Four quarterbacks in the top ten? Another scandal involving a projected top pick breaking on draft day? Two generational talents available?
In some ways, this draft is just like all the others. Three of the quarterbacks are gonna suck and two will be stars, and nobody really knows which those will be. (Seriously. After every draft, GMs always go “We never saw this coming,” no matter which way their development goes). In other ways, it’s completely different. We have 4-5 first round caliber quarterbacks whose value has never been debated more; individually and worthily to a respective team. We have two generational talents available as well. In the top six picks, we could be looking at five superstars. That’s rare.
The rules for the mock draft have slighty changed. I’ll address that later. As always, the mock draft is part what I think should happen and part what I think will happen. I usually identify where that difference exists.
The 2nd rule was always no trades. There’s some really tough spots in my mock draft, where teams just don’t really need someone who’s available. I broke the rule once today. Consider it a treat.
No.1, Cleveland Browns: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
This offseason drove me insane. Teams spent $10 million more than they needed to on a quarterback and then still plan to draft one, or gave up a fair amount/too much for in a trade for a QB and are still gonna take one.
The Browns fit the last half of that sentance. If you hacked the inner trenches of hippelsportshub, you’d find a 3,000 word column on free agency that included 1,500 words about the Tyrod Taylor trade that was never posted. I loved the Taylor trade; I think putting him with weapons makes him an above average quarterback. He never had anything to work with in Buffalo! No one believed in him!
The Browns made may not believe in him either, which makes it strange that they gave up a 3rd round pick in order to get him (Just another example of the over-importance placed on quarterback. You’re giving up a 3rd round pick for bridge guy? NICK FOLES JUST WON THE FREAKING SUPER BOWL!!!).
That’s why I think Cleveland is in a picky spot here. They don’t really need a quarterback. They just gave Carlos Hyde a contract that will pay him $5 million a year, a pretty good price for a No.1 running back who has had injury issues. Even though Saquon Barkley is a generational talent, you’re once again doubling down. And though Quenton Nelson is also a generational talent, taking an offensive lineman at No.1 when you have two franchise QBs and a stud running back on the board seems like something that’s gonna piss off your already tortured fan base.
Again, this is a combination of what I think is gonna happen and what should happen. Josh Allen is my QB1, and though I like the prospectus of Taylor, he’s also a member of the Cleveland Browns and isn’t winning you a Super Bowl with this current roster. By the time this roster is ready, he’s well out of his prime.
The completion percentage of Allen’s is very concerning. But his stature and natural presence in the pocket is attractive. When I watched Allen in the pocket this season, he seemed the most comfortable. When he threw the ball, he looked like a quarterback. Him and one other guy have that in this draft. If I ran Cleveland, I’d trade down and get a chest of future assets. But they’re the Browns, and John Dorsey is gonna want his guy. I’m okay with that.
No.2, New York Giants: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Quarterback feels weird here. The regime that benched Eli Manning is gone; owner John Mara was not gonna let that one slide. Though Manning is totally washed, taking a quarterback at 2nd overall and having him sit for 2-3 years just isn’t worth it. You have two generational talents to choose from.
The question is, which one? Both are huge needs. Part of the Giants’ horrendous offense the past few seasons has been due to the fact that Eli’s had to do too much; they’ve had no primary running back who they could give 25 carries too and rack up 125 yards. It’s been a bunch of guys who get 12 carries and five receptions a game for a total of 80 yards.
But the offensive line has also been just as bad. Ereck Flowers has been a complete bust so far (Good luck trading him by the way!). John Jerry is washed. They paid Nate Solder big bucks though, and adding Nelson makes 2/5 of the line above average. Solder can use his experience to help out Flowers, and if he improves, you’re looking at a much better offensive line with two superstars.
But that’s a reach, and even though Nelson feels like one of the safest picks in the draft, the Giants haven’t had the best luck drafting offensive lineman lately. Plus, watching Barkley score touchdowns and mowing dudes over isn’t gonna be fun when he’s not on your team even if Nelson turns into a Hall-of-Famer someday. Make the fans happy and take Barkley. He’s the best college running back I’ve seen. Him in New York City with Odell Beckham Jr? Sign me up (PS: I’m 95% sure the Giants are taking him. The quotes from GM David Gettleman and the lack of hints about the QBs really make me think they’re set on him. You’re not hearing anything but Barkley connected to them).
No.3, New York Jets: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
“Wait! I thought you didn’t like teams doubling down on quarterbacks?”
