The week of the Senior Bowl is in full swing, and fans are already looking towards the 2019 NFL Draft as we await Super Bowl LIII. It is still very, very early in the process—and things will undoubtedly change drastically—but here is my first crack at how the first round might play out in April. [Note: listed position is based on what each prospect is expected to play on the particular team that “drafts” them in this mock]
1. ARI: Nick Bosa, OLB, Ohio State
The debate between Nick Bosa and Josh Allen could be interesting with the Cardinals switching back to a 3-4, but Joey’s brother is a more polished pure pass rusher of the two top edge players in the class. While head coach Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t have personnel control, Kyler Murray also wouldn’t be a surprise here if the franchise views him as the best player in the draft.
2. SF: Josh Allen, DE, Kentucky
This is a prime spot to trade down with Bosa off the board, but if San Francisco is unable to add an impact pass rusher in free agency (there are a handful), Josh Allen should be the pick as an explosive edge defender that had 17.5 sacks for Kentucky last season. The Niners should adjust their 4-3 scheme to allow Allen to do more than just have his hand in the dirt, though.
3. NYJ: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
I’m not sold on Quinnen Williams as a no-doubt top-five pick like everyone else seems to be, but new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams would surely love to get his hands on the disruptive lineman to pair with Leonard Williams in the interior.
4. OAK: Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
Oakland can go in a variety of directions as Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock look to build a winner, but Deander Baker fits as both a need and arguably the best player available. The shutdown corner out of Georgia didn’t allow a touchdown in either of the past two seasons, which is remarkable.
5. TB: Jachai Polite, OLB, Florida
I think the Buccaneers would love for Josh Allen to somehow slip here, but Jachai Polite has a chance to move up boards with a strong pre-draft process, as there are several teams that need edge players in the 2019 NFL Draft. Polite’s speed would be a good compliment to Vita Vea’s power inside.
6. NYG: Devin White, LB, LSU
Unfortunately for the Giants, their defensive needs are everywhere besides the defensive line, which is the strength at the top of the draft. However, I don’t think this is too high for Devin White, who should be an impact, three-down linebacker for a front seven that already includes Lorenzo Carter and B.J. Hill.
7. JAX: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
By April, teams might need to move up to get Dwayne Haskins or another quarterback, but I think the strength of the 2020 class (Jake Fromm, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert) could make franchises less likely to give up future assets this year. Haskins can start immediately as an accurate pocket passer that should see favorable coverage in a run-first offense.
8. DET: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
Matt Patricia could be targeting the defensive line here, but a cornerback duo of Darius Slay and Greedy Williams is a scary thought for the rest of the division. Detroit would suddenly have a feared secondary if they hit on a safety in what looks like a deep class.
9. BUF: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
The Bills need to get playmakers for Josh Allen, but they also have the task of replacing Kyle Williams. I think Christian Wilkins is a steal here as the best interior defender in a loaded class, and the Buffalo locker room would be one of the most fun in all of sports by adding the two-time national champion.
10. DEN: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
General manager John Elway might be better off waiting for 2020 to get his quarterback of the future, but I’m sure he expects to be contending next year, so Denver won’t be thinking about Fromm, Tua, or Herbert. The NFL Draft Advisory Board gave Daniel Jones a first-round grade, and I think he will go higher than most currently expect as a smooth, precise passer with underrated athleticism.
11. CIN: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
In a division that includes Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson at quarterback, the Bengals might want to add an exciting signal-caller of their own to pair with their young head coach Zac Taylor. Kyler Murray—who I have as a top-ten prospect—would be fun to watch on an offense that includes Joe Mixon and A.J. Green.
12. GB: Montez Sweat, OLB, Mississippi State
Montez Sweat was one of the standouts in the first day of Senior Bowl practices, and his six-foot-six frame has untapped strength that should draw plenty of interest from NFL teams. The Packers need some punch off the edge with Clay Matthews and Nick Perry combining for just 5.0 sacks in 2018.
13. MIA: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
We have heard Ed Oliver compared to probable Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, and this is coincidentally the same draft slot he was taken five years ago. Miami might have fewer blue-chip talents than anyone, so they need to get a star here for new head coach Brian Flores.
14. ATL: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
The Falcons have had success staying in the southeast with star defenders Deion Jones (LSU) and Keanu Neal (Florida), and Dexter Lawrence would give them a difference-maker on the defensive line. The 21-year-old is more than just a run-stuffer, as he has the athleticism to get after quarterbacks at 350 pounds.
15. WAS: A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
Quarterback could be an option for the Redskins depending on Alex Smith’s health by April, but I think Day 2 might be where we see a bunch of guys come off the board. A.J. Brown has the size, athleticism, and smoothness to be an immediate No. 1 receiver.
16. CAR: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
If Julius Peppers returns for his age-40 season, this is probably the perfect spot for Clelin Ferrell, as the rookie would be able to maximize his skillset as a pass-rusher by learning from the future Hall of Famer. The concern for Ferrell right now is that he is an effort player that doesn’t have the natural explosiveness that others at the position do.
