It’s a long, exhaustive process, folks, but we’ve made it.
From early summer scouting, to the college football season and pre-draft circuit, the draft is just a few short days away. Without further ado, here is how I see the first round playing out come showtime in Vegas.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
Teams bet on traits – that’s one thing we know for certain – and when it comes to Walker, he’s General Manager Trent Baalke’s guy here to kick off the draft. A do-it-all defender whose best football remains down the road, Walker is an uber-athletic mammoth with a unique blend of size/speed/power to overwhelm offensive linemen.
- Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Smokescreens are fun to navigate through this time of year, but I don’t think Detroit gets tricky. A Michigan native, Hutchinson is a foundational piece to build upon as an individual that also happens to be a heck of a football player. He fills an immediate vacancy on defense that will also provide a resounding voice in a locker room in need of such.
- Houston Texans: Derek Stingley, CB, LSU
Production and injuries over the last two years could cause him to slip further, but Stingley has all the makeup to become one of the league’s most dominant corners.
- New York Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
The NFL hangs its hat on the passing game, and while Houston needs fresh legs at corner – and a multitude of other spots – getting after the quarterback remains the name of the game, and Thibodeaux has the highest ceiling of any pass-rusher in the class.
- New York Giants: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
A long, wiry prospect whose skill set should thrive within Wink Martindale’s defense, Gardner’s alpha-mentality should fit nicely under the bright lights of the Big Apple.
- Carolina Panthers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
Smokescreens aside, the Panthers need a change under center. While Pickett won’t move the needle for many, he’s someone Carolina can build around and someone I envision meshing well with Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson.
- New York Giants: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Protection for Daniel Jones. In a make-or-break year, Neal is the pick here.
- Atlanta Falcons: Drake London, WR, USC
The Falcons need talent on the perimeter. With that, give me CFB’s most dominant receiver before his injury.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Wilson is Roseman’s guy, and with extra leverage next year, the Eagles pair Wilson with DeVonta Smith for Jalen Hurts.
- New York Jets: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State
The most dominant run blocker in the class, GM Joe Douglas adds beef up front to protect Zach Wilson and lead the way for Michael Carter
- Washington Commanders: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Yes, I know Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame) is still on the board, but this is PREDICTIVE, not a “what I would do” mock. The tea leaves are just too apparent here to deny the fit and with Head Coach Ron Rivera’s extensive history in taking players from the pipeline in Columbus. Olave fits the script and fills an immediate need for the new-look burgundy and gold offense under quarterback Carson Wentz’s command. The most fluid route runner in the class, Olave’s polished skill set should jigsaw well with McLaurin and do-it-all weapon Curtis Samuel.
- Minnesota Vikings: Jordan Davis, IDL, Georgia
Davis is an athletic freak for his size and immediately boosts the Vikings’ run game. He will eat up bodies within the interior to open up one-on-one opportunities on the outside. Athletes of his size and Herculean athletic profile don’t last long – and he’s a one-of-one type of football player.
- Houston Texans: Kyle Hamilton, SAF, Notre Dame
The Texans need defensive playmakers and Hamilton fits the script. He’s a unique athlete with the blend of size/range that will allow him to succeed within any defensive scheme, don’t get tricky here if you’re Nick Caserio.
- Baltimore Ravens: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
With an extremely high ceiling, Baltimore strikes gold with Johnson. Pairing him with Odafe Oweh will cause offensive coordinators to stay up late at night.
- Seattle Seahawks: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
The most athletically-gifted tackle in the class, Cross’ stock has skyrocketed the last few weeks as teams have begun to nail down their boards. The name of the game is through the air, and while Cross has work to do in the run game, he’s an immovable force when he anchors and his lower half consistently presents him with the opportunity to stymie opposing rushers. Whoever ends up aligning under center this fall will be happy to see Cross along the front five.
- New Orleans Saints: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
A powerful, nasty blocker, Penning will slide in nicely as Jameis Winston’s blindside protector.
- Los Angeles Chargers: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Keenan Allen. Mike Williams. Jameson Williams.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
McDuffie is one of the most intelligent defenders in the class that should thrive in Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s heavy Cover 3 scheme. He understands the optics of the position unlike any corner in the class and that pro-ready skill set should allow him to succeed from day one working opposite Darius Slay. As good as he is at mirroring routes, he’s a willing tackler in the run, and just a bonafide difference-maker within the secondary.
