At 11:30 Wednesday morning I had a very different Top 10. 1. Walker 2. Hutch 3. Stingley 4. Ickey 5. Neal 6. Cross 7. Sauce 8. London 9. Thibodeaux and 10. Jermaine Johnson. That was it, and one that you will commonly see in final mock drafts. Give or take a pick.
Then the epiphany hit. We, the football bubble, were in too tight of an agreement. And this draft lines up for total unpredictability. Last year we produced the GREATEST MOCK DRAFT IN HISTORY. 16 of 32 correct selections. This year we aim for 17, and that cannot be achieved by producing a similar product as peers and friends. Hayden and I will be dissecting our final mock drafts at 11:00 am on Thursday morning. This does not factor in trades, although many options are mentioned.
Be Bold. It’s only a mock draft after all.
The room was split, but that doesn’t mean all parties didn’t like Walker’s (or Hutchinson’s) evaluation. Walker simply fits the critical factors Baalke looks for at the position: 95th percentile length (35 ½) vs Aidan Hutchinson’s 7th percentile (32 ⅛ inch).
Brad Holmes seems infatuated by Kayvon Thibodeaux. Traveling to see his games in person. Visited with him individually. The great Chris Burke has been steadfast in his belief that Kayvon is Holmes’ guy, and while Hutchinson would be a feel-good story - this is Brad Holmes’ call.
The Texans bypass OL, believing in Tunsil at LT and Tytus Howard at RT, where he is far more comfortable than at Guard. Lovie Smith was adamant in his opening press conference that the team’s CB play needed to be better.
Surprise! The Giants could easily try to leapfrog the Jets here, maybe trade No. 5 and No. 7 to the Texans for No. 3 and No. 13. The Jets chased Chandler Jones in free agency and whiffed. Creating disruption is more important than CB play in Robert Saleh’s defense.
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Wink Martindale’s defense is built on corners that can hold up and win in isolation, then generating pressure with athletes and big bodies up front. Just look at how the Ravens’ defense fell apart last season without Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey and others. James Bradberry’s future in New York is almost certainly up due to his contract and the Giants’ cap constraints. With multiple OL they are happy with and the potential of the Panthers trading out of No. 6, the Giants prioritize the CB.
A nightmare scenario for the Panthers exists if all three OTs are off the board by this pick. Alternatively, this is the best-case scenario. Grab your LT who is a mauler in the running game and trade for Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield at a reduced price. I would be stunned if the Panthers select Kenny Pickett with the No. 6 pick. Follow the paper trail. They are the only team in the league that created enough cap space to take on Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo.
This is not to replace Andrew Thomas, this is a true right tackle play, a position that the Giants reportedly requested Cross to work out in during his Pro Day.
Everyone is forcing WR here. I get it, the Falcons have the worst group in the league. But you could make that statement at multiple positions. The team might feel they can continue to add pass catchers later, but matching Johnson’s juice off the edge would be difficult to find.
Without a starting tackle (arguably) currently on the roster, Neal slots in and makes perfect sense. Even on the right side if they want to re-sign Duane Brown. This is also a potential spot for the SAINTS to move up to and select Neal.
The pursuit of Amari Cooper, Calvin Ridley, Tyreek Hill and Deebo Samuel shows the Jets want one more piece to their skill group. As Anthony Amico points out, Joe Douglas is infatuated with former team captains (16 of 17 picks). Drake London, come on down.
The Commanders are obsessed with filling the Buffalo Nickel role, where Landon Collins played before being cut to say $16 million.
The Vikings have major questions at TE. Adam Thielen will be 32 years old to start the season. KJ Osborn is fine. I know CB is common here, but this is the heart of the WR run. They need more juice to build with Justin Jefferson.
I need to find a home for Quay Walker in round one. It was previously to the Green Bay Packers. Then Tom Pelissero mentions that Quay could go top 20. Enter the unpredictable Texans, who add a rangy LB to a Lovie Smith defense that has featured them for decades.
This is chalk by now. Eric DeCosta has to admire a one of a kind prospect that might give him Haloti Ngata vibes. Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe and Michael Pierce are all 30-plus years old.
Just like DeCosta, I could totally see Howie Roseman admiring Jordan Davis. He sees the same prospect year after year. Davis is simply different, so a slide trade up from 15 and back from 18 makes sense. But in this case, the Eagles add pure juice to the WR room with an eye on 2023 if it doesn’t fully work with Jalen Hurts.
Close your eyes. Picture Olave and Michael Thomas together. It’s a beautiful thing. If the team does trade up for an OT, signing Jarvis Landry after his visit makes sense.
We have to get Storm Norton out of here.
I tried to give the Eagles five other players. Everyone told me McDuffie. I’m blaming you if this is Karlaftis or Ebiketie. Yes, you!
With no trades, this is the LT that falls to the Saints. Again, a move into the Top 10 for Cross or Neal makes sense. But maintaining the OL identity, even after losing Terron Armstead, is imperative.
Maybe it is Kenny Pickett or Desmond Ridder, but the traits of Malik Willis win out. Especially with the backup QB contract that Mitchell Trubisky is on. A move up to No. 12 or 13 makes sense, if the Steelers feel the need.
A rangy, versatile defensive back who comes from a blue blood program that Belichick loves to draft from? This connection makes too much sense.
I know we all want to force receiver, but there is a growing buzz that Hall will be selected by one of these teams at the end of round one. Pass rush juice is needed after the loss of Zadarius Smith even if the two don’t play the same position.
The loss of Chandler Jones is a sizable one. WR makes sense. OL makes sense.
Johnson fills a need at Guard or Center, and that versatility likely is beloved by the Cowboys staff. Is Treylon Burks possible? Sure. So is Kenyon Green. I went back and forth.
The Bills love tools. They love youth. They need an outside corner after losing Levi Wallace and Tre White dealing with an injury. Breece Hall is tempting, but adding another back after round one is also a possibility.
Despite spending a good amount along the OL, the Titans still need critical pieces. Green has starts at RG, LG and LT under his belt… just from last season.
The loss of Jordan Whitehead is a big one. 921 snaps that were not replaced (Antoine Winfield played 1,014 and Mike Edwards played 600). Cine has first round steam.
Yes, even after Logan Hall the Packers add another pass rusher. I would love to give them George Pickens. I do not think Jahan Dotson makes sense in round one.
Charvarius Ward and Mike Hughes combined for 1,500 snaps last season. Neither are on the roster, and neither have been replaced.
I expect the Chiefs offense to be a bit more flexible with JuJu, MVS and Travis Kelce. Burks would be a versatile inside, outside, manufactured touch piece with Mecole Hardman entering the final year of his deal.
The Bengals lost an upfield disruptor in Larry Ogunjobi and have historically loved early round prospects from big time schools.
Lewis Cine would be loved here. Maybe Jalen Pitre has a versatile safety. But Devin Lloyd is heavily favored to land in the first round and would fill a leadership role for Aaron Glenn.