SPECIAL COVERAGE: 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500

Post Super Bowl mock draft

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The bad news is that the NFL season is over. The good news is that draft season is officially upon us. More of an art than a science, the draft fascinates football fans young and old. As Indianapolis illustrated last year, one good draft class can change the trajectory of an entire franchise.

A lot still has to happen between now and draft day. The NFL combine will give teams a better sense of who these prospects are. Free agency will impact team-needs. Polarizing quarterback prospect Kyler Murray seems unsure of if he wants to play football or baseball. And of course, there’s bound to be trades. We’ve already seen the Packers and Raiders add extra first-round draft choices by trading away past picks and players. Rest assured there will be more trades to come.

Regardless, a mock draft in early February is a great way to familiarize yourself with not only the holes each team needs to fill, but the prospects themselves. In this article I predict all 32 first-round picks, describing the player that was chosen and why that team needs them.

1-Arizona Cardinals: Nick Bosa – EDGE – Ohio State  

NFL Comparison – Joey Bosa    

Though not a position of need, Arizona won’t be able to pass up this can’t-miss prospect who plays a premier position. Bosa is the best player in the draft and was absolutely dominant at Ohio State. The 21-year-old has the size, strength, short-area quickness and polish to make an immediate impact like his brother Joey did with the Chargers.

Other Considerations- Quinnen Williams (DT), Kyler Murray (QB), Josh Allen (EDGE)

2-San Francisco 49ers: Josh Allen – EDGE – Kentucky  

NFL Comparison – T.J. Watt

Unlike the Cardinals, outside pass-rusher may be San Frisco’s most pressing need. Allen put it all together this year, finishing second in the nation with 17 sacks. The ultra-athletic senior has the burst, bend, agility and speed to give tackles fits. Allen has All-Pro potential if he can continue to develop his pass-rushing plan.

Other Considerations- Quinnen Williams (DT), Rashan Gary (DL), Jeffery Simmons (DT)

3-New York Jets: Quinnen Williams – DT – Alabama

NFL Comparison – Chris Jones

The Jets miss out on the top two edge rushers but land the best interior defender in the draft. If there’s anyone who can rival Bosa as the draft’s top talent, it’s Williams. He has the strength to take on double teams, the athleticism to threaten 10 sacks every year and is refined enough to start immediately.

Other Considerations- Rashan Gary (DL), Jeffery Simmons (DT) Greedy Williams (CB)

4-Oakland Raiders: Rashan Gary – DL – Michigan

NFL Comparison – Justin Tuck

Men of Gary’s size should not be able to move the way he does. That being said, Gary is a better athlete than football player right now. After trading away Khalil Mack, the Raiders went on to register a pathetic 13 sacks in 2018. Gary can develop into an ample replacement if he focuses on his technique.

Other Considerations- Ed Oliver (DT), Jeffery Simmons (DT), Greedy Williams (CB)

5-Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greedy Williams – CB – LSU

NFL Comparison – Marcus Peters  

If the board broke like this, Tampa Bay would be a prime trade candidate for a team looking to acquire a quarterback. The Bucs passed on All-Pro Safety Derwin James last year and went on to give up an NFL-high 110.9 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks. Williams’ tape is inconsistent, but he has the length, speed and ball-skills to be a ball-hawk on the outside.

Other Considerations- Jeffery Simmons (DT), Ed Oliver (DT), Clelin Ferrell (EDGE)

6-New York Giants: Dwayne Haskins – QB – Ohio State  

NFL Comparison – Jared Goff

Many thought the Giants should have taken a quarterback with their second-overall pick last year. While the jury is still out on that decision, adding Eli Manning’s successor in this draft is paramount. Haskins is considered the top quarterback in this draft thanks to his size, arm strength, accuracy and decision making.

Other Considerations- Kyler Murray (QB) Daniel Jones (QB), Cody Ford (OL)

7-Jacksonville Jaguars: Devin White – LB – LSU

NFL Comparison – Myles Jack

With a team built to win now, I believe the Jaguars will add a veteran quarterback this offseason. Young studs like Myles Jack, Yannick Ngakoue and Jalen Ramsey are all entering the final year of their contracts. Drafting White allows Jacksonville to allocate their funds toward Ngakoue and Ramsey, while adding a Jack replacement with comparable athleticism and talent.

