Most mock drafts are aiming to predict what will happen when the draft goes down. Not this one.
This edition is me playing GM for all the team and making the picks as I would, not necessarily as I think they will do. It roughly follows the overall big board but with more emphasis placed on critical needs and positional value.
1. Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson. Too much high-end potential and franchise QB talent to bypass for new coach Urban Meyer.
2. Jets: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State. See explanation above, only substitute in New York and Robert Saleh.
3. 49ers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State. The Niners painted me into a corner here by trading up from No. 12. I can't justify moving up like that and not taking a quarterback, so Lance it is. It's not a bad situation with Jimmy Garoppolo in place to bridge to Lance, either.
4. Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida. A unique weapon that instantly diversifies the Atlanta passing offense and creates matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. Pitts is versatile and freakish enough to merit taking a TE about 25 spots higher than I’d normally even consider the position.
5. Bengals: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern. Have to build around, and protect, the investment in Joe Burrow. No matter at tackle or guard, Slater instantly becomes the best OL on the Bengals roster.
6. Dolphins: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama. He's got proven chemistry with Tua Tagovailoa from their Alabama days and offers the Dolphins passing game some desperately needed playmaking ability. The smallish stature gives me pause but Waddle’s speed fundamentally alters the way defenses must align.
7. Lions: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU. Detroit's WR room is barely expansion team level. If they're going to give Jared Goff an honest chance to succeed at QB, the Lions need a proven playmaker with the toughness and alpha dog mentality Chase brings. I prefer Waddle for the Lions but he’s off the board here.
8. Panthers: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan. It would be the third DL in the first round in as many years, but Paye's incredible athleticism and ability to play multiple spots up front could turn the Panthers defensive front into a fearsome force and give them an identity on defense.
9. Broncos: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama. He's a better prospect than the guy who went No. 3 overall last year, Jeff Okudah. His heritage and athletic prowess make Surtain one of the safest premium picks in years.
10. Cowboys: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame. Dallas' middle-of-field defense and pass coverage is as bad as it gets, and that's where JOK excels. He can play LB or as a heavy nickel safety at a very high level.
11. Giants: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon. Not the Giants biggest need but Sewell could offer a long-term bookend tackle option with last year's first-rounder, Andrew Thomas. Or insurance against Thomas not being the answer. Thought hard about pass rush and Zaven Collins here, too.
12. Eagles: Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama. Might be the easiest pick outside the top-2 in this entire draft. The Eagles have to get better weapons. Smith has the potential to be a premium weapon in any offense, though there is risk with his diminutive size. I believe this will be the actual pick by Philadelphia too.
13. Chargers: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC. "AVT" is my top-graded lineman in the draft class. I believe the Chargers could try him out at tackle, but their bigger need is at AVT's more likely home as an ass-kicking guard.
14. Vikings: Zaven Collins, LB/EDGE, Tulsa. Perhaps the draft’s most versatile defensive player, Collins thrived in coverage as an off-ball LB at Tulsa. But he also flashed legit pass-rushing chops, and at his bulked-up 270 pounds he projects as a starting EDGE. Minnesota can use the infusion of youthful promise to a defense in need of some vitality.
15. Patriots: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota. One of the most dangerous playmakers with the ability to win at any level of the defense. Sounds like something the Patriots could desperately use right away, eh?
16. Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina. Playmaking cornerback with alpha dog mentality for a team that must replace Patrick Peterson on both fronts. This one was easy...
17. Raiders: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech. The Raiders landed Kolton Miller by surprise in this range a few years back. After a rocky start, it’s proven to be a good pick. That’s how I feel about Darrisaw, a player with considerable promise but inconsistent tape. They can make a very good bookend combo.
18. Dolphins: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami FL. He's got the most physical talent and highest NFL ceiling of any pass rusher in this draft, but the worries about his concussion issues at UCLA--he medically retired--make him a risk. The Dolphins are in a position where they can take the risk for the high reward.
19. Football Team: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State. I really like the idea of Parsons patrolling behind a great defensive front and using his speed and range to make plays. It plays to his strengths and mitigates his lack of experience and field vision. Parsons could be the pièce de résistance to what might be the NFL’s best defense.
20. Bears: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama. Because nothing will get better in Chicago until they find a quality QB, and Jones can be a quality QB right away. It might be all he’ll ever be but that just might be good enough for Chicago, both short- and long-term. They have to try…
21. Colts: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia. The Colts probably need a left tackle more, but the board falls such that they instead land the most fun pass rushing prospect in this class. Ojulari devours bad blocking with his lithe speed and relentless effort. If he develops more power to his game, the Colts defense will be a force to be reckoned with.
22. Titans: Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern. I’d go with Newsome above this slot if not for his worrisome propensity for getting bitten by the injury bug. Love the cover skills, the quickness and the smarts. Instant upgrade at a position where the Titans need help.
23. Jets: Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss. Whoever is playing QB (Fields in this scenario) is going to need some significant upgrades to the weaponry. Moore is a dynamic receiver with excellent hands and a fearless attitude that will play well in New York.
24. Steelers: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State. Jenkins brings a street-fighting mentality to playing tackle, and that should play well for the Mike Tomlin Steelers. This is higher than I’d ideally take him, but the two players I really wanted here (Darrisaw and Vera-Tucker) are both gone and the current O-line might be the worst in the league, a bad recipe for an immobile QB and perhaps the NFL’s weakest RB corps. Those are the orders of business in the next rounds...
25. Jaguars: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama. Landing the top player at a position group at No. 25, and one where the Jaguars need help, is an easy call. Barmore is a boom/bust player but as a second first-rounder he’s a worthwhile option for Urban Meyer’s coaching staff.
26. Browns: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU. This is devoting quite a bit of recent capital at safety, with last year’s 2nd-rounder in Grant Delpit back healthy and signing top free agent John Johnson. But the Browns want to play more 3 safety (and 3 CB) looks and Moehrig is a versatile enough fit to mix-and-match in a suddenly deep secondary for a team that figures to play with a lead a lot.
27. Ravens: Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas. Ossai is a natural replacement for the departed Matt Judon, a high-effort, power-oriented pass rusher with some ability to play off the ball too. Ossai at his best makes this a fantastic value, but he’s got to keep improving to get there.
28. Saints: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia. This was a tough pick because the two holes I really want to fill here (WR and OT) are in between ranges here. This is a little higher than I would prefer for Stokes but he’s got the speed and skill to make it worthwhile for a Saints team entering post-Brees limbo.
29. Packers: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State. Just what the doctor ordered for the Packers secondary--a corner to play opposite Jaire Alexander who can actually play instead of just checking athletic metric boxes. The Lions fan in me is sorely disappointed in the Packers landing the very solid, high-floor Samuel in the secondary.
30. Bills: Creed Humphrey, IOL, Oklahoma. Humphrey is a center by trade but has the ability to step in and play guard at a high level. I wish his bend and initial quickness were better but Humphrey is a scrapper and has an awesome punch that will work well for Buffalo, which needs reinforcements on the O-line.
31. Ravens: Dillon Radunz, OL, North Dakota State. Longtime readers know I love to use acquired picks on the exact position that was traded away, and the Ravens trading Orlando Brown Jr. to the Chiefs (with this mock approximately 90% complete when it happened). This is earlier than I want to take Radunz but he can capably emerge as a very good starter at T or G and the Ravens might now need both...
32. Buccaneers: Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma. What do you give the defending champs who return every starter? The best player remaining on the board at a critical position. That’s Perkins, a power-to-speed pass rush specialist who can contribute right away.