The draft countdown is now going by in hours, not days. NFL teams are done slotting and sorting. Evaluations have been done for weeks.
For a different perspective on how I think the first three rounds play out, check out the team-less mock draft. That one attempts strictly to match player with draft slot. This one is more about team and player, especially early on.
I went out to three rounds here. As I noted in my “32 Fearless Predictions”, my projection for Mr. Irrelevant is Middle Tennessee RB I’Tavius Mathers.
The Gareon Conley allegation made me shuffle. I initially had him at No. 11 to New Orleans. Even if the alleged incident goes away and is proven to be malarkey, it makes slotting him with any sort of accuracy near impossible.
I did not project any trades, but there are a couple of situations where I matched a player and team but do expect a trade from the current slot.
1. Browns: Myles Garrett, Edge, Texas A&M. Don’t overthink it. Cleveland won’t.
2. 49ers: Jamal Adams, S, LSU. A true unknown pick here. Could be a team trading for Trubisky, though not Cleveland. Could be Leonard Fournette. Could be Solomon Thomas. I like the angle of GM Jon Lynch, who was a similar type of safety, making Adams his signature first pick.
3. Bears: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson. There was too much heat on this for too long for it not to be a distinct possibility. If Trubisky goes at 2, I like the odds of this pick even more, though it might not be Chicago making it, or not making it at this slot. If the Bears take Jamal Adams here, and they might, Watson falls to at least No. 12 and probably into the 20s.
4. Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU. Tom Coughlin tries to balance the offense and help Blake Bortles.
I’ll present an alternate scenario here. I can see Jacksonville throwing a huge monkey wrench into the draft and taking Utah OT Garett Bolles here. I had that strong gut pick hit me when I sat down to write this up. It’s based on nothing more than that. If JAX trades back, Bolles is definitely in play.
5. Titans (from Rams): Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State. Just one year of production and injury concerns, but ceiling is All Pro shutdown corner. Tennessee
6. Jets: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State. The defensive overhaul gets real interesting with Hooker, one of the best ballhawks in the draft. I had O.J. Howard here for a long time and I think it makes sense too.
7. Chargers: Garett Bolles, T, Utah. Gil Brandt called this the worst OL class he’s seen, and because of that one of two things will happen. Either needy teams overbid for the scarce talent, or they all fall. Bolles is inexperienced despite being a 25-year-old rookie, but his mature mindset and hyper-nasty playing style will appeal to rookie coach Anthony Lynn looking to establish a culture. I’m prepared for this prediction to be wildly stupid in retrospect.
8. Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford. More sold on player/slot fit here than team/player, but the multi-purpose back has to rank high on Carolina’s board too. This was the hot player/team marriage at the Combine.
9. Bengals: Solomon Thomas, Edge, Stanford. A surprise faller, and he bumps my long-held prediction of Derek Barnett out of Cincinnati. Right or wrong, his tweener size plays against Thomas.
10. Bills: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina. I think this is as far as Trubisky will fall, and it’s easy to see Cleveland jumping here. With Tyrod Taylor’s long-term uncertain, drafting a QB who grew up 3 hours away makes sense. My alternate pick here is Mike Williams.
11. Saints: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple. One of draft season’s biggest risers, Reddick played safety and pass rusher. He has outstanding potential splitting the positional difference while incorporating what he excelled at in those other spots.
12. Browns (from Eagles): O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama. I do expect the Browns to trade up and land their QB, be it 5 or 6 or 10. Any of those three teams can certainly use Howard, who is the best TE I’ve graded since Kellen Winslow in 2004. The Browns would be smart to snag him in this scenario too.
13. Cardinals: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech. Higher than expected by most, but I think Bruce Arians will love what Trubisky can become as the Carson Palmer era nears an end.
14. Eagles (from Vikings): Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama. Alabama DBs seem to always get drafted earlier than the media thinks, and the speedy Humphrey fills a need. Would have had Conley here.
