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.
No. 11 - Arizona Cardinals
Selection: Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State
Man, the cupboard is bare for last year's top selection Josh Rosen. Larry Fitzgerald (35 years old) obviously represents a Hall of Fame talent at the receiver position, but he looks to be on his final season in Arizona.
Arizona did add Christian Kirk in last year's Draft, but I like Kirk more as an underneath stick mover than a downfield threat. Harmon brings excellent route running and good YAC ability to all three levels of the field, but particularly impresses in his alpha mentality in the deep third. He's one of the best separators in this class and does well to read zone coverage, which jells nicely with Rosen's pinpoint accuracy to hit tight windows.
It's worth noting that Kelvin Harmon comes into the season as the WR2 on the consensus Draft Network rankings, despite having a relatively quieter name than some lesser players. If Ole Miss's D.K. Metcalf, a redshirt sophomore, doesn't declare...Harmon's WR1.
No. 12 - Detroit Lions
Selection: Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
Montez Sweat's an elite prospect, folks -- and we ain't talking enough about it.
Detroit's been working hard to find that impact EDGE rusher opposite Ziggy Ansah for a hot second now. Maybe Kerry Hyder is actually the answer -- he exploded for 8 sacks in his only full season of NFL play. Maybe it's Anthony Zettel, who is currently penciled in for the start, and has had some flashy play in the past. Or maybe it's Harold Landry who they -- oop! Who they didn't draft last year.
Sorry, Lions fans. Had to poke my fun.
Sweat plays a physical brand of football that exceeds expectations for his thinner frame. If he bulks up and retains his explosiveness, he represents a stellar athletic profile for an NFL EDGE. Add in the awareness to work inside counters and the increasingly effective hand usage, the insane motor and pursuit speed to just get after it...woah Nelly!
Sweat's one of my guys this season.
No. 13 - Seattle Seahawks
Selection: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
Many seem to believe this Seattle roster is entirely bare besides Russell Wilson. I'm not fully there.
I think Doug Baldwin, Kenny Clark, K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner, and Duane Brown all represent impact players at their respective positions across the league. Shaquill Griffin profiles nicely as a starter; Ethan Pocic has a good chance to become a strong player as well. There are pieces here.
But there are certainly gaps to address. It's tough to profile what Seattle will do in the first round -- they've only had three first-round picks since 2012 (which is nuts!) -- but I'll take Jonah Williams. The Alabama product is a stellar college offensive tackle who should remain at that position, but also looks to positively profile to guard if you need to make the move.
Seattle still has holes on the interior, but I think Pocic, D.J. Fluker, and Justin Britt isn't the worst interior you could ask for. Germain Ifedi and George Fant fighting for the RT job, however, isn't good news for anyone. That's where I'd start Williams.
No. 14 - Tennessee Titans
Selection: Jalen Jelks, EDGE, Oregon
I think the Titans will be better under new head coach Matt Vrabel -- by which I mean to say, I think the Titans will be better under new offensive coordinator Matt Lafleur. I don't really know what to think of Vrabel yet.
WR is a trendy pick for Tennessee, but let's give Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, and Rishard Matthews a hot second in the new system with Marcus Mariota before we go spending another first round pick on a receiver. Instead, I'd love to get Vrabel some rush juice that he enjoyed in Texas, and it starts with Jelks, a natural fit at 3-4 OLB.
Jelks has been miscast on the Oregon defense and will look to cash in on a slight positional shift in the 2017 season. He carries surprising power in a slight frame and has excellent lateral quickness to shed and penetrate, but is constantly asked to slow-play the ball and drop anchor as a two-gapper. If his flashes translate into strong tape on the EDGE -- which I think they will -- he'll fly up boards in a heartbeat.
No. 15 - Dallas Cowboys
Selection: Jeffery Simmons, iDL, Mississippi State
Alabama has three first rounders, to this point in the draft. Nobody else even has two -- not LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, Oregon, or Wisconsin. Mississippi State is the first team on the board with two.
How 'bout them apples?
The Cowboys need an interior penetrator to accompany their elite rusher in Demarcus Lawrence. (If they're at the point where they still need an EDGE opposite him, after the Taco Charlton pick and the Randy Gregory return...things are even worse than I imagine.) Simmons can rip underneath guards and present color in the backfield with excellent consistency, and he has the power to collapse a pocket and destroy escape routes for quarterbacks looking to get away from Lawrence. Nobody on Dallas' current roster offers that ability.
I would like exactly zero (0) Dallas fans in my mentions complaining about picking 15th overall. Y'all have no pass catchers, no proven pass rush outside of D-Law, uncertain QB performance, and a meh head coach.