Other Considerations- Kyler Murray (QB), Clelin Ferrell (DE), Daniel Jones (QB)

8-Detriot Lions: Clelin Ferrell – DE – Clemson

NFL Comparison – Chris Long

It’s time to replace Ziggy Ansah. The impending free agent will turn 30 or 32 this May, depending on whose birth records you believe. Ansah’s durability and effectiveness have diminished in recent years. Ferrell has prototypical size and production, while coming as NFL-ready as any edge defender in this class.

Other Considerations- Jeffery Simmons (DT), Montez Sweat (EDGE), T.J Hockenson (TE)

9-Buffalo Bills: Jonah Williams– OL – Alabama

NFL Comparison – Zach Martin

Josh Allen missed four games as a rookie due to injuries and will need time to get through his reads if he is to develop as a pocket passer. Williams dominated at left tackle for Alabama, but a lack of length could warrant a move to guard. That shouldn’t deter the Bills, who need help all over their offensive line.

Other Considerations- Josh Jacobs (RB), Montez Sweat (EDGE), T.J. Hockenson (TE)

10-Denver Broncos: Drew Lock – QB – Missouri

NFL Comparison – Derek Carr

John Elway’s interest in Lock is no secret. Lock has the size (6’3″, 228 lbs), arm strength and athleticism that the Broncos legend covets. Having Case Keenum in place will allow Lock to work on his decision making, footwork and touch throws until he is ready to start.

Other Considerations- Kyler Murray (QB), T.J. Hockenson (TE), Deandre Baker (CB)

11-Cincinnati Bengals: Andre Dillard – OT – Washington State

NFL Comparison – Ryan Clady

Eventually, Cincinnati’s efforts to repair their offensive line have to pay off. Dillard has the size and athleticism to mirror edge rushers in pass protection and work up to the second level in the run-game. He needs to get stronger at the point of attack, but his potential as a blind-side protector is highly sought after.

Other Considerations- Cody Ford (OL), Jeffery Simmons (DT), Jawaan Taylor (OT)

12-Green Bay Packers: Jachai Polite – EDGE – Florida

NFL Comparison – Yannick Ngakoue

Whether Green Bay resigns Clay Matthews or not, the soon-to-be 33-year-old isn’t the pass-rusher he used to be. Polite is an explosive athlete with a non-stop motor and a nasty spin move. His ability to stand up or play with his hand in the dirt will be invaluable in Mike Pettine’s versatile defensive scheme.

Other Considerations- Montez Sweat (EDGE), Brian Burns (EDGE), T.J. Hockenson (TE)

13-Miami Dolphins: Kyler Murray – QB – Oklahoma

NFL Comparison – Russell Wilson

Miami appears to be in the market for a quarterback after a report that they will move on from Ryan Tannehill. The NFL has been trending toward smaller quarterbacks with the success of Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Baker Mayfield, but Murray’s tiny frame pushes the limit even further. The Heisman winner is an electric runner with a strong arm and enough accuracy to be successful.

Other Considerations- Montez Sweat (EDGE), Jeffery Simmons (DT), Brian Burns (EDGE)

14-Atlanta Falcons: Ed Oliver – DT – Houston

NFL Comparison – Grady Jarrett   

With Grady Jarrett primed to demand big money in free agency, Atlanta will likely be drafting to replace their interior pass-rusher. Oliver compares favorably to Jarrett as an undersized defensive tackle who uses his elite quickness and change of direction skills to penetrate opposing lines. The 21-year-old must refine his counter moves to reach his full potential.

Other Considerations- Jeffery Simmons (DT), Cody Ford (OL), Christian Wilkins (DT)

15-Washington Redskins: Daniel Jones – QB – Duke

NFL Comparison – Ryan Tannehill  

Alex Smith may never play again after breaking his tibia and fibula in week 11. Jones has prototypical size for the position (6’5″, 220 lbs) and above average athleticism. While his arm isn’t the strongest, he throws with excellent anticipation and touch. Jones has spent the past four years under the tutelage of his coach David Cutcliffe, who is known for mentoring Peyton and Eli Manning.

