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NFL Mock Draft 2.0

By: ZACK JONES / DEPUTY SPORTS EDITOR


Deputy Sports Editor Zack Jones mocks the first round of the NFL Draft.

Carolina Panthers First Overall- C.J. Stroud, Ohio State, QB- Stroud is a franchise Quarterback who comes with questions. Teams question his ability to use his inherited athleticism to extend plays, but he hits on all the major indicators of a franchise guy. He’s tall with a big arm, and he has mobility. The pick between Stroud and Young comes down to fit and preference, and it seems the Panthers staff prefer Stroud. He’s a Frank Reich kind of guy, and quarterbacks coach Josh McCown also seemed to hint at Stroud being their guy.

Houston Texans Second Overall- Bryce Young, Alabama, QB- Houston is bound to get a quarterback at two, and that's no surprise. The biggest question for Houston is who the Panthers take at one. Houston is expected to get Bryce Young, just like they have been for the past year. Young did everything he needed to in order to solidify himself, and his arm strength and anticipation are both elite. There is no quarterback better at creating than Young, and he should be a lock top-two pick.

Arizona Cardinals Third Overall- Will Anderson Jr., Alabama, EDGE- Will Anderson Jr. is one of the most talented edge players in recent years, and the value of the position should lead teams to gravitate toward picking him. Anderson Jr. had a down year under his standards and still was the SEC defensive player of the year. Anderson Jr. tallied ten sacks in his final year and wrapped up his pre-draft outing with excellent measurements at the combine. Anderson Jr. will slot in nicely for this Arizona defense that struggled to create pressure last year outside of Zach Allen, who they lost in free agency to Denver, and J.J. Watt, who retired this offseason.

Indianapolis Colts Fourth Overall- Will Levis, Kentucky, QB- The Colts need a quarterback, and the options begin to become slim. Their main options are Will Levis, Anthony Richardson, or trade for Lamar Jackson. Of these options, the Colts are trending toward Levis's. Levis has maybe the biggest arm in this year's draft and was developed in a pro-style offense in his two years at Kentucky. Levis also boasted great mobility throughout his collegiate career. Levis has all the traits of a prototypical starter in today’s league, it’s just a matter of if he can put it all together.

Seattle Seahawks Fifth Overall- Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech, EDGE- With the combine wrapped up and draft day approaching, some guys have seen a boost in stock; one guy is Tyree Wilson, who saw a slight boost in stock jumping to the consensus EDGE2 spot. Wilson didn’t partake in the combine besides size grades, but the athleticism displayed at Texas Tech was impressive. Wilson has impressive length and plays into that as a strength. He’s an aggressive high-motor athlete at 6 foot 5.5 inches tall and just over 35-inch arms. Wilson is a threat from the edge and has the upside of a top-five pick.

Detroit Lions Sixth Overall- Devon Witherspoon, Illinois, CB- Devon Witherspoon is that guy at the corner spot. He was locked down in his career at Illinois, and could very well be the first corner off the board. Witherspoon got better each year at Illinois and, in his senior year, only allowed a passer rating of 25.3 when targeted. A great example to prove how great that is would be Sauce Gardner, who allowed a 22.6 passer rating when targeted in his final season at Cincinnati. Detroit has stacked up on secondary with signings like Emmanuel Mosely, Cameron Sutton, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson, but with two of those deals being one-year deals, it shouldn’t be surprising for the Lions to take best available with Witherspoon.

Las Vegas Raiders Seventh Overall- Anthony Richardson, Florida, QB- Anthony Richardson is a polarizing prospect, and he may be the most athletic quarterback since Cam Newton. Richardson stands over six foot four inches tall and 244 pounds. For reference, he is an inch taller and three pounds lighter than Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans is listed. Richardson also had arguably the biggest arm at this year's combine and has seen a rise in some mocks. The Raiders need for a quarterback is there with Derek Carr being released and newly signed Jimmy Garoppolo coming off of an injury, and Richardson could be their guy with his raw talent and the Raiders ability to allow him to develop behind a vet like Garoppolo.

