Pick Team Pos Player
What a week ago seemed farfetched is now the odds-on favorite to be the reality. Despite being outproduced by Aidan Hutchinson at the collegiate level, Walker has scouts intrigued with his supreme athleticism, long arms and superstar potential. Jags GM Trent Baalke has a penchant for big Round 1 swings and he takes another here.
Detroit likely never expected to land Hutchinson, but as soon as the Heisman Trophy runner-up and consensus top overall prospect becomes available, they won’t have a choice but to keep former Wolverine in-state. Hutchinson had a historically impressive final season at Michigan, finishing as the top-rated edge defender in college football. In addition, he blew the doors off the NFL Combine with a mind-boggling 6.73 three-cone at 6’7/260.
Ahmad Gardner
Being bad has its perks. Houston comes into this draft with a need almost everywhere. With a fully-loaded arsenal of draft picks over the next few seasons and Deshaun Watson off the books, the Nick Caserio project can finally begin to take shape. They take the top player available.
Kayvon Thibodeaux will be the expected pick here, but the Jets are likely comfortable enough rolling into next season with John Franklin-Myers and a healthy Carl Lawson manning their edges. There should also likely be talented edge defenders still available at any of their remaining three picks inside the top-38. Outside of Gardner, Stingley is the only elite cornerback available this year and the Jets can address an impact position with a player who, on his resume, boasts one of the most impressive seasons by a freshman defender, ever.
Ikem Ekwonu
NC State
The first offensive player finally comes off the board. Ekwonu would not have raised many an eyebrow if he had gone top-two, so the Giants will be elated if he falls to five. Ekwonu is a violent, yet sound, run blocker with underrated movement skills in pass protection. He should fill the Giants’ hole at right tackle immediately and could even slide inside and be an elite NFL guard.
Malik Willis
Ideally, Carolina trades down in order to recoup some of the draft capital lost in their foolish decision to trade for Sam Darnold. The aforementioned first rounder isn’t their QB of the future and if a Baker Mayfield deal remains unworkable, the Panthers will have no choice but to draft their future signal-caller now, as they do not pick again until Round 4. Rumor has it, Carolina prefers Kenny Pickett to Willis, seeing the former as more NFL-ready, but I’m going to chalk that up to a smokescreen as Willis is regarded, nearly unanimously, as this year’s top QB.
Giants fans rejoice. Coming out of Round 1 with both Ekwonu and Thibodeaux will be a dream come true for the Giants’ base. Thibodeaux not only addresses a glaring need for the G-Men, but offers incredible value at pick seven, as it wasn’t too long ago (before Aidan Hutchinson and Travon Walker’s emergence) that the former Oregon Duck was viewed as the draft’s top defender and potential top overall pick. Thibodeaux does have some off-field concerns, reportedly coming off arrogant and, at times, disinterested, during the pre-draft interview process. Be that as it may, with two first round picks, Giants take a swing on a guy who could very well end up having the most successful NFL career among this year's class.
They say never draft for need, but whoever “they” are, they have not seen the Falcons wide receiver room. After trading Julio Jones last offseason, losing Calvin Ridley to a year-long gambling suspension and losing Russell Gage to the Bucs via free agency, the Falcons are left incredibly thin at wide out. A receiver in the top-10 may be a reach this year, but not enough of one that Atlanta should rule it out. Look for Alabama’s Jameson Williams in this slot as well, depending to what degree Falcons head coach Art Smith covets speed at the position.
Evan Neal
It won’t matter who the Seahawks QB is if their offensive line remains as bad as it is currently. Neal is a supremely talented player who has the tenacity that Pete Carrol covets. He played on left tackle at Bama but certainly has the tools to kick over to the right side if called upon.
Charles Cross
Mississippi State
A steal at 10. Cross may be the top pass protector among this year’s group, coming out the Mike Leach air-out attack at Mississippi State that was heavy on pass sets. Cross has elite feet and fantastic mirroring skills, making him the prototypical left tackle for a pass-heavy offense. Jets can insert him into the starting line on the left and move former first rounder Mekhi Becton over to the right side, giving Zach Wilson a formidable protective duo.
