If I can indulge myself for a moment, and of course I can because this is my blog, April has become my favorite month of the year. It opens with Opening Day, closes with the Kentucky Derby, and fits in Wrestlemania, the Masters, the NBA playoffs, the Daytona 500, and my personal favorite, the NFL Draft.
As we’ve discussed before, one of the reasons I love the draft is because it does such a terrific job of making experts look tremendously foolish. If there’s one thing I truly relish, it’s people who talk with authority being knocked down a few pegs. Tomorrow night (or tonight I guess, whenever I end up publishing this), you can rest assured that nearly every single person every network chooses to put on the air is going to be wrong about whatever they think is about to happen and whatever they think is going to happen long term. Players that are locks to go in the first round won’t go until day 3, players that are “plug him in for the next ten years” will be out of the league in three, and guys that are called reaches will end up playing in the Pro Bowl. None of that is really my conjecture, it’s all pretty much fact.
But it wouldn’t be any fun if I weren’t willing to wallow around in the mud with the other pigs, would it? So, that said, here’s my take on this year’s draft.
1. Browns – Baker Mayfield
Right off the bat, I’m really going out on a limb. But the more you think about this, the more sense it starts to make, especially if you give any credence to the rumors that the Browns have ruled out Sam Darnold (which, you probably shouldn’t because nearly all info coming out now is a smokescreen). The Browns are taking a QB, this much we know, but the conventional wisdom is that player will be either Sam Darnold or Josh Allen. The Browns new regime includes a man who created a QB grading model that rates Mayfield as a generational prospect. I think they shock the world, get their guy, and turn the entire draft on its head.
By the way, Baker Mayfield was 10/1 to go first overall at the beginning of the week on my preferred betting website. As of Wednesday afternoon, he was 9/2. Currently, he’s a little better than even money (+125). There’s smoke to this fire.
2. Giants – Sam Darnold
With Darnold being available, the Giants shift gears from potentially drafting Saquon Barkley and take the presumed top QB in the draft to eventually replace Eli Manning. You don’t get a chance to draft a QB this high very often, and I don’t think New York passes on this opportunity. If the Browns opt for Darnold first overall tomorrow, I expect them to take Barkley here.
3. Jets – Josh Allen
The Jets will be crushed if they come up to draft third overall and don’t see Mayfield on the board. And, by the way, if it sounds like I have an unhealthy obsession with Baker Mayfield it’s because I think he’s the defining player of the draft for a lot of teams and that the coverage for this draft has made a major miss by not focusing more on that. It might also have something to do with me having bet on him at 10 to 1. Either way, the Jets traded to this spot to take a QB, and they’ll probably settle for the big armed QB and hope he does his best impression of Carson Wentz. For what it’s worth, I’d take Josh Rosen here.
4. Browns – Saquan Barkley
The Browns end up with their QB and the player who is, at this point, likely the best guy in the draft. Suddenly, Cleveland’s offense looks pretty scary (even more so if they’re able to wrangle in Dez Bryant after the draft is over) with these guys, Josh Gordon, and David Njoku.
5. Bills – Josh Rosen
As much as I know John Elway would love to pull the trigger on Josh Rosen here, I think he gets an offer he can’t refuse from the Bills and takes a few more picks a little later in the draft to shore up his defense. The Bills make their move to get a QB and, hopefully, challenge the Patriots in the years to come. If they can’t get it done and pick five, they’ll get it done at pick six. The Bills are definitely moving up.
6. Colts – Bradley Chubb
The Colts trade down from three to six and still manage to get the guy they’ve probably wanted from the get go. Chubb appears to be one hell of a pass rusher and may be the type of player who can change the play of an entire defense simply by being a persistent presence in the backfield.
