March Madness is in full swing and Opening Day has come and gone, but there’s always time for talking football. The Pro Days are just about wrapped up, and a month after the combine, the big boards have a general consensus on the top prospects. Here’s The Big Lead’s NFL Mock Draft, two months before the lights shine on Roger Goodell in Nashville.
No. 1 Arizona Cardinals- Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma- While Josh Rosen still possesses a lot of potential and the Cardinals have insisted they aren’t looking to offload their 2018 first-round pick, new head Kliff Kingsbury called Murray one of the best dual-threat QBs to ever play football. So take that as you will, but we take it as nothing short of a guarantee. Pairing Murray with David Johnson is certainly not the worst idea in the world, and Murray’s transition will be made easier by teaming up with Kingsbury once more. The Heisman Trophy winner goes first in a weak quarterback draft.
2. San Francisco 49ers- Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State- Bosa is the best player in this class, and if the Cardinals do what everyone thinks they will, the Niners take Bosa without a second thought. Paired with DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford, the Niners will instantly have one of the most dangerous defensive fronts in the NFC, and won’t need to rely on a recovering Jimmy Garoppolo to put up big numbers.
3. New York Jets- Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky– The Jets will likely trade down, but if they don’t, they take a talented, pure pass-rusher and give their young defense another cornerstone. Jamal Adams & Co. showed signs of quality defense last season, and having an above-average unit will take a lot of pressure off Sam Darnold. Ideally they add an elite weapon for Darnold to throw to, but no wide receiver is talented enough to go this high in this year’s draft, so they stick with defense.
4. Oakland Raiders- Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama– It doesn’t exactly take a draft guru like Mike Mayock to realize Williams is the real deal. He possesses a rare combination of quickness and strength to hold the middle and rush the passer. The Raiders need a new No. 1 guy on the defensive line, and Williams is exactly who they’re looking for. Mayock won’t overthink this one.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Devin White, LB, LSU- White has been talking a big game leading up to the draft, and has both the tape and athleticism to back it up. The Bucs will have a new-look offense with Bruce Arians at the helm, so they’ll need to make sure things are humming on the other side of the ball, and White is a day-one starter, as well as a potential game-changer next to Lavonte David.
6. New York Giants- Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State– The Giants are now in full-rebuild mode, and their first step is acquiring an offensive cornerstone to match Saquon Barkley. They’ll almost certainly take a quarterback here, and Haskins was the guy they were reported to initially liked the best. There are fast-risers like Daniel Jones and Will Grier, but Haskins has the highest ceiling, and the Giants don’t seem to mind bottoming out for the year in the pursuit of high-end talent. Haskins would learn from the bench while Tank Commander Eli leads New York to a top-three pick next season.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars- Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida- The Jags need to protect their new investment in Nick Foles, and Taylor is the top tackle prospect in the draft. He’ll be the first step in establishing an offensive identity post-Bortles. If Foles can be kept upright and the defense bounces back after a relatively down year, the Jags aren’t in terrible shape, and likely pick up a stalwart at right tackle for a traditionally tumultuous franchise.
8. Detroit Lions- Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State– While Sweat might have less untapped potential than in-state product Rashan Gary, the Lions already did the whole “pass rusher with unlimited athletic potential” experiment with Ziggy Ansah, who remains unsigned after his franchise tag from 2018 expired. Sweat has proven production (24.5 sacks over two seasons) to along with his unusual athleticism (4.41 40-yard dash), and still has room to grow. He’ll pair very well with free-agent prize Trey Flowers in Matt Patricia’s defense.
9. Buffalo Bills- T.J. Hockenson, Iowa- The Bills pick up the best tight end in college football last season as a big weapon for Josh Allen. Hockenson can block and catch at a high level, and one would hope the Bills recognize the value and versatility that can bring after getting Gronk-ed for the last eight years. He might not have as high of an upside as some other prospects available at this spot, but Allen’s development is the no. 1 priority, and getting him a sure-handed safety outlet would be hugely beneficial.
10. Denver Broncos- Drew Lock, QB, Missouri- There isn’t a more obvious match in the draft outside of Murray and Kingsbury. Lock has everything John Elway looks for in a quarterback, and they need a steady hand there after rifling through several first round picks and poor Case Keenum (who they traded this offseason) in an attempt to find the answer. Lock may or may not be that answer, but Elway has always been willing to roll the dice on this type of guy. Should he pick Lock? Maybe not. Will he pick Lock? Almost definitely.
