-digit TDs, but he’s a ball-winner.
Pro Comparison: Dawson Knox
Tweet-Length Review: Yes, I watched the OSU/Mich game. Petit-Frere got his ass kicked by Hutchinson. He struggled with that burst and unraveled, and his lack of explosion accounts for that. But NPF is a very good run blocker who has a solid base and quick hands. Maybe a low ceiling, but NFL-ready OT.
Pro Comparison: Morgan Moses
Tweet-Length Review: Probably best college QB in 2021, Pickett looks the part. Mostly accurate, can throw on the run, has zip and touch. West Coast fit. But it is what it is with a 23 y/o breakout in the ACC. Ugly pocket tendencies and arm is NFL subpar. Iffy decision maker, sack count will be HIGH.
Pro Comparison: David Carr
Tweet-Length Review: High energy, strong arms, lower body torque. Johnson does his job holding down the edge. I am stunned by his momentum. Old one-year wonder with production that’s nearly all based in effort. Very little nuance, finesse, or counter. Best chance is to get bigger and land on good DL.
Pro Comparison: Whitney Mercilus
Tweet-Length Review: Body that suits a former TE, Raimann is light on feet and positions himself nicely. Mostly held his own vs LSU. Stuck at OT forever at his smaller size/length, and gets driven by bigger EDGEs. Maybe a nice player, but at his age (25 in Sept) gotta wonder how much growth is left.
Pro Comparison: Joe Haeg
Next Ten Out (In No Order): Romeo Doubs (WR, Nevada), Abraham Lucas (OT, Washington State), Daniel Faalele (OT, Minnesota), Boye Mafe (EDGE, Minnesota), Chad Muma (LB, Wyoming), Christian Harris (LB, Alabama), Leo Chenal (LB, Wisconsin), Kaiir Elam (CB, Florida), Roger McCreary (CB, Auburn), Daxton Hill (SAF, Michigan)
“It’s Draft Day. – Kevin Costner in the 2014 film, Draft Day.
Whether he actually said that in that movie, I’m not sure, but I do know that I promised another mock draft and I will deliver in the same way that the Giants surely will not tonight. REALLY quick hitters here; just calling the shots as I see them, and I don’t know any more about the teams’ plans than the people reading this. For some spots I’ll just write the mock pick, and I might include a line or two for others where I have not already written about the player this week or if the thought process deserves brief explanation. Please make sure to check out my deeper dives from earlier this week if you have not already:
Yes, I heard the reports that San Fran has narrowed their decision to Mac Jones and Trey Lance. How a report like that would leak in the first place is totally beyond me, beyond me to the point that I’m inclined to think that the guy who has been “eliminated as an option” in this “last minute decision” is actually the pick. It definitely could be Lance, but until they read the card I refuse to believe that the 49ers gave up three first round picks for Jones.
I think the rumors that Atlanta would take a QB have been a bluff all along, and I don’t think any team would give up extra draft capital to get to Pick 4 when they can likely take the same QB at Pick 7. So Atlanta stays put for the most common choice as best player available after Trevor Lawrence, and Pitts would fit in nicely into Arthur Smith’s offense.
I expect the Chase vs. Sewell debate to end with Joe Burrow getting his way with his former LSU teammate. The Bengals do need another receiver on the outside, but how the franchise that drafted Anthony Munoz, Willie Anderson and Andrew Whitworth and witnessed Carson Palmer and Burrow suffer devastating knee injuries at the expense of their offensive lines could then pass on line here is tough to understand.
Miami would probably be pretty devastated in this scenario, because I figure they moved back up from 12 to 6 to land either Chase or Pitts. I fully endorsed the selection of Tua last year, but besides that this Dolphins regime has shown a head-scratching fondness for projects in the draft. Waddle isn’t objectively a project, but at sixth overall he would qualify as one.
I would be pretty stunned if Detroit actually picks in this slot. They are at the earliest stage in a total rebuild and should look to accumulate as many picks as possible. The Patriots are on the other end of the phone, jumping into the same pick where Josh Allen was taken. New England could place their future on Lance having a similar effect by his third season.
For how badly the Broncos need a long-term solution at quarterback, I don’t think the new regime in Denver will kick off their tenure by placing their reputation on the fifth QB off the board.
There is just so much buzz around Horn, enough where I think he has supplanted Patrick Surtain II in the home stretch as the first cornerback off the board.
Please, God. Please.
Eagles fans should hope that someone has communicated to Howie Roseman to do the exact opposite of what he has done in previous drafts. In that case, Surtain would make good sense.
These Raiders love drafting from the blue bloods – Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State – and I think they might go back to the well. After big games in both rounds of the College Football Playoff, Barmore declared for the draft as a true sophomore. Barmore’s stock reminds me of Patrick Queen’s from last year, where in those spotlighted games they looked like can’t-miss prospects but when you look into the microscope for regular season tape you find a much different player. Barmore way too often is driven backwards right off the snap, especially in the run and sometimes against lower competition. Barmore isn’t an exceptional athlete like Quinnen Williams, but he was a productive pass rusher in his one season starting at Alabama with 8 sacks from the interior and has the size and burst to get on guards’ outside shoulders and wreck plays. It’s just that you see it in flashes when you’d like to see it with consistency.
