Another year, another NOT a mock, the mock draft where I play GM for all 32 teams and decide what they should do in the first round of the NFL draft. Not to be confused with a regular mock, where I try to guess what teams will do, this reflects my own opinions of the prospects and their fit.
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Trade down
Despite uncharacteristically spending in free agency, the Bengals still have holes all over the roster and getting a haul (a Top 7 pick and two more first rounders) for No.1 might allow them to increase their overall talent level. Most projections have them taking QB Joe Burrow, but I am not 100% sold on him. His draft status is based on a) his last year, the best single season by any QB in college history and b) his personality and character, with most evaluators believing him to be the second coming of Tom Brady. However, Burrow transferred out of Ohio State when he couldn't win the starting job in a competition with Dwayne Haskins, and had a mediocre year at LSU before his spectacular one. He also does not have elite physical talent. It is therefore safe to assume he'll need help from his teammates to succeed and it's hard to see that with the state of the Bengals roster. Some players are able to elevate their teammates, and Burrow certainly seems to have leadership qualities, but that's another risk, he may well end up being like David Carr or Tim Couch, talented prospects who were not able to rise above their teams' level. The assumption is that if there's a trade up, it will be for one of the two top QBs (Burrow or Tua).
2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, Edge, Ohio State
They have two players up front (Payne and Allen) that require double teams already. That should allow Young to thrive from Year 1.
3. Detroit Lions: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
While the Bill Belichick tree likes to build a defense from back to front and therefore CB Jeff Okudah seems the obvious pick here, a star defensive tackle dramatically increases the options when calling that defense. Brown is a freakish talent.
4. New York Giants: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
While it's not clear who's the best offensive tackle in the draft, Becton and Andrew Thomas are left tackles, whereas Jedrick Wills and Tristan Wirfs project to the right side (or inside in the case of Wirfs). Nate Solder struggled at LT, but he's always been a great run blocker so perhaps moving him over to the right and sliding in Becton at LT would improve two crucial spots with one move, and help keep QB Daniel Jones healthy.
5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The Dolphins can take a swing at Burrow or Tua here since they have multiple first round picks and they can keep Ryan Fitzpatrick even if they draft a QB at 5 unlike the Bengals who would need to let go of Andy Dalton.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
By far the most talented physically of this year's prospects, there are concerns about Herbert's mental makeup. Tua Tagoivaloa is a better player right now and also has huge upside, but his health makes him too much of a risk. Like the Dolphins, the Charges have Tyrod Taylor, so if Herbert does not pan out immediately they can afford to be patient.
7. Carolina Panthers: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Great player and fills an obvious need.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
A big, tough, physical tackle from a winning culture is just what the doctor ordered for the Cardinals. Javon Kinlaw, the ultra-talented DT from South Carolina also makes a ton of sense here.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson
An athletic freak, Simmons would be an ideal spy against QB Lamar Jackson, but no AFC North picks in his range (watch out for trades though, either a trade down by the Bengals or a trade up by the Browns) and the Jaguars could certainly use a versatile defender after they lost so many talented players on that side of the ball.
10. Cleveland Browns: Tristan Wirfs, OT/OG, Iowa
Baker Mayfield, like all short quarterbacks, needs a clean interior pocket to see the field properly. Guards are therefore more important for teams like the Saints, Cardinals or Browns than they are for most teams. The knock on Wirfs is that despite his impressive combine numbers his on-field performance suggests he might be better suited at RT or guard. The Browns signed Jack Conklin to play RT, so they could try Wirfs at LT and if he doesn't work out shift him to guard.
11. New York Jets: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Sam Darnold has spent most of his NFL career running for his life. This needs to stop if he's to realize his potential. Drafting Thomas is a step in that direction.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
It didn't quite work out with Amari Cooper and the Raiders, but why not try again with a player who is practically his clone?
13. San Francisco 49ers: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
Speed kills, especially in Kyle Shanahan's offense (see Kittle, George). Ruggs complements Deebo Samuel nicely.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
They'd prefer a tackle (especially Wills), but the good ones are already gone in this mock, so they address their need in the secondary with a local hero.
15. Denver Broncos: Ceedee Lamb, Oklahoma
Lamb's huge catch radius will help Drew Lock tremendously.
16. Atlanta Falcons: Javon Kinlaw, DT/DE, South Carolina
Ultra-talented, versatile, a physical freak, what's not to like?
17. Dallas Cowboys: K'Lavon Chaisson, Edge
Demarcus Lawrence would benefit from someone like Chaisson lining up on the opposite side.
18. Miami Dolphis: A.J Epenesa, Edge, Iowa
A Patriots-style DE, Epenesa is more of an edge setter than a pass rusher, and has the size that Belichick and his disciples love at the position.
19. Las Vegas Raiders: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Jon Gruden is never happy with his QB room, and he's certainly not 100% sold on Derek Carr, so why not take a shot here with a prospect that has all the tools? Furthermore, Love will probably not threaten Carr's starting job in Year 1 so Carr won't complain much, especially after the Jeudy pick.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Some think Jefferson may end up being the best WR in the draft when all's said and done. The Jaguars reunite him with D.J Chark to form a terrific young WR tandem.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
They'd probably love it if Jefferson fell to them, but Higgins is not a bad consolation prize.
22. Minnesota Vikings: A.J Terrell, CB, Clemson
They need receivers and corners, so someone like Brandon Aiyuk or Denzel Mims would also work here, but the depth at WR is much better than at corner in this draft (and most drafts) so it makes more sense to try to get their corner first. Trevon Diggs is probably a better player than Terrell, but maybe it's not the best idea for the Vikings to draft Stephon Diggs' brother....
23. New England Patriots: Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
A clone of Kyle van Noy who they just lost in free agency.
24. New Orleans Saints: Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
Extremely talented but also extremely raw, Shenault is a WR, but only technically, as his route running is atrocious. But once the ball is in his hands he is truly magical. The closest NFL comp is Cordarelle Patterson. If there's one coach in the NFL who can make sure a player like Shenault can get the ball where he can do some damage, it's Sean Payton.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
The Vikings get a receiver to replace Stephon Diggs.
26. Miami Dolphins: Josh Jones, OT, Houston
Need pick, their line is in bad shape.
27. Seattle Seahawks: Yetur Gross-Mattos, Edge, Penn State
If they end up re-signing Clowney, they should go OT here. USC's Austin Jackson is a risky pick, but with huge upside and that fits the culture at Seattle.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
A modern LB that excels in coverage, Queen may remind Ravens fans of Ray Lewis. If they want a more conventional player, Kenneth Murray would be a good choice.
29. Tennessee Titans: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
They don't have much need at the position, but he's too good to pass up and fits the tough culture Mike Vrabel is building.
30. Green Bay Packers: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
A great prospect, and he'll certainly be motivated at Packers-Vikings games.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Trade down
They have a good roster, and no picks in rounds 2, 3 or 4.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois
Absolute athletic freak, has no defined role in the NFL, but that's the kind of player a Super Bowl team needs to gamble on to sustain success.