Oh I’m sorry. I didn’t know Josh McCown counted as an actual NFL QB still. I mean, if he’s getting paid $10 million this season (Puke), I guess we have to count him.
I mean… what the raging F was that contract?
And as much as I’d like to think Teddy Bridgewater is a franchise QB, the odds are limited. He signed with the Jets out of all teams. There’s no way the Jets are rebooting Bridgewater’s career. They should release him and now let him sign with Arizona or Buffalo, just to give him a chance.
The Jets taking a quarterback here makes sense because they’re a team that actually needs a quarterback. They didn’t significantly overpay someone (Here’s the thing with McCown. If the contract was for $9 million, it doesn’t look nearly as bad), or make a panic trade. They need a quarterback, and have to take one. Only them and Buffalo are in that scenario.
Rosen is the best one available. He has a rocket arm, is great in the pocket has the “It” factor to him.
If you look at all the scouting reports on Rosen, there are no football related negatives. Zero. It’s durability and personality concerns. The guy is a special talent. He just has to stay focused and keep himself healthy.
Those are big concerns though. Being drafted in New York probably isn’t the best scenario for him (Is it the best for Baker Mayfield, though? No…). After what Johnny Manziel had to say about the Browns not realizing how he wasn’t really focused on football, you have to be concerned about Rosen’s focus.
And why did his coach not have anything all that flattering to say about him? Sure, Jim Mora might be kind of an idiot, but still? What is holding you back from defending the kid as much as you can? That was also a little concerning.
But the problem I have with this criticsm is that it’s coming from a bunch of old white dudes in NFL front offices. They look at players like robots.
Who cares if Rosen’s woke or not? If he’s a future top ten quarterback, who cares?
Rosen is gonna have to add some muscle. He’s 6’4 218; a literal stick. The durability is a viable concern. But he has the talent. The Jets should gamble on it.
No.4, Cleveland Browns: DE Bradley Chubb, NC State
This is the easiest decision the Browns have to make all draft. You’re getting the chance to pair Bradley Chubb with Myles Garrett? Yes please.
Chubb might be the 2nd best edge rusher I’ve evaluated besides Garrett. The hype for Chubb would be so much greater if Garrett wasn’t drafted just a year ago.
Just take him, Browns. The decision isn’t hard. You’re making life hell for the opposing quarterback every week with this pick.
No.5, Denver Broncos: TRADE: Broncos trade No.5 to Buffalo for No.12 overall, future assets, Bills take QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
I broke the golden NFL mock draft rule I’ve used all four times I’ve done this. We’re doing a trade.
I haven’t done trades ever in my NFL Mock Drafts because if I was running each team, I’d be trading down almost every single time, because I’m a value/future assets guy. If I were Cleveland, I’d be shopping No.1 like crazy.
I couldn’t figure out the right pick for Denver. Quenton Nelson falling to No.6 seems absotluely crazy, but the Broncos have Ronald Leary on a big contract at one guard spot and Max Garcia is only 26 years old. There’s no real need to replace him.
It’s a little early for someone like Tremaine Edmunds or Roquan Smith, and the Broncos need middle linebacker more than another dynamic edge rusher or athletic linebacker.
Denver could go quarterback here, but why? You have Case Keenum at $18 million a year. Bridge quarterbacks don’t get $18 million a year! He’s your starter. You believe in him. Why take a quarterback so high? Plus, you wiffed on Paxton Lynch just two short years ago! You really trust yourself to develop someone?
Trade the pick and collect some extra assets. I’m not gonna guess on what those are; I’ll let the teams hammer that out and evaluate it later.
I mentioned earlier that two teams actually needed quarterbacks: Buffalo and the Jets. Cross both off.
The Bills currently have Nathan Peterman and AJ McCarron. Yikes!
Baker Mayfield is my QB3. The height and characteristic concerns take him down. But the guy is a baller. He’s pinpoint accurate. He makes big plays. His arm, like Allen and Rosen’s, is a cannon.
But Mayfield isn’t a 100% football sound like Rosen. Sometimes he likes to force it. He’s short, which has a boom or bust history. And the character is questionable, even though he feels like one of the most mature guys when you listen to him talk.
Being short didn’t affect him college. But Mayfield was in the most perfect offense for his skills at Oklahoma, and didn’t have to deal with edge rushers like the ones he’ll face in the NFL. Short QBs are Russell Wilson or Drew Brees. Who else is there? They don’t exist.