I am going back and forth on whether Washington would take a QB if one fell to them at 19. My gut is that they would take Lance or Fields, but I’m not sure that Dan Snyder would unilaterally make the call for Jones after the Dwayne Haskins fiasco. I have the Bears jumping them just in case, because they definitely will take a QB if they can.
I expect Oweh to go in the first round following what literally might have been the greatest pre-draft workout of all time, but of the 150+ players that I have evaluated over the last two years Oweh is my single least favorite relative to expected draft position. I would go nowhere near this guy over the first two rounds of the draft, and I’m not even worried about this aging poorly. There are freakish players without much college production who do figure it out in the NFL, but I saw it too often that Oweh lacks much discipline or competitive drive, and for a guy who ran a 4.37 I have no reason to believe based on tape that he could succeed without a hand in the ground. I was ready to look past the fact that he had no sacks in 7 games as a junior because sacks don’t tell the full story for EDGE, but in this case it basically does tell the story of Oweh’s level of disruption. I am looking for one specific on-field trait to justify taking a beast like Oweh with DK Metcalf’s regrettable draft slide in mind, but I’ve got nothing. Some teams will argue that he just needs more coaching and refinement, but after two full years at Penn State I just don’t think Oweh is a good football player.
Would I recommend drafting a running back without multiple pieces on the offensive line in place in order to reestablish the running game? No, no I would not. But alas, the Steelers are old school, and I can see them using their first pick on a tone setter in the backfield like Harris. I don’t have much to say about Harris besides that I think he’ll be perfectly solid running back? He’s obviously got the size, but he doesn’t run anything like Derrick Henry even if they were doppelgangers in their Alabama jerseys. Harris has good speed and good patience and good tackle-breaking ability – but none of it is great. He doesn’t really ever create something out of nothing, often leaving a few yards on the table either by nature of indecisiveness or a lack of creativity. Harris has reliable hands but I think his ability in the passing game has been overblown. At the end of the day, I think Harris can have a fairly long career of 800-1,000 yard rushing seasons. That’s a fine player, but it’s not a first rounder.
Tryon was not included in my first mock draft or even my Top 50 board for that matter – I see him as a Round 3 type. His length is his defining trait, with tree trunks for arms that he consistently uses to push offensive tackles off balance. He’s strong too, and there is tape that he can penetrate the backfield against the run and overwhelm interior linemen on inside rushes. Tryon has almost no twitch though and way too many of his pass rush wins came by nature of size mismatches vs. Pac-12 tackles. At the moment, I see Tryon as a rotational pass rusher who requires major development with his hands and plan at attack. Granted, I am projecting a first round pick here, but Tryon really could have boosted his stock by playing in 2020.
I could be off but I’m getting the sense that Ojulari might slip, and if so then any team that gets him around here is making one of the best picks of the draft.
Against my better judgment, I actually like Davis a little bit – he cracked my Top 50 board at No. 46. Just on paper, there is a lot not to like here, given that Davis is a one-year wonder inside linebacker who will be drafted highly largely on his tools over his production. If that sounds like an oddly specific player description, there is legitimately one of this type of player drafted highly basically every year and outside of Deion Jones I cannot think of an example of it working out. Still, I really enjoyed watching the juice that Davis plays with. “Sideline to sideline” gets thrown around too much but Davis really does fly all over the field, and he’s a decent tackler. He certainly has the speed to be a plus player in coverage, and his instincts in limited tape seem good too. There is just no getting around how undersized Davis is and how much it does show up taking on blockers. I like the way Davis plays and there is real upside but he is just so novice and it cannot be overstated how often players of his profile flame out in the NFL.
I almost feel bad for Rousseau, because if he was somehow able to enter the 2020 NFL Draft following his redshirt freshman season then he likely would have been a Top 10 pick. Now, I honestly think I might be too generous projecting him in the first round, even at its final pick. Rousseau was second in the nation with 15.5 sacks that season, only behind Chase Young. If you are wondering if you can fake your way to 15.5 sacks in 13 games – you can. A staggering amount of Rousseau’s sacks and QB hits came by the way of mop up sacks, coverage sacks, or simply being in the right place at the right time. He rarely actually won his pass rush reps, which at 19 years old would have been understandable, but he’s also not a particularly good athlete for the position either. Rousseau isn’t explosive or quick at all, and he’s not too strong yet either. This will sound like a joke but I earnestly mean that his best skill is his height, which at 6’7 is a real strength that he knows how to utilize. Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season and just turned 21 this month so it’s certainly believable that there is projectable growth remaining for him, but that will require a deep roster since I really don’t know if you can put Rousseau on an NFL field as things stand.
Thank you all for reading. Follow along during the draft tonight on Twitter @Real_Peej for pick grades and pro comparisons!
I’m going to share two mock drafts this week leading into the draft. In this version, I am drafting based on what I would do in each spot. I’ll focus more on the players and my evaluations of them here, with the other mock draft flat out guessing what I think will happen based on team fit and expectations.
