The draft starts Thursday. That means time is running short for mock drafts. Since everyone and their uncle’s mailman’s cousin has a mock draft, we’re continuing to post one, too.
I don’t like mock drafts. Some say they’re a vehicle for framing conversations. They’re actually a crutch. There has to be a better way to talk about the draft than to say, “Let’s pretend we know what’s going to happen and then talk about that.”
It gets even more bizarre when it comes to predicting trades. The potential permutations extend into numbers that the human mind can’t comprehend.
But here we are. Our one and only mock draft of the year. I don’t care if any of the picks are right. I don’t care if you call it the “worst mock draft ever.” (One or more of my past mock drafts will be happy to lose that crown.)
We used to do umpteen versions of mock drafts. That was before I developed a thorough and complete hatred of them. In recent years, we’ve shifted to a one-shot mock draft, with no concern for accuracy and no pride in authorship. Especially since I have now exported the assignment to a seasoned scout whose credentials would not be questioned if his name were to be mentioned.
I thought about tinkering with his selections. But then I realized I just don’t care. If any of these picks are right, the anonymous, unattached scout with no skin in the game gets the credit. For all that are wrong, I’ll gladly take the blame.
Here goes nothing. Literally.
1. Jaguars: Travon Walker, defensive end, Georgia.
They thought about taking a tackle. The current thinking is they will stick with a pass rusher.
2. Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, defensive end, Michigan.
He fills a need, and his Michigan connection is great for business. If he’s there, it’s a no-brainer.
3. Texans: Evan Neal, tackle, Alabama.
A team that has plenty of needs could go in plenty of different directions here.
4. Jets: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, cornerback, Cincinnati.
The Jets migrate from Revis Island to Sauce City.
5. Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, tackle, N.C. State.
The offensive line is and has been a mess. Ekwonu starts the process of cleaning things up.
6. Panthers: Charles Cross, tackle, Mississippi State.
They need a quarterback, but they ultimately may not like one enough to make him the sixth pick.
7. Giants: Drake London, receiver, USC.
I’d personally go with Jameson Williams here, but I’m deferring to the person who crafted this draft.
8. Falcons: Kyle Hamilton, safety, Notre Dame.
A potential generational talent becomes the anchor of a team that is hoping to once again become a perennial contender.
9. Seahawks: Derek Stingley, Jr., cornerback, LSU.
They could trade down, or they could grab a guy who could become one of the cornerstones of Legion of Boom 2.0.
10. Jets: Kavon Thibodeaux, edge rusher, Oregon.
All those people who are talking about Thibodeaux sliding out of the top 10 could be hoping he does, so that they can draft him.
11. Commanders: Garrett Wilson, receiver, Ohio State.
A new Buckeye receiver could replace a current Buckeye receiver to whom they may not want to give big money.
12. Vikings: Jermaine Johnson II, edge rusher, Florida State.
Za'Darius Smith is a short-term move; they need pieces for their 3-4 defense.
13. Texans: Chris Olave, receiver Ohio State.
They don’t have a franchise quarterback any longer. A great receiver could make their non-franchise player look a lot better.
14. Ravens: Trevor Penning, tackle, Northern Iowa.
15. Eagles: Jameson Williams, receiver, Alabama.
Don’t be surprised if he goes higher — or if the Eagles trade up to take him at a higher spot.
16. Saints: Kenny Pickett, QB Pitt.
17. Chargers: Andrew Booth, Jr., cornerback, Clemson.
They’re doing what they have to do to keep up with great offenses in the AFC West.
18. Eagles: Jordan Davis, defensive tackle, Georgia.
Fletcher Cox is getting closer to the end. They need someone who’s just getting started.
19. Saints: Tyler Smith, offensive lineman, Tulsa.
The post-Payton offense needs more talent, and not necessarily a receiver.
20. Steelers: Malik Willis, quarterback, Liberty.
They may trade up to get him. They quite likely don’t intend on having an extended gap between franchise quarterbacks, like they did before drafting Ben Roethisberger.
21. Patriots: George Karlaftis, edge rusher, Purdue.
Best available player, an assessment informed by their struggles when it comes to drafting and developing receivers.
22. Packers: Treylon Burks, receiver, Arkansas.
They need a new No. 1 receiver, desperately. Don’t be stunned if they trade up to get him or someone else.
23. Cardinals: Demarvin Leal, defensive tackle, Texas A&M.
The defense needs a boost. Leal could provide it.
24. Cowboys: Kenyon Green, guard, Texas A&M.
It’s time to get back to taking care of the offensive line.
25. Bills: Trent McDuffie, cornerback, Washington.
They need help in the secondary, especially with Tre'Davious White returning from a torn ACL.
26. Titans: Jahan Dotson, receiver, Penn State.
Julio Jones didn’t work out. They need a solid No. 2.
27. Buccaneers: Devin Lloyd, linebacker, Utah.
Another Devin becomes the successor to Lavonte David.
28. Packers: Bernard Raimann, tackle, Central Michigan.
With Aaron Rodgers sticking around, they need people to keep him upright.
29. Chiefs: Zion Johnson, guard, Boston College.
They need to draft and develop competent blockers for Patrick Mahomes.
30. Chiefs: Daxton Hill, safety, Michigan.
Combined with the signing of Justin Reid, taking Hill could beef up the last line of defense, considerably.
31. Bengals: Tyler Linderbaum, center, Iowa.
Talented but undersized, the Bengals need to be looking for guys who can protect Joe Burrow.
32. Lions: Matt Corral, quarterback, Mississippi.
They could trade this pick to someone who wants to get a quarterback — and the last five-year contract of the 2022 draft — or they could go ahead and take Corral here. He’s got the intangibles the Lions need as they try to turn the page on three decades of dysfunction.