Howdy sports fans!
Well, Week 1 of college football is in the books! That is, besides the Virginia Tech/Florida State game tonight, but — spoiler alert — the Hokies are gonna play road spoiler.
Okay, now it’s in the books.
Now that I’ve got Florida State fans all riled up, time to get the rest of you guys. Unlike the previous mock drafts on The Draft Network (all of which you can find here), I will not be setting my Draft order to Vegas Super Bowl odds. Instead, I will be setting my Draft order according to how bad I think your (yes, your) team is.
I didn’t pour over the rosters and schedules for this, because it’s the first week in September, and everything is going to go topsy-turvy by Week 5 anyway. Me, you, Vegas — nobody knows how this is gonna go down. So, in the event you’re happy with my selection for your squad, at least you can get upset about their ranking.
Remember: Twitter is @BenjaminSolak. Let’s get ready to rumble.
No. 1 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Selection: Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
Tampa plays in a really hard division, in a really hard conference, and I don’t like their coach or their defense or even their offense that much. Sorry.
But hey! Y’all get Nick Bosa, after swinging and missing on another ex-Buckeye edge defender in Noah Spence. Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry represent decent stop-gap options, but even if they were long-term solutions, you can’t pass up a talent like Bosa.
Unless you were taking a first-round quarterback. Which…isn’t exactly out of the realm of possibilities either for Tampa Bay. Remember, new coaching staffs like to make changes.
Kyle Crabbs walked through the Joey/Nick Bosa comparison earlier in the summer, if you want a better understanding of what makes him such a special player.
No. 2 – New York Giants
Selection: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
Which NFL offense isn’t scoring 30 points on the Giants defense? How many 30+ point games does Eli Manning have in him behind an offensive line that still leaks at multiple spots? This is why I can’t rank New York very high. Also: very tough division, very tough conference.
With every new coaching staff and new front office that comes in, a veteran QB’s job becomes less and less secure. The fresh blood simply isn’t as emotionally tied or beholden to the veteran. It even applies with younger players — the new-look Giants just shed themselves of 3rd-rounder Davis Webb, the presumed heir to be groomed behind Manning.
They do have 4th-rounder Kyle Lauletta (who I would expect to see some playing time this upcoming season), but he’s a low-end option at his best. Gettlemen and Shurmur will have their pick of the litter at the top of this class, and it’s not tough to fall in love with Drew Lock’s strong arm, nice downfield anticipation, and ability to work on the run.
A study on Lock’s window throws from Jon Ledyard, if you’re interested.
No. 3 – Buffalo Bills
Selection: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
Speaking of a new regime getting the quarterback of their choice…I think the Bills are gonna lose a lot of games this year with Josh Allen. Allen, the biggest project a quarterback can be, is more likely to be successful around Year 3 than Year 1. There’s too much work to be done between the ears.
I’m also mightily worried about the Bills’ front seven, which is where Ed Oliver comes in.
I don’t think Oliver is as elite of a prospect as some tout him to be, though he’s still a Top-2 player behind Bosa. Regardless, his penetrating ability will breathe life into a defensive front desperate for playmaking disruption since Marcell Dareus was shipped off to Jacksonville (holy Moses I forgot Jacksonville also has Marcell Dareus). Oliver makes a ton of sense next to Harrison Phillips, who is more of a space-gobbler at the nose.
No. 4 – Oakland Raiders
Selection: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
I do not have a lot of faith that the Raiders will be good this season. I don’t really think I need to circle the big reason why.
Even if that offense plays well and the Raiders draft higher than four, I’d still mark boundary corner as a need. Obi Melifonwu didn’t survive the regime change, while Rashaan Melvin lacks starter ability and rookie 4th-rounder Nick Nelson projects best as a slot piece.
Greedy Williams’ physicality, length, and recovery ability will entice every team, but I expect Jon Gruden especially to fall for his LSU pedigree and on-field demeanor as signifiers of a potential elite corner to put opposite Gareon Conley.
I also, following the Khalil Mack trade, do not expect Oakland to draft an EDGE rusher in Round 1. Poor guy would just get compared to Mack at every turn. Tough to expose a player to that and expect him to be successful.
More on Greedy Williams and technical advancements that could vault him this high, from Jon Ledyard.
No. 5 – Cleveland Browns
Selection: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
My concerns with Oakland, as listed above, are related more so to coach than to roster. Copy/paste for Cleveland, despite the talent on both sides of the ball.
Cleveland elected to snag Denzel Ward at 4th overall last season instead of Bradley Chubb — a decision I didn’t totally hate, though I did consider their faith in Emmanuel Ogbah a bit misplaced. After the rumors surrounding them and the Khalil Mack trade, it seems they really did just value Ward above Chubb. But now, they need that opposite EDGE.
