Post-Combine NFL Mock Draft
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Full-disclosure laws force me to admit that any NFL mock draft is a useless exercise before the first week of free agency, the time where teams tend to finally at least foreshadow their offseason plans.
However, the NFL scouting combine does gives us the first apples to apples comparison of the top prospects available -- at least the ones that participate -- and so many of our listeners clamor for mock drafts so who am I to deny the masses what they want?
So, without further ado, here's 973espn.com's first mock draft of the year: the post-combine edition:
1. Cleveland Browns - QB Sam Darnold, Southern California - Yes, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is a better prospect and for that matter Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson is even better than Barkley but John Dorsey is smart enough to understand the value of the QB position and even though it's not his fault the Browns essentially said no thanks when it came to Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson in back-to-back years, the new Browns' GM is smart enough to realize that only one man is guaranteed to get the signal caller he wants in April and Dorsey sees that man's reflection in his mirror every day. There is no way he passes on that opportunity and gives that gift to Dave Gettleman at No. 2.
2. New York Giants - QB Josh Allen, Wyoming - Speaking of Gettleman, he and his new coach Pat Shurmur have convinced the masses that they are prepared to stick with Eli Manning but even if you think the two-time Super Bowl winner has more left in the tank than I do what's the shelf life? Another year or two? Howie Roseman rules apply here. The Giants don't want to be in the top five often so when you are there you have to pounce. Allen and his ridiculous arm strength has the highest ceiling at the position in a deep draft but the lowest floor as well. NFL people think more of him than all the YouTube scouts out there.
3. Indianapolis Colts - RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State - Everything hinges on Andrew Luck's health in Inday but can you imagine putting Barkley behind a QB like that. Frank Reich would be salivating. As NFL research pointed out Barkley is stronger than Joe Thomas, faster than Devin Hester, quicker than DeSean Jackson and is more explosive than Julio Jones.
4. - Cleveland Browns (from Texans) - OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame - Yes, the Browns are actually pretty good on the interior of the OL but in my 20-plus years of covering the NFL, I have never seen a cleaner prospect than Nelson. Forget Pro Bowls, he's going to be an All Pro-level player in short order and Dorsey gets the top QB and best player in this draft with a hat tip to the Sam Hinkie-like Sashi Brown.
5. - Denver Broncos - QB Josh Rosen, UCLA - The thought here is that Kirk Cousins will ultimately choose Minnesota over Denver and the New York Jets in free agency so Plan B for John Elway is the closest QB prospect to being a plug-and-play guy, UCLA's Rosen, who is far ahead of Darnold and Allen when it comes to NFL-level progressions.
6. - New York Jets - QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma - Also runner-ups in the Cousins' sweepstakes, the Jets will bring back Josh McCown to mentor Mayfield, the fiery leader of the Sooners who lacks prototypical size and has a personality that scares at least some people.
7. - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Edge Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State - The Bucs are desperate for a consistent pass rush and the class' best falls to them. I don't think the former NC State star is a Khalil Mack- or Von Miller-type difference maker, however.
8. - Chicago Bears - WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama - This is a poor decision with so many defenders available but Ryan Pace has proven he will make mistakes and the Bears are desperate to get Mitchell Trubisky some help so they can prove their second-year QB wasn't one of those mistakes.
9. - San Francisco 49ers - DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama - Fitzpatrick projects to be a versatile Malcolm Jenkins-type player, who can line up on the back end, cover and act as a rover or glorified LB. The value for a 49ers team morphing to a 4-3 is too great to pass here.
10. - Oakland Raiders - LB Roquan Smith, Georgia - Oakland has a presence on the edge but needs everything else on the front seven and the 2017 Butkus Award winner is a little undersized but has the speed and instincts in coverage to be an Eric Kendricks-type, almost a necessity in today's spread-happy NFL.
11. - Miami Dolphins - CB Denzel Ward, Ohio Sate - Cornerback U sends its latest to South Florida where the Dolphins need multiple bodies on the back end.
12. - Cincinnati Bengals - OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame - The Bengals take the finished product to try to help rebuild an offensive line that has taken some massive hits in recent season.
13. - Washington Redskins - LB Tramaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech - The 'Skins have a host of LBs headed toward free agency and Edmunds could be the answer to those potential losses.
