Circle the wagons, gang! It's late August, which means it's officially #MockDraftSZN for us NFL Draft analysts. After grinding through the tape this summer, a mock draft should be a fun exercise to illustrate who I think are some of the top names in the country (or who I could see the NFL totally falling in love with).
As a full and total disclaimer, the order of the selections below is based on the latest Vegas Super Bowl odds. Please direct your vitriol accordingly!
The draft order for this mock has changed slightly from the mock drafts produced by my colleagues here at The Draft Network over the past two weeks. You can read Trevor Sikkema and Jon Ledyard's first mock drafts of the season below.
No. 1 - New York Jets (Super Bowl odds: 150/1)
PICK: Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
QUICK! When's the last time the New York Jets had a great outside pass rush presence? While you're flipping through the index of Jets' history, I'll go ahead and make my case for Nick Bosa.
Nick, like big brother Joey, has versatility and experience as both an inside and outside defender. Possessing the needed hand usage and anchor to play stout against the run, Nick can afford this defense the chance to remain multiple with him on the field. Yes, the Jets will need to ensure he keeps his hand in the dirt. But his physicality will mesh well with how the Jets do business and to put it bluntly, I think he's the best player in the talent pool as things currently stand.
(P.S. - The correct answer would be John Abraham and his 53.5 sacks from 2000-2005. Sorry, Calvin Pace's one double digit sack season as a 33-year old in 2013 doesn't count.)
No. 2 - Miami Dolphins (Super Bowl odds: 100/1)
PICK: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
The Miami Dolphins bid farewell to DT Ndamukong Suh this offseason, simultaneously clearing an obscene amount of cash for future seasons and creating a massive void on the interior.
Yet even when Suh was present on this Dolphins' front, he wasn't the same penetration defender that he showed he could be during his tenure with the Detroit Lions. With just 15.5 sacks in three seasons with the Dolphins, Suh was underwhelming in that area.
Enter Ed Oliver, the human bowling ball who has totaled some obscene tackle for loss production as an undersized nose tackle at Houston. Like...38.5 tackles for loss in 25 career games levels of obscene.
Miami has youth on the defensive interior, but they don't have a playmaker. Oliver would provide them that.
No. 3 - Chicago Bears (Super Bowl odds: 100/1)
PICK: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
Rush LB Leonard Floyd has shown promise for the Bears in his first two seasons, but durability has been a big concern. Other outside pass rush threats for this team include Sam Acho, Aaron Lynch, Kylie Fitts, Isaiah Irving...
You get the point. Ferrell would be an excellent addition to this defensive front seven, providing some of that same pass rush prowess Floyd offers, but on a much more developed body. Ferrell is also an ace run defender, offering complimentary three down skills that will offer him a chance to be a plug and play defender.
Chicago's aggressive 2018 offseason added many tools for QB Mitch Trubisky to gel with this season. It's only appropriate that the team gets aggressive in addressing a key need on the other side of the football in next year's draft.
No. 4 - Cincinnati Bengals (Super Bowl odds: 100/1)
PICK: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Andy Dalton? He ain't it.
Dalton's career with the Bengals has slid into mediocrity over the past two seasons, and a simple eyeball test of his game will alert viewers that there's often meat left on the bone with the clock strikes triple zeroes. The Bengals have reached a point in Dalton's contract where a separation would incur zero dead cap space and Dalton will be 32 years old by mid-2019.
It's time to move on. Do I have my apprehensions surrounding Herbert? Absolutely. I'm not certain how much of his production comes from schemed targets and he's been a bit too rattled by pressure to this point in his career.
But I do know NFL scouts were raving about him last September when I visited Tempe to see the Ducks take on Arizona State. And with a prototype build and a big time arm, that infatuation isn't going to go away any time soon.