No. 16 - Oakland Raiders (via Chicago Bears)
Selection: N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
I think this team is going to miss Michael Crabtree. Jordy Nelson -- at his current age -- and Amari Cooper alike both interest me far more as route-runners crossing across the middle/intermediate levels of the field than they do working downfield. That's not to say Cooper can't do that -- or that Jordy hasn't. That's just where I like their skillsets best.
So, who's the field stretcher? N'Keal Harry can fill that role for you. He isn't the greatest route runner yet, but if you let him attack one third of the field and throw him some jump balls, he can come down with more explosive plays than many NFL receivers. His body control and tracking are stellar, and would add a needed deep dimension to Oakland's passing attack.
I wrote on Harry's ability to make highly irregular plays, as well as the gaps in his tape, over the summer.
No. 17 - Carolina Panthers
Selection: Trey Adams, OT, Washington
Man, this ain't hard. Matt Kalil isn't good. Daryl Williams is better, but injured and in a contract year. Taylor Moton looks to see his first significant reps on the outside this year, and while he offers more than the first two, I don't think he's a blue-chip option in the NFL. We'll have to see.
Adams has been on NFL radars for a while, and likely would have come out to near-first round buzz last season if not for the ACL injury against Arizona State in Week 5. A mountain of a man with a controlled pass-set, patient hands, and excellent recovery length and quickness, Adams could give Cam Newton a rare treasure he's never enjoyed across his NFL career.
Time in the pocket.
No. 18 - Kansas City Chiefs
Selection: Levonta Taylor, CB, Florida State
I'm nervous about the Seminole corners, man. Tavarus McFadden's precipitous drop-off last season has me spooked. And Taylor hasn't even played yet! Egads!
Nah, I've got love for Levonta's tape. He clearly has an astute understanding of what's required of him in Florida State's scheme, as he regularly wins his zone drops with good leverage and aggressiveness to get connected. As a man-cover corner, he's fleet-footed and again, knows where his help is and how that help allows him to smother a receiver's route.
There are physicality questions to answer for a player who's still adding mass -- but a talented Chiefs team looking to compete in the upcoming years with Patrick Mahomes under the helm needs a impact starter on the boundary. They lost Marcus Peters' ball skills and clever play; Taylor offers a similar mold of cover man.
No. 19 - Washington Redskins
Selection: Byron Murphy III, CB, Washington
Here's the thing about Murphy: he just may be really, really good. I mean really good. The peaks of his tape show a super instinctual and heady corner who will bait quarterbacks into bad throws and turn them into field-flipping interceptions. He's lightning-quick and liquid-fluid when mirroring in space.
But he's thin -- 175 pounds on a 6-foot frame -- and it shows up as a tackler. If he can't handle physicality, then he's a niche player who won't translate well. He returns from a foot injury that robbed him of all but six games in his debut season with the Huskies -- but the ball production and stellar tape are there to make NFL teams drool. He just needs to put together one full season of all the flashes.
Washington loves asking their Cover 3 corners to squat in the intermediate levels and play downhill -- and that cover style fits Murphy perfectly. If Quinton Dunbar/Fabian Moreau can't fill the voids left by Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller, this is an ideal fit.
No. 20 - San Francisco 49ers
Selection: Chris Lindstrom, iOL, Boston College
So, it would appear we are in the playoffs. Oh, look at that, the 49ers are picking. How interesting.
In all seriousness, it's tough to keep a roster with this much talent -- and one coached by Kyle Shanahan to boot -- out of the playoffs, even in the NFC. Some things need to come together, certainly -- there are questions at all three levels of the defense -- but I think this offense can hang with the best of them.
That said, the glaring weakness is right guard, as Joshua Garnett has never panned out after Chip Kelly's Niners traded back up into the end of the fist round to go get him. Enter Lindstrom, a people-mover in the running game who projects nicely to outside zone work, given his reach and surprising agility. Folks are sleeping quite hard on this young man coming into the season, but he has starting pedigree, good tape against strong competition, and a nice physical profile. I'm drinking the Kool-Aid.
No. 21 - Denver Broncos
Selection: Taylor Rapp, SAF, Washington
There were three Top-45 picks in that secondary, but only one first-rounder. In this one, there's two.
Rapp fits nicely next to Justin Simmons, Denver's interchangeable free/box safety selected from Boston College a few years back. Currently, the Broncos start Darian Stewart beside Simmons, who's a liability dropping down into coverage -- not so with Rapp, who has excellent coverage ability at the line of scrimmage. Rapp's also a better tackler than Simmons, which will help when he rotates down into the box.
I'm looking for more ball production from Rapp this season -- he needs impact plays to puff up his resume for NFL teams.
No. 22 - Los Angeles Rams
Selection: Ben Banogu, EDGE, TCU
Listen: who is gonna rush the passer for Los Angeles? (Yes, I know, Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. I have heard of those guys.)
I've got love for Wade Phillips -- who doesn't? -- but when projecting the Rams forward, the glaring hole on the roster is EDGE defender. With their current cap allocations, there is no way they're getting an impact EDGE on the open market, so they have to turn to the draft.
