Welcome to the 2022 edition of my annual B.E.S.T. NFL Mock Draft, where I can only hope to replicate last year’s results (however unlikely that may be).
My 2021 B.E.S.T. NFL Mock Draft was a HUGE success, correctly predicting the team-player match for 13 picks, plus 1 properly slotted pick (right pick, wrong team). In total, my Mock Draft graded out as the 2nd most accurate mock draft in the world, per NFLMockDraftDatabase.com!
Additionally, my Mock Draft correctly identified the drafted player on that team’s “Short List” for a whopping 28/32 picks, meaning only 4 picks were considered totally “unexpected” or “surprising” if you read and followed my Mock!
While my 2021 Mock Draft did not compare to Josh Norris’s unbelievable mock (Norris actually submitted the most accurate mock ever recorded with a breath-taking 16 correct picks(!)), my Mock Draft did finish within the Top-10 most accurate among all experts for the third straight year!
And three years ago, my 2019 B.E.S.T. NFL Mock Draft was graded as the database’s MOST ACCURATE mock draft out of 451 qualifiers! (Please note the website switch from BigEasySportsTalk.com to FantasyLawGuy.com last year).
NFLMockDraftDatabase.com is just one of a number of cool websites recently developed and devoted to compiling mock drafts and scoring them based on accuracy.
Note that my entire 7-year Mock Draft History, links to my previous mocks, as well as how those mocks compare to experts in the industry, can all be found in one place on this nifty Excel Sheet: NFL-MOCK-DRAFT-EXPERT-ACCURACY-SCORES.
As always, one primary objective for this exercise is to MINIMIZE THE SURPRISES on draft night for readers. In other words, the fewer times you say “wow I did not see that coming!” after reading this mock, the better I feel I did my job.
This year, with the introduction of legalized sports betting in the state of Louisiana, there is an additional goal for most of my local audience, which is for us all to make some $$$ by identifying and betting on the best NFL Draft Prop Bets!
The best way to do this is by tuning in to the Fantasy Law Guy PODCAST, where I’ll detail everything I’ve learned about each pick and provide my favorite bets throughout the month of April.
This Mock Draft will be updated almost daily up until the draft on Thursday, April 28th. Intense explanations for each pick will be posted in this article during the week of the draft (see last year’s Mock for example). Until then, all analysis is discussed at length on the Fantasy Law Guy Podcast.
(Last Updated: 4/28/2022)
1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS - Travon Walker (DE - UGA)
Short List: Travon Walker, Aidan Hutchinson, Ikem Ekwonu
Team Needs: O-Line, D-Line, LB, S
Considerations: HC Doug Pederson signaled out the trenches as a point of emphasis in building his first team, which is where the top prospects in this draft class play. A strong case can be made for addressing the O-Line or the D-Line with this pick. And interestingly, Albert Breer reported that there was disagreement within the Jags’ organization between HC Pederson and GM Trent Baalke on which position to take. Offensively, starting LT Cam Robinson and RT Jawaan Taylor are set to become free agents in 2023, and center Brandon Linder retired. Protecting QB Trevor Lawrence is paramount. Accordingly, reports indicate that HC Pederson would prefer to select a tackle like Ikem Ekwonu with this pick. On the other hand, a rookie OT may have to kick inside to guard in year 1 before eventually moving back to tackle, and the team may be high on backup tackle Walker Little, a second round pick. Defensively, the idea of Aidan Hutchinson or Travon Walker book-ending stud DE Josh Allen is attractive. Impressive DE Dawuane Smoot is entering the final year of his contract. These are a few of the reasons GM Trent Baalke may opt for a defensive lineman such as Hutchinson or Walker. Baalke hired Pederson, so at the end of the day, Baalke is making this pick. Although Hutchinson – who is largely perceived as the safer prospect – has been the betting favorite for the first pick throughout April and remains so, multiple sources, led by Peter Schrager, are now reporting that Travon Walker is not only in the mix, but is actually Baalke’s preference over Hutchinson. I agree with these rumors for several reasons. First, Baalke has a lengthy history of valuing athletic traits over college production. Second, in San Francisco, Baalke also prioritized arm length for pass rushers, and Anthony Amico pointed out that while Hutchinson is an outstanding athlete, Walker is a 99.9th percentile athlete with long, 35.5 inch arms. Third, Baalke had a horrible relationship with ex-49ers HC Jim Harbaugh, who coached Hutchinson at Michigan and touted him repeatedly, and also stated that he would prefer for Hutchinson to play in Detroit, not Jacksonville. And fourth, Tony Pauline reported that there are “multiple” teams that have Walker atop their boards, so this may not simply be a Baalke thing. For better or worse, these are narratives that I am buying. GM Baalke stated a week before the draft that the team still has not decided among four players they are considering at No. 1. It is worth noting that Travon Walker and Ikem Ekwonu are the only two players who have met with the Jaguars twice. Hutchinson certainly seems like the safest choice for a franchise that is desperate to get this pick right. Ultimately, the question is: does Baalke override other key voices in taking Walker, such as an owner, a scouting department and fans that want Hutchinson, or a head coach that wants Ekwonu?
Best Guess: Right now, I’m at 59% Walker, 30% Hutchinson, 10% Ekwonu, 1% Other.
2. DETROIT LIONS - Aidan Hutchinson (DE - Michigan)
Short List: Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Travon Walker, Sauce Gardner, Malik Willis
Team Needs: QB, Defense
Considerations: The Lions only managed to sack opposing QBs 30 times in 17 games last season and ranked 31st in both QB hits and pressure rate. The team failed to make any major additions at DE in free agency. This makes the draft’s top pass rushers, Aidan Hutchinson and Travon Walker, very appealing. There are several reasons to believe that Hutchinson is the top-rated player on Detroit’s draft board. Detroit has done a lot of homework on Kayvon Thibodeaux, though, and it’s less clear who would be the pick if Hutchinson ultimately goes No. 1. Albert Breer stated that “I can tell you that no one I’ve talked to at this point believes that [Thibodeaux] is in any way a culture fit for Detroit coach Dan Campbell… His personality is a lot [said one exec], and you hear the head coach there isn’t a fan.” While Thibodeaux seems like a great fit for the Lions ON the field, I do not believe GM Holmes is messing around with character and leadership, and I especially do not believe HC Campbell is taking any chances on drafting a player this high who has any questions whatsoever about his passion for football. However, it must be acknowledged that one of the few Pro Days that GM Holmes attended was Thibodeaux’s, and the Lions brought Thibodeaux in for a private, Top-30 visit after that. Afterward, Lions beat writer Chris Burke actually mocked Thibodeaux over Hutchinson. But based on what Lions beat writers are saying, we should not shocked if the team selects Thibodeaux, even over Hutchinson... The emphasis on character should put CB Sauce Gardner on the radar as a potential surprise pick here. No Lions cornerback graded inside the top 45 of Pro Football Focus at the position, and injuries to several starters forced the Lions to play 4th and 5th string CBs for major portions of the season. The Rams made a major splash to acquire shutdown CB Jalen Ramsey while Lions GM Brad Holmes was there. Holmes did not participate in drafting Jeff Okudah 3rd overall a few years ago, and Okudah only played in 1 game last season. Gardner is admittedly a long shot, however… Another long shot is DET taking a QB at 2, such as Malik Willis. Though there are some connections here worth discussing. Willis was coached by the Lions’ staff in the Senior Bowl, and Willis was so impressive there that he started to gain national hype for being the first QB taken, so much so that at point point he became the betting favorite for this pick (over safety Kyle Hamilton, who the Lions do like but probably not enough to take with the 2nd overall pick). At the Senior Bowl, Lions QB coach Mark Brunell implied that he could turn Willis into a Pro Bowler within three seasons. Willis, a raw but dynamic and exciting prospect with a high ceiling, makes sense for the Lions because they have a veteran starter in place, which would allow Willis to “red shirt” for a year and get some seasoning. It also helps that the Lions have a pretty favorable set up offensively for a team possessing the No. 2 overall pick. Detroit has a rock solid O-Line (which is why top-rated OTs Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu are not projected here), a talented young players at skill positions, namely RB D’Andre Swift, TE in T.J. Hockenson, WRs D.J. Chark and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Moreover, the Lions can get out of Goff’s contract next year (which carries a $30M cap hit) and only have to lose $10M in dead money. So you can see why drafting a franchise QB here is sensible. Yet, GM Holmes and HC Campbell have both made comments that suggested QB is not the need that fans may perceive. Indications are that Detroit believes it can be competitive with Goff and is expected to be patient with the position in the rebuild. However, because Jeremy Fowler reported that Willis is “not totally off the table” and “still in the mix” based on the fact that DET brought him in for a private visit the week before the draft. GM Holmes also recently stated in his pre-draft presser that the team is looking for a “game-changer” with this selection, and “I’ve said all positions, if that position is a quarterback, then it’s a quarterback.” This could be a smokescreen, but for the reasons stated above, we should not be shocked if Detroit takes Willis, especially if Jacksonville selects Aidan Hutchinson first. If the QB statement can be ignored, then Kayvon Thibodeaux fits the description as a “game-changer” more than Travon Walker. It’s worth noting the betting markets all shifted toward Thibodeaux as the favorite for this pick just prior to Holmes’ statement.
Best Guess: Aidan Hutchinson is a perfect fit in Detroit, both on and off the field, so this feels like the old “sprint to the podium” cliche if he’s available, but there are A LOT of dots connecting GM Brad Holmes to Thibodeaux. Assuming Walker goes #1, I see this as 50% Hutchinson, 40% Thibodeaux, 10% Other (Sauce Gardner, perhaps).
3. HOUSTON TEXANS - Derek Stingley Jr. (CB - LSU)
Short List: Aidan Hutchinson, Derek Stingley Jr., Sauce Gardner, Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal
Team Needs: QB, O-Line, Defense, RB, WR
Considerations: The Texans have a plethora of needs, but let’s begin up front with the offensive line, where the team will consider tackles Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu here. Which one Houston prefers, however, remains a mystery. Despite Neal not being brought in for a private meeting, I want to lean Neal over Ekwonu because of GM Caserio’s longtime ties with Alabama (he trusts connections that vouch for Neal’s character) and because I believe the Texans will place value on the fact that Neal faced greater competition in the SEC. However, Ekwonu has been the betting favorite throughout April, and the market movement for Neal has been trending downward a week before the draft. In either case, I do not believe the narrative that Houston would pass on an OT simply because Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard are on the roster. Tunsil carries a whopping $35M cap hit net season, escalating from $17M this season, thus making 2023 a potential out for Houston. Moreover, Howard was not drafted by GM Nick Caserio, and the team has been open about questioning what Howard’s best position is, be it left guard or right tackle. Last year, Howard was forced to play both LG and LT due to injuries to the entire O-Line. The Texans’ starting offensive linemen made only 44/85 possible starts, which ranked last in the NFL (this may be another reason to lean O-Line with this pick). Predictably, the Texans finished dead last in rushing, averaging a paltry 3.4 YPC on the season. In sum, the O-Line is a massive need for Houston regardless of Tunsil and Howard’s presence on the current roster, and both Neal and Ekwonu have the skill-set versatility to play guard and tackle as needed anyway… Another direction Houston can go is cornerback, such as Sauce Gardner. While not mocked here by many, I believe the chances of Gardner being the surprise pick at 3 are greater than the media or most other draft analysts think (though the notion is gaining steam in the week leading up to the draft). HC Lovie Smith’s defenses do not require great CB play, and accordingly, as draft analyst Ryan McCrystal astutely pointed out, Smith never drafted a CB in the first three rounds in his tenure with Chicago. Despite this concession, first, GM Caserio comes from the New England Patriots front office that values pass coverage in favor of pass rush. Second, speaking at a recent presser, HC Lovie Smith publicly admitted that Houston’s play at the cornerback position last year was “not good enough.” “We can’t play the type of football that we want to play until we get better at the cornerback position, I will say that.” Furthermore, Sauce Gardner met privately with Smith after his campus Pro Day workout, per a league source, and Houston has met with Gardner twice already, and CB Derek Stingley as well. Stingley is no longer expected to be available for Houston’s pick at 13, but he could be a dark horse for Pick 3. Lance Zierlein, who is very plugged in to the Texans and knows how they operate, stated that Houston has done A LOT of homework on Stingley. This tells me that Houston is at least strongly considering a CB here. Furthermore, Gardner has repeatedly garnered praise for crushing his interviews, and teams have admired his character and work ethic. For a team that wants to emulate the “Patriot Way,” Sauce Gardner, who has allegedly never drank or smoked in his life, is an all-business personality should be in play for pick 3… Zierlein does not believe Thibodeaux is a fit in Houston. I agree.
Best Guess: Assuming Hutchinson is not available, I’m at 30% Derek Stingley, 25% Ikem Ekwonu, 25% Sauce Gardner, 10% Evan Neal, and 10% other.
