Instead of the typical mock draft format where I try to forecast which players will be selected in which slots by which teams, in this one I make the picks based on what I would do.
My choices are based on a few factors. Foremost is talent. A realistic take of where the team is right now and which direction it’s headed plays a role. Positional value and schematic/coaching fit does as well. Immediate need slightly outweighs the more long-term needs, not blinding them.
These picks are in no way intended to be predictive of what will actually happen in the draft, though some might wind up coming true.
1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M. He grades higher for me than Jadeveon Clowney did, and the Browns desperately need an instigating pass rusher to help the entire defense. Garrett has the potential to be immediately great. No other player in this draft offers his high-end impact at a key position.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech. Mahomes needs time to adjust to the speed and smaller throwing windows of the NFL, but his upside is a more mobile Matthew Stafford. The Niners aren’t apt to compete in 2017 anyway, so patiently grooming Mahomes and adding more talent around him in the future is the best choice the talent-starved Niners can make. I’m willing to risk his fairly high bust potential for the potential payoff.
3. Chicago Bears: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State. I never would have signed Mike Glennon, but because he’s there I feel like taking a QB is too much of a loss. Chicago also needs considerable help in the secondary. Hooker is an outstanding cover man, good enough he could line up at corner in packages. Being able to matchup against the considerable passing game talent in the NFC North is the best thing the Bears can do here.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama. I want to go QB here with my lack of faith in Blake Bortles, but the Jaguars are in an odd spot where they can get a lot better rapidly with even moderate improvement from the incumbent. He gets one more shot and adding Howard gives him no excuses. Howard is the best TE prospect I’ve scouted since Kellen Winslow II, a do-it-all weapon who can make a huge impact right away.
5. Tennessee Titans: Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama. His arthritic shoulders scare me, but Allen absolutely dominated really good blockers with those shoulders…along with his explosive first step and great hands. If the Titans could get a full rookie contract of five years out of him, he’s worth the risk here.
6. New York Jets: Deshone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame. What to get a team that needs pretty much everything? How about a QB with sky-high potential who has practical experience dealing with high-profile chaos. Kizer will need to learn to play a little faster, but he’s got the arm, the intelligence and the personality to handle the inevitable beatings by both opposing defenses early on and the savage New York media. It says here the Jets will have the No. 1 overall pick in 2018 no matter whom they select here, and I’m not going to bite on the ridiculous hype for the QB class of 2018. At this time last year everyone thought Brad Kaaya was a top-5 pick. How’s that looking now…
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Budda Baker, S, Washington: Baker is smaller than ideal, though weighing over 190 at the Combine was a relief in my evaluation. He’s an impactful safety who can play slot corner if needed. Where he really stands out is at terminating plays, be it a run or a pass, and most of the time he does so before the offense accomplishes what it wants. That’s exactly what the Chargers need.
8. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford. As I said during the Combine, I’m not sold the versatile McCaffrey is the most talented RB in this class. I am sold he has the best chance to maximize his ability and achieve great NFL success, however. His style should blend well with Cam Newton and diversify the offensive attack for a Carolina team which needs a lot of weapons.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin. Cincinnati’s offensive line has fallen off precipitously, and Andy Dalton is the kind of QB who needs a strong line to succeed. Ramczyk has high-end technical prowess and strength despite limited big-time experience.
10. Buffalo Bills: Jamal Adams, S, LSU. The current projected starting safeties in Buffalo are Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, with Colt Anderson the top reserve. That’s a bigger cry for help than any other positional group in the AFC East outside of Jets QB. Adams plays the same basic role as newcomer Hyde but has far more ability. Buffalo cannot afford a miss here and Adams is a pretty safe pick.
11. New Orleans Saints: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford. I’m lower than most on Thomas, who despite his considerable explosive testing has some length issues as well as some underwhelming tape. Even so, Thomas can be a dynamic edge rusher with the ability to win inside or out. The Saints are still quite needy for pass rushing and Thomas is the best chance to fix that right away to get one more potential playoff run out of Drew Brees.
12. Cleveland Browns: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina. I really want Mahomes here but he’s long gone. I also wanted Baker here. The next name on the plan is Cleveland native Trubisky, a QB with an accurate but aggressive game which Browns coach Hue Jackson should really love to work with.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan. I still believe in Peppers, and here’s why I like him in Arizona: the Cardinals coaching staff will be smart enough to let him play, and master, just one position. The similarly styled safety Tony Jefferson thrived here, and Peppers is a substantially higher-end prospect. There is real risk here, but the depleted Cardinals are in a spot where they need to swing for the fences or else they risk falling far from contention anytime soon. For some other teams in this draft range, I wouldn’t take Peppers until the second round.