14. - Green Bay Packers - S Derwin James, Florida State - The Packers have been beaten down by Dom Capers' antiquated defensive scheme for years and pairing up James with Ha-Ha Clinton Dix on the back end could provide a real solid building block for new DC Mike Pettine.
15. - Arizona Cardinals - DT Vita Vea, Washington - The Cards need a QB obviously but this is too early for Lamar Jackson so they take the space eater to help tie up a double-team for Chandler Jones.
16. - Baltimore Ravens - WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M - The Ravens are going to re-imagine their WR corps and Kirk could be the big-play threat Breshad Perriman never turned into even if it's just from the slot.
17. - Los Angeles Chargers - NT Da'Ron Payne, Alabama - Much like Arizona, the Chargers get another space eater to make things easier for the best edge duo in football - Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
18. - Seattle Seahawks - CB Carlton Davis, Auburn - Things are changing in Seattle and the Seahawks need reinforcements on the outside even if Richard Sherman sticks around, which is now unlikely.
19. - Dallas Cowboys - DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan - This comes with an asterisk because the league found Hurst had a heart condition at the combine but if he's deemed healthy, Hurst is the kind of three-technique that Tampa-2 coordinators like Rod Marinelli dream about.
20. - Detroit Lions - RB Derrius Guice, LSU - How good would Matthew Stafford actually be with a running game?
21. - Buffalo Bills - OC/G Billy Price, Ohio State - Price suffered a partially torn pec while benching at the combine but he will be ready by training camp as a plug-and-play guy for a Bills team that lost OC Eric Wood to retirement.
22. - Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City) - Edge Marcus Davenport, UT-San Antonio - The Bills were the worst playoff team when it came to getting to the opposing passer and they have a defensive-minded head coach so that's getting addressed. Davenport is the best pass rusher in the draft after Chubb.
23. - Los Angeles Rams - CB Jaire Alexander Louisville - The Rams couldn't afford to franchise Trumaine Johnson for a third consecutive year and also have to deal with the pending free agency of Nickell Robey-Coleman. Alexander really elevated himself with a sub-4.4 at the combine.
24. - Carolina Panthers - OT Kolton Miller, UCLA - Cam Newton is obviously big, strong and mobile but you are tempting fate with Matt Kalil at left tackle and Miller opened some eyes at the combine as the most athletic tackle available. NFL.com's original scouting report called Miller essentially an average athlete and then he showed up and ran a 4.95 40-yard dash at 6-foot-9 and 310 pounds with a 10-foot, 1-inch broad jump, a combine record for offensive linemen.
25. - Tennessee Titans - OL Isiah Wynn, Georgia - The Titans have great tackles but need help inside and that's where most project Wynn to land in the NFL after starring as a LT with the Bulldogs.
26. - Atlanta Falcons - DE Arden Key, LSU - Both Adrian Clayborn and Courtney Upshaw are scheduled to be free agents so the Falcons D could use some help on the edge for Vic Beasley and keeping the undersized Key in SEC country seems lie a prudent plan.
27. - New Orleans Saints - S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama - The Minnesota Miracle exemplifies that the Saints need a sound tackler on the back end and Kenny Vaccaro is on his way out so this one makes sense.
28. - Pittsburgh Steelers - LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State - Ryan Shazier's spinal-cord injury has the Steelers going LB in back-to-back years after bringing T.J. Watt on last April. The Eagles reportedly have a serious interest in Vander Esch.
29. - Jacksonville Jaguars - WR Courtland Sutton, SMU - With both Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee set to be free agents the Jaguars will almost have to go WR unless they get deals done. The rangy Sutton and his ability to get 50/50 balls which will help Blake Bortles.
30. - Minnesota Vikings - DT Harrison Phillips, Stanford - Both Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen are scheduled to be free agents so getting help next to Linval Joseph on the interior will be big for Mike Zimmer. Phillips is Stanford smart and Joseph-like strong with a combine-best 42 reps on the bench press.
31. - New England Patriots - CB Josh Jackson, Iowa - Clearly Malcolm Butler is not sticking around after the Super Bowl-week debacle so Jackson could be the heir apparent on the outside.
32. - Philadelphia Eagles - LB Rashaan Evans - If Nigel Bradham leaves in free agency this is a perfect fit as Evans could be the third LB and understudy to Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks before being ready to go in his sophomore season. Other possibilities include Texas OT Connor Williams and UTEP OG Will Hernandez.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen