With half of the season spent and the playoff picture beginning to winnow out the field, mock draft season is in full swing for several sad fan bases turning their eyes toward the future.
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 3.0 and walked through some of the most significant picks.
Best Value: New Orleans Saints select Dylan Moses
I had Dylan Moses as my best value when Jordan Reid gave him to the Chiefs in last week’s mock draft, and I can’t have anyone besides Moses here for the Saints at the end of the first round as well.
The Saints’ linebacker need may not be as big as the Chiefs’ is, as they now have Demario Davis, Kwon Alexander, and rookie third-rounder Zack Baun all under contract through the next few seasons. With that said, Alexander isn’t as high-impact of a player as he used to be— hence his availability in trade—so the Saints would not be wrong to continue getting younger and healthier at the position. As long as Moses’ medical checks are clear, he’s a great value outside of the top 20 for his three-down ability.
Biggest Surprise: Miami Dolphins select Jaylen Waddle
It’s not that the Dolphins selected Waddle—why wouldn’t they? He’s a great player. Rather, it’s that they made him the first receiver taken off the board, before LSUs Ja’Marr Chase.
When the opt-out structure was created for future NFLers who didn’t want to risk another college football season, one of the dynamics about which we wondered was the potential for top players to fall out of the national eye as their competitors played. The last football we saw of Chase was Biletnikoff-winning, and while the last football we saw from Waddle before his injury was Biletnikoff-worthy, he had not yet secured the award. It’s easy to forget just how dominant Chase was.
With all of that said, Crabbs is right to say that different teams will value different wide receiver prospects at the top of the class. With each passing year that we see amazing wide receiver classes, the league will not only get smarter at evaluating wideouts, but also acknowledge that drafting for roles is critical when talent is relatively equal. I’m not sure I will view Waddle’s talent as equal to Chase’s when all is said and done, but for the role Miami needs to fill, Waddle is a better option.
Best Idea I’ve Never Had: Tennessee Titans select Rashod Bateman
Staying on wide receivers, I’m interested in how the Titans address their wide receiver room in the upcoming season. Both Corey Davis, who is on pace for his best season as a pro, and deep threat Kalif Raymond are in contract years, and while the Titans use a heavy personnel approach that doesn’t need a ton of wide receiver depth, they do need a viable option opposite A.J. Brown. That need will only grow if Arthur Smith, their offensive coordinator, gets hired away for a head coaching job—something I would say is more likely than not at this stage.
Bateman is a good fit for the current offense, in that his YAC ability on in-breakers, as well as dominant vertical game on the outside, should make him a walking explosive play in a system built on one. In the event of a system change, Bateman and Brown are nicely interchangeable in that both can win from the slot and outside. While Bateman’s season in Minnesota is unlikely to shine with top-end stats given the poor quarterbacking and spacing of the new Golden Gophers offense, his talent remains unimpeachable.
Head Scratcher: Miami Dolphins select Travis Etienne
Crabbs’ Dolphins get the laurel for their surprise first first-round pick, but I’m not sold on the second first-round pick. Etienne is a good player, and the Dolphins should continue pouring resources into the offense while also looking for depth on defense—but I don’t think they need an upgrade at running back this badly.
Myles Gaskin has been a great find for the Dolphins in Year 2, and while failed experiments like Kalen Ballage and Jordan Howard do leave the depth chart a little thin underneath him, the Dolphins proved with Salvon Ahmed’s quality work in Gaskin’s absence that their offensive line is the engine, and a smart running back should be able to keep the wheels turning behind that mauling group.
I do believe the Dolphins should add to the running back room, but this is too early.
Best of the Rest: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
I’m still in on Wade as a first-rounder on athletic talent almost exclusively, though I do think the quality play of such corners as Eric Stokes and Jaycee Horn should be acknowledged. Wade won’t walk into a team in Year 1 and dominate given his relative greenness to the outside corner spot, but I can’t pass up the promise in that profile with a late first-round pick. He can be a difference-maker on a defense if he pans out.