I really tried hard to go into this scouting cycle with a mentally clean slate, meaning that I watched Trevor Lawrence without the “chosen one” narrative that’s been on display for the last three years in the back of my mind. If anything, my unintentional bias could have been a bit negatively skewed since his last college game against Ohio State was far from his best performance. With all of that said, Lawrence came out of this with just about the highest grade I can give a quarterback. He was excellent for all three years at Clemson, consistently displaying his otherworldly talent and making incremental improvements each year. On top of that, his supporting cast at Clemson got significantly worse each year and I never felt that Clemson built the proper offensive scheme for Lawrence – but he just kept winning anyway. His arm talent is special, he runs well, and his processing is off the charts. Lawrence can trust his arm a little bit too much at times, and it is a scary combination when a skinny QB goes to an unstable situation by nature of the draft, but the hype around Lawrence is totally justified. He’s what you dream of picking first overall.
If Lawrence is the cleanest QB prospect in this draft, then Wilson is the most tantalizing. By my estimation, Wilson was the best quarterback in the country in 2020 with his ability to attack downfield while remaining incredibly efficient. His play style is built for the highlight reel, yet in watching all of his games I was amazed by the frequency Wilson made jaw-dropping throws all over the field. While it is true that Wilson was afforded plenty of time behind BYU’s offensive line and that he faced an inconsistent strength of schedule, that does not provide the explanation on how Wilson truly is able to throw any receiver open (BYU had some slow ones!) anywhere on the field. Wilson shares the same concern as Lawrence with his skinnier frame, and the biggest on-field knock on Wilson is that he can be too quick to break the pocket to play out of structure. Still, I’m not too worried about it. His feet are so quick navigating the pocket and he keeps his head up while doing it. He officially weighed in at 215 pounds; on the smaller side, sure, but not unheard of. Physically, he looks so much like Aaron Rodgers when he came into the league. Speaking of Rodgers, that’s the type of realistic ceiling that we’re talking about with Wilson, and with a floor that I would contend is still a decent starting quarterback.
Ok, I’m cheating on the exercise a bit here. Trey Lance is ranked above Fields on my board, and I do prefer Lance as a prospect to Fields. However, Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers present such a specific instance of a particular scheme matched with Super Bowl readiness that I see this as a coin flip decision between the two QBs, so I’ll lean in the direction of the one that I actually see them taking. The biggest selling point for Fields is that he is the most accurate passer in this class, whether standing still in the pocket or on the run. He is absolutely dynamite to the intermediate level of the field, which defines the best passing attacks across the NFL. Fields pairs that up with good arm strength, mobility, and toughness – so why has he become such a polarizing prospect with those traits and elite college production? Ohio State does run an offense with long-developing and receiver-friendly routes that can make Fields’ processing look worse than it is, but the truth of the matter is that Fields has troubling pocket tendencies and has been tripped up by different defensive looks from good opponents. There is no hiding from his performance against Northwestern, which was easily the worst game played among the Big 5 QB prospects in 2020. (The Indiana game wasn’t much better.) Now, there is laziness and some uglier factors at play when pundits chalk up Fields as a quarterback who can’t read the field. While I do have reservations about Fields, he is still a surefire lottery pick talent and potentially much more if he can consistently play like he did against Clemson.
Fake trades!!! (This is the only one I will project.) There is a high likelihood that a team will trade into the Top 10 for a quarterback(s) that slips out of the first three picks, and the Falcons should want to move out of this spot with how incongruent their immediate team needs are with the high end of this prospect pool. That said, they should still want to leave this draft with a blue-chip prospect, so they probably would only entertain moving back 10 or so spots. Though not commonly discussed as a trade-up option, I have the Vikings as the winning bidders – and not just because Lance is a Minnesota kid. It has become apparently clear that the Vikings have a harsh limit on their team upside with Kirk Cousins’ contract, so instead of letting it expire and then bottoming out, they proactively nab the QB who could take them to places that Cousins has not and cannot. (If the Vikings situation sounds similar to you to the Falcons situation, I get that, but I personally prefer Matt Ryan to Cousins and think the Falcons could be good with him in the next 1-3 years. Plus they are the ones getting draft capital in this scenario.)
I am all-in on Lance being the real deal. He has the strongest arm in this draft – true “60 yard flick of the wrist” type of stuff. While comparably fast to Fields, Lance is the clear best runner of the QB prospects in this draft too with his bulk and shiftiness. The main thing though is that Lance’s poise is so impressive for his age (20 years old) and so much better than he gets credit for. Outside of Lawrence and maybe Mac Jones, nobody was entrusted to do more pre-play, line of scrimmage stuff than Lance in NDSU’s pro style offense. There is plenty of tape of him calling out coverages and changing protections before the snap, and don’t let anyone fool you that this is somehow less impressive because he played in the FCS. I do agree that Lance could stand to sit a year, but not necessarily because he couldn’t mentally handle starting in the NFL yet. I see it as more of a Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours thing where Lance just literally hasn’t thrown enough footballs yet with his age and NDSU’s run-heavy offense. With more experience, I think his accuracy will improve and Lance could be an All-Pro level quarterback.
Sewell is my top non-QB in the entire draft class, and the Bengals should be honored if they have the chance to take him as Joe Burrow’s future blindside protector with the fifth pick in the draft. Sewell opted out of the 2020 season, but he was the best offensive lineman in the country as a true sophomore in 2019 in front of Justin Herbert. What is scarier? The fact that Sewell did not allow a sack the entire season when he was probably even better as a run blocker? The fact that Sewell still has a lot of room for improvement with his technique? Or the fact that he played that entire season at 19 years old? Sewell will STILL be 20 years old by Week 1 of the 2021 regular season, and he should plug in as a good left tackle right away with All-Pro potential while still on his rookie contract.
