So we’re inching ever closer to the day where “hope springs eternal”, where every team in the NFL thinks the future is bright, and where each franchise sees an opportunity to improve and make steps to becoming a championship team. (And then, of course, the night comes and all of us watching are treated to head-scratching picks and confusing trades and we go to bed after the first round comfortable that certain realities have not changed in the league — I won’t mention any teams or names. But we know…..we all know.) Enough talk. Here’s my third mock. I’ll have a final, “take-this-one-to-the-bank” mock next week before April 26. As for now, here’s what I got. Warning: Hang on tight.
I’m convinced who the the pick SHOULD be here (a certain QB from Southern California). But all signs are starting to point towards another guy. New GM John Dorsey has a type of player he likes — he had the gunslinger Brett Favre in Green Bay, he drafted the big-armed Patrick Mahomes last year in KC, and he chose the more raw LT Eric Fisher over the more polished Luke Joeckel in 2013 with the Chiefs. He likes players with higher upside and a bit of unharnessed talent. This could change before the 26th. But for now…..
The PICK: Josh Allen, Wyoming, QB
There will be growing rumors as the draft approaches that the Giants have interests in a variety of players and are open to trading down. Unless they don’t like the QB left at 2, I cannot see them passing on a signal-caller, who could be under center for the next 15 seasons in New York. A week out from the draft, and I’m starting to fall for the smokescreen (or is it a smokescreen?). Report after report say how comfortable Dave Gettleman is with Eli under center for a couple more years. This should be Sam Darnold, but…..
The PICK: Quentin Nelson, Notre Dame, G
I’ve been clear that I don’t like the Jets moving up to only 3. If you want your guy, go all the way and make certain you’ll get him. Now, in reality, the Jets are forced to accept the leftovers from the Browns and Giants.
The PICK: Sam Darnold, USC QB
4. **TRADE** Bills (from Browns)
This pick is where the draft has the potential of getting messy. The Browns could very well take a great prospect here, who’d be ready to step in and impact the team on the field immediately. But the offers from QB-hungry teams might be too intoxicating to pass up. And, similarly, the allure of getting a top QB in this draft class might not be something Buffalo can let go by.
The PICK: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, QB
5. **TRADE** Miami (from Broncos)
There are always a few early shockers in every draft. No one is talking about teams trading up into the top-5 for anyone other than a QB. The Dolphins could use a franchise-changing running back to help the quarterback they already have.
The PICK: Saquon Barkley, Penn State, RB
I think Indianapolis GM Chris Ballard would love to trade this pick to acquire more draft capital. At the moment, I need a break from trades.
The PICK: Bradley Chubb, NC State, DE
Tampa Bay would love to get Barkley and add that type of weapon to Jameis Winston’s disposal. They could be a team willing to move up a spot or two. But right now, I’ve got them staying and upgrading their pass defense.
The PICK: Denzel Ward, Ohio St., CB
If the board falls this way on April 26, the Bears would go defense. Or trade the pick, which makes the most sense.
The PICK: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama, S
9. **TRADE** Cardinals (from 49ers)
As Josh Rosen plummets down the board, some team will make a move to go and get him.
The PICK: Josh Rosen, UCLA, QB
Everything the 49ers are looking for at 9 could be said here for the Raiders at 10. Cornerbacks Denzel Ward, Jaire Alexander, and Mike Hughes will be in the conversation for both Bay Area teams. So could linebackers and pass rushers.
The PICK: Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech, DE/OLB
11. **TRADE** Broncos (from Dolphins)
Denver needs some weapons on offense, but they need to also start looking at adding depth to a defense that is starting to age.
The PICK: Roquan Smith, Georgia, LB
12. **TRADE** Browns (from Bills)
Cleveland needs help in their secondary and this should be a prime spot to grab a CB.
The PICK: Derwin James, Florida St., S
By all accounts (including current Redskins players), the team shipped its best corner to KC as part of the Alex Smith trade. Washington should be able to find a replacement here. But Dan Snyder has a way of surprising us.
The PICK: DJ Moore, Maryland, WR
Green Bay wanted Chicago’s Kyle Fuller so badly they signed him to an offer sheet, which the Bears matched. Hard to see the Pack not going CB in the first round. The opportunity to move up might be enticing if there’s a guy there they like that slips.
