Mock Draft 3.0

The New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts made things interesting this week by swapping first round picks. Teams don’t typically move up like this unless they really want a player (see: 2017 Bears).

1. Cleveland Browns — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn St.

Barkley was already slated to be a top pick, but his impressive Combine performance sends him to the top of the board. Any team would be lucky to have an athlete like Barkley at any position.

2. New York Giants —Sam Darnold, QB, USC

The consensus top quarterback in the class is still on the board, and the Giants still kinda need one. New York gets their man with the second pick.

3. New York Jets — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

After losing out on Kirk Cousins, the Jets signed Teddy Bridgewater to a one-year deal and then swapped picks with the Colts. Signs indicate that the Jets really want Rosen. He’s a skilled player who will thrive in the New York market. Why else would they trade up when a good selection of players would be available at six?

Unless they really want someone else. That would make that take look pretty bad.

4. Cleveland Browns — Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

After trading for Tyrod Taylor, the Browns take a defensive playmaker instead of a quarterback. It’s not the most exciting pick, but a practical one that acquires an elite talent.

5. Denver Broncos — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Denver GM John Elway already had an eye on Allen, and after having one of the better quarterback performances at the Combine, the Broncos are one step closer to pulling the trigger on him. Barring a shocker (the Browns are shopping their picks), he’ll be there for Denver to take.

6. Indianapolis Colts — Quentin Nelson, G, Notre Dame

Jim Irsay is confident that Andrew Luck is the Colts’ quarterback. It’s time to protect him. The Indianapolis offensive line has been more or less a sieve the past few seasons. Drafting Nelson addresses that issue.

 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama

A team desperately in need of a defensive back now has a chance to take the best one in the draft. Fitzpatrick at number seven is a steal for the Bucs.

8. Chicago Bears — Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

The Bears are committed to Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Now they need someone for him to throw the ball to. Ridley can fill the role of WR1, creating a potentially scary QB-WR duo.

9. San Francisco 49ers — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

The Niners have their quarterback now. It’s time for them to address their 25th-ranked defense with the best corner in the Draft.

10. Oakland Raiders — Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Another incredible athlete, Smith can propel the Raiders’ defense to the next level. Imagine blocking Khalil Mack only to have Smith follow him. If this becomes a reality, expect great things from that tandem.

11. Miami Dolphins — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Mayfield is an intriguing player, and the Dolphins need to make an intriguing pick. Drafting to address needs hasn’t been doing the job for Miami. It’s time to take a risk on a talented guy. Coach Adam Gase says Ryan Tannehill is the starter, but Mayfield is a winner, and with some work, has the potential to become a reliable starter.

Mayfield commented #GetMeToMiami on fellow Sooner Kenny Stills’ Instagram live video.

12. Cincinnati Bengals — Mike McGlinchey, T, Notre Dame

The Bengals can’t rely on AJ Green on every snap, but their run game is subpar. Adding McGlinchey will hopefully help Cincy improve on its 3.6 yards per carry.

13. Washington Redskins — Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Not only is he a talented linebacker that suits Washington’s needs, Edmunds is also a Virginia native. It’s a good fit on both ends.

14. Green Bay Packers — Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

It’s strange seeing the Packers hold a top 15 pick, isn’t it? What was normal in Green bay last year was the ball flying all over the defensive backfield. Jackson will help stop that.

15. Arizona Cardinals — Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville 

LAMAR JACKSON IS AN NFL QUARTERBACK! Understood?

After signing Sam Bradford to a one year deal, you might wonder if the Cardinals will still take a quarterback. You should also ask yourself if Sam Bradford is a long term solution. Jackson has a lot of potential, and giving him a year to learn while Bradford starts can set him up to perform well. Bradford is also injury prone, so Jackson could see the field sooner than later.

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Whose draft stock improved at the Combine?

With the NFL Scouting Combine in rearview, the focus on the new class of players will turn to their pro days and the Draft itself. Some players got a major boost in their stocks after performing well at the Combine. Here are a few to keep an eye on.

