Tampa Bay Buccaneers The Panthers' trade for Sam Darnold allows one top QB prospect to escape the top 10, while the Bucs go in a new direction and get a defender who could be making a big impact by 2023 Scott Smith
I have to be honest, it's getting pretty hard to be original with these mock drafts, especially in the top 10. That said, I've made a new pick for your Tampa Bay Buccaneers that didn't show up in any of our previous six efforts.
It's been said ad nauseum that there are no truly new ideas, but it still seems like you should be able to find new variety in the minutiae. And mock drafts are definitely minutiae. After all, even if everyone agreed on the same 32 players to be drafted in the first round, there are still 2.6313084e+35 ways they could be ordered.
Of course, factorials don't factor in how badly teams want to find franchise quarterbacks, which is why all the new ideas are getting sucked out of this particular NFL draft. Spoiler alert: I'm going to give the San Francisco 49ers a quarterback below, and I'm going to have the Denver Broncos trade up for one as well. I've actually done both of those things in previous mock drafts (albeit at a different spot in the order for the 49ers), but they hardly look like original ideas when you sift through all the latest mock drafts. That includes our own Mock Draft 6.0 by Staff Writer Carmen Vitali just last week, who also gave the 49ers a QB and had Denver trade up for the next one. Oh well, the more of us that agree on our picks, the more of us who can be proven wrong when the real GMs get to work on April 29.
So, let's just put all the quarterbacks in their spots - four right off the bat and one that drops almost to the middle of the round - and then enjoy the inevitable chaos of the rest of the draft. This year, Carmen and I are taking turns so that you get a new mock draft every week, and the pendulum has swung back in my direction. Here we go.
Mock Draft 1.0 (Smith) | Mock Draft 2.0 (Vitali) | Mock Draft 3.0 (Smith) | Mock Draft 4.0 (Vitali) | Mock Draft 5.0 (Smith) | Mock Draft 6.0 (Vitali)
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
At this point, the Jaguars picking anyone else would be a plot twist like Bobby Ewing's death being just one long dream: Completely unexpected and forever memorable but, frankly, pretty darn silly. And you're welcome for the 35-year-old pop culture reference.
2. New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson, BYU
This has pretty much been accepted as fact by the mock mob. Wouldn't it be funny if Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh were actually homed in on Justin Fields and were secretly giggling at every mock draft they saw? I would enjoy that, even if it made me wrong.
3. San Francisco 49ers (via Houston through Miami): QB Mac Jones, Alabama
Even more so than their bold trade up nine spots, the 49ers have thrown draft analysts for a loop by being linked to Jones, widely regarded as the fifth best QB option on the board (albeit in a loaded class of QBs). I'm not fully convinced by these Mac Jones rumors but here is what is making me believe it just enough to buy in, for now: The Niners reportedly also talked trade with the Falcons and Bengals, who pick fourth and fifth, respectively. If they were willing to trade up to five then they had to be willing to potentially take the fifth quarterback off the board. And to most, that was expected to be Jones. Let's see how this holds up in over the next three weeks.
4. **TRADE ALERT** Denver Broncos (via Atlanta): Justin Fields, Ohio State
As you'll see below, the Broncos theoretically stayed put at the ninth spot and still landed Trey Lance, thanks to Carolina trading for Sam Darnold, but it's not as simple as that. They still have to worry about the Lions and/or any other team trading in front of them. Better safe than sorry. Similar to the 2016 draft, two trades get done well before the actual draft weekend to lock in the QB-hunters. Denver sends its second-rounder in this draft (#40) plus a 2022 first and a 2023 second. That's a little bit higher of a payment than I predicted for this exact swap in my last mock, but the Niners have set the market pretty high. After Fields' strong Pro Day performance, I'll go with him over Lance.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Ja'Marr Chase, LSU
I've previously gone with Penei Sewell here, and offensive line definitely makes sense for Cincy even after the signing of Riley Reiff. But the Bengals are now in position to take the very first non-quarterback off the board and Chase may prove to be just too tempting, whether his old teammate Joe Burrow is stumping for that pick or not.
6. Miami Dolphins (via Philadelphia): TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
Masterful job by Chris Grier to net first and third-round picks to move down just three spots and really only move down one in the non-QB pecking order. I think they would have been fine with Chase or Pitts, but this gives them a chance to have a pretty dynamic pairing with the Florida star and Mike Gesicki.
