When the calendar turned to April, I thought, “Alright, let’s start cranking out mock drafts!” Then I thought about how the draft was only 28 days away, and really, how much could change in just four weeks? Wouldn’t I just be thinking up different scenarios while the current conditions stayed the same? That’s not useful.
And then there’s the creeping notion in the back of my head that mock drafts are a pointless exercise. One pick different than the one predicted at the top of the draft essentially has the potential to change the whole round.
Then the Eagles and Rams traded up to take the top two spots off the hands of the Titans and Browns and I was left kicking myself. Those trades alone would’ve been good for at least two or three updated mocks!
Having missed my opportunity, I chose to let the dust settle before draft night before I pitched a forecast. Now it being the day of the draft, I’m relatively certain no trades will go down before the Rams go on the clock tonight just after 8 PM Eastern.
So, let’s take a look at what tonight could look like.
Pick No. 1 | Los Angeles Rams
Jared Goff – QB – California
This and the Eagles pick are a foregone conclusion. Is it the right move? That’s a different article entirely. Here, we’re just trying to predict who each team will take. And this is just about a done deal.
Pick No. 3 | San Diego Chargers
DeForest Buckner – DE – Oregon St.
This is the real first wild card on draft night. The Chargers have been tight-lipped about their plans, leaving mockers everywhere to scamper in the darkness. In all likelihood, it’ll be either Buckner or Ronnie Stanley from Notre Dame here.
Pick No. 4 | Dallas Cowboys
Jalen Ramsey – CB – Florida St.
Jerry Jones likes prospects squarely in the limelight and has no problem reaching at positions that sell jerseys. I have a sneaky feeling that Jones wants to take Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliot here, but with an already-crowded backfield that includes newly-signed Alfred Morris, I think the Cowboys war room talks him down. In any event, Ramsey fits what Jones likes almost as well.
Pick No. 5 | Jacksonville Jaguars
Myles Jack – OLB – UCLA
Personally, if Laremy Tunsil is available here, I think the Jaguars would be insane to pass him up. But again, this is not the point of the exercise. Because the Jaguars have been playing things close to the vest as to their draft day plans, it’s hard to get a read on what they’ll do here. But if they think Jack is healthy enough, he seems as likely as anyone to hear his name called here.
Pick No. 6 | Baltimore Ravens
Laremy Tunsil – OT – Mississippi
In a mock draft Mike Mayock published yesterday, he forecasted the Titans moving back up the board to take Tunsil, the guy they probably wanted all along, here. If it isn’t the Titans, however, I think the Ravens would still ensure Tunsil doesn’t drop any further than the sixth spot. Joey Bosa is also a possibility.
Pick No. 7 | San Francisco 49ers
Joey Bosa – OLB – Ohio State
The biggest question mark for the 49ers is what they’re going to do at QB. Is Kaepernick staying put? Or will he be traded before the weekend is through? It’s hard to say, leaving the outside possibility that the Niners take Lynch here, the third quarterback in just seven picks. But I think more than anything the 49ers want to avoid risk, so taking a player that fills a need that also happens to be the best player available seems like a logical move.
Pick No. 8 | Cleveland Browns
Ronnie Stanley – OT – Notre Dame
If the Browns were going to take a quarterback in the first round, they wouldn’t have dealt their second overall pick. The Browns could go defense here (hell, they could go about a dozen ways with how many holes they have), but I’m betting the Browns double down on signing RGIII and take a tackle that can start on the right and move to the left when Joe Thomas retires.
Pick No. 9 | Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vernon Hargreaves III – CB – Florida
Another team with a plethora of needs, the Bucs could take someone on either side of the ball, but with two OT’s gone I think they’ll opt for defense. Shaq Lawson is another possibility here, but I think Tampa Bay has a hard time passing up a Florida product that fills a need and is a good value at #9.
Pick No. 10 | New York Giants
Jack Conklin – OT – Michigan St.
There’s been some tying Ezekiel Elliot to the G-Men here, but the Giants historically have been disciplined drafters, taking less-than-sexy picks at positions of need. It seems clear that the Giants best chance for winning is when Eli is upright and comfortable in the pocket. Conklin would go a long way towards helping ensure that happens.
Pick No. 11 | Chicago Bears
Leonard Floyd – OLB – Georgia
Consider this about as far as Floyd falls. If he’s available here, the Bears more than likely will take him. But the operative word in that state is “if”. It doesn’t take much to like what Floyd can do, and it’s almost as likely he’ll be taken inside the Top 10 as it is that he would go here to Chicago.
