With almost half of the season spent and already a few teams buried from playoff contention, mock draft season is in full swing for at least a couple of fan bases—I’m looking at you, metro New York.
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 Brentley Weissman’s Mock Draft 2.0 and walked through some of the most significant picks.
Best Value: Tennessee Titans select Marvin Wilson
I’m in a tricky place with Marvin Wilson. I really liked him off of the 2019 film, but he hasn’t been nearly as effective this year, both as a pass-rusher and as a run defender, and I don’t think he’s playing at full bore for Mike Norvell and the floundering Florida State Seminoles. I felt strongly that he was a first-rounder last summer, and I’m a little shakier on that now.
But with that said, I’m still in on Wilson, and I’m especially in on him in Tennessee, where Mike Vrabel’s coaching staff and Jon Robinson’s front office have been hitting on defensive prospects for a while. Vrabel likes violence in the trenches, and when Wilson’s on, he’s a people-mover at will with advanced hands and an NFL-ready frame. Wilson will play predominantly nose tackle, leaving Jeffery Simmons free to rush from the three-technique, and won’t have to play all three downs early in his career as he improves his conditioning and polishes his pass rush.
Biggest Surprise: Buffalo Bills select Derion Kendrick
I waffled between loving this and hating this so now I’m just gonna put it on the biggest surprise and then run away from it.
Derion Kendrick is a likable project prospect. Now in his second year of starting, he’s a wide receiver convert who regularly shows the ball skills you’d expect of such a transitional player—but he isn’t what you’d like in terms of physicality, technique, and risk management. As a zone cover defender, he’s still getting there in terms of his route recognition.
Kendrick is getting better, though it’s gone a bit underappreciated in Clemson coverage due to the emergence of true sophomore cornerback Andrew Booth. Buffalo needs a new corner opposite Tre’Davious White, and that could be Kendrick at the end of Round 1—I’m just not sure we’re there yet.
Best Idea I’ve Never Had: Carolina Panthers select Kyle Pitts
The Panthers need linemen, they need linebackers, they need corners, they might need a quarterback. The team is young and developing, and that’s nice, but they have a lot of needs.
The main thing they don’t need, at least right now, is a playmaker. D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson are a quality wide receiver duo even if Curtis Samuel leaves in free agency, Christian McCaffrey and Mike Davis are clearly a functional backfield, and they don’t really target their tight ends anyway.
But with all of that said... Pitts in Carolina would be a fun time. Joe Brady cooks up some great isolation and matchup-oriented stuff when he has critical down and distances, and Pitts would be a big part of that. I don’t know if it’s the best usage of the Panthers’ first-round pick, but I would love it regardless.
Head Scratcher: Chicago Bears select DeVonta Smith
The conversation around Smith will last all the way until April. He’s so ludicrously talented: as an athlete, his contact balance and quickness are NFL-caliber for any wide receiver, and I think his long speed is solid; as a technician, it’s rare to see a player of such detailed expertise at the college level. He is definitely good.
How good is he in a class that is otherwise peppered with playmakers? Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Rondale Moore, Rashod Bateman—those are some wild athletes, some explosive play creators. Smith has a lot of explosives on his docket at Alabama, but he’s far more likely to fill the role of a possession player in the league.
When you look at the Bears’ wide receiver room, well… they need everything. They can’t unlock Anthony Miller, they’re going to lose Allen Robinson in free agency for some reason, and besides Darnell Mooney, they don’t have much exciting youth. Smith as the third wide receiver off the board for the Bears, before both Moore and Bateman, is surprising to me.
Best of the Rest: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
The second tier of the EDGE class behind Greg Rousseau is extremely confusing, and a lot of names get thrown around. There are few that I’ll argue against at this time, but one that I’m willing to argue for is Azeez Ojulari, who leads the SEC in pressures and has been a terror off the EDGE through four weeks. A quality athlete who has clearly figured out his outside pass-rush, Ojulari has also been lock down in run defense and maintaining force responsibilities. This kid’s legit.