- At the midway point of the college football season, a look at who is positioning themselves for the first round in April.
You asked for it—well, at least I think you did: a way-too-early mock draft. A few disclaimers: This mock draft is not based on our own evaluations, but based on conversations with scouts and team personnel for this column. At this point in the college season, teams aren’t ranking prospects yet, they’re still on the road evaluating them. Many team scouting directors haven’t seen even half of the top players yet; in fact, several evaluators laughed out loud at the idea of a mock draft in October.
So keep in mind: (1) Teams haven’t started thinking about how these players stack up against each other, (2) Many in this group are underclassmen, and we don’t know if they will end up staying in school or leaving for the draft, (3) We have no idea who will be running the draft for these teams come April, and (4) We don’t know what the draft order will be—our order is not a projection, it’s based on reverse order of the current standings and takes into consideration the current playoff field (for instance, the 3-3 Titans would win the AFC South if the season ended today, so they’re grouped with the other teams in the playoff picture rather than the other 3-3 teams). With all that in mind, here it is:
1. N.Y. Giants: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
While no quarterback in the 2019 class is a lock for the top spot, the 6' 6" Herbert has made his case this season, drawing comparisons to Marcus Mariota and Carson Wentz. Scouts love Herbert’s size, athleticism, and arm.
2. Indianapolis: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Indianapolis needs a defensive playmaker, making Bosa an easy choice. His core muscle injury, which required surgery and led to him withdrawing from school this week to focus on draft preparation, isn’t a long-term concern. He did enough to cement his status as a top-three pick.
3. San Francisco: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
The 49ers’ underperforming secondary (one interception all season) could really use a ballhawk like Williams and, presumably, Richard Sherman would love the chance to mentor the LSU cornerback. The 6' 3" Williams is college football’s best cornerback, and as a bonus he has the most appropriate name of all time for his position.
4. Arizona: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
Oliver is the best interior pass rusher in this class, with 11.5 tackles for loss over six games this season. The Cardinals will likely be in “best player available” mode, and the defense could use that type of disruption.
5. Oakland: Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
The Raiders need help everywhere, but they’ll start with their defense. Gary’s consistency is a question but he has great upside.
6. Atlanta: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
The Falcons need a more imposing pass rush. Ferrell is a versatile, every-down player who can help add much-needed depth to a group that has struggled to get going this season.
7. Denver: Dre’Mont Jones, DL, Ohio State
Denver calls on the next-best guy on Ohio State’s defensive line.
8. Buffalo: Jeffrey Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
In a pass-first league, teams are always looking for interior pass rushers, and Simmons’s burst and speed will earn him a lot of attention. There are character concerns, and he will have to answer questions after pleading no contest to simple assault in 2016 after striking a woman several times during a fight.
9. Tampa Bay: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
Lock is a rare four-year starter who has improved each season, and this year he is preparing in a more pro-style offense