Other Considerations- Marquise Brown (WR), D.K. Metcalf (WR), T.J. Hockenson (TE)

16-Carolina Panthers: Cody Ford – OL – Oklahoma

NFL Comparison – Rodger Saffold

Free agency claimed All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell last offseason, and now Pro Bowl linemen Traie Turner and Ryan Kalil are in need of new contracts themselves. This only increases the urgency to draft protection for Cam Newton, who has battled a litany of injuries in recent years. Ford has the size, strength and athleticism to be a quality tackle or excellent guard.

Other Considerations- Jawaan Taylor (OT), Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE), Brian Burns (EDGE)

17-Cleveland Browns: Jeffery Simmons – DT – Mississippi State

NFL Comparison – Fletcher Cox  

It feels strange to say this, but the Browns don’t have many needs. This allows them to take the best player available. A top-ten talent, Simmons is followed by a domestic violence incident, which occurred his senior year of high school. If the Browns are comfortable with Simmons’ character, his addition would give them one of the best, young defensive lines in the league.

Other Considerations- D.K. Metcalf (WR), Deandre Baker (CB), Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE)

18-Minnesota Vikings: Jawaan Taylor – OT – Florida

NFL Comparison – Brandon Scherff

Offensive line play was the Achilles heal of this team in 2018. Taylor played right tackle at Florida but has the ability to slide inside to guard if need be. Wherever he lines up, Taylor’s size, power and quick feet will provide an instant upgrade to an O-line that desperately needs it.

Other Considerations- Yodny Cajuste (OT), Greg Little (OT), Mack Wilson (LB)

19-Tennessee Titans: T.J. Hockenson – TE – Iowa

NFL Comparison – Jack Doyle

If the Titans are committed Mariota, they need play to his strengths. Hockenson’s ability to assert his will as a run-blocker, as well as contribute as a receiver perfectly fits this offense. He reminds me of a faster version of Jack Doyle. Hockenson will allow Tennessee to run dangerous two-tight end sets if Delaine Walker can return to full health.

Other Considerations- Brian Burns (EDGE), Marquise Brown (WR), Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE)

20-Pittsburgh Steelers: Marquise Brown – WR – Oklahoma

NFL Comparison – DeSean Jackson

Here the Steelers replace Brown with Brown. Antonio appears dead-set on leaving Pittsburgh, and Ben Roethlisberger’s window of opportunity is closing, as he turns 37 in March. Marquise combines his elite speed and quickness with crafty route running and strong hands. His presence will prevent defenses from stacking the box against James Conner or double-teaming JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Other Considerations- Deandre Baker (CB), Devin Bush (LB), Mack Wilson (LB)

21-Seattle Seahawks: Montez Sweat – EDGE – Mississippi State

NFL Comparison – Chandler Jones

The need for an outside pass-rusher is amplified if Frank Clark leaves in free agency. Even if he returns, the defensive end spot opposite of him is up for grabs. Sweat had a productive college career but sent his stock soaring after a dominant Senior Bowl performance. He has the burst, length and motor to become a perennial double-digit sack artist.

Other Considerations- Johnathan Abram (S), Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE), Deionte Thompson (S)

22-Baltimore Ravens: D.K. Metcalf – WR – Ole Miss

NFL Comparison – A.J. Green

Giving Lamar Jackson a big-time weapon with a large catch radius would do wonders for the young quarterback. Metcalf has been fully cleared from the neck injury he suffered in October. The 21-year-old has a unique blend of size and speed and makes spectacular catches look routine. He needs to improve his route-running and clean up the concentration drops, but the potential is there.

Other Considerations- Josh Jacobs (RB), Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE), N’Keal Harry (WR)

23-Houston Texans: Yodney Cajuste – OT – West Virginia

NFL Comparison – Cam Robinson

No team allowed more sacks (62) than Houston, whose offensive line is the worst in the league. They have to find protection for Deshaun Watson, who gutted his was through injuries in 2018, including a collapsed lung. Cajuste is a mean, powerful tackle with length for days and above average athleticism.

Other Considerations- Josh Jacobs (RB), Nasir Adderley (S), Irv Smith Jr. (TE)

24-Oakland Raiders: Josh Jacobs. – RB – Alabama   

NFL Comparison – Alvin Kamara

Both Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin are set to become free agents on the wrong side of 30. Jacobs is the best offensive weapon available for a team desperate for play-makers. He is a thick, powerful ‘back with burst, change-of-direction ability and pass-catching skills similar to Kamara’s. His stock is only rising.

