Rd. 1, Pk. 13
Vita Vea, DT/3-4DE/NT, Washington
The Redskins looked completely helpless trying to stop Alfred Morris in a must-win game the week after Thanksgiving. They need to bolster their defensive front, and Vita Vea happens to be one of the best players available.
*** OTHER 2018 NFL DRAFT POSSIBILITIES: ***
1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S - Fitzpatrick will certainly be in the conversation if he's available, as he could be the top prospect on the board.
2. Da'Ron Payne, NT - I've had either Payne or Fitzpatrick slotted here in every single mock draft I've done since February. Until today.
The Chargers have a great defense, but their one area of weakness is in the interior of the defensive line. Corey Liuget is a talented interior pass-rusher, but the Chargers lack a monstrous run-stuffing presence. That would change with this selection.
Da'Ron Payne is a great athlete for his position, as few man can do what he's able to at his size. He could easily be chosen in the top 15, so this is a solid value pick.
*** OTHER 2018 NFL DRAFT POSSIBILITIES: ***
1. Vita Vea, NT - The other top-end nose tackle is an option at this juncture as well.
2. Leighton Vander Esch, LB - I've had Vander Esch slotted here before, and I still think he makes sense for a Charger team that needs an upgrade at linebacker.
The Browns acquired several players recently, but they did manage to trade one away. That was Danny Shelton, a run-plugger. Larry Ogunjobi will take his place, but Cleveland needs an interior rusher to start next to Ogunjobi.
Rd. 2, Pk. 18
Andrew Brown, DT/3-4DE, Virginia
Trade! The Seahawks acquire this pick for Earl Thomas, which is the rumor floating around right now. Seattle could use this selection to bolster the defensive interior in the wake of Sheldon Richardson's departure.
Pick change; previously Anthony Miller, WR (DAL)
Rd. 2, Pk. 26
B.J. Hill, DT/3-4DE/NT, N.C. State
Once again, the Falcons' defense was incredibly soft against the Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs. They could use two of their initial three selections on the defensive line.
Rd. 2, Pk. 30
Nathan Shepherd, DT, Fort Hays State
There have been reports indicating that Sharrif Floyd may never play again, which is a shame. Sheldon Richardson was signed, but for just one year. Here's a long-term plan at the position.
Rd. 3, Pk. 1
Trenton Thompson, DT, Georgia
The Bills overpaid for Star Lotulelei this offseason, so that means they now have two run-stuffing defensive tackles. What they lack is someone who can create a pass rush in the interior.
Rd. 1, Pk. 1
Jonathan Allen, DT/3-4DE, Alabama
If the top safeties are gone, I could see the Chargers taking Allen. They hosted him on a visit, and I think he makes sense as a versatile defender for Gus Bradley's 4-3 scheme. On top of that, the organization could save money by moving on from Corey Liuget in 2018, and the veteran had zero sacks last season, which only continued his downward trend of fewer sacks every year over the past four seasons. Allen could play as a five-technique defensive end or a three-technique tackle for Bradley. Allen would give the Chargers an interior pass rush to pair with Joey Bosa for many years to come. Thus, I think Allen is a good fit for the new team in Los Angeles.
In 2016, Allen totaled 62 tackles, 15 for a loss, 9.5 sacks, two passes batted and one interception returned 75 yards for a touchdown. He dominated at the point of attack all year and was very disruptive. Consistently, Allen used his speed and strength to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. He is a tough run defender, yet can also beat guards or tackles in the pass rush.
Allen played really well in 2015 with 36 tackles with 14.5 for a loss, 12 sacks, two forced fumbles and four passes batted. He totaled 33 tackles with 11.5 for a loss and 5.5 sacks the year before.
In a 4-3 scheme, the 6-foot-3, 286-pounder could play three-technique defensive tackle, like Aaron Donald, or be an end who moves inside in passing situations. Allen rushed from the inside for Alabama, yet also could serve as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense. Allen has some natural pass-rushing skills to him along with quickness and strength. He is very fast at the point of attack with the power to shed blocks.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
Malik McDowell, DT/3-4DE, Michigan State
The Colts continue to build up the talent on their defensive line. They need a disruptor at the point of attack, and McDowell could make a significant impact at five-technique. Indianapolis has hosted him on a visit, and I think this could be a great value for the Colts in the second round.