Saquon Barkley: RB, Penn St.

We all know Barkley is good at football. His combine results showed that he is a freak athlete, possibly the best in this draft class. He was among the leaders in the 40 yard dash (4.40s), vertical jump (41″) and bench press (29 reps). Expect this performance to shake up our next mock draft. Be sure to check back.

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Barkley finishing his first 40 yard dash.

Mike Gesicki: TE, Penn St.

He probably isn’t the next Rob Gronkowski, but Gesicki has the size and athleticism that makes scouts drool. He led tight ends by a significant margin in every drill except the bench press, where he was only one rep behind the leader. He’s fast, strong and can catch. The importance of Gesicki’s pro day decreased after his stellar Combine performance.

Kalen Ballage: RB, Arizona St.

Ballage’s stock fell a good bit before the combine after he lost his starting job during the season. Our staff thought he would be a late round pick for sign as and undrafted free agent. After finishing in the top five among running backs in the 40 yard dash (4.46s) and broad jump (10′ 2″), a good pro day could propel Ballage to a middle round pick.

Shaquem Griffin: LB, UCF

Griffin is a very talented player, but there were concerns about his physical limitations. Those concerns should be no more, as he proved he could perform with the best. He set a position record in the 40 yard dash (4.38s, faster than Saquon Barkley), and put up more reps (20) than projected first round pick Tremaine Edmunds. Griffin will likely still be a middle round pick, but there are definitely more teams interested in him.

Marcus Davenport: DL, UTSA

After flying under the radar for most of the season, a good Senior Bowl and a better Combine made Davenport one of the best defensive lineman in the draft. He had the fourth-best vertical jump (33.5″), second-best broad jump (10′ 4″) and fastest 40 time (4.58s) among defensive linemen. He’s sneaky good, look for someone to take a chance on him fairly early.

Draft Overview: Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts went 4-12 in a rough 2017 season and coach Chuck Pagano was fired soon after.

Quarterback Andrew Luck did not play a single snap, even though he was supposed to be ready to start the season. After a mystery vacation to Europe, Luck recently started throwing. He should be good to go for camp in July.

Frank Reich was hired as the new coach in early February after winning Super Bowl LII as the Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator.

Jacoby Brissett and Scott Tolzien were dropped in the back field 56 times last season. Even if Andrew Luck is completely healthy in 2018, it won’t be good if he takes that many hits.

Remember when owner Jim Irsay angrily tweeted about Luck needing better protection?

Since that angry tweet, Luck has been sacked 114 times, an average of 38 per season.

Irsay has said repeatedly that Luck is his man. If he is that committed, his team should consider drafting an offensive lineman to help protect his quarterback. There are two guys already in Indiana (Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson) who are expected to come off the board early.

For the third straight time, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley makes an appearance in a draft overview. Frank Gore was the team’s leading rusher last year, running for 961 yards. That’s not bad for being 34 years old. Gore can still play, and play well, but it might be time to look to the future. A younger Barkley can carry the ball more and take some of the workload off of Luck.

While drafting an offensive lineman or a running back like Barkley makes sense, there is a safe pick for the Colts to make — this one on the other side of the ball.

General manager Chris Ballard seems to be focusing on defense this season, citing that the Colts can’t rely on luck all the time. The defense allowed 25.3 points per game in 2017, which ranked 30th in the NFL. Their defense needs a playmaker.

North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb fits the Colts’ needs. He’s big, he’s athletic and he’s productive. Speed on the edge is especially important when you play in a division with elusive quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Deshaun Watson.

Draft Overview: New York Giants

The New York Giants finished the 2017 with a 3-13 and have the second overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. What will they do with it?

Coaching played a big role in the Giants’ terrible season, and they have lots of talent, so this draft gives them a chance to add to that.

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley will almost definitely be available. He would give the Giants a much needed improvement in a backfield led by Orleans Darkwa, who rushed for 751 yards and five touchdowns in 2017.

