I'm not sure if you're aware, but I'm a heavy ideas guy. Like I had the perfect idea for the Justice League movie. But I wasn't going to be able to sit down and write it. (And if you're wondering what my idea would be – Bruce Wayne forms the Justice League to battle a zombie Superman who has returned from the grave.) Similarly, I'm not about to be an NFL general manager -- yet -- but I'm not afraid to tell them what to do.
Which leads us to my annual mock draft … with a twist! A look at what NFL teams SHOULD do in Round 1. And again, this is NOT a prediction but an offering of what team's should do. If a team does like I say (like take Justin Jefferson), then I'll never shut up about it. But if I get it wrong (Tua over Justin Herbert), then I'll pretend like it never happened.
But are you folks ready? Good. Let's get started.
I know you're thinking that Travon Walker could be the next Aldon Smith, who was a first-round pick of Trent Baalke when he was the GM in San Francisco, as my colleague Peter Schrager suggested on Good Morning Football. And I know that you like to go with the athletic freaks. But as fun as it was to see Masters champion Scottie Scheffler swing out of his shoes en route to a green jacket, sometimes you need to just play the course. Go with Hutchinson, who will translate to a Bosa-like player at the NFL level.
Texans, you need just about everything. You have 11 picks -- including two in the first 13 overall. But with just about every position available, I would suggest you go with a tone-setting kind of player who will be a mainstay for your team. Sauce is that guy. And Lovie Smith is going to love it. Having a lockdown corner is going to be so huge for this team. And with so much depth in this draft at WR and OL, you can address those areas later.
You did well to focus on your offensive needs in free agency. Love C.J. Uzomah. D.J. Reed and Jordan Whitehead are also great adds on defense. With Whitehead slated for strong safety, Hamilton would be an excellent free safety, in the mode of Justin Simmons of the Broncos. I know Jets fans will start groaning about Jamaal Adams. Let them. Hamilton could end up being the best player in this year's draft. Hey, Jags, I wouldn’t be super mad if you took him first overall, either. I know you won’t, but I wouldn’t be upset.
I would advise you not to take a quarterback. I have a feeling you’re not going to listen to me. I'm glad you didn't take Justin Fields last year, but I feel like you won't pass on the position here. And since you probably won't, what QB should you take at No. 6? Some might like Kenny Pickett a bit better. That’s fine. Again, I’m not overly enthused with either, but I like Malik better of the two. I was thrilled by his pro day and now I'm kind of hooked in on him.
If this was up to me, I would have you take Evan Neal here. I think it would be kind of cool to take bookend linemen to start the draft. But with Ickey already on board, let’s take a look at the defensive side of the football. And it’s not like you can’t address offensive line depth later on. Walker is the pick. The Giants desperately need an athletic lineman who can really get after the quarterback.
Falcons, you could use help at a ton of positions as well. Receiver is certainly one of them. But with two picks in the second round, you should go ahead and let one slide here. You need to get after the quarterback with all of the great passers in the division. ... Well, Tom Brady is still in the division. So there you go.
The more I read, the more it seems like the Seahawks are actually kind of into Drew Lock. This weekend, I came across a tweet from Lock's former Broncos teammate, Su'a Cravens, that suggested a personality clash was at play between Lock and Vic Fangio (which would be just shocking, I tell you). But now Lock is on the Best Coast and could use some help. Honestly, if you really want to hurt Russell Wilson, take a lineman you should have drafted for him years ago. That would be petty, vengeful stuff. Like when Bryan Danielson gleefully refers to himself as a wrestler in his AEW promos.
No receivers have come off the board yet, and I understand you're going to be tempted here. But you hired Robert Saleh for his defensive prowess. Give him as much help as possible. The big-name edge players have been selected, but Davis is a guy who can collapse the middle and still get pressure on the quarterback, which is going to be very important. Get your receivers later.
Stingley was seen as a top-10 pick coming off his freshman season before inconsistency and injury took its toll. But he's still the perfect type of player for Ron Rivera to have in his secondary. Like I've said before, receiver is also a need -- and would be even more so in the unlikely scenario Terry McLaurin is traded. But as it stands right now, you should totally take Stingley.
You’re in a weird spot, Vikings. If you told me that you were set on a wide receiver (which isn’t a terrible idea), I wouldn’t try to talk you out of it. Like when somebody tells me Return of the Jedi is their favorite Star Wars film. I don’t agree, but I’m not upset with that selection. But it sure feels like the secondary is a huge need for you guys, so I’d take McDuffie, who might end up being a better pro than Stingley.
It seems weird to have the first receiver go off the board this late, though similar to what happened in 2020 when the first wideout went 12th overall (Henry Ruggs). This is a good spot to get the ball rolling. You already got your shutdown corner of the future with pick No. 3. Here you can give Davis Mills (what am I writing?!) some help. Actually, I like Mills and think he could be a good quarterback in this league.
There is no player in this draft I look at more and think, "This guy should be a Raven," than my guy Devin Lloyd. He's the kind of player who can get to the passer and also excels in coverage. I'm telling you, there's no such thing as the perfect pick. But this might be the perfect pick.
Look, I could tell you to address other positions. You’re not going to listen. It’s like my friend, Ryan, who no matter how much I tell him I’m not taking a shot of Fireball on the first tee, will pour one anyway (and ends up having to do it himself). London would be the third consecutive WR selected by the Eagles in the first round (Jalen Reagor, 2020; DeVonta Smith, 2021). But you have to put Jalen Hurts in a position to be successful.
I don’t know why, but whenever I see Olave, I think of him as being a Saints type of receiver. Maybe it's the highlights from the Sugar Bowl. He’s not especially huge but is super fast and can get down the field. Again, I don’t want to talk about perfect picks for a team, but Olave seems destined for you guys down in New Orleans. But if you want the guy at No. 17, I’m not going to be upset. The choice is yours, just take a receiver.