Pick No. 12 | New Orleans Saints
Sheldon Rankins – DT – Louisville
I’m not a big believer in the notion that the Saints will take Paxton Lynch here as the heir apparent to Brees when they have a 31st-ranked defense to worry about. Shaq Lawson and Mackensie Alexander are also possibilities here, but I’ll pencil in Rankins.
Pick No. 13 | Miami Dolphins
Eli Apple – CB – Ohio St.
There are a lot of ways the Dolphins could go here, but one theory I don’t buy is them taking a pass rusher to essentially study under the aging Cameron Wake and Mario Williams. I also think they like their offensive backfield just fine, hushing rumors that this is where Ezekiel Elliot will go. Instead, I think Miami goes corner, and the only debate is which one they will take. After Hargreaves, there’s about four guys Miami could conceivably like. I’ll go with the general consensus in Apple.
Pick No. 14 | Oakland Raiders
Robert Nkemdiche – DT – Mississippi
With as good as the Raiders defensive line is, I know drafting Nkemdiche (especially so high) seems counter intuitive. And it’s true Oakland may trade back if they think they can get Nkemdiche or someone comparable later, but we’re not going to play the trade game here. The Raiders take him at fourteen and ensure, at the very least, they have no problems stopping the run.
Pick No. 15 | Tennessee Titans
Taylor Decker – OT – Ohio St.
Having traded back, if the Titans don’t move back up the board like many suspect they will, they’ll be sitting here hoping either Jack Conklin or Ronnie Stanley falls to them. And if they do, pencil in the Titans as the early favorites to “win” the NFL Draft. But I highly doubt that will happen. Instead, if Tennessee is still here at #15, they take someone more likely to still be available like Decker.
Pick No. 16 | Detroit Lions
Shaq Lawson – DE – Clemson
If there’s a good bet in the first round, it’s that the Lions are going to address a “line” here. But will it be the O-line or D-line? If Decker or Conklin are still available here, they very well might be the choice. Instead, having just watched the fourth offensive tackle come off the board in this scenario, I think Detroit opts for defense, unable to pass up the potential of a guy like Lawson.
Pick No. 17 | Atlanta Falcons
Darron Lee – OLB – Ohio St.
Unless someone snags him earlier, Darron Lee will be an Atlanta Falcon. There is a thought that the Falcons may get cute, trade back, and hope to snag him later in the draft, but I don’t think Atlanta gets that cute playing around with a guy that fills a lot of needs for them.
Pick No. 18 | Indianapolis Colts
Ryan Kelly – C – Alabama
The Colts took a step back last year, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a few key pieces away from having what it takes to put a serious run together. Enter Ryan Kelly, a little high here for the first center to come off the board, but I think the Colts can’t avoid the temptation of taking the top guy at a major position of need here.
Pick No. 19 | Buffalo Bills
Jarran Reed – DT – Alabama
Rex Ryan and GM Doug Whaley would be crazy to pass up a defensive tackle here with only a couple off the board. But who? Will it be Reed or his Crimson Tide teammate A’Shawn Robinson? The general consensus here is that Reed has the slight edge, so the Bills take him.
Pick No. 20 | New York Jets
Paxton Lynch – QB – Memphis
Whether or not the Jets take a quarterback with their first round pick will go a long way towards determining just how many signal callers hear their name called tonight. I think the Jets will, and with Goff and Wentz long gone, Lynch is the consensus third best regardless of whether or not he’s a reach here inside the Top 20.
Pick No. 21 | Washington Redskins
A’Shawn Robinson – DT – Alabama
Even before the Redskins signed Josh Norman, I would’ve bet the Redskins would take a defensive tackle after letting Terrance Knighton walk away. Now, though, I’m even surer. Consider West Virginia safety Karl Joseph another option or even a receiver like Laquon Treadwell, but filling the whole Knighton leaves behind makes the most sense with the secondary getting a huge upgrade via free agency.
Pick No. 22 | Houston Texans
Corey Coleman – WR – Baylor
The Texans at 22 seem like the prime spot for the first receiver to come off the board and just about everyone agrees Coleman makes the most sense. Not only is he an in-state product from Baylor, but his explosiveness gives him the highest ceiling of any receiver in the class. Still, if someone surprises the league and takes Coleman earlier, don’t think the Texans won’t go ahead and grab the next receiver on their board, likely Laquon Treadwell.
