Instead of publishing a Mock Draft 2.0, I wanted to do a writeup on ten individual topics of predictive interest relating to this year’s draft.
I’ll publish my final mock late Wednesday night.
1. No Quarterback Will Go Before The Late Teens/Twenties.
Early-offseason buzz connecting Malik Willis (Liberty) to the Lions at No. 2 is long dead, and it sounds like most teams have Willis graded in the second round. I believed Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh) could go No. 6 to Carolina at one point, but no longer do. Matt Corral (Ole Miss), Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati), and Sam Howell (North Carolina) are fringe first-round talents at best.
The Steelers’ historical tendency to telegraph their draft picks combined with their common-knowledge infatuation with Willis has me believing Willis won’t last past Pittsburgh at No. 20. And I’m extremely skeptical any of these other signal callers will go before then.
I do still think we’ll get at least two and as many as four first-round quarterbacks. But I don’t think they’ll go before the back end of the round.
2. Deebo Samuel (or DK Metcalf) Will Be Traded To The Jets.
With their quarterback on a rookie deal, the Jets have immense flexibility to dole out pricey contracts, while GM Joe Douglas is holding five top-70 picks, including four in the top 40.
The Jets are in prime position to both acquire and pay a proven playmaking stud.
Jets OC Mike LaFleur spent two years with Samuel in San Francisco. Gang Green is in obvious need of an alpha receiver to bookend Corey Davis with Elijah Moore in the slot.
3. Derek Stingley (LSU) And Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner (Cincinnati) Will Both Go Top Seven.
By all accounts, Stingley is one of the — if not the — hottest players in the draft after he checked every box during the pre-draft phase. The top corner in the country as a true freshman in 2019, Stingley appeared in only ten games over the past two seasons due to an illness and ankle/foot injuries.
But the Texans absolutely love Stingley, even enough to potentially trade up from No. 13 to No. 6 — assuming they don’t take Stingley at No. 3.
Plus sized, long armed, and capable of containing wide receivers in press-man coverage, Gardner is a picturesque fit for new Giants DC Wink Martindale’s defense. Formerly of the Ravens, Martindale believes in winning on the back end and utilizing a high-frequency blitz rate to generate pressure up front.
Wink must have guys that can cover.
After Stingley and Gardner, this cornerback class falls off a cliff.
4. The Wide Receivers Are White-Hot Commodities.
Especially in a league dominated by increasingly youthful coaches — call it the Sean McVay Effect — the NFL has become understandably obsessed with explosive plays, which primarily occur via the passing game.
In a league where veteran wide receiver contracts have ballooned out of control — call it the Christian Kirk Effect — securing wideouts on highly affordable rookie deals provides significant salary cap advantages.
By 2023, Kirk’s cap number will be $21.5 million.
Ja’Marr Chase will cost $13.1 million less.
I expect Jameson Williams (Alabama), Garrett Wilson (Ohio State), Drake London (USC), and Chris Olave (Ohio State) all to go inside the top-17 picks.
Treylon Burks (Arkansas) has a bunch of realistic potential landing spots in the 20s.
I think Jahan Dotson (Penn State) will go somewhere late in Round 1, and Skyy Moore (Western Michigan) could sneak in as well.
5. Each Of The Top-Three Offensive Line Prospects Will Go Top Seven.
There are differing opinions regarding the floor, ceiling, and even position-specific future of Evan Neal (Alabama) and Ickey Ekwonu (NC State). But after them and Charles Cross (Mississippi State), there is a gap until the next-best offensive line prospect.
My opinions on the outcomes of this draft are subject to hourly change, but here’s how I’d set the highest-probability top ten at this moment (assuming no trades).
1. Jaguars – Travon Walker
2. Lions – Aidan Hutchinson
3. Texans – Derek Stingley
4. Jets – Ickey Ekwonu
5. Giants – Sauce Gardner
6. Panthers – Charles Cross
7. Giants – Evan Neal
8. Falcons – Garrett Wilson
9. Seahawks – Kayvon Thibodeaux
10. Jets – Jermaine Johnson
I’ll surely change my mind before my final mock, out tomorrow night.
6. At Least Six EDGE Players Will Go In The First Round.
Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan), Travon Walker (Georgia), Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon), and Jermaine Johnson (Florida State) are first-round locks.
George Karlaftis (Purdue), Logan Hall (Houston), Boye Mafe (Minnesota), Arnold Ebiketie (Penn State), Nik Bonitto (Oklahoma), and David Ojabo (Michigan) are all realistic top-32 candidates.
The NFL’s thirst for outside rushers is never quenched.
7. No Running Backs Or Tight Ends Will Go Top 32.
Breece Hall (Iowa State) and Kenneth Walker (Michigan State) are legit bellcow types. Trey McBride (Colorado State) won 2021’s MF’in Mackey Award, catching 90 balls as a senior before blazing 4.56 at CSU’s Pro Day.
Yet the NFL has wizened to running back replaceability, and tight ends tend to struggle as early-career pros.
I won’t be surprised if we don’t see a running back or tight end drafted until the 40s.
8. I Like The Odds On These Guys To Go Top 32.
These players don’t consistently appear in first-round mocks, but my bet is that each is likelier than not to be drafted in the top 32.
(Must have even/plus odds to go top 32 at DraftKings Sportsbook.)
Georgia S Lewis Cine (+100)
Houston DL Logan Hall (+100)
Tulsa OT Tyler Smith (+100)
Washington CB Kyler Gordon (+110)
9. I Dislike The Odds On These Guys To Go Top 32.
These players are commonly mocked in the first round, but I think they are likelier than not to last until Day 2.
(Must have even/minus odds to go top 32 at DraftKings Sportsbook.)
Purdue EDGE George Karlaftis (-1600)
Iowa C Tyler Linderbaum (-900)
Georgia LB Nakobe Dean (-225)
Georgia WR George Pickens (+100)
10. Some Longer-Shot and Plus-Odds Bets I Like …
… That my colleagues at Establish The Run are too
afraid responsible to approve.
(All odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.)
Jermaine Johnson to go No. 2 overall (+7500)
Exact Order: Aidan Hutchinson to go No. 1, Jermaine Johnson to go No. 2 (+30000)
Exact Order: Travon Walker to go No. 1, Aidan Hutchinson No. 2, Evan Neal No. 3 (+1200)
Exact Position of First Drafted Player: Packers, Offensive Line (+750)
Exact Position of First Drafted Player: Vikings, Wide Receiver (+1200)
Kenneth Walker First Running Back Drafted (+225)
Bonus Take: Bet The Over On First-Round Trades.
It’s available at 5.5 first-round trades on DraftKings.
There are a league-record eight teams with multiple first-round picks, and the true strength of this draft is on Day 2 before a Day-3 cliff drop.
Aggressive teams will use their draft capital to move up, while smart, forward-thinking teams will use their capital to buy up more second- and third-round selections, capitalizing on the market inefficiency.