So glad you kept Mike Williams. He's awesome. You know I love Keenan Allen as well. I will say this: You can never have too many weapons to put around Justin Herbert. Jameson Williams is a stud and could have been the first receiver off the board if not for his injury. But you get value here at No. 17, and he can be ready for you during the playoff push. Don’t worry, you’ll make the playoffs this year.
Corner would be pretty good for you, but the best CBs are already off the board thanks to the Vikings and Commanders. But edge is a need for you guys as well. And while Karlaftis isn’t the longest player in the world, he does disrupt the pocket.
We got you the receiver a few picks ago. You could still use a cornerback, it might be a bit of a reach here. So, you should take a defensive tackle who would fit really well in Dennis Allen’s system.
I thought about this a lot, Steelers. This might be something I need to talk about more later, maybe after the draft, but I like Mitch Trubisky for you, and I hope you give him a chance. I know there will be irate Steelers fans if you pass on Kenny Pickett here -- a man drawing comparisons to Dan Marino back in 1983. But I honestly thinking you’re good. And it doesn’t look like Pickett would be great in that Pittsburgh cold. (Yes, I know, I’m kidding about that.) I’m going to say give Mitch a chance and instead go with Hill, who will end up being the DROY if you draft him.
Look, I know you haven't been great at drafting wide receivers. But you can’t let that stop you from taking one here. You have to approach it with the same enthusiasm as my 3-year-old, who continues to think he’s ready to ride his sister's Razor scooter despite things always ending horribly. This time could be different. Burks is legit.
I mean, there is a Matt Corral joke that just writes itself here, but I’m not about to take the easy way out. But here’s the deal: You have to draft a wide receiver. Even if Aaron Rodgers is intent on ignoring him and giving Allen Lazard and Sammy Watkins 500 targets each this season, you have to make this move. And if I’m being honest, Dotson likely ends up being a really good player. Once Rodgers leaves next season.
You’re probably going to want to move up in Round 1 to get the receiver of your choice. A lot of really good ones have gone off the board. I'd call the Steelers to see if you could jump in front of the Patriots and Packers; both -- based on my advice -- would take receivers. You could go with Skyy Moore or Christian Watson here, and that’s cool if you want to do that. But here’s my thing: I know you have J.J. Watt, but it’s important to get some depth at that position. And also, you want to be able to get to the quarterback in the NFC West.
You no longer have La’el Collins, so this is a pressing need. Penning is one of the most interesting tackle prospects in the draft. Charles Cross is also an option here, and again, I’ll let you make the ultimate call. I would take a shot on Penning. But you have a lot of needs, so trade down if you can.
You guys have a pretty good team. Newcomer Robert Woods keeps you from taking a receiver here (though, you could if you wanted to). But Dean is the highest player remaining on DJ’s Top 50 ranking, and the former Bulldog has the perfect attitude match Mike Vrabel. And, I’m sure Vrabel will end up roasting him on Twitter in the near future. So, this might be the perfect pick.
Oh man, do you dare draft a quarterback here thinking Tom Brady can’t play forever? I thought about it. I really did. However, you don’t want that evil on you. Not that he would be an Aaron Rodgers-level of petty here. There are quarterbacks worth targeting next year, so let’s just find a depth piece for the secondary for now.
I wouldn’t mind if you took another receiver here; you could use it. I also see how Rodgers could take that as condescending, so maybe wait until a bit later. Plus, you guys love (and have a pretty good track record) drafting offensive linemen. And since Lucas Patrick left in free agency and is going to be out there killing it for some other team, taking a top interior lineman isn’t a bad idea. Kenyon Green could be an option, but Cross has gotten some buzz in recent weeks. I’ve seen mocks with him in the top 10, and it would figure the Packers would have a player like this land in their laps because, that’s the way things go for them.
Oh my gosh, you guys lost a great receiver: Byron Pringle. Tyreek Hill is also gone, so you need to draft some wideouts for sure. Yes, I know you got JuJu Smith-Schuster, but you still need some more folks. I’m a huge fan of Moore. Our own Lance Zierlein compared him to Keyshawn Johnson. Wait, that’s KeeSean Johnson. Come on, Lance. He’s kind of a Golden Tate-like receiver. The Chiefs should totally get in on this.
That’s right, back-to-back receivers. Unprecedented. At least, I think. But let’s run it back here and load up. I’m not sure if you saw everything that happened in the AFC West this offseason, but it was wild. You need as much help as possible. I will tell you, I have not put any other quarterbacks in this mock draft (yet!). So, this could be a spot where you let a team like the Commanders or Seahawks move in to take a quarterback. Maybe even bluff the Lions into moving up two picks.
First, you’re going to love running backs from Iowa State. Trust me. I know this might be a bit reckless because cornerback would likely be a better option at this point. However, I do like the idea of taking a running back here. Drafting a super-talented back late in Round 1 for a five-year run, and then moving on, seems like a pretty sound investment.
Look at what I did for you, Detroit! I told people to fade Pickett and now you get to swoop in here and grab your quarterback of the future. Again, if you want to pass on a quarterback and take another player, I’m good with it. But nabbing him at 32nd overall gets you that fifth-year option. Also, if some team doesn’t listen to me (not advised) and drafts Pickett sooner, you can take Matt Corral here. But I’d grab a QB with this pick. What, are you worried about Jared Goff’s feelings? Did the Packers care about Rodgers' feelings when they drafted Jordan Love? They did not. And it ended up with him having the best years of his career. Sure, they lost horrifically in the playoffs, but still, the best years of his career.