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Post-Super Bowl Mock 2/12/18
Published at 2/12/2018 12:16:48 PM
The assumptions for this mock will follow in the descriptions for the picks, but this is where I think things will be falling at this stage.
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The obvious in seeing a quarterback taken by the Browns here is that they did not win the sweepstakes for Kirk Cousins; more on that shortly. My assumption for Cleveland is that they will instead turn their attention to obtaining a bridge QB (ala AJ McCarron or his ilk) and drafting their top QB in the class at number 1, which, in a class this strong, why would you do anything to risk missing on the top QB prospect?
Who that prospect is will be up for debate, but I believe that Sam Darnold carries a unique mix that Cleveland will like; size, strength, and long-term upside. They will need patience in selecting Darnold; I wouldn't be surprised if he sits all of 2018. But if Dorsey and company are serious about building the future of this franchise, it should start and end with the development, and hopeful success, of Sam Darnold under center.
The Giants are now in a very tricky spot in the NFC; while Philadelphia looks like it may potentially run roughshod on their division for the foreseeable future, Dallas has a very wonky team composition and Washington is seemingly preparing for the bottom to fall out. Now would be the time to begin preparing for life after Eli and what will come in the wake of his eventual retirement.
Josh Rosen, unlike Sam Darnold, may not need as much pro-level development. He has a solid base playing under center, and wouldn't require much time riding the bench to become acclimated with the game style. However, in this instance, New York can take their time ensuring that Rosen's maturity and in-game knowledge are fully formed behind Eli, so that when the time is right, Manhattan Team A will have a very big chance to jump right back into the Super Bowl discussion.
There are exactly 0 reasons why the Indianpolis Colts should be picking this high; their handling of talent and drafting in a time where they've had a potential generational QB is nigh unforgivably bad. Yet, can't dwell on the past if you're Indy; you have to fix the defense and the trenches now so you can continue to enjoy Andrew Luck's potential before it's wasted entirely.
Enter Bradley Chubb, a dominant pass rusher who seems to have established himself as the top of this class. The Colts need linebacking and pass rushing help in almost every single sense, and Chubb is well worth a top 5 pick; his presence could jump start the defensive corner-turn in Indy.
With their QB of the future in hand, the world is Cleveland's oyster at 4. Do they try to goad a team into trading up for a QB with so much talent left on the board? Perhaps stay put and take the BPA? Maybe go a bit off board for someone they don't care to trade up for later?
BPA here would likely be Saquon Barkley, who is the number one player on my and many other draft boards, but I don't think John Dorsey will value a running back that high. He will be selecting one later, so don't get that twisted, but the next highest player in the BPA status also hits a severe need for Cleveland. Minkah Fitzpatrick oozes potential as a FS, and pairing him with Jabrill Peppers (as well as putting Peppers back into a natural safety role) might create a simply dominant 1-2 punch covering the middle of the secondary with time.
You may be wondering why this isn't a quarterback, so let's clear that up quickly; I believe Kirk Cousins is heading to Denver. With so much flux happening in the AFC West, of all the teams that can make a legitimate offer to Cousins, I believe he would be best set with the Broncos under the guidance of the John Elway QB brand.
If that does become the case, then Denver's top priority will need to be the issue of a poor offensive line in need of multiple fresh bodies. They'll get the freshest one available here; Quenton Nelson is my top ranked OL and I'm fighting if I could justifiably rank him the top overall player over Saquon Barkley. This is a generational OL who could become an anchor for a Denver Super Bowl run in the near future, provided my assumption of Cousins under center comes to pass.
If it looks like hype, and smells like hype, but the hype just won't go away, I start to think the hype is for real.
Coming out of the senior bowl, as much as Josh Allen has been talked up, nobody will shut their mouths on Baker Mayfield. I completely understand why, as his charisma and play-making ability did capture college football's attention hard in 2017, but this train is rolling extremely, extremely hard.
In any case, New York is going to be a hard sell for a bridge QB, let alone just to bring back a battered Josh McCown. And taking a QB that requires more development, such as Allen or a second tier player like Mason Rudolph, might do more harm than good considering...again, Josh McCown is battered. Unless they can swing a trade up to get a guy like Rosen or Darnold, I believe the Jets will take a home run swing, hop on the Baker Mayfield Hype Train, and ride it as far as it will take them. Let's just hope the risk is worth the gamble, for the Jets' sake.
As good as Doug Martin once was for Tampa Bay, it's clear that he is not a factor in their future plans. While I really don't believe its worth using a pick this high on a running back for Tampa, given their other needs, I don't think Jason Licht is going to be able to contain himself from running to the podium at a mad clip given the player who's there for them in this scenario.
Saquon Barkley is, at least on paper and film, the best player in this class, and the only reason he won't be going first overall is because of the needs of the teams above him (mostly quarterbacking needs). In Tampa, he immediately upgrades the offense with Jameis Winston and Mike Evans, creating one of the best QB-WR-RB combinations in the league, and that's very scary for three defenses in the South that may not be prepared to keep up.
Chicago's heavy investment at QB, in taking Mitch Trubisky last year, is still in the early stages of determining whether it was a legitimately solid gamble. Part of that boils down to the team building of Ryan Pace, part of that on how injuries have played out, but all of it reflective of a team that has absolutely zero targets for Mitch.
So, Chicago has got to get Mitch a toy, and Calvin Ridley fits that billing in all fronts. No, he's not 6'4", 230lbs of dynamo, but he is a solid route runner, a consistent play maker, and clearly the best wideout in this class as of yet. He immediately becomes the number one option in Chicago and opens the door to finally see some development out of the young QB.
