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If your favorite team failed to land that quarterback of the future or much-needed edge-rusher in the 2018 class, don’t worry, we have you covered with a way-too-early look at the 2019 NFL draft. And on paper, it looks like a good one.
Writing a mock draft 360 days before the 2019 NFL draft means the players listed are making it based on potential. There is still an entire college football season to be played, and many things will change. Case in point: No one considered Baker Mayfield a first-round talent at this time last year, and he was just the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Players will improve. Players will regress. Injuries will happen. Positions that look like needs for NFL teams right now will be filled through trades or player improvement. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a peek at next year’s class and see where the value and needs line up for all 32 NFL teams. The draft order is based on personal prediction of how the 2018 season will play out.
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The Pick: Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
The New York Jets drafted the franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold and now can focus on getting the edge-rusher the defense needs to take the next step toward a playoff run.
Nick Bosa, from an early look, is a better prospect than his older brother Joey. He’s a little twitchier as an athlete and has a little more flexibility in his hips. Where Joey is more of a traditional defensive end, Nick projects well either standing up or putting his hand in the dirt.
The Jets will gladly take the production Bosa brings to the table.
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The Pick: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
If the Cincinnati Bengals are selecting at No. 2 overall, it’s time to draft Andy Dalton‘s replacement.
The 2019 quarterback class doesn’t have a go-to No. 1 guy. There isn’t a Jared Goff or Sam Darnold where we knew a year out that they’d be viewed as a top player. But if there is one quarterback talked about by NFL scouts more than others, it’s Oregon’s Justin Herbert.
Herbert’s accuracy, timing and athleticism have teams excited, and based on a quick look at his 2017 season, he looks the part of a potential QB1.
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The Pick: Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
Ed Oliver just might win the 2019 Heisman Trophy as a defensive lineman—he’s that good. The Chicago Bears already have a stout defense but wouldn’t be able to resist a plug-and-play Pro Bowl-caliber talent like Oliver lining up either at 5-technique or as an inside penetrator on passing downs.
Oliver has been dominant since he first stepped foot on the Houston campus and has already announced he’ll declare for the 2019 draft. It’s that type of confidence (and talent) that will have NFL scouts flocking to Houston to evaluate a potential No. 1 overall player in Oliver.
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The Pick: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
Here’s another quarterback going early in this mock draft, and it’s another passer with loads of potential who needs to continue his development and produce in a new offense in 2018.
Drew Lock jumped onto the scene in 2017 with awesome production and a huge arm, but his consistency was poor and he struggled in the Texas Bowl without offensive coordinator Josh Heupel’s scheme. Lock has the traits to rise up draft boards and be a potential QB1, but he has to level out his play first.
In Miami, if the Dolphins are drafting top five, it means Ryan Tannehill didn’t get the job done coming off injury. That’ll open the door for a quarterback to be drafted.
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The Pick: A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
Put A.J. Brown atop my list of favorite offensive players for the upcoming college football season. He’s a big (6’1″, 225 lbs) receiver with excellent ability to make plays after the catch. Athletically he reminds me of the Tennessee Titans’ Corey Davis, who went No. 5 overall in the 2017 draft.
The Redskins don’t have a glaring need at receiver, but if Josh Doctson continues to struggle in 2018, the need will grow. Brown is more pro-ready with a diverse skill set. He’s an ideal fit for the crossing and timing routes Alex Smith is most comfortable throwing.
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The Pick: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
The Buffalo Bills have a solid left tackle in Dion Dawkins but can’t miss the chance to get an elite left tackle in Jonah Williams. This pick also allows the team to solidify the offensive line by moving Dawkins to the right side long-term. New quarterback Josh Allen has to be happy with that potential.
Williams is an athlete on the blind side who has been on my radar since his true freshman season, when he lined up at right tackle for the Crimson Tide. He was one of the best offensive linemen in college football last season and barring injury has the look of an early first-rounder.
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The Pick: Trey Adams, OT, Washington
The Arizona Cardinals have their quarterback in Josh Rosen, but now they need to protect him. Drafting Trey Adams to fill the hole at offensive tackle with a question mark on the right side is a money move. Pairing him up with D.J. Humphries (left tackle) to keep the fragile Rosen healthy is smart team-building.
Adams is a graceful brawler at left tackle with the size (6’8″, 327 lbs) to be a force on the right side. He does need to work on better leverage in the run game but has the power and size to be considered the best returning offensive tackle in college. He’ll fight with Jonah Williams and Greg Little to be the first selected.