4. NEW YORK JETS - Ikem Ekwonu (OT - N.C. St.)
Short List: Aidan Hutchinson, Ikem Ekwonu, Jermaine Johnson, Sauce Gardner, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Jameson Williams, Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Evan Neal
Team Needs: CB, DE, LB, OT, WR
Considerations: The Jets have Pick 4 and Pick 10, and both will be discussed here. The primary focus for these picks should be at four positions: offensive tackle, wide receiver, cornerback, and defensive end. New York has made its interest in acquiring an “alpha” WR1 no secret whatsoever, being rumored to almost closing on Tyreek Hill, and at least inquiring about Amari Cooper, DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and Deebo Samuel, not to mention hosting private Top-30 meetings with the draft class’s top 5 WRs: Jameson Williams, Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Treylon Burks. Based on the team’s actions, it’s highly likely the Jets come out of this draft with a new “X” WR. Here, we should focus on GM Joe Douglas’s history of drafting elite athletic testers or team captains, as evidenced by Jets beat writer Michael Nania. Two months ago, Tony Pauline reported that GM Joe Douglas has been “gushing” about Treylon Burks, but because he tested poorly and was not a team captain, I do not believe he is in consideration for Pick 4 or 10. The Jets have been connected to Drake London throughout the process. London is a team captain who would complement Elijah Moore well and serve as a nice red zone option for Zack Wilson. A case can be made that London’s refusal to run the ’40-yard dash twice does not exactly inspire confidence for test-driven GM Douglas, but the data that Nania provided demonstrates that Douglas’s trend is draft EITHER elite athletic testers OR team captains, not necessarily both. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave have been in the mix for stylistic reasons. Wilson, while not a captain, fits the playing-style profile that Douglas appreciated in Elijah Moore when drafting him in Round 2 last April, and Wilson provides a desired YAC skillset. He did not show elite athleticism via testing (7.7/10 Relative Athletic Score, per Kent Lee Platte’s metrics), but various reports have indicated that Wilson is the top-rated WR on most teams’ boards. Accordingly, Wilson is the betting favorite to be the first receiver taken in the draft. Interestingly, Chris Olave tested a little better than Wilson and was a team captain and provides a needed vertical element to the offense. Olave could be a “surprise” pick at 10, especially if the Falcons take one of these WRs at Pick 8. Most recently, Jameson Williams has been getting buzz in the top 10 from several in the national media, including Chris Mortenson who all but guaranteed Williams would be a top 10 pick. The Jets have pick 10. Personally, I think Williams fits well from a timeline perspective, even if his ACL recovery forces him to miss a portion of the 2022 season. The team has Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, and Braxton Berrios, along with two capable receiving TEs they just signed – C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin – to hold the Jets over until 2023 when Williams would be at full strength. Next offseason, the Jets can easily afford to get out of Corey Davis’s contract (only costing 600K in dead money). Moreover, Williams is comped by many to Tyreek Hill, who the Jets were close to trading for. Williams obviously could not test because he is recovering from the ACL injury, and he was not a captain at ‘Bama. Ultimately, it is a tough task to predict which WR the Jets like the most, but until I hear more, I would estimate their WR ranks as: Williams > Wilson > Olave > London > Burks… Because it’s quite possible, if not likely, that the Jets can draft their top receiver at pick 10, taking a WR at Pick 4 seems a little rich, especially because only one team between the Jets’ picks needs a WR badly enough to draft one (ATL at 8). Nevertheless, I think Jameson Williams, Drake London, and Garrett Wilson in particular are dark horses are Pick 4 but very likely the Jets’ top options for Pick 10… At Pick 4, many may consider CB Sauce Gardner as a safe selection for a team where cornerback is arguably the weakest position on this roster. Beat writer Connor Hughes insists that the Jets are not taking a CB at Pick 4 or 10, however. This checks out. Defensive-minded HC Robert Saleh’s defenses have never prioritized the CB position, even dating back to San Francisco… Instead, Saleh’s defenses have heavily invested in the defensive line. The Jets were in the Chandler Jones sweepstakes this offseason. Kayvon Thibodeaux is a comparable prospect who the Jets have shown interest in and checks a lot of boxes that GM Joe Douglas typically drafts, including Power Five School, team captain, and great athleticism. It is unclear whether the Jets were one of several teams that were reportedly turned off by Thibodeaux’s interviews in during the pre-draft process. But I believe Thibodeaux should be among the favorites for Pick 4, and certainly Pick 10 if he slides due to character concerns. The Jets have met with Thibodeaux three times and according to Peter Schrager, the final visit went “extremely well” and he heard KT was “spectacular.” In the event that Thibodeaux is unavailable or the Jets prefer a different personality, Jermaine Johnson is another pass rusher who fits the mold of a GM Douglas pick (team captain + tested as great athlete). Tony Pauline reported that the Jets are doing an “inordinate” amount of research on Johnson. The Jets coaching staff loved Johnson at the Senior Bowl. He’s a dark horse for Pick 4 and should be considered a favorite for Pick 10 if the Jets do not take Thibodeaux at Pick 4… An offensive lineman such as Ikem Ekwonu or Evan Neal are also options at Pick 4. The Jets have invested heavily along the O-Line recently (first round LT Mekhi Becton, first round OG Alijah Vera-Tucker, signing OG Laken Tomlinson, to name a few), and OT George Fant was a pleasant surprise in place of the injured Becton, who only played one game last season. However, Becton is tough to rely on at this point in an injury-plagued career, Fant is entering his age 30 season and is only signed to one more year, and rookie QB Zack Wilson was hit far too often last year. Tony Pauline reported that several Jets players were told that the team is targeting an OT with one of their two first rounders. Ekwonu has been connected to the Jets more than Neal, and beat writer Conner Hughes has heard this pick will be Thibodeaux or Ekwonu. Therefore, the Jets may elect to draft Ekwonu here, complete the O-Line, and see what WR or pass rusher falls to 10. OTs Charles Cross and Trevor Penning come into play at Pick 10. Cross stated in an interview that the two teams that he has heard from most are the Jets and Giants. There have also been reports that the Jets are high on Penning… Lastly, a pair of defensive backs, Kyle Hamilton – a team captain who the Jets like according to beat Rich Cimini – and Derek Stingley will be considered at Pick 10 because of the grave need to bolster the secondary. Linebacker was also an utter tragedy for the Jets last season, making Devin Lloyd (team captain + 9.33 Relative Athletic Score) a dark horse for Pick 10 if Saleh wants his own Fred Warner for the Jets.
Best Guess: Following the team’s actions and money reveal the Jets’ interest in adding a big-time pass rusher or WR. Because the Jets potentially could land their top-rated WR at Pick 10, I’m leaning toward a pass rusher like Kayvon Thibodeaux or OT Ikem Ekwonu, who could fortify the O-Line for young QB Wilson, here at Pick 4. The team seems really high on Jermaine Johnson, who could be in play at Pick 4 or Pick 10. WRs Jameson Williams, Drake London, and Garrett Wilson are sleepers for Pick 4 but favorites for Pick 10. For Pick 4, right now I’m at 35% Ekwonu, 25% Jermaine Johnson, 20% Kayvon Thibodeaux, 20% Other (some combination of Evan Neal, Sauce Gardner, or a WR).
5. NEW YORK GIANTS - Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner (CB - Cincinnati)
Short List: Sauce Gardner, Evan Neal, Charles Cross, Ikem Ekwonu, Derek Stingley Jr., Kayvon Thibodeaux, Jermaine Johnson, Garrett Wilson, Kyle Hamilton, Malik Willis
Team Needs: O-Line, CB, DE, LB
Considerations: The Giants have made it clear that they want to give QB Daniel Jones one more “prove it” season with a healthier supporting cast. The offensive line is priority numero uno. The Giants’ starting offensive linemen made only 58/85 possible starts (T-25th), and though new GM Joe Schoen added C Jon Feliciano and RG Mark Glowinski, there are still major questions at LG and RT. The Giants have Picks 5 and 7, and either would be a perfect spot to address right tackle. Unfortunately, how NYG ranks the draft’s top 3 tackles – Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, and Charles Cross – is anyone’s guess. Ekwonu and Neal are widely considered the top 2, but Charles Cross is considered to be the best in pass protection. And has Evan Silva noted, new HC Brian Daboll oversaw a Buffalo offense that “threw the piss out of the ball.” Furthermore, we have seen reports of star RB Saquon Barkley being on the trade block, thus signaling the end of a run-based offense to a more modern , pass-centered approach. Cross has been linked to NYG throughout the process, most recently by Peter Schrager, who suggested the Giants may prefer Cross over Evan Neal. The Giants sent a large contingency to Cross’s Pro Day and asked him to line up at right tackle during drills (the Giants have Andrew Thomas at left tackle already). Moreover, Cross himself stated in an interview that the two teams he’s heard from the most are the Giants and Jets. On the other hand, Ikem Ekwonu is the betting favorite to be the first O-lineman selected, and he “fits well with the types of players that HC Daboll and OL coach Bobby Johnson gravitated toward in Buffalo in terms of size, length, power, and play demeanor.” There’s also Evan Neal out of Alabama, who plugged-in beat writer Jordan Raanan believes should be the favorite for this pick because he’s supposedly a better scheme fit than Ekwonu, possibly due to the fact Neal has a year of college experience playing right tackle, where the Giants need him. Several expert mock drafters have noted that HC Daboll has worked under Nick Saban. Andrew Erickson observed that Neal’s measurables – height, weight, wingspan, and arm length – are very similar to two O-Linemen the Bills drafted last season under Schoen. For those reasons, I think Neal is the Giants’ OT1. This may not be correct, but I think the Giants have all three tackles very closely rated, but I think it’s smarter process to mock Cross or Neal to the Giants over Ekwonu because there are more connecting the former two players to NYG, and because there’s a better chance that Ekwonu is selected prior to Pick 5 (HOU or NYJ). Interestingly, OT-needy Carolina Panthers are sandwiched in between the Giants’ two picks… Defensively, the greatest need is at cornerback. James Bradberry is likely going to get dealt and is entering the final year of his contract either way. New DC Wink Martindale’s man-heavy scheme prioritizes pass coverage over pass rush. When Martindale was with Baltimore, the Ravens always made sure to acquire top-end talent at CB, building the pass rush with free agents and mid-round draft picks. Sauce Gardner could legitimately be the top player on the Giants’ board. Derek Stingley may not be far behind, and if Gardner is taken prior to Pick 5, the Giants could grab Stingley here, knowing that there is a drop off after Stingley at CB, and that they could still end up with a top-rated tackle at Pick 7, regardless of whether takes an OT. The Giants have met with Stingley and Gardner multiple times, and they have not met with any other corners once. Sticking with the secondary, the Giants at Pick 7 seem like the ceiling for S Kyle Hamilton because safety is such a need after losing starters Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan in free agency. Hamilton had a virtual visit with NYG… While not as important as secondary in this defense, finding a pass rusher opposite Azeez Ojulari is critical. Two months ago, Colin Cowherd stated that Kayvon Thibodeaux, after meeting with the team, believed the Giants would draft him with one of their two first rounders. Similar to the Jets, I could also see the Giants opting for Jermaine Johnson or Kayvon Thibodeaux at Pick 7 (probably not here at Pick 5 because Carolina is not really a threat for drafting a pass rusher, and it’s more likely a trade partner would move up for a CB or QB). My lean is that the Giants will try to address the D-Line in the 2nd round, as they have met a few prospects who should be drafted near that pick, namely DE Boye Mafe, DE Nik Bonnitto, and DT Travis Jones. However, Kayvon Thibodeaux surprisingly being available could throw a wrench into those plans. While I believe the Giants would take Sauce Gardner over them, Thibodeaux vs. Stingley is a very interesting debate… Lastly, this is all-encompassing, so I just want to throw out the 1% possibility that Malik Willis is the surprise pick at 5 or 7 for the Giants. GM Schoen was an assistant in Buffalo when the Bills took a chance on an uber athletic but “project passer” in the Top 10: Josh Allen. That team built the O-Line and supporting cast around Allen AFTER he was drafted. NYG has met with Willis twice. Just saying… The Giants’ wide receivers – Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, and Kadarius Toney – could not stay healthy, and Toney appears to be on the way out. So I loved Daniel Jeremiah’s selection of Garrett Wilson in his mock. That was one I hadn’t considered. But we are hearing late buzz that Evan Neal’s medicals may be an issue, and secondly, that the Giants are taking more of a B.P.A. (best player available) approach instead of locking in to a tackle. Garrett Wilson could remind new HC Daboll and GM Schoen (both from buffalo) of Stefon Diggs.
Best Guess: I’m betting the Giants draft an offensive tackle AND a defensive player (probably a corner) with their two first round picks (5 and 7). The order of which is tough to predict. Connecting dots for the Giants, I rank the OTs Neal > Cross > Ekwonu. Ekwonu may be taken prior to Pick 5 or by Carolina at 6. If Sauce Gardner is not available, landing Derek Stingley Jr. or Kayvon Thibodeaux would be a priority at Pick 7.