It’s concerning, but Mayfield has the star power to get over it. Being in Buffalo won’t get him caught up in the limelight. As long as the Bills invest in weapons, Mayfield is their QB of the future.
No.6, Indianapolis Colts: OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
What an incredibly lucky pick for the Colts. They’d be ecstatic to land Nelson. There’s a good chance he is gone by now, though, depending on how trades shake out.
The Colts offensive line is awful, and with Andrew Luck hopefully (???) returning from a shoulder injury, he’s gonna need protection. Nelson is a once in a generation prospect. He mows 300 pound defensive tackles and slams edge rushers pulling. Drafting offensive linemen high has been shaky lately, but Nelson is a guaranteed hit.
No.7, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: S Derwin James, Florida State
Not taking Minkah Fitzpatrick here hurts.
He’s been my guy all throughout the college football and draft season. I’ve had friends nudging me on him. Some of my most trusted football people say he’s the best defensive player in the draft (I found that a stretch, by the way).
But the Buccaneers can address a more immediate need by taking Derwin James, a hard hitting safety out of Florida State. Sure, taking Denzel Ward or Fitzpatrick gives you the future after Brent Grimes and his wife leave town, but those two guys are over-qualified for the Bucs. They need to get as many snaps as possible and get thrown to the fire like Marshon Lattimore and Malik Hooker did last season.
This is high for James. Tampa Bay could trade down and get him later. But he’s the better fit. Taking the best player available isn’t always the smartest move in the NFL.
No.8, Chicago Bears: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
He’s a stud. He can play practically anywhere. He’s a play-maker. He’s amazing in coverage and is physical at the same time.
The Bears can use an upgrade at all of their secondary positions. Minkah Fitzpatrick provides all of those. He’s a quick cornerback and a bruising safety at the same time. Prince Anakuamara was a nice bridge guy for a year and worth a flyer, but now it’s time to build for the future. Fitzpatrick is an upgrade over Adrian Amos or Eddie Jackson at safety as well.
No.9, San Francisco 49ers: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
The 49ers secondary is the weakest part of their improving defense. Denzel Ward is the latest stud Buckeye secondary member to be a first pound pick. He’s a lockdown cornerback who’s incredibly athletic. I expect 7-8-9 to be a run of the top defensive backs. San Francisco will be fine with whoever is left.
No.10, Oakland Raiders: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
A perfect Oakland Raider. Smith is a nasty, physical linebacker who can bullrush lines and drop back into coverage. He’s a hard hitter and an athletic beast. The Raiders lack these type of guys on their below average defense. Smith should be able to come in and make an immediate impact.
No.11, Miami Dolphins: LB Tremaine Edwards, Virginia Tech
Edwards fits the modern, hybrid type linebacker mold perfectly. At 6’5, he’s a massive presence in the flats and can drop back to defend the middle of the field. Coverage is his specialty, which will help out a Miami secondary that struggled last season.
No.12, Denver Broncos: LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama (Pick from Buffalo’s trade up)
It’s still hard finding the right pick for the Broncos. I’m trying to trade down again here if I’m them.
Their defense is loaded, but there are some possible upgrade spots in the linebacking core. Evans is another dynamic linebacker, who’s a hard hitter and can drop into coverage. He’s a perfect Bronco.
No.13, Washington Redskins: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
Another lockdown cornerback off the board. Ward goes ahead of him due to the extreme athleticism. But Josh Jackson hunts footballs. He was an absolute ball-hawk at Iowa, and made life hell for the Buckeyes in that massive upset in Week 10. I thought the Redskins biggest weakness was their secondary last season. Sliding Jackson in locks down at least one side of the field.
N0.14, Green Bay Packers: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
Signing Jimmy Graham was one my favorite moves of the offseason, but besides him, the Packers are looking at an underwhelming selection of weapons for Aaron Rodgers.
Davante Adams and Randall Cobb are always hurt. When they’re healthy, they’re threats, because they are not at all bad receivers and Aaron Rodgers is their quarterback. But if they’re not there, then no one is there for Rodgers besides Graham, who probably just needed a fresh start and a new offense, but hasn’t been nearly the tight end he was in New Orleans the past two years.
Picking Calvin Ridley gets you a big, outside the numbers receivers to get the ball downfield to. When everyone is healthy, you’re loaded. When you’re banged up, at least you now have some consistency.
No.15, Arizona Cardinals: OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
If Sam Darnold goes high and one of the other three quarterbacks slips all the way here, I’m game. At the end of the day, my QB big board is really more like this: Not Darnold.
