The NFL scouting combine starts tomorrow. Like every year, the combine will be full of players who over and under perform. Maybe they’ll even perform exactly how they’re expected to. It’s almost a guarantee we’ll see a few players rise or fall because of their testing numbers. Right now what we have to go off of is team need and what we’ve seen on tape for each player. Things will change after the combine. Teams will become interested in players based on how they perform. Some players will boost themselves into the first round, while others may fall out of it.
A little further down the road is free agency, which will likely change things again for several teams. Because of the unknowns with how players will perform at the combine and which teams will sign what players, this mock draft is based on what positions teams need to fill and how most people currently view each prospect. With the NFL Combine starting tomorrow, here’s my pre-combine mock draft.
1. CLEVELAND BROWNS – RB SAQUON BARKLEY, PENN STATE
Barkley is the best player in the draft, and to me it doesn’t make sense to take a quarterback at number 1 when you also have pick 4. The Colts aren’t taking a quarterback, so the Browns will have their choice of Rosen, Allen, Darnold, Mayfield, or whoever’s left when their second pick comes around. The Browns just need talent. Take the best overall player and get your QB a couple picks later.
2. NEW YORK GIANTS – QB JOSH ROSEN, UCLA
Eli Manning will likely still be there, but the Giants are going to have to replace him soon. Rosen can come in and learn from Manning for a year or two, eventually taking over his spot. This would allow the Giants to not have a huge hole at the position when the time comes for Eli.
3. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS – DE BRADLEY CHUBB, N.C. STATE
The Colts need to get some pressure on the edge. They ranked 31st in the league in sacks last season. Chubb won’t fix the whole problem. Not one player can, but he’s a great start. Not only is Chubb the best Defensive End in this class, but he’s also one of the best players available at this point.
4. CLEVELAND BROWNS – QB SAM DARNOLD, USC
Now it’s time to take the QB. Picking Darnold to go with Barkley could give the Browns a QB/RB combo teams will fear for years to come. Hopefully Darnold can avoid the curse of being a Browns quarterback.
5. DENVER BRONCOS – G QUENTON NELSON, NOTRE DAME
Denver is one of the front runners to sign Kirk Cousins, which would make this a perfect pick. Even if they don’t get Cousins, the offensive line needs an upgrade for whoever plays quarterback. Nelson is the best in the draft at his position and he fills a major need for this team.
6. NEW YORK JETS – QB JOSH ALLEN, WYOMING
The Jets need a quarterback. I’m personally not a fan of Allen, but I don’t think the Jets can pass him up because of need and his potential. If they pick Allen, they can’t expect him to be a quick fix for their quarterback problems.
7. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS – DB MINKAH FITZPATRICK, ALABAMA
The best available player in the draft goes here. Fitzpatrick can play multiple positions. Any team would be more than happy to have him. One of Tampa Bay’s needs is a corner, so plugging Fitzpatrick in as a corner on this team would be perfect.
8. CHICAGO BEARS – CB DENZEL WARD, OHIO STATE
Chicago needs a lot of things. Receiver is one of the most common positions mocked here, but I don’t like the value of the receivers at number 8. Instead the Bears fill another major need and upgrade their secondary.
9. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS – LB TREMAINE EDMUNDS, VIRGINIA TECH
San Francisco could go many ways here. Linebacker isn’t one of their top needs, but this team needs to improve in several areas, so picking one of the top players on the board is what they’ll do. Edmunds is an athletic linebacker who can cover and rush the passer.
10. OAKLAND RAIDERS – LB ROQUAN SMITH, GEORGIA
Smith is a linebacker who can go from sideline to sideline on every play. Oakland needs to improve on defense, and linebacker is a big need for their defense. Having Smith and Mack in the linebacking department would be big time.
11. MIAMI DOLPHINS – QB BAKER MAYFIELD, OKLAHOMA
Miami needs a new quarterback. Ryan Tannehill will be back, but he hasn’t gotten them anywhere in his NFL career so far. It’s time for a change. It’s my opinion that Mayfield can be a great leader in the NFL, and the Dolphins need that from the quarterback position.
12. CINCINNATI BENGALS – OT ORLANDO BROWN, OKLAHOMA
Protection issues were a big part of why the Bengals had a down season. They also need to be able to move the ball in the run game. An upgrade is needed across the line, and Brown is one of the top tackles in this class.
13. WASHINGTON REDSKINS – WR CALVIN RIDLEY, ALABAMA
With Jamison Crowder being the leading receiver a year ago, the Redskins need an upgrade at receiver. Ridley is considered by many to be the best receiver in the draft. He’s a great route runner who can help this offense. Alex Smith needs more weapons in order to succeed.
14. GREEN BAY PACKERS – DT VITA VEA, WASHINGTON
Green Bay needs someone who can plug the middle and free up others along the line, as well as the linebackers. Vea is a huge presence in the middle. Even at his size, Vea can make an impact inside and outside. This defense needs that kind of presence.
15. ARIZONA CARDINALS – QB LAMAR JACKSON, LOUISVILLE
I’m not sure if taking Jackson at this spot is the right value, but the Cardinals need a new quarterback. Who they have now is not going to get it done. The other top quarterbacks have all been taken, so Arizona needs to pull the trigger on Jackson here and get their quarterback of the future before they miss out.