The PICK: Jaire Alexander, Louisville, CB
15. **TRADE** 49ers (from Cardinals)
San Francisco is in the position of really taking the best player on their board. They can use help and add depth at almost any spot on their roster. A versatile linebacker/edge rusher or a secondary piece might be where they look.
The PICK: Marcus Davenport, UT-San Antonio, DE
At some point you need to start spending early round draft picks on offense. In the last three drafts in the first three rounds, Ozzie Newsome has drafted 14 players — 11 of whom played defense. Get Joe Flacco some youth at the playmaking positions — or go get Flacco’s replacement.
The PICK: Lamar Jackson, Louisville , QB
Linebacker is a critically important position in Gus Bradley’s defense. The team is also in need of some behemoths up front to stuff the run.
The PICK: Vita Vea, Washington, DT
The Legion of Boom was so successful because — yes, those DBs were athletic, long playmakers, but — the team also had a ferocious pass rush up front. Due to injuries and age, the Seahawks have been missing that lately.
The PICK: Maurice Hurst, Michigan, DT
I think Jerry Jones would love to get Dez’s replacement here, but I’m not sold on that player being here. But who knows what Jerry thinks. If he happens to agree with me, perhaps a run stuffer up front on defense could be a smart pick that fills a need or depth at linebacker. But again, Jerry usually gets what Jerry wants.
The PICK: Courtland Sutton, SMU, WR
Detroit has various needs — running back, cornerback, linebacker. They could also choose to replace the hole left by Haloti Ngata.
The PICK: Harold Landry, Boston College, LB
To be blunt, the Bengals could not block a soul in 2017. If this pick isn’t used to address the offensive line, Cincinnati should have to forfeit all it’s remaining picks.
The PICK: Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame, OT
22. **TRADE** Browns (from Bills)
The Browns get out of Round 1 with their QB and their defensive stud and now their running back.
The PICK: Sony Michel, Georgia, RB
Left tackle, versatile defender, or cornerback would all be routes that I’d expect Bill Belichick to explore at 23. If he can trade back a few spots (or up, even), I wouldn’t at all be shocked.
The PICK: Leighton Vander Esch, Boise St., DE/OLB
Finding a number one receiver is an important need for the the Panthers. In addition, Carolina has to replace big man Star Lotulelei in the middle of their D-line.
The PICK: Calvin Ridley, Alabama, WR
New head coach Mike Vrabel would probably like to start making his impression on the defensive-look of the this team. But the offensive line, oddly enough because it’s been highly-invested in, needs some help due to injuries.
The PICK: Rashaan Evans, Alabama, LB
Interior offensive line could be fixed with this pick. I expected the Falcons to pursue Andrew Norwell this offseason before he signed with Jacksonville. But they also need to replace Dontari Poe at DT.
The PICK: Da’Ron Payne, Alabama, DT
The Saints have been struggling to replace Jimmy Graham for years. They also need defensive line help in the middle.
The PICK: Taven Bryan, Florida, DT
Pittsburgh could really use help in their defensive backfield or at linebacker.
The PICK: Mike Hughes, Central Fla., CB
Any weapons this team can give to Blake Bortles is a huge plus. The addition of a playmaker who might be able to score that extra touchdown might be the difference in going to the Super Bowl or not.
The PICK: Dallas Goedert, South Dakota St., TE
Minnesota chose to invest heavily in Kirk Cousins. It’d behoove them to also invest in his protection. They may also choose to add strength on strength and build on their defense.
The PICK: Isaiah Wynn, Georgia, G/T
Whether Rob Gronkowski comes back or not, Bill Belichick loves using his tight ends. And what all this drama surrounding Gronk’s future has done is make clear that he won’t be there forever. This pick could also very easily be used on the best available player on their board. But if one of those six QBs falls to 31, I’d think Belichick gives it consideration.
The PICK: Mason Rudloph, Oklahoma St., QB
When you’re the Super Bowl Champions, you don’t have a ton of glaring needs. Offensive line depth is an area Philly would likely love to add to, especially with a QB coming back from a serious knee injury.
The PICK: Tyrell Crosby, Oregon, OT
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