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The Pick: Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
The Cleveland Browns checked off many boxes in the 2018 NFL draft, which allows the front office to select one of the best players in the upcoming class even if it’s not the biggest potential need.
Rashan Gary is an athlete playing on the defensive line. His ability to beat offensive linemen with his first step, plus his versatility across multiple fronts, have had scouts talking about him since he signed with the Wolverines.
In Cleveland, Gary would plug in with Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi to form a trio of young, talented defensive linemen the Browns can build around.
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The Pick: Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
Indianapolis’ focus for the 2018 draft was building a wall in front of Andrew Luck at offensive guard—which is why the Colts drafted Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith in the first two rounds. With a projected top-10 pick in the 2019 lottery, the Colts can address one edge with Greg Little.
At 6’6″, 325 pounds, Little has the size to handle anything thrown at him by a defensive end. He’s agile, long, powerful and smart in his technique with a well-timed punch. He’ll also help Luck sleep better at night knowing his back is protected.
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The Pick: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
The Baltimore Ravens did a very good job in the 2018 draft of filling needs—both current and future—with a load of selections acquired by trading picks. One area that wasn’t addressed that might need to be next year is the future at cornerback.
Greedy Williams doesn’t just have the best name in college football—he’s also one of the best players. He’s a smooth, fluid cover man with the tools to lock up in man coverage. He’s fast, physical and loves to attack the ball in the air.
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The Pick: Dexter Lawrence, DL, Clemson
If you liked Vita Vea, you’re going to love Dexter Lawrence.
The 6’4″, 340-pounder moves too well for a guy his size and has been dominant at the point of attack since his first game at Clemson. There will be those who see “just” a two-gap anchor and not someone who can get upfield—we heard the same thing about Vea—but Lawrence is a natural athlete who has the traits to be disruptive in the pros.
The Titans defense has a solid foundation now with Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, but Lawrence can be the glue that holds it together—and keep them clean to make plays.
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The Pick: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
The Detroit Lions smartly improved the offense by selecting Frank Ragnow and Kerryon Johnson in the 2018 draft, but now the attention should turn to improving Matt Patricia’s defense. Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell looks tailor-made for that scheme as a Chandler Jones-type pass-rusher.
Ferrell has length, speed and power on the edge of the defensive line. For a team looking to bookend Ziggy Ansah (or even draft his successor), Ferrell fits the bill as a 4-3 defensive end who has the traits to stand up and rush as well.
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The Pick: Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson
The Bucs were aggressive trading down in the 2018 draft and still landing Vita Vea, but one position they weren’t able to address was offensive tackle. My view of the team is that right tackle will be a need soon. With a good tackle class projected in the 2019 cycle, it’s a good time to draft Demar Dotson’s replacement.
Mitch Hyatt lines up at left tackle for Clemson but has the strength to easily slide to the right side. There’s also the possibility of moving Donovan Smith to the right and letting Hyatt stay at his current position. No matter where they each line up, adding a tackle in the 2019 first round solidifies the edge of the Tampa offensive line.
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The Pick: Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern
The New York Giants passed on the chance to draft a quarterback of the future with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft, but is that a decision they’ll regret? Or will fourth-rounder Kyle Lauletta be the answer?
If after a season of watching Lauletta and 2017 third-rounder Davis Webb, the Giants feel like the long-term answer at starter isn’t on the roster, the team could be in good shape to draft a quarterback in 2019. Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson nearly declared for this year’s draft before surveying the deep group of passers and deciding to return to school. He has the arm, accuracy and intangibles to be considered a first-rounder one year from now.
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The Pick: Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
The Panthers invested in the offense with first-round wideout D.J. Moore in the 2018 draft but should look more to the secondary in 2019—particularly at cornerback. The team is already thin at corner, so adding a playmaker with Deandre Baker’s potential is a value and a need.
Baker has ball skills and instincts to be considered a serious first-round candidate one year from now. He’s sticky in coverage and has the athleticism to be in play as potentially the first cornerback off the board. Georgia has a well-coached defense, and Baker’s ability to step in right away as an outside corner will only add to his value.
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The Pick: Joe Jackson, EDGE, Miami
With no first-round pick in the 2018 draft, the Kansas City Chiefs weren’t able to fill every need on the roster, but they did look early and often at defenders (the first five of Kansas City’s six picks were on the defensive side of the ball). One area that didn’t get love is edge-rusher, and the team will need someone to step up there with the age of Justin Houston (29) and impending free agency of Dee Ford.