6. CAROLINA PANTHERS - Charles Cross (OT - Miss. St.)
Short List: Ikem Ekwonu, Charles Cross, Evan Neal … Trade Down: Trevor Penning, Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett
Team Needs: QB, OT, CB, DE
Considerations: “This will be interesting because the tackles will be the best players on the board. But we do need a quarterback, and at some point you have to take a shot, especially in the top 10. You hate to force it, because when you force it, you could make a mistake.” This candid quote from GM Scott Fitterer briefly summarizes the struggle with this pick. Carolina has a massive need at both OT and QB, but taking a QB in this spot would be considered a reach in a bad QB class without a consensus QB1. Carolina has aggressively pursued a veteran QB for the last two years: they made a strong push to acquire Matt Stafford and Deshaun Watson and also checked on the availability of Kirk Cousins this offseason. The Panthers don’t have a 2nd or 3rd round pick this year, so the team has reportedly talked to several teams about moving down in an effort to recoup one of those picks, per NFL Media’s Mike Giardi. Scott Smith brings up an interesting point with that: how many teams that are about to select their franchise QB try to trade DOWN? Carolina has also recently cleared a lot of cap space and now has the ability to take on the contracts of either Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo. Signing a veteran QB makes sense for HC Matt Rhule, who has final say for this pick but who is also a coach on the hot seat. Drafting a top-rated tackle and signing a veteran QB may give the Panthers the best chance to make the playoffs THIS season in order to save his job. Recall that Carolina passed on Justin Fields and Mac Jones at Pick 8 last April. This time around, if Carolina decides to “force it” at QB, Kenny Pickett is presumed by the media and most draft analysts to be the preferred option because he’s the most “pro-ready.” Additionally, there’s the fact that Rhule recruited Pickett out of high school, and owner David Tepper is an alum of Pitt, where Pickett started 52 games. The Panthers were “hands down” the most represented team at Pickett’s Pro Day. However, Carolina has done extensive homework on all the top QBs in this draft class, bringing in Pickett, Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, Matt Corral, and Sam Howell for private, Top-30 visits. Beat writer Jonathan Alexander reported that Carolina has first round grades on Willis, Pickett, and Corral. Panthers reporter Joseph Person predicted that the Panthers prefer Willis to the other QBs and will select Willis, not Kenny Pickett, because GM Fitterer “felt the excitement from Willis’ energy” at his Pro Day. He noted that Willis went to the same high school as Cam Newton and has the same charisma. I agree. I thought it was noteworthy that OC Ben McAdoo said he’s a “swing for the fences” guy when evaluating QBs. I believe owner David Tepper shares that aggression too. If I knew the Panthers were taking a QB, I would predict Willis would be the guy over Pickett. Albert Breer noted the “financial complications” of Sam Darnold’s contract and the “inability to attract a proven star at the position” may force the Panthers into a corner. Aggressive owner David Tepper may want a star at the position, and Kenny Pickett, while less of a project, does not provide the upside. Even if you can correctly predict that the Panthers take a QB here, the question of which one is tougher than meets the eye (the tea leaves say Pickett, but I lean Willis). And even if you can correctly predict that the Panthers take an OT, the question of which one is also tough (in my opinion, this predicament is actually a perfect microcosm of the challenge that mocking this entire draft class presents). Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, and Charles Cross are the options. Carolina has met with Ekwonu and Neal. Ekwonu is a local product who went to N.C. State, and I believe Carolina would value his run-blocking prowess in an offense centered around RB Christian McCaffrey. My estimation of Carolina’s OT rankings are 1) Ekwonu, 2) Neal, 3) Cross, but none would surprise me in the slightest if they were the pick. It’s quite possible that only one (or none) of the three are available for this pick. That scenario could be something that causes the Panthers to trade down, but otherwise, I believe Carolina will hang around, draft an elite tackle prospect, and try to bridge the QB position with a veteran for another season.
Best Guess: It’s either an offensive tackle or a quarterback. Carolina may be desperate enough to force a QB like Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett. I’d bet Willis if so. However, for the reasons stated above, I lean OT (Ekwonu, Neal, or Cross) with this pick. I bet Carolina would love if Ikem Ekwonu made it to Pick 6. Neal would be my second choice for them. Cross is probably the most likely to be available, however.
7. NEW YORK GIANTS - Evan Neal (OT - 'Bama)
Short List: Sauce Gardner, Evan Neal, Charles Cross, Ikem Ekwonu, Derek Stingley Jr., Kayvon Thibodeaux, Jermaine Johnson, Garrett Wilson, Kyle Hamilton, Malik Willis
Team Needs: O-Line, CB, DE, LB
Considerations: See Pick 5 – NEW YORK GIANTS, above.
Best Guess: See Pick 5 – New York GIANTS, above.
8. ATLANTA FALCONS - Jameson Williams (WR - 'Bama)
Short List: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Garrett Wilson, Drake London, Jameson Williams, Jermaine Johnson, Evan Neal, Kyle Hamilton, Jordan Davis, Malik Willis
Team Needs: QB, WR, D-Line, O-Line, LB
Considerations: At first, I was convinced this was the ideal landing spot for Malik Willis, who grew up in Atlanta and could “red shirt” a year under veteran mobile QB Marcus Mariota in HC Arthur Smith’s offense that features play-action roll-outs, before eventually getting Calvin Ridley back next season and having Kyle Pitts, Cordarrelle Patterson, and whatever WR the Falcons take early in this draft, as a sweet supporting cast. Atlanta has done a lot of homework on this QB class, specifically meeting with Willis and Matt Corral multiple times each. However, I’ve since come off the Willis to Atlanta prediction, based on the methodical approach of GM Terry Fontenot and Falcons’ two most pressing needs (WR and DE) being too… pressing. With Calvin Ridley suspended for the 2022 season, the Falcons’ top four WRs are: Olamide Zaccheaus, Damiere Byrd, Auden Tate, and KhaDarel Hodge. This makes Atlanta a good bet to be the first team to draft a WR in a pretty strong WR class. I’m not confident in the order, but I assume that the team has Garrett Wilson, Drake London, and Jameson Williams as the top three receivers on its board. Williams likely would have been the consensus WR1 in this draft class if not an ACL tear that could cause him to miss most of his rookie season. The Falcons are not in a win-now position and can afford to be patient with Williams’ recovery. Drake London would be a great complement to Calvin Ridley if Ridley returns next season (which I do not think is a given, considering the team had a trade set up with the Eagles before the betting allegations came to light. Indeed, the fact that Ridley may not be in the longterm plans is an argument in favor of Atlanta taking a WR here). London also may remind HC Arthur Smith of another player he coached in Tennessee: A.J. Brown. Garrett Wilson is viewed as the No. 1 WR on most teams’ boards, according to Tony Pauline. But I admittedly have not heard many rumors about which WR the Falcons prefer… On defense, Evan Silva noted that the Falcons ranked dead last in sacks (18) by an 11-sack margin, and no defense registered fewer QB hits. Therefore, pass rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux and Jermaine Johnson must be considered legitimate options. I believe Atlanta would prefer Thibodeaux. Besides the sad stats above, another argument that I’ve heard against ATL drafting WR at 8 is that the team invested heavily in a pass catcher last April by taking TE Kyle Pitts with the 4th overall pick, and this WR class is deep enough to wait until Rounds 2-3. This is somewhat persuasive. The Falcons have two 2nd rounders and two 3rd rounders. In the improbable scenario where either Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu slide to Pick 8, it would be difficult for Atlanta to pass with all of those 2nd and 3rd round picks to tackle WR and DE. HC Arthur Smith come from Tennessee, a team that prioritized a strong O-Line and running game while he was there… Lastly, two surprise picks here could be S Kyle Hamilton and DT Jordan Davis, both of whom make a lot of sense for Atlanta’s deprived defense. Hayden Winks noted that the Falcons do not tend to prioritize positional value. Hamilton could be the leader of a defense and is one of the safer selections in the draft for a team that desperately needs to hit on this pick.
Best Guess: I’m not ruling out QB Malik Willis, and an elite OT prospect like Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu would be enticing if either fell to Pick 8, but the more probable picks are at WR (Garrett Wilson, Drake London, Jameson Williams) or DE (Kayvon Thibodeaux, or Jermaine Johnson). I’m leaning WR like Wilson or London, but if Thibodeaux is on the board, it’s anybody’s guess. S Kyle Hamilton represents a safe pick for a franchise that desperately needs to hit on this back.
9. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS - Kayvon Thibodeaux (DE - Oregon)
Short List: Sauce Gardner, Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Derek Stingley Jr., Trevor Penning, Charles Cross, Jermaine Johnson, Devin Lloyd, Malik Willis
Team Needs: QB, O-Line, LB, DE
Considerations: There are needs throughout the roster, but none are greater than QB and OT. While no one should be too surprised if Seattle takes a QB like Malik Willis (who Seattle showed a lot of interest in at the NFL Combine), or even Desmond Ridder (the only QB they hosted on a private, Top-30 visit), I tend to believe Seattle knows it’s more than a year away from competing for a Super Bowl in a tough NFC West division. They won’t call it “rebuilding,” but Drew Lock is their starting quarterback, so… Armored with two first round picks in 2023, I expect Seattle to make a play for a top QB in next year’s draft, by all accounts a far superior QB class. But I will admit the idea of mocking Willis here is appealing; not only could Seattle take him, but they could also deal this pick to a QB-needy team like Pittsburgh who could take him here… Both of the Seahawks’ starting tackles, LT Duane Brown and RT Brandon Shell are free agents, and even if the team can re-sign Brown, the situation is dire. It would be outstanding if Ikem Ekwonu or Evan Neal lasted to Pick 9, but it’s more likely that Seattle is choosing between Charles Cross and Trevor Penning. There is legitimate reason to believe that Seattle is one of the few teams that has Penning > Cross. Penning is an aggressive, mean, tone-setting, mauler that I’m sure the Seahawks grade well. Carroll has preached that Seattle needs to establish the run for years now, and Charles Cross is inexperienced at run blocking, which is Penning’s specialty. Both tackles are in play simply based on the fact that Seattle has the worst tackle situation in the NFL right now… This seems to be the floor for CBs Sauce Gardner and Derek Stingley Jr., both of whom I believe Seattle would love to take. Carroll has also shown a lack of hesitation for drafting talented players who have slid in the draft due to medical concerns (Stingley Jr.), and he has not shied away from perceived difficult personalities (Kayvon Thibodeaux). I could see Seattle loving The Seahawks also have not been afraid to reach for a player they love, while also trading down a ton. All of this makes Seattle extremely difficult to project… DE Jermaine Johnson is expected to go around this range and would fill a need. You can easily see Carroll falling in love with LB Devin Lloyd, who has reportedly crushed the interview process and bleeds football. Could he be Bobby Wagner’s replacement? … This is also a prime trade-up spot for a team looking to move into the top 10 for a QB or WR.
Best Guess: A wildcard of the Top 10 with needs everywhere, Seattle could go any number of directions based on the talent that falls to them (Gardner, Stingley, Thibodeaux, Neal, Cross), reach for a prospect they love (Penning, Lloyd), or trade down a few spots. A QB is not out of the equation, either.
10. NEW YORK JETS - Jermaine Johnson (DE - FSU)
Short List: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Jermaine Johnson, Derek Stingley Jr., Jameson Williams, Garrett Wilson, Drake London, Chris Olave, Charles Cross, Trevor Penning, Kyle Hamilton, Devin Lloyd
Team Needs: CB, DE, LB, OT, WR
Considerations: See Pick 4 – NEW YORK JETS, above.
Best Guess: Working under the assumption that Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Sauce Gardner, and Derek Stingley Jr. are taken before this pick, I’m leaning toward WR here at Pick 10 (assuming of course that the Jets do not take one at Pick 4 or trade for Deebo Samuel). My best estimation of the Jets’ top 4 WRs are Jameson Williams, Garrett Wilson, Drake London, and Chris Olave, in that order. DE Jermaine Johnson may be coveted Kayvon Thibodeaux is not the Pick at 4, and conversely, OTs Charles Cross and Trevor Penning will be in consideration if the Jets take a defender at Pick 4. Though less likely than WR/OT/DE, defenders such S Kyle Hamilton and LB Devin Lloyd could also be in the mix.
