The big news last week was that Oregon’s Justin Herbert announced he was returning to school. That made an already suspect quarterback class even more problematic for NFL teams desperate for a franchise passer. In our latest mock draft, we have the Giants taking Eli Manning’s successor (even if that seems unlikely in real life), but that leaves several organizations behind them — see the Jaguars and the Dolphins — scrambling for a Plan B.
In other news, we fully expect 49ers‘ fans to be less than thrilled with who we have the team taking second overall but here’s the question facing Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch: Do you take the most dominant player in college football this season even though you don’t need him, or stretch to fill other, bigger needs?
We’ll sort it all out below. All right, let’s get to all the picks.
1. Arizona Cardinals
Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State. On a team chock full of holes, edge rusher isn’t at the top of the to-do list. That said, it’s hard to pass on a talent like Bosa, who can take over games. There isn’t an offensive linemen worth taking this high and the Cardinals find themselves in full-on rebuild mode less than a year after hiring Steve Wilks and drafting Josh Rosen in the first round.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama. Williams is the second-best player in this draft. The problem is that the 49ers have taken a defensive linemen with a first-round pick in three of the last four drafts. But none of them — Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armistead can do what Williams does. He’s been one of the best players in college football — we sat that most recently against Oklahoma on Saturday night — and this is after sitting behind Da’Ron Payne (a Redskins first-rounder last spring) in 2017. There’s so much depth at pass rusher that the 49ers can grab one early in Round 2.
3. New York Jets
Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky. Is Josh Allen the best pass rusher in the draft? That will be decided in the coming weeks and months but none one did more for their draft stock than Allen, who returned to Kentucky for his senior season and went off. After seven sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in 2017, Allen gained 10-15 pounds of muscle and put up 14 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss and was pretty much unblockable.
4. Oakland Raiders
D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss. Yes, the Raiders desperately need a pass rusher, and help in the secondary is probably next on the to-do list, but after shipping Amari Cooper to Dallas, they also need a legit deep threat. There are questions about Metcalf’s consistency — he comes from an Ole Miss offense that doesn’t ask him to do much, and he’s also coming off a neck injury that cut short his junior season. But he’s is also the best wideout in this draft who wins at the line of scrimmage, makes contested catches look easy, and can beat defensive backs deep.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Greedy Williams, CB, LSU. The Bucs are a mess on both sides of the ball but their defense has been particularly lacking this season. Williams may not be the most polished cornerback in this draft class but he is insanely athletic and has all the tools to become a great player. On a unit lacking playmakers in the secondary, Williams may be worth the gamble this early in the draft.
6. New York Giants
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State. The Giants appear ready to bring Eli Manning back for another season but after Justin Herbert announced he was staying at Oregon, Haskins is the best quarterback in this class and it may not be close. Manning played well in spurts in 2018 but there was more bad than good, and if the Giants decide it’s time to turn the page after 15 seasons, Haskins will have to get serious consideration.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Byron Murphy, CB, Washington. This is the worst-case scenario for the Jaguars who desperately need a quarterback because Blake Bortles clearly is not the answer (despite the team giving him a three-year extension last offseason). So does Jacksonville overdraft a quarterback here or address other needs? For now, we’re going with the latter though that could change as we get deeper into draft season. The sllver lining: Murphy has had a wonderful year in Washington and he might be the best cornerback in this draft class — assuming he doesn’t return to school for his senior season.
8. Detroit Lions
Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan. Matt Patricia had a rocky rookie season in Detroit and he has plenty to fix in the coming months. Shoring up the defensive line, which is set to lose Ziggy Ansah to free agency, will be near the top of the to-do list. And while Gary didn’t live up to expectations at Michigan, part of that can be blamed on him playing out of position. Is he an edge rusher? Is he better inside? Patricia, who was the defensive coordinator in New England before coming to Detroit, could be tasked with finding the best uses of Gary’s talents.
