Welcome to The Sportster's playoff edition mock of the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. You could also call it "How the Pro Football World Turns," as it seems each new day brings a significant new development to the potential selection process. This was never more true than highly touted University of Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray declaring for the draft, which could potentially cause a major shakeup regarding the number one overall pick.
This mock will also appeal to fans of the Raiders, possessing nearly ten percent of the picks, it'll be a very "Silver and Black" player picking process to say the least. The Raiders might not know what city they will play in during 2019 (San Diego? San Francisco? Stay in Oakland even though the city is suing them?), but former broadcaster turned new general manager Mike Mayock and former broadcaster turned head coach Jon "Chucky" Gruden can use their three first-round picks to begin rebuilding their Mack-less 4-12 team of this past regular season.
Though the Raiders are far from the only NFL team that needs improving; (others also require drastic changes, i.e. Cardinals, Jets), while some franchises might need more subtle fixes to return to the playoffs (Titans, Vikings). And then there are the dozen teams that participated in the 2018 NFL Playoffs, that with the exception of one crowned champion, came up short on their goal of winning the Super Bowl. Those "left-out eleven" will likewise be looking to improve their deficiencies to better improve their chances of winning a title this time next year.
While this mock draft won't prove to be one hundred percent accurate, it does serve as a thoroughly researched representation of each team's needs and the best available players. So we ask that you step forward in time with us to 9:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday April 25, when the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft will commence, the 84th annual meeting of NFL teams choosing freshly eligible players right out of college and ready to shine at the highest level.
All those great defensive line prospects suddenly have to wait their turn, and take a backseat to the new kid on the selection block--the aforementioned Mr. Kyler Murray and his 4,361 yards passing, his 42-to-7 touchdown to interception ratio and oh yeah, his 1,001 rushing yards and 12 TD's on the ground. The stars have truly aligned for this mock pick, as brand new Cardinals' head coach Kliff Kingsbury, hired on January 8, was quoted this past October 28 saying, "Kyler is a freak...I would take him with the first pick of the draft if I could."
Little did Kingsbury know he would have that very opportunity this coming April. On the surface it would seem Murray's high octane run-pass game would appeal to Kingsbury's schemes rather than the more conventional Josh Rosen, last year's first-round selection by Arizona. There's been speculation Kingsbury could trade Rosen for more picks if they indeed go with Murray number one overall.
For the price of losing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to injury for most of the 2018 regular season, the team is rewarded in 2019 with precisely what their woeful defense requires--the best edge rusher in the draft. Younger brother of the Chargers' spectacular defensive end Joey Bosa, "Little Nick" is an imposing dynamo all on his own.
In a mere 29 total collegiate contests through his junior year at Ohio State, Bosa managed 29 tackles for a loss and 17.5 sacks, and should provide consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, especially those in the 49ers' QB rich division. At 6-4, 260-plus pounds, Bosa is more than ready to begin dominating.
Another NFL draft, another first rounder with the name "Josh Allen." But unlike the he Buffalo Bills quarterback, this Josh Allen is the explosive outside linebacker from the University of Kentucky. The Jets will likely select Allen should the opportunity arise, and Gang Green definitely requires a defensive player of his stature. At first glance, it's difficult to believe that New York was once 3-3 this past regular season. However, if you look at the downward spiral of their defense in those final 10 games, in which they lost nine, it's easy to see why.
Allen should provide much needed pressure off the edge for the Jets, and he also has the markings of being a high-profile leader in one of the NFL's highest profile markets.
Here we have the Raiders' first of three first round picks, and to say Jon Gruden's squad needs help with their pass rush is like saying the stock market needed help during its December crash. Oakland managed an absolutely pitiful 13 sacks in 2018, by far the lowest total in the NFL. Quinnen Williams alone had eight sacks in 13 games for the Crimson Tide during his sophomore season, so he'll provide an instant upgrade to the Raiders' pass-rushing attack just by putting on a helmet.
If you're a Raiders fan, keep reading, there's more picks to come...