Enter Ferrell, who proves a nice foil to Myles Garrett, in that he attacks the outside edge heavily, while Garrett loves to go through or inside offensive tackles. Ferrell’s testing will prove big for his stock, but I like his ability to duck his shoulder and clear the tackles’ hands. A good 3-cone time will propel him up into this region of the first round.
No. 6 – Baltimore Ravens
Selection: Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
Baltimore’s defense is good; Baltimore’s offense is bad. They’re gonna deal with a quarterback controversy after every bad Joe Flacco week, which is very distracting. Also, I don’t think we talk enough about ex-DC Dean Pees being gone.
When I look at the defense, the last gap I see is that of a true single-high safety: Eric Weddle is turning 33 and has been losing some of his physical ability, while Tony Jefferson must play in the box to be successful.
Thompson is going to skyrocket up boards if he keeps playing as well as he did against Louisville — Trevor Sikkema profiled his unbelievable range and ball skills in the summer. Playmaking safeties have been drafted at a premium in recent years — Ohio State’s Malik Hooker went right around this range — and Thompson looks to have that level of back-end influence. He’s a riser to watch.
No. 7 – Indianapolis Colts
Selection: Raekwon Davis, iDL, Alabama
Here is my take: Raekwon Davis, my 3rd overall player, is closer to Ed Oliver than Ed Oliver is to Nick Bosa. That has a bit to do with Oliver, yes — but also, it has to do with Raekwon. They just don’t make ’em like this, man.
Davis is strapped together in a different way, and his quickness and leverage at his size particularly impress. Indianapolis needs that blue-chip wrecker on the interior to take some plays over, and that’s what they could have with Davis. The more rush moves he learns to harness the power in his hands and flexibility in his massive frame, the more unblockable he’ll become. The returns may not be as high in Year 1, but in Year 3? Sheesh.
Davis, Kemoko Turay, and Jabaal Sheard is a passable defensive line in the NFL. The Colts haven’t had that since Dwight Freeney/Robert Mathis days, man.
No. 8 – Cincinnati Bengals
Selection: David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin
Cincinnati will likely draft higher than this; their roster isn’t terrible. But I know for sure they aren’t making the playoffs, because Marvin Lewis is their coach. So 8th overall it is.
Quarterback would make fun and sense here, but it won’t happen until Dalton’s arm literally falls off. The Red Rifle’s set to make $16M in 2019 — all of which is non-guaranteed — which is why I’m absolutely positive he won’t be cut. It would just make too much sense.
As such, I’ll give him a stellar bookend as protection. As it stands, one of Jake Fisher, Cedric Ogbuehi, and Bobby Hart looks to start at right tackle for Dalton, which is a ‘least of three evils’ situation. David Edwards looks to be an inevitable riser in a strong OT class — if NFL teams value UCLA Kolton Miller’s mobility in the Top-10, then what will they do with a similar mover but far more advanced technician? As scouts and media analysts alike turn on Wisconsin tape for Beau Benzschawel or Michael Deiter, they’ll inevitably be drawn to Edwards — he’s the best player on the best line in the nation, and should be drafted accordingly.
No. 9 – Miami Dolphins
Selection: Will Grier, QB, West Virginia
But when I look for a player who could ascend in a weaker quarterback class, I firstly circle the seniors — those who must declare. That eliminates players like Lewerke and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham.
Grier also has the potential to put up video game numbers with West Virginia’s weapons and offensive line. I expected the Mountaineers to beat up on Tennessee, but 400+ yards and 5 touchdowns will turn my eyes any day of the week. Grier’s off to a hot start, and he has as much natural arm talent as anyone else in the senior class. Kyle Crabbs broke that game down for y’all.
Grier could be a beneficiary of Baker Mayfield’s improbable run and subsequent Draft success, in that teams will likely view them in similar molds in terms of size and play style. A developed passer with a good deep ball, Grier could make more noise in this QB class than I think we admit.
No. 10 – New York Jets
Selection: Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
I think the Jets might be a tough out under Darnold this year. The young QB is one of the most electric fourth quarter gamers I’ve ever seen — a Rocky Balboa-esque down-but-never-out player that will inspire his teammates. That offense might be sneaky good, though they need OL help.
But I don’t see this defense generating any edge pressure with Jordan Jenkins and Josh Martin on the outside. It’s simply negligent, to have Leonard Williams and Nathan Shepherd both ripping it up through the B-gaps, and not have any help on the outside to clean up the mess in the pocket.
So select Burns, who’s wicked bendy and growing in terms of hand usage. I know Jon Ledyard prefers Burns to 5th overall selection Clelin Ferrell for the differences in athletic ability around the outside track — I’m not there yet, but I do think Burns could have a higher ceiling. His ability to dip and rip, as well as incorporate secondary moves to confound his opponent throughout the game, stands out to me.