Atlanta Falcons Eighth Overall- Jalen Carter, Georgia, DL- The Georgia star remains in the state with this pick. Jalen Carter goes to the Atlanta Falcons, filling a huge need and providing a presence on the defensive line. Carter has had his fair share of pre-draft disasters, and they may affect his stock, but many think he will still remain a top-ten pick if nothing new comes out. His alleged off the field issues are the main concern, but there was also a recent concern on the field after Carter showed up to his pro day nine pounds heavier and didn’t run his agility or change of direction workouts. Ultimately, Carter is a special talent and should see his name called early on in this year's draft bearing anything new surfacing.

Chicago Bears Ninth Overall- Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State, OT- After trading down, the Chicago Bears may sit just outside of the bubble to get one of the top rated defensive line prospects (Will Anderson Jr., Tyree Wilson, and Jalen Carter). The need for help on the defensive line is the most notable need, but the offensive line also needs help as well. This offensive line, despite allowing a league-high sack tally, isn’t awful. They boasted bright spots in Cody Whitehair, as well as Tevin Jenkins and Brevin Jones at times, especially towards the latter half of the season. The addition of Nate Davis is huge for this run-blocking dominant offensive line, but to further help their young quarterback, Justin Fields, they could look to add a great pass-blocking tackle in Paris Johnson Jr., and move Tevin Jenkins to the interior.

Philadelphia Eagles Tenth Overall- Bijan Robinson, Texas, RB- The Philadelphia Eagles recently lost their starting running back, Miles Sanders, to free agency and could look to reset at the position with a rookie. The Philadelphia running back room is not bad by any means boasting homegrown emerging starter Kenneth Gainwell, as well as the highly efficient Rashaad Penny, who they picked up this off-season. However, Robinson is a generational talent and the best running back prospect since Adrain Peterson, according to some. With no commitment to any of the backs on the roster, it wouldn’t be surprising for the Eagles to take a generational guy like Robinson.

Tennessee Titans Eleventh Overall- Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State, WR- Jaxon Smith-Njigba proved what he needed to prove at the combine and on his pro day. JSN showed elite change of direction traits and is potentially the best route runner in the draft. JSN’s ability to create space in an offense is unmatched, and would help him a slot in perfectly in an offense like the Titans that relies heavily on RPO (Run-Pass Option) and YAC (Yards After Catch). The fit for Smith-Njigba is great, and with Paris Johnson Jr. off the board, it could be expected for JSN to be towards the top of the Titans board.

Houston Texans Twelveth Overall- Quentin Johnston, TCU, WR- Quentin Johnston has seen somewhat of a drop in stock for some people after disappointing many by not running the 40-yard dash at the combine, where many thought he would run in the 4.3-4.4 range. Johnston, however, still seems like the favorite to be taken 12, especially if JSN is off the board.

New York Jets Thirteenth Overall- Peter Skoronski, Northwestern, OT- After not making any splashes on the offensive line in free agency, the New York Jets are still primed to take Skoronski. Skoronski is a flexible, athletic tackle who can play guard if needed and would be a great addition to a Jets line that allowed 42 sacks this past season. With the addition of Aaron Rodgers imminent, it makes sense to give the aging quarterback all the help possible to get the Jets back to the promise land for the first time since Super Bowl III.

New England Patriots Fourteenth Overall- Christian Gonzalez, Oregon, CB- The New England Patriots could strongly use help at the corner position, and Christian Gonzalez is the top corner in the draft, according to some. Gonzalez is a big, fast, and physical guy that makes an impact in every game. He seems to have the intangibles and play style to be a Belichick guy if he falls to 14.

Green Bay Packers Fifteenth Overall- Nolan Smith, Georgia, EDGE- Green Bay has some questions when it comes to the offense, but the main question there is the tight end. This tight-end class is pretty deep, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Packers take a guy like Zack Kuntz later in the draft and opt to take the biggest riser in the draft, Nolan Smith. Smith is a talented edge rusher out of Georgia, and he saw a huge rise in his stock due to a stellar combine performance where his athleticism measured closely to star edge and DPOY runner-up Haason Reddick. The edge threat of Rashan Gary, in his return to play, paired with a star athlete like Nolan Smith, could help define a prominent Packers pass rush.

Washington Commanders Sixteenth Overall- Joey Porter Jr., Penn State, CB- Joey Porter Jr. is a talented corner who had a great combine performance. The six-foot-two corner ran an astounding 4.46 40-yard dash time and had a near 11-foot broad jump. Porter Jr. had a showing that places him in most experts' top three for the cornerback position, and the Commanders could definitely use his size and skill on the outside.