17. CLE: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
If I were the Browns, I would want to get Ole Miss left tackle Greg Little as a top-notch blindside protector for Baker Mayfield, but this is a projection, and general manager John Dorsey might decide to add Jeffery Simmons as an elite talent with some character concerns. We saw in the 2018 NFL Draft that Dorsey isn’t afraid to take risks when he shockingly took Antonio Callaway in the fourth round.
18. MIN: Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
Speaking of Little, he could step right in at left tackle for Minnesota if the team moves on from Riley Reiff, and as alluded to, he can hold up as well as anyone in pass protection. I think Little needs to be more forceful in the running game, but the priority for the Vikings is keeping Kirk Cousins upright.
19. TEN: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan
Some have Rashan Gary going as high as No. 2 overall in early mock drafts, but he appears to be the classic boom-or-bust prospect that might fall if teams aren’t sure what to make of him after compiling just 9.5 career sacks at Michigan. I like Gary best as a three-technique, and the Titans need to get younger up front.
20. PIT: Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
After Deandre Baker and Greedy Williams, cornerbacks will likely come off the board depending on scheme fit. Pittsburgh should like Amani Oruwariye’s length and ball skills across from Joe Haden in both zone and man coverage, and the Penn State product can also take the ball away (seven interceptions and 18 pass breakups over the past two years).
21. SEA: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
Wide receiver is also a position that will be a buyer’s market (i.e. rankings will likely vary fairly significantly for each team), and I could see the Seahawks falling in love with D.K. Metcalf’s upside at six-foot-four with deep speed and natural hands. Metcalf is an ideal fit alongside Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin.
22. BAL: Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State
I think most are still playing catchup on Hakeem Butler, but the big-bodied receiver is a monster on downfield passes, and Lamar Jackson won’t have to be quite as precise throwing to him considering Butler’s catch radius. The pairing between the Baltimore native and his hometown team should be a popular one throughout the pre-draft process.
23. HOU: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
The Texans simply have to address the offensive line this offseason if they want to keep Deshaun Watson healthy and be a serious threat in the playoffs, and Jonah Williams is a battle-tested prospect that started at right tackle as a true freshman before moving over to the left side in 2017 and 2018.
24. OAK (via CHI): Jaquan Johnson, S, Miami (FL)
The Raiders can add another impact defender with their second pick on Day 1, and Jaquan Johnson is an all-around safety that can hit, cover, and take the ball away. Plus, the leader of the Turnover Chain defense is extremely intelligent, often seeing the play before it happens.
25. PHI: Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
There might be more pressing needs for the Eagles, but general manager Howie Roseman will surely want to do all he can to support Carson Wentz for 2019 and beyond. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is the premier deep threat in this year’s class, and defenses would pay by bracketing Zach Ertz with he and Alshon Jeffery on the outside.
26. IND: Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple
Temple isn’t exactly South Carolina State (where Darius Leonard played his college ball), but the Colts haven’t been afraid to add players from smaller schools since Chris Ballard took over as general manager. Rock Ya-Sin attended Presbyterian College for three years before emerging at cornerback for the Owls as a senior, and he looks every bit like an NFL star.
27. OAK (via DAL): Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
Deander Baker and Jaquan Johnson would be an awesome start for Oakland in my opinion, and they might take the first running back off the board by selecting Alabama’s Josh Jacobs if Gruden wants a thick, powerful runner with burst and upside as a pass-catcher.
28. LAC: Mack Wilson, ILB, Alabama
Los Angeles doesn’t have a ton of holes on the roster, but they will probably address the offensive line, defensive line, and linebacker this offseason. Mack Wilson was originally said to be staying in school, but his decision to come out puts him towards the top of the class as a fluid athlete that can tackle and cover.
29. KC: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
The Chiefs could probably use more size at corner, but the desired prototype seems to be clear for Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach, which makes Byron Murphy an option here. The former Washington standout might remind them of Marcus Peters.
30. GB (via NO): T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
I like T.J. Hockenson’s teammate Noah Fant as the top tight end in the class, but new head coach Matt LaFleur might want a more well-rounded player to pair with Jimmy Graham in 2019 before taking over as the clear top option in 2020. Hockenson really shines as a blocker, which would allow Green Bay to stay in 11 personnel if LaFleur replicates what Sean McVay is doing in LA.
31. NE: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
The Patriots are currently underdogs for Super Bowl LIII, so I’m giving them pick No. 31 for this mock, which allows them to get Rob Gronkowski’s successor. In terms of play style, Noah Fant is more Jimmy Graham than Gronk, but New England would easily adjust their offense to take advantage of a tight end with double-digit touchdown upside.
32. LAR: Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan
Los Angeles obviously has the quarterback and head coach in place to potentially start a dynasty if they can beat the Pats in a couple weeks, but sustaining success is the most difficult part, and they need to hit on draft picks in the spring. Devin Bush is only listed at five-foot-11, but he has the speed to track sideline-to-sideline and should be mostly kept clean behind a dominant line.