Shane Alexander's Mock Draft 2.0
A lot has changed since my last mock in early February. The NFL Combine shed light on much of who these prospects are physically and athletically, and free agency filled in gaps throughout most NFL teams’ depth charts. With all of this new information, it’s time to reevaluate where everything stands.
As always, my mocks aim to be predictive. While it’s impossible to know anything for certain, I’m trying to read tea leaves and look at holes in rosters and marry those things with positional value. This year, as much as any, feels like a crapshoot. We know Myles Garrett is going #1 and then we don’t know much else. So when you read this, remembers two things: I’m trying to be predictive and it’s late March, there’s still plenty of time for more info to come out to help shape this thing out.
- Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, Edge, Texas A&M – I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know about this. I’m just going to link this here. The man is an alien and franchise changer.
- San Francisco 49ers – Solomon Thomas, Edge, Stanford – San Francisco is changing to a 43 scheme despite having built their defense around DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead the past two seasons. It’s a lot to invest three straight firsts on the DL, but Thomas is an elite, true edge player for them going forward, and they’ll kick either Buckner or Armstead inside. With John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan on six-year deals, they’ve decided to wait on QB and go with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley for a year, it seems.
- Chicago Bears – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson – GM Ryan Pace seems to be willing to approach the QB position from several avenues in hopes of finding “the” guy. Mike Glennon’s deal is basically a one-year and re-examine contract, and Mark Sanchez is a mentor-type for Watson. Fox will let Watson earn the job if possible, but if he does need time, that’s why they paid Glennon. It’s risky to invest so much in this positions twice in one offseason, but it seems this is the likely route. If you want to hedge here, Jamal Adams makes all the sense in the world for that defense who needs a leader in the secondary.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU - Jacksonville committed upgrading defense in free agency as impressively as I can remember a team doing and seem to have turned their attention to Fournette as the bell cow running back they’ve been lacking. Fournette’s combine proved what I thought he was: elite straight-line runner with rare power. The Jags will look for him to tone-set to alleviate pressure for fourth-year QB Blake Bortles in the passing offense. The hedge pick here is Solomon Thomas if he falls or Jonathan Allen. The ultra hedge is Alabama’s O.J. Howard.
- Tennessee Titans – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State – In my four drafts of doing this, the only two CBs who are in his tier are Marcus Peters and Jalen Ramsey. His combine proved what the tape showed in that he has the ability to stay in stride with pretty much everyone, and has the catch-up ability if he needs to recover on a route. The Titans added Logan Ryan and Jonathan Cyprien this offseason, and Marshon would be the final piece to what would be one of the more impressive DB groups in the NFL.
- New York Jets – Jamal Adams, S, LSU – A QB taken here would be a sitting duck. The Jets have one of the worst rosters in the NFL and a head coach who’s on thin ice. The goal should be to rebuild the roster for whoever is coaching in 2018. Adams in Bowles’ system would be ideal and gives the Jets a cornerstone player going forward.
- Los Angeles Chargers – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State - Hooker’s range doesn’t come along that often. In a pass-heavy league, having a true centerfielder is a luxury that few teams have. The Ed Reed comps are unfair, but it’s not a stretch to envision Hooker as a multiple Pro Bowler over the course of his career who makes a living ball-hawking interceptions. If you’re heading, this could be the spot that the offensive line run starts, or could be where an edge like Jon Allen or Derek Barnett goes.
- Carolina Panthers – Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama - The Super Bowl is miles back in the rearview. Carolina’s gotten old and thin at multiple positions. You could mock several players at several positions here and make a strong argument. I went with Robinson because priority #1 is protecting Cam Newton and priority #2 is being able to get back to being a run-first offense. Robinson is a plug-and-play right tackle who I believe could be the long-term solution at left tackle or eventually kick inside to guard.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Jonathan Allen, Edge, Alabama - Once considered a top 2 player in this class, Allen slips to #9 due to concerns over arthritis in his shoulders and a combine where he measured like a base end and tested like a solid defensive tackle. In Cincy, Allen can anchor opposite Carlos Dunlap and not be pressured into being the premier edge on the team. I have little worry about Allen in the run game, and he’s technical enough to get sacks in the NFL. He can also kick inside beside Geno Atkins on sub-packages for added dimension.
- Buffalo Bills – O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama - To be a generational talent one needs to be one of the very best prospects at his respective position over the course of a decade. That is exactly what O.J. Howard is. You couldn’t create a better TE prospect in a lab. He’s the best blocker in this class, can flex out into the slot, or even out wide and be a weapon in the pass game, and he’s a special athlete. As currently constructed, Buffalo has one of the poorest receiving corps in the NFL, so this pick kills multiple birds with one stone. He’s a top 10 TE in fantasy Week 1.