7. Bucs – Minkah Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick to Tampa Bay appears to be the worst kept secret of the draft… which means it’s definitely not going to happen. Either way, I’m mocking it. The Buccaneer defense was terrible last year and Fitzpatrick is really good. They might consider Denzel Ward or Derwin James, but Fitzpatrick appears to be the most pro ready player of the bunch and the Buccaneers are in a position to try to win while they still have Jameis Winston under a rookie contract.
8. Bears – Quenten Nelson
If the Bears want to see a shining example of what NOT to do, they can look a few hours to the east and take notes on how the Colts handled Andrew Luck. If they’re in a position to draft Nelson and keep last year’s top pick Mitch Trubisky upright, they should sprint the podium and do it. As a Packer fan, I’m hoping they take Calvin Ridley here.
9. 49ers – Roquan Smith
Smith looks like he was created in a lab to play in the exact type of defense that defensive coordinator Robert Saleh used during his time in Seattle. If the Niners are committed to becoming Seattle South, this pick would give them the kind of versatile defender to help accelerate that transition.
10. Raiders – Derwin James
Your guess as good as mine as to what Jon Gruden is going to do here. Mine is he goes with James, who plays the physical kind of defense that would’ve sent Gruden into a five minute rant in an ESPN booth.
11. Dolphins – Lamar Jackson
Another pick that will probably shock, but shouldn’t. Ryan Tannehill is currently slated to be the Fins’ QB next season. Ryan Tannehill is not the type of player around which you can build a team. Lamar Jackson, by sheer virtue of not being Tannehill, makes this an excellent selection. If the Dolphins don’t make this pick, I wouldn’t be surprised to see New England, Arizona, or Baltimore making a move here to grab the electric Heisman Trophy winner.
12. Broncos – Harold Landry
Let me take an aside here to posit a theory that I’m starting to think explains the way a team drafts. The consensus theory is that they try to balance positional need and the talent of a player. But I think teams might place more of an emphasis on adding players who fill the spot of a player who recently left or had a major impact on the franchise. I’ll be testing this over this draft and then trying to gather data over the next year. Denver finds themselves in a spot to replace the hole created by either DeMarcus Ware or Aqib Talib. I think they’ll attempt to do both and will start by taking the player many consider to be the best pass rushing linebacker in the draft with Landry. Pairing him with Von Miller and Shane Ray will allow them to keep a position of strength as a strength.
13. Redskins – Tremaine Edmunds
Look, I’m going to level with you. I really want to see Denzel Ward come to the Packers. There’s no way that I’m going to mock myself into having my heart broken, so allow me to be optimistic for a second here. Will this happen tomorrow? Probably not. Edmunds is good enough to have come off the board 5 picks earlier, so he might not even be here, but in this spot it would make a lot of sense to see Washington add some physicality to their defense. If they pass on him in this spot in favor of Ward, having Edmunds in Green and Gold would be pretty good consolation.
14. Packers – Denzel Ward
But that consolation isn’t happening in this mock baby! If you think that this mock was less of a serious endeavor and more of an exercise in mental masturbation on getting Ward into a Packer jersey, well, you’re only partially right. If five quarterbacks are taken prior to Green Bay’s selection tomorrow, they should have their pick of a top defensive player. My preference is Ward, but I think he or Landry or Edmunds or Fitzpatrick will be available. Either way, it should make for an easy selection by Green Bay’s new general manager Brian Gutekunst. Rumor has it the Packers will try to move up in the draft, but if five QBs come off the board before their pick I can’t imagine that they’ll need to move.
15. Cardinals – Connor Williams
I smell a panic pick tomorrow from Arizona. It’s clear they’re focused in on a QB and after unsuccessfully trying to trade up and subsequently missing out on Lamar Jackson, I think they freak out and snap pick at a different area of need. This is admittedly a little high for Williams, but he seems like he would be a stable presence on their offensive line and would allow whatever QB they get in the future to develop.