Pick No. 23 | Minnesota Vikings
Laquon Treadwell – WR – Mississippi
If Minnesota is serious about making Bridgewater their quarterback of the future, then they need to start putting weapons to his left and right, and not just settle for the one lining up behind him. Whoever the Vikings like most at receiver that’s still available, they take him here. Maybe it’s Treadwell, maybe it’s Coleman or Doctson. But if the Vikings draft any other position, it’ll be a mistake, and I think they know that.
Pick No. 24 | Cincinnati Bengals
Josh Doctson – WR – TCU
The latest rumors are the Bengals want Doctson and they’ll leapfrog the Vikings if need be to get him. So if he’s still available at 20 or 21, don’t expect the Bengals to stay put knowing there’s a good chance Houston and Minnesota are both in the market for a receiver. But, maybe they don’t move up and maybe he still falls to them here. It would be interesting to see no receivers taken in the first two thirds of the first round only to have three come off the board consecutively.
Pick No. 25 | Pittsburgh Steelers
William Jackson III – CB – Houston
The Steelers, assuming they stay in the first round, will almost certainly address the defensive side of the ball and will likely take a much needed corner. The Steelers front office are disciplined drafter, and they’re not usually ones to climb up the board chasing one player in particular, so my bet is they’ll sit here and take whichever corner comes to them. In this situation, there’s some debate whether Jackson or Miami’s Artie Burns is the next best corner available, but I think it’s Jackson and I think Pittsburgh agrees.
Pick No. 26 | Seattle Seahawks
Ezekiel Elliott – RB – Ohio St.
I readily admit I have no idea where Elliott will go. Just about every mock draft you look at will have him long gone here when Seattle comes on the clock at 26, and yet they all sort of feel like reaches when so many teams have found success stories at running back in later rounds. If he is available at 26, though, I think the Seahawks couldn’t pass up the opportunity to replace Lynch with one of the biggest names in the draft class.
Pick No. 27 | Green Bay Packers
Reggie Ragland – ILB – Alabama
Packers fans already will have nostalgia for a Reggie that can line up in the front seven and create chaos, but more importantly Ragland would allow Matthews to move back to the outside where he is much better utilized. If Ragland is available here when the Packers come on the clock, I don’t think they’ll pass him up.
Pick No. 28 | Kansas City Chiefs
Will Fuller – WR – Notre Dame
There are basically two schools of thoughts as to what the Chiefs will do with their pick. Either they’ll take a corner to pair opposite Marcus Peters or they’ll add a receiver opposite Jeremy Maclin with Dwayne Bowe becoming ever more ineffective. Though I think the Chiefs would lean towards receiver regardless, I think William Jackson III being off the board further persuades KC to take a receiver to add to Andy Reid’s offense.
Pick No. 29 | Arizona Cardinals
Connor Cook – QB – Michigan St.
Surprise! Consider this my signature pick because it’ll either look brilliant or idiotic in about 24 hours. First, let me say this: if Paxton Lynch is still available here when the Cardinals come on the board, then they’ll take him over cook. Obviously. But I don’t think Lynch will be available here. So whereas most others have the Cardinals moving onto another position, let’s remind everyone that the Cardinals have been terrific when Palmer is healthy, that they also haven’t been able to keep Palmer healthy, and that when he inevitably goes down Drew Stanton and Matt Barkley are 100% not the answer. This creates a weird scenario where a winning team’s biggest need is, in fact, a second quarterback. Connor Cook isn’t that much of a stretch here, and the Cardinals will make it hoping to groom him behind Palmer.
Pick No. 30 | Carolina Panthers
Artie Burns – CB – Miami
The only reason Carolina would let Josh Norman walk away now is that they plan on grabbing his replacement, well, now. And for as complete a team as the Panthers are, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Carolina climb up the board and grab the guy they really want, whoever that may be. But if they sit back and take what comes to them, then they’ll take the best corner available, which in this case is Burns.
Pick No. 31 | Denver Broncos
Cody Whitehair – OG – Kansas St.
The biggest question mark for the Broncos right is obviously quarterback. But considering they proved they could win a Super Bowl with only average quarterback play last year and the fact that they clearly have no problem looking for one in free agency combined with this situation where the first four quarterbacks are gone and after that the drop off is steep to Christian Hackenberg or Dak Prescott, I think the Broncos will opt to address other needs. Being on the back end of the first round puts teams in prime position to start taking interior offensive lineman and it just so happens the defending champs have a need there.