- New Orleans Saints: Devonte Wyatt, IDL, Georgia
One of the most dominant interior defenders in the class, Wyatt should slot in nicely anchoring Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport, and Payton Turner.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Mike Tomlin gets his guy. Pittsburgh’s window for success is now, and Willis gives the Steelers the best chance to compete within a loaded AFC North.
- New England Patriots: Zion Johnson, IOL, Boston College
This has Bill Belichick’s fingerprints all over it. Turn on his film and he quickly introduces himself as one of the bonafide studs in this year’s class. A versatile interior presence, he has an All-Pro ceiling and should enjoy immediate success working under one of the best teachers the game has ever seen.
- Green Bay Packers: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Rodgers gets his WR1. An aerial artist with smooth footwork and the ability to run a full route tree, he should earn a ton of targets from Day 1.
- Arizona Cardinals: Boye Mafe, EDGE, Minnesota
Mafe plays with his hair on fire and after getting live eyes on him down at the Senior Bowl, he checked a ton of boxes for me as a talent that could attempt to fill the shoes of Chandler Jones in the seasons to come. An odd-front defense fits his skill set well.
- Dallas Cowboys: Lewis Cine, SAF, Georgia
Daxton Hill and Jaquan Brisker were tempting here, but man can Cine fly around. One of the most imposing secondary defenders in the class, Cine is a pad-popping safety who will let you know where he is at all times. He’s a culture changer on the backend – something Dallas needs in a division touting Terry McLaurin, newly drafted Chris Olave, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shephard, DeVonta Smith, and newly drafted Eagle Drake London.
- Buffalo Bills: Tariq Woolen, CB, UTSA
Like Jordan Davis, unique athletes don’t last long, and when it comes to Woolen, a 6-foot-4 blend of size and 4.2 speed, you don’t get cute. Buffalo is in desperate need of corner help, and while his best football remains down the road as he converts from the wide receiver spot, he showcased well at the Senior Bowl. He should slot in nicely as the second cornerback.
- Tennessee Titans: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill doesn’t cut it for me and when running back Derrick Henry went out, the passing game under Tannehill flustered substantially. He’s fine with Henry healthy, but “fine” doesn’t win AFC titles, and with a talent like Ridder primed and ready whether the Titans see him as a starter this year, or next, Tannehill deserves someone breathing down his neck.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Travis Jones, IDL, UCONN
Pick your poison. Whether teams opt to block Vita Vea, or Jones, opening up 1-1 opportunities on the outside remains of utmost importance for head coach Todd Bowles.
- Green Bay Packers: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
Karlaftis at Lambeau in January is something out of a movie script. A powerful edge defender, Karlaftis isn’t the sexiest of prospects in comparison to Hutchinson or Thibodeaux, but he flat out wins on the edge and I have zero doubt in my mind he will become a force to be reckoned with working alongside Rashan Gary and Preston Smith.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Jaquan Brisker, SAF, Penn State
With Tyrann Mathieu expected to sign elsewhere, Brisker is the ideal fit as a do-it-all defender. He has the ability to blow up blocks, cover in space, and work downhill as a violent tackler.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Don’t let a 40 time sway your opinion on Burks. His ability as a route-runner has work to do but get the ball in Burks’ hands and let him work.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Daxton Hill, SAF, Michigan
Jessie Bates is a stud, but with Vonn Bell in a contract year, adding Hill to combat the high-octane passers of the division could be the ideal add. This could be a spot Cincinnati adds an interior lineman or edge rusher, but Hill checks a ton of boxes to counter Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, and the newly drafted Pittsburgh signal-caller in Malik Willis.
- Detroit Lions: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Campbell needs fresh legs at the second level and after adding Hutchinson at No. 2 overall, General Manager Brad Holmes provides his second-year head coach with a player to build around in the middle of an improving defense. With Hutchinson up front, Lloyd at middle linebacker, and cornerback Jeff Okudah expected to evolve into a high-level defender within the secondary, the Lions are taking a firm step forward in the right direction.
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