Sound the Air Raid siren, because the NFL Draft is once again upon us. We won’t have to wait too long for suspense as the Top 5 will be utterly intriguing, starting with the very first pick. In which direction will Arizona go? Perhaps some NFL journalist will break the news before the draft even begins, but, for now, we are left wondering…
Are the Cardinals really so down on Josh Rosen after so little time spent on an atrocious roster? Ultimately, that’s the question. Because while the facile notion that Kyler Murray is a system fit for new coach Kliff Kingsbury’s version of the Air Raid offence is an attractive one, would anyone argue with a straight face that, at his best, Josh Rosen can’t excel in this system? Drafting Murray and trading Rosen for pennies on the dollar is not the kind of move well-run organisations make. Then again, this is the team that botched both the hiring and the firing of Steve Wilkes, so who knows? And should they opt against drafting Murray and go for one of the many defensive front players in the draft (there’s a really good case for them to do so), what does that mean for Murray? Or would they consider trading down? And then who would come up?
Speaking of dealing down, can the 49ers justify not doing so? If they stay at two, they’re probably taking Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams or Josh Allen. If you combine that with the acquisition of Dee Ford and the presence of Deforrest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas, that makes five first-round defensive linemen on the roster and three who were drafted in the top 10. I love my pass rushers, but you’d have to question John Lynch’s roster allocation at that point.
And what the hell are the Raiders going to do? This is the team that traded Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper and must now make good on all the draft picks they got in return for gutting the roster. The entire NFL intelligentsia seems to doubt Jon Gruden’s commitment to QB Derek Carr. Would they consider drafting Kyler Murray should the Cards pass on him? If you’re going to draft a Josh Allen, what the hell was the point of trading Mack? The rookie contract? Wasn’t the knowledge of Mack’s stardom worth the money? Oh, what the hell.. Do they trade down? Mystery…
The team just outside the top 5 with the potential to shape the rest of the first round is the Giants. What happens if they don’t take a quarterback at six or, to put it another way, how would that affect the rest of the teams in the market for a quarterback? All fascinating questions with only one certitude: as usual, this is going to be fun.
- Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma: The reasoning for this pick amounts to this: where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Too many people have been convinced this is happening for too long, and I don’t see a scenario like last year when we found out mere hours before the draft that the Browns really liked Baker Mayfield. The Browns were taking a quarterback for sure. The Cards are either taking Murray, or they’re drafting another position. If I’m the GM, I’m really fond of Josh Rosen, and I give him the chance to crush it in a pass-happy system. However, I think Kliff Kingsbury got to watch Murray up close last year, opts to press reset again, and starts with last year’s Heisman winner.
- San Francisco 49ers: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State: So I make the case that the 49ers should trade down, and I believe they should. But here’s the thing: I think they get stuck with the pick. The Jets are believed to be a lock to trade down, and few teams have the draft ammo to come up and get a defensive linemen at two. Solomon Thomas has not provided the pass rushing spark that was expected and, with Bosa, Buckner and Dee Ford, San Fran’s pass rush should be pretty scary.
- New York Giants (Trade with Jets): Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama: Now before you ask, I’m predicting a pick swap between the Jets and Giants, with the Jets getting the 6th pick and the Giants’ second rounder (37). The Giants are gambling that they’re getting the quarterback at 17, and they get a dominant interior player who camps in opposing backfields versus the run and the pass.
- Oakland Raiders: Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State: Ahead of Josh Allen? AHEAD OF JOSH ALLEN?!?!?!?!?! Hear me out… A few things… First, while people have more and more of a tendency to disregard the difference between 4-3 and 3-4 when it comes to edge rushers, Jon Gruden mentioned, when the team traded Mack, that the move to a 4-3 was among the reasons for the trade. Probably crap, but you know if they’re going to draft a pass rusher (and they will), they’ll look for a fit for the 4-3, and Sweat is more of a natural for a four-man front than Allen. Also, this is exactly the kind of contrarian ranking Mike Mayock consistently carried when he worked for the NFL Network (Rashard Mendenhall over Darren McFadden; McCoy over Suh, the list goes on…). Watch the Raiders stay entertaining. Don’t ever change, guys.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Allen, Edge rusher, Kentucky: This is the perfect pick. With Todd Bowles taking over as defensive coordinator and running a liquid defence fueled by hybrid players, Allen is a franchise pass rusher who fits this kind of scheme diversity like a glove. Allen picks himself for the Bucs. Now, here’s to hoping they spend their second rounder on new uniforms.
