Football season, both college and the NFL has once again been an extravaganza, and by now fans are starting to direct their viewpoint down one of two different avenues. Some fans are gearing up for their team to make a run for Minneapolis, while others are starting to pack up camp and set sight for greener pastures. Regardless of where your team stands at this point in the season, all will be attendance for the draft in April. Thus, it is never too early to fantasize about what potential superstar your team could be adding come next season.
I am happy to be apart of something great here at Breaking Football and look forward to explaining to all of you who you can potentially root for in this upcoming draft.
1. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The Great Dilemma North of the Ohio Valley is again a curse among Cleveland. Hue Jackson has flip-flopped between rookie DeShone Kizer and veteran Kevin Hogan in previous weeks. As the polluted dust settles, it appears Kizer will more than likely be the starter for the remainder of 2017. While it is evident that coach Hue Jackson isn’t sold on Kizer being the guy, it might not matter as he could be escorted to the exit door at season’s end. If that’s the case, whomever replaces him will have the crucial decision between picking a generational type player, or (again) break down the fortress and rebuild with another young and unproven QB. I believe it should be a no-brainer for the Browns to select Barkley first overall.
Kizer is capable of producing decent numbers when given time in the pocket and allowed room for error while continuing to fight through. Even if Kizer isn’t the next staff’s guy, someone like Tyrod Taylor or Sam Bradford could become a bridge QB for 2018 and then grant them other weapons with a projected $48 million in cap space to be beside Barkley.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame
Ideally, John Lynch gets somebody to sprint to the podium to turn in a Saquon Barkley card if the Browns draft a quarterback first overall. In the case of this mock, that does not happen, so the Niners are left in a slight predicament. Quarterback is definitely a play at 2, especially with Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold on the board who would mesh well in this West Coast system. However, I believe coach Kyle Shanahan isn’t looking to be patient with a young signal caller.
EDIT: My intuition is correct on Shanahan’s trust in this year’s draft class. San Francisco traded away their upcoming 2nd round pick to New England. Now that Jimmy Garoppolo is the man in San Fran, the next step for this roster rebuild is to fortify one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Quenton Nelson is a complete, hard nosed, technically sound interior lineman who is capable to kick outside if ever needed of him. Trading back for more draft capital could be a potential move as well, but we’ll save that for another time…
3. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Here’s the breakdown of the Giants state of franchise. Their QB is becoming washed, their roster is busted, the offense is depleted, the defense is suspect, and the head coach and general manager already have a boot print in the you know where. All that calls for, REBUILD. The Giants offense has too many potential weapons to be standing where they are. While QB may not be the most immediate need, Rosen clones Eli Manning, with a much higher ceiling. Next year can be started with Eli, potentially transition into Rosen and ultimately you don’t have to go through a metamorphosis within the system.
4. Indianapolis Colts: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Colts have fallen well below expectations, not because of their record, but because of the lack of a firm timetable for Andrew Luck’s return. When Luck officially returns in 2018, maintaining his health will be a main emphasis. Anthony Castonzo and Joe Haeg are simply not going to keep Luck healthy. McGlinchey on the other hand, will not only protect Luck’s blindside, but be a wrecking ball in front of whoever is running out of Indy’s backfield.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Arden Key, EDGE, LSU
Another team failing to meet expectations in 2017 resides in Tampa Bay. While Jameis Winston has been mildly horrible this season, there’s more optimism than what lies in the win-loss record. The last four losses for the Bucs have been within two possessions. A way to change that luck is to add talent to arguably the worst pass rush unit in the entire league.
6. New York Jets: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
If the Jets are truly attempting to “tank”, they have legitimate acting skills. New York stands on the cusp of a .500 record, and four of their five losses this season have been by nine points or less. While the discussion always appears to be about a QB, Josh McCown has quietly produced a nice season and could be a “bridge QB” himself. The real issues lies in the Jets pass defense. They’ve allowed the most passing TDs this season. Buster Skrine and Mo Claiborne are poor man’s options for cornerback. Pairing the playmaking Minkah Fitzpatrick with Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye could be the start of something lethal.