- New Orleans Saints – Derek Barnett, Edge, Tennessee - Barnett would make a nice complement opposite Cam Jordan. The plusses to Barnett’s game on tape were his quick first-step, strong hands, and great bend. He made a career out of smartly timing snaps. That trend didn’t show up at the combine, but he was also fighting a pretty severe virus, apparently. The hedge here is Reuben Foster. It would all the sense in the world to me to take an elite LB here and address edge at better value at #32.
- Cleveland Browns – Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech - Years of trying to land a franchise QB finally pays off here. Mahomes may not be ready for Week 1 and that’s fine because he doesn’t have to be, Cody Kessler is a more than capable starter. Here’s what Mahomes offers long term: some of the most natural arm-talent you’ve ever seen and the ability to create outside of structure - a hallmark of several premier QBs in the league The mental processing is there; Mahomes succeeded in spite of the teammates around him and played within the Air Raid system at Texas Tech but was not a product of it or bound to it. By year three, Patrick Mahomes could be one of the most promising young QBs in the NFL.
- Arizona Cardinals – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama - If Arizona chooses to pass on a QB or one of the linebackers, this is a fantastic way to go. Humphrey is one of the most athletic CBs in this class, and we know Arizona values that. He’s also the most physical; no defensive back in the first two rounds outside of Jamal Adams is as willing as Humphrey to come downhill or get physical downfield. You can let he and Patrick Peterson play one-on-one and get back to allowing Honey Badger to ball hawk.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford - How fitting is it that McCaffrey’s best comp is Brian Westbrook? Philly’s offense is tailored for a back like McCaffrey who can be used in a variety of way in the run game and out of the backfield as a pass-catcher. Having upgraded WR in the offseason with Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith, the Eagles can round out their offense with the most explosive player in the draft. If you’re hedging though, cornerback is a huge need that has to be addressed in this draft.
- Indianapolis Colts – Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama - Injury concerns and maybe some off-field worries causes one of the five best players in this class to fall to new GM Chris Ballard and the Colts. Foster is the most athletic sideline-to-sideline and aggressive downhill LB in this class. At only 230-235 pounds he was effectively rushing off the edge in some packages at Alabama. The Chiefs built their team on defense while Ballard was there, and him bringing that mindset to Indy, with Andrew Luck entering his prime, makes all the sense in the world.
- Baltimore Ravens – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan - Corey Davis is my WR1 and a top 10 talent this year, but an injury that continues to linger likely causes him to slip. The slide falls here where Baltimore takes potentially the best X receiver in the John Harbaugh era. Davis wins at the line of scrimmage and the catch point, but his real value comes for what he can do after the catch for a player his size. To make a run at another Super Bowl, the Ravens need to upgrade the offense a bit, and Davis is a major start to that.
- Washington Redskins – Jabrill Peppers, SAF, Michigan - The NFL’s most controversial team takes the most controversial on-field talent in this class. There’s too much hate on Peppers; yes, it would have been great to see him as a full-time safety at Michigan in 2017, but that isn’t happening. He’s a box / slot safety - often described as a overhang defender. He’s athletically able to cover downfield but the ability isn’t there yet. It wasn’t there for Landon Collins in 2015, but look at his performance this past year. He’s aggressive and instinctive. Despite this being a reach to me, I get the allure. Give him time. No one is a finished product on draft night.
- Tennessee Titans – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson - What a great value this is. The missing link to Tennessee’s offense is a receiver in the mold of receiver Williams. I understand hesitation over Williams’s athletic ability, but he wins at the catch-point like few others in recent years and the separation is good enough. This is the kind of pick that pushes the Titans into Wild Card and the division title conversation.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut - I mocked him here in early February and I stick with it in late March. Obi’s the freakish safety that actually matches up his on-field talent with underwear olympic measurements. He’s not there on a consistent level yet physically, but playing free safety coming forward and covering in the slot will be a huge asset for the Bucs defense. A well-rounded draft should put Tampa Bay in the Wild Card convo in the NFC.
- Denver Broncos – Garett Bolles, OT, Utah - Don’t let his age (25) concern you. You’ve got him on a five-year deal and that’s the window Denver is banking on anyway. Donald Stephenson and Ty Sambrailo aren’t the answer at left tackle. The Broncos need to upgrade the offense and defensive line, but settling the offensive line for whoever is at QB need to be top priority.
- Detroit Lions – Haason Reddick, LB, Temple - No player earned himself more money than Reddick this draft process. I really believe he can play across the linebacking spectrum in any system if need be. He proved in Mobile at the Senior Bowl that he can cover and fill against the run, and we’ve got the tape and testing numbers on him to suggest that he could be a double-digit sack artist playing off-ball. I wouldn’t let him get this far, but if he does it’s a plug-and-play situation for the Lions.
- Miami Dolphins – Taco Charlton, Edge, Michigan - Taco’s one of the more unique edges in this class. Big-bodied 43 DE who’s going to compete with Williams Hayes for RDE in Miami. Not a true edge-bender but will win with technique as a front-side rusher and is strong in the run game. The NFL seems to be more enamored with him than I am, but can understand the intrigue. Hedge with Zach Cunningham, Forrest Lamp, or David Njoku at this spot.
