With a quarter 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 Kyle Crabbs’ Mock Draft 2.0 and walked through some of the most significant picks.
Best Value: Dallas Cowboys select Shaun Wade
When we get to April, teams will identify the Cowboys as an inflection point for corners and defensive tackles—maybe even linebackers, if the poor play of Jaylon Smith continues. But for now, teams behind Dallas will likely key them as a team to leapfrog if they’re trading up for a corner.
But if the Cowboys do get a player like Shaun Wade in their laps, especially outside of the top 20, that’s a big win. With needs across the secondary, a versatile defensive back like Wade is an instant fit with any corresponding free agent moves or young player development. Wade played over the slot last season on an Ohio State secondary led by Jeffrey Okudah and Damon Arnette, but has a 6-foot-1 frame and the requisite length/strength blend to win in press coverage on the outside. Those most impressed with his tackling, hitting power, and play recognition have suggested a move to safety could also be achieved with Wade. He’s that smart and that physical.
For a Cowboys team in desperate need of any talent, that’s music to Mike Nolan’s ears. They’ll start him at outside corner, where their talent is currently weakest, and go from there.
Biggest Surprise: Jacksonville Jaguars select Kyle Pitts
The Jaguars have two first-round picks, and I’m of the mind that, unless they’re spending one on a quarterback, they should be spending both on defense. Last year that strategy went well: cornerback C.J. Henderson, taken at No. 9 overall, is one of the few rookie corners looking strong thus far; EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson, at No. 20, is still growing into his role as he attempts to alleviate the loss of Yannick Ngakoue.
Given all of the talent Jacksonville has expunged at each level of the defense over the last couple of years, they should pat themselves on the back for a well-built offensive line with some solid depth, and a varied stable of pass-catchers including tight end Tyler Eifert. Pitts is certainly a better receiving option than Eifert, but the Jaguars do already have a quality vertical outside threat in D.J. Chark and a mismatch move piece in Laviska Shenault, so Pitts would make a strength a strength while adding redundancy.
You shouldn’t go reaching for talent when you need pretty much everything, so the Jaguars would be justified in taking Pitts if he stands alone on top of their board. With players like Shaun Wade and Hamsah Nasirildeen/Andre Cisco/Trevon Moehrig/any safety you want still available, I think defense should remain their priority.
Best Idea I’ve Never Had: New Orleans Saints select Rondale Moore
As a shameless Rondale Moore fan, I don’t often see him in New Orleans’ range—but the fit is extremely exciting. If there’s another season of Drew Brees for the Saints, then Moore’s YAC ability lets Sean Payton keep the offense’s depth of target down while still finding explosive plays. Moore is such a cool fit with Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas because he can rotate all three of the spots in which those two players line up—slot, out wide, and the backfield—and still be a legitimate threat on their route trees.
The only concern is the downfield stuff, especially if you’re drafting for a post-Brees world. Moore does not have a ton of film as a vertical receiver and there are questions with the consistency of his ball-tracking ability. Moore may need to be a permanent slot early on as he irons out his releases against press and his vertical route tree, which limits the versatile aligning you like to do with Thomas.
All in all, however, this is arguably the best YAC receiver in the game on an offense that prioritizes tackle-breakers. Makes too much sense.
Head Scratcher: Los Angeles Chargers select Alex Leatherwood
I see the vision here, but the player is wrong for me. I’ve never gotten my head around Alex Leatherwood, who doesn’t have the optimal balance, fluidity, or framing on the outside arc for me to consider him a top tackle prospect. As Crabbs noted, a transition to guard might make sense for Leatherwood, and that versatility can help the Chargers find their best five. That idea is sound and I support it, but the Chargers tried this with Forrest Lamp a couple of years ago to no avail.
As such, there are better players at guard and tackle than Leatherwood, and I think the Chargers should pick a spot to fix and commit. Tackle would be my priority, where Texas’ Samuel Cosmi has a high floor for his existing athleticism as a deep-setter and recovery player, and a high ceiling defined by that ideal build and quickness. If they want to focus on guard, Trey Smith from Tennessee brings the physicality and nastiness that the Chargers will lose when Mike Pouncey decides to hang up the cleats. You could even grab Smith and argue the same guard/tackle versatility as Leatherwood, but get a better player altogether in the process.
I can’t get on board with Leatherwood as a top-15 pick just yet, even in an offensive line class that’s a little thin in the second tier behind Penei Sewell.
Best of the Rest: Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami
I gave some thought to Jay Tufele and Jaylen Twyman, the interior rushers from USC and Pitt, as well as Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave, but I landed on Quincy Roche. I think Roche is a late first-rounder at this stage, and while those fringe players can arguably fall out of a first-round mock when the board falls that way, to see both Michigan EDGEs Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson above him was surprising.
Of course, Paye and Hutchinson both fill the big, base-end molds that Roche doesn’t as a leaner, bendier outside rusher. For the teams that took them (Las Vegas and Tennessee), you can see why that mold is preferable given their schemes and current rosters. But if Roche is falling to playoff-caliber teams without many big needs, I think a player of his toolset at a position of value will be snagged. The Bills at No. 24, the Ravens at No. 30, and the Jets at No. 31 (not a playoff team, but a team that needs EDGE help) stand out to me.