With only a couple of weeks of the regular season remaining and the playoff picture coming into view, it’s already mock draft season for almost half of the league.
Here at The Draft Network, you can read a new mock draft every Monday and see my review of each mock afterward, with second and third round updates coming later in the week. If you want to do your own mock draft for your favorite team, open our Mock Draft Machine and take control of the reins yourself!
I sat down with Jordan Reid’s Mock Draft 4.0 and walked through some of the most significant picks.
Best Value: Baltimore Ravens select Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Well, well, well—if it isn’t the best tight end on the board available for one of the tight end-heaviest teams in the league. Whatever shall we do?
In all seriousness, Pitts may not be a traditional tight end prospect—but the Ravens don’t need him to be one. Baltimore has prioritized vertical receivers in the Lamar Jackson era, spending an early pick on Marquise Brown and middling picks on Miles Boykin and Devin Duvernay, as well as star tight end Mark Andrews. It hasn’t gone well: the Ravens lack separation players on the underneath route tree and desperately need a high-volume target who can move the sticks.
Pitts is great for that role—call him a tight end, a wide receiver, or whatever you want. He is obviously still great on the vertical stems that the Ravens prioritize, but with his hand usage and catch radius, will be an ideal possession player who can take 100% of the snaps with Andrews and provide acceptable blocking from slot and H-back alignments.
Biggest Surprise: Las Vegas Raiders select Daviyon Nixon, iDL, Iowa
I’ve enjoyed Daviyon Nixon’s breakout year—not in small part because he was Thicc Boii of the Week on the Locked On NFL Draft podcast for his euro-step elusiveness on a pick-six. You read that right.
With that said, I have not watched Nixon enough to consider him a first-round player. It’s a weak defensive tackle class, with penetrating 3-techniques in high demand following the opt-outs of Jay Tufele and Jaylen Twyman and the underwhelming season of Christian Barmore. Nixon’s 5.5-sack, 13.5-TFL season across eight games is about as strong of a resume season as we have in the class.
If Reid’s in on him, it’s likely that the league is high on him—we saw Nixon at DT2 for Dane Brugler in his most recent board update, so that tracks. We don’t even know if Nixon is in the draft yet, but he’s certainly put himself in this conversation.
Best Idea I’ve Never Had: New England Patriots select Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Yes, the Patriots need wide receivers. But typically we see the Patriots attacking an outside receiver, as they have slot machine Julian Edelman and blog slot Jakobi Meyers already in the building. Also: Waddle doesn’t usually make it this far down the board, but Reid has DeVonta Smith going earlier than Waddle, and Detroit passes on him for a quarterback. So here he is.
Edelman and Meyers are not talented (and young) enough to discourage the selection of Waddle, especially when you consider that Waddle’s downfield ball tracking and long speed will spell a healthy amount of outside reps. It feels odd for the Patriots to grab someone who just oozes playmaking—we usually think of Patriots’ players as unathletic grinders with technical prowess—but speed and quickness translate to any system, and the Patriots could use a wide receiver or two that brings more to the table than just timing routes. Waddle helps this offense evolve.
Head Scratcher: Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
Talent? First-round for sure. That’s never been the question with Jaelan Phillips. He was the No. 3 overall recruit in the 2017 class for his wicked quickness and explosiveness at a pro-ready frame.
But Phillips never panned out at UCLA, his first stop in college football, as he endured multiple ankle injuries and a concussion in his freshman season. Before his sophomore season, Phillips had an accident while riding his moped and broke his wrist—he tried to play through the pain before another concussion knocked him out of his 2018 campaign. Phillips medically retired from football in 2019 before seeking a return in 2020 and transferring to Miami.
At Miami, he’s healthy and he’s eating. Phillips has 15.5 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks through 10 games. Of course, the player he replaced, Gregory Rousseau, had 15.5 sacks and 19.5 TFLs in a similar role. Even with Phillips’ physical talent considered, a one-year breakout on a defensive line that generates plenty of disruptive opportunities is a worrisome bet with the injury history considered. Phillips’ medical red flags must be cleared before he’s considered a safe bet in the first round.
Best of the Rest: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
It’s rare to see a mock draft without Eric Stokes in the first round nowadays. I’m not sold that Stokes is a Round 1 grade, but it’s a light draft class at the top, and off of a productive season at a position of major need, he usually sneaks in. Three cornerbacks in the first round, as Jordan has here, would be tied for the second-lowest number in the last 10 years—only 2019, in which one corner was drafted in the first round, is lower.
- Aug 22, 2022
- Aug 22, 2022