I’ll get into that when he’s picked. Arizona has options here. They may trade up for a QB (Please no), settle for one here (I’m okay with that) or can select from a massive pool of offensive or defensive linemen.
I chose to go with the best offensive linemen left. Mike McGlinchey certainly isn’t his teammate, but is a massive 6’8 tackle who can move. DJ Humphries can’t stay healthy and hasn’t been good even when healthy, and Andre Smith doesn’t give me any more hope on the other side. The Cardinals have worked to improve the middle. Now it’s time build out.
No.16, Baltimore Ravens: OG Will Hernandez, UTEP
This year’s offensive lineman class is Nelson and everyone else. “Everyone else” is mid-round talent. Here they start to come off the board.
The Ravens can go inside or out with this pick. I find Hernandez to be the next best lineman available, so the hole at left guard can be filled. Him and Marshall Yanda smashing A and B gaps? I don’t want to deal with that.
No.17, Los Angeles Chargers: LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
This is another tough choice. I considered Sam Darnold here (If a QB falls, the Chargers should consider taking whichever one does).
However, Phillip Rivers is the type of guy who’s just gonna be awesome until he’s 40. That’s four years from now.
They can wait. This is a roster that is incredibly talented. You go over it and think “How did this team not make the playoffs?” Plug the holes and move along.
Vander Esch plugs one of those holes. He’s a big middle linebacker who moves like someone who should be playing on the outside. Hayes Pullard wasn’t great last season in this spot. Vander Esch provides immediate play-making and creates a threatening force over the middle of the field.
No.18, Seattle Seahawks: DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
This Seahawks roster went through a tumultuous offseason, which means a big draft will be needed to account for what could be some serious regression next season.
Seattle could go wide receiver, offensive line or cornerback here. Seattle has built their identity on their secondary since 2010, but it’s possible that this is Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor’s last season in Seattle. Why not shift the focus up front if that’s the case? …Especially considering that defensive line is turning into the most valuable position group there is, and that the Seahawks already have a nice core up there.
Payne is a massive human who’s stunningly athletic for his size. He blows up run plays and forces double teams. He would make Seattle’s line deadly.
I like Carlton Davis here for the Seahawks as well. The best corners are gone, but Davis is a first round talent.
No.19, Dallas Cowboys: WR Cortland Sutton, SMU
If I were Dallas, I’d consider trading down here. I feel like wide receivers and running backs get drafted too high; there’s just too many of them!
The Cowboys could opt to go defense; Carlton Davis makes some sense, but Dallas needs safety more they need cornerback (Boy would they love to trade up and get Derwin James). Sean Lee is always hurt, but after Vander Esch the market for linebackers really falls off. Pass rushers are still available, but the Cowboys are talented and deep there.
For Dallas’ defense, it’s about staying healthy. They’re more talented than most give them credit for.
That’s kinda the same case offensively. I think this wide receiver core is good! Even after Dez Bryant being cut, Dallas has dudes. Allen Hurns is incredibly underrated. Cole Beasley is a bad man, and Terrance Williams is a decent target. Plus, Jason Witten is still kicking it.
The Cowboys have to replace/upgrade upon the void that Dez left: A big, physical wide receiver. Cortland Sutton is that. He’s 6’3, big and strong, and can muscle through tacklers. He’s got a little Calvin Johnson in him.
No.20, Detroit Lions: OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
The Lions offensive line is getting better, and selecting Isaiah Wynn would put one of the finishing touches on. He’s very versatile and can play either tackle or guard. I’d slot him in at left guard for now (Kenny Wiggins is not the answer), but his ability to play both positions could come in handy down the road.
No.21, Cincinnati Bengals: DT Vita Vea, Washington
A little bit of a fall for Vita Vea, who will probably end up going much higher than this. Vea is one of those guys who is just a massive human being. He’s 6’4, 347 and plays bigger than that. He’s a run stuffer and creates chaos in the middle.
The Bengals are aging up front. Offensive line might be a bigger need, but it’s too high for Orlando Brown. If Wynn falls here, they should take him.
No.22, Buffalo Bills: WR DJ Moore, Maryland
If I were Buffalo, I’d trade down to try and make up for the trade up to get Mayfield. They need linebackers and offensive line, but both are reaches at this point.
The Bills receiving core is good on paper. Kelvin Benjamin, Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, Zay Jones and Charles Clay? Not bad! But Benjamin and Clay are never healthy and are inconsistent, and Streater isn’t more than a 3rd option.