14. Philadelphia Eagles: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State. The first CB off the board is a risk, as Lattimore has suffered with a litany of hamstring issues. He’s also an incredible athlete who plays the aggressive man cover style Eagles DC Jim Schwartz favors at the position I consider the biggest need on the entire roster, both now and going forward.
15. Indianapolis Colts: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple. The new Colts' regime has brought in a lot of LB spaghetti to throw at the wall, but adding a primo talent with versatility like Reddick changes the dynamic. Reddick can play rush end but should transition quite well to an off-ball role either inside or outside.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan. Because I’m not a believer in Breshad Perriman. Because Joe Flacco has to be elite for this team to win, and he can’t be elite without better options. Because Davis has game-breaking talent with the ability to win on routes all over the field.
17. Washington: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan. Taco isn’t the tastiest meal available, but he helps sate the hunger for defensive line help. I’ll reach here for a “safe” pick which helps diversify the talent spread for a team with a lot of resources spent at WR, OL and CB. Washington cannot afford a complete bust, and Taco’s floor is quite high.
18. Tennessee Titans: John Ross, WR, Washington. Speed kills, and Ross has record-setting wheels. He’s also an accomplished route runner and plays bigger than his 5-foot-10 size in the red zone. The goal is to help maximize Marcus Mariota, and Ross does that as long as his surgically repaired knees hold up.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky. I know Bucs fans desire RB help, but upgrading the blocking will help both Jameis Winston and whomever is toting the rock. Lamp has the potential to be the best Bucs lineman at any spot up front, and quickly. I like him best at right tackle or left guard.
20. Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah. This is higher than I rank Bolles and I would desperately try to trade back here. Having said that, Bolles brings an intensity and athleticism to a line in need of both. He’s an instant starter, which is important for a 25-year-old rookie and a team whose loaded defense is still built to win right now.
21. Detroit Lions: T.J. Watt, OLB/DE, Wisconsin. Detroit’s biggest team need is adding athleticism to the defensive front. Watt checks that box, but he’s also a very strong all-around football player. He can play off-ball LB in heavy packages but also line up at rush end in NASCAR rush situations.
22. Miami Dolphins: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State. This is a case where the player isn’t the biggest need, but Conley is simply too talented to pass up. Teams can never have too much talent at CB, and Conley quietly put together an outstanding resume tape for the Buckeyes as a do-it-all corner. I had Tyus Bowser here but changed it when I realized I hadn’t picked Conley yet. Bowser fit well here but Conley is the higher-rated player.
23. New York Giants: Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana. Feeney reminds me quite a bit of the guard version of Giants center Weston Richburg. Both are blue-collar, physical, high football-IQ tacticians who don’t always win every rep but almost never lose. New York can use that up front, even if it’s not the Giants’ biggest need.
24. Oakland Raiders: Kevin King, CB, Washington. This entire Raiders draft will lean heavily on upgrading the wretched pass defense, both in the secondary and the pass rush. King brings length and proven ability to cover both outside and in the slot, with athletic upside to thrive even more in the NFL.
25. Houston Texans: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama. Inside LB isn’t an obvious need on the outside with Brian Cushing and Benardrick McKinney both in place, but finding an LB who can cover and make plays outside the tackle box is a huge need. Foster is a very impressive all-around LB prospect who can play situationally early before taking over for Cushing. I eschewed QB here in part because I really do like Tom Savage in 2017.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado. This is an example of a very team-specific pick. For some teams I wouldn’t consider Witherspoon before the third round, but his 6-foot-3 length and opportunistic press-man style is a perfect fit for Seattle. Even if the Richard Sherman trade talks are baloney, the Seahawks secondary does need youthful reinforcement.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Evan Engram, TE/WR, Ole Miss. My comparison for Engram is Anquan Boldin, a big and physical receiver who attacks both second-level targets as a blocker and the ball on intermediate and inside routes. Not necessarily Kansas City’s biggest need but he helps keep the offense humming, and he causes problems for the Chiefs’ AFC West foes.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU. Dallas lost four key members of the secondary and at minimum need to replenish the roster. White takes chances but also makes a lot of plays and shows strong effort. Some CBs taken later might wind up with better careers but I like White’s high floor and NFL readiness for a team poised to compete for multiple playoff wins this year.