11. WASHINGTON COMMANDERS - Drake London (WR - USC)
Short List: Derek Stingley Jr., Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Drake London, Kyle Hamilton, Jameson Williams
Team Needs: QB, WR, RG, DB
Considerations: Although the Commanders probably don’t view Carson Wentz as the QB of the future, the team will try to make it work for him right now. Accordingly, I do not believe Washington will take a QB with this pick (though I hear we should not rule out Sam Howell in Rd. 2). Moreover, mock draft expert Scott Smith rose the point that the pick here will likely be a WR in order to help Wentz in an effort to justify the Commanders giving up significant draft capital to acquire Wentz when reportedly no other teams were bidding for Wentz and the Colts were desperate to trade him. HC Ron Rivera attending the Ohio State and Notre Dame Pro Days is important because Rivera rarely ever goes to Pro Days, and the few times he has, the player he went to see has typically ended up being drafted by Rivera’s team. This fact alone is persuasive enough to narrow down the list of top targets to OSU WRs Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, and Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. Conveniently, all three players would fill positions of need… Kyle Hamilton is a perfect fit for the “Buffalo Nickel” hybrid role in Washington’s defense, left vacant by the departed Landon Collins. Draft analyst Ryan McCrystal found that when Washington safeties Landon Collins, Bobby McCain, and Kamren Curl all shared the field (34.5 snaps per game), Washington held opponents to -5.8 EPA on offense. But when any one of the three safeties were off the field, opponents racked up 28.3 EPA (per TruMedia). In short, Rivera’s defense values safety play more than most, and Hamilton is widely considered one of the best players in the draft by scouts. To counter, even though Washington’s defense stunk last season, the team has invested a lot into its defense in recent years, including four first rounders on the defensive line, a first round linebacker last year, and signing CBs Kendall Fuller and William Jackson to nice deals in free agency… This could cause the organization to lead offense. That brings us to wide receiver, which is a critical need because Terry McLaurin is entering the final year of his rookie deal and initial contract negotiations have not seemed promising. In addition, Curtis Samuel cannot be relied on to stay healthy. Luckily, Pick 11 is a fantastic spot to land one of this draft class’s top 4 WRs: Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams, Drake London, and Chris Olave. All are options, but Rivera attending the OSU Pro Day points us specifically to OSU WRs Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. I assume Washington loves both Wilson and Olave, and I’m not sure which one would be the pick if both are available at Pick 11. Ironically, a common NFL player comparison to Chris Olave is Terry McLaurin (which could be an argument in favor and against Olave being the preferred option over Wilson). Olave played with McLaurin and Curtis Samuel at Ohio State. Olave and McLaurin are close friends. As for Garrett Wilson, Rivera could see him as his D.J. Moore (who he and OC Scott Turner loved and drafted in Carolina). The vast majority of teams likely have Wilson ahead of Olave on their boards. Accordingly, I think it’s quite possible, if not likely, that Washington is among those teams. But this fact could also mean Olave is a better bet than Wilson to last until Pick 11. As stated, Wilson could be selected by ATL at 8, or NYJ at 10. Drake London would be a nice size complement to Terry McLaurin, and he would be my third guess among the top WRs, though there is a lot of buzz leading up to the draft that Washington will take London if he’s there, so I have moved London up ahead of Hamilton on Washington’s Short List.
Best Guess: Assuming Derek Stingley Jr. is not available, my clear Top 4 for this pick: Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Drake London, and S Kyle Hamilton. Because it’s unclear which OSU WR Washington prefers, Olave may be the smarter bet at Pick 11 because Wilson is less likely to be available.
12. MINNESOTA VIKINGS - Trent McDuffie (CB - Washington)
Short List: Derek Stingley Jr., Garrett Wilson, Kyle Hamilton, Trent McDuffie, Jameson Williams, Jordan Davis
Team Needs: CB, D-Line, WR
Considerations: Minnesota had been the favorite for CB Derek Stingley Jr. because of some key connections. Vikings’ DB coach Daronte Jones was Stingley’s defensive coordinator at LSU in 2021. Minnesota has a big need at CB, but they did re-sign Patrick Peterson, who could serve as a same-school, same-position mentor for Stingley. The team drafted LSU WR Justin Jefferson two years ago. It all makes a ton of sense, and surely, this pick or the Texans next pick would be Stingley’s floor. However, it is unlikely that Stingley is available, with several recent reports suggesting he will be a top 10 pick. The Vikings could trade up, but this would not be new analytical-driven GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s MO. In fact, most draft experts expect Minnesota to be a candidate to trade down. There have been rumors floating around that the Chargers (Pick 17) and Vikings may have a deal in place to swap spots depending how the board falls, with LAC targeting either DT Jordan Davis or an OT. I think the Vikings are also a prime trade-up spot for the Steelers if Malik Willis is available, or the Saints if Charles Cross is available. Assuming Stingley is off the board, it’s admittedly hard to predict what direction the Vikings go if they do decide to stay at Pick 12 because Stingley is really the only player I’ve seen them commonly linked to. The emphasis in the mock drafting community has been to give the Vikings a “premium position,” such as QB, CB, OT, DE, or possibly WR with the way the league and financials are trending. As for the team needs at premium positions, I’m looking toward DE or CB as areas that need improvement on this roster. A case can be made that the Vikings need WR; Adam Thielen is 31 and has dealt with injuries annually, and new HC Kevin O’Connell, formerly an offensive assistant with the Rams, is familiar with operating in “11” personnel (3 WRs on the field) at a very high rate. This could lead to Garrett Wilson, Drake London, Jameson Williams, or Chris Olave. I’d bet the Vikings prefer Wilson of the bunch. However, because of the fact that the Vikings are switching from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 base under new DC Ed Donatell, and the team will need players that fit that new scheme, I want to lean defense with this pick… I have also read that GM Adofo-Mensah (who comes from the Browns) will prioritize age. One Reddit user on a Vikings forum pointed out that both of Cleveland first rounders with Adofo-Mensah there were 20 years old, and only 3 of their 15 selections in that span were older than 21. This preference may rule out older prospects like Jermaine Johnson. My research also led me to believe that the new GM values college production and experience. This could be DE George Karlaftis’ ceiling. Tony Pauline reported that the Vikings are high on CB Trent McDuffie. Both Karlaftis and McDuffie make more sense if the Vikings are able to trade back a few spots. Although not premium positions, Pick 12 seems within a right range for S Kyle Hamilton and DT Jordan Davis. Minnesota needs players at both spots.
Best Guess: Derek Stingley Jr. is the target. Plan B is trade down. I lean defense with this pick. CB Trent McDuffie and DE George Karlaftis fit the trends of recent picks in Cleveland (prioritizing age, premium positions, and college production), where new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah comes from. Although not premium positions, Pick 12 seems within a right range for a top-4 WR, S Kyle Hamilton and DT Jordan Davis.
13. HOUSTON TEXANS - Garrett Wilson (WR - OSU)
Short List: Derek Stingley Jr., Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams, Charles Cross, Jermaine Johnson, Jordan Davis, Trevor Penning, Chris Olave, Kyle Hamilton, George Karlaftis, Devin Lloyd, Quay Walker
Team Needs: QB, O-Line, Defense, RB, WR
Considerations: Houston has so many needs here that they can almost truly go B.P.A. (best player available), but a lot depends on what the Texans do at Pick 3. In any case, this pick is situated well to draft one of the top 4 WRs; whoever is available out of Jameson Williams, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Drake London should all be in play here. I’d guess the Texans like Williams and Wilson the most. The Texans have no legitimate pass catching options aside from Brandin Cooks… If Houston does not take a tackle at Pick 3, then they could look to take an OT like Charles Cross or Trevor Penning here for the same reasons outlined in the Pick 3 Considerations, above. Conversely, if Houston does not take a cornerback at Pick 3, they could look to take a CB like Trent McDuffie here for the same reasons outlined in Pick 3 Considerations, above… This could be the landing spot for pass rusher Jermaine Johnson or athletic run stuffing DT Jordan Davis. Beat writer Rivers McCown believes that the Texans are really high on DE George Karlaftis… And if the Texans are looking for a nice captain/leader on their defense (they are), then LB Devin Lloyd and S Kyle Hamilton make a ton of sense. The Texans hosted Hamilton for a private, Top-30 visit.
Best Guess: A lot of players make sense for a team with so many needs. I think Houston will have a tough time passing on WRs Jameson Williams and Garrett Wilson.
14. BALTIMORE RAVENS - Jordan Davis (DT - UGA)
Short List: Derek Stingley Jr., Jordan Davis, Jermaine Johnson, Trevor Penning, Trent McDuffie, Tyler Linderbaum, George Karlaftis
Team Needs: O-Line, D-Line, CB
Considerations: Based on the makeup of the roster, we should expect this the Ravens to address the O-Line, D-Line, and cornerback position in this draft. At CB, Anthony Averett and Jimmy Smith were lost in free agency. Baltimore cut NCB Tavon Young. Marlon Humprhey had a down year, and Marcus Peters is a free agent in 2023. Unless Baltimore takes Trent McDuffie, Pick 14 is not a great spot for a corner, so it is more likely that this selection will be an offensive or defensive lineman. Pass rushers Justin Houston and Pernell McPhee are free agents. The team drafted Odafe Oweh in Round 1 last April, and he’s a nice building block, but Tyus Bowser is coming off a torn Achilles in Week 17 and is a free agent in 2023. Baltimore thought they had Za’Darius Smith locked up to a big deal, but Smith disagreed and signed with the Vikings. This indicates that the Ravens feel pass rush reinforcement is needed. Thus, a minor Jermaine Johnson slide could end here. The Ravens prioritize college production, so not only does that help Johnson’s chances, but also DE George Karlaftis. At DT, Brandon Williams and Justin Ellis are free agents. The team signed NT Michael Pierce and re-signed captain Calais Campbell. Though Campbell can still play, he is 35 years old. NFL Draft Analyst Daniel Jeremiah, also a former Ravens scout, stated on his Move the Sticks Podcast that he cannot see the Ravens passing on Jordan Davis if he’s available. Jeremiah noted Davis would be a cultural and scheme fit, and “looks like a Raven.” Moreover, nearly every sports book has consistently listed Davis’s player prop as 14.5. Baltimore hosted Davis for a private Top-30 visit… The O-Line is arguably a more major concern than the D-Line. C Bradley Bozeman was lost in free agency. LG Ben Powers is a free agent in 2023. RT Alejandro Villanueva retired, prompting the team to sign veteran RT Morgan Moses. Stud LT Ronnie Stanley played in only 1 game last season after missing more than half of the 2020 season. We really don’t know the status of Stanley’s health as it pertains to Week 1. Center is the biggest immediate hole, but tackle is needed badly if Stanley’s health is in jeopardy. We can assume the Ravens would consider both OTs Charles Cross and Trevor Penning if available. Baltimore has been connected to Penning in particular by both Tony Pauline and Peter Schrager. The match makes sense, as Penning is known for his aggressive run blocking prowess, traits that are right up OC Greg Roman’s ally in his run-centered offense. Especially because Cross (an inexperienced run blocker but skilled pass protector) may not be available at Pick 14 anyway, Penning should be one of the favorites for this pick. The Ravens hosted Penning for a private Top-30 visit. The draft’s top center, Tyler Linderbaum should be considered a sleeper here, especially if Baltimore executes a trade down. While I have read repeatedly that Linderbaum is a scheme fit for a zone blocking team than a gap blocking team like Baltimore, but the vacancy at center is alarming, and GM Eric DeCosta compared Linderbaum to Marshal Yanda, a longtime All-Pro guard for BAL, last month: “He can really be the centerpiece of your OL.” Linderbaum had the best run-blocking season for a center ever graded by Pro Football Focus.
Best Guess: Expect Baltimore to target an offensive lineman or defensive lineman with this pick. OTs Charles Cross and Trevor Penning may be selected in the teens, and Penning, the better run blocker, should be the favorite of the OTs. DE Jermaine Johnson and DT Jordan Davis are nice fits. Cornerback is a big need too, so Trent McDuffie is an option.
15. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES - Kyle Hamilton (S - Notre Dame)
Short List: Derek Stingley Jr., Jameson Williams, Garrett Wilson, Drake London, Chris Olave, Kyle Hamilton, Jordan Davis, Trent McDuffie, George Karlaftis, Kenyon Green, Devin Lloyd
Team Needs: WR, CB, LB, DT, O-Line
Considerations: The Eagles have Picks 15 and 18, and unfortunately for mocking purposes there are very few positions we can rule out. the most glaring weaknesses are at WR, DB, and LB. It would be odd for the franchise to draft a WR in the first round for 3 consecutive years, but because of the Jalen Reagor whiff, the team needs someone legitimate opposite of DeVonta Smith. The depth chart is very thin behind Smith. Any one of the top 4 WRs in this class (Jameson Williams, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Drake London) that falls to Pick 15 may well be the selection. The Eagles had a trade almost done with the Falcons for Calvin Ridley before the gambling suspension, so we know Philadelphia wants to upgrade at WR. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles move up a few spots to land one of these WRs (re: Jameson Williams) if a run starts between picks 8-13… DB is another problem area. The Eagles were believed to have interest in top corners Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain in last year’s draft, but both went right before Philadelphia. CB2 Steven Nelson was lost in free agency, so a corner like Trent McDuffie makes sense, especially at Pick 18 (I’m guessing the Eagles will have someone fall to Pick 15 that is rated higher on their board than McDuffie). I would bet that the Eagles would love for that player to be safety Kyle Hamilton. There is a major hole there following the departure of Rodney McLeod. Eagles beat writer Bo Wulf said Hamilton being available at Pick 15 would be a “best-case scenario.” … Linebacker Devin Lloyd will be popularly mocked to the Eagles because they have a massive need at LB. However, the team signed Kyzir White from LAC and historically does not prioritize LB in the draft. I could be wrong, but I do not see this year being any different than past drafts where the Eagles passed on a top-rated LB despite it being a need. I’ll nonetheless put Lloyd on the Short List because this seems to be his range and it’s obviously a need, so we should not be stunned if it happens, but I would bet against him going to the Eagles… The O-Line and D-Line are not areas of immediate concern, but the Eagles love drafting trench players and also do not mind drafting for the future. The O-Line suffered a lot of injuries last season, with the 5 starters making only 50/90 possible starts (31st). C Jason Kelce, LG Isaac Seumalo, and backup OT Andre Dillard are set to hit free agency in 2023. I think this puts top OGs like Zion Johnson and Kenyon Green in play. The Eagles hosted Green on a private Top-30 meeting… Similar to the O-Line, the D-Line is in decent shape for 2022, but DTs Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave, and DE Brandon Graham are all free agents in 2023. Not surprisingly, the Eagles have also brought in several first and second round defensive linemen on visits. DE George Karlaftis and DE Arnold Ebiketie are pass rushers to keep an eye on, especially for Pick 18. And DT Jordan Davis is a very good bet to be the pick here if he gets passed Baltimore.