15. Colts: Charles Harris, Edge, Missouri. Gut hunch pick. This is a pick I expect the Colts will try to sell all the way to the podium.
16. Ravens: Johnathan Allen, DT, Alabama. My big surprise faller, Allen’s arthritic shoulders give teams above here a reason to look elsewhere. Also keep in mind how many teams added Day 1-2 defensive tackles last year. I think the perceived value here is too much for Ozzie Newsome to bypass.
17. Redskins: Derek Barnett, Edge, Tennessee. I’m fairly convinced Washington is going defense, and Barnett offers impact as an edge rusher. His limited athleticism hurts, but his production is tough for the Skins to ignore.
18. Titans: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson. The first wideout goes to a team I suspect would be tempted to take with their earlier pick. Williams brings a big target who can win outside the numbers for Marcus Mariota.
19. Buccaneers: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State. He’s a divisive pick but has undeniable high-end talent. This was one of the few near-unanimous return answers I got from polling sources on the first round.
20. Broncos: Forrest Lamp, OT, Western Kentucky. Lamp brings positional versatility, able to play right away at guard or tackle. Denver can certainly use that. He’s very well-regarded as a safe prospect by the NFL
21. Lions: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida. The Lions desperately want to get faster and quicker (mutually exclusive traits by the way) in the middle of the field on defense. Davis brings instincts, quick reactions and playmaking potential to a LB corps lacking all those traits. This is Haason Reddick’s floor.
22. Dolphins: Taco Charlton, Edge, Michigan. Taco is a tough guy to slot. He’s a very good player but might not have the ceiling of some others. His best fit is at 4-3 base end, and the Dolphins have to add younger talent to the defensive front.
23. Giants: David Njoku, TE, Miami. Another player/team marriage which has deep roots in the draft media rumor mill. Njoku’s receiving skills and ability to create after the catch are a nice fit for what New York needs on offense, more than another offensive tackle.
24. Raiders: Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State. An enigmatic player for the Spartans, his physical potential is outstanding a position where this draft is very thin. I think that keeps him in the first round. Oakland has the kind of locker room to help McDowell, who can play both end and tackle.
25. Texans: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama. I do buy into the rumors they want either Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes. I don’t think either gets close enough for them to realistically move up and snag. They also have a major need at right tackle, and Cam Robinson is an instant starter there.
26. Seahawks: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan. Not Seattle’s biggest need, but it would be hard to argue Davis isn’t the best player on the board. If not Seattle, someone else will find him appealing enough to move up and take him here. Malik McDowell is a great fit if he’s still on the board.
27. Chiefs: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama. He’s had a rough draft process for sure, enough that it can be hard to remember how awesome he was leading the fearsome, talented Alabama defense. He’s a great fit for KC as long as he can add some weight back to his 225-pound frame.
28. Cowboys: Adoree Jackson, CB, USC. Dallas has to restock a defense which lost a lot of significant contributors from last year’s overachieving unit. Jackson checks a lot of boxes, and his high-end ability as a return man only bolsters his first-round value.
29. Packers: Jordan Willis, Edge, Kansas State. Highly productive for the Wildcats, Willis tested unexpectedly well at the Combine. He’s the type of talent GM Ted Thompson gravitates toward and fills a need on the Green Bay defense.
30. Steelers: Obi Melifonwu, S, UConn. The veracity with which every Pittsburgh media member flocked to Obi at the Combine tells me they all anticipate the Steelers loving the giant safety.
31. Falcons: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin. A one-year wonder for a Badger program which perennially churns out NFL talent up front, Ramczyk can play right tackle or guard.
32. Saints from (Patriots): Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado. The heady Awuzie has the athletic potential to play any spot in the secondary except strong safety. The Saints need help at multiple DB spots, so taking someone who can move around makes sense.