Pittsburgh Steelers Seventeenth Overall- Deonte Banks, Maryland, CB- Deonte Banks had not only the best combine this year, but the best combine all-time according to RAS, where he measured a perfect ten. Banks doesn’t have the highest college production of the corners in this class, only starting his final year at Maryland, but the tape isn’t bad. Banks has some things to work on, mainly his fluidity, but regardless Banks is a top corner prospect. The Steelers need for a corner is even more blatant after losing Cameron Sutton to the Detroit Lions in free agency, so the pick makes sense, especially with the abundant need of corners in the latter half of the first round.

Detroit Lions Eighteenth Overall- Myles Murphy, Clemson, EDGE- Myles Murphy saw a slight dip in stock post-combine/free agency primarily due to him not testing in either the combine or his pro day. Murphy is somewhat of a project player. He has the skills but isn’t necessarily a polished player. Murphy showed flashes, and his dominant, violent playstyle is the perfect fit for a team like the Lions.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Nineteenth Overall- Broderick Jones, Georgia, OT- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team that may be on the cusp of a rebuild, and the best spot to rebuild with a late pick is in the trenches. Broderick Jones is potentially the best pass-protection tackle in this draft, and to add Jones to an offensive line that already has a top-tier young tackle like Tristian Wirfs to build one of the better young tackle duos. Jones only allowed two sacks in his collegiate career at Georgia and would be a great addition to any roster. The Buccaneers, following the release of Donovan Smith, would provide a great fit for Jones.

Seattle Seahawks Twentieth Overall- Calijah Kancey, Pitt, DL- Seattle had a down year from the defensive line, and the coaching staff has made it known they are looking to retool in the trenches. Calijah Kancey is a talented interior defensive lineman, and the tape already showed this, to begin with, boasting 14 sacks over his final two years at Pitt. Kancey also proved his athleticism in an impressive manner boasting elite numbers at the combine, and garnering attention from scouts. Kancey boasted numbers the combine has not seen at the position since three-time DPOY, Aaron Donald, with who Kancey drew comparisons to. Kancey has the innate ability and track record to be a great fit to go in the first round, and create a talented rookie defensive line for the Seattle Seahawks.

Los Angeles Chargers Twenty-First Overall- Darnell Washington, Georgia, TE- With receivers being projected to stay in Los Angeles for the Chargers, I would expect the Chargers to sway away from taking a receiver round one. However, I still think the Chargers look to add some talent in their pass-catching core. The tight end position is open with Jared Cook’s contract expiring, and a rising name in the draft is Darnell Washington, out of Georgia. Washington is probably the best blocking tight end in the draft, and has drawn comparisons to legendary tight end, Rob Gronkowski. Washington had an excellent combine athletically but also showed off his pass catching ability with great catches, including a marveled one-handed grab. Washington would be a great fit for the pass-heavy Chargers, and a valuable asset to the team, especially in goal line situations where the team ranked towards the middle of the pack in terms of touchdown percentage.

Baltimore Ravens Twenty-Second Overall- Zay Flowers, Boston College, WR- Lamar Jackson rumors are swirling for the Baltimore Ravens, but regardless of who is throwing the ball, Zay Flowers would be a great fit for the team. The Ravens receivers have been lackluster after trading away Hollywood Brown last off season, and it would be now a surprise if they were to retool the receiving core to help out newly hired offensive coordinator, Todd Monken. Flowers is a talented receiver who shined after the catch. This trait has helped him draw comparisons to talented receivers like Antonio Brown. Flowers is a quarterback’s kind of receiver, and should fit in well with the Ravens.

Minnesota Vikings Twenty-Third Overall- Jordan Addison, USC, WR- Back-to-back receivers leave the board, this time with Jordan Addison going to the Minnesota Vikings. Addison took a dip in stock primarily due to size issues, but it shouldn’t fall far. The former Biletnikoff winner has proved his skill and looks to be one of the top receivers of the class regardless of his size. Minnesota, following the release of Adam Thielen, are in need of a new WR2, and Addison should slot in well with OPOY, Justin Jefferson.