Best Guess: The Eagles are hoping any of the following players fall to Pick 15: S Kyle Hamilton, DT Jordan Davis, and WRs Jameson Williams, Garrett Wilson, Drake London and Chris Olave. If not, I think CB Trent McDuffie, DE George Karlaftis, OG Kenyon Green, and maybe even LB Devin Lloyd will be in play.
16. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - Chris Olave (WR - OSU)
Short List: Trade Up: Evan Neal, Charles Cross … Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jameson Williams, Trevor Penning, Kyle Hamilton, Jordan Davis … Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, Treylon Burks, Andrew Booth, Tyler Smith
Team Needs: QB, O-Line, WR, S
Considerations: The Saints have Picks 16 and 19 after a blockbuster draft trade with the Eagles. New Orleans’ roster is in good enough shape to take a win-now approach with Jameis Winston at QB in a division that the Saints feel they can win, which would enable them to secure a home playoff game in a weak conference that lacks elite quarterbacks. In order to give the Saints the best chance to win next season, the team should be focused on addressing immediate needs with each of their two first round picks. Those non-QB needs include offensive tackle, wide receiver, and safety. The Saints lost stud LT Terron Armstead in free agency when he signed with Miami. It’s unclear what the plan is at LT, because it seems unlikely that the Saints would move steady RT Ryan Ramcyzk to the left side and potentially disrupt two spots on the O-Line. Moreover, it is also unlikely that the Saints, or any team, views James Hurst as any more than a strong backup tackle. The need along the O-Line spans further than OT. C Erik McCoy is a free agent in 2023. The guard play has not been high quality. LG Andrus Peat struggled in pass protection and has not shown durability throughout his career. Last season, OG Calvin Throckmorton was not a serviceable replacement after Peat got injured. The Saints’ five starters made 50/85 possible starts (29th). According to Sharp Football, the most frequent O-Line combination the Saints used played just 167 snaps together (15.9% of the season). It was ugly and a clear departure from previous years. Accordingly, the Saints would probably love it if OT Charles Cross fell to this pick, and we should not be surprised if New Orleans even moves up a few spots to draft Cross if he slides past the top 10. The Texans (13), Ravens (14), Eagles (15), and Chargers (17) are also teams that could take Cross. It’s more likely that OT Trevor Penning, a nasty run blocker but no where near the pass protector Cross is, is available in the teens. While I do buy that the Seahawks (9), Ravens (14), and Chargers (17) are very interested in Penning, I do not think he is the type of player that teams would trade up for, like Cross. If the Saints miss out on Cross and Penning, the backup plan may be to use Pick 19 to take Tulsa OT Tyler Smith, a strong run blocker who needs development in pass protection. Most analysts and scouts believe that there is a drop off in talent after Penning, however. Following the trade with the Eagles that landed the Saints Pick 16, there was a popular narrative that it was important to the Saints to move up ahead of the Chargers (Pick 17) so that the Saints could secure a tackle. Maybe, but I think it’s equally as likely that the Saints wanted to jump the Chargers so they could land a wide receiver… WR is a big need for the Saints, as the team has struggled to field a solid WR opposite of Michael Thomas since he became the guy. Marquez Callaway has shown the occasional flash but is a free agent in 2023. I would bet that the Saints would be thrilled if any of the top 4 WRs (Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams, Chris Olave, and Drake London) fell to Pick 16. Unfortunately, this scenario seems far less likely than it did prior to making the trade, and there is drop off after those four on most teams’ boards… The third major need is safety. The Saints lost stud Marcus Williams in free agency when he signed with Baltimore. Malcolm Jenkins retired. P.J. Williams was re-signed but only on a 1-year deal. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is also a free agent in 2023. New Orleans signed Marcus Maye, but he’s coming off an Achilles injury and is not a sure thing to be ready for the start of the season. The Saints are among several teams that have tried to recruit Tyrann Mathieu, but all indications are that he’s waiting until after the draft to decide where to sign. If Kyle Hamilton slides, as many experts expect him to, the Saints could very much be in play, especially if the top WRs are taken… Similarly, DT Jordan Davis could be in consideration if he somehow gets past BAL (14) and PHI (15). The Saints best DT by far, David Onyemata, is a free agent after this season, and Dennis Allen may have a tough time passing on the Davis’s other-worldly athleticism. However, because I believe WR, OT, and S are the three “must” needs, I think Davis would only be the selection in the event that S Kyle Hamilton, WRs Wilson, Williams, Olave, and London, OTs Cross and Penning, and the Saints’ top-rated QB are all taken… Yes, I said top-rated QB. While I do not believe the Saints made the trade with Philadelphia with plans of aggressively moving up for a QB, I find it extremely unlikely that this move was made without the idea or possibility of landing a QB if the right one landed in their lap, or even a reasonable striking distance. In other words, I don’t think the Saints will force the issue, but I do think the team is not opposed to taking a QB, and perhaps even prepared to take a QB, IF one they like a lot falls within range. And I do think they like one a lot. The team simply gave up too much draft capital to not have a QB at least as a factor in the equation. Malik Willis has the most upside of this year’s QB class as a dynamic playmaker, but he’s a raw, boom-or-bust prospect. The Saints may have concerns about his height (6’0)… Kenny Pickett and Desmond Ridder both fit 7/7 of Bill Parcells’ criteria for drafting QBs. Parcells’ influence on Sean Payton andJeff Ireland is known. New Orleans also hosted QBs Matt Corral and Sam Howell for private, Top-30 visits and sent a representatives to Howell’s Pro Day. Corral and Howell are projected to land in Round 2, but I thought it was worth noting. Beat writer Jeff Duncan believes Kenny Pickett could be the Saints’ guy. In addition, Dane Brugler and Daniel Jeremiah wrote a few weeks ago that New Orleans (Pick 18 at the time) seems to be Pickett’s floor. The Saints met with Pickett at the combine and did not bring him in for a private, Top-30 visit. However, in an interview, Pickett stated that the Saints were his toughest interview at the NFL Combine. Personally, I think the Saints could have a first round grade on Ridder. Ultimately, I’m not sure which QB the Saints like the most, but I do know that signing Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton absolutely does not preclude or even deter the Saints from drafting its top-rated QB in Round 1. But again, the team will let the board determine the direction… Lastly, Nick Underhill mocked Clemson CB Andrew Booth to the Saints at Pick 19, which I believe is worth mentioning here because 1) it was surprising to see because everything I’ve read has indicated that Booth may slip out of the first round due to teams being concerned about his speed and also his durability (Booth had sports hernia surgeries, and teams have medically flagged him); and 2) Underhill is plugged in with New Orleans and is lightyears better at mocking the Saints than I am. Underhill stated that the Saints have spent time studying Clemson. Cornerback is not considered a need, but it is also worth noting because Jay Glazer, who is close with Sean Payton, reported on the eve of the draft last April that the Saints were looking to trade into the top 10 with eyes on Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain, the two best CBs in that class. Does the selection and play of Paulsen Adebo, and re-signing of Bradley Roby, change that interest? I’m not sure, but CB, like O-Line and pass rush, is considered a premium position that you can never have enough of. Taking a player like Booth when the team’s strategy is clearly to win-now would signal that he was the highest player on the team’s board at the time of the pick, and that the board did not play out favorably for the Saints as they had hoped. In other words, they were not comfortable with the OTs, WRs, Safeties, and possibly QBs on the board, so they had to take the B.P.A. (best player available). Underhill also mocked Chris Olave to the Saints at Pick 16. This is an obvious selection if Olave is available, I just question whether he will be.
Best Guess: At Pick 16, the Saints hope that at least one of either OT Charles Cross, WRs Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, or Jameson Williams, and S Kyle Hamilton are still on the board. If not, I would look for New Orleans to target OT Trevor Penning, DT Jordan Davis, or WR Drake London here. If none of those players are available at Pick 19, I could see the Saints drafting a quarterback.
17. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS - Trevor Penning (OT - N. Iowa)
Short List: Charles Cross, Trevor Penning, Jordan Davis, Jameson Williams, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Drake London, Trent McDuffie, Zion Johnson, Kyle Hamilton, Devonte Wyatt, Devin Lloyd, Tyler Smith
Team Needs: RT, D-Line, WR, S, LB
Considerations: The Chargers have similar needs and will likely be targeting similar players to the Saints, so I can imagine that LAC was not thrilled when the Saints moved in front of them. The Eagles (Pick 15) also share similar interests. In fact, you can make a legitimate argument that the Eagles, Saints, and Chargers (Picks 15-19) all covet the following players: WRs Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams, Chris Olave, and Drake London; OTs Charles Cross and Trevor Penning; S Kyle Hamilton; and DT Jordan Davis. In sum, there’s a ton of overlap around this area of Round 1… For LAC, RT Bryan Bulaga could not stay healthy, and everyone saw how his backup, Storm Norton, was a major liability in the wild win-and-get-in season finale against the Raiders. Norton allowed 11 pressures in that game, and that likely stuck with LAC. There’s also an influx of pass rushers in this division with Randy Gregory signing in DEN and Chandler Jones joining Maxx Crosby in LVR. OT Trevor Penning would be nice plug-and-play solution at RT. I have a tough time seeing Penning getting past this pick. If Penning is not there, this could be OT Tyler Smith’s ceiling, or the Chargers could opt to upgrade right guard by selecting one of the top OGs of this class: Zion Johnson or Kenyon Green. Based on what I hear, I believe the team has Johnson rated higher than Smith or Green… The Chargers have done a good job of surrounding Justin Herbert with talent, but another WR – like Jameson Williams, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, or Drake London – would provide another dimension to the offense. Keenan Allen is 30 years old… LAC used free agency to address many of their defensive woes. CB J.C. Jackson was added to replace the departed Chris Harris Jr. DTs Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson were added to replace the departed Linval Joseph, Christian Covington, and Justin Jones. The Chargers were a sieve in the running game last season; they simply could not defend the run. So they may not be done at DT. Jordan Davis is a player I’m pretty confident that the Chargers are extremely high on… Although the team tried and failed to invest highly in linebacker when they traded up for Kenneth Murray two years ago, LB Devin Lloyd could be a future Pro Bowler that would help the team’s porous run defense. Murray was benched late last season, the team lost starter Kyzir White in free agency, and Drue Tranquill is a free agent in 2023. In addition, both starting safeties – Nasir Adderley and Derwin James – are free agents in 2023, making Kyle Hamilton appealing if he falls. CB Trent McDuffie is another option if LAC is not comfortable with Mike Davis starting and the players listed above are taken.
Best Guess: The Chargers’ wish list for this pick includes any of the top 4 WRs: Jameson Williams, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, or Drake London; DT Jordan Davis; RT Trevor Penning, and S Kyle Hamilton. If none of the above are on the board, I expect the team to consider Devonte Wyatt, Devin Lloyd, Trent McDuffie, or a right guard.
18. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES - George Karlaftis (DE - Purdue)
Short List: Jameson Williams, Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Kyle Hamilton, Jordan Davis, Trent McDuffie, Treylon Burks, George Karlaftis, Kenyon Green, Devin Lloyd
Team Needs: WR, CB, LB, DT, O-Line
Considerations: See Pick 15 – PHILADELPHIA EAGLES, above.
Best Guess: See Pick 15 – PHILADELPHIA EAGLES, above.
19. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - Tyler Smith (OT - Tulsa)
Short List: Kyle Hamilton, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jameson Williams, Trevor Penning, Jordan Davis, Drake London, Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder, Tyler Smith, Andrew Booth
Team Needs: QB, O-Line, WR, S
Considerations: See Pick 16 – NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, above.
Best Guess: See Pick 16 – NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, above.
