We are just three weeks away from the start of the NFL draft. It’s an oasis in the football desert that is the offseason, giving us just a taste of America’s most popular sport while we’re still waiting for the real thing to arrive at the end of the summer.
With that in mind, we’re fully in mock draft season at this point, when everyone makes their best (in theory) guesses at where college football’s top prospects will land in the NFL. There are a lot of different ways to make these projections, including best fit vs. personal hopes, and it’s time for me to reveal my first 2019 mock draft.
Having a few weeks to finalize projections is nice, because we’ll need every minute possible to over analyze each one of these prospects. This mock in particular features a mix of picking for need based on best player available. Additionally, I didn’t make any trades in this mock, because while we can assume there will be at least one or two, I don’t want to wade too far into extra layers of hypotheticals.
For reference, the player ranking I used is the 580 Sports Talk composite big board. Let’s go:
Arizona already has a potential quarterback of the future, but the connections are too strong between the Cardinals and Murray when you consider how much smoke there is surrounding the situation. Murray is instantly a reason to care about the Cardinals, which they’re lacking. The combination of Murray and new coach Kliff Kingsbury could, if all things work out, set the league on fire.
Bosa is almost unanimously the best prospect in this year’s draft class. Of the 11 draft boards that comprise the aforementioned composite big board, 10 have Bosa as the top prospect (the other has him second). The 49ers improved their pass rush by acquiring Dee Ford from the Chiefs, but they need more, which Bosa will undoubtedly provide.
The Jets have a strong defensive line, anchored by Leonard Williams, plus they improved their front seven a great deal by signing free-agent linebacker CJ Mosley. The one thing they’re missing is a bona fide, legit pass rusher and that exactly what Allen brings to the table. Don’t be surprised if New York tries to trade down, though; the Jets don’t have a second rounder, so they could try moving back to get a later first-round EDGE rusher and an offensive weapon with a hypothetical second-round pick.
Williams isn’t necessarily a need for the Raiders, but even at pick No. 4 he’s a big-time value selection. He improves the defensive line and if he’s able to create any pressure from the interior then it’s a step up for Oakland. Also in the Raiders’ favor is that they have three first-round picks this year, plus an early second rounder. They take the best player on the board here.
Tampa Bay lost Kwon Alexander this year, and this pick would help replace him with a stellar athlete who was the heart of a good LSU defense last year. He’s fast, athletic and gives the Buccaneers defense an instant playmaker. The Bucs have a lot of needs, but this feels like an obvious pick.
It’s almost impossible to have faith in Giants general manager Dave Gettleman to do anything right at this point, even when a pick is this blatantly obvious. Haskins only played one year at Ohio State, but he set records in that one year and has done nothing to hurt his stock since. He’s a great option to pair with Saquon Barkley as the future for the Giants. Then again, this team continues to commit to the corpse of Eli Manning, so it’s hard to trust them here.
If the Giants pass on Haskins (theoretically for Taylor), the Jaguars should sprint to the stage with their pick to get the quarterback. Assuming that doesn’t happen, Taylor is a great option to shore up a bad offensive line. Our board doesn’t have any receivers graded nearly this high, otherwise that may be the pick for a team whose big pass-catching addition in free agency was Chris Conley.
A cornerback is an option here, but Sweat is the best EDGE left on the board and would help out a Lions defense that could use some athleticism up front. Sweat did himself some big favors by having a strong performance at the combine, which helped move him up the board. Detroit would be smart to get some pass-rushing help and try to shore up the secondary later.
The Bills need someone who can get after the passer along with Jerry Hughes, and Ferrell is the best option on the board. Trent Murphy struggled last year, only recording 21 quarterback pressures according to Pro Football Focus. Ferrell fits well into Buffalo’s 4-3 base scheme, he’s a quick-twitch pass rusher who has a chance to be Day 1 starter. Ed Oliver is also a fit here to replace the retiring Kyle Williams up front.
I don’t particularly like Drew Lock as a prospect, but he’s the clear No.3 QB in the class and Denver desperately needs one. He’s a big body with a big arm, something that you can readily assume John Elway has already fallen in love with. Even with his shortcomings, the Broncos have to look to the future at quarterback, so Lock makes sense.
