Welcome to my third annual mock draft ... with a twist! This is not to be a predictive piece by any stretch, but instead I will use my consulting services to help nudge teams in the right direction and tell them what they should do on April 23. If some of these teams had listened to me in recent years, Derwin James would be on the Bucs, D.J. Moore would be on the Packers (see I'm impartial) and Josh Allen would be a member of the Bills. Oh wait, the Bills did listen. You're welcome, Buffalo.
I've seen the argument for the Bengals to take Chase Young here, and I respect it. The theory is sound. Just look at what Nick Bosa did for the 49ers last year. But, as I'm sure you've realized, the 49ers already had their franchise quarterback on the roster when they turned in the card for Bosa. And as much as I love Andy Dalton, it seems like you guys are ready to go your separate ways. He's the 2011 Toyota Corolla you might still have an emotional attachment to because he took you to five straight playoff appearances -- so what if the hubcap fell off every fifth mile? However, if you're being honest with yourself, you know it's time to upgrade to that decked-out Tesla you've had your eye on. So take Burrow, make him your franchise QB and let's kick this turnaround into gear.
Washington, I know you're hearing a lot of chatter, too. Talk of pulling a Josh Rosen/ Kyler Murray (maybe you prefer Jimmy Clausen/ Cam Newton better) type maneuver at No. 2 overall has been simmering for weeks. And again, I get why Tua Tagovailoa is an appealing option here. Especially if you believe Tua is going to be a generational QB. I love it. Great thought. I personally think he will. But here's why you have to take Young here: Your roster is several players away right now. And so if the 2020 season doesn't turn out so hot for you guys, and Dwayne Haskins struggles, you could very well be in the mix for Trevor Lawrence next year. Getting Young and Lawrence in back-to-back years is something they would talk about in A Football Life: The Redskins Dynasty of the 2020s.
You're in a pretty good spot here, Lions. You can either take the cornerback everybody wants you to take. Or you can take the best defender on the board. But what you really need to do is to get the Dolphins or Chargers to move up here for Tua. Because you're still going to end up with one of those stud defenders regardless, and you can grab some extra picks, too. And for the record, I'm going with Simmons because, well, do you even watch college football, brah?
Listen, I know you just gave James Bradberry $32 million guaranteed and are only one year removed from taking Deandre Baker 30th overall, and both are fine players, but they're like the (much-needed) Taco Bell you scarf down on your way to a cocktail party so you at least have a base in your system in case the host isn't serving food. (BTW, remember cocktail parties that weren't online?) Okudah's the bacon-wrapped shrimp you simply cannot pass up. Now, you could try to trade down a few spots to a QB-needy team and come away with an offensive tackle like Tristan Wirfs. But if Okudah is on the board at 4, and you stay put, then grab the corner who will help you avoid ranking 31st in touchdowns allowed to receivers (22) again.
I don't know what to do with you here, Dolphins. I told you to take Lamar Jackson at No. 11 two years ago and you didn't listen. Last year, I told you to take Drew Lock -- and you didn't listen. Not sure if the third time's the charm applies here. But Tua has a very good chance to be the best quarterback from this draft. Obviously, his hip injury is a concern, but he says he's 100 percent healthy and ready to go. And you still have Ryan Fitzpatrick if the rookie does need some time to get right again. Tua is spectacular and somebody who can come in during his second season and light the league on fire the way Patrick Mahomes did, so you have to go for it.
You could play it safe here and go with Justin Herbert, who has really acquitted himself quite nicely going back to the Pac-12 Championship Game and on through the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. Herbert could be a solid NFL quarterback. But you just got rid of a solid NFL quarterback. You need to make a splash. You're moving into a new stadium, you're going to likely be better than your neighbors, so this is a time to seize an opportunity. Southern California is the home of legends. Mike Trout. LeBron James. Anthony Rendon. Anthony Davis. Some hockey guys, I'm sure. You also play in a division with Mahomes. Chargers, you really need to take a shot here with a guy who could end up being the most celebrated (or ridiculed) pick in the draft. But look, you've played it safe for 50 years and what's it gotten you? Take a chance here.
Oh my gosh, Carolina. Your team is going to look different without Cam Newton and Luke Keuchly and Greg Olsen this season. But it's all good. You're set offensively with Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson and new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Now shore up that defensive line with Brown, who can step in and be a difference-maker from Day 1.
You made your move for Kyler Murray last season. You basically won the offseason when you fleeced the Texans for DeAndre Hopkins. I haven't seen a team win the offseason like that since the Browns traded for OBJ to go with their second-year Oklahoma quarterback. ... So, if you want to avoid the problems Cleveland had last season, make sure you address the offensive line. Take the best tackle on the board right now. I'd go with Wirfs, but I trust your scouting department to pick the right dude. Just please, please don't ignore the offensive line.