McDowell totaled 34 tackles with seven for a loss and just 1.5 sacks in 2016, but was very disruptive with pressure on the quarterback. He was a backup in 2014, but broke out in 2015. At times during that season, McDowell was the Spartans' most disruptive defensive lineman. He totaled 41 tackles with 13 for a loss, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a pick-six on the year.
The 6-foot-6, 295-pounder has a lot of upside to develop. Teams love his skill set, but have concerns about his work ethic in the weight room and motor. They also feel that McDowell seemed to be protecting himself in his final games. They question his desire to be great and love of football. Still, he would be a perfect fit as a five-technique in a 3-4 defense. Sources from multiple teams have McDowell as a high first-round talent and like him more than Arik Armstead and similarly to DeForest Buckner.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
Chris Wormley, DT/DE/3-4DE, Michigan
The Ravens get their replacement for Timmy Jernigan.
Wormley notched 40 tackles with nine for a loss and six sacks in 2016. His pass rush looked improved as a senior. Michigan had a tough defense in 2015 led by a tremendous defensive line, and Wormley was the Wolverines' leading defensive end. He recorded 43 tackles with 6.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for a loss on the year.
At 6-foot-5, 297 pounds, Wormley has versatile size to play in a either a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense. In a 3-4, he would be a five-technique defensive end. In a 4-3, he could play tackle, end or both. Wormley needs to continue to develop his pass-rushing moves.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
Carlos Watkins, DT/NT, Clemson
The Broncos could use a replacement for Malik Jackson.
Watkins notched 50 tackles with 13.5 for a loss, 10.5 sacks and four passes broken up in 2016. He caused a lot of disruption. To end the season, the senior dominated Ohio State and played well against Alabama. As a junior, Watkins produced a strong season with 34 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, 3.5 sacks, three passes batted and an interception. The 6-foot-3, 312-pounder didn't record many stats in his prior seasons as he was buried on the depth chart by a lot of good talent at Clemson.
The Raiders could use an interior disruptor and pass-rusher.
In 2016, Adams had 44 tackles with 8.5 for a loss, 4.5 sacks, two passes batted and one interception. There were times where he looked like a first-rounder with his size and speed. From a skill-set perspective, Adams is an early round talent, but his motor varies between hot and cold. The 6-foot-3, 308-pounder possesses an interesting body type that could fit as a 4-3 three-technique or a 3-4 defensive end. He had a very good Senior Bowl performance, rushing the passer really well in the one-on-ones.
In 2015, Adams had 44 tackles, three for a loss, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one pass broken up. He dominated that season's opener against Louisville and seemed poised for a massive year, but that didn't come to fruition as his motor was too inconsistent. Adams recorded 43 tackles, eight for a loss and three sacks in 2014.
The Giants could use an interior defender after losing Johnathan Hankins in free agency. Brantley could be a steal.
Brantley totaled 31 tackles with 9.5 for a loss, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 2016. He was very disruptive with his quickness at the point of attack and was superb against Tennessee and Georgia. The 6-foot-3, 307-pounder used his agility to fire through his gap and routinely achieved penetration into the backfield. He is a dangerous interior pass-rusher.
Brantley flashed a lot of disruption at the point of attack as a redshirt sophomore in 2015. He totaled 29 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks that season. While 6.5 isn't a huge sack total, it is a quality number for an interior defender, and Brantley showed the potential to be a three-down defender in the NFL.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Nazair Jones, DT, North Carolina
The Cowboys lost Terrell McClain in free agency and could use more interior defensive line talent.
Jones had a solid 2016 season for the Tar Heels with 70 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, three passes batted and a forced fumble. He is a disruptive defender who can defend the run and put some pressure on the quarterback. The 6-foot-5, 304-pounder played on the inside for North Carolina and has some versatility to man a variety of spots, but his best fit might come as a five-technique 3-4 defensive end.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Davon Godchaux, DT/3-4DE, LSU
The Seahawks could use some interior defensive line disruptors.
Godchaux caused his share of havoc in the backfield in 2016, demonstrating the skills to be an interior pass-rusher. He had 62 tackles with 6.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss on the year. Godchaux was very disruptive for LSU in 2015. He totaled 41 tackles with nine for a loss, six sacks and a pass broken up on the season.
The 6-foot-4, 293-pounder is fast and explosive at the point of attack. He has a lot of potential.