1 (33). Browns: Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
2 (34). 49ers: John Ross, WR, Washington
3 (35). Jaguars: Dan Feeney, G, Indiana
4 (36). Bears: Josh Jones, S, North Carolina State
5 (37). Rams: Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina
6 (38). Chargers: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
7 (39). Jets: Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
8 (40). Panthers: Dion Dawkins, OL, Temple
9 (41). Bengals: Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
10 (42). Saints: T.J. Watt, Edge, Wisconsin
11 (43). Eagles: Tyus Bowser, Edge, Houston
12 (44). Bills: Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State
13 (45). Cardinals: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
14 (46). Colts: Budda Baker, S, Washington
15 (47). Ravens: Kevin King, CB, Washington
16 (48). Vikings: Marcus Williams, S, Utah
17 (49). Redskins: Deshone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
18 (50). Buccaneers: Marcus Maye, S, Florida
19 (51). Broncos: Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
20 (52). Browns (from Titans): Davis Webb, QB, California. If they land a QB earlier, this pick changes to Curtis Samuel
21 (53). Lions: Tarell Basham, Edge, Ohio
22 (54). Dolphins: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
23 (55). Giants: Chris Wormley, DL, Michigan
24 (56). Raiders: Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA
25 (57). Texans: Nathan Peterman, QB, Pittsburgh
26 (58). Seahawks: Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
27 (59). Chiefs: Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
28 (60). Cowboys: Carl Lawson, Edge, Auburn
29 (61). Packers: D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
30 (62). Steelers: Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland
31 (63). Falcons: Tanoh Kpassagnon, Edge, Villanova
32 (64). Panthers (from Patriots): Tim Williams, Edge, Alabama
1 (65). Browns: Curtis Samuel, WR, Ohio State
2 (66). 49ers: Taylor Moton, OT, Western Michigan
3 (67). Bears: Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
4 (68). Jaguars: Josh Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
5 (69). Rams: Desmond King, DB, Iowa
6 (70). Jets: Ryan Anderson, LB, Alabama
7 (71). Chargers: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
8 (72). Patriots (from Panthers): Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
9 (73). Bengals: Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama
10 (74). Ravens (from Eagles): Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan
11 (75). Bills: Aviante Collins, OT, TCU
12 (76). Saints: Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama
13 (77). Cardinals: Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy
14 (78). Ravens: Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
15 (79). Vikings: Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State
16 (80). Colts: Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida
17 (81). Redskins: Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee
18 (82). Broncos: Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
19 (83). Titans: Davon Godchaux, DT, LSU
20 (84). Buccaneers: Isaac Asiata, OG, Utah
21 (85). Lions: Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado
22 (86). Vikings (from Dolphins): Vincent Taylor, DT, Oklahoma State
23 (87). Giants: Derek Rivers, Edge, Youngstown State
24 (88). Raiders: Vince Biegel, LB, Wisconsin
25 (89). Texans: Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M
26 (90). Seahawks: Pat Elflein, C, Ohio State
27 (91). Chiefs: David Sharpe, OT, Florida
28 (92). Cowboys: Larry Ogunjobi, DT, Charlotte
29 (93). Packers: Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
30 (94). Steelers: Will Holden, OT, Vanderbilt
31 (95). Falcons: Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota
32 (96). Patriots: ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
33 (97). Dolphins (compensatory): Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M
34 (98). Panthers (compensatory): Grover Stewart, DT, Albany State
35 (99). Eagles (from Ravens) (compensatory): Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo
36 (100). Titans (from Rams) (compensatory): George Kittle, TE, Iowa
37 (101). Broncos (compensatory): Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado
38 (102). Seahawks (compensatory): Julie’n Davenport, OL, Bucknell
39 (103). Saints (from Patriots through Browns) (compensatory): Jaylen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Tennessee
40 (104). Chiefs (compensatory): Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA
41 (105). Steelers (compensatory): Fadol Brown, Edge, Mississippi State
42 (106). Seahawks (compensatory): Demarcus Walker, DT, Florida State
43 (107). Jets (compensatory): Dorian Johnson, OG, Pittsburgh