My friends down in Duval, you have a lot of draft capital and I love it. Here's my thing, though. You're kind of stuck here at No. 9. You can hope Simmons falls to you here. But I wouldn't count on that. You also have a huge need for an outside cornerback, with the whole Darqueze Dennard deal falling through and D.J. Hayden being more of a slot guy. However, it looks like Simmons and Okudah will be gone by the time you're on the clock. And if you stay in this spot, I would actually address the offensive line because you know Doug Marrone is going to want to run the football. It's like having grilled chicken instead of a pizza for dinner. Sometimes you have to make the sensible choice, even if it's not the most exciting.
That has to hurt, seeing two dudes you really could have used get picked back-to-back right in front of you. But it's cool. While you can go in a number of different directions here, I'm still leaning O-line. You just signed Jack Conklin to bookend the right side. Amazing. Now, you draft Becton to line up on the left side, and suddenly, you have a solid offensive line. And if you'll allow one quick fantasy take (just one), I would go all-in on Nick Chubb if this happens. Especially with Kevin Stefanski as head coach.
Take the receiver of your choice here, Jets. I feel like the debate between who is better, Lamb or Jerry Jeudy, is going to last through the decade. I'm favoring Lamb at this point. He's not the fastest guy on the board, but he's an absolute beast once he has the ball in his hands. He is the kind of guy who will become an instant favorite in New York. Do the right thing for my guy, Sam Darnold.
Here's what I'd do. I'd get on the phone with the Packers and see if they'd be interested in the 12th and 80th overall picks for Davante Adams. I know that sounds a bit crazy. But we've seen other notable receivers -- Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, DeAndre Hopkins, Stefon Diggs -- get traded in just the past 13 months. You all once upon a time ago even traded Amari Cooper. So back off, Packers marks. The compensation is actually better than what the Vikings received for Diggs. If you could pull this off, you'd have Derek Carr and DA reunited. At the very worst (and most likely), you select this stud out of Alabama.
You have a real opportunity to grab a much-needed receiver in this spot. But I wouldn't overspend on Henry Ruggs III with Lamb and Jeudy gone. (You might need to jump ahead of the Jets if you want a real shot at getting one of those guys). If we're being open here, I know it wasn't easy trading away DeForest Buckner. But the best way to get over that loss is to immediately fill the void with the 6-foot-5, 324-pound Kinlaw. Put him in there with Bosa and Co. and watch him flourish. He could become a Pro Bowler in no time. Besides, this draft is stupid deep at receiver and you still have the 31st overall pick. So, you are good.
First off, love the new uniforms. Those look amazing. Second, you need a running back. But I don't recommend that you take one here. Address that in the second round, when your options at No. 45 could include J.K. Dobbins, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and maybe even a surprise slider like Jonathan Taylor. Take Thomas to protect your most important asset for the team, Tom Brady. Well, second-most next to that huge pirate ship that Kevin Owens didn't get to jump off for WrestleMania. And having that tackle will help you run the ball, too.
Great job on the decision to roll with Drew Lock this season. He looked great at the end of last year. And now you have surrounded him with some great players, adding Melvin Gordon to the mix for a team that had some nice pieces with Phillip Lindsay, Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton and Noah Fant. Complete the set here with Ruggs, who would be a great replacement for Emmanuel Sanders. I know corner could be a consideration. But you got A.J. Bouye to replace Chris Harris Jr., so you're fine.
Look, as a person who plays a ton of fantasy football and always loves to match up players against the Falcons defense because of their struggles in the secondary, I hate to tell you guys to fix that. Especially if I have shares of Michael Thomas, Chris Godwin and D.J. Moore. But good lord, Atlanta. You have to fix that. All right. Maybe I'm being hasty. You weren't bad at the end of last season. But you have a glaring need now that top corner Desmond Trufant was released. Henderson would be a huge help. He's not a great tackler, but he's a good defender while the ball is in the air.
I have something for you, Cowboys. You'll like this one. Now, cornerback is an obvious need, but Henderson just went off the board. Pass rusher is also a need for this defense, now that my guy Bobby Quinn flipped a coin and left for the Chicago Bears (welcome!). Chaisson would come in and make an immediate impact on this defense. And if I'm shooting you straight here, the Cowboys have low-key made some great picks on D in the draft in recent years. No, not Taco Charlton. But guys like Leighton Vander Esch, Xavier Woods and Chidobe Awuzie. Chaisson would fit in quite nicely.
I was just about to tell you guys to go grab USC OT Austin Jackson to protect Tua down the road. And if you really want to do that, I'm not going to stop you (there's obviously a need for O-line help). But your team is close to competing in the AFC East. Really, even though you finished with fewer wins than the Jets, who was the better team at the end of the year? Exactly. And with Tom Brady gone, the division is wide open. I really believe McKinney is the missing piece to target for a defense that made some nice upgrades in the offseason. So, go all-in for the Alabama safety.
You already have your receiver, whether you convinced the Packers to take the deal for Adams or you selected Jeudy. Now is the time to look at your secondary. Johnson is the best corner on the board right now. I saw him a lot at Utah, and he's very good. He can play outside or in the slot. But he's going to be a starter from Day 1, and that's exactly what you need. If you wanted to go get Patrick Queen or Kenneth Murray here, that's cool. But you got my guy Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton this offseason, so you might be good at linebacker.