29. Green Bay Packers: Curtis Samuel, WR/RB, Ohio State. One of the fastest and most versatile offensive weapons in the draft, Samuel played RB at Ohio State but will primarily play WR in the NFL. He fits nicely in an offense which has used the similar Randall Cobb in a variety of roles and gives Aaron Rodgers another playmaking target.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tarell Basham, Edge, Ohio. Maybe it’s the Ohio Bobcat grad in me artificially pumping up the best prospect our school has produced in my lifetime, but even the nonpartisan football evaluator in me loves what Basham can become. I think his twitchy energy fits best rushing the passer standing up from a 3-4 OLB spot, and Pittsburgh happens to need just that.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Taylor Moton, OL, Western Michigan. The big Moton can play either guard spot or right tackle and is ready to do so right away. Atlanta doesn’t desperately need anything, so adding a player who can capably back up multiple spots right now and eventually take over a starting role up front is a nice investment.
32. New Orleans Saints: Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado. New Orleans needs a whole lot of young talent on defense. Awuzie can play any secondary spot except strong safety, fitting best in the slot or lined up outside against receivers who don’t have outstanding acceleration. Just a strong all-around football player with better on-field athleticism than advertised.
33. Cleveland: Marcus Williams, S, Utah
34. San Francisco: Tyus Bowser, OLB, Houston
35. Jacksonville: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
36. Chicago: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
37. LA Rams: Derek Rivers, Edge, Youngstown State
38. LA Chargers: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
39. New York Jets: Raekwon McMillan, ILB, Ohio State
40. Carolina: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
41. Cincinnati: David Njoku, TE, Miami FL
42. New Orleans: Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
43. Philadelphia: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
44. Buffalo: Derek Barnett, Edge, Tennessee
45. Arizona: Pat Elflein, OG/OC, Ohio State
46. Indianapolis: Cam Sutton, CB, Tennessee
47. Baltimore: Zach Cunningham, OLB, Vanderbilt
48. Minnesota: Duke Riley, OLB, LSU
49. Washington: Eddie Jackson, DB, Alabama
50. Tampa Bay: Obi Melifonwu, S/LB, UConn
51. Denver: Jaleel Johnson, DT, Iowa
52. Cleveland: Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State
53. Detroit: Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo
54. Miami: Larry Ogunjobi, DT, Charlotte
55. New York Giants: Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU
56. Oakland: Carl Lawson, Edge, Auburn
57. Houston: Adoree Jackson, CB/RS, USC
58. Seattle: Chris Wormley, DL. Michigan
59. Kansas City: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
60. Dallas: Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M
61. Green Bay: Jarrad Davis, ILB, Florida
62. Pittsburgh: Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
63. Atlanta: Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
64. Carolina: Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M
65. Cleveland: Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
66. San Francisco: Jordan Willis, DE/OLB, Kansas State
67. Chicago: Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina
68. Jacksonville: Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
69. Los Angeles Rams: Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech
70. New York Jets: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
71. Los Angeles Chargers: Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern
72. New England: Bucky Hodges, WR, Virginia Tech
73. Cincinnati: Deatrich Wise, DE, Arkansas
74. Baltimore: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
75. Buffalo: Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA
76. New Orleans: Blair Brown, LB, Ohio
77. Arizona: Takk McKinley, Edge, UCLA
78. Baltimore: Isaac Asiata, OG, Utah
79. Minnesota: Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky
80. Indianapolis: George Kittle, TE, Iowa
81. Washington: Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama
82. Denver: Ethan Pocic, C, LSU
83. Tennessee: Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland
84. Tampa Bay: Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota
85. Detroit: Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA
86. Minnesota: Will Holden, OT, Vanderbilt
87. New York Giants: Josh Jones, S, North Carolina State
88. Oakland: Jayon Brown, LB, UCLA
89. Houston: Nathan Peterman, QB, Pittsburgh
90. Seattle: Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida
91. Kansas City: Dylan Cole, OLB, Missouri State
92. Dallas: Tanzel Smart, DT, Tulane
93. Green Bay: Charles Harris, Edge, Missouri
94. Pittsburgh: Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida
95. Atlanta: Marcus Maye, S, Florida
96. New England: Vincent Taylor, DT, Oklahoma State
97. Miami: Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado
98. Carolina: J.J. Dielman, OL, Utah
99. Philadelphia: Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech
100. Tennessee: ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
101. Denver: Tim Williams, Edge, Alabama
102. Seattle: Dorian Johnson, OL, Pittsburgh
103. New Orleans: Josh Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
104. Kansas City: Rayshawn Jenkins, S, Miami FL
105. Pittsburgh: Davis Webb, QB, California
106. Seattle: Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
107. New York Jets: Trey Hendrickson, Edge, Florida Atlantic
108. Cleveland: Shaquil Griffin, CB, UCF
109. San Francisco: Corn Elder, CB, Miami FL
110. Jacksonville: Erik Magnuson, OT, Michigan
111. Chicago: Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo
112. Los Angeles Rams: Howard Wilson, CB, Houston
113. Los Angeles Chargers: Mack Hollins, WR, North Carolina
114. Washington: Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise State
115. Carolina: Daeshon Hall, Edge, Texas A&M
116. Cincinnati: Stevie Tuikolovatu, DT, USC
117. Chicago: Sam Tevi, OT, Utah
118. Philadelphia: Lorenzo Jerome, S, St. Francis
119. Arizona: Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
120. Minnesota: John Toth, C, Kentucky
121. Indianapolis: Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
122. Baltimore: Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State
123. Washington: Vince Biegel, LB, Wisconsin
124. Tennessee: DeAngelo Brown, DT, Louisville
125. Tampa Bay: Jerod Evans, QB, Virginia Tech
126. Denver: Montae Nicholson, S, Michigan State
127. Detroit: Xavier Woods, S, Louisiana Tech
128. Minnesota: Ryan Switzer, WR/RS, North Carolina
129. Oakland: Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming
130. Houston: Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy
131. New England: Dion Dawkins, OL, Temple
132. Kansas City: Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson
133. Dallas: Alex Torgersen, QB, Pennsylvania
134. Green Bay: Desmond King, S, Iowa
135. Pittsburgh: James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh
136. Atlanta: Bryan Cox, Edge, Florida
137. Indianapolis: Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State
138. Cincinnati: Brandon Wilson, CB, Houston
139. Philadelphia: Rashaad Coward, DT, Old Dominion
140 .New York Giants: Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson
141. Los Angeles Rams: Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
142. Houston: Keionta Davis, Edge, Chattanooga
143. San Francisco: D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
144. Indianapolis: Marquel Lee, LB, Wake Forest
145. Cleveland: D’Nerius Antoine, S/LB, Southern Miss
146. San Francisco: Jylan Ware, OT, Alabama State
147. Chicago: Carroll Phillips, LB, Illinois
148. Jacksonville: Jeremy Cutrer, CB, Middle Tennessee State
149. Los Angeles Rams: DeAngelo Yancey, WR, Purdue
150. New York Jets: Lano Hill, S, Michigan
151. Los Angeles Chargers: Tyler Orlovsky, C, West Virginia
152. Carolina: Antony Auclair, TE, Laval
153. Cincinnati: Chase Roullier, C/G, Wyoming
154. Washington: Kenny Golladay, WR, Northern Illinois
155. Philadelphia: Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Tennessee
156. Buffalo: Zack Johnson, OG, North Dakota State
157. Arizona: Jordan Evans, LB, Oklahoma
158. Indianapolis: Dawuane Smoot, Edge, Illinois
159. Baltimore: Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson
160. Minnesota: Demarcus Walker, DE, Florida State
161. San Francisco: Michael Coe, C, North Dakota
162. Tampa Bay: Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU
163. New England: Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia
164. Tennessee: I’Tavius Mathers, RB, Middle Tennessee State
165. Detroit: Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State
166. Miami: Adam Bisnowaty, OT, Pittsburgh
