By Lenn Robbins The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
If the last few months are any indication, the NFL Draft, (which is three weeks away!) is going to be a head-spinning, leg-buckling, and for some fans, gut-retching affair.
In fact, the reverberations from all of the wheeling and dealing from Philadelphia to New Orleans and Houston to Cleveland and Kansas City to Miami, has made it a truly anxious endeavor to produce a mock draft. One never knows when a GM such as the Saints’ Mickey Loomis, or the Eagles’ Howie Roseman, or Miami’s suddenly empowered Chris Grier, dashes off a text and completely upends the draft order.
Our mock draft does not include trades, although we wouldn’t be shocked if there are at least three on draft day alone. It is based solely on the draft order as of this writing and is based on team needs, the available talent pool and, ultimately, what makes sense.
We avoided the hysterical temptation to flood the first-round with quarterbacks because they are the most important position on the field and their stock suddenly rises on draft day. But in 2017, only three QB’s were taken in the first round (Mitch Trubisky was the No.2 pick!) and the NFL kept chugging along just fine.
So here we go.
- Jacksonville – Evan Neal, OL, Alabama – Fail to protect your franchise quarterback at your own peril. The Bengals can tell you all about it. Trevor Lawrence sends a limo to the draft and takes Neal out for dinner – and breakfast.
- Lions – Aiden Hutchinson, DE, Michigan – He’s a face of the franchise come true. The fact that Detroit keeps a Michigan Man home is gravy. Hutchinson has the skill, strength, smarts and relentlessness to build a D around.
- Texans – Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia – Houston has more holes than oil rigs. And they’ve never replaced Jadaveon Clowney, once the face of the defense. The build on defense starts here.
- Jets – Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon – Robert Saleh is on record: Nothing makes a defense better than an effective pass rush. Thibodeaux has been a polarizing figure throughout this process but his talent is without debate. Jets lucky he’s here.
- Giants – Ickey Ekwonu, G/T, NC State – Not until Daniel Jones gets real protection do we know if he’s a franchise QB. New coach Brian Daboll will love this O-Lineman with a mean streak. Remember, the Bills are a physical team. The Giants used to be.
- Panthers – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh – Coach Matt Ruhle needs to win now. New GM Scott Fitterer needs to build. This is the best of both worlds. If hand size was everything, Kevin Durant would be the next Tom Brady.
- Giants – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame – The Giants certainly could go LB/Edge here which would put FSU’s Jermain Johnson II in play but they’d be better off sticking to the board and taking the best player available. And what a playmaker Hamilton is.
- Falcons – Drake London, WR, USC – No one could have bet that a team which recently boasted Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley would be in dire need of a WR. The debate is between Garrett Wilson and London. Wilson gets you deep, London get everything.
- Seattle Seahawks – Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State – Everything is on the table now that the Drew Lock era is about to begin. Pete Carrol loves power football which means O-Line gets the call over CB. RB Rashaad Penny might have a monster year.
- Jets – Sauce Gardner, CB, Cincinnati – Yes, Zach Wilson needs better targets and the Jets can get one early in the second round. They can’t get a Richard Sherman-like shutdown corner. If he falls to No. 10, Jets fans should sacrifice their favorite jersey.
- Commanders – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty – Speaking of sacrificial celebrations, arguably the most talented QB prospect falls to the most despicable owner in football, proving once again that life isn’t fair. You didn’t think Carson Wentz had staying power?
- Vikings – Derek Stingley, CB, LSU – Patrick Peterson resigned which doesn’t mean Minny is set at CB. They signed Za’Darius Thomas which doesn’t mean they’re set at OLB/Edge. If he’s physically right, Stingley is the next great NFL prospect from LSU.
- Texans – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington – Trading Deshaun Watson allows for a quicker rebuild, especially on defense. Washington has become DB U of late. Houston has two serviceable corners but needs a spectacular one.
