Mock drafts are fun. They show us what could be and what is. It’s an exercise in evaluating the state of a franchise while judging the future of abilities of student-athletes turned professional ball players to grant the wishes of fans world-wide.
It’s also a fun little exercise in psychology. What is it that makes an individual respond so rabidly to what can only be categorized as a work of fiction in it’s truest form. Education levels have been insulted, future’s threatened, follower counts on social media rise and fall daily with the visceral reactions of (insert team name here) fans.
Still. It’s fun.
For me. I use them as a progress tool. See, right now, your favorite NFL team’s roster is almost exactly what it was at the end of the season as far as how it looks heading towards next season.
Yes, there’s been the occasional trading of a quarterback or releasing of a cornerback here and there. But, except for those few facts, your roster is as it should be.
As for the prospects. Well, this is a different story. Raise your hand if you heard of Nasir Adderley before the Senior Bowl. To those who raised their hands, you are the real MVPs of the draft world. Also, I hope you were in a really awkward place to suddenly raise your hand seemingly for no reason at all. Ya big weirdo.
Anyway. Some of your favorite draft experts are likely on version five or six or even more by now. I’m on version one. And I waited for one specific reason. We’re about to enter the NFL Scouting Combine.
After this, there will be little else a college player can do to publicly increase or decrease their draft stock. Pro Days are coming, and private workouts. Even some podcast, radio and television interviews.
But for the most part, the combine and their game film will be the main tools used to measure their worth as a football player.
So, before we get to it next week in Indianapolis, I wanted to put on record just how I perceive this first round going. Then, when it’s all said and done, and we’ve all packed up from Lucas Oil Stadium to head home I’ll do another to see how the combine impacted my outlook on the future.
To be clear. This is a look at what I think each team ‘should’ do, followed by a brief synopsis of why. If you’ve visited as a member of a different fan base, I welcome you and I look forward to comments telling me about my lack of knowledge of your favorite team.
If you’re a Bucs fan, well then, prepare to celebrate - or not - and tell me everything you think about my pick(s) and what it says about me as a husband, father and person in general. You know the drill.
I’ll be surprised if any of you actually read all of those words leading to this part. So, let’s get to it.
If the first four picks go the way I and many others feel it may, there’s going to be a quickly depleting pool of defenders going early.
Here, Arizona gets a young lineman in Quinnen Williams who can roll in their renewed dedication to a 3-4 base defense and be equally as impactful for when they move him inside on four man fronts.
San Francisco 49ers fans will probably feel like they got away with something seeing Nick Bosa fall into their laps while the Jets get one of the Top-2 edge rushers in this class by selecting Josh Allen. CBS broadcasters anxiously await the opportunity to comment on how Josh Allen sacked Josh Allen because Josh Allen was great while Josh Allen simultaneously didn’t execute his roll effectively. Fun for the entire family.
Meanwhile, coach Jon Gruden gets his Khalil Mack replacement. Spoiler alert, Gary is good, but he’s not Mack.
PICK 5 - TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: LB, DEVIN WHITE (LSU)
Currently, the Bucs have Lavonte David, Kendell Beckwith, Riley Bullough and a few other linebackers who have never really served a significant roll for this or any other NFL franchise.
If the team is moving to a 3-4 base defense it’s not going to matter that they won’t be in base all the time. They need more linebackers. Having more than one they know can impact a game significantly would be nice.
Hopefully Beckwith comes back from his season-costing ankle injury suffered last off-season. Hopefully Kwon Alexander comes back from his ACL and suits up for the Bucs once again.
But it’s entirely possible neither of those things will happen. Which means Devin White is the right guy to pick for this situation. If Alexander and Beckwith both return, and return to form, then Tampa Bay will have one of the most dangerous linebacker groups around.
Which is good, seeing as how they want four starters at the position.
I know quarterback is a popular position pick for the sixth spot, but I can’t agree with it. Not with this team and this class.