167. New York Giants: Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn
168, Oakland: Aarion Penton, CB, Missouri
169. Houston: Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, Arkansas
170. Kansas City: Storm Norton, OT, Toledo
171. Buffalo: Cole Hikutini, TE, Louisville
172. Green Bay: Nico Siragusa, OG, San Diego State
173. Pittsburgh: Elijah Qualls, DT, Washington
174. Atlanta: Mason Schreck, TE, Buffalo
175. Cleveland: Danny Isidora, OG, Miami FL
176. Cincinnati: Javancy Jones, LB, Jackson State
177. Denver: Chad Williams, WR, Grambling
178. Miami: Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama
179. Arizona: K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor
180. Kansas City: Kendell Beckwith, LB, LSU
181. Cleveland: Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan
182. Green Bay: Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
183. New England: Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova
184. Miami: Paul Magloire, LB, Arizona
185. Cleveland: Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia
186. Baltimore: Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
187. Jacksonville: Zane Gonzalez, K, Arizona State
188. Cleveland: T.J. Logan, RB, North Carolina
189. LA Rams: Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State
190. LA Chargers: Stacy Coley, WR, Miami FL
191. New York Jets: Chad Wheeler, OL, USC
192. Carolina: Ryan Anderson, LB, Alabama
193. Cincinnati: Levon Myers, OT, Northern Illinois
194. Philadelphia: Cameron Tom, C, Southern Miss
195. Buffalo: Treston DeCoud, CB/S, Oregon
196. New Orleans: David Sharpe, OL, Florida
197. Arizona: Nazair Jones, DT, North Carolina
198. San Francisco: Devonte Fields, Edge, Louisville
199. Minnesota: Connor Harris, LB, Lindenwood
200. New England: Sean Harlow, OG, Oregon State
201. Washington: John Johnson, S, Boston College
202. San Francisco: Jordan Evans, LB, Oklahoma
203. Denver: DeAngelo Henderson, RB, Coastal Carolina
204. Tampa Bay: Josiah Price, TE, Michigan State
205. Detroit: Brendan Langley, CB, Lamar
206. LA Rams: Keion Adams, LB, Western Michigan
207. New York Giants: Robert Davis, WR, Georgia State
208. Oakland: Treyvon Hester, DT, Toledo
209. Washington: Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami FL
210. Seattle: Josh Harvey-Clemons, S, Louisville
211. Dallas: Tanner Vallejo, LB, Boise State
212. Green Bay: Damarius Travis, S, Minnesota
213. Pittsburgh: Kenneth Olugbode, LB, Colorado
214. Tennessee: Harvey Langi, LB, BYU
215. Detroit: Damore’ea Stringfellow, WR, Ole Miss
216. Kansas City: Elijah McGuire, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette
217. Cincinnati: Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan
218. Kansas City: Jake Elliott, K, Memphis
219. San Francisco: Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan
220. Washington: Eric Saubert, TE, Drake
221. Chicago: Jadar Johnson, S, Clemson
222. Jacksonville: Bug Howard, WR, North Carolina
223. Miami: Fred Ross, WR, Mississippi State
224. New York Jets: Rodney Adams, WR, South Florida
225. LA Chargers: Dieugot Joseph, OT, Florida International
226. Seattle: Ejuan Price, Edge, Pittsburgh
227. Cincinnati: Austin Rehkow, P/K, Idaho
228. Dallas: Zach Pascal, WR, Old Dominion
229. New Orleans: Jordan Sterns, S, Oklahoma State
230. Philadelphia: Hunter Dimick, Edge, Utah
231. Arizona: Jonnu Smith, TE, Florida International
232. Minnesota: Kofi Amichia, OG, South Florida
233. Carolina: Matt Dayes, RB, North Carolina State
234. LA Rams: Jerry Ogukwe, OT, William & Mary
235. Washington: Eric Wilson, LB, Cincinnati
236. Tennessee: Julien Davenport, OG, Bucknell
237. Tampa Bay: Jessamen Dunker, OG, Tennessee State
238. Denver: Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP
239. New England: Aviante Collins, OL, TCU
240. Jacksonville: Ifeadi Odenigbo, Edge, Northwestern
241. New York Giants: Calvin Munson, LB, San Diego State
242. Oakland: Josh Tupou, DT, Colorado
243. Houston: Jalen Robinette, WR, Air Force
244. Oakland: Avery Moss, Edge, Youngstown State
245. Kansas City: Cethan Carter, TE, Nebraska
246. Dallas: Nate Theaker, OT, Wayne State
247. Green Bay: Jeremiah Ledbetter, DT, Arkansas
248. Pittsburgh: Blake Jarwin, TE, Oklahoma State
249. Atlanta: Richie Brown, LB, Mississippi State
250. Detroit: Samson Ebukam, LB, Eastern Washington
251. Cincinnati: Channing Stribling, CB, Michigan
252. Denver: Trent Taylor, WR, Louisiana Tech
253. Denver: Money Hunter, CB/S, Arkansas State