Miami’s Joe Jackson is an ideal fit in a 3-4 scheme. He has length and athleticism and uses both well to beat and bend offensive tackles around the edge. He’s a bit of a project, but if his 2018 season goes as planned, he’ll be one of the draft’s prized players in 2019.
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The Pick: Shea Patterson, QB, Michigan
If a mock draft one year out is all about potential, we might as well talk about Shea Patterson.
The Ole Miss transfer is eligible to play at Michigan this season and already scouts are talking about his tools. He’s accurate, smart and will be coached up by Jim Harbaugh with a chance to become a riser throughout the process next year.
Patterson does have to prove himself in a draft class that looks to be full of quarterbacks with potential but no proven player at the top of the list. If it all comes together for him in Ann Arbor, scouts tell me he has the right tools to go early.
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The Pick: Michael Jackson, CB, Miami
The Seattle Seahawks want bigger cornerbacks who can excel in off coverage. Miami’s Michael Jackson and his 6’2″, 200-pound frame are perfect for the system, and his play has him ready for a big role early on.
Jackson was considered a potential 2018 early entry but decided to return to Coral Gables to improve his draft stock. Given his size and projected speed, it’s fair to see him as a future first-rounder and a great fit for Pete Carroll’s team. Carroll and his staff just need to turn on the Syracuse tape (two interceptions) if they want to see Jackson in action looking like a top-20 pick.
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The Pick: Collin Johnson, WR, Texas
The Dallas Cowboys made interesting moves at wide receiver in the 2018 draft—trading Ryan Switzer to Oakland, acquiring Tavon Austin from Los Angeles, not selecting a receiver early—and will head into the upcoming season with a need for a playmaker down the field. Texas’ Collin Johnson at 6’6″ can be the downfield weapon and red-zone nightmare the Cowboys so badly want.
Johnson does need to improve upon his production from the last two seasons and prove to scouts he can run well enough to separate from NFL defenders, but his size and hands are already getting buzzed about as teams prepare for the upcoming college season.
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The Pick: Josh Allen, LB, Kentucky
Bradley Chubb and Von Miller will make for a fun pass rush in Denver, but the Broncos could still use an athletic, rangy inside linebacker who brings youth and toughness to the front seven.
Kentucky’s Josh Allen will get comparisons to Tremaine Edmunds, now of the Buffalo Bills, thanks to his 6’5″, 230-pound frame and versatility. The Wildcats often line him up off the edge and in the middle of the field, and it’s there that I see him working best in the pros. With his reach, range and instincts, he can be a plug-and-play threat at any linebacker spot right away.
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The Pick: Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State
The Atlanta Falcons surprised us all by selecting Calvin Ridley to play wide receiver for them in the first round and bypassing the need for a versatile defensive tackle. They can address the need early in 2019.
Jeffery Simmons fits well anywhere along the Falcons’ defensive line. If they want a 6’4″, 295-pounder with excellent first-step quickness, he’s the guy. And given the team’s rumored interest in Florida’s Taven Bryan, Simmons feels like a natural fit to step into the defensive line rotation as a rookie.
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The Pick: Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State
The decision to pass on Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft may come back to haunt the Jacksonville Jaguars. It also might put pressure on them to draft Blake Bortles’ replacement in Round 1 next time around.
Nick Fitzgerald was having a solid season in 2017 until injury struck. With his ankle hobbling him he was shut down, and his draft dreams took a back seat to his recovery. Now, Fitzgerald is healthy and looks to regain his status as a potential 2019 first-rounder.
If Bortles struggles in 2018, Fitzgerald’s name is one to remember.
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The Pick: Sam Beal, CB, Western Michigan
Without picks in the first two rounds, the Houston Texans were left waiting to make an impact but did well in the 2018 draft. Now the fun begins again, but this time with a first-round-pick.
Western Michigan’s Sam Beal is the first small-schooler to come off the board. And while he isn’t a Power Five player, his name is already getting talked up as a potential top-five cornerback for 2019.
Beal has speed and closes on the ball well from man or zone coverage. Adding him to a secondary that’ll feature Kevin Johnson, Tyrann Mathieu and Justin Reid could give the Texans a scary defense if the big boys up front (J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney) can stay healthy.
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The Pick: Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
Deebo Samuel would have been in consideration for the second round had he not suffered an injury in 2017. If healthy and recovered, Samuel will have a chance to improve his stock by matching—or exceeding—his electric play from before his injury.