- New York Jets (Trade with Giants): TJ Hockenson, TE, Iowa: Everybody seems to agree, for good reason, that the Jets need a pass rusher. What they also need is to surround Sam Darnold with help. There isn’t a pass rusher or a wide receiver worth taking here, so the Jets grab Hockenson, who becomes a multi-purpose weapon as both a blocker and a receiver.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida: The Jags continue their road to yet another disappointing season by overdrafting an unrefined, inconsistent lineman who theoretically fills a need at right tackle. Did I mention I want every member of that front office to get canned?
- Detroit Lions: Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan: So this is a huge risk because Gary was an underachiever at Michigan, but theoretically, he”s a local guy who adds the speed to rush from the edge on early downs as well as the strength and bulk to kick inside as an interior pass rusher on 3rd and long. IN THEORY, he never has to come off the field. Detroit’s starting DTs are A’Shawn Robinson and Snacks Harrison, and while they are both excellent versus the run, you’re not getting much of a pass rush from either one. Did I mention this is the sort of pick that has been keeping Detroit crappy for ages?
- Buffalo Bills: DK Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss: The Bills cook up the neat combination of a quarterback who can throw it really deep but erratically with a receiver who can really get deep but runs routes erratically. This pick is so Buffalo, it’s just too perfect.
- Denver Broncos: Devin White, LB, LSU: I know people are talking quarterback here, but I think John Elway made the Joe Flacco trade to push back the need to take a quarterback here. Moreover, John Elway is quite possibly fighting for his job. He must win games and thus can ill afford to spend a top 10 pick on a player who’s likely sitting next season.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State: How fitting is this? With a new coach comes a renewal at quarterback, and the local product Haskins brings exactly what the doctor ordered for the Bengals: upside. The team can now see what it can get for Andy Dalton, and keep him in the starting lineup if the offers are unsatisfying.
- Green Bay Packers: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa: You think the Packers’ new offensive-minded head coach would like for his superstar quarterback to have better weapons? Pass rusher was Green Bay’s other big need, but they took care of that in free agency to be able to grab an offensive player here.
- Miami Dolphins: Devin Bush, LB, Michigan: I smell a tankeroo in Miami, which means the Phins will focus on getting the kind of players who will help establish the desired culture for Pats alum HC Brian Flores. Were Bush two inches taller, he’d be a mortal lock as a top 10 pick. This is a steal for Miami.
- Tennessee Titans (Trade with Falcons): Brian Burns, Edge Rusher, Florida State: The Titans need an edge rusher opposite Harold Landry now that mainstays Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan are gone. Cameron Wake is a solid veteran but could fall off the cliff at any time and isn’t a long-term option even if he doesn’t. Burns has the athletic ability and the move set to give Tennessee what they need here.
- Washington Redskins: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke: Some may like Drew Lock more, but Jones is a bit less up-and-down and we have yet to find out just how good he can be behind an offensive line that’s worth a damn. Shame for Alex Smith, really.
- Carolina Panthers: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson: With Julius Peppers’ retirement, the Panthers now need a franchise pass rusher. Ferrell, a base end type who fits Carolina’s system, is a logical pick for the Panthers here.
- New York Giants (from Cleveland): Drew Lock, QB, Missouri: The Giants need a quarterback, and it makes sense for old-school GM Dave Gettleman to like a tall, big-armed passer like Lock. It’s also a plus that he gets to spend a year adjusting to the pro game behind Eli Manning.