16. Ravens – DJ Moore
I love DJ Moore. If anyone in my fantasy football league is reading this, they should be taking note right now because there’s a good chance I’ll draft him on my own once our draft in June rolls around. Moore fits the profile of a receiver the Ravens seem to like – big and fast. He should have no problems drawing pass interference penalties for Joe Flacco.
17. Chargers – Vita Vea
This is a dream scenario for San Diego. Corey Liuget is pretty much their only interior defensive lineman of note and adding Vea would allow him to rest and should help to shore up their second to last ranked rush defense from a year ago.
18. Seahawks – Mike McGlinchey
I think Seattle wants to move down here, but when a player like McGlinchey becomes available, they’ll stay put and pull the trigger. That said, the Seahawks neglecting their offensive line is reaching meme status of the Undertaker being undefeated at Wrestlemania status. Will Mike McGlinchey be their Brock Lesnar? Will I stop jamming professional wrestling references into every piece I write? Tune in tomorrow to find out!
19. Cowboys – Calvin Ridley
Let’s keep up the rhetorical questions? Are the Cowboys the kind of team to make a snap decision based off of something that happened recently? Is Jerry Jones overly enamored with players from Alabama? Do the Cowboys still think doubling down around Dak Prescott is the right idea? If you’re like me, then taking Ridley here makes all the sense in the world. If you think they’re a well run, reasonable football team, then you can mock something else in yours. For what it’s worth, I think Ridley screams bust, so I’m hoping the Cowboys bring him on board.
20. Lions – Marcus Davenport
Adding a freaky pass rusher like Davenport across from Ziggy Ansah seems good. For Aaron Rodgers collarbone’s sake, I hope things don’t shake out this way.
21. Bengals – Frank Ragnow
Dave Lapham, the Bengals’ color man, predicts that this will be the pick for Cincinnati and his track record of predicting their picks is pretty stellar. Who am I to argue?
22. Broncos – Jaire Alexander
Don’t you love it when a plan comes together? Denver takes their fifth overall pick and manages to fill two big holes on its defense. As much as I don’t like John Elway (for reasons totally unrelated to Super Bowl XXXII), I would have to give him some major props if he can make this happen tomorrow.
23. Patriots – Rashaan Evans
The Patriots seem like they want to make a move to add a QB to eventually replace Tom Brady, but with five guys coming off the board so earlier they decide to add a linebacker to help shore up the defense that was torn apart by Nick Foles in the Super Bowl. I don’t see them grabbing Mason Rudolph here, but they might make a play for him in round two. Evans plays for coach Bill Belicheck’s buddy Nick Saban at Alabama and would have no trouble stepping in immediately to do his job.
24. Panthers – Maurice Hurst
After allowing Star Lotulelei to leave for Buffalo, Carolina finds his replacement falling right into their lap in the big man from Michigan.
25. Titans – Leighton Vander Esch
I think Vander Esch probably comes off the board way before this pick, but this is the way it shakes out here and the Titans would be ecstatic to see the pass rusher out of Boise State step in to help their middle of the road defense.
From this point onward, I’m going to be pretty realistic – there’s a very low chance that I’m going to get any of these picks right and (other than the Jaguars) I really don’t seem to like any of them, so I’m going to save myself the trouble of pretending like I know what’s going on here. We’ll call this spot the lightning round.
26. Falcons – Da’Ron Payne
27. Saints – Hayden Hurst
28. Steelers – Justin Reid
29. Jags – Dallas Goedert
30. Vikings – James Daniels
31. Patriots – Courtland Sutton
32. Eagles – Derrius Guice
If you’re wondering how you can bet this draft, my first piece of advice is to get in a time machine and go back to earlier this week when Baker Mayfield was 10:1 and bet that. If you don’t have a time machine, then betting that all three tops picks will be Quarterbacks is +140. Josh Allen to be the top pick at 6:1 doesn’t look too bad if you assume I’m going to be wrong. Either way, it’s going to be a fun night; regardless of how right (or not) I end up to be.