All reports insist that Williams is on track to fully recover from the torn ACL he suffered in the College Football Playoff National Championship. Washington gets a receiver with Tyreek Hill-esque play-speed to compliment the more possession-focused Terry McLaurin.
Wyatt has been one of the most unheralded top-tier prospects this year. He is arguably the most pro-ready draft-eligible player from one of the best defenses in college football history. Teammate Jordan Davis may have stolen the headlines in Indy, but Wyatt put up incredibly impressive numbers at the Combine, highlighted by his 4.77 second 40-yard dash at over 300 pounds.
Kyle Hamilton
Notre Dame
Two months ago, it was not egregious to mock Hamilton as high as No. 2. Since then, the golden domer has experienced a slight slide, mainly driven by his lackluster workout numbers. Athletic scores notwithstanding, Hamilton is a fantastic football player with a versatility to his game that could allow him to feature all over the defensive backfield, the slot and even linebacker on passing downs. Again, Houston’s roster is very bad, and they need talent wherever they can find it. Hamilton and Gardner would provide excellent building blocks as Houston enters a new era.
Jordan Davis
I’m sure you’ve seen this one before. Davis to the Ravens has been a common pairing in this mock season. Well, it makes sense. Davis (6’6, 341) is a behemoth of a man, and blew the doors off the NFL Combine with just straight-up absurd numbers for a man of his size, including a 4.78 40-yard dash. The Ravens are in desperate need of a central run stuffer and the solid organizational structure in Baltimore should help get the best out of a player who has been knocked for taking too many plays off during his collegiate career.
Trent McDuffie
Philly could go a lot of ways with their two picks (OL, DL, WR, etc.) but here they opt for a guy who is in an echelon of his own in this class. McDuffie isn’t quite the prospect that Gardner and Stingley are, but he’s well above the rest of this year’s cornerback crop. McDuffie can play both outside and inside and has a toughness in run support that should elevate the tone of an Eagles defense often characterized as playing too soft.
Kenny Pickett
There’s been debate as to why New Orleans opted to make a trade with the Eagles for an extra first rounder this year, whether that move was in order to secure a future franchise signal caller or whether its aim was to secure two starting caliber players from other positions. While Kenny Pickett may not be everybody’s “cup of tea,” the Saints (maybe others?) see enough in him to wager a top pick. Mickey Loomis is known for zeroing in and doing what he needs to do to secure players he really likes in the draft, and he may have set his sights on Pickett.
Garrett Wilson
Ohio State
Much like Ceedee Lamb a few years ago, a receiver widely regarded as a potential top-10 pick falls to pick 17. The Chargers would have been happy to default to an offensive lineman here but are compelled to take Wilson, who immediately puts LA in contention for having the league’s top receiving trio.
Sure, it’s a little boring, but the Eagles pass on bolstering their pass rush in order to take the consensus top off-ball linebacker in the draft. Lloyd is an every-down impact player with great length and top-tier character. Should be a day-1 starter.
Bernhard Raimann
Central Michigan
With their future QB secured, the Saints opt to choose a left tackle over a potential addition to their receiving corps. Raimann is an above-average pass protector who offers NFL-caliber technical skill despite being relatively new to the game of football. While Trevor Penning may be the more commonly mocked pick here, instinct says the Saints choose the still-rising Raimann, who offers as high of a ceiling as Penning, but without the penchant for penalties.
Skyy Moore
Western Michigan
This one is a little out of left field. With both top quarterbacks off the board, the commonly held opinion is that the Steelers will default to O-Line. I’m not so sure. The Steelers signed Mason Cole and James Daniels in free agency, locked RT Chuks Okorafor up for three more years and seemingly have faith that surprise rookie starter Dan Moore will continue to improve as a left tackle. With the line shored up (in theory) the Steelers instead replenish a receiving corps reduced after the departures of Juju Smith-Schuster and James Washington. While Moore’s ceiling may not be as high as other receivers in this class, it can be argued that no other receiver available this year is a more NFL-ready route runner.