Getting DJ Moore makes a healthy core loaded and provides depth incase someone goes down (Very likely). He isn’t the most talented receiver, but projects as a solid 2nd option on a good offense.
No.23, New England Patriots: DE Harold Landry, Boston College
The Patriots go local and take pass rusher Harold Landry out of Boston College. Landry is a pure pass rusher; nothing else. But his long arms and quick feet allow to put sick moves on opposing linemen. The front seven was New England’s biggest weakness last season. Landry gives them at least a presence up there.
No.24, Carolina Panthers: CB Carlton Davis, Auburn
There’s a lot of cornerback depth in this draft, so it’s really about who Carolina likes here. No matter what, it’s a need.
I watched more of Davis than I did Mike Hughes or Jaire Alexander, so that’s the reason for the bias here. Davis is big for a corner and plays like it; he’s physical with his hands and uses the first five yards effectively.
No.25, Tennesse Titans: DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
The Titans have run stuffers in Jurrell Casey and Daquan Jones. The outsides of the line however, are weak.
Here, Tennessee goes with the next best pass rusher available. He’s a physical freak at 6’6, and uses that size to bullrush opposing linemen. He’s a little raw in some areas, but his ceiling is too high for Tennessee to pass on.
No.26, Atlanta Falcons: WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
Essentially the Taylor Gabriel replacement. Christian Kirk certainly isn’t as fast Gabriel, but his speed on short routes over the middle provide a similar target. He also plays bigger than he is, which at 5’10 makes him a feisty cover.
No.27, New Orleans Saints: DT Tavern Bryant, UCLA
The Saints don’t need a lot. Any acting like they lack offensive weapons is underestimating Drew Brees’ ability to make anyone awesome.
They’re in best player available mode, and Tavern Bryant is that guy at this point. He’s a hassle in the trenches, and has supreme pass rushing skills for a defensive tackle. The Saints adding Bryant gives them a scary rotation of guys on this line.
No.28, Pittsburgh Steelers: S Justin Reid, Stanford
The Steelers also don’t need a lot. It’s fair to question how Morgan Burnett will preform at safety, so taking Reid here gives Pittsburgh some insurance and a long term plan.
No.29, Jacksonville Jagurs: QB Sam Darnold, USC
I am aware that there is a zero percent chance of this happening. I do not believe Sam Darnold will get past Arizona at 15.
By doing this, I am trying to make a point. Darnold is my QB5. I am not a fan.
Yes, he’s tall, which I and front office people like. But he has such an awkward frame and body that it makes him look lanky when he’s dropping back. Combine that with the weird arm motion, and Darnold just doesn’t possess the look. The other guys do.
He was a sneaky turnover machine in college, which is a trait that usually translates to the pros pretty well. It also makes him a fine Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback.
It seems like the Jags figured out how to make Blake Bortles not terrible: A strong running game, good coaching, and easy throws.
But what if this was just a weird outlier year from Bortles? What if he’s like a streaky baseball player who just can’t do anything good?
The Jags did lock up Bortles on a contract, but there’s many outs incase he regresses back to what we thought he was. Darnold would give them a long term option.
Again, there’s no way this happens. If he falls, he doesn’t get past Arizona. Even with my strong disliking, there’s no way he’s not a first round pick. The Jags were the only team that made realistic sense.
No.30, Minnesota Vikings: OG Connor Williams, Texas
I’d expect a trade down here, since the Vikings really don’t need anything, and Williams is a reach. Guard is one of the few needs the Vikings have.
No.31, New England Patriots: QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Oh yeah! It’s getting wonky in the back!
I don’t think this is the right move on New England’s part, but there’s been too much noise about them attempting to move up that I believe they might surprise some people.
I also think there’s no way Jackson gets out of the first round. He’s my QB4, and there’s too much talk that he could go much higher than we imagine. Him slipping here probably surprises you.
The Patriots drafted the right man to succeed Tom Brady in Jimmy Garappolo. The problem was that they did it too early.
Now is the time they should have done it.
If Jackson goes to the Patriots, I’m all the sudden much higher on him. New England has consistently shown that they can squeeze 110% out of any quarterback. The same case goes for Jackson, who’s supremely talented but may not have the total package. The Patriots can work on these things. He’s got a good mentor.
No.32, Philadelphia Eagles: WR DJ Chark, LSU
The Eagles lost some weapons in free agency, so getting DJ Chark, a big, downfield receiver will pair nicely with Alshon Jeffrey. His value is a lot higher than this.