The Dolphins obviously traded back into the Top 10 to leave this draft with an elite weapon, and in this scenario they leave with Tua Tagovailoa’s favorite college receiver. No, that is not a misprint: Smith was the best receiver on a 2019 Crimson Tide team that included first-round picks Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs. Smith is an underrated athlete who thrives on the outside in the X receiver role, consistently working back to the ball as possibly the top “quarterback’s best friend” prospect ever. He also has the best catch radius of the top WR prospects in this draft, catching anything near him and over anybody with an uncanny ability to high-point the ball as if he was a half-foot taller than he actually is. Look, DeVonta weighing 170 pounds isn’t a good thing. It would basically be him and Marvin Harrison as the only #1 receivers to thrive in the NFL at that weight. But guess what? Not a lot of wide receivers won the Heisman Trophy either. Smith constantly mixed it up with bigger defenders and shook off big hits in the SEC, and I haven’t seen any actual evidence to support that he won’t do the same in the NFL.
I push back on the claims that Chase is in the Calvin Johnson/Julio Jones class of receiver prospects. He quite simply isn’t as big as those guys, and I have slight concern that Chase could be immediately humbled by his “bully ball” style of play not working as well in the NFL. The optimal word there is “slight” though, because Chase is a badass and a freak athlete in his own right. He is a one-year wonder, but in that one year he was arguably better than teammate Justin Jefferson and then he backed up his athleticism by blowing the doors off his Pro Day. Chase is an elite downfield separator who claws for every ball thrown his way, and he should develop into a great YAC guy as he continues to progress with his routes and timing. He just turned 21 last month.
I’m not sure what is more bleak: the recent history of first-round tight ends or the recent history of Florida as an NFL pipeline. The fact that Pitts is in the center of that Venn diagram yet still finds himself in the Top 10 of this mock draft speaks to his rare skill set. While he can admirably run routes split outside or in the slot, don’t let all of the pre-draft takes turn him into something that he is not: Kyle Pitts is a tight end. And that’s a good thing! Pitts improved by leaps and bounds as an inline blocker from his sophomore year to his junior year, and also still only 20 years old with around 10-15 pounds to gain, he should only get better in that department. Pitts is excellent at breaking off the line while using his bend – he looks like a defensive end and played the position in high school – to quickly match himself up against linebackers that don’t stand a chance covering him. Pitts has the longest wingspan I have ever seen and uses every inch of it to his advantage. The man vacuums footballs – he made some catches that looked D.O.A. out of the quarterback’s hand. I am not positive what Pitts’ NFL future holds in store, and I don’t necessarily see the non-existence of an accurate player comparison for him as a good thing. I would be surprised if Pitts has a Travis Kelce type of effect; he only averaged 4.5 receptions per game across his two full college seasons. But if healthy, Pitts should block well while routinely converting third downs and scoring 10+ touchdowns per season, and there would be massive value in that.
Owusu-Koramoah might be the most electric prospect in the entire draft. JOK flies around the field with some of the best closing speed you have seen since Troy Polamalu. He is instinctive as hell and can set the tone with his hitting, and he does that while usually aligning in the slot covering tight ends and receivers. JOK is definitely a tweener; he has the strength to hang as an off-ball LB in a traditional base but I think he would be best as a rangy strong safety. His play style can be a little too chaotic at times, but in Vic Fangio’s defense with multiple good defensive staples already in place his playmaking could be on full display.
I am going out on a ledge with this one and my evaluation as Newsome as the best cornerback prospect in this draft. Outside of Trevor Lawrence, there isn’t another prospect where I took note of less flaws. Newsome does have an injury history, though nothing there is recurring. He doesn’t have much tape in press coverage but besides that, like I guess I wish he converted more of his pass breakups into interceptions? Newsome is scheme versatile, extremely quick with good physicality, and is constantly around the ball while traveling with the other teams’ top receivers. There wasn’t any point of his (admittedly limited) 2020 season where he looked overmatched, and get this: he is also 20 years old! Newsome’s Pro Day put people on notice for his natural explosiveness and athleticism. The adjustment curve for rookie cornerbacks can be steep, but I see Newsome as a Pro Bowl caliber pro down the road.
I disagree with the narrative that the EDGE class in this draft is subpar, and a big reason behind that is that I see Ojulari as a legit EDGE1 prospect. He had excellent production in the SEC and against some of the best tackles in the country, with 9.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in 10 games with a ton of pressure not reflected in those stats. And guess how old he was doing that? 20 years old! I’m aware that these below-drinking-age prospects are becoming a running joke in this blog, but in Ojulari’s case I find it especially important. Ojulari’s hand usage and arsenal of pass rush moves would be advanced for a redshirt senior, let alone a redshirt sophomore. He also has already put on 10 pounds from his 2020 playing weight, which at 240 pounds presented his biggest draft concern, and I think he can tack on 5-10 more pounds without losing his burst and bend. Ojulari has freaky arm length and play strength way better than his weight would suggest. Just watch the Alabama game: forget pancakes, those monsters barely even budged him. Ojulari is a pure three-down OLB in a 3-4 scheme, with a predictable future of setting a good edge with respectable flat coverage all while posting 8-12 sacks annually with near league-leading pressure rates.