7. Detroit Lions: T Penei Sewell, Oregon
I don't necessarily think the additions of Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman offset the Lions' losses at wide receiver, and Jaylen Waddle is awfully tempting here, but the offensive line needs significant help, too, and this feels like a Dan Campbell kind of pick.
8. Carolina Panthers: T Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
Full disclosure: I had this Mock Draft version done and submitted by Monday...and then the Panthers blew it all up by trading for Sam Darnold. Previously I had Trey Lance landing here, and while I guess that's still possible I don't think the Panthers would want to set up what could be a very chaotic battle for the long-term job. Instead they are freed up to hit another big need. Greg Little hasn't worked out and the signing of free agent Cameron Erving doesn't move the needle. At best, Erving could slide inside and be an upgrade at left guard.
9. **TRADE ALERT** Atlanta Falcons (via Denver): CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
I'm sticking with the "Matt Ryan is still their guy" crowd for now, which I guess is obvious with their predicted trade. I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see the Falcons trade back a second time and target an edge rusher, but here at nine Surtain remains the pick. Cornerback is a huge need.
10. Dallas Cowboys: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
I gave Dallas Caleb Farley in each of my first three mocks but I can't ignore the medical concern. Horn is safer and still a great choice.
11. New York Giants: OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
Offensive tackles with early first-round picks two years in a row for the Giants? Well, this is Dave Gettleman we're talking about here. Vera-Tucker has some flexibility to fit in at whichever spot on the right side of the line the Giants feel worse about, guard or tackle. The arrival of Kenny Golladay makes receiver a less pressing issue.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (via San Francisco through Miami): WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
It seems like everyone is winning out of those two Miami trades. Maybe the Eagles would have preferred Pitts but they had to know that was unlikely after moving down to 12. Waddle is much more than a consolation prize for a team starving for pass-catching talent.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: T Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
The Chargers are happy to see Darrisaw fall to them because they believe he can handle left tackle across from veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Los Angeles found a new guard and center in free agency and this pick completes the much-needed O-Line overhaul.
14. **TRADE ALERT** Washington Football Team (via Minnesota): QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
Washington looked like it was going to be frozen out of the first-round quarterback hunt, but the Carolina trade for Darnold changed everything. Lance begins to fall and finally ends up in a spot that is within the Football Team's reach. They only have to trade up five spots and it costs them the extra third-rounder they got in the Trent Williams trade. The value of that pick is almost exactly what the Jimmy Johnson chart says is the difference between 14 and 19. Now Washington can roll with Ryan Fitzpatrick this season and let Lance come along at his own speed.
15. **TRADE ALERT** Tennessee Titans (via New England): WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
The Patriots made an uncharacteristic splurge in free agency but now they're getting back to their basics, trading down to multiply their draft assets. The Titans, who lost pass-catchers Corey Davis, Adam Humphries and Jonnu Smith in free agency are surprised to find they're in range to get a blue-chip receiver like the Heisman Trophy winner. And so they make the bold move. The difference in value between the two first-round picks is essentially equal to the last pick of the second round, so Tennessee's third-rounder (#85) is a little light. Thus the trade also involves a swap of #166 and #197.
16. Arizona Cardinals: CB Greg Newsome, Northwestern
Maybe it's Farley here if clubs start to feel better about his medical file, but there's certainly no reason to feel bad about landing Newsome instead, particularly after he ran well at Northwestern's Pro Day.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
I'm not sure I truly believe Parsons will fall this far, but that's where we are in this exercise and the Raiders don't let him fall any farther. They need help everywhere on defense and Parsons can roam the middle of the field and add some value as a pass-rusher.
18. Miami Dolphins: EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
I gave the Dolphins the UGA pass rusher in each of my last two mocks, so why stop now? I think they're ecstatic coming out of the first round with Pitts and Ojulari.
19. **TRADE ALERT** Minnesota Vikings (via Washington): T Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
The Vikings moved down a bit when the first tier of offensive tackles didn't make it to them at 14, but there are plenty of attractive options still left at a position of need. Jenkins is big and he's a mauler who calls himself a "tough, physical, nasty INAPPROPRIATE WORD." Vikings fans will love him.