At some point the Bengals will need to start looking for their quarterback of the future, because I doubt new coach Zac Taylor is willing to stick with incumbent Andy Dalton forever. That’s not this year though, given a less-than-stellar quarterback class with Murray, Haskins and Lock off the board. The Bengals have a bad offensive line, so adding a versatile (and just generally good) lineman in Williams is a win. He believes he can play tackle, but he’s also been projected as a guard in the league. Either way, he’ll help Cincinnati.
The Packers are in a great situation entering this draft given how their free agency period panned out. They brought in a pair of EDGE rushers, filling a gaping need, did the same at safety and added some offensive line depth. With that, they can jump for one of the best players on the board here in Hockenson, an athletic tight end who can catch and block well. Conveniently for Green Bay, tight end is also a big need. Oliver fits here, too, because defensive coordinator Mike Pettine loves talented defensive linemen. This pick could go either way.
Oliver is the fourth-ranked player on our big board, which makes this relatively insane value for the Dolphins. It was hard not placing him somewhere far earlier than this. Miami hasn’t shied away from the fact that it’s rebuilding, which is actually a benefit for the Dolphins in the sense that they can add talent anywhere and it will be a positive step forward. They get a potentially elite defensive lineman here, who is a bit undersized but is strong and physical enough that he can still wreak havoc in the trenches.
Williams has slipped on some draft boards recently, but his ability to make plays on the ball still keeps him as the top corner on our board and a good fit for Atlanta. The Falcons were killed by injuries on defense last year, so adding Williams not only gives them much-needed cornerback depth but also gives them another playmaker on a team that needs them.
Preston Smith left Washington in free agency and the Redskins could use pass-rushing help opposite Ryan Kerrigan. Enter Burns, the highest pass rusher left on the board. There are arguably bigger needs for Washington (like someone to catch a pass from Case Keenum), but you can never have enough pass rush and this comes with good value.
The Panthers were 27th in the NFL last year in sacks, so adding EDGE help is vital. Enter Gary, the former No. 1 recruit in the country and a great athlete. There are plenty of question marks for Gary, with Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus writing that he’s not a first-round player at all. However, this is a spot where Carolina needs help on the edge and Gary is probably the best option at this point in the middle of the round.
With their biggest offensive need filled earlier, the Giants can turn their attention to the defense now, which also needs a ton of help. Specifically, they address the cornerback spot here, where after Janoris Jenkins the roster outlook is bleak. Murphy isn’t overly physical, but he’s smart and is very good at making plays on the ball.
The Vikings have a horrifically bad offensive line, especially on the interior, which makes Ford an easy pick. Another player who played tackle in college (granted, for just one year) who projects to play guard in the NFL, Ford ideally plugs a hole that plagued the Vikings all year and frankly has for many years. Garrett Bradbury is also an option, but Ford is higher on the board and doesn’t force coach Mike Zimmer to shuffle anyone to new/less familiar positions like Bradbury could.
Finally a wide receiver is off the board and he’s headed to a team that is in desperate need of pass catchers. The top two receivers right now for Marcus Mariota are Corey Davis and Adam Humphries in the slot, meaning he needs someone else on the outside who can catch. Metcalf is a physical freak but there are big questions about whether or not he’s a complete player. He’s worth the risk here for the Titans, though, in what’s likely a make-or-break year for Mariota.
Another seemingly obvious pick, Bush is a great athlete who can stay on the field consistently and make plays for a defense that has appeared to weaken over time. He’s a smaller player which could cause difficulties against bigger blockers, but he has enough strength and speed that he should be able to contribute right away.
Seattle is another prime candidate to trade down if it can find a trade partner because the Seahawks have several pressing needs and only four picks this year. Plus, it’s general manager John Schneider’s bread and butter by now. I think Baker has been slightly undervalued and is a great value for a player who didn’t allow any touchdowns his last two years in college, so he fills a big need. However, if Seattle trades down they can try to get a corner later along with a much-needed wide receiver, while Baker would probably end up with Oakland at 24.