20. PITTSBURGH STEELERS - Malik Willis (QB - Liberty)
Short List: Trade Up: Malik Willis … Kyle Hamilton, Jordan Davis, Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder, Matt Corral, Sam Howell, Zion Johnson, Kenyon Green, Daxton Hill, Jahan Dotson
Team Needs: QB, O-Line, S, LB, WR
Considerations: The Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky to a relatively affordable contract, which allows them to add a rookie and still not a pay premium at the QB position. This is the direction I believe the Steelers are going: being aggressive in this draft to secure their QB of the future. One of the draft’s worst-kept secrets last year was the Steelers’ interest in RB Najee Harris. This year, we are seeing that with QB Malik Willis. The Steelers spent a lot of time with Willis at the Senior Bowl. GM Kevin Colbert, OC Matt Canada, and HC Mike Tomlin were spotted speaking with Willis’s parents. By all accounts of Steelers beat writers, the team’s interest in Willis is real. Specifically, Mike Tomlin loves Willis and supposedly is pushing for the Steelers to move up for him. While it is worth noting that the Steelers have done extensive homework on all of the top QBs in this draft class (they have met with EACH of Matt Corral, Sam Howell, Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder, and Kenny Pickett multiple times), the links to Willis have been consistent throughout the draft process. The recent (week of) buzz of the Steelers preferring Kenny Pickett to Willis because Pickett is more ready to play now seems like a beautifully crafted smokescreen where the Steelers realize everyone expects them to take Willis, so now they are attempting to disguise their interest in Willis at the 11th hour. I don’t buy it. There is no reason the Steelers would value Pickett’s ability to start from Day 1 because that’s why they signed Trubisky. One reason Willis makes so much sense for Pittsburgh is because Trubisky will allow Willis, a raw small school prospect, to “red shirt” and focus on developing during his rookie season. Therefore, I expect the Steelers to be aggressive in trading up to acquire their franchise QB, Malik Willis. If another team surprises them and takes Willis, I could see Pickett, a local product who played home games at Heinz Field in college for Pitt, being Plan B. I reluctantly buy the cheesy narrative that longtime GM Kevin Colbert wants to send off the Steelers with a franchise QB in his last draft in the same way Ozzie Newsome did when he drafted Lamar Jackson in his last draft with Baltimore. I believe the Steelers have hypothetical deals in place with several teams in or near the top 10 to secure Willis… IF the Steelers can’t land a QB they like, I could see them falling in love with S Kyle Hamilton. Minkah Fitzpatrick is a free agent in 2023. And GM Colbert noted that the team has “starting-caliber players” at 24 of 25 positions. The vacancy, per Colbert, is at strong safety. This candid response makes me think that the Steelers could be Hamilton’s floor if they stay at Pick 20… The Steelers have several other needs if QB or S is not the pick. The O-Line remains a concern, particularly on the left side. OGs Zion Johnson and Kenyon Green could be fits here… WR cannot be ruled out with the departures of JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington as well as Diontae Johnson being in a contract year. Who is the Steelers’ WR3 right now? I do not envision the top 4 WRs falling to Pick 20, but someone like Penn St. WR Jahan Dotson makes sense… Adding pieces to the front-7, particularly at LB or DE could be useful. The Steelers’ defense was terrible in games that defensive MVP T.J. Watt missed. And though the team signed Myles Jack, Jack – like Devin Bush – has been very underwhelming. Both Jack and Bush are in the final years of their contracts. Maybe Devin Lloyd is the future here.
Best Guess: Whether it’s trading up or staying put, I’m predicting that the Steelers link up with the QB they covet much, Malik Willis. I believe Kenny Pickett is Plan B. If QB does not work out, I’m betting the team loves S Kyle Hamilton. Safety, offensive guard, wide receiver, and a front-7 defender are all needed.
21. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS - Devin Lloyd (LB - Utah)
Short List: Trevor Penning, Trent McDuffie, Devin Lloyd, Zion Johnson, Kenyon Green, Daxton Hill, Quay Walker, Kaiir Elam, George Karlaftis, Jahan Dotson, Bernhard Raimann
Team Needs: LB, WR, O-Line, DB
Considerations: The Patriots lost 3 of their top 4 LBs in terms of snaps played last season: Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, and Jamie Collins. The team re-signed Ja’Whaun Bentley and traded for Mack Wilson, but they need a longterm answer there. Drafting a LB in Rd. 1 could provide a successor to Hightower and be a staple of this defense for years. I find it especially noteworthy that there have been multiple reports about how the Patriots are looking for speed on defense and trying to get younger at linebacker. Supposedly, free agent LBs that have visited New England have been told that the team is trying to get younger at the position. Devin Lloyd or one of the UGA linebackers (perhaps Quay Walker) could be a great match here. Lloyd is versatile enough to fill a variety of assignments and scheme the defense around, and he has high character and work ethic boosts that Belichick would appreciate. I really like the match here at a position of need… The Patriots also lost CB J.C. Jackson in free agency, and this group of CBs leaves a lot to be desired, especially for a Belichick defense. Trent McDuffie, who the Pats had a private visit with, could be a nice selection at a premium position of need. Kaiir Elam has a lot of experience playing man coverage, which I’m sure NE likes. NE also hosted CB Andrew Booth for a Top-30 visit. Backup CBs Joejuan Williams and Jonathan Jones are free agents in 2023. So is top S Devin McCourty, so we could see safety Daxton Hill, who has the versatility to play NCB, picked as high as here… On offense, WR and OG are the biggest concerns. Obviously, Belichick does not have a history of drafting WRs highly, and when he has bit the bullet, it has not worked. I do not think this team prioritizes the position enough to pick one in the first round. That being said, worse than drafting a WR in Rd. 1 would be paying a free agent top dollar, as seems to be the going rate, so there’s a case to be made that Belichick could stomach taking a WR highly in order to avoid cap ramifications of trying to acquire premium talent in free agency. Young QB Mac Jones certainly needs more weapons. However, because it is unlikely that one of the top 4 WRs falls to Pick 21, and because this team is built to run the ball, I think New England drafting an offensive lineman with this pick is a better bet. If I had to mock a WR for the Patriots, I’d probably choose Jahan Dotson… As far as the O-Line goes, New England’s most pressing hole on the unit is at LG (after strangely trading Shaq Mason for cheap), and Zion Johnson or Kenyon Green could be plug-and-play starters for years. Both should be drafted near this pick. Johnson is a local product having played at Boston College and said it would be a dream come true to play for New England. The question is whether the Patriots, who prioritize versatility, would prefer to draft a premium position like tackle instead of guard. I believe that to be the case. LT Isaiah Wynn is a free agent in 2023 and has dealt with injuries. we could see New England stop a slide for OT Trevor Penning, or reach for a toolsy OT like Bernhard Raimann. NFL Insider Mike Giardi tweeted “Don’t be surprised if the Patriots go with a big body if they stay at 21. They’ve spent a lot of time with some of the top prospects, from tackles Trevor Penning & Bernhard Raimann to interior players Zion Johnson & Kenyon Green. They have a hole at LG and future tackle issues.” I think this quote sums up the O-Line outlook perfectly in terms of mocking this pick.
Best Guess: I’m looking for the Pats to draft a linebacker like Devin Lloyd, a corner like Trent McDuffie, or an O-Lineman such as OTs Trevor Penning and Bernhard Raimann or OGs Zion Johnson and Kenyon Green.
22. GREEN BAY PACKERS - Quay Walker (LB - UGA)
Short List: Chris Olave, Jordan Davis, Treylon Burks, George Karlaftis, Daxton Hill, Lewis Cine, Boye Mafe, Devonte Wyatt, Logan Hall, Travis Jones, George Pickens, Christian Watson, Tyler Smith, Bernhard Raimann, Quay Walker
Team Needs: WR, O-Line, S, D-Line
Considerations: The Packers have Picks 22 and 28 after trading star WR Davante Adams. The team lost speedster Marquez Valdes-Scantling in free agency, and Allen Lazard is a free agent in 2023. HC Matt LaFleur said specifically the team needed “a legit guy that can take off the top of the coverage.” Later on, GM Brian Gutekunst stated that with the extra draft capital, the draft will be really interesting, and in context seemed to strongly imply the Packers were trying to use their extra draft picks to make a major splash for a WR. It could be for a disgruntled veteran WR or a top WR prospect in this draft class that is expected to go inside the top 15. My two best guesses would be Chris Olave and Jameson Williams. Both have the speed necessary to “take off the top of the coverage” like Marquez Valdes-Scantling did. And Olave in particular is known for his reliability and route-running, which is something Aaron Rodgers is very particular about, as we’ve seen repeatedly with his distrust in young WRs. If GB can’t move up for a top WR prospect, they could select one in the second tier of WRs, such as Treylon Burks. While I question the fit with Rodgers (there have been reports that teams are concerned about his route-running and understanding of the game), he has great size, play-making ability, and athleticism that the Packers could use. I think the fit is OK but not great. But with two first rounders, and a strong sense of urgency to get a WR, I could see the Packers taking the chance on Burks, who is seen as a boom-or-bust prospect. The team has met with Burks multiple times. Based on my research, I believe there is a greater chance of GB drafting Burks than Jahan Dotson. Although they are generally seen as 2nd round prospects, George Pickens and Christian Watson are two WRs that will be popularly-mocked to GB by draft experts because the Packers have very specific tastes when it comes to drafting, and Pickens and Watson are two of a very select group of WRs that fit all of the athletic and measurable thresholds that GB likes. I have had Watson and Pickens to mocked GB at Pick 28 at various times throughout the process. However, I am leaning away from that now because of concerns about Watson’s transition to the NFL from a small school and lack of excellence in his conference despite having Trey Lance (who dominated) as his QB last year. As for Pickens, while I do view him as more likely to go in Rd. 1 than Watson (I could easily see Kansas City taking him), I have read several scouting reports that indicated there were character concerns with Pickens. In sum, I definitely think Watson and Pickens are on the Packers’ board, and the desperation at WR could push either Pickens or Watson to be the pick at 28, I now think it’s probably a better bet to mock them in Rd. 2. Maybe GB gets one there. They should still be among the favorites for Pick 28 though. If I had to bet on one for Pick 28, I’d go with Pickens… Defensively, the Packers could benefit from another pass rusher. GB has great starters along the D-Line, but there is a void of depth behind DEs Rashawn Gary and Preston Smith. The team also believes there needs to be more interior pressure. At linebacker, the Packers rely on De’Vondre Campbell, who was elite last season and just re-signed. The team does not prioritize the LB position early in the draft and often times prefers to use a third safety rather than a third or even second LB on the field. Safety is far important in this defensive scheme. Thus, it is noteworthy that S Adrian Amos is a free agent in 2023. GB also lost NCB Chandon Sullivan, CB Kevin King, and CB Rasul Douglas in free agency this offseason. Therefore, another DB is needed, which is important because GB recently has had zero aversion to selecting DBs early in the draft… As stated, the Packers’ current front office is big on athletic testing. The average R.A.S. (Relative Athletic Score, per Kent Lee Platte’s metric) in the first two rounds under GM Gutekunst is 9.18/10. In other words, GB loves elite athletic testers. Green Bay also loves drafting young, so when mocking I’m looking for prospects that are 21 or under. Another criteria for GB seems to be front-7 players having an elite broad jump. Basically, GB has a very specific type, and that set of particulars should be adhered to by experts when it comes to mocking for this team. Accordingly, when looking at defenders that fit the GB profile on the D-Line, it is likely that GB have DTs Devonte Wyatt, Logan Hall, and Travis Jones high on their board. These three players are good bets to pick in strong consideration by GB, especially at Pick 28. At DE, Boye Mafe, George Karlaftis, and Nik Bonitto make a lot of sense. And at DB, free safeties Lewis Cine and Daxton Hill fit the bill for a GB pick at what I consider an area of need… There is some concern by Packers fans and some draft analysts that O-Line is a need because of LT David Bakhtiari’s health and the loss of RT Billy Turner, backup RT Dennis Kelly, and C Lucas Patrick. Stud OT Elgton Jenkins is also in a contract year. However, I do not believe the Packers share this concern, seeing as the team is high on some of their young backups, and can expect positive health regression along the O-Line next season (the starters made 53/90 possible starts, 30th). So while OTs Tyler Smith and Bernhard Raimann fit the prototypes and could be selected, I think GB is more likely to address WR and DB or DL.
Best Guess: GB has Picks 22 and 28. Plan A is to find a WR. Treylon Burks seems like a gamble worth taking. George Pickens and Christian Watson are viewed as 2nd Rd. talents that the Packers could reach for at Pick 28 because they fit the specific criteria GB likes at the position, and there’s a desperation to improve at WR. It’s possible GB waits until Rd. 2 to address the position, to fans’ displeasure. The defense could use an extra pass rusher. This could be a DE like George Karlaftis, Boye Mafe, or Nik Bonitto, or it could be interior like DTs Devonte Wyatt, Logan Hall or Travis Jones. A third safety is also an area of need, and I expect the team to be high on Lewis Cine and Daxton Hill.
23. ARIZONA CARDINALS - Zion Johnson (OG - Boston College)
Short List: Jermaine Johnson, Jameson Williams, Treylon Burks, Trent McDuffie, Zion Johnson, Kenyon Green, George Karlaftis, Kyler Gordon, Jahan Dotson, Boye Mafe, Arnold Ebiketie
Team Needs: O-Line, CB, D-Line, WR
Considerations: The Cardinals have two major needs on defense and two major needs on offense. I lean offense with this pick because I think the front office will try to mend the somewhat fractured relationship with Kyler Murray, who has shown some displeasure amid seeking a big contract extension. The squeaky wheel could get the grease. At WR, there is not much behind DeAndre Hopkins and Rondale Moore. The Cardinals utilize 4-WR sets at one of the highest rates in the league, and the offense started to crumble after Hopkins got hurt last season. Treylon Burks, who may slide in the draft due to scouts being concerned about his route-running, looks like a strong fit here in Kliff Kingsbury’s Horizontal air raid where Burks can focus on excelling after the catch. I could also see WR Jahan Dotson being the pick… The other area of concern for ARI is along the O-Line, where 4/5 starters (LT D.J. Humphries, RT Kelvin Beachum, C Rodney Hudson, and LG Justin Pugh) are set to hit free agency in 2023. That’s a big deal. Plus, there’s a huge hole at RG, where projected starter Josh Jones has struggled early in his career. QB Kyler Murray has played through injuries in the second half of each of the last two seasons. This is a great landing spot for OGs Zion Johnson and Kenyon Green, both of whom I expect the Cardinals to be very high on… On defense, we should look to CB or DE. Unless Trent McDuffie is available, I don’t see this as a good spot for a CB. The Cardinals could opt to reach a little for Kyler Gordon or Kaiir Elam or Andrew Booth. But I really think they would prefer McDuffie to be available. The team has been weak at CB for years. Byron Murphy is a free agent in 2023. ARI is set to start Marco Wilson and Jeff Gladney, neither of which are reliable starters… It will be important for ARI to come away from this draft with a replacement for star DE Chandler Jones. Moreover, Markus Golden and Devon Kennard are free agents in 2023, so DE is a dire situation. The team hosted Jermaine Johnson and George Karlaftis for private, Top-30 visits. Both would be nice selections, but Johnson is unlikely to slide here. Boye Mafe or Arnold Ebiketie could also be the pick.