Banogu looks to be an exciting 3-4 OLB -- one that NFL circles have been buzzing about since last season. He's long and explosive, and that combo will always threaten tackles immediately at the snap. Improved hand usage would be nice to see, but 2017 certainly had enough flashes of a nice club/rip that you know there's something to work with.
Ben Banogu, Ogbonnia Okornokwo, and Samson Ebukam is...not awful. A good start. Elite names, though.
No. 23 - Green Bay Packers
Selection: Anfernee Jennings, EDGE, Alabama
I've got no idea what Green Bay thinks they're doing off the edge this year, man.
That's not true -- I know they think Clay Matthews and Nick Perry will be an NFL-caliber duo this year. I just don't know why or how they think that.
And even then! The depth! Kyler Fackrell and Reggie Gilbert. In today's NFL, it's simply inexcusable to have your pass rush cupboards this bare. And I expect Mike Pettine to address it sooner rather than later.
Jennings will likely trade a bit on the Alabama name in this Draft cycle, as the current product lacks the explosiveness and bend characteristic of a first-round pass-rusher. However, the hand usage impresses, as does the functional power throughout the frame. If he can turn his bull rush into more sacks instead of just pressures, he'll warrant this high of a selection.
No. 24 - Houston Texans
Selection: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
Listen, if we take Fant and put him next to DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, it's done. That's a downfield trio that can't be covered; I don't care who you have and what you do as a defense. Keke Coutee too? Ball game.
Fant impresses as a route-runner from both a slot and in-line alignment, and his speed and explosion profile almost dictates you put a defensive back on him in coverage. Once you do, however, his 6-foot-5, 235 pound frame becomes an issue. Add in sure hands through contact downfield and good athleticism to adjust to the football, and we've got ourselves a seam-buster. I broke down his film, including his impressive blocking ability, on video for y'all last week.
"Why didn't you draft a tackle, Ben? The Texans need a tackle!"
Yeah, they really do. But the previous four mocks all had the Texans taking one of a number of tackles, and I wanted to keep September fresh. Go read those.
No. 25 - Minnesota Vikings
Selection: Michael Deiter, iOL, Wisconsin
The best of the Wisconsin interior offensive linemen is one Tyler Biadesz, who really impressed me on film. But the redshirt sophomore center is unlikely to declare, so I'll take the senior Deiter for now.
Even though I prefer both Edwards and Biadesz, Deiter's tape still impresses. He's clearly a guard with a boxy frame, dynamic power transfer through his lower half, and nice mobility to get rumbling into space. That said, he can offer play at center and tackle, which is great news for a Minnesota team with a lot of moving parts on the offensive line. I don't think he has the explosiveness out of his stance to handle speed rushers off the edge, but if you want to try him out there first, that's fine by me.
Minnesota fans may be upset that they've been knocked out of the divisional round of the playoffs. I think the NFC is a gauntlet, and that Kirk Cousins isn't great. Remember, the Rams came in at 22 overall -- that's wild card round! Could be worse.
No. 26 - Los Angeles Chargers
Selection: Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
I don't even want to send Amani to LA. I don't want him to get injured and never pan out to the fullest of his career due to health concerns. How can I do that to him?
Oruwariye's ball skills and downfield stickiness in coverage jumped off the tape for me first when I was watching teammates Grant Haley and Christian Campbell in 2017. When you go back to the fullness of the tape, you see a player who will get his feet crossed up with some heaviness, but generally has the recovery ability, length, and explosiveness to win in all varieties of man coverage. The alpha approach when the ball is in the air particularly shines (game-sealing INT against Appalachian State, anyone?).
Do you have to put the full kibosh on the Jason Verrett experience? It hurts, but I think yes. Pour one out.
No. 27 - Green Bay Packers (via New Orleans Saints)
Selection: Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State
It feels like Green Bay is always patching together their offensive line at some point in the middle of the season. Of course, they have a stellar tackle in David Bakhtiari on the left side, but they looked to Brian Bulaga for a pay cut this offseason to no avail. It would seem they aren't married to him on the right side, and the current alternatives -- Justin McCray, Jason Spriggs -- are very unattractive.
Risner represents excellent value at this point in the draft, as he moves people at will with strong paws, nice timing in his punch, and an active lower half to anchor and re-anchor when countered with pressure. I think he could do better gaining depth in his kick-slide at times and will be interested to see how well he tests athletically -- but the technique is instant-starter sound for a team looking to make a push in the twilight of Rodgers' career.
I was tempted to go WR here with the second of the first-round picks (Deebo Samuel, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and Ahmmon Richards all still remain on the board) but elected otherwise. You can get good value in the middle/late rounds on WRs, and Green Bay may hit on one or two of their young guys this season.