Tomlinson (6-3, 312) was a good run stuffer for Alabama and really improved late in the 2016 season with more plays in the backfield. He had 62 tackles with three sacks, four passes broken up and one forced fumble on the year. Tomlinson had a good week of practice at the Senior Bowl and wowed teams in the interview sessions. Tomlinson rotated into the game and totaled 34 tackles with six passes batted in 2015. With Jarran Reed and A'Shawn Robinson in the NFL, Tomlinson should take on a bigger role in 2016.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Larry Ogunjobi, DT, Charlotte
The Vikings could use some interior defensive line depth given the uncertain future for Sharrif Floyd.
Ogunjobi (6-2, 304) turned in four seasons of solid production for Charlotte, including his senior year, when he notched 65 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks and two passes broken up. Ogunjobi had 62 tackles with 2.5 sacks as a junior and five sacks as a sophomore. He put together a good week of practice at the Senior Bowl.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Vincent Taylor, DT/3-4DE/NT, Oklahoma State
The Raiders could use multiple interior defensive line additions.
Taylor (6-3, 304) is a sleeper prospect who could end up being a nice value pick in the mid-rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft. He has disruptive speed at the point of attack and the strength to fight off blockers. Taylor played well as a junior and decided to skip his senior year. In 2016, Taylor totaled 51 tackles with 13 for a loss, seven sacks, two forced fumbles and one pass broken up. He recorded 48 tackles with 8.5 for a loss, five sacks and a pass broken up in 2015. Taylor has quality size and athleticism with good upside to develop.
The Packers grab a some defensive line depth and competition.
The 6-foot-2, 309-pound Johnson has the skill set to be a difference-maker at the point of attack. He is strong enough to shed blocks, yet has the speed to close on the quarterback. Johnson needs to get more consistent and increase the tempo of his motor, but he racked up 7.5 sacks in 2016. He also had 55 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss and two passes broken up. In a number of ways, Johnson is a similar prospect to former teammate Carl Davis, who had first-round potential but slid to the third round in large part because of inconsistent effort.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Charles Walker, DT, Oklahoma
Atlanta could use a more interior defensive line depth with Jonathan Babineaux aging.
In 2016, Walker totaled seven tackles with two for a loss and four passes broken up. He only played in four games because of a concussion and quit the team early in order to prepare for the 2017 NFL Draft. Walker was one of the few Oklahoma players who impressed in the 2016 opener against Houston, collecting three tackles, 1.5 for a loss and a pass batted. He had an impressive 2015 season with 36 tackles, six sacks and a forced fumble.
Walker displayed enough speed, strength and versatility to play end or tackle for Oklahoma, allowing him to be disruptive at the point of attack. The 6-foot-2, 310-pounder is talented and was cleared medically at the combine.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Tanzel Smart, DT, Tulane
The Browns could use some competition at three-technique, and this could be a nice value pick.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan
The Bengals could use some interior defensive line depth and competition.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Elijah Qualls, DT/NT, Washington
The Chiefs let Dontari Poe leave and could consider adding some nose tackle talent.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Eddie Vanderdoes, DT/3-4DE/NT, UCLA
The Cardinals grab more interior defensive line competition.
Per sources with Los Angeles, the Chargers preferences are for a safety or a defensive tackle, and the only question is if quality prospects at those positions get to their pick. If Minkah Fitzpatrick or Derwin James gets to Los Angeles, either would be a no-brainer, and I think the team would be thrilled to take one of those safeties. The Chargers also could use a defensive tackle run stuffer, and Payne would be superb next to Joey Bosa. <br> <br>
Payne dominated at the point of attack in 2017, stuffing runs while showcasing his freakish speed and athleticism. On the year, he totaled 53 tackles, two half-sacks, three passes batted, an interception and a touchdown reception. I heard general managers and scouts raving about Payne all season. <br> <br>
Scouts were already raving about Payne's potential in the preseason. He was the Crimson Tide's best defensive lineman in 2017, following Jonathan Allen's moving on to the NFL. Payne (6-2, 311) is a run plugger with a lot of potential to grow. When given the opportunity to rush the passer in 2016 and 2017, Payne was impressive, and sources have said that he helped set up sacks for numerous Alabama defenders, including Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson and Rashaan Evans, over the previous two seasons.