With the recent announcement that the Bucs plan to stay with embattled quarterback Jameis Winston in 2019, Tampa can turn their attention towards better protecting Winston, who was sacked 27 times in 11 games. Tampa must prioritize revamping their offensive line this upcoming season, and that could start with Taylor, the number-one rated offensive tackle according to Walter Football. Some NFL scouts so highly regard the 6-5, 328-pounder out of the University of Florida, he may not even be available this early in the draft. Taylor rates top-notch both for run blocking and, more importantly to Winston's future success, as a pass protector.
It's a match made in pigskin heaven; the Giants need a future (if not immediate) quarterback to replace Eli Manning, and draft entrant Dwayne Haskins wants to play for the G-Men. Although his collegiate experience is limited to 22 games, Haskins finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2018, and excelled under pressure at high-profile school Ohio State, putting up stats that would please most NFL teams, assuming his skills translate to the pros.
Haskins completed 70 percent of his passes with an eye-popping ratio of 50 touchdowns against only eight interceptions. Haskins still needs to master consistency, but there's far, far too much to like about him as passer for a team in the Giants' situation to pass up on.
The Jags will likely be in the market for a new quarterback after the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Jacksonville will be cutting ties with Blake Bortles. Unless the Jags trade up to move ahead of the Giants (or maybe even the Cardinals), and quarterbacks Murray and Haskins are already off the board, that would leave Lock as the next best option for the Jaguars.
There's something throwback and refreshing about the fact Lock actually played for the University of Missouri in the Liberty Bowl on New Year's Eve--even though his Tigers lost--instead of bypassing the game to avoid pre-draft injuries, however trendy, logical and fiscally sound such a decision may be. That sort of attitude is exactly what Jacksonville needs in a new leader under center.
Detroit would be an ideal destination for Andraez "Greedy" Williams, who brings great technique, timing and awareness to the cover corner position. His slight frame (he's listed at 6-2, only 182 pounds) and reluctance to tackle are concerns, but he has so much potential to be a shutdown corner versus another team's best receiver, that his value cannot be bypassed by a Detroit team desperate to upgrade at the position.
Detroit's defense finished 10th overall during the 2018 season, but the talent level of the cornerbacks on their roster leaves much to be desired. The Lions are "needy for Greedy," and should take him before a division rival like the Packers do.
The Bills have an extremely solid defensive unit in place (ranked number two in the NFL for 2018), so now the mission is to score more points in order to win more games that are kept tight by their terrific D. One way to rev up the offense is building around quarterback Josh Allen and provide him with weapons for increased production, and Brown could prove to be quite the asset.
If there's any doubt as to Brown's credentials, the Ole Miss star led the almighty SEC in receiving the last two years. Brown possesses the physicality to shed tackles, as well as getting high enough to win "jump balls" versus defensive backs. The Bills should seek out dynamic playmakers like Brown in this draft if they want to dominate on both sides of the ball.
Despite Denver's recent hire of defensive specialist Vic Fangio as head coach, we still envision the team building the offense in the first round. While John Elway doesn't have a lot of faith in Case Keenum, the Broncos' boss will need to provide better protection for whoever's at quarterback, as there was only one game the entire 2018 regular season in which Keenum was not sacked. By no coincidence, that was the Broncos' most impressive victory, a 23-22 road victory over the L.A. Chargers.
Don't think that went unnoticed by former quarterback Elway. Besides, the o-line is facing big changes due to impending free agency. If Elway has the opportunity to draft a talent like Williams, it's hard to see him passing on the 6-5, 300 pound tackle, a player who could set the foundation for Denver's O-line for years to come.
Next season will mark the first year since people were still using flip phones that Marvin Lewis will not be head coach of the Bengals, back in 2002. While the team will have Rams quarterback guru Zac Taylor as head coach, the Bengals' defense is in disarray, having given up the most yardage in 2018 and were 30th in points allowed. Their most pressing need is at linebacker, and selecting White makes sense, as he was the first player from LSU to win the prestigious Butkus Award, annually awarded to the best collegiate linebacker in the nation. White earned the Butkus by notching 115 total tackles, including a dozen for a loss, and the 6-1, 240 pounder could be an immediate difference maker in Cincy's lame linebacker corps.