- Ravens – Jermaine Johnson II, DE, FSU – Free agent signing of Morgan Moses will help preserve Lamar Jackson’s health. Johnson makes for a healthier defense, especially the pass rush which was pedestrian last season.
- Eagles – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State – Obviously mindful of the deal they made with the Saints, who need WR help, Philly jumps on this game breaker. Wilson immediately demands attention from opposing defensive coordinators.
- Saints – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa – The Saints appear to be sold on Jameis Winston who has a tremendous arm but he believes in that arm too much when under pressure. Penning keeps the pocket clean.
- Chargers – Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia – When we last saw the Chargers they were personally responsible for the resurgence of the Raider’s run game. Davis is 350-plus pounds of a stop sign. Warning: What if he balloons to a 380-pound yield sign?
- Eagles – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah – Philly got a playmaker on offense and now gets one on defense. Philly saw what Micah Parsons did for the Cowboys. Is Lloyd that good? No. But he immediately becomes the best LB on the roster.
- Saints – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama – He may not play this season recovering from ACL surgery but healthy he is the closest thing to a Tyreek Hill-like player. Saints receiving corps is weak. Wouldn’t be surprised if this is their last move at this position.
- Steelers – Zion Johnson, OG, Boston College –Johnson not only will be the Zion who doesn’t disappoint but he should be a foundational OL piece for a decade. If the Mitch Trubisky experience doesn’t work, QB next year. In other words, QB next year.
- Pats – Andrew Booth, Jr., CB, Clemson – Pats, as expected, lost J.C. Jackson in free agency. Booth is as close to NFL-ready as a corner can be, having faced elite competition at Clemson. Remember, this is New England so if there’s a surprise…
- Packers – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State – Aaron Rodgers is suddenly single and Batman is without Robin, aka Devante Adams. Olave is a smooth assassin, a polish route runner who lulls DBS to sleep and then beats with technique and speed.
- Cardinals – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas – They lost Christian Kirk and A.J. Green is in the twilight. A big, strong receiver to complement Rondale Moore.
- Cowboys – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa – The worst-kept secret in football is out: The Cowboys once-vaunted O-Line is a shell. This is a first step in rebuilding a line that must excel if all the toys in Big D – Prescott, Elliott, Lamb – are to succeed.
- Bills – Roger McCready, CB, Auburn – See Booth Jr. Then watch some Auburn games. McCready is always around the ball; always making plays. This team is a legit Super Bowl contender. CB is the one spot opposite Tre’Davious White that needs attention.
- Titans – Kenyon Green, OG, Texas A&M – Titans could use more muscle on both sides. When you’re No.1 weapon is named Derrick Henry, better make sure he’s running behind a line that can help him wear down defenses.
- Bucs – George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue –The surprising retirement of G Ali Marpet & loss of G Alex Cappa, makes for need. Problem is there isn’t another 1st-round worthy O-lineman. But a counter and one-day replacement for William Gholston makes sense.
- Packers – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State – Oh yes we did. In addition to losing Adams, the Packers also lost Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Now, about Rodgers’s love life. Hey, this isn’t People Magazine. We don’t care.
- Chiefs – Boye Mafe, Edge, Minnesota– Still can’t fully grasp the Chiefs trading away Tyreek Hill and believe they will try to package these two picks to move up. If they can’t, the defense can use a boost.
- Chiefs – Dax Hall, S, Michigan – Now, about that Tyreek Hill trade. The Chiefs will now face Watson, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr twice a season. We like the Chiefs’ safeties but Justin Reid plays a lot in the run game and injury is a possibility.
- Bengals – Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington – Any Giants fan or anyone who watched the Super Bowl, knows that Eli Apple is liability at cornerback. He played better in Cincy then he did in NY or New Orleans but who got beat on the Rams winning TD pass?
- Lions – Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia – There’s plenty of chatter about the Lions taking a QB. But the Lions will likely have a Top 5 pick next season and can go QB shopping. So we’re going to continue to build the defense. Hutchinson and Wyatt, wow.