11. Cincinnati Bengals- Devin Bush, LB, Michigan- Bush is the second-best linebacker in the class and has the potential to be a longtime starter and steady hand at the second level in the NFL. The Bengals have holes just about everywhere, but after letting Vontaze Burflct walk, their talent level at ‘backer has completely bottomed out. Bush has the makings of a leader for a team desperately in need of direction.
12. Green Bay Packers- D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss- The new management in Green Bay is looking to prove to Aaron Rodgers that they can put a good team around him, and make a splash by picking up a new toy for the star quarterback early in the first. Metcalf has the measurables of Superman with a few notable and obvious weaknesses, but gaining separation matters less when your quarterback is Rodgers. At the very least, he’ll immediately become an endzone threat and a jump-ball specialist.
13. Miami Dolphins- Ed Oliver, DT, Houston- Miami has entered the rebuild stage, and will be looking for their QB of the future after moving on from Ryan Tannehill. But Oliver is too talented to pass up at this pick, especially with defensive-minded Brian Flores at the helm. Their QB will come from later rounds, a trade, or even next year’s draft. The goal right now is talent acquisition, and you can’t do much better than picking up a guy like Oliver at 13.
14. Atlanta Falcons- Rashan Gary, EDGE, Michigan- The Falcons go big on potential with Gary and nab him later than many projected drafts believe he’ll land. They drafted Takk McKinley in the first round two years ago, but with Vic Beasley falling off after a 14-sack season in 2016 and on the last year of his deal, Gary would be a savvy pickup with immense upside who could become a key part of the team’s future
15. Washington Redskins- Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida– The Redskins are in a weird spot. They traded for one veteran QB in Case Keenum to replace the veteran QB they traded for last season, and so they should double down on what they do best with their first-round pick. They already have a dominant run defense and a good ground game, and picking up a talented pass rusher like Burns would help round out the defense and take a bit of attention away from Ryan Kerrigan. It also could vault Washington into the top tier of defenses, a must if they want to compete with Keenum and ageless wonder Adrian Peterson as their offensive centerpieces.
16. Carolina Panthers- Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State- Bradbury is the highest-rated center prospect in quite some time, and the Panthers have a need at the position following Ryan Khalil’s retirement. Protecting Cam Newton should be the franchise’s top priority at all times, and Bradbury is a plug-in starter with a high floor and could be Khalil’s heir apparent, as well as a Panther for life.
17. New York Giants- Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson- Ferrell is the best pass rusher likely to be available in the second half of the first round, and he’d be a boon for the pass-rush-starved Giants defense. They’re resetting at the position after dumping Oliver Vernon, and Ferrell had an incredibly productive year for Clemson. He has the potential to be a consistent presence at the edge for a long time.
18. Minnesota Vikings- Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama- Mike Zimmer should have his guy sprint up to the podium if Williams falls to them. The Vikings have long had offensive line issues that are so serious they’ve sunk the team’s season more than once. Kirk Cousins is still a good quarterback (despite the popular, contrary opinion), but he needs protection more than your average QB. Williams will come in and immediately become the most talented offensive lineman in Minnesota and a massive improvement.
19. Tennessee Titans- Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson- Wilkins is extraordinarily versatile on the interior defensive line, a two-year team captain, and was the first Clemson scholarship football player to earn his degree in only two and a half years. Tennessee lost some defensive pieces during free agency, and Wilkins could be a monster next to Jurrell Casey along with a leader on the team and in the community.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers- Greedy Williams, CB, LSU- The Steelers have long needed some secondary help, and they’ll get it here in the form of a ballhawk from LSU. Williams was a projected top-10 pick who’s fallen down the draft board through little fault of his own, and would be an excellent fit on the back end for an opportunistic Steelers defense that can get pressure better than almost any team in the league.
21. Seattle Seahawks- Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia- You’d think the Seahawks would invest a high pick at offensive line at some point, right? Wrong. After losing Justin Coleman to free agency, Pete Carroll replenishes his beloved cornerback corps with Baker, who won the Jim Thorpe Award for best defensive back in the nation, and immediately puts Seattle back in the conversation for top defensive backfield in the league.