- New York Giants – Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin - Despite investment in the OL, the Giants still lack an effective tackle. If they want to keep Flowers at left, Ramczyk can play right Week 1. We talk a lot about “floors” when scouting players and Ryan has one of the highest in this class.
- Oakland Raiders – Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State - Malik was built in a lab at 6’6’’ and 295 pounds with the ability to play on the edge but thrive at 3 technique, a big position of need for Oakland. He’s enigmatic and there’s off-field concerns, but from a pure ability standpoint he’s one of the 10 best players in this class and would make an excellent Raider.
- Houston Texans – Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina - For either DeShone Kizer or Trubisky, this is the ideal landing spot. Houston was a QB away from the Super Bowl last season. Bill O’Brien has one of the best defenses in football and some exceptional offensive talent. Houston has to try and solidify this position now, three years removed from passing over everyone for Tom Savage. If Trubisky’s going to succeed, it’s going to be in a structured environment like this, with the help of a defense like the Texans have.
- Seattle Seahawks – Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky - This is one of the easiest projections in this exercise. If Forrest Lamp makes it to #26 (he shouldn’t), Seattle needs to run to the podium. They absolutely have to resolve their issues on the OL, and Lamp is a Zack Martin / Joel Bitonio style tackle-to-guard conversion. You plug in him Week 1 and you don’t worry about his position for two contracts.
- Kansas City Chiefs – John Ross, WR, Washington - How does the fastest player in NFL Combine history fall to #27? Injury concerns and teams needing to address other positions. Wide receiver might seem like a luxury pick, but Chris Conley and Albert Wilson are still waiting to break out, and Jeremy Maclin is getting slightly longer in the tooth. Ross is Phillip Dorsett, Will Fuller, Tavon Austin, etc., but better. He’s a game-breaker at the position who, paired alongside Tyreek Hill, would make up one of the scariest duos in the NFL.
- Dallas Cowboys – Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU - Most of the Cowboys’ DBs left them in the offseason, so upgrading the secondary should probably be a priority in two of the first three picks. White offers versatility in that he can play outside or slot. You could mock Adoree’ Jackson here for his ability to contribute to special teams, but White is the much more complete player now and Dallas is going to need contribution early for this pick.
- Green Bay Packers – Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State - Him lasting this long feels a bit unrealistic, but it’s how the board fell in this exercise. Personally, I don’t think it’d be ridiculous if Gareon went in the top 13. Green Bay needs a player like him who can be the CB1 and also moved into the slot if need be. The difference in being a good team and a Super Bowl team is suring up the secondary, and Conley would go a long way to doing that.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Takk McKinley, Edge, UCLA - Funny enough, I think Bud Dupree is fairly comparable to Takk coming out of UCLA. Both have the tools, yet both were / are extremely raw. Takk didn’t test as well as I hoped at the Combine, but he was scheduled for labrum surgery the following day, and it’s hard to gauge how that kind of injury can affect a player’s body mentally or physically. McKinley is a variance rusher now, but the tape shows a capable athlete to rush the passer at the next level.
- Atlanta Falcons – Derek Rivers, Edge, Youngstown State - Had Derek Rivers played at another school, I really believe that he would be talked about as a top 20 lock – and he should be regardless. As it stands, he’s a small school standout shooting up the draft board. He wrecked the Combine and is now in position to play across from Vic Beasley as one of the most impressive young edge duos in the NFL.
- New Orleans Saints – Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State - Cook’s combine was inexplicably sup-par given the athlete he looks on tape, which doesn’t help when you consider some injury history and the rumors of “red tape” off the field. For those reasons he falls from the middle of the first to pick #32 where he’ll be a day 1 backup to Mark Ingram and eventually should end up being the franchise back within his first two seasons.
- DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame - We know his ceiling is as high as any in the class, but his back and forth security as QB at Notre Dame, coupled with his inconsistent production and questions of confidence and commitment keep him out of this mock. I think some team will trade back into Round 1 for him if he were to slide, but I never predict trades.
- David Njoku, TE, Miami - He’s an exceptional talent who is being mocked as high as #18 to Tennessee, and I wanted to fit him into the top 32 but it just never made perfect sense. If you don’t like my mocks for Tennessee, Tampa, Denver, Detroit, Miami, or New York, he could fit in any of those offense. He’s a top 40 lock, regardless, I believe.
- The Edge position: Jordan Willis (Kansas State), Tim Williams (Alabama), Carl Lawson (Auburn), Charles Harris (Missouri), T.J. Watt (Wisconsin) - It was either tape or Combine issues that slid them out of Round 1. This edge class is a microcosm of the draft itself - a crapshoot. You could slide any of these players into the middle to back of Round 1, and I expect all would be gone by the late 50s if they do fall.