Since the Packers actually have two first round picks in this year's draft, we'll get to their helping Aaron Rodgers and the offense for their next selection to come later. But for the here and now, we'll concentrate on Green Bay's defensive deficiencies, of which there are many. If the highly regarded Ferrell of the national champion Clemson Tigers is still available at this juncture of the first round, don't be surprised if the Pack scoop him up. If he's on the board, Green Bay could provide their defense consistent pressure off the edge, as Ferrell delivered time and time again during his three seasons at Clemson, registering 49 tackles for a loss and 27 sacks.
The possibility the Dolphins would pick one of the remaining quarterbacks in this mock was pushed aside when ESPN reported January 13 that the team, and incoming head coach Brian Flores, would concentrate on"building the trenches" during the upcoming draft. In this sense, Miami essentially plans to "tank" the 2019 season to secure a top-10 choice in April 2020 to draft a quarterback, in a class that will have far more talent at the position.
The term "trenches" could imply an interior lineman will be preferred by Flores, who comes from a defensive background as Patriots' linebackers coach, and Oliver is very solid on the D-line. In only 32 career collegiate games, Oliver managed 53 tackles for a loss and also forced five fumbles; turnovers such as those often making the difference in a close game between two evenly matched NFL teams.
The Falcons were easily the NFL's most disappointing team in 2018, as many had them pegged for Super Bowl contention; instead, they got off to a bad start, and despite a strong finish, were one of the few franchises to not contend at any point during this parity-filled regular season. Their 28th ranked defense needs all kinds of help, but like the aforementioned Dolphins, particularly on the line.
Versatile Rashan Gary out of Michigan might be perfect for Atlanta, as he's been a playmaker at both the interior plugging up the middle, as well as at defensive end on the edge, totalling 119 tackles with 23 going for a loss during his tenure with the Wolverines.
Had things gone differently, Washington might not even be here, both in terms of draft position and positional need, but the November 18 injury to Alex Smith ruined their 6-3 start in 2018, and left the team's quarterback future in limbo. According to the progress of this particular mock, that would likely leave Duke University's Daniel Jones as the best signal-caller still available, as he hurled 52 touchdowns in his three campaigns for the Blue Devils. Jones's 60% completion percentage could use improving, but his 6-5, 220 pound frame and strong arm may be too much potential for the suddenly quarterback-desperate D.C. franchise to ignore.
After their defense fell in several categories in 2018 and head coach Ron Rivera took over playcalling duties from DC Eric Washington, Carolina will be likely looking to address the defensve line in the upcoming draft, either on the edge or in the interior. For a Panthers team that collapsed badly in the second half of the 2018 season, they could well go with the best player available.
And in this mock draft, Polite fits the bill, defining a player that can make a difference, as his monster 2018 campaign at the University of Florida attests to. He had 11.5 sacks and forced six fumbles, meaning wherever the ball is, that's where you'll find Polite, and the Panthers would love to find him at number sweet sixteen in the draft.
Despite all the hype about the improved Browns' defense in 2018, the unit still finished 30th in the NFL and was responsible for many of Cleveland's close losses, like giving up 42 points in a defeat to the Raiders, of all teams. To further improve, the Browns need to bolster their defensive interior, and Auburn's Derrick Brown is about as good as it gets on the line with his 6-5, 325 pound imposing figure.
He can do it all; force fumbles, sack the quarterback, throw running backs for a loss, and defend passes. Perhaps Derrick Brown could soon be the missing piece needed for this unit.
For the disappointing Vikings, a team that missed the playoffs entirely in 2018, offensive consistency must improve next year. That can start with an improved offensive line, as multi-million dollar quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked a ridiculous 40 times during the regular season. Considering Cousins completed 70 percent of his passes and threw 30 touchdowns in his first campaign with the Vikings, imagine how better those stats would have been if he wasn't running for his life every other play.