9. Buffalo Bills
Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson. Lawrence is a 340-pound wrecking ball who is (obviously) stout against the run but can also rush the passer. He’s part of one of the best defensive lines in college football and with Kyle Williams retiring in Buffalo, Lawrence could step right into a starting job.
10. Denver Broncos
Drew Lock, QB, Missouri. Is Case Keenum the answer in 2019? Will the new coach want a young franchise quarterback? These are questions we currently don’t have the answer to but we know general manager John Elway would love to upgrade the position. There’s a reason he was closely watching Justin Herbert this season and now that he’s returned to Oregon, Elway could turn his attention to other draft-eligible passers. Lock has the best arm of the group, and he reminds us of Jay Cutler — both the good and the bad. Would Denver draft Lock 13 years after taking Cutler 11th overall?
11. Cincinnati Bengals
Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama. The Bengals would be ecstatic to land the draft’s best offensive tackle here. Andy Dalton is at his most dangerous when he has time in the pocket and Williams would anchor the offensive line for the next decade. Cincinnati arguably has bigger needs on defense but getting the offense right could be the first order of business on draft weekend.
12. Green Bay Packers
Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State. The Packers will be looking to revamp their offense in the offseason. First, they’ll need to settle on Mike McCarthy’s successor, but finding Aaron Rodgers a reliable downfield target in addition to Davante Adams would make some sense. Harmon put up eye-popping numbers during his junior season at N.C. State and his presence would take pressure off Adams, especially since Randall Cobb’s future could be in doubt.
13. Miami Dolphins
Ed Oliver, DT, Houston. The Dolphins are in dire need of a quarterback. Adam Gase hitched his wagon to Ryan Tannehill and Gase was fired on Monday. But do they reach for one here or focus on other needs? For now, we have them bolstering their defensive line with Oliver, who a few months ago was considered the second-best player in the draft after Nick Bosa. That may no longer be the case but he remains a top-10 talent and Miami would love to find him still available here.
14. Atlanta Falcons
Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida. Same as last week. Former first-round rushers Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley have combined for 12.0 sacks but the Falcons could choose to move on from Beasley after the season. Polite had 11 sacks in 13 games for the Gators. He has an explosive first step and off-the-chart physical abilities, and his knack for getting in the backfield was unrivaled at times this fall.
15. Washington Redskins
Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College. Another team, another huge question about the quarterback. Alex Smith’s career is in doubt but his contract is burdensome to say the least. Can Colt McCoy be a full-time starter? Can the front office get out of its own way? In the meantime, Washington focuses on protecting whomever ends up under center. Lindstrom, after a strong season at Boston College, may be the best guard in the draft, and the Redskins’ interior line has been problematic.
16. Carolina Panthers
Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama. Eric Reid was signed a month into the season but he quickly became one of the Panthers‘ best defensive backs. His contract is up, which is the case for safety Mike Adams, who will turn 38 in March. Thompson is the best safety in the class and he can be a game-changer in centerfield. On a unit lacking depth in the secondary, Thompson would be a solid choice.
17. Cleveland Browns
Yodny Cajuste, OT, West Virginia. Cajuste is an athletic left tackle who protected Will Grier at West Virginia. The Browns‘ offense is terrifying but they have to find a left tackle to protect Baker Mayfield’s blindside.
18. Minnesota Vikings
Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma. Is it too early for the Vikings to look for a quarterback? That was rhetorical, mostly becuase Kirk Cousins is one year into a three-year, $84 million — all guaranteed — deal. And since Cousins isn’t going anywhere, Minnesota has to do a better job of protecting him. Ford excelled at tackle this season after moving over from guard.
19. Tennessee Titans
Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson. The Titans took Harold Landry in the second round last spring and they add Ferrell, who had 11.5 sacks for Clemson while playing on the best defensive line in football. There may be questions about his flexibility, but he can answer them in the weeks and months to follow.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia.The Steelers have to upgrade the secondary because after Joe Haden there are a lot of questions. Baker isn’t as athletic as Greedy Williams but he had a better 2018 campaign.