After three years of starting in Nick Saban’s defense, including a 2020 season where he might have been the best defensive player in the country, Surtain enters this draft as arguably its safest prospect. He has great size to go along with explosive measurables, on top of having All-Pro cornerback play born and raised into him. In a position that is generally brutal on rookies, Surtain should admirably hold down his side of the field from Week 1. (He can play the slot too.) There is obvious comfort for his drafting team in this level of safety and NFL readiness, but I also interpret that as somewhat of a weakness for Surtain too. He leaves college as only a true junior, but I’m not sure how much room left for growth there is for Surtain. Even his relatively average 40 time in this workout cycle of 4.46 seconds feels generous for Surtain – he doesn’t play all that fast. His level of physicality also too often doesn’t match up with his physical gifts. Still, Surtain is as smooth and technically sound as it gets for a cornerback prospect. Maybe he won’t be a great pro, but he definitely should be a good one.
I find myself a tad lower on Slater than most; there might not be a prospect who benefited more from all of us just sitting around the house watching old game tape. Slater had an excellent 2019 season on a bad Northwestern team, even if his performance against Chase Young was pretty comicably overblown. Slater has proven that he can play tackle on both sides of the line with impeccable footwork and timing. He opted out of the 2020 season, and while that decision will likely turn out fine for him, it would have gone a long way to see some more footage of him locking down the blindside again on a better roster. Slater is quick and stout – he resembles Tristan Wirfs – and might mirror pass rushers better than anyone in this draft class. Still, he lacks Wirfs’ raw power and that combined with a real lack of length could be a detrimental combination. For that reason, while I generally hate projecting good offensive tackles to guards until they get a chance to play tackle, Slater really might end up more valuable at guard. I see versatile reliability as Slater’s defining quality over upside at any specific position on the line though, which would be a welcome addition for the Chargers.
This would be a fantastic trade-down outcome for the Falcons, because Phillips has the talent and production to justify going as high as fourth overall yet Atlanta still hypothetically lands him here. Phillips’ concussion history might be the defining red flag of this NFL Draft; they were so severe during his time at UCLA that they forced him into medical retirement. There’s no getting around it being a concern, but I’m not here to pretend to be an online neurosurgeon. If the University of Miami and NFL doctors cleared him, then I am going to treat Phillips as a normal prospect. And as a normal prospect, Phillips – the former top high school recruit in the country – brings plus-plus traits to the edge. He was a terror at the U, dominating right tackles with twitchiness, length and power. Phillips is a pure pass rusher and a bit of a one-year wonder at that, but he has Jevon Kearse levels of potential to pace the league in sacks as a rookie.
A few of the internet’s most famous draft boards have joined the lovefest for Bateman – maybe not as a Top 10 player like mine! – but it’s a welcome sight after feeling like I was missing something for seeing Bateman as a future WR1 when I first watched his tape back in February. Clearly I have other players, including two receivers, ranked in front of Bateman, but his elite production at Minnesota happened by nature of the traits belonging to the current top tier of NFL receivers. Bateman’s releases are intentional and consistently dominant, whether he’s patient breaking inside or blowing past cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage, and he couples up a long reach with excellent hands. Bateman’s Pro Day was…weird. I don’t buy that he’s actually a 4.39 speed guy, but he also plays much taller than 6’0 and much stronger than 190 pounds. However Bateman actually does measure out in the NFL, I’d bet that he amounts to a receiver with 100+ reception/season promise.
Alijah Vera-Tucker played left tackle for USC last year, and for the most part he played it quite well. (Not so much vs. Oregon and future Top 10 pick Kayvon Thibodeaux.) Still, I am directly projecting AVT to guard, and I imagine that most if not all NFL teams will do the same. He was awesome at guard as a sophomore while 2020 first rounder Austin Jackson played tackle – much more awesome than Jackson in fact. AVT isn’t particularly long or fast which is what kicks him inside, but he centers his attack with strong hands and only gets better as he moves forward into the second level of the defense. He can occasionally get knocked backwards right off the snap, but Vera-Tucker is young and has already shown improvement in balance. I foresee him continuing that improvement, possibly all the way up to an All-Pro level at guard.
Cosmi is one of my favorite players in this draft. Even as a major defender of his, I can acknowledge that the linemen in front of him and a few ranked behind him will bring their drafting teams higher levels of technical readiness in Year 1. Cosmi’s rookie year might come with its challenges for that reason, but this kid is tough as nails and freakishly athletic for the position. He showed marked improvement from his sophomore to junior year, and I would bank that he has plenty of room left for growth in the pros too if his team provides him with the proper amount of patience. I don’t even think it will take too long; Cosmi was pretty damn good in 2020 and showed up against his toughest opponents. I’m not too sure what the Raiders are doing but Cosmi could develop into a Pro Bowl tackle for them.