The Raiders are a team in transition. The wide receiver corps has Martavis Bryant and Ryan Switzer now to go along with Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson, but it’s never a bad problem to have too many talented pass-catchers. It’s also nice insurance in case Bryant, who is a free agent after this season, decides to sign elsewhere.
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The Pick: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
The Green Bay Packers made arguably the best trade of the 2018 NFL draft when they swapped picks with the New Orleans Saints and acquired this future first-rounder. With it, the Packers can address the same position the Saints did—pass-rusher.
Alabama’s Terrell Lewis is a dream fit for Mike Pettine’s scheme. He’s athletic, physical and has production coming off the edge in the SEC. He hasn’t been fully unleashed yet at Alabama, but a big 2018 season will put him in the running for a first-round grade.
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The Pick: Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami
With their own pick in the first round, the Green Bay Packers can look to get younger and faster at wide receiver. Miami’s Ahmmon Richards is a burner with moves in space who would match up perfectly with Aaron Rodgers‘ arm talent.
The Packers went for a quantity over quality approach in the 2018 draft by selecting three receivers on Day 3 (the same move they used in 2017 when adding three running backs) but still need a top-tier threat opposite Davante Adams. Richards’ tools tell me he can be that guy.
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The Pick: Austin Bryant, EDGE, Clemson
There will come a time when the Los Angeles Rams will have to address their edge-rusher situation with some priority. That time might be the 2019 first round—if the Rams keep the pick.
Austin Bryant is a polarizing prospect coming out of Clemson. He looks the part of a prototypical pass-rusher but too often doesn’t make plays despite being left in one-on-one blocking situations because of the talent along the Tigers defensive line. If he can unlock his potential and show a little more athleticism, he can move into the Round 1 conversation.
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The Pick: Christian Miller, LB, Alabama
The middle of the field was addressed in this draft when the Steelers drafted safeties Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen, but the need at middle linebacker is glaring. Filling that hole and finding an anchor for the defense should be all the team thinks about as it scouts the country this fall.
Taking a trip to Tuscaloosa to see Christian Miller should be atop the Steelers’ plans. Miller, who’s healthy again after suffering a biceps injury in 2017, looks like the next early-round Alabama linebacker. He’s a load to handle as a hitter and has the athleticism and range to be a great fit in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense.
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The Pick: Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
As good as San Francisco’s 2018 draft was, there is still a question of who will fill the important LEO role in the defense. That question could be answered in the 2019 first round with Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat and his athletic 6’6″ frame.
Sweat is a prototypical edge-rusher with good length, speed and the agility to make plays in space. The 49ers need someone who can not only get after the quarterback on the edge but also draw the attention of blockers to free up former first-rounders Solomon Thomas and DeForest Buckner on the line. Sweat’s first step and pass-rushing tools could do it.
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The Pick: Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson
Christian Wilkins was a popular name one year ago, as he was considered one of the top players in the country and a potential early entry to the 2018 NFL draft. After his junior season, his draft stock wasn’t as high, and Wilkins eventually decided to return for his senior season.
Wilkins’ ability to rush from the inside of the line is a great fit for what the Vikings do; even if defensive tackle doesn’t look like a major need for the team on paper. Addressing needs, of which there are few in Minnesota, will be important, but drafting the best player available is what general manager Rick Spielman preaches.
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The Pick: Michael Deiter, OL, Wisconsin
The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the most well-built teams in the NFL. Because of how well general manager Howie Roseman and his staff have designed the roster, there aren’t many needs to address at the end of Round 1. That means best player available at a possible need comes into play.
Michael Dieter plays left tackle for the Badgers but projects best as an interior offensive lineman in the pros. The Eagles could be looking to get younger (and cheaper) at guard or center in the near future, and Dieter’s toughness in the run game and size (6’6″, 325 lbs) are an ideal fit in Philly.
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The Pick: Ryan Finley, QB, NC State
The New England Patriots didn’t take a quarterback early in the 2018 draft but loaded up picks to potentially move up for one in the coming year. North Carolina State’s Ryan Finley is a name to watch as a legitimate option and great fit for the New England scheme.
Finley has the arm to open up the field and hit deep routes but he’s also nuanced enough to throw with touch on underneath routes. He’s a good sized passer at 6’4″ and 205 pounds with room to grow into his frame. If there’s a potential riser from the established quarterbacks in this class, it’s Finley. Scouts are already raving about his upside, but he does need a strong 2018 season to solidify his status.
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