Other Considerations- Irv Smith Jr. (TE), Noah Fant (TE), Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE)

25-Philadelphia Eagles: Jaylon Ferguson – EDGE – Louisiana Tech   

NFL Comparison – Jabaal Sheard

Brandon Graham and Chris Long are free agents. They will be 32 and 34, respectively, by the time the season starts. Michael Bennett is 33 himself. Philadelphia must add young talent at defensive end if they are to stick to their winning formula. Ferguson became the NCAA’s all-time sack leader (45) with his length, power and hand-usage.

Other Considerations- Oshane Ximines (EDGE), Deandre Baker (CB), Brian Burns (EDGE)

26-Indianapolis Colts: N’Keal Harry – WR – Arizona

NFL Comparison – Brandon Marshall

Indianapolis doesn’t have the weapons to win shootouts right now. They went 0-5 when their opponents scored 30 or more points last season (including playoffs). Harry has a massive catch radius. He excels at making contested catches and running with the football. The 21-year-old’s size (6’4″, 215 lbs) would compliment T.Y Hilton and give the Colts a jump-ball threat.

Other Considerations- Christian Wilkins (DT), Brian Burns (EDGE), Deandre Baker (CB)

27-Oakland Raiders: Irv Smith Jr. – TE – Alabama  

NFL Comparison – Vernon Davis

With the top three receivers off the board, Oakland opts for an athletic, pass-catching tight end. Smith Jr. is fluid in his movements, has the speed to separate and reliable hands. He can more than hold his own as a blocker as well, giving the Raiders a quality replacement for free agent Jared Cook.

Other Considerations- Noah Fant (TE), Christian Wilkins (DT), Brian Burns (EDGE)

28-Los Angeles Chargers: Devin Bush – LB – Michigan

NFL Comparison – Eric Kendricks

Denzel Perryman simply can’t stay healthy. Los Angeles will likely let him walk in free agency, leaving a hole at linebacker. Bush is short but stout, with the speed and twitch to reach the ball-carrier in a hurry. His instincts are superb, and he’s a reliable tackler who will help improve the Chargers’ leaky run defense.

Other Considerations- Dexter Lawrence (DT), Mack Wilson (LB), Dalton Risner (OL)

29-Kansas City Chiefs: Deandre Baker – CB – Georgia  

NFL Comparison – Casey Hayward

Anyone with eyes can see the Chiefs need an upgrade at cornerback. They gave up the second-most passing yards per game (273.4) and haven’t found a replacement for Marcus Peters on the outside. Baker is an intelligent, feisty corner with great physicality, anticipation and ball-skills. His biggest question mark is his long-speed.

Other Considerations – Byron Murphy (CB), Deionte Thompson (S), Nasir Adderley (S)

30-Green Bay Packers: Mack Wilson – LB – Alabama

NFL Comparison – C.J. Mosley

Getting faster in their front seven was a need for the Packers, and thus far they’ve accomplished that. Wilson has the size and speed for today’s game. He’ll instantly improve Green Bay’s pass-coverage thanks to his ability to carry tight ends down the field and mirror running backs underneath. Wilson is also an effective blitzer but must become more consistent when tackling in space.

Other Considerations – Noah Fant (TE), Deionte Thompson (DB), Brian Burns (EDGE)

31-Los Angeles Rams: Brian Burns – EDGE – Florida State

NFL Comparison – Danielle Hunter

With so many players needing new contracts, the Rams are unlikely to have the cap space required to resign Dante Fowler. This makes outside pass-rusher a need heading into 2019. Burns racked up 10 sacks last year using his rare blend of length, burst and bend. The 20-year-old needs to add weight, but his traits are elite.

Other Considerations- Deionte Thompson (S) Nasir Adderley (S), Bryon Murphy (CB)

32-New England Patriots: Noah Fant –TE – Iowa

NFL Comparison – Jared Cook

Injuries have taken their toll on Rob Gronkowski, who will seriously consider retirement for a second-straight year. New England’s offense is designed to attack the middle of the field, which makes finding his replacement critical. Though less polished than the tight ends drafted before him, Fant is a size-speed freak who might have the highest ceiling of the group.

Other Considerations- Oshane Ximines (EDGE), Nasir Adderley (S), Zach Allen (DE)

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