Zion Johnson
Boston College
From Chestnut Hill to Foxborough. Zion feels like a perfect Bill Belichick player, he’s scheme versatile and can play either guard or center. After Shaq Mason’s trade to Tampa Bay, Johnson should slide right in as New England’s starting guard in Week 1 and solidify the position for the next decade.
Treylon Burks
Burks’s usage at Arkansas makes him difficult to project at the NFL level. The big-bodied Burks was featured almost like a gadget player in the Razorbacks offense, often lining up in the backfield and as an H-back. Despite his peculiar deployment, Burks was able to display his first-round pedigree, often beating defensive backs with a size/speed combo seldom owned by receivers (think AJ Brown). An area of concern for the Packers could be whether Burks can exhibit NFL-level athleticism at his 225-pound frame. He was a massive disappointment at the NFL combine, putting together just a 4.55 40-yard and a disastrous 7.28 three-cone.
The Cardinals have a glaring hole at edge defender after trading Chandler Jones to Las Vegas. Karlaftis’ short arms may be less-than-ideal for a high-end pass rusher but he has enough moves in his repertoire, that when partnered with his ferocity, should be enough to force QB pressures at the NFL level.
Cowboys go O-Line, again. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Last year’s 4th-rounder Tyler Biadasz didn’t cut it as a starting center and may be better suited as a backup. Linderbaum is one of the cleanest and most impressive center prospects in recent years and should impact the Cowboys much like former first rounder Travis Frederick did during his seven-year stint in Jerryville.
Kaiir Elam
The big-bodied and long-armed Elam will likely fill in on the outside, allowing Dane Jackson and/or Taron Johnson to slide into the slot. This could also be the place we see the first runningback of the draft taken, but in this scenario, the Bills opt to fill a need at a position of higher importance.
If not for a season almost completely eviscerated by injury, Pickens would be in the discussion to be one of the top three receivers off the board. Pickens’ tape is superb, he’s a big-bodied receiver with excellent vertical speed and above-average body control, allowing him to high-point and adjust to deep-ball throws. He’s been slapped by some anonymous scouts for being too immature and irresponsible, but off-field concerns seldom get in the way of the Titans’ draft decisions.
Quay Walker
The Bucs still have one of the most complete rosters in football, so there really is no position of high need. Lavonte David is getting up in the years and the Bucs could use a rangy linebacker to eventually succeed him.
Smith has not gotten nearly as much buzz as he deserves during the pre-draft process. He left Tulsa after just his sophomore year and just turned 21 years old, putting his best football very much in front of him. Smith is a raw prospect, but he is toolsy enough and athletic enough to warrant a top pick.
Jermaine Johnson II
Florida State
The Chiefs have a huge need at pass rusher. Frank Clark’s play has declined and the team would ideally like not to displace Chris Jones to the edge in order to pressure opposing QBs. Johnson has a skillset reminiscent of former Chief Tamba Hali. He’s incredibly long-armed and plays with high effort, but he enters the draft incredibly raw and will likely need another year or two to develop an NFL-caliber pass rushing repertoire.
Chris Olave
Ohio State
Olave is a solid route runner with sub-4.4 speed to boot. He’ll fit in as a solid compliment to a Tyreek Hill-less receiving corps now composed of Mecole Hardman, Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdez-Scantling.
Trevor Penning
Northern Iowa
Penning would slide into right tackle in Cincinnati’s offense, allowing newly-signed La’el Collins to kick into guard. Penning wowed analysts during Senior Bowl week with solid practice performances, during which, he put his mean streak on full display. While a little mean is good, Penning tows the line of excess. He had a penchant for holding and unsportsmanlike penalties while at Northern Iowa, a habit he’ll need to reign in if he ever hopes to be a non-liability.
Nakobe Dean
Dean is a Dan Campbell guy if I’ve ever seen one. He was the field general in one of the best defenses in college football history and comes into the draft with incredibly high marks on his football IQ and leadership. If not for his undersized frame (5’11, 229), Dean would almost certainly be the unanimous decision for the top off-ball linebacker and even potentially a top-15 pick.