No. 5 - Buffalo Bills (Super Bowl odds: 100/1)
PICK: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
Woah, nelly. Metcalf is a specimen! At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Metcalf is fully capable of flying down the field. A surreal mismatch for his size, Metcalf would be a welcomed addition to the Buffalo Bills' wide receiver room.
Buffalo will need big play receivers to help draw out the best of what Josh Allen's physical tools can be as he develops as the team's starter. Metcalf as a downfield target for Allen is a terrifying possibility for opposing defenses if both players develop to reach their full potential.
No. 6 - Arizona Cardinals (Super Bowl odds: 100/1)
PICK: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
Does Left Tackle D.J. Humphries have ability? Absolutely. He's shown some promise and as a former 1st-round pick, of course the Cardinals would love to retain his services. But Humphries is 24 years old and will be entering the final year of his contract in 2019, where he will be due $9.625 million.
For a player that has logged just over 1,100 snaps in his first three seasons, that's a hefty price tag, never mind he's coming back from a dislocated knee-cap last season that cost him more than half the season.
One reason why Humphries faced a longer transition time to the NFL was due to below average functional strength as a college prospect. The Cardinals would not have such an issue with Jonah Williams, who is an absolute mauler up front.
With QB Josh Rosen now in the building, it's imperative that the Cardinals get the offensive line right. Sometimes that means targeting a position that may not rank highest on the list of needs.
No. 7 - Cleveland Browns (Super Bowl odds: 66/1)
PICK: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
Imagine if you will that Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams are your team's starting cornerbacks. No, these two aren't going to win any power lifting competitions, but they'll win a lot of battles for the football. Both Ward and Williams would provide the Browns with terrific click and close ability to drive on targets in front of their face, which would allow the front seven to be aggressive with blitzes on obvious passing downs.
The Browns' defense is coming along quite nicely, with many gifted young talents on that side of the football. But no candidate between Terrance Mitchell and Travis Carrie is an acceptable long term answer on the boundary and E.J. Gaines is currently in town on a 1-year deal.
No. 8 - Washington Redskins (Super Bowl odds: 66/1)
PICK: Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State
I can hear the gripes already.
"Washington has taken a defensive lineman in the 1st-round in each of the last two years already! Why in the world would they take another one?!"
Answer: because Ziggy Hood was horrible last year in 13 starts and 49% of the team's defensive snaps. And because Matt Ionnadis, despite 4.5 sacks last year, isn't an acceptable long term starter alongside Da'Ron Payne and Jon Allen.
The Redskins are a team that has a clear identity: they kick butt in the box with heavy handed defenders and stout play at the line of scrimmage. Pop in some Simmons tape and I expect you'll see what I do: he'd fit right in up front on this physical front seven.
No. 9 - Indianapolis Colts (Super Bowl odds: 66/1)
PICK: Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
The Colts just drafted a 270 pound defensive end from Ohio State (Tyquan Lewis) and he's currently listed as the team's back-up three technique. Just in case there were any questions regarding the status of the Colts' interior defensive line.
Davis is a terrific talent in his own right. He's a bit more raw than Simmons, Oliver, Ferrell and Bosa. But his upside and foundation as a player would automatically make him the best option on the roster from day one.
That is, of course, barring exceptional unforeseen development from the likes of Denico Autry, Al Woods, Grover Stewart, the previously mentioned Lewis, Hassan Ridgeway or Rakeem Nunez-Roches. I'll take my chances with Davis.
No. 10 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Super Bowl odds: 66/1)
PICK: Trey Adams, OT, Washington
QUICK! How many pressures has Donovan Smith allowed in the last three years as the Bucs' starting left tackle?
If you said 153, congratulations, you were right on the button!
If you're new to being a football fan, that's a really, REALLY high number. So as Smith enters the final year of his contract this year, the Bucs would be wise to turn their eyes to left tackles across the college ranks and see if there's anyone worth targeting.
I think Adams has the makings of an early pick, given his active feet and his sense of timing with his hands in pass protection.