No. 28 - New England Patriots
Selection: Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame
I made the Patriots lose to the Steelers in the divisional round. They haven't lost in the divisional round since 2010. So what gives?
I think their secondary has serious issues, their WR room is more bare than it's ever been, the injury to Isaiah Wynn hurts their offensive line, they lost their defensive coordinator, and Tom Brady is older. Also, I'm a gloating Eagles fan. They'll probably make the conference championship and Super Bowl anyway, so who cares?
Julian Love projects as a nice complementary piece to Stephon Gilmore, given his fleet-footed man coverage ability. I really like how he quickly recognizes and explodes down the field in off-alignment, though cleaning up false steps is a must if he's to adjust to NFL speed.
Eric Rowe ain't it.
No. 29 - Pittsburgh Steelers
Selection: Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
If you're playing at home kids, this is our first linebacker off the board! I'm low on this linebacker class, and linebackers have been drafted at a discount in recent years. Really, it's the elite athletes that get drafted high, and that's about it.
"Then why didn't you have LSU's Devin White in your first round, Ben? Isn't he an elite athlete?"
He is, and he'll likely go first round. I also didn't think his 2017 tape was very good, so here we are.
Mack Wilson's tape was freakin' awesome. He does have the athletic ability to go Round 1, but from a film perspective, his processing of blocking schemes, instincts to close gaps, and play discipline all stand out among the top players in the class. I love how physically he plays against bigger offensive linemen and his coverage responsibilities in space alike.
With the loss of Ryan Shazier, Pittsburgh's already poor ILB depth has been exposed. Wilson is a needed answer for a team that relied so heavily on Shazier's otherworldly play.
No. 30 - Atlanta Falcons
Selection: Rashan Gary, iDL, Michigan
I think Atlanta's team is good -- I mean really good. You could stand for some improvements at cornerback and tight end, certainly -- but when a player with Gary's potential falls into your lap this late, you might as well swing for the fences. Not to mention, Atlanta needs to continue pouring resources into their front four, if they're to keep their undersized coverage linebackers as clean as possible in the running game.
Gary's gonna test off the charts regardless of where he lines up (EDGE or DT), but I think Atlanta is a great fit for him because they can move him anywhere from 3-tech to 7-tech as it suits them. Think of a passing down with Grady Jarrett and Gary as 3-techs and Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley as 7-techs. That's oppressive.
Dan Quinn helped unlock Michael Bennett into the player he is today. I think Gary could benefit from the same tutelage.
Don't look now, but Atlanta has drafted a pass rusher in three of the last five classes. Thomas Dimitroff knows what's up.
No. 31 - Jacksonville Jaguars
Selection: Garrett Brumfield, iOL, LSU
Can we all agree that, unless something drastically changes, the Jaguars probably aren't going to upgrade on Blake Bortles? They're riding with him and his mediocre (bad) play. It's decided. I'd love to mock them a Justin Herbert, but they won't make the pick, so I won't.
The thing is, it's tough to find a position to upgrade on that Jacksonville team besides QB. Maybe nickel, if DJ Hayden doesn't pan out; maybe tight end, though I'm not sure who would warrant the first-round selection. Dawson Knox?
I'll hone in on A.J. Cann, the current starting right guard and clearly the weakest link on the Jacksonville offensive line. If this team is going to win a Super Bowl (they lost the 2019 one to the Eagles. Go Birds!) they need to do it on the backs of an elite OL, so let's make the upgrade.
If you watched Miami v. LSU last night, Brumfield's mobility and power from the interior of the Tigers' line likely popped off the screen. He profiles into any scheme and has a mean streak that would work well for Jacksonville. As it stands, he ducks his head too often into contact and plays too far over his feet -- a common issue for aggressive interior blockers. But that physical profile is nice.
No. 32 - Philadelphia Eagles
Selection: Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma
I think it's tough to convince the majority of analysts -- not just this Eagles one here -- that there's a more well-rounded roster in the league than Philadelphia's. But with a Carson Wentz extension looming, there are a few places where fat is likely to be trimmed.
Offensive tackle is a big one -- Jason Peters is coming off of a massive injury and is over 35 -- but they have some in-house options they like. Cornerback could see Ronald Darby leave in free agency, and second-rounder Sidney Jones is still an unknown -- but again, there's youth there to watch play out. Running back, however, might see both Darren Sproles and Jay Ajayi leave in 2019 -- one to retirement, the other to free agency, as teams are worried about Ajayi's knee long-term.
Enter Rodney Anderson, a do-it-all back with great size, explosiveness, and instincts as a runner. His vision is tested by a lot of the heavy pulling action Oklahoma employs, and he does well to read and anticipate the mess, regularly working into space -- and in the third level, his burst/contact balance combo is difficult to handle. His receiving prowess translates well to what Philadelphia demands from their backs.