Jacksonville Jaguars Twenty-Fourth Overall- Dawand Jones, Ohio State, OT- Dawand Jones, AKA Big Thanos, has been a subtle star throughout his time at Ohio State. The exciting tackle prospect stands at a whopping six foot eight, and has the arm length to match it. The Jaguars have a solid need for a tackle following the loss of Jawaan Taylor to the Chiefs. With Cam Robinson at the left tackle spot, Jones should slot in well at his natural position on the right side, which he played for the entirety of his collegiate career.

New York Giants Twenty-Fifth Overall- Cam Smith, South Carolina, CB- Cam Smith is a high motor physical cornerback out of South Carolina. Smith measured in well at the combine eclipsing the six-foot marker, and running in the 4.4 range. This is a good look for Smith based on the current state of the position in the NFL. Teams are looking for big fast corners to play on the outside, and Smith is just that guy. The Giants have seen trouble at the cornerback spot in recent years, and Smith would be a great addition to help alleviate some of those troubles.

Dallas Cowboys Twenty-Sixth Overall- Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee, WR- Jalin Hyatt is an ideal fit for the Cowboys in many ways. Hyatt is a big play machine, much like Tony Pollard has been for the team in recent years, but Pollard is coming off a big injury and is set to become the feature back on the roster after Zeke was released. The Cowboys also have a new offensive coordinator coming in following Kellen Moore signing elsewhere. Ultimately, the situation is set up for the Cowboys to add the explosive star to the offense.

Buffalo Bills Twenty-Seventh Overall- Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama, RB- Jahmyr Gibbs is a fast-footed, electric pass-catching back who played himself into the first round. Gibbs had a great year at Alabama, averaging over six yards per carry, and boasting ten touchdowns and over 1300 yards from scrimmage. Gibbs also showed out at the combine with a top-ten 40-yard dash, and a great demonstration of his elite footwork. With Devin Singltary signing with Houston, it leaves the door wide open at running back in Buffalo.

Cincinnati Bengals Twenty-Eighth Overall- Michael Mayer, Notre Dame, TE- The Cincinnati Bengals have made a couple moves at the tight end spot. They lost Hayden Hurst in free agency and added Irv Smith Jr. However, the Bengals could still look to add depth to the position by grabbing one of the better tight ends of the draft. Michael Mayer specifically has been a top rated tight ends since last year, and should be a first round pick. Mayer had a solid combine athletically compares closely to guys like Eric Ebron and Hayden Hurst. He is a great pass-catcher, and would be a great addition to this high-powered offense.

New Orleans Saints Twenty-Ninth Overall- Bryan Bresee, Clemson, DL- Bryan Bresee is a talented athlete with a generational upside, but the problem is his past of injuries. The talent is there, though, and he should be a first-rounder in a relatively weak defensive line class. Bresee would be a great fit to help rebuild the New Orleans Saints defensive line that has seen recent departures like Marcus Davenport and Shy Tuttle. I think the need and timeline both fit for the Saints and Bresee to be a great fit.

Philadelphia Eagles Thirtieth Overall- Brian Branch, Alabama, S- The Philadelphia Eagles lost a key part of their championship run in CJ Gardner-Johnson, and the perfect replacement is Brian Branch. Branch can play most spots in the secondary, and strives doing so. At Alabama, Branch was an aggressive positionless athlete who loved making the big hits, and it is exactly what the Eagles need.

Kansas City Chiefs Thirty-First Overall- Darnell Wright, Tennessee, OT- The Kansas City Chiefs will need to retool their offensive line if they wish to make another Super Bowl run. They lost both Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie. They did add Jawaan Taylor who will presumably play the left side, but that still leaves a gap at right tackle. The perfect fit is Darnell Wright. Wright has gained praise from former GMs, and is projected to be a riser for the draft. Wright is also a solid talent and according to some, it would be great to pair him with former teammate and Chief starting guard, Trey Smith.

Pittsburgh Steelers Thirty-Second Overall- Anton Harrison, Oklahoma, OT- The Steelers offensive line has been problematic in recent years, and the pass protection is in dire need for improvement. Anton Harrison is a great late-round guy to help that improvement. Harrison, over his three years at Oklahoma only allowed four sacks total and thrived in pass protection. Harrison is somewhat undersized for the position but has the arm length and play style to be fine at the tackle spot. Harrison compares athletically to former top pick Ikem Ekwonu, and should be a great addition to a struggling Steelers line.



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