Best Guess: I’m expecting this pick to be either WR (think Treylon Burks, Jahan Dotson), OG (Zion Johnson, Kenyon Green), DE (George Karlaftis), or CB (Trent McDuffie, Kyler Gordon).
24. DALLAS COWBOYS - Kenyon Green (OG - Texas A&M)
Short List: Trade Up: Drake London, Jordan Davis, Treylon Burks, Drake London, Zion Johnson, Kenyon Green, Devin Lloyd, Jahan Dotson, Tyler Linderbaum, Bernhard Raimann, Logan Hall, Quay Walker
Team Needs: O-Line, D-Line, WR, LB
Considerations: Jerry Jones has expressed his desire to trade up, and rumors have it that Dallas could be aggressive if a top talent like Kayvon Thibodeaux slides out of the top 10, or maybe Jordan Davis out of the top 15. It’s clear that bolstering the pass rush is a big need based on the team’s actions of barely missing out on winning the bidding for DE Randy Gregory in free agency. DE Tarell Basham is a free agent in 2023. As for DT, DC Dan Quinn likes big DTs who can handle nose tackle roles, and he could covet the most athletic DT to ever come out (re: Jordan Davis). Dallas also hosted DT Logan Hall for a private, Top-30 visit. Dallas notoriously drafts players they meet with, more so than any team, so that is very important for mocking purposes. I personally think DE George Karlaftis is a fit, but DAL did not meet with him that I know of… One way to improve the pass rush is to have LB Micah Parsons line up at DE more. Drafting a traditional LB would allow DAL that flexibility. Jerry Jones himself said that he was looking at linebackers. LBs Devin Lloyd and Quay Walker are athletic LBs that the Cowboys brought in for Top-30 visits. Leighton Vander Esch is a free agent in 2023... I believe Dallas’ biggest need and the most likely spot they address in the first round is offensive line. LT Tyron Smith misses games every year, and the offense has struggled without him for the most part. The team cut RT La’el Collins and lost longtime LG Connor Williams in free agency. RT Terence Steele is a free agent in 2023. A stable unit for many years, the Cowboys’ OL is now a major liability. They could not protect Prescott last season after his ankle injury limited his mobility, and the offense crumbled. Dallas has visited with both Green and Johnson. And while the Cowboys do not typically draft small school prospects early, they have met with OT Bernhard Raimann multiple times. One player Dallas has NOT met with but is popularly mocked to Dallas by many experts is C Tyler Linderbaum. There are Travis Frederick vibes with Linderbaum. And Dallas’s tendency to draft the best player at their position in each draft class is almost impossible to ignore: first rounders Ezekiel Elliot, Byron Jones, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, Morris Claiborne, Tyron Smith, CeeDee Lamb, Dez Bryant, and Micah Parsons were arguably all considered the top prospect at their respective positions. So while no one should be shocked if Linderbaum, the best center in the draft class by far, is the pick, the concerns about his size and ability to handle a gap blocking scheme, the versatility of the guards that may be available, and the fact Dallas has not met with him, all lead me not to mock Linderbaum here… Drafting a WR in Rd. 1 could help alleviate the loss of Amari Cooper. The team brought in James Washington, but I believe Dallas sees him as more of a Cedric Wilson replacement, who also departed. Dallas’s interest in trading for DeVante Parker shows they want to improve the WR room. Dallas has connections in the building with Arkansas (namely Jerry Jones) and has met with Treylon Burks multiple times. Burks should go around this range.
Best Guess: The Cowboys top preference should be to improve an O-Line that has quickly gone from strength to major liability. The hole at LG needs to be filled with a player like Zion Johnson or Kenyon Green. Maybe C Tyler Linderbaum, but I’d lean toward the guards. If they are not available, I could see Dallas liking WR Treylon Burks a lot. While less likely than offense, I could see a LB like Devin Lloyd.
25. BUFFALO BILLS - Breece Hall (RB - Iowa St.)
Short List: Daxton Hill, Lewis Cine, Breece Hall, Zion Johnson, Kenyon Green, Trent McDuffie, Kyler Gordon, Tyler Smith, Andrew Booth, Kaiir Elam, Tariq Woolen
Team Needs: O-Line, DB, DE, RB
Considerations: GM Brandon Bean mentioned O-Line as a priority this offseason and has repeatedly emphasized an offseason goal of protecting Josh Allen. This is alarming considering the Bills’ O-Line starters made 91/95 possible starts (T-2nd). LG Ike Boettger is coming off a major injury. The team replaced LG Jon Feliciano with Rodger Saffold, but Saffold was signed only to a 1-year contract and looked a little washed up toward the end of last season in TEN. RT Daryl Williams, who made 19/19 starts for the Bills last season, was cut. Three players, David Quessenberry, Spencer Brown, and Ryan Bates, will compete for two spots at RG and RT. While it’s possible that the front office believes it made enough moves to improve the O-Line, I think it will be difficult to pass up OGs Zion Johnson or Kenyon Green here. The Bills could also view OT Tyler Smith favorably… Another way to protect Josh Allen is to have him run less, which is what the Bills said they wanted earlier this offseason. This could be hinting that the team is interested in adding a dynamic RB to the offense. Daniel Jeremiah linked RB Breece Hall to the Bills last month and others followed suit. While many Bills fans and draft analyst don’t buy that the Bills “analytically-based” front office would invest first round capital in a RB, I believe that is a weak argument that is squashed by the heavy interest Buffalo showed in drafting RB Travis Etienne in Rd. 1 last season. Multiple plugged-in accounts revealed that Etienne likely would have been the pick had he been available, and Etienne himself thought he was going to be taken by the Bills. GM Beane has talked about how for a RB to be worth drafting highly, he would need to bring a different dynamic and speed to the offense. Breece Hall ran a 4.39 ’40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. The Bills also tried to sign RB J.D. McKissic before McKissic decided to return to Washington this offseason. So the actions of the team indicate at least a desire to improve at the RB position. Hall should be available for this pick, and he makes more sense for Buffalo than other teams because the Bills are on the door step of the Super Bowl. A dynamic RB could give the offense a final playmaker needed to push Buffalo through the door. Devin Singletary had a respective finish to last season, as the team rode him late. However, it’s unlikely the team views him as a bell cow, and even if they did, Singletary is entering the final year of his contract… Cornerback is another huge need here. One stat that has been ingrained in my head: draft analyst Ryan McCrystal found that the Bills allowed 5.7 yards per pass attempt prior to CB Tre’Davious White’s injury and 6.5 YPA after White was lost for the season. Buffalo lost CB2 Levi Wallace in free agency. If a either of the Washington teammates, Trent McDuffie or Kyler Gordon, are there at Pick 25, they should receive heavy consideration, though I’m worried the Bills want better athletes. The Bills typically draft young, outstanding athletes on defense. I could see them targeting a few players who fit this mold like Tariq Woolen in Rd. 2. In addition, safety is also an option because Jordan Poyer is a free agent in 2023, and Micah Hyde is 32 years old. The Bills value safety arguably more than corner based on the way they run their defense. Lewis Cine could be picked around here, and Daxton Hill would provide versatility to chip in at NCB if needed. Cine has met with the Bills. Both safeties earned at least an 8.9/10 R.A.S. by Kent Lee Platte’s athletic testing metric, which I think the Bills will appreciate.
Best Guess: Defensive back is the team’s biggest need on paper. Safeties Daxton Hill, Lewis Cine make sense. RB Breece Hall should also be a favorite for this pick.
26. TENNESSEE TITANS - Jahan Dotson (WR - Penn. St.)
Short List: Trevor Penning, Jermaine Johnson, Malik Willis, Zion Johnson, Kenyon Green, Tyler Smith, Jahan Dotson, Treylon Burks, Skyy Moore, George Karlaftis, Desmond Ridder, Trey McBride
Team Needs: O-Line, CB, WR, DE
Considerations: The Titans have built their identity around Derrick Henry and have prioritized a strong O-Line. The team has to be concerned that they lost RT David Quessenberry in free agency, decided to cut Rodger Saffold, and RG Nate Davis is a free agent in 2023. Accordingly, a left guard or right tackle should be very much in play here. Zion Johnson and Kenyon Green are seen as the best OGs in this class and should go in the 20s. OT Tyler Smith is a great run blocker who may be a better fit at LG than RT… Tennessee swung and missed with Julio Jones, who could not keep his legs healthy. The Titans also whiffed on Josh Reynolds, who they cut before the season ended. Even though TEN traded for Robert Woods, Woods is coming off a torn ACL, and the Titans had to be frustrated last season with their WRs inability to stay healthy last season. Furthermore, it looks like the contract extension negotiations with A.J. Brown will not be easy. Therefore, I believe WR is firmly in play, especially because there will be a number of WR options around this spot. Tennessee has met with Treylon Burks multiple times and could be attracted to his size and athleticism like they were with A.J. Brown. The Titans have also met with Jahan Dotson and Skyy Moore… OT Trevor Penning and DE Jermaine Johnson are two players that Tennessee hosted for private, Top-30 meetings, which is eye-brow raising because they are not expected to be available anywhere near Pick 26. Penning is a nasty mauler who seems like a perfect match for Mike Vrabel and the Titans’ run game. Johnson is the only pass rusher that TEN has met with, but finding a legitimate pass rusher opposite Harold Landry is certainly a need. I think the Titans would like George Karlaftis as well… I do think that Tennessee needs another cornerback following the departure of Jackrabbit Jenkins, but after drafting Caleb Farley in Rd. 1 last year and Kristian Fulton in Rd. 2 the year prior, the Titans will probably add a CB later on… The Titans should be considered a sleeper for taking a quarterback in Rd. 1; Ryan Tannehill has a $36M cap hit in 2023, but it would only cost $19M in dead money for the team could move on from him next offseason. Tennessee can not have been happy with Tannehill’s performance in the playoff loss to Cincinnati. A solid regular season followed by an early playoff exit has been a theme in Tannehill’s career with TEN. For these reasons, it will be very tempting if a QB like Malik Willis or Desmond Ridder slipped to Pick 26. While Kenny Pickett should not be off the table, I lean away from it because I think Tennessee will want more play-making ability and upside, knowing that they can “red shirt” and develop behind Tannehill this season. There are some connections worth mentioning with Ridder; HC Vrabel’s best friend is Cincinnati HC Luke Fickell, who has touted his QB Ridder. As for Willis, draft analyst Hayden Winks believes Willis would be a perfect cultural fit in Tennessee. Additionally, most in the industry believe in order for Willis to hit his ceiling, he will need a year develop. The timeline makes sense here, and the Titans have met with Willis multiple times. I like the fit of both Ridder and Willis here, even though Tennessee probably feels this pick should be a player that helps them win now. Recall, TEN was the #1 seed in the AFC last season.
Best Guess: QBs Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder should be considered if available. But a WR like Treylon Burks, Jahan Dotson, or Skyy Moore, an OG such as Zion Johnson, Kenyon Green, or Tyler Smith make sense for a team that believes its winning window is open.
27. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS - Lewis Cine (S - UGA)
Short List: Daxton Hill, Lewis Cine, Devonte Wyatt, Zion Johnson, Kenyon Green, Tyler Smith, Treylon Burks, Logan Hall, Travis Jones, Breece Hall, Trey McBride, Perrion Winfrey
Team Needs: DT, LG, DB
Considerations: At one point, the Bucs lost their two starting guards and center this offseason, but they managed to re-sign C Ryan Jensen. And they somehow were able to trade a 5th round pick for RG Shaq Mason. However, LG is currently open for competition, with Aaron Stinnie as the leading in-house candidate to start there. It would be very difficult to pass up OGs Kenyon Green or Zion Johnson, or OT Tyler Smith (to play at LG) if one were to slide a little past the OG-needy teams drafting ahead of Tampa. Multiple Bucs beat writers have noted Tampa’s desire to establish he run under new defensive-minded HC Todd Bowles more than they have in Brady’s last two seasons. TB re-signed Leonard Fourentte and has done a ton of homework on the RBs in this draft class. This is probably going to be a mid-round selection, but the new run game devotion may encourage the team to lean offensive guard in Rd. 1 if they can. I don’t think Breece Hall would be a crazy selection to mock, either… DT is another need, Ndamukong Suh remains unsigned. The Bucs could use a young, interior pass rushing complement to stud NT Vita Vea. Devonte Wyatt, Logan Hall, Travis Jones, and Perrion Winfrey may all be on the board here. The team has met with Hall and Winfrey multiple times. GM Jason Licht said earlier this offseason that the Bucs need more push up the middle to help get the pass rushers home… The Bucs were hurt by injuries at the CB position last season, and teams picked on the secondary knowing they could not run against the Bucs. More significantly, Tampa has A LOT of players expiring contracts in the secondary: CBs Sean Murphy-Bunting, Ross Cockrell, Jamel Dean, Dee Delaney, and safety Mike Edwards. The team lost starter Jordan Whitehead in free agency this offseason but signed Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal. However, Jenna Laine reported that when GM Licht was asked whether Neal and Ryan precluded TB from drafting safety, Licht simply replied, “No.” Therefore, I still believe the Bucs are in the market for adding to this secondary because, again, there’s a lot of uncertainty how this DB room is going to look in 2023. Specifically, safeties Daxton Hill and Lewis Cine make a ton of sense here. Cine visited the Bucs last week privately, and Tampa met with CB Kaiir Elam at the NFL Combine. One counter argument for DB: the Bucs are obviously looking for immediate contributors for what could be Tom Brady’s final season in Tampa, and unless the Bucs are bitten by the injury bug again in the secondary, I’m not sure how much a CB or Safety would play in Year 1. A safety would be far more likely to get playing time as a rookie than a corner… According to Jon Ledyard, Tampa Bay really likes WR Treylon Burks and will consider him if players at positions of need are not available. Ledyard also mentioned TE Trey McBride is a dark horse for this pick, arguing that he fits exactly what Tampa looks for in that position.