No. 11 - Seattle Seahawks (Super Bowl odds: 50/1)
PICK: Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
Go ahead and give me your elevator pitch as to why Gary isn't absolutely the kind of player the Seahawks are going to fall in love with.
Actually, never mind. You're not going to change my mind. Seattle loves athletic hybrid defenders up front. As evidenced by the drafting of Rasheem Green in the third round last year. And the presence of Quinton Jefferson on the roster. And drafting Malik McDowell with their first draft selection of 2017. And Michael Bennett's five-year run with the team, which tallied 39.0 sacks and three consecutive Pro Bowls from 2015-2017.
Gary is more dynamic than any of them, if the reports out of Michigan spring camp are to be believed (they're not, but I digress). For a team that is looking to rebuild it's identity, it would make a lot of sense to go back to what made them so successful to begin with: depth and versatility rushing the passer.
No. 12 - Detroit Lions (Super Bowl odds: 40/1)
PICK: Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
For whatever reason, the Lions sure do hate athletic defensive ends. Ziggy Ansah aside, this team has more former college defensive tackles than it does true defensive ends on the roster. Add in Ansah's status as a player playing under the franchise tag in 2018 and it's imperative that Detroit finds someone to turn the corner and pressure the likes of Kirk Cousins, Mitch Trubisky and Aaron Rodgers.
Burns fits the mold as a long, bendy, explosive athlete up front who will almost certainly find himself in the national spotlight this season.
No. 13 - Baltimore Ravens (Super Bowl odds: 40/1)
PICK: Kelvin Harmon, WR, North Carolina State
The Ravens deserve credit for their approach this season, adding a bevy of pass catchers to the roster. But each wide receiver added to the team has questions: can John Brown stay healthy? How far is Michael Crabtree from hitting the veteran wall? Is Willie Snead a capable boundary receiver?
Enter Kelvin Harmon, who would be a beautiful fit for Joe Flac--ahem, Lamar Jackson as the primary downfield target in this offense. Jackson made a lot of plays by targeting WR Jaylen Smith, who is a similarly built player.
But Harmon offers superior ball skills and is terrific in high point situations as well.
No. 14 - Tennessee Titans (Super Bowl odds: 40/1)
PICK: Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State
Tennessee boasts a pair of former 1st-round picks at offensive tackle, but the interior is comprised of serviceable players who I wouldn't necessarily categorize as assets to the football team. What's more, the depth of this unit up front is in dire condition.
Enter Risner, who has experience playing tackle and center at Kansas State. His versatility would provide the Titans a chance to find the best five players and start them. Adding in Risner's solid foundation and his skills as a puller, he'd be an attractive piece inside for the Titans' powerful rushing attack.
No. 15 - Denver Broncos (Super Bowl odds: 33/1)
PICK: Paddy Fisher, LB, Northwestern
If you don't know who Paddy Fisher is, it's okay. He's flying totally under the radar this summer as a redshirt sophomore from a mid-tier Big Ten school.
But now that Fisher is draft eligible, look for his name to be persistent in the awards circuit at the end of the year. Fisher is the real deal, a 6-foot-4, 245 pound stud in the middle who anticipates plays developing at a maturity far beyond his years. Fisher is also disciplined in space, offering strong reps in zone coverage in the underneath areas of the field.
Plugging him into a Denver front seven that is brimming with size and power makes a whole lot of sense.
No. 16 - Carolina Panthers (Super Bowl odds: 33/1)
PICK: Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
Carolina's Safety group is, ah, not great. Deionte Thompson is looking like the next stud product to come through the Alabama machine, which has produced 13 drafted defensive backs since the 2012 draft.
Six of those players were 1st-round picks and eight are currently projected to be starters on their respective NFL franchises. Well then. Our very own Trevor Sikkema did a great job of outlining Thompson as a player, he would be a welcomed addition on the back end for the Panthers.