The Cardinals miss out on the consensus top-10 quarterbacks, and around the league, this is too high for Baker Mayfield or Lamar Jackson. Arizona could look to move down and take Jackson/Mayfield, or move up from its second-round pick for one of those signal-callers. Instead, the Cardinals could use a difference-maker at the point of attack on defense. Robert Nkemdiche is bordering on bust territory, having only 12 tackles, with no sacks, across 17 games. A disruptor like Vea could reestablish the line of scrimmage for Arizona and might help Nkemdiche to make strides.
Vea recorded 44 tackles, 3.5 sacks and four passes batted in 2017. The 6-foot-5, 332-pounder was a load at the point of attack for Washington in 2016, too. He totaled 39 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, one force fumble and two passes batted on the season. <br> <br>
Vea has a serious combination of size, length, strength, and quickness at the point of attack. He is a heavy nose tackle who is a rock against the run and can occasionally collapse the pocket in the pass rush. For the NFL, Vea also has the height and length to play end in a 3-4 defense as well as nose tackle.
The Chargers could use more interior talent on their defensive line for Gus Bradley's defense. Here's a speedy three-technique. Corey Liuget has been declining over the past few seasons, and Los Angeles could get out of his contract with big savings by cutting him after this season. <br> <br>
Wilkins has 45 tackles with seven for a loss and four sacks this season. He has been disruptive at the point of attack, showing speed to create havoc behind the line of scrimmage. Wilkins is a great athlete for his size and has the versatility to play a variety of techniques. The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder has a nice skill set with upside and could also fit as a 3-4 defensive end. <br> <br>
Wilkins played well for Clemson in 2016 as part of a tough defensive line that controlled the point of attack. The sophomore had 48 tackles with 13 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks and 10 passes batted on the year. Because of injuries, Wilkins played a lot of defensive end. He showed nice athleticism and versatility, but is at his best on the inside, using his mismatch speed against guards. Wilkins made 33 tackles and two sacks as a freshman in 2015.
The Falcons could use more youth on the inside of their defensive line, and Jack Crawford is just a stop-gap solution for 2017. Atlanta could also use more disruption and pass rush next to Grady Jarrett. Additionally, Dontari Poe is entering free agency after this season. <br> <br>
Bryan (6-4, 295) broke out in 2017 with 40 tackles with six tackles for a loss and four sacks. In speaking with some scouting sources, Bryan has drawn comparisons to the Chiefs' Chris Jones or the Broncos' Derek Wolfe. Some announcers have compared the 6-foot-4, 295-pound Bryan to J.J. Watt, and in terms of style of play, Bryan is reminiscent of Watt, although not consistently. Bryan has a tremendous get-off with serious explosion off the snap. He also has developed strength with active hands to shed blocks. Given his length, Bryan can play end or tackle, plus be an ideal candidate for five-technique.
I've heard from sources that Bryan is going to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft, and scouting contacts project him to the first or second round. Bryan is a great athlete who is big, strong, fast and agile. He had a late start in football, however, from growing up Wyoming, and that shows up in him not demonstrating good instincts. Bryan is inconsistent while lacking feel and pass-rushing moves. Considering his late start in football, he would be better off in his long-term football career to return to school and gain playing experience before going to the NFL and taking on pro offensive linemen. Some team sources have told me they were grading Bryan as a second-rounder, but think he could end up being a first-round pick because of his great skill set, which is expected to shine at the NFL Scouting Combine and in pre-draft workouts. If Bryan returns to Florida and improves in 2018, he could end up being a sure-fire first-rounder and maybe a high first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Chargers have seen Corey Liuget's sack totals decline over the past four seasons, including zero in 2016. I think Los Angeles may end up regretting passing on Malik Hooker and Jonathan Allen with the seventh pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Here's an interior disruptor to go next to Joey Bosa. <br> <br>
Brown has six tackles with tackles for a loss and a forced fumble in 2017. Last season, he was at his best playing inside as a three-technique working to get upfield. He totaled six sacks, 13 tackles for a loss and 38 tackles in 2016.<br> <br>
Brown is a great athlete with excellent speed to fire past linemen. He can be a real threat at the point of attack to knife into the backfield. Brown could use more strength and improvement at holding his gap when runs come at him. <br> <br>
Entering the 2017 season, scouting sources said that Brown has a first-round skill set, but they have concerns about his dedication to football and why he played so little as a freshman and sophomore when he was clearly more talented than the players ahead of him. The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder could be a base end in a 4-3 who moves inside in passing situations. He also could be a three-technique defensive tackle full time, and adding weight for that role would make sense. The senior has the length to be a five-technique in a 3-4 as well.