The 2018 Super Bowl has come and gone, meaning 31 teams and their fans are already looking ahead to next season. As General Managers enter their busy season, so does On the Clock, the Campus Citizen’s NFL Draft column.With the NFL combine kicking off February 26th, we’ll take our first crack at predicting how the incoming rookies will fair.
*Note – this initial mock draft will not include trades. Trades will be predicted between the Combine and the NFL Draft.
- Arizona Cardinals (3-13) – Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Team Needs: WR, CB, MLB
The Cardinals haven’t won more than seven games since 2015; neither has their first-time NFL head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury inherits a team headlined by aging stars and bereft of young talent. Larry Fitzgerald has signed on for his 16th season and both Chandler Jones and Patrick Peterson will turn 29 this year. Arizona will be looking for Fitzgerald’s heir apparent and a young running mate for either Jones or Peterson in the early rounds. But, what the Cardinals need more than anything is health. By 2018’s end, three starting offensive linemen (D.J. Humphries, Mike Iupati, and Justin Pugh) found themselves on the Injured Reserve; Josh Rosen found himself on his back. Often.
While the 2019’s strengths don’t match up well with the Cardinal’s top needs, they have their choice between several blue-chip prospects, or they can trade down to fill multiple needs.
Bosa’s skill set is comparable to his brother, Joey’s. Unfortunately, so are his injury issues. A Chandler Jones-Nick Bosa 1-2 pass rush punch would wreak havoc on the NFC West and give second year quarterback Josh Rosen more opportunities with the ball. Bosa will be participating in the Combine and will look to cement his status as top prospect with an explosive workout.
- San Francisco 49ers (4-12) – Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
Team Needs: OLB, DT, WR
John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan’s rebuild is not going according to plan. However, while teams picking in the top five usually look for a signal caller, Jimmy Garappolo’s availability allows San Francisco to look elsewhere.
The 49ers have taken defensive lineman with their first pick in three of the last four drafts. The strength of this 2019 class may make it four out of five. The 49ers could take their guy with the #2 pick or trade down a couple of spots and still walk away with a premier defensive lineman.
While the 49ers will probably end up shopping this pick, the explosive Williams would give San Francisco one of the most complete defensive lines in the league.
- New York Jets (4-12) – Josh Allen, DE, Kentucky
Team Needs: OL, DT, DE, RB
The Jets’ trade-up and selection of Sam Darnold at #3 in 2018 was the first time New York had spent a first-round choice on an offensive player since they selected Mark Sanchez in 2009. In 2019, it’s back to defense.
Ideally, the Jets would be able to choose an offensive lineman to help keep their young franchise quarterback upright. Without an offensive lineman worthy of a Top 3 pick, defensive line will be the selection. The defensive front seven has had a Sheldon Richardson-sized hole since 2016 and could also use a running mate for young defensive end Leonard Williams. Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, or Josh Allen will be dressing in Green and White next year. In this mock draft, it’s Josh Allen left at the #3 spot.
A feature running back is also a need, but don’t be surprised when the Jets sign Le’Veon Bell or Tevin Coleman next year.
- Oakland Raiders (4-12) – Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
Team Needs: Everything… DE, WR, OL, MLB, OLB
Jon Gruden is not afraid to make moves, and it should be noted the Raiders’ needs are subject to dramatic change. Gruden’s efforts to trade away his most valuable franchise cornerstones and catapult himself down the draft board have netted the Raiders three first-round draft picks and a roster full of holes. Specifically, holes at defensive end and wide receiver.
Oakland’s plan is to have the team functional by the time they make the final move to Las Vegas in 2020. For this to happen, the Raiders need to nail each of their first three selections.
Or will new GM Mike Mayock use all three picks? Oakland has plenty of draft capital to work with and could easily move up into San Francisco’s spot depending on combine results. But, in this mock draft, the Raiders forego the Best Player Available (BPA) and attempt to fill the hole left by Khalil Mack. In his Junior and Senior seasons, the 6’5 Ferrell had a combined 121 tackles, 21 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles. The combination of production and pedigree is an easy sell to the future Las Vegas Raiders.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11) – Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
Team Needs: CB, SS, RG, DT
The hiring of quarterback guru Bruce Arians signals that the Buccaneers are not quite ready to wave the white flag with Jameis Winston. For as many times as Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson torched opponents’ defenses deep last year, the Tampa Bay defense gave it back just as quickly. Only the Raiders (29.1 ppg) gave up more points than the Bucs (29 ppg).
While the secondary is the most pressing concern, a need at defensive tackle may be opening up soon. DT Gerald McCoy’s 2019 contract is not guaranteed and he was less than certain about his future in a week 17 post-game conference.