No. 17 - Oakland Raiders (Super Bowl odds: 33/1)
PICK: Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma
Marshawn Lynch coming back from the brink of retirement was a fun story, until it was time for Marshawn to actually get back on the field and he looked like a shell of his former self for the majority of the year.
Lynch, who is now 32 years old and apparently in line to try to shoulder the load of Coach Gruden's smash mouth rushing offense, should not be considered a long term asset for the team. Neither should Doug Martin, who has averaged less than three yards per carry in each of the last two seasons with the Bucs.
Sure, Chris Warren III has looked terrific this preseason, but the undrafted rookie shouldn't be considered an every down option either.
Hello, Rodney Anderson. The Raiders are fairly set from an offensive personnel perspective, so them being a team to take a luxury position makes some sense. Anderson roared onto the scene last year to the tune of nearly 1500 yards from scrimmage and 18 total touchdowns. At 6-foot-2, 218 pounds, Anderson is a rare talent who can win with speed or power.
No. 18 - New York Giants (Super Bowl odds: 25/1)
PICK: Brian Lewerke, QB, Michigan State
Lewerke is #MyGuy entering the 2018 college football season. What a steal this would end up being for the New York Giants, especially considering their decision to pass on Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson.
Lewerke has all the tools needed to be a big time quarterback, but he does need to alleviate some concerns before he warrants higher consideration. With stronger performances against Ohio State and Michigan in 2018 and fewer greedy plays in general, Lewerke could be the QB prospect this class needs to inject some excitement into the landscape.
Eli Manning is on his last legs and I'm not certain either Davis Webb or Kyle Lauletta offer the upside of a quality NFL starter.
No. 19 - Kansas City Chiefs (Super Bowl odds: 25/1)
PICK: Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
Oruwariye stepping into the void left by Marcus Peters' departure is a marriage I am very much here for. The Chiefs are stocked to the brim with offensive weapons. QB Patrick Mahomes will have no shortage of targets between TE Kelce, WR Hill, WR Watkins, WR Robinson, WR Conley and RB Hunt.
So why not look to answer the loss of Peters as a ball hawk with length on the boundary? Hauling Kendall Fuller in the Alex Smith trade was a great get for the Chiefs, but the competition on the other side needs some upside.
Oruwariye has explosive click and close ability, great length and splendid body control at the catch point. That'll do just fine.
No. 20 - Dallas Cowboys (Super Bowl odds: 25/1)
PICK: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
Adios, Jason Witten. While Witten felt like an ageless wonder who might never retire, it's easy to wonder if perhaps the Cowboys felt the same. This team wasn't prepared to bid farewell to Witten, given the TE room of Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Rico Gathers and Dalton Schultz.
Noah Fant isn't exactly the same type of pass catcher as Witten, but he's more dynamic and would be quite the toy for Dak Prescott. Dallas' receivers need improvement as well, but given Fant's ability as a hybrid pass catcher in the middle of the field, he's just as valuable of an addition.
Fant can stretch the field and win with size in the red zone, which will open things up for the other receivers on the roster as well.
No. 21 - Jacksonville Jaguars (Super Bowl odds: 20/1)
PICK: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
Remember how we started the conversation about Andy Dalton? Yeah, Blake Bortles ain't it, either.
And until the Jaguars decide to try their luck elsewhere, it's unlikely this loaded roster gets over the hump. Could it still happen? Of course. But Bortles neuters so much of the team's opportunities for explosive plays by his inconsistency down the field. Add in some horrid decision making (the preseason showing vs. Minnesota illustrated that, in case you'd forgotten) and the Jaguars simply need an alternative.
Drew Lock's arm is big time. He runs a spread offense, so he'll need to be given a chance to pick up what the Jaguars will be asking him to manage. But if the mental side clicks, Lock can zip the ball all over the field and he's capable of throwing with much more accuracy than what Bortles has proven to provide.