7. Oakland Raiders: Derwin James, FS, Florida State
Continuing with the theme of disappointing expectations, nobody has underwhelmed more than Oakland. Derek Carr has come back to earth with spotty play and injury. Marshawn Lynch isn’t the answer for the run game, and Amari Cooper simply doesn’t look the same. That’s just the offense, while Khalil Mack continues to be elite, that result cannot be said for the other 10 members. Reggie Nelson will be 35 next season, and while adding Derwin James might not help improve Oakland’s interception drought (ZERO through eight games) he can be a physical roamer, but also come down on blitzes; much like Karl Joseph is accustomed to now.
8. Los Angeles Chargers: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
The glory days of Philip Rivers enigmatic career as the Chargers leader are steadily becoming numbered, but many are oddly writing him off after this season. I believe he still has another year or two, at least of feasible production. Regardless of who is their quarterback, the Chargers’ won’t have Russell Okung be the long-term left tackle. Williams can start off being an immediate impact on the right side, then gradually move him to the blindside when they desire to move on from Okung.
9. Chicago Bears: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
It is quite evident where the Bears biggest need lies. Chicago is not helping Mitch Trubisky’s development by surrounding him with guys off the practice squad. They need not only an offensive weapon, but an overall playmaker. Christian Kirk is the most electric player not named Saquon Barkley in this class. This pick might seem rich at 9, but last year’s draft proved GM’s do not fear picking WRs in the top 10 if needed.
10. Arizona Cardinals: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
All of last draft season, one of my biggest call to actions was for Arizona to make Patrick Mahomes their heir apparent. Draft positioning didn’t fare in their favor last season, but with Carson Palmer’s season (and possibly career) at its end, the time has come for the Cardinals to work towards the future. Sources have suggested that Darnold could stay in school, but if he does declare, the Cardinals front office cannot turn down the upside this kid brings to the table.
11. Cincinnati Bengals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Well, prematurely I can assume the Marvin Lewis era is finally over, and whoever comes in will have the intention of getting the ball into the hands of A.J. Green and Joe Mixon. The decision will be made of; whether to part ways with Andy Dalton and then decide if A.J. McCarron is the guy moving forward (he isn’t). The 3rd option would be to completely change the culture, and officially rebuild from the ground up. Lamar Jackson is fully capable of being an NFL starting quarterback; and while the offensive line is still abysmal, it’s hard not to imagine Jackson’s succeeding with all that weaponry early in his career.
12. Cleveland Browns (via HOU): Orlando Brown Jr., OT, Oklahoma
I would say that Bill O’Brien and the Texans aren’t too worried right now about losing this first round pick for their franchise QB, Deshaun Watson. The Browns have a great opportunity with another pick in the top half of the draft to continue selecting offensive building blocks. Orlando Brown has excelled at protecting Baker Mayfield in the pass game in his career in Norman. He’ll be a solid RT, and with Joe Thomas’ next Ohio residence potentially heading south to Canton, Shon Coleman can now make his move to LT. Cleveland instantly bookends their new era line.
13. Washington Redskins: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
The potential of Kirk Cousins and the ‘Skins parting ways for 2018 is possible. While Baker Mayfield can be briefly mulled over here, the Redskins are in contention in the NFC yearly, and drafting a young QB will morph that complexion. Washington has a lot of promise in their pass rushers, Preston Smith and Jonathan Allen; but where they lack is inside penetration. Mo Hurst fills that void with his elite quickness off the snap.
14. Denver Broncos: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
John Elway most certainly isn’t content with Trevor Siemian’s play this season, and now they’re set to go down the Brock Osweiler road of agony again. The difference moving forward, Paxton Lynch. Despite Lynch’s suspect play and small sample size, dropping the anchor on Paxton would be Elway admitting massive failure way too early. Moving ahead from quarterback in that case, the subtle weakness in Denver’s defense has been in the passing game, particularly covering the middle of the field and against tight ends. Roquan Smith is an instinctive backer with great athleticism to spread across the field and get to the ball.
15. Detroit Lions: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
I know, some of you are thinking “Why did Landry fall this far? He’s a top 10 talent you nut!” Well, over the course of the last couple drafts, there has been at least one EDGE who’s draft value fluctuated from a top 5-10 talent to a mid 1st round pick. Last year was Derek Barnett (14th), and the year before that Noah Spence who dropped completely out of round 1 (noted off the field issues). Evaluation of elite athletic EDGEs can turn into cold feet before draft night and cause a well deserved player to slip. A team like Detroit can turn their pass rush from “good” to “great” by taking advantage of an opportunity like this.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
The Ravens have had an eventful carousel of starting running backs, many of which have had temporary success. Harbaugh and company have been searching for their new bell-cow back since the abrupt ending of the Ray Rice era. The Ravens haven’t been in the position to grab a Leonard Fournette and Ezekiel Elliott in the draft; and while Guice might not be on their exact level, he is on the cusp and would instantly put up big numbers.
17. Miami Dolphins: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
The Dolphins have been a pleasant surprise this season considering the last second scramble to replace Ryan Tannehill. While the season could still go either way for Miami, it is assumed they will end the season above the bottom third of the league. Cameron Wake has been an ageless wonder this season by placing top 10 in sacks. Selecting Charles Harris in the first round last season was for the intention of being Wake’s replacement. Whenever Wake decides to finally hang them up, having Harris and Chubb on both ends will be a matchup nightmare for anybody facing them (maybe even Tom Brady).
18. Atlanta Falcons: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
The Falcons have so much talent across the board in their front seven, yet they still cannot manage to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. Dontari Poe has played well this season, but on 1-year deal; the Falcons used him as a rental in hopes to get back to the Super Bowl. Instead of throwing $8-10 million back at Poe or someone else again in 2018, the Falcons can get younger, quicker, and simply better in the interior with Christian Wilkins, another Clemson product who’s upside is through the roof.
19. Green Bay Packers: Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
The Packers may be selecting an hour or two earlier this April with Aaron Rodgers being out until week 15. Even if Rodgers returns this season, it is unseen if Brett Hundley will keep Green Bay in playoff contention. The task for Hundley becomes even more difficult if the defense doesn’t do their part, which they’ve struggled to do at times this year. Hubbard is not only the quickest EDGE rusher in the draft, his football IQ is something rare that will have Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy drooling.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
I’m not a fan of Josh Allen nor this draft selection by Jacksonville, but it’d be ludicrous to ignore that NFL circles still prefer Allen as a prototypical quarterback. The Jags are more than likely moving on from Blake Bortles after this season; but they picked up his option for 2017 knowing the roster has the talent to carry a feasible quarterback. The Jags once took a risk of Blake Bortles’ upside, and they won’t be afraid to roll the dice again with Allen.
21. Dallas Cowboys: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
Another team who is not afraid to roll the dice on a “risk-reward” prospect are the Cowboys. Jerry Jones, since his infamous passing of Randy Moss, has a long history of drafting rare talents despite their external flaws. Jefferson is a player with all the physical tools but has no issue with having an outward opinion. Along with Jefferson having to slide as an outside backer in the NFL, this might be a match made in heaven in Jerry’s World.
22. Carolina Panthers: Will Hernandez, OL, UTEP
It is no secret that Cam Newton’s production has stalled this season. While that inconsistency is on him, the Panthers could do Cam a service by placing bodies in front of him that actually block a body. Hernandez is the biggest riser in draft circles at the moment because of his gigantic frame and mauling ability. That is something I’m sure both Cam Newton and even Christian McCaffrey would covet down in Charlotte.
23. Tennessee Titans: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Titans are surprisingly in the top 10 for pass defense despite allowing 13 passing TDs already this season. Logan Ryan is durable, but not nearly worth the value of starting opposite of 1st round rookie Adoree’ Jackson. Tennessee will ease their surplus of allowed touchdowns by complementing the fast and rangy Jackson with the aggressive and ballhawking Denzel Ward.