This pick may come down to Greedy Williams and Houston’s Ed Oliver, but the need for a defensive back coupled with Gerald McCoy’s possible return wins out. For now.
- New York Giants (5-11) – Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
Team Needs: OL, QB, DE
The majority of the Giants’ offseason speculation will be centered on whether or not Eli Manning will be commanding the offense in 2019. Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock, and Heisman winner Kyler Murray will be a part of the discussion, though the 2020 crop of passers is much more highly touted.
Whoever lines up under center next year is going to need some help. Manning was sacked 2.9 times per game last season, sometimes due to his own immobility, but not always. Securing the offensive line will let Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley do what they were drafted to do.
Keep in mind that the first quarterback drafted has come off the board with the 3rd pick or higher in every year since 2013 when E.J. Manuel was taken 16th overall. Come draft season, “Quarterback Inflation” is a very real concept. In this mock draft, the Giants stay in the 6th slot and have their choice of signal callers. By April it may not be realistic.
New York seems intent on letting Eli Manning dictate his own timeline before letting him ride out into the sunset, but a contingency plan is necessary. Murray does not have prototypical quarterback size; neither does Baker Mayfield and the Browns seem to be pretty happy with him. With the state of the Giants’ offensive line, they are in need of a nimble quarterback to elude pressure often. Murray could give New York a trio of young dynamic playmakers.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) – Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Team Needs: QB, TE, OC
One year removed from an AFC Championship game run, the AFC South is back to its status quo. The wildly under performing Jaguars are at a crossroads and management will need to determine whether drafting a quarterback will solve all of their woes.
Jacksonville may kick the tires on Joe Flacco in free agency, though if they fall in love with a young quarterback prospect, they may need to leapfrog the Giants to draft him.
Assuming the Jaguars regain health on their roster, they have one of the most solid line-ups in football. On paper, at least. With a stacked defense, GM David Caldwell can turn his attention to the offense. The Jaguars have to believe that they are one quarterback (not named Blake Bortles) away from regaining traction in the AFC South. For their new signal-caller, they turn to someone with a much different skill-set. Haskins displayed only a fraction of the mobility of Bortles but showed all of the arm talent that Bortles lacked.
- Detroit Lions (6-10) – Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
Team Needs: WR, OLB, CB
It’s year two of Matt Patricia’s tenure and the Lions are still looking for a defensive identity. After spending their first two picks on the offense last year, it’s time to find it.
While the defensive ends worthy of a Top-10 selection should be gone by the eighth pick, the run on defensive tackles and possibly quarterbacks will push the remaining premier talents down the board. The Lions could very easily end up with the top cornerback or linebacker in the draft.
At this stage in the game, the former highest rated prospect coming out of high school is a bit of a question mark. Is he fast enough to play defensive end? Is he big enough to be a defensive tackle? It is clear that Michigan did not do him any favors with their gameplan. What Gary is, though, is a freakish athlete and a unique talent. An electrifying combine performance may push Gary’s draft stock much higher than the 8th pick.
- Buffalo Bills (6-10) – Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida
Team Needs: OL, WR, DT, OLB
After making their first playoff appearance in this millennium, the most anticipated Bills season in 20 years finished with an all-too-familiar 6-10 record (four out of the last eight years).
The Bills hired QB coach Ken Dorsey to aid Josh Allen’s development, but Allen won’t reach his potential without a #1 target and a revamped offensive line. The departure of both center Eric Wood and guard Richie Incognito as well as the cutting of WR Kelvin Benjamin left Allen scrambling in 2018. Having your rookie quarterback carry the ball 89 times for 631 yards is not the best plan for his long-term health.
The 6’5, 350 lb. Taylor provides too much value for Buffalo to pass up. Putting Taylor at left tackle allows the Bills to either send Dion Dawkins out to right tackle or kick him inside to left guard. The Bills have the opportunity to upgrade two offensive line spots with one pick. Josh Allen will thank them.
10.Denver Broncos (6-10) – Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
Team Needs: QB, S, OL
The relatively unsuccessful first year of new quarterback, and poor man’s Alex Smith, Case Keenum has the Broncos fan base uneasy. GM John Elway is running out of chances to introduce new starting quarterbacks and finds himself squarely on the hot seat.
With a stout defense and the pairing of Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton at wide receiver, this is arguably the most attractive landing spot for any quarterback drafted this season.
During the Elway tenure, the Broncos have taken 6’7 Brock Osweiler and 6’7 Paxton Lynch in the early rounds to be their quarterback of the future. Neither has been. It’s back to the drawing board with Drew Lock, a sizable prospect with a strong arm.