The Giants’ offensive line also struggled last year, and now they risk losing Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, who were both ranked in the top five of free agent offensive lineman by Pro Football Focus.

Tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson, both from Notre Dame, are considered the best in this draft class. If Pugh and Richburg both depart, the Giants might be forced to draft an offensive lineman.

But is any offensive lineman in this class worth the number two pick in the draft?

Maybe, but probably not.

If the Giants do decide to draft an offensive lineman, look for them to trade back a few picks. Someone will be willing to give up something for that number two pick, which could set the Giants up to potentially win in 2018, and definitely improve their roster going forward.

Something new the Giants face this offseason is addressing their quarterback situation.

Eli Manning is 37 years old and has two years remaining on his contract, but can opt out and test free agency this offseason, though that looks unlikely.

Manning is above average at best, but he can still play. Ben McAdoo was an idiot for benching him. He will also have the ability to throw the ball to his top four wideouts next year. All of them missed significant time in 2017 due to injuries.

Unless they have loads of faith in Cal product and 2017 third rounder Davis Webb, the Giants should (and likely will) consider drafting a quarterback.

UCLA’s Josh Rosen is widely considered the second best quarterback in the draft, and we know he likes the attention he’s sure to garner in the New York market. However, some personality concerns surround Rosen. Would he be okay with sitting out a year, or maybe even two, behind Manning?

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UCLA Quarterback Josh Rosen

The Kansas City Chiefs took a similar approach in drafting Patrick Mahomes in 2017. They ended up trading Alex Smith to the Redskins with one year on his contract because they believe Mahomes is ready.

The Giants could certainly do the same thing, but if Manning has a season like 2017, teams might hesitate to trade for the aging quarterback.

As of today, Rosen or Barkley look like the best options for the Giants. Of course that can all change once the new league year starts next month.

I’d like to take this time to acknowledge the Giants’ 2003 first round selection, William Joseph. The 11th overall selection out of Miami, he started only 17 of 60 games played and recorded 60 tackles in four seasons with New York. After the Giants cut him in 2008, he appeared in only nine more games, making the total for his career … wait for it … 69.

Nice.

Draft Overview: Cleveland Browns

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After an abysmal 0-16 campaign, the Cleveland Browns are on the clock with the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Coach Hue Jackson will return next season after not winning a single game in 2017, but they will be under the leadership of new general manager John Dorsey, who took over after Sashi Brown was dismissed in December.

This is the second straight year the Browns will have the first overall pick. Last year, they selected defensive tackle Myles Garrett. They also hold the fourth overall pick, which they acquired from Houston.

Cleveland took a shot on Notre Dame quarterback Deshone Kizer in the fourth round of the 2017 draft, who became the starter. He was benched in Week Five but soon returned after Kevin Hogan failed to impress. Kizer threw for 2,894 yards, 11 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in 15 starts.

Despite being young and not that bad, Kizer is not the guy for the Browns. They are in desperate need of a quarterback. Well they are in desperate need of a lot of other things, too, but quarterbacks are important.

Lucky for Cleveland, they can pick any quarterback they want with the first pick.

USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen are often called the best quarterbacks in the class, but rumor that Rosen dissed Cleveland creates some concern. Look for them to go with Darnold or Josh Allen out of Wyoming.

The free agent market for quarterbacks is not bad this year, and the Browns have been rumored to be interested in some, but signing a guy like Kirk Cousins is a long shot.

The fourth pick is the more intriguing of the two, because we most likely know what they’ll do with the first. Cleveland has several options regarding what to do with it.

Only two more players will be off the board by this time, so the Browns can snag the best available player in a deep class.

Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick would be a great addition to play opposite Jabrill Peppers. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley could also still be there for the Browns to pick.

Their other option is to trade the pick. Teams will be antsy to move up to take their man, just look at the Bears last year. If Cleveland is as committed as they seem to a long term rebuild, they have the chance to land a good haul of top picks for the next few seasons.

Anyway, do you remember Trent Richardson?