Everyone likes to say that the NFL is a passing league. Everyone thinks bottom-of-the-barrel NFL teams need a quarterback before anything else.
But NFL teams are more than an arm launching a ball downfield; there are 21 other players on the field at any one time, and one way to beat a great passing team is to beat the passing game. This is a draft class chock-full of great defensive prospects, including an incredible group of pass-rushers that will terrorize opposing offenses.
Passing league? It’s a pass-rushing league.
Our own Jay Holmes and myself decided to take the fates of NFL franchises into our own hands: we did our first mock NFL draft of the offseason, to help sift out where we thought the best players in the nation would end up at the end of April. Jay took the odd-numbered picks, I took evens.
This is where the future of the NFL is made, and it’s our favorite time of the year. So, with the first overall pick…
1. Cleveland Browns — Myles Garrett, EDGE. Don’t overthink it. Take a difference maker.
2. San Francisco 49ers — DeShone Kizer, QB. The 49ers need a new signal-caller to head up a floundering offense, and Kizer gives them arm strength, mobility, and intellect. He’s more proven than others in this class and appears less of a system quarterback to boot.
3. Chicago Bears — Deshaun Watson QB. Watson’s “regression year” could have some concerned about the transition to the NFL, but quarterback is probably the top need and they need to take one early. Jonathan Allen is intriguing, but it’s a passing league and I’m not sure Matt Barkley is the franchise guy.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jonathan Allen, DL. If Allen falls this far, it’s not for lack of talent, and the Jags will be giggling to themselves when they pick him here. Insane athleticism plus intimidating size and remarkable instincts mean he’ll dominate the interior trenches for years.
5. Tennessee Titans (via LAR) – Mike Williams, WR. Secondary might be the biggest need for the Titans, but the cornerback class is deep and they have another first-round pick. At 6’3″, 225 lbs. Williams is the big, strong downfield weapon to help Marcus Mariota‘s continuing development as his WR1 for years.
6. New York Jets — Mitch Trubisky, QB. I might not believe in him too much, but that won’t stop Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan from taking him ridiculously high. The Jets have essentially admitted that neither Christian Hackenberg nor Bryce Petty are their starter of the future (or even 2017), so they’ve got to do something here. Trubisky has a high ceiling, but needs to be developed.
7. San Diego Chargers — Cam Robinson, OT. Chargers need OL help badly. I’m no OL guru so I’ll give them the (mostly) consensus top tackle. Hopefully the drug/gun arrest woke him up and didn’t make him think he’s invincible legally. San Diego gambled with Bosa last year and appear to have won. I think they gamble on character again to try and solidify their left tackle position.
8. Carolina Panthers — Ryan Ramczyk, OT. The Panthers will be pissed to see the best left tackle in the draft go just before them, but they’ll love to get Ramczyk nonetheless. He’s got length, aggressiveness, and athleticism as well, but falls behind Robinson because he needs to maintain leverage in both pass pro and run blocking. Still a 1b to Robinson’s 1a.
9. Cincinnati Bengals — Derek Barnett, EDGE. Pro Football Focus graded Barnett at 92.4, good enough for #1 overall among Power 5 EDGE’s. Cincinnati needs help pressuring opposing quarterbacks and Barnett is the guy to help. Edge rusher will be a very popular pick for the Bengals in multiple mock drafts.
10. Buffalo Bills — Corey Davis, WR. Perhaps the best wide receiver in the draft falls to Buffalo, and they don’t even have to mortgage the house to get him this time. The Bills have needed someone legitimate to complement Sammy Watkins forever/since 2014, and now they have potentially one of the top young receiving duos in the league.
11. New Orleans Saints — Jalen (Teez) Tabor, CB. In 302 coverage snaps this year, Tabor allowed 15 receptions. Read that again. He allowed an NFL passer rating of 39.3. In a division with Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and the young, emerging Jameis Winston, the Saints need to better their secondary ASAP. Tabor is a great start.
12. Cleveland Browns — Jamal Adams, S. I’m not sure where the Browns go with this pick, in all honesty, and they may find someone to trade down with if a premium guy falls to this spot. I do know that they need secondary help badly, be it cornerback or safety. Adams is an incredible and versatile safety option and this is a deep cornerback class.
13. Arizona Cardinals — Reuben Foster, LB. Linebacker is a big need for Arizona and the deep defensive back class makes it easy to wait there and take the top linebacking prospect. Foster can immediately be a three-down backer using his agility and power to excel against both the run and pass.
14. Indianapolis Colts — Carl Lawson, EDGE. Someone is going to fall in love with Lawson, and it might be the Colts, who have long ignored the defensive side of the ball in their draft classes. Robert Mathis is ancient and cannot be long for the NFL, and Erik Walden is barely replacement-level as a starter (not to mention, also north of 30). Lawson has premium pass-rush skills from Day 1, and has run-guarding potential once he keeps his eyes up to defend it.
15. Philadelphia Eagles — Dalvin Cook, RB. Quarterback Carson Wentz needs weapons. Missing out on Williams and Davis at wide receiver, I think Cook will be a better fit offensively in Philadelphia than Leonard Fournette. He’s better in the passing game and that tips the decision in his favor over Fournette and wide receiver John Ross.
16. Baltimore Ravens — John Ross, WR. Steve Smith is retiring, and there’s nobody else better than average in the receiving corps right now. Ross provides a small, speedy deep threat to complement quarterback Joe Flacco and keep this passing game intact.