Little, the 6-foot-6, 325 pound tackle out of Mississippi, could be the foundation for a stronger line to give Cousins the time he needs to make completions, instead of being thrown to the dirt by the opposing defense.
The Titans barely missed out on making the playoffs for a second consecutive year, losing to the Colts in the season finale, and Tennessee's defense cannot escape blame, giving up 33 points at home with a chance to move on. The Titans allowed Andrew Luck and crew to walk all over them. Half of the team's sacks in 2018 came from blitzing linebackers, corners and safeties, requiring an upgrade up front.
That could change in a hurry with an edge star like Mississippi State's Montez Sweat, who measures 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, offering great size and athleticism as an elite pass-rusher; in 26 career games with the Bulldogs, he had 22.5 sacks, and could muster the kind of pressure the Titans are going to have to put on Luck and the Colts next season and beyond.
Add the Steelers to the list of NFL disappointments for 2018; a team with all kinds of talent that blew the division title to Baltimore. But is there truly that much talent on the defensive side of the ball for Pittsburgh? The team definitely need major upgrades at inside linebacker as well as secondary, and it may come down to the best player available at their drafting position in the first round.
With Murphy, the Steelers would be getting a solid corner who should start immediately. In only 19 collegiate games for Washington, Murphy had six interceptions and 50 solo tackles, a good indicator that he's always around the ball, something the turnover-deprived Steelers could use more of next season, as turnovers often turn the tide of fortune in a game.
These are not your older brother's Seahawks. Forget the "Legion of Boom" and their once imposing defense, as the 2018 Seattle squad can be scored upon, as proven very capably by the Dallas Cowboys in their 24-22 Wild Card playoff win over the Seahawks. Changing this for 2019 begins with the D-line, and Jones is ideal for a four-man defensive front.
Coming from the NFL minor league team also known as The Ohio State University, Jones stands 6-3, 272 pounds, and specializes in being an interior speed defender. This quality should appeal to Seattle's Pete Carroll, who prefers his defense fast, fast and faster.
No team changed more during the course of the 2018 season than the Ravens, as they made the big-time switch at quarterback from fading former Super Bowl champ Joe Flacco to emerging speedster Lamar Jackson. The Birds have the defense and running game going in the right direction, now they need to expand the passing game--and the physical, capable Harmon can do exactly that.
The 6-2 receiver has good hands, runs quality routes and is solid running-after-the-catch. Harmon is a big-time producer; in 35 games he had 177 catches with 16 touchdowns, and would bring a big-play presence sorely needed in Baltimore.
The Texans' offensive line woes were noted during Houston's Wild Card weekend 21-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The Texans' punchless offense, put on display in that game, demands for an upgraded offensive line for the 2019 regular season. The gigantic Edwards, at 6-7, 320 pounds out of the University of Wisconsin, would be a strong selection with his quality movement skills as well as having the power to make a difference in the run game. The Texans' running backs and dashing quarterback Deshaun Watson can absolutely benefit from Edwards' skills and abilities at tackle. The Texans can learn a lesson from their rival Colts and spend this offseason building their o-line.
Here's some symmetry for the Raiders in this mock draft, as they in essence trade one "Mack Daddy" for another. In this scenario, Oakland uses the first-round pick they received from the Bears in exchange for all-everything linebacker Khalil Mack--who led the Bears to the NFC North title--to choose Alabama linebacker Lyndell "Mack" Wilson--who has been categorized as both the fastest and hard hitting linebacker in college football.
Wilson was one of ten finalists for the 2018 Butkus Award for best linebacker in the nation, as well as being the "quarterback" of the Crimson Tide D, and could be a key catalyst in transforming the Raiders' defensive identity.
The defending champs managed to squeeze their way back in the playoffs and almost advanced to the NFC title game, but still need to improve on defense. The Eagles should draft Baker, the University of Georgia cornerback who won the Jim Thorpe Award for being college football's best defensive back in 2018. Baker possesses great instincts and is a "ball hawk," and the Eagles need those kind of players, as they only managed a measly 10 interceptions for the 2018 season. When he was matched up against South Carolina's highly regarded wide receiver, Deebo Samuel, Baker limited Samuel to a mere 33 yards on six catches, as the Bulldogs chewed up the Gamecocks.