I am not particularly high on Parsons, and that’s not even with consideration to his legitimately troubling character and maturity concerns. For the level of hype that Parsons is bringing into this draft, I was really surprised by how raw of a player he still is. Parsons is a great clean-up tackler when he stays patient, but far too often he finds himself overshooting gaps or taking bad angles and diving at the feet of ball carriers. He also is close to entirely untested in coverage, and the recent history of specimen linebacker prospects with coverage questions is…not good. Still, Parsons truly does bring along some of the rarest burst you’ll ever see from a linebacker, and I think Brian Flores would have a few ideas for what to do with it. Whether he’s blitzing off the edge or shooting a gap, you can blink and miss Parsons ending up in the backfield. He’s a playmaker in the mold of Devin White which naturally all front offices will covet now, but just be ready for the real chance that the complexity of the NFL overwhelms Parsons – if he can keep his head on straight enough in the first place.
Despite winning the Bednarik Award as the best defensive player in college football in 2020, Collins won’t be for everyone at a first round value strictly due to how unique of a prospect he is. Collins is a 270 pound linebacker who can hang around the line of scrimmage with his speed and bend but is much better playing off-ball as an inside linebacker. Don’t let Tulsa’s non-Power 5 status fool you; he was utterly dominant against better competition than you might expect. He has the best eyes of any linebacker that you will see coming out of college, naturally moving in step with quarterbacks without missing anything around him. At 6’5, he is constantly disrupting passing lanes too. Collins is pretty stiff and his upright play style can work against him versus the run, but he’s a good tackler with good pursuit. Still, instincts and coverage ability are the story with Collins. The Football Team doesn’t need more help getting after quarterbacks, and Collins would regularly find himself in the right place at the right time to capitalize on pressure-forced QB mistakes.
Waddle will in all likelihood get picked higher than this, yet this is basically the highest that I would consider drafting him. I have a late first-round grade on Waddle, but his speed and acceleration could wake up a Bears offense that has been asleep for years and only addressed so far this offseason by adding…Andy Dalton. Love or hate Waddle as a prospect, there is no doubt that the kid can absolutely fly. You have to respect his speed with deep coverage whenever he is on the field, and once he has the ball in his hands…watch out. That’s the thing, though. I think people are underestimating how difficult it might be to regularly get the ball into Waddle’s hands. He can sell double moves and run underneath routes, but Waddle has a ways to go in understanding the nuances of the receiver position. He is also really undersized, coming off a major injury, and it should not be ignored that he was the odd man out on the 2019 Alabama team with a healthy DeVonta/Jeudy/Ruggs corps – who are all about the same age as Waddle. Using a first round pick on Waddle is a major dice roll, with a floor about as low as it gets and the realistic ceiling of a 1,000 yard deep threat/slot hybrid who can also return kicks and punts.
Ossai probably ends up as a Round 2 player, but I’m a fan of his and he’s the type of player that Indy could covet – and I mean that as a huge compliment. Ossai was very good as a sophomore at Texas as an off-ball linebacker – he intercepted Joe Burrow and his bowl game performance against Utah was the stuff of legend. At 6’4 and 255 pounds with long arms he switched positions to EDGE, and guess what? He was very good there too, as in AP All-American good. Ossai might be the most explosive rusher in this draft, constantly fighting his way into the backfield whether it’s defending the pass or run. He plays with one of the best motors in this draft, and his obsession with the game is apparent just watching his tape. He still has a ways to go towards becoming a consistent pass rusher. He could stand to play with more leverage and develop some moves – Teven Jenkins rudely reminded him of that on a few plays. But Ossai also straight up beat Jenkins, a likely first rounder, on multiple reps too, including a game-icing overtime sack against Oklahoma State. Considering he did that at 20 years old – he just turned 21 this month – and Ossai is one of the first “project” types that I’d bang the table for adding to a good roster with a 2-3 year leash for him to develop into a potential star.
This would be a home run for the Titans, and I say that with a grade on Horn lower than the consensus. Horn could go within the Top 10 on the back of his strong true junior season in the SEC followed up by a Pro Day with a 4.39 40 and insane jumping drills. I’m not surprised by Horn’s popularity. He has the size and speed to cover anyone and the on-field evidence to back it up, whether it’s a 6’4 receiver on the outside or a 5’9 receiver in the slot. He is a pure man coverage corner, getting his hands on receivers at the split second that he is legally allowed to. (I would put money on Horn leading the NFL in flags at least once in his career.) Horn is more fast in breaks than quick to flip his hips, and you don’t have to look much past his tape covering DeVonta Smith to worry about how he currently handles NFL caliber releases. And like I mentioned, you would basically be starting from scratch with him in zone schemes. I fear that Horn is going to have real growing pains early on in the league, but if his drafting team is patient enough with him then I have faith that Horn has the competitive streak and skill set to have a long career playing on the outside.
Ask me if I love the idea of drafting your quarterback and center of the future in tandem? I LOVE the idea of drafting your quarterback and center of the future in tandem. There aren’t five players in this draft that I have more confidence in them blossoming into good pros over Humphrey. He spent each of the past two seasons as one of the best offensive linemen in the Big 12 snapping the ball to Jalen Hurts and Spencer Rattler, with a keen sense of positioning paired up with an appropriately nasty play style. Humphrey also might be the best athlete specific to his position in this entire draft, which his 10.0/10.0 Relative Athletic Score backs up. There is some concern about Humphrey’s susceptibility to letting strong defensive tackles get underneath him, which is possibly the biggest dealbreaker for a center, but personally I find that in the realm of nitpicking. The real question here is if taking a center with the 23rd overall pick is justified, which I would answer with “hell yes” when you are drafting a rookie quarterback and have as dismal of an interior offensive line as the Jets.