Back again, Duval. Great to see you. I thought you would end up with a quality cornerback at this position. And shoot, I was wrong. I thought Johnson would be here for you. And he might be if I can go back and convince the Raiders to take a linebacker or maybe another receiver at No. 19. But I'm a big fan of Queen in this spot. This is a position of need without Telvin Smith. And if I'm being honest, after watching Queen at LSU, this guy is going to be an absolute steal in this spot.
I'm going to have to ask you to avoid the temptation to jump up when some of those receivers start flying off the board earlier in the draft. You're going to be fine just sitting back and waiting for your guy. Jefferson is a player I really like. And why him over a guy like, say, Tee Higgins? That's a fair question. Jefferson is an ace route-runner. Being in that LSU offense with Burrow and OC Joe Brady has him NFL-ready. I wouldn't be surprised to see him end up as the top rookie receiver given the circumstances he would be walking into here.
I guess it was time to part ways with Diggs. Sometimes those relationships run their course, Vikings. No need to dwell on hurt feelings, though. Higgins would be a perfect fit for you. He works well down the field and a pairing with Adam Thielen could make it seem like nothing has changed. You'll be right back to losing big games again in no time. Sorry, I had to do it. Love you, Vikings.
So, you're really going to let the best quarterback in NFL history walk away and end up with a pretty good replacement? Now, I told the Chargers to stay away from Herbert earlier in this draft, but for good reason. History tells me the Chargers are not the kind of team that could help him overcome his inconsistencies. The Patriots certainly could. So many times, the success of quarterbacks comes down to their situation. Herbert would be fine if the Chargers selected him. He has a chance to be upper echelon if he goes to the Patriots. I would love to see it.
Shenault has been described by my colleague Daniel Jeremiah as "arguably the best athlete in the draft" because he does a little bit of everything. A lot of his success will depend on where he goes in the draft. There are three or four teams that I believe could really get the best of him. Saints, you're one of them. Don't ask him to do a lot in his first year (it's not like you have to with Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders already in the mix). But given the chance to just fly down the field and run some jet-sweeps, I believe Shenault would become an instant fan favorite in New Orleans.
The defense used to be the strength of this team, Vikings. But now you are rolling into the draft hoping guys like Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Kris Boyd can step up at corner. Solid NFL players for sure, but you could use some help. You took a receiver with your first pick. It behooves you to take the best cornerback left on the board in this spot.
You know what? I'm almost regretting having you pass on Jackson with your previous pick. I really am. But guess what? Dude is still here! How about that noise? This is like the best of both worlds. Look, Dolphins. I've tried to help you in the past. But if you walk out of here with Tua, McKinney and now Jackson, this would be a draft for the record books. It really would be. Because all drafts are recorded. But I mean in a good way.
There's a need on the offensive line. But I don't like much of what is left there in this spot. Blacklock is way too talented to pass over here. He has the skills to develop into a serious pass rusher from the interior of the defensive line. He seems like the kind of player that Seattle finds and turns into a stud. And if you somehow convince Jadeveon Clowney to return (I know, a long shot at this point), this line is going to be amazing.
I love Mark Ingram. He's great. His hype videos are the best. But he's also 30. And I don't want to go all Barney Stinson on you, but you don't want to flirt with running backs over the age of 30. Swift makes too much sense here in this spot. The roster already includes Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. But if teams are going to allow the best back in the draft to fall to No. 28, you have to do it. And for the record, I'd take Jonathan Taylor here if Swift goes earlier.
I would like to see you add some receiver help, too. Or maybe go after some offensive linemen. But you also need to look at your pass-rushing situation, which Gross-Matos should immediately help in the wake of Cameron Wake. And yes, even with Vic Beasley on board, you still can't have enough quality pass rushers, especially in a conference that has Mahomes, Jackson and Deshaun Watson.
Look, if Aaron Rodgers is so great, why don't you just skip your draft pick? Fine, fine. You have spent so much draft capital over the years on defense, how about you actually try to find some players for Rodgers to work with? You owe it to him to take the best receiver available. I understand I'm telling the Packers to pick the guy who just recently underwent core-muscle surgery. Sure. But he's the most talented receiver remaining on the board. And for once you should at least try to help your quarterback instead of taking another defender (which I totally know you will).
Look here, you waited on a receiver and you were rewarded with a pretty good one. I love him. Mims excels at going out and winning those 50/50 battles. He's going to be a true gamer. One drawback for him is that I'm not sure his route tree is the most extensive. But that's fine. We heard similar things about DK Metcalf last year and he was fine. Mims would be perfect to put in an offense with Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. Let him go down the field and do his thing. Mims would be a huge win for you.
I have no idea how Murray ended up falling all the way down here. He's a good player, but hey, sometimes surprises like this happen when matching up fits and needs. He could end up going way earlier in the draft, and we just couldn't let this guy fall out of the first round. He's just way too good. So, congratulations, Chiefs. Things keep coming up roses for you. Of course, if you just wanted to reach out for one of the best remaining running backs, I'm not going to be mad about that, either.