16. BALTIMORE RAVENS – WR COURTLAND SUTTON, SMU
Joe Flacco needs some weapons on the outside. Sutton is a big receiver who can be that guy. The offense struggled for a good portion of last year. If Sutton can maximize his potential, he’ll be a great weapon for Flacco and the Ravens offense.
17. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS – OT CONNOR WILLIAMS, TEXAS
The Chargers offensive line is in desperate need of an upgrade. They have to protect Rivers and move the ball better on the ground. Williams is great in protection and his ability move the line is exactly what the Chargers need.
18. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS – S DERWIN JAMES, FLORIDA STATE
You can’t ignore the potential Derwin James has, especially in this defense. Seattle could be losing Earl Thomas in the near future, and James would be a perfect replacement. He could step in right away and the Seattle defense wouldn’t take a step back at all.
19. DALLAS COWBOYS – DT DA’RON PAYNE, ALABAMA
Dallas needs an inside presence on their defensive line. Da’Ron Payne showed that he can be exactly that over the course of last season, especially in the College Football Playoff. With Demarcus Lawrence putting the pressure on from the outside, Payne’s presence on the inside would greatly benefit him and the entire defensive line.
20. DETROIT LIONS – RB DERRIUS GUICE, LSU
When your leading rusher a season ago had 552 yards and 3.3 yards a carry, your running game needs an upgrade. Guice is one of the best backs in this class. He can give the Lions what they’ve been missing on the ground. His speed isn’t elite, but he can pound his way through defenders. A better ground game would only benefit Stafford.
21. BUFFALO BILLS – DT MAURICE HURST, MICHIGAN
Buffalo may look at a quarterback here, but with the top quarterbacks all off the board, they shouldn’t reach for one. With Marcell Dareus not in the picture anymore, the Bills need a presence in the middle of their defensive line. Maurice Hurst has what it takes to be that guy.
22. BUFFALO BILLS – LB HAROLD LANDRY, BOSTON COLLEGE
Again no top quarterbacks left on the board, so they go back to back defense and fill two needs. Landry excels at getting pressure off the edge. He had a bit of a down year in 2017, but 2016 was incredible. His pass rushing skills are there, along with the potential.
23. LOS ANGELES RAMS – C BILLY PRICE, OHIO STATE
Price is the best center in this draft class. What makes him even more valuable is that he can play both center and guard. I’m not sure this is the biggest need for the Rams, but it is a need. They might lose some pieces on the interior line, and what they do have right now isn’t an elite group.
24. CAROLINA PANTHERS – OT MIKE MCGLINCHEY, NOTRE DAME
Carolina wants to be a running team. Whether that’s through their running backs or through Cam Newton, that’s what they want. For that to happen, they have to have a stronger offensive line. Both on the ground and when dropping back to pass, Cam Newton has taken too many shots and needs to be protected.
25. TENNESSEE TITANS – DE MARCUS DAVENPORT, UTSA
Marcus Davenport is a guy who excelled against his competition. He played at a lower level than most, which makes some shy away from him, but I think he can make the transition . Davenport has the length you want in a defensive end, along with the traits you look for in a potential elite pass rusher. The Titans must get better in this area if they want to improve their defense.
26. ATLANTA FALCONS – DT TAVEN BRYAN, FLORIDA
Atlanta is likely going to be losing some of their interior lineman, so they need someone who can step in and fill that soon to be hole. Bryan has the athletic ability you want from the position, but he still needs to develop a little bit. The potential is there, but it might be a little while before he fully grows into it.
27. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – WR CHRISTIAN KIRK, TEXAS A&M
With a much improved defense, the offense can be focused on. Michael Thomas is a good receiver, but other than that there’s not much. Kirk can be a nice compliment to Thomas on the other side.
28. PITTSBURGH STEELERS – LB RASHAAN EVANS, ALABAMA
The Steelers need to get another linebacker who can make plays for them. Rashaan Evans just feels like a Steeler to me. He’d be a perfect fit for this defense and could make an impact right away.
29. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS – WR JAMES WASHINGTON, OKLAHOMA STATE
Jacksonville will have some receivers leaving in free agency, so they need to get more depth. This may be a reach, but they have to get better at the receiver position to help Bortles.
30. MINNESOTA VIKINGS – OG WILL HERNANDEZ, UTEP
Their defense doesn’t have many holes, so the focus should be on offense. The offensive line needs to be better at the tackle and guard spots. The top tackles are off the board at this point, so the Vikings go with a top guard in Hernandez to start building the offensive line for whoever their quarterback is.
31. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – CB JOSH JACKSON , IOWA
After what happened with Malcolm Butler, he’s probably not coming back. One CB spot is locked up, but the Patriots need help and depth at the position. Jackson is a pretty good value at this spot.
32. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES – LB MALIK JEFFERSON, TEXAS
There’s a few different ways the Eagles could go here. LT could be an option with the injury to Peters last season and his age. The CB unit on this team could look for an upgrade also, but I think where they look for help first is at the linebacker position. Jefferson has the size and is athletic enough to help this team from the start.