This will probably go down as my least favorite pick of this mock draft, given that Darrisaw is No. 32 on my board with two tackles ranked ahead of him still available. Still, both of those tackles (Liam Eichenberg and Teven Jenkins) have length questions that will likely keep them on the right side or kicked inside to guard. Darrisaw, on the other hand, has the textbook left tackle frame. He was a very good one at that in college, capping off his time at Virginia Tech with a dominant 2020 season from a grading perspective. Still, I’m pretty low on Darrisaw. He shouldn’t have any issue continuing to punch defenders into the dirt at will, but he was more unproven in pass protection than his high snap count would indicate in Virginia Tech’s quick release offense. He typically got by on his sheer size instead of his hands or feet, and his motor is pretty suspect. I don’t typically like drafting for immediate need, but I have never heard of the guy slated to start at left tackle for the Steelers and this aged Big Ben will need all of the time he can get.
This is another case of a player getting mocked in just about the highest slot that I would be comfortable taking him, but in Moehrig’s case I have more confidence that he’ll at least be a solid contributor. And safety, possibly the Jags’ biggest positional need after quarterback, is a rough draft group this year, with Moehrig as the fairly clear top option in my opinion (not counting Owusu-Koromoah). Moehrig was incredibly productive in his two full seasons in the Horned Frogs defense, raising his play from All- Big 12 as a sophomore to the Thorpe Award winner (nation’s best DB) as a junior. His ball skills are tremendous, consistently taking advantage of quarterbacks staring down receivers with a good knack for timely pass breakups. Moehrig, while projecting as an average athlete for a starting NFL safety, has good length and quickness, even if his habit of baiting QBs into bad decisions won’t work nearly as well in the NFL as it did in the Big 12. I have concerns for Moehrig as a tackler because of his wiry build and inconsistent angles, and he certainly won’t remind anyone of Brian Dawkins with his ferocity or Earl Thomas with his range. But in this new era of safety play where Justin Simmons and Jessie Bates are among the league’s best by being able to play in two-high zone sets or man up near the line of scrimmage, Moehrig fits that bill.
Paye is a good player, but a misunderstood one at that. He is commonly discussed as this raw and versatile edge rusher, but I’m pretty sure we already have a good sense of his skill set and that he is clearly a 4-3 defensive end. Paye is incredibly gifted: he placed in the top spot of Bruce Feldman’s freak list, and he made a play against Minnesota when he tackled a running back from the opposite side of the field behind the line of scrimmage on a simple outside zone run that was one of the most absurd that I witnessed in this entire film process. But if I’m being honest, I don’t think anyone would be talking about him as a project if he had a typical football backstory. The guy has been starting at Michigan since 2018, and that program has since graduated Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary into the NFL. Quite frankly, I just don’t think Paye is a very good pass rusher. He shows flashes of excellence, but too often he doesn’t have a plan off the line. Still, I have Paye as the best run defending edge in this class, and that’s not exactly a consolation prize. Paye shouldn’t ever have to come off the field, and playing on a line opposite a rusher like Myles Garrett would be perfect for a player like Paye who sets a hard edge and is never knocked over.
As the best run blocker – non-Sewell division – in this draft, Jenkins going to Baltimore with one of their now two late first-round picks would be an awesome fit if he makes it that far. Jenkins is freaking mean, playing well beyond the whistle and injecting a real sense of attitude whenever he is on the field. Naturally there is concern when a college player has his true breakout season as a redshirt senior, but Jenkins has gotten out ahead of proving the naysayers wrong with an incredibly athletic display at his Pro Day. Jenkins is so strong and generates a lot of power with his legs – don’t be surprised when he flattens a nose tackle. But for a player of his size and strength, he ends up on the ground himself quite a bit, and his lack of length showed up as a problem at times. Maybe Jenkins could be a decent right tackle anywhere, but his best chance to reach his ceiling is clearly in a power run-heavy offense.
Alright, here we go. The boy wonder of the draft cycle, the hype train himself: McCorkle Jones. Let’s start with the good. Jones isn’t in the conversation for the third overall pick because he won the national championship with some of the best single-season QB stats ever; it’s because he follows instruction on what to do and where to go with the football every down. He always gets the ball out on time, even when his first read isn’t immediately open or when he has to move around the pocket or take a hit. His one year leading the Tide offense lends at least some credence to the talking point that he’s the smartest QB prospect in this draft, even if I wholeheartedly reject how we ended up there and how we use certain adjectives to describe certain QB prospects. Jones displayed good short and intermediate accuracy as well.