It seems like Baltimore needs a receiver every year, but this year a quality one finally falls in its lap. Personally, I like Brown more than Metcalf, but the Ravens will take it. They need quarterback Lamar Jackson to take some steps forward as a passer this year, so getting him a reliable receiver who can line up all over and run quality routes will be essential. Brown is a great fit.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay also both picked Dillard for Houston, so take that as you will. It’s a pick that makes sense though. Houston’s offensive line is in bad shape, so adding a college stud with good measurables seems like a simple enough selection. His run blocking is questionable, which makes sense given Washington State’s air raid offense, but as long as he can pass block for Deshaun Watson he’s a safe bet.
As was previously mentioned, the pick here is easily Deandre Baker should Seattle trade back. However, for our purposes the Raiders go with the second Iowa tight end of the round, Noah Fant. Some people like Fant better than Hockenson, and he’s arguably a better receiving threat right away given his explosion and leaping ability. With Jared Cook gone to the Saints, Fant would step in as TE1 immediately.
The only FCS player high on our board, Adderley is also the top-ranked safety and would help shore up the back end of Philly’s defense. The Eagles acquired Andrew Sendejo for 2019, but he isn’t a long-term answer and he won’t be as good in coverage as Adderely, who could also play corner in a pinch thanks to some experience there in college. He’s a fluid defensive back who can play all over the secondary.
Wilkins is a great value here, which meshes well with the Colts’ need for a playmaker inside on defense. He’s athletic and agile, making him another good piece in a front seven youth movement that includes last season’s defensive rookie of the year, Darius Leonard. He’s not exceptionally strong, and it will be important to see how he adjusts from being on an All-American line at Clemson to not having comparatively dominant athletes next to him at the next level.
The Raiders had 13 sacks as a team last year. Ferguson’s lowest sack total in his college career was 12.5 as a junior in 2017 when he only played in 11 games. He also set the NCAA record for sacks in a single season with 26 as a senior. Some of the concerns are about his body and his drive, but you can only argue with production so much, and Oakland desperately needs someone who can get after the quarterback.
Another value pick at interior defensive line, Simmons didn’t go to the combine due to off-field issues before arriving in Starkville and is recovering from a torn ACL. There are obviously concerns there, but his on-filed ability is unquestionable (though that doesn’t necessarily apply to his consistency). The Chargers have a good defense that would be made stronger up the middle by adding Simmons.
This may seem like a reach, and based on our draft board it is. But the Chiefs have the luxury of drafting for need here if they so choose, and the biggest need at the moment is still cornerback. Kendall Fuller, Bashaud Breeland and Oruwariye is a huge step up from Kansas City’s cornerbacks group last year, especially if this pick adapts/develops quickly outside and allows Fuller to move back to the slot, where he was elite in Washington.
If Kansas City opts to just go best player available at 29, safety or defensive lineman is probably the option. Safety Deionte Thompson from Alabama could step in to provide a young tandem along with Armani Watts next to recently acquired Tyrann Mathieu. At defensive line, Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence could add more depth and plenty of flexibility for new position coach Brendan Daly. But, with a pressing need on the outside, Oruwariye is a sensible selection.
Speaking of Thompson, he fills another remaining hole for Green Bay. By signing Adrian Amos in free agency the Packers filled part of their void in centerfield, but that was one of the weakest position groups for the Packers last year and some more talent there is crucial. He plays the ball well, and after Green Bay had just seven interceptions last year that would be a welcome addition. Green Bay has a ton of youth in the defensive backfield, but the team trusts defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to keep making strides with the youth.
Risner played tackle at K-State but could easily (in theory) slide inside and play guard at the next level. The interior is where the Rams need the most help, and Risner is skilled and mature enough that he should be able to contribute as a rookie. Center Garrett Bradbury from North Carolina State could also fit here.
Tight end Irv Smith Jr. is a popular pick here, especially in the wake of Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. In general, the Patriots need some pass catchers, but with 12 picks this year they can dip into that group later on (although not too late, ideally). With all that capital, a trade up to try grabbing Fant is a possibility. Adding some more beef up front will help though, especially in terms of depth. He can play all over the line, though he may not be athletic enough to rush from the edge regularly.