No. 22 - Los Angeles Chargers (Super Bowl odds: 20/1)
PICK: Levonta Taylor, CB, Florida State
Raise your glasses, football fans. It's time to pour one out, officially, for CB Jason Verrett and what could have been for the gifted TCU product.
Verrett's NFL career has been comprised of bright flashes of talent, mixed with devastating injuries. The latest, an Achilles tendon tear suffered during the team's conditioning test to open camp, figured to be a dagger in Verrett's tenure with the Chargers. In all likelihood, he'll never get his full explosiveness back.
It's a devastating blow. Yet in football, life must go on and teams must carry a "next man up" mentality. Taylor can be the next man up on the boundary for the Chargers. He, like Verrett, sports wonderful foot speed and anticipation to jump into route breaks. With sound discipline in the secondary, Taylor is a pro-ready player despite less than ideal size.
No. 23 - Houston Texans (Super Bowl odds: 20/1)
PICK: David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin
Speaking of less than ideal, have you caught a look at the Texans' offensive line? For a team boasting a young star quarterback in need of protection as he comes off of an ACL tear, the Texans are going to have their hands full.
The team's tackles? Julie'n Davenport, Seantrel Henderson, Chad Slade, Kendall Lamm, Roderick Johnson, Jaryd Jones-Smith and 2018 3rd-round pick, Martinas Rankin (who is better off inside, but I digress).
David Edwards was once a quarterback himself, but now he's a mammoth of an offensive tackle who knocks defenders off the line of scrimmage in the run game and has terrific length and natural anchor in pass protection.
Edwards is still a bit green and will need to eliminate a nasty false step in his pass sets. But the ability to mask his footwork with length offers hope that this could be a top tier starter if he develops cleaner feet.
No. 24 - San Francisco 49ers (Super Bowl odds: 20/1)
PICK: Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
Sure, the 49ers have invested heavily in the defensive line in recent years. Having added Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas in the first round of three consecutive drafts, it'd be easy to assume the job is done.
It isn't. One thing missing from this group? A potent pass rusher with speed. Thomas, Armstead and Buckner are all best suited to rush with power as compared to speed, which is where Sweat comes in.
After all, there is no such thing as too much pass rush.
No. 25 - Atlanta Falcons (Super Bowl odds: 16/1)
PICK: Dexter Lawrence, DL, Clemson
Lawrence and Grady Jarrett next to one another? Yes, please. Add in a third Clemson product in Vic Beasley and the Falcons are set to cook with straight gas along the defensive line.
The Falcons defense has been molded around fast, athletic linebackers. No one will make sure that Deion Jones, Duke Riley and De'Vondre Campbell are free to flow on the second level quite like Dexter Lawrence. Yes, this team just drafted a nose tackle on the second day of the 2018 draft, but Deadrin Senat should not be deterring anyone from landing a unique player like Lawrence.
No. 26 - Green Bay Packers via New Orleans Saints (Super Bowl odds: 16/1)
PICK: Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
Starting LB Jake Ryan is out for the year with a torn ACL in training camp. That leaves rookie LB Oren Burks (a former safety) and Blake Martinez as the Packers' two starting LBs in base formations. Could the Packers get away with this group? Possibly, especially if they are potent up front and able to stuff up climbing offensive linemen.
But the chance to extend a Super Bowl window will come down to making the last several years of life with Aaron Rodgers as well built as possible. So why not go out and get a promising, explosive linebacker.
We've already noted how Alabama is a defensive back factory. But how about linebackers? The Crimson Tide have had 11 linebackers drafted since 2012, with four first round picks (Rashaan Evans, Reuben Foster, CJ Mosley, Dont'a Hightower) who are all currently slated as starters for their teams.
Mack Wilson is simply next in line and would be the third LB from Alabama to have his name called in the 1st-round of as many drafts.
No. 27 - Green Bay Packers (Super Bowl odds: 14/1)
PICK: Anfernee Jennings, EDGE, Alabama
Nick Perry is a fine rush linebacker, but Clay Matthews on the other side is in need of an heir apparent. Why not land a second Crimson Tide defender, one who carries powerful hands and is capable of resetting the line of scrimmage courtesy of length and a powerful base?