I anticipate a rough battle for the top CB spot in this draft, centered around Joshua Jackson, Denzel Ward, and Isaiah Oliver. Perhaps no corner in this draft is a surefire top tier option, but much like in 2014, there is a lot of potential in the class...provided you find the best player and best fit.
San Francisco might be set at QB with Jimmy Garoppolo, so now they turn toward their defense, with a secondary that has shifted into the abyss. Any of the the 3 aforementioned CB's would be great in San Fran, but their recent success with Iowa players makes me believe that Jackson may end up getting the nod at number 9; taking nothing away from Jackson's play off the ball and disruptive pass defense.
Sending a CB to Oakland has become a trendy call, but with Jon Gruden in tow, I believe they're going to look more towards his ilk. And with no need at WR, no viable top-10 TE's, no chance in hell of replacing Derek Carr, no capable options on the OL this early, and, at least in my belief, no running backs at Saquon Barkley's level, they'll have to look for a long-term defensive player who can match Gruden's own absurd contract.
Enter Roquan Smith; Smith has the makeup and mindset of a 3-down linebacker who can change the game by his mere presence on the field, someone that, when paired with Khalil Mack, could become an emphatic front both on pass coverage and rush blitzing. He's dynamic, and with a lot more options at CB than pure LB talent, I think Gruden and company will be easily swayed.
The other team that desperately needs an upgrade, purely at the ILB position, is Miami; I would not be surprised to see my draft outlook for this team dramatically change in the next week, let alone the next two months, as Miami looks to unload bad contracts and try to determine what the future holds under center.
Until then, and with their probable top targets (Barkley and Nelson) well and off the board, they add a blue-chipper ILB. Unlike Smith, Evans is a lot more "potential over output" player, one who has athleticism out the wazoo for a player his style but has some edges to smooth out. Even then, Rashaan Evans learning under the experienced but under-performing front seven (particularly Cameron Wake) could be the key to tapping into that raw athleticism and turning him into an absolute monster in the pass rush.
It's not as though Cincinnati didn't have active preparation to begin replacing the likes of Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth on the offensive line; they have drafted somewhat heavily on OL in recent years. It's just that the likes of Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher have either been banged up or overwhelmed at the pro level, and with the talent Cincinnati still possesses, they're starting to watch whatever window they had slip away.
With that, Cincinnati's top priority will be to obtain viable starters on the OL, particularly at tackle to move Clint Boling back inside. Orlando Brown actually, in my book, ticks the most boxes for the Bengals in that sense; he's a bit tall for a tackle but he plays harder than nearly any other OL in this draft, and if they don't believe Brown can be a viable LT, well, he still can fit at one of the G positions; if one of Ogbuehi or Fisher can finally emerge alongside Brown, then maybe Marvin Lewis (for however long he has left) can trudge back through to the playoffs.
With Alex Smith in town, the Fightin' Dan Snyders are going to have to start addressing the numerous holes that face the rest of the team. That starts with a half-dominant half-lifeless defense, and the best cure for that disease is Derwin James.
James is going to be hard to peg down because I see his fit better at FS than SS; this isn't a kid who will be a pure-potential safety-LB hybrid either. Could be be a floating S who can slot in at both positions as needed? It's certainly possible. The good news for Washington is that they need both safety positions filled at this point, so just having him slot in at either position is an immediate upgrade.
Brian Gutekunst isn't heading for a nice, cushy spot in Green Bay; serious decisions are going to need to be made about the composition of this team which had one of its worst seasons in the Aaron Rodgers era. Do you try to reload an offense that can get Rodgers back on track? Do you address the holes on defense that were exploited all year long? How aggressive do you look for free agents considering the needs that Green Bay does have?
I believe that in spite of some investment already in the secondary in recent years, Green Bay will be looking to add a final, complete solution to the group in Denzel Ward. While Ward is probably an inch too short compared to the other CB's in this class, he's a dynamic play maker with a wingspan that seems longer than it ought to be, one who could become an immediate nightmare for the likes of Stafford and Trubisky.
The senior bowl's second riser was Josh Allen, but Allen's inconsistency was also heavily on display. Many media reports confirmed what we've already known; he needs to sit. So, on the surface, Arizona seems to be a pretty odd choice for that kind of scenario, given that they just lost Carson Palmer to retirement.
My assumption is that the Cardinals will be in play for one of the higher-end bridge options (think Sam Bradford or Nick Foles), who can at the least make them short-term competitive while allowing Josh Allen to sit, learn, and prepare to take over. At the moment, the Cards have no offensive future outside of David Johnson; if Steve Wilks' staff can develop Allen appropriately, they could have more than just a future in hand.
As much as I wanted to have Baltimore trade up for Calvin Ridley (RUNNING ALABAMA JOKES~!), it wasn't to be. Regardless, especially as it appears Ozzie Newsome's time with the Ravens draws to a close, their most key goal in the 2018 offseason will be rebooting an absolutely abysmal set of offensive skill position players. Discounting the overachievement of Alex Collins carrying the ball, there's still nobody for Joe Flacco to pass to, and it's really making the whole "Elite/Not Elite" argument moot.
So, they add Courtland Sutton, a big bodied top-end WR who, in spite of a somewhat quiet 2017 campaign, will likely come out of the combine as the only viable challenger to Ridley's crown as the top wideout. He would slot in as the WR1 with nigh certainty, and, with a few more moves, could get the ball rolling on an offensive resurgence in Baltimore.