- Seattle Seahawks (Trade with Vikings): Ed Oliver, DT, Houston: The Seahawks can’t believe their luck. They get a playmaking 3-technique they badly needed and Oliver’s elite quickness will remind Seahawks’ fans of Michael Bennett.
- Atlanta Falcons (Trade with Titans): Greedy Williams, CB, LSU: Atlanta needs cornerback help opposite Desmond Trufant and wins on its gamble that it can get a high-level starter while trading down. Williams, with his length and great speed, is a perfect fit for Atlanta’s defence.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma: No one can truly replace Antonio Brown, but with the
big-mouthbig-play receiver gone, what remains is a duo of muscle catchers with running back builds in Juju Smith-Schuster and James Washington. Brown’s speed and field-stretching ability in the slot provides a nice complement to the pass catchers Pittsburgh already has on the roster.
- Minnesota Vikings: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama: The Vikings have guaranteed Kirk Cousins the GDP of a small country, and it would be a shame to see that investment go to waste because the Vikes’ offensive line is a train wreck. They could use upgrades inside or at right tackle, and Williams can help at either one of those spots.
- Baltimore Ravens: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State: Baltimore probably needs an edge rusher, but there isn’t one worth taking here. Simmons, whose dominance stood out even as he played next to Montez Sweat, fits nicely on the Ravens’ front three. He warrants a higher pick, but falls here because of his February ACL injury.
- Houston Texans: Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State: Whether the Texans go for Dillard depends on whether they actually think they can get passable left tackle play from Julien Davenport and/or Matt Kalil. I have my doubts. When your quarterback is Deshaun Watson, you need an athletic pass protector to man his blind side.
- Oakland (from Chicago): Irv Smith, TE, Alabama: The Raiders lost Jared Cook in free agency, and Smith is a quality pass catcher whose athleticism makes him an asset to whoever is the long-term quarterback for this team. Why not a wide receiver here? Because you take him at 27. There will be a receiver who belongs in round one at 27. If Smith leaves in the next three picks, the next best tight end doesn’t belong in round one.
- Kansas City Chiefs (Trade with Eagles): Johnathan Abrams, SS, Mississippi State: Having just lost Eric Berry, the Chiefs need help in the secondary. They could go corner, but they jump on the chance to take an enforcer safety who can make the Chiefs more physical in the back end.
- Indianapolis Colts: Dexter Lawrence, NT, Clemson: The Colts are starting to look pretty loaded and, even though they could go in a number of valid directions here, Margus Hunt is an awkward fit at nose tackle. The Lawrence pick makes a lot of sense in a division where you play four games against big backs Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry. The new Haloti Ngata, Lawrence helps in that regard.
- Oakland (from Dallas): AJ Brown, WR, Ole Miss: To go along with the big play potential of Antonio Brown, the Raiders choose another Brown, AJ, whose big body will allow him to battle for tough yards underneath. Derek Carr is starting to run out of excuses.
- Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson: The Chargers already have a strong pass rushing presence with edge dynamos Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Now, they add Wilkins, an interior penetrator who makes the Chargers’ defensive line even more fearsome.
- Philadelphia Eagles (Trade with Chiefs): Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma: The Eagles are loaded enough to go for the best available player, and Ford can be groomed as the right tackle of the future, which would in turn allow Lane Johnson to kick over to the left side when Jason Peters finally moves on. A real value pick here for the Eagles.
- Green Bay (from New Orleans): Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina State: The Packers’ offensive line doesn’t lack grit, but it lacks talent. Bradbury is smart, tough, and talented. When the running game and the pass protection has been pedestrian for so long AND when your quarterback is Aaron Rodgers, Bradbury is a welcome addition.
- Los Angeles Rams: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington: With this pick, LA gets the best available player and a potential replacement for Marcus Peters if he continues bleeding big plays.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (Trade with Patriots): Nasir Adderley, FS, Delaware: You know the Patriots are trading out of this pick, and the Jags come up to get Adderley because Tashaun Gibson became a cap casualty, yet you need a true centre field at free safety in their defence. The safety calibre dips in quality after Adderley.