Manning is getting one more trip around the sun to try and put it together, and he’s getting a nice offensive tackle to help in the mission. If it still doesn’t pan out, next year’s class is likely to be better or at least the same.
Jacksonville on the other hand, has to get a quarterback this year, and Haskins is the most plug and play of the group as of right now.
Detroit, Buffalo and Denver all get better in key areas as the Lions bolster their pass rush while the Bills’ Allen gets a nice target in D.K. Metcalf and Greedy Williams goes to Mile-High to reinvigorate a declining Broncos defense.
I feel like the Bengals are going to look at quarterbacks more than most realize, but ultimately I think they go with offensive line help instead. Green Bay follows suit in order to take advantage of a relatively deep defensive class later in the draft.
For Miami, Kyler Murray is about the most Dolphins thing they could do, and it should at least put some butts in seats while the team figures out what to do around him.
Atlanta getting Ed Oliver will make nobody in the NFC South happy. But it’s just too good a fit not to happen.
With Alex Smith done for a long time, the Redskins need a quarterback. Hard to imagine this team is going from Kirk Cousins’ ‘You like that!’ moment to Drew Lock in such a short time span. Yet, here we are.
Carolina is far from perfect on offense, but they’re better there than on defense. They brought in Julius Peppers to help out, and he’s riding into the sunset. Jachai Polite will help them secure an edge presence for years.
If the Cleveland Browns don’t continue to build around Baker Mayfield I’d be surprised. Marquise Brown won’t work out at the combine, but it doesn’t mean he won’t be ready for camp and the 2019 season. This offense will be electric.
I was really tempted to give the Vikings a tight end here, but instead I think they roll forward with Rudolph and a later draft pick and bring in Garrett Bradbury in the meantime to give Cousins more time in the pocket.
Brian Burns to the Titans was an easy pick, and Mike Vrabel is going to love having this Seminole on his team. Finally, the Steelers draft another cornerback. It feels like all they do is draft first-round cornerbacks these days.
Legion of Boom 2.0 is underway with the drafting of Deionte Thompson by Seattle, while the Baltimore Ravens tool up for Lamar Jackson’s first year as the full-time starter after shipping Joe Flacco to Denver.
For the Houston Texans, keeping Deshaun Watson clean and comfortable has to be their primary objective. Even if they lose some key defensive pieces, they’ll have the remaining pieces to keep it together.
Rounding out the first round on this first mock of the year, Andrew Luck gets a nice big target to use opposite of T.Y. Hilton. Given the growth of the Colts’ defense in 2018, giving the offense another weapon makes sense.
I don’t know if there are any cornerbacks in Oakland coach Gruden likes - let alone loves. He’ll look to bring his own caliber of secondary to the franchise by drafting DeAndre Baker with his third first-round pick of the year.
Jeffery Simmons’ injury is going to drop him down some boards, and quite possibly out of the first round. However, if there’s a team who might take a first round flier on him, it’d be the Chargers.
They have a solid defense as is, and depending on how they feel he is medically the future returns of such a dynamic player might just warrant the early investment.
Kansas City needs help on defense and they need it now. Montez Sweat isn’t the most polished prospect, but what he does he does really well. After going offensive with their first pick of the draft, Green Bay addresses the defense by selecting Nasir Adderley out of Delaware. They’ll address pass rushers later.
If the Los Angeles Rams are going to get back to the Super Bowl they’ll need more than just a linebacker, but Mack Wilson is the best player available and given all the money coming up in extensions for their defense it’ll be nice to have a solid contributor on a rookie deal.
Finally, the Super Bowl champs are up, and with Rob Gronkowski retiring drafting T.J. Hockenson as his replacement will help keep Tom Brady on top of the league until who knows when.
That’ll do it for my first mock of the year. I’ll be back soon with a complete Bucs draft and more versions of both as we continue to sift through the news, rumors, tape, measurables and immeasurables.