20. Chicago Bears: DL Christian Barmore, Alabama
I clearly can't make up my mind about the Bears, switching back and forth between offense and defense over the course of four drafts. Either way, though, I see them looking to the trenches, and in this case the first interior defensive lineman off the board is the better value. After Roy Robertson-Harris left in free agency Chicago has Akiem Hicks and not much also for the middle of their defensive line.
21. Indianapolis Colts: T Sam Cosmi, Texas
I had the Colts trading up to fill their left tackle opening last time, and maybe they'll have to do so in order to get a Darrisaw or a Vera-Tucker. However, if they're fine with the likes of Cosmi, Jalen Mayfield or Alex Leatherwood, they should be able to stay put at 21.
22. **TRADE ALERT** New England Patriots (via Tennessee): LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
I would have had this versatile and rangy linebacker landing in Washington if Lance hadn't fallen, so the Patriots are lucky to get this great piece for the middle of their defense. The current off-ball linebacking crew is underwhelming in New England.
23. New York Jets (via Seattle): RB Najee Harris, Alabama
I don't really want to put any running back this high, but I can't seem to get away from it when I get to the Jets, who plugged a lot of holes (or at least tried to) in free agency. Perhaps they could go for another edge rusher to pair with newcomer Carl Lawson but I just don't see much on their running back depth chart.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: T Jalen Mayfield, Michigan
A run on linemen continues even after the Steelers signed former Buccaneer Joe Haeg, one of the very few Super Bowl LV winners to get away. This is the first step in getting back towards an effective running game.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via L.A. Rams): S Trevon Moehrig, TCU
This is another pick in which I'm going with the mock draft crowd, but in my defense I've made this choice for Jacksonville three times in a row. The Jaguars continue their complete secondary rebuild after adding Shaquill Griffin and Rayshawn Jenkins in free agency.
26. Cleveland Browns: EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami
Another repeat from my last mock, though I may not be able to keep Phillips out of the top 20 much longer after his Pro Day performance.
27. Baltimore Ravens: EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan
A run on edge rushers starts to develop as we near the end of the first round, which is an interesting turn of events for the Buccaneers. The Ravens haven't been this bereft of impact pass-rushers in a while.
28. New Orleans Saints: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
The Saints had already done their salary cap purge before my last mock draft, so the story is the same: This is a good team that suddenly has some pretty significant holes to fill. My argument last time was that the Saints would count on some internal candidates (Marcus Davenport, Zack Baun) to step up into some of the voids. I'm going with the same reasoning here and adding a corner who had been considered a potential top-12 pick but has fallen lately. The depth chart is barren across from Marshon Lattimore.
29. Green Bay Packers: DL Levi Onwuzirike, Washington
The Packers need an interior defensive lineman and just so happen to get the second one off the board. Good value.
30. Buffalo Bills: EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami
The Bills don't have a lot of pressing needs, especially after re-signing linebacker Matt Milano and tackle Darryl Williams. But A.J. Epenesa was underwhelming as a rookie and Mario Addison is getting a little long in the tooth. Besides every team wants a deeper group of pass-rushers.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: T Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
Yes, the Chiefs reloaded at the guard spots with Joe Thuney and Kyle Long, but there's still a Super Bowl-sized hole at left tackle. Leatherwood is considered a better pass-blocker than run-blocker so, yeah, I think the Chiefs would be interested.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn State
I surprised myself a little bit with this one. I think the Bucs' brain trust prefers to draft players who were very productive in college, and Oweh infamously had zero sacks last year. The Bucs could also go with an interior lineman here (and I've put Washington's Levi Owunzirike in this spot before), but with Ndamukong Suh officially back the Bucs have basically evened out their needs (or lack thereof) across the board. So stay with me on this and think a little bit about what Jason Licht said last week: The Bucs can afford to take a developmental player at any position, and they're going to be basing the decision on which player will be the best two years from now. Oweh may need a decent amount of work to hone his professional game but his Pro Day performance was insane. Sub-4.4 40 times? A 39.5-inch vertical leap? A 6.84-second three-cone drill? Wow. If the Bucs think Oweh could be a star by 2023, they would be making a very good investment here.