Jennings would be a welcomed addition after more recent attempts at addressing the position have yielded poor results due to soft play.
No. 28 - Los Angeles Rams (Super Bowl odds: 12/1)
PICK: Devin White, LB, Louisiana State
This simply isn't right. The Rams, with all of their fresh faces on the defensive side of the football, should not be able to pick in the late 20s and haul as explosive an athlete as Devin White.
White hits like a ton of bricks, bringing a thunderous presence to the middle of a defense that has interior defensive linemen capable of wreaking havoc for guards and centers.
If there's currently a weakness on this Rams team, it's the linebackers? Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager, Mark Barron, Ramik Wilson, Tegray Scales and Micah Kiser isn't exactly an inspiring group. So to be able to put White, warts with his anticipation and all, on this roster would be a massive win at this point in the draft order.
No. 29 - Pittsburgh Steelers (Super Bowl odds: 11/1)
PICK: David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State
Adios, Le'Veon. The Steelers played hard ball with the two time All-Pro, who appears ready to pack his bags and take his talents elsewhere after the Steelers failed to show him the money.
Tis the cost of doing business in the NFL. In David Montgomery, the Steelers can add a grinder who offers some more versatility than the team currently has in James Connor. Montgomery wins with lateral quickness, contact balance and creativity in one on one tackling situations.
He may not have Le'Veon's patience, but he is, to his credit, fairly patient in allowing things to develop.
Pittsburgh is a team that can ill afford a drop off in the rushing game if they wish to extend their own window to contend for a Super Bowl.
No. 30 - Minnesota Vikings (Super Bowl odds: 10/1)
PICK: Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson
Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is entering his third season with as many teams, having bounced between the New York Jets, the Seattle Seahawks and now the Minnesota Vikings.
Richardson, who is in town on a one year contract, may not be a part of the team's long term plans, so targeting a penetration defender to play on the interior would be a wise move. In Christian Wilkins, the Vikings land a high upside player who had a down season in 2017. If Wilkins can recapture some of his 2016 magic this upcoming season, he'd be a terrific pairing with defensive ends Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen.
This would make Minnesota's defensive unit absolutely terrifying.
No. 31 - Philadelphia Eagles (Super Bowl odds: 10/1)
PICK: A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
Some of our colleagues in draft media have Brown rated as the top wide receiver prospect in the country entering the 2018 college season. Would Philadelphia really go after an offensive weapon? And if they did, would it really not be a running back?
Sure, Jay Ajayi is in the last year of his deal. But the Eagles landed Ajayi via trade and got major contributions from a UDFA in Corey Clement en route to their Super Bowl victory.
There aren't any offensive tackle prospects or linebackers who stand out as potential candidates that would fill a more immediate need for this team in the 31st slot in the draft order, either.
The team drafted a wide receiver in the 1st-round back in 2015, when 2017 breakout Nelson Agholor had his name called. In Brown, the Eagles could have another boundary player to win opposite Alshon Jeffery, making an aging Mike Wallace expendable. Wallace, who is on a one year, $4 million contract, will be 33 next summer.
As for why the Eagles should take Brown? The Ole Miss receiver has all the tools needed to be an impact player and showcases strong hands and quick feet.
No. 32 - New England Patriots (Super Bowl odds: 7/1)
PICK: Lavert Hill, CB, Michigan
The Patriots love to play press man coverage. Lavert Hill is the best press man cornerback in the Big Ten, which has several talented cornerbacks. Hill isn't ideal stature, but the technique and toughness at the line of scrimmage that Hill illustrates more than makes up for the limitations.
Hill could step in and challenge for a starting role, although more likely in Bill Belichick's system Hill will be groomed before stepping in for a key offseason loss and ensuring this team doesn't skip a beat.