At midseason, the Colts seemed destined for mediocrity, but rebounded to get into the postseason, and are a franchise with a bright future. Yet Indy has a pressing need in the defensive backfield, and if the highly regarded Thompson out of the University of Alabama is still even available at this point, the Colts would do well to add him to their roster. Thompson is regarded as one of Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban's top "ball-hawks," and could provide an intensity and identity the Colts need to create a shutdown defense.
Campbell would serve as the replacement for Amari Cooper, traded by the Raiders back in October to the Cowboys for this very first round pick--which no doubt the Raiders expected to be higher, before the Cowboys surprised everyone by winning the NFC East and advancing to the divisional round. Campbell offers good size at 6-1, 208 pounds and was a highly productive receiver at Ohio State, catching the passes of quarterback Dwayne Haskins, already selected in this draft at number six. And as an added intangible, if Parris can indeed star in the NFL, he has the perfect surname in case a certain major soup company wants to sign him to an lucrative endorsement deal.
Look for the Chargers to address their defensive deficiencies--exposed by Tom Brady and the Patriots in Los Angeles's divisional round loss. L.A. can solve some problems by selecting Wilkins in the first round, that is, if the 6-4, 300 pound defensive lineman is still available at this lower juncture of the draft's opening round. Wilkins amassed 39 tackles for a loss in his four years at Clemson, including 15 quarterback sacks, and also brings the intangible of "smarts" to the game.
Wilkins was this past season's recipient of the William V. Campbell Trophy, awarded annually to college football's top scholar-athlete, so the Chargers' coaches can be confident he'll master the playbook.
Count the Patriots as another team that needs to improve their run defense; look no further than New England's late season loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, when the Pats surrendered 142 yards on only 19 carriers to the Steelers' third-string running back Jaylen Samuels. Simmons is a highly rated interior lineman because of his dominance versus the run, precisely the type of new blood New England needs up front, to prevent long runs that open up opposing offenses. Simmons starred for Mississippi State, and was the first Bulldogs' defensive lineman to earn Freshman All-SEC honors since current Chiefs' DT Chris Jones did so back in 2013.
For all the Rams' strengths, their run defense is rather weak, as they allowed 122 yards per game during the 2018 season. While the Rams showed some improvement in the playoffs, the Rams could be more consistent versus the run in 2019 with the addition of a player like the University of Michigan's Bush, the second highest rated outside linebacker after the highly regarded Josh Allen (already chosen #3 in this mock). Bush is such a run stopper supreme that he often outruns the opposition's running back, and the Rams could use that kind of pursuit against the rush from their linebackers.
What kind of post-playoff present do you get for sudden superstar quarterback Pat Mahomes and the offense that has everything? How about some legitimate defense that can stop other teams, so the offense doesn't have to keep scoring seven touchdowns every game to win? How about improving a D that gave up an NFL record 26 first downs per game on average to opponents?
KC has to get stronger up front to be more effective on defense, and with Lawrence, suspended from Clemson's January 7 national title game victory over Alabama, declaring for the draft, the 340 pound behemoth could provide the Chiefs with both run-stoppage as well as putting interior pressure on the quarterback.
For the final pick in this mock, and the second for the Packers in the first round, it's time to better "weaponize" Aaron Rodgers--one of the great NFL quarterbacks of this era--who needs upgraded personnel to catch his passes. Given the fact the Packers' leading receiving tight end in 2018 was Jimmy Graham with 55 receptions (out of 89 targeted throws), and is a player who will be 33 years old at this time next year, it's time for the Packers to get their own dominant tight end in the model of a Gronk or a Kelce. And Fant has the potential to be just that, as he proved at the University of Iowa with his ideal size of 6-5, 241 pounds. While Fant had only 78 catches in three seasons for the Hawkeyes, 19 of those went for touchdowns, demonstrating his height and hands could provide a solid option for a quarterback like Rodgers in the red zone.