24. Los Angeles Rams: Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State
The emergence of Jared Goff, resurgence of Todd Gurley, and the godsend of Sean McVay has the Rams looking like the hottest offense in football. The defense however is trending towards the bottom half of the league, especially the pass defense. Trumaine Johnson has been a stud for LA, but with Alec Olgetree receiving the big cornerstone contract extension, Johnson might be in a new home next season. The Rams will easily find his replacement in the lengthy McFadden, who actually posesses a similar style to Johnson.
25. Buffalo Bills: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
The Bills shipped Marcell Dareus away last week to Jacksonville due to his sharp dip in productivity and the desire to dump his contract. While there is risk behind a move like that, this defensive lineman class is deep enough to potentially find his replacement. Vea is someone who has the ability to dominate the trenches any given day, while still producing similar tackle for loss production as Dareus, and on a consistent basis at that.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Originally, I had Chukwuma Okorafor in this spot to be the strong and aggressive tackle that Seattle desperately needs. Pete Carroll instead decided to address that need by trading for veteran Duane Brown. Brown is still 32 years old, so that doesn’t rule out drafting to help improve this inconsistent line. This trade gives the Seahawks breathing room to address OL later in the draft and go after a best player available. Russell Wilson loves going for a vertical attack, and Ridley is an ideal-athletic and aggressive vertical threat that will give Wilson a dynamic duo downfield along with Doug Baldwin.
27. Buffalo Bills (via KC): Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Kansas City forfeited their 2018 pick to Buffalo in hopes that Patrick Mahomes will be the face of the franchise moving forward. Whomever the Bills select with this pick will forever in history be compared to Mahomes; so why not make that comparison be with another quarterback, right? While the Bills have been circling the wagon this season, the front office and coaching staff cannot be convinced on making Tyrod Taylor the long-term starter. Mason Rudolph is a stats machine that can help out the 3rd worst pass offense in the league, and can briefly sit behind Nate Peterman while being nurtured.
28. Minnesota Vikings: Tyquan Lewis, DL, Ohio State
The Vikings have overcome their quarterback nightmare and other injury bugs so far in 2017. Now they look to securing the NFC North and even a first round bye. Quarterback shouldn’t be an option here. Either Teddy Bridgewater or Sam Bradford will be back and healthy in 2018. Minnesota instead should focus on their thinnest position on the team. Defensive tackle depth is lacking, and even Shariff Floyd is a question mark moving forward. Tyquan Lewis is a versatile lineman who is always around the ball.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marcus Allen, S, Penn State
The Steelers are very close to having both the offense and defense running on all cylinders. The panic of having to replace Roethlisberger has submerged and now they can plan for immediate impact instead of the future. While Mike Mitchell is physical in the back half, that’s about all he is. He is slow in coverage and takes terrible tackling angle. Marcus Allen overshadows all of Mitchell’s flaws and instantly becomes an upgrade.
30. New Orleans Saints: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Sean Payton now appears to be well off the hot seat; and if he returns next season, Drew Brees will do the same. Much like Pittsburgh, the Saints can use their pick to address immediate impact. The middle of the Saints defense is weak and could use an aggressive backer like Evans to strike fear into opposing offenses.
31. New England Patriots: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
I know everyone will call for Baker Mayfield to be the pick with Garoppolo being sent to San Francisco; but Belichick understands that the Niners’ 2nd rounder will be a few picks later and then can be used on Mayfield if the cards hold right. This gives New England leverage to trade either up, down, or just use it for the best player available. Tom Brady STILL is elite with limited resources. He’ll be jumping for joy with this Courtland Sutton selection, knowing he’ll have a tall/freak athlete out wide for the first time since Randy Moss.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
The Eagles are the best team in football right now, and Carson Wentz is exceeding the already lofty expectations that were placed on him. The Eagles can continue to propel Wentz’s development into the stratosphere by implementing an every down back behind him. Ronald Jones brings in versatility in the run game that made Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy team legends during their respected tenures.