22. Baltimore Ravens- Dexter Lawrence, EDGE, Clemson- The Ravens lost some serious talent on the defensive side of the ball (C.J. Mosley, Zadarius Smith) and Lawrence would help alleviate that. The team is left without a consistent force on the edge for the first time in what feels like forever, and his production at Clemson was off the charts. His positive drug test is certainly a concern, but if it wasn’t for that, there’s no chance he falls this far. He’ll be another lifelong Raven, and everyone will wonder how on earth he managed to fall to them.
23. Houston Texans- Cody Ford, OT/G, Oklahoma- The Texans are set up to compete for a long time… if they can protect their crown jewel, Deshaun Watson. Ford is talented enough to come in and immediately play tackle or guard at a reasonably high level, and given Houston’s offensive line play last year he doesn’t have a very high bar to meet. Ford is an excellent athlete who would become a foundation of the offensive line immediately.
24. Oakland Raiders- Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State- The Raiders will use their second of three first-round picks to ensure that Derek Carr (or whoever it may be) will survive while under center. Dillard has the makings of a career starter at the left tackle spot, an invaluable prospect if he pans out. They did pick up Kolton Miller at 10 last season for that purpose, but he seems to be more comfortable on the right side. It isn’t a sexy pick, but it’s important for a rebuilding (we think?) Raiders team.
25. Philadelphia Eagles- Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame- Tillery has several incidents in his past that will, and should, give teams pause, but he’s one of the best defensive linemen in this draft and well worth the risk. The Eagles won their first Super Bowl in part off the strength of their defensive line, and they just lost Michael Bennett. Tillery would be a great fit with the unit, and can learn from two of the best in Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham.
26. Indianapolis Colts- A.J. Brown, WR, Mississippi- Now that Andrew Luck has rounded back into form and his offensive line is one of the best in the league, it’s time to surround him with weapons. Brown would be a great pairing with T.Y. Hilton, and while their skill sets overlap Brown would be a good backup plan if Hilton goes down. In the meantime, Brown has the quickness to get by bigger corners and the strength to fight through faster ones and would see single coverage regularly thanks to his running mate in Hilton.
27. Oakland Raiders- Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama- Jacobs is the only first-round talent among running backs this season and the Raiders have a Black Hole at the position the size of their fan base. His skillset was on full display during the SEC Championship game as a premiere dual threat out of the backfield, a must for any back in today’s game. Whether it’s Carr or a late 2019 draft pick, the Raiders QB will need to have talent around him, and Jacobs will help take the load off immediately.
28. Los Angeles Chargers- Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State- With Tyrell Williams and Dontrell Inman (presumably) gone, the Chargers no longer have a classic speed guy to open up the underneath routes for route-running wizard Keenan Allen. Enter McLaurin, he of the 4.35 40-yard dash. As Philip Rivers’ career comes to an end, they need to surround him with weapons, and McLaurin has the skill set of a rare deep threat who can effortlessly take the top off the defense.
29. Kansas City Chiefs- Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple- Even potentially without Tyreek Hill or Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs offense is fine with Mahomes under center and Reid rocking the headset. It’s the defense that gave them trouble, and getting someone across from Kendall Fuller is a good first step towards revamping the unit. His lack of experience is a red flag, but Ya-Sin has the measurables and instincts to form a dangerous trio alongside Fuller and free-agent prize Tyrann Mathieu.
30. Green Bay Packers- Noah Fant, TE, Iowa- It’s the same sentiment for the Packers in their second pick of the first round. They do have Jimmy Graham, but he’s on the wrong side of thirty with a laundry list of injuries and isn’t nearly as effective outside the red zone as he once was. Fant doesn’t have as much upside as his teammate Hockenson, but he’ll be a reliable outlet for Rodgers, who needs a new go-to guy without Randall Cobb.
31. Los Angeles Rams- N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State- The one glaring need in Los Angeles is at linebacker, and with White and Bush almost guaranteed to be off the board by this point, the Rams take the best player available who can immediately contribute. Enter Harry, a jump-ball specialist from ASU who posted excellent numbers every year in college. The Rams don’t have a physical possession receiver, and Harry should be able to excel as a safety blanket for Jared Goff.
32. New England Patriots- Irv Smith, TE, Alabama- Gronk is gone, and so is any legitimate option the Pats have at tight end. Smith is the natural pick; while it’s doubtful Belichick wants to spend a first-rounder on anything less than an elite talent at tight end, Smith flashed the kind of dual-threat potential that Belichick values oh-so-much at tight end. He has a lot of progress to make as both a blocker and a receiver, but if Saban gives his good friend Belichick a positive endorsement, Smith will end up a Patriot.