Best Guess: The Bucs should draft a LG like Zion Johnson, Kenyon Green, or Tyler Smith; or a DB like Daxton Hill or Lewis Cine; or a DT like Devonte Wyatt or Logan Hall. I lean toward secondary right now.
28. GREEN BAY PACKERS - Treylon Burks (WR - Arkansas)
Short List: Treylon Burks, Daxton Hill, Lewis Cine, George Karlaftis, Boye Mafe, Devonte Wyatt, Logan Hall, Travis Jones, George Pickens, Christian Watson, Tyler Smith, Bernhard Raimann
Team Needs: WR, O-Line, S, D-Line
Considerations: See Pick 22 – GREEN BAY PACKERS, above.
Best Guess: See Pick 22 – GREEN BAY PACKERS, above.
29. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS - George Pickens (WR - UGA)
Short List: George Karlaftis, Boye Mafe, Arnold Ebiketie, Trent McDuffie, Kyler Gordon, George Pickens, Jahan Dotson, Christian Watson, Devonte Wyatt, Travis Jones
Team Needs: D-Line, CB, WR, OT
Considerations: After trading star WR Tyreek Hill, Kansas City has two first round picks in back-to-back slots at 29-30. I see the Chiefs having three primary needs (DE, CB, WR) that the team will try to target early and a few secondary needs (DT, OT) that the team will fill in later. So the first mocking question becomes: what two positions will KC target with their two first round picks? Historically, GM Veach has not drafted corners early. On the other hand, HC Andy Reid has also preferred drafting linemen and wide receivers. I believe there is pressure to find a talented replacement for Tyreek Hill, but more persuasive is the fact that the Chiefs only have one notable WR under contract after this season, Marquez Valdes-Scantling (JuJu Smith-Schuster signed a 1-year deal). Moreover, Warren Sharp noted that the Chiefs play in 3-WR sets at a top-5 rate in the league and are obvious a pass-first team. KC has been constantly disappointed with the lack of development and consistency for Mecole Hardman. There were also reports that the Chiefs “were not done at wide receiver” after trading Hill, and draft rumors that the Chiefs wanted to trade up for Jameson Williams (though that talk has since cooled now that Williams is projected to be a top 15 pick). Thus, I expect one of these two picks to be a WR. It seems like a near lock that the top 4 WRs in the draft class will not be in play near this pick (though, again, the Chiefs have ammunition to move up). WR Treylon Burks may slide to the late 20s, and he could be a nice fit in an Andy Reid offense that can scheme him open and allow Burks to show off his YAC ability. Otherwise, there are four WRs expected to go somewhere between Picks 22-45: Jahan Dotson, George Pickens, Christian Watson, and Skyy Moore. The Chiefs have hosted Pickens and Watson on private, Top-30 visits and have actually met with Pickens twice. NFL Reporter Jordan Schultz reported that the Chiefs are big fans of Moore. While Pickens, Watson, and Moore are seen more around the league as 2nd round players, the Chiefs could feel a sense of urgency to reach a little here. I find it curious that KC has not met with Jahan Dotson. Too curious… The Chiefs desperately need to bolster the DE and CB spots in an AFC West division against Herbert, Carr, and now Russ Wilson. KC should be in position to draft DEs Arnold Ebiketie or Boye Mafe here. Tony Pauline reported that GM Veach has been a huge fan of Mafe for quite some time and was impressed with Mafe at the Senior Bowl practices. DE George Karlaftis would probably be an attractive option if he was on the board, as well. The Chiefs ranked 31st in sacks last season… At CB, there are a few corners that seem to be on the fringe of Round 1-2, including Kyler Gordon, Kaiir Elam, and Andrew Booth. None would surprise, but my best guess of which one making it into Round 1 (and thus being KC’s possible pick) is Gordon… DTs Devonte Wyatt, Logan Hall, and Travis Jones could be options around here, Wyatt in particular.
Best Guess: I’m expecting the Chiefs to target two of DE, WR, and CB with Picks 29 & 30. I would rank them WR > DE > CB. There are a number of possibilities at WR, including Treylon Burks, Jahan Dotson, George Pickens, Christian Watson, and Skyy Moore. I expect at least three of them to be available here. At DE, my best bet is Boye Mafe, followed by George Karlaftis and Arnold Ebiketie. At CB, my best bet is Kyler Gordon. And if the Chiefs go with a DT, my best bet is Devonte Wyatt.
30. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS - Boye Mafe (DE - Minnesota)
Short List: George Karlaftis, Boye Mafe, Arnold Ebiketie, Trent McDuffie, Kyler Gordon, George Pickens, Jahan Dotson, Christian Watson, Devonte Wyatt, Travis Jones
Team Needs: D-Line, CB, WR, OT
Considerations: See Pick 29 – KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, above.
Best Guess: See Pick 29 – KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, above.
31. CINCINNATI BENGALS - Kaiir Elam (CB - Florida)
Short List: Trent McDuffie, Kyler Gordon, Tyler Linderbaum, Daxton Hill, Lewis Cine, George Karlaftis, Logan Hall, Kaiir Elam, Andrew Booth
Team Needs: CB, C/G, S, DT
Considerations: Cincinnati did a commendable job improving the O-Line in free agency, signing RT La’el Collins, RG Alex Cappa, and G/C Ted Karras to big deals. A hole remains at LG, where Jackson Carman, last year’s 2nd round pick, is set to start. Carman struggled I his 7 starts last year, but the team may not want to give up on Carman after his rookie season. Moreover, the Cincinnati front office could believe that they have already made a heavy enough investment in the O-Line (1st Rd. LT Jonah Williams, 2nd Rd. LG Carman, and the 3 big signings at C, RG, and RT this offseason). On the other hand, the Bengals would have to be enticed if the draft class’s best center prospect, by far, Tyler Linderbaum, was sitting there at Pick 31. There are concerns about Linderbaum’s size and scheme fit (better for a zone blocking team), but he was one of the best players in college football last season among any position. The Bengals could “complete” the O-Line by drafting Linderbaum and shifting Ted Karras to LG, where he has plenty of experience. This would help the unit go from a major liability to a strength… Another strong Rd. 1 bet for the Bengals is taking a defensive back. Cincinnati has a solid trio of corners, but everyone saw in the playoffs and Super Bowl that CB Eli Apple was picked on. Additionally, both starting safeties – Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates – are free agents in 2023. Accordingly, the Bengals have done their homework on first round corners and safeties. Specifically at CB, the team has been linked to Kyler Gordon, Andrew Booth, and Kaiir Elam. Safeties Daxton Hill and Lewis Cine could go around this area too. Hill as the versatility to help at NCB as needed… Two defensive linemen that I could see the Bengals taking here are DE George Karlaftis and DT Logan Hall. The Bengals met with both, most recently bringing Hall in for a private, Top-30 visit. Cincinnati was fortunate with great health at the DE position last season, but there is not too much depth behind starters Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard. The team lost DT Larry Ogunjobi in free agency. LB Nakobe Dean is another wildcard for this pick, though this team typically undervalues LBs.
Best Guess: We should focus on O-Line (specifically C Tyler Linderbaum) and DB here. Cincinnati has been linked to several corners. I believe CBs Kyler Gordon and Kaiir Elam, and safeties Daxton Hill, and Lewis Cine are probable targets. DE George Karlaftis and DT Logan Hall would help out with D-Line depth.
32. DETROIT LIONS - Daxton Hill (S - Michigan)
Short List: Daxton Hill, Lewis Cine, Treylon Burks, Jahan Dotson, Devonte Wyatt, Travis Jones, Logan Hall, Christian Watson, George Pickens, Devin Lloyd, George Karlaftis
Team Needs: QB, Defense
Considerations: Albert Breer reported that one position on the Lions’ radar for Pick 2 is defensive back, so following that same logic, DB should be on the radar for Pick 32 as well (though it should be noted that the Lions also have Pick 34). Aaron Glenn, former DB coach for the Saints now DC for the Lions, is someone the Lions value highly as a future HC and will likely have a lot of say in any DB selection. As discussed, injuries to several starters forced the Lions to play 4th and 5th string CBs for major portions of the season, GM Brad Holmes oversaw the Rams’ major trade for CB Jalen Ramsey, and he has zero ties to Jeff Okudah, the #3 overall pick two years ago who has been plagued by injuries throughout his short career. Corners in this range that the Lions will consider if available include Kyler Gordon, Andrew Booth, and Kaiir Elam. Safeties in this range that the Lions will consider if available are Daxton Hill and Lewis Cine. Specifically, I like the fits of Gordon, Hill, and Cine. DET has met with Cine recently, and Lions beat writer Jeff Risdon said that the team feels that safety is a huge need… Linebacker will be a popularly-mocked position for this pick, but GM Holmes (who comes from the Rams front office) does not have a history of prioritizing off-ball LBs. We cannot rule out Devin Lloyd or Nakobe Dean (who the team hosted for a Top 30 visit and who was invited to attend the draft), but it would be an atypical Holmes selection. The Lions added Jarrad Davis and Chris Board this offseason and one beat writer stated definitively that the Lions are done adding to the LB room… More likely than LB here, in my estimation is DT or WR. The Lions invested in DT last April, but there are some connections to a few DTs that this coaching staff either coached (Devonte Wyatt) or coached against (Travis Jones) in the Senior Bowl. Logan Hall is another DT that should go in this range, so I’m including him on the Short List… Detroit added D.J. Chark in free agency to start opposite of late-blooming rookie sensation Amon-Ra St. Brown. I don’t think the team is done adding. There are rumors Detroit is IN on Deebo Samuel, and this pick may be a great spot to draft a WR before the WR-needy Texans, who are sandwiched between the Lions’ selections at 32 and 34. Additionally, it would be more valuable financially to get the 5th year option on a WR than a DT or Safety, for instance. Namely, Treylon Burks, Jahan Dotson, Christian Watson, George Pickens, and Skyy Moore are the names to watch… Finally, while it is conceivable that the Lions draft a QB here to get the 5th year option attached, I think it is more likely that they deal this pick to another team to do so. In theory, I concede that it could be smart mocking strategy to slot a QB here for that reason, but because there would be a question of which QB slides to 32 out of Desmond Ridder, Kenny Pickett, and Matt Corral, and because the Lions probably prefer Willis over all of them (so if there are any trade-ups for DET, it would likely be for Willis), I’m avoiding QB at 32 in my Mock. In sum, the guesswork of mocking a QB here seems even more burdensome than mocking player to DET under the assumption they keep the pick.
Best Guess: The fact that DET has Pick 34 and that this is a prime trade-down spot to a team looking to get back into Round 1, makes this pick even more difficult to project than pick 32 normally would be. Assuming DET keeps both picks at 32 and 34, the players I like for those spots are DBs: Kyler Gordon, Daxton Hill, and Lewis Cine; at WR: Jahan Dotson, Skyy Moore, Christian Watson, and George Pickens; and at DT: Travis Jones or Devonte Wyatt.
Other Prospective First Rounders:
- Arnold Ebiketie (DE – Penn. St.)
- Kenny Pickett (QB – Pitt.)
- Tyler Linderbaum (C – Iowa)
- Logan Hall (DT – Houston)
- Andrew Booth (CB – Clemson)
- Devonte Wyatt (DT – UGA)
- Travis Jones (DT – UCONN)
- Desmond Ridder (QB – Cincinnati)
- Matt Corral (QB – Ole Miss)
- Christian Watson (WR – N. Dakota St.)
- George Pickens (WR – UGA)
- Skyy Moore (WR – W. Michigan)
- Nakobe Dean (LB – UGA)
- Bernhard Raimann (OT – Cent. Mich.)
- Nik Bonnito (DE – Oklahoma)
- Drake Jackson (DE – USC)
- – Nick Guarisco (@FantasyLawGuy)