21. Philadelphia Eagles
Jaquan Johnson, S, Miami. Corey Graham is 33 and is headed for free agency. He ranked 57th among all safeties, according to Pro Football Focus. And what Johnson lacks in size he more than makes up for with tenacity. A sure tackler who covers a lot of ground, Johnson has the athleticism to run with wide receivers and is also an adept blitzer off the edge.
22. Indianapolis Colts
N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State. A new-and-improved Andrew Luck, and offensive line that allowed just 18 sacks during the regular season, and now another downfield playmaker to pair with T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron. Harry had 73 receptions for 1,088 yards and nine touchdowns this season, and he reminds us of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Anquan Boldin.
23. Seattle Seahawks
Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State. Frank Clark has balled out this season (14 sacks) but he’s the only edge-rushing threat. Burns is a long, lean, explosive pass rusher. At 235-240 pounds, the concern is whether he’s strong enough to play the position at the next level, but Burns isn’t just a speed rusher; he’s also strong, and has the frame to get stronger.
24. Los Angeles Chargers
Noah Fant, TE Iowa. We don’t think Antonio Gates will play forever, and while the Chargers have needs along the interior defensive line and at cornerback, it’s hard to pass up another offensive weapon for Philip Rivers. Fant is the most athletic tight end in this draft and he’d be a nightmare running routes alongside Keenan Allen.
25. Oakland Raiders (via Dallas)
Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State. Same as last week. Khalil Mack was traded before the season, Bruce Irvin was cut last month, and the Raiders are one of the NFL‘s worst pass-rushing units. They have to address the position early, and possibly often in the 2019 draft.
26. Baltimore Ravens
Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama. Wilson could decide to return to Alabama but should he declare he could be the best linebacker in this draft. C.J. Mosely is in the final year of his deal and if the Ravens decide to move on, replacing him with another member of the Crimson Tide would be seem fitting. He has has sideline-to-sideline speed and does everything you look for in today’s linebacker.
27. Houston Texans
Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas St. Same as last week. The Texans‘ offensive line ranks 23rd in run blocking. That’s the good news. They’re also 31st for pass protection, and when Deshaun Watson is your franchise quarterback, you have to protect him (he’s been sacked 62 times this season so, yeah, not great). Risner’s versatility makes him attractive to Houston; he’s a mauler who played right tackle this season but could kick inside in the NFL if needed.
28. Oakland Raiders (via Chicago)
Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State. Gareon Conley has shown glimpses of his first-round talent this season but the Raiders’ defense remains one of the league’s worst. Adding Oruwariye, a physical, fluid cornerback who can cover, makes sense here,
29. New England Patriots
Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State. The Patriots‘ defense has struggled with consistency in recent years. Now imagine pairing defensive end Trey Flowers, one of their best players (7.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles), with Simmons. Sweet mercy, that would be fun to watch. We’ve spent months talking up Quinnen Williams and Ed Oliver, but Simmons has been a disruptive interior force this season. He has just one sack but he spends games in the backfield, as evidenced by his 15.5 tackles for loss.
30. Los Angeles Rams
Devin Bush, LB, Michigan. The Rams need help in the middle of that defense and Bush could be an immediate impact player. He’s a middle-of-the-field thumper who has sideline-to-sideline speed.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame. Tillery has been damn-near unblockable at times this season. Given the Chiefs‘ issues on the defensive side of the ball, the Notre Dame standout would make an immediate impact.
32. Green Bay Packers (via New Orleans)
Taylor Rapp, S, Washington. The Packers traded away Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and currently, 35-year-old cornerback Tramon Williams played 16 games in the secondary. Rapp is an adept playmaker, both against the pass and the run and would improve a pass defense that ranked 27th this season.