Yeah, I’m going two paragraphs, because we really need to talk about Mac Jones. To put it bluntly with his traits, he is straight up a bad athlete with a bad body and a bad arm. It didn’t happen often in Alabama’s perfect surroundings, but the few times when something broke down and Jones had to make an athletic adjustment, he looked completely undraftable. Now, I know some of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks thrived playing in structure, but you want to take a guy in the first round who can do something outside of it. Do we have any reason to believe Jones can throw on the run, like at all? I need to drop at least one more line on his arm too, because it is astonishing how much talk there is around Jones and how little talk there is about his noodle. He’s really gotta load it up to throw with even NFL-average zip, and his good-on-paper deep ball stats are as fluky as it gets. He’s not going to have guys having already won their go routes at 10-15 yards in the NFL, and not being able to reach the sideline won’t work in the NFL either without first round receivers bailing him out against Mississippi State and Missouri on balls underthrown by 5+ yards inside. I’ll acknowledge that Jones was a 22 year old one-year wonder and that his “unreplicable” stats were basically repeated identically by Tua in 2019, and then I’ll stop there. Clearly I have major doubts on Jones, and I don’t buy for a second that he has a high floor. It is certainly the lowest of the five likely first round QBs to me – I’m talking (on-field) Dwayne Haskins level. But still, if he makes it this far to an offensive guru like Sean Payton, then yeah I’m fine with this pick with the first paragraph here in mind.
Not to oversimplify or be overdramatic here, but I genuinely do think the Packers would be at Pick 32 if they took a wide receiver in the first round last year instead of a backup quarterback. Sorry, I am focusing on the players here, but I just had to sneak that in. Anyway, Eichenberg isn’t a receiver either, but this would be an excellent pick for the Packers. Notre Dame’s offensive line has led to probably the best positional NFL pipeline over the last decade, producing Quenton Nelson, Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley and Mike McGlinchey. While Eichenberg might not reach that echelon, I would bet that he has a good enough career at least warrant mention. As a redshirt senior who has probably played more snaps and in more big games – in which he played well – than any other top tackle in this class, Eichenberg knows who he is as an offensive tackle. He makes up for his short arms and slighter frame by quickly attacking in space and locking into edge rushers. He’s deceptively strong, and while the length issue is probably too real to ignore at left tackle I think he can prove people wrong by surviving at right tackle. He might not wow you, but Eichenberg is also the type of player that you don’t think about once all game, which is probably what you’re looking for with a late first-round offensive lineman.
So, I hate running backs, and I REALLY hate first-round running backs…but man I love Travis Etienne. His acceleration is good enough to get you to stop what you are doing to watch Etienne run the football. If there is a window of daylight between the tackles, Etienne is going 0-to-60 through it in a flash. He is a willing north/south runner with home run ability, and he has already bulked up enough to assuage fears that he couldn’t take the NFL beating. Etienne’s legs are so strong, allowing him to do that thing that Alvin Kamara does where he doesn’t really make a move but defenders just bounce off him anyway. Etienne has also grown from a non-factor in the passing game (12 receptions in 15 games as a sophomore) to arguably the best receiver (588 yards in 12 games as a senior) among the backs near the top of this class. He doesn’t pack Saquon Barkley’s raw athleticism and people might notice that his yards/carry dwindled from 8.1 to 7.8 to 5.4 over his three starting seasons at Clemson, but he became a more complete running back over that time as Clemson lost its offensive mojo around him and Trevor Lawrence. So yeah, I really like Etienne – I am recommending that a team takes a running back in the first round for god’s sake.
I have a pretty firm second round grade on Marshall, but I also have watched 2+ years of Ravens games where Lamar Jackson doesn’t have any receiver over 6’0 to target so this would work! Marshall was a five-star recruit out of high school who posted two productive seasons at LSU, as the third option on the 2019 national championship team then as the go-to receiver last year before opting out. At 6’3, Marshall is the only tall receiver that will receive attention in the first two rounds of this draft. Marshall is only 20 years old but he already knows how to use his height to his advantage and has real spectacular catch ability. He has legit inside/outside versatility too, but I’m skeptical on how ball dominant he can be at the next level. Marshall is skinny and really does not play strong, so while he can certainly create mismatches the NFL’s best cover guys might eat him alive. Still, at a minimum I like Marshall as a gangly deep threat, and maybe with some more muscle in the right system he can evolve into a higher-volume version of one in the mold of Kenny Golladay.
If not for concerns over a recent back surgery – not the first for Farley – then there would be zero chance of him slipping this far. It might not happen anyway, given that outside of maybe Kyle Pitts there isn’t a better size/speed combo guy with first round production in this entire draft. Farley has the look of Richard Sherman and could have actually clocked a 4.3 40 at the combine in a normal year. He is at his best when the ball is in the air, with incredible closing speed followed by a natural feel for ball tracking. Back injury aside, I didn’t see Farley as the clear-cut CB1 on tape though. Farley can too often rely on his physical gifts and get nonchalant, either losing sight of his man or letting guys get behind him to where even he can’t catch up – Chase Claypool made him pay for both. He is good in press when he gets his hands on receivers at the line, but it doesn’t happen as much as you’d like. I’m not sure what scheme fit would be best for Farley’s NFL future. He feels too gifted to not play in man, but with his back, inconsistent physicality, and a pre-play stance where he looks more like a safety than corner, maybe something zone heavy could end up better for his long-term prospects. Regardless, the Bucs have the secondary depth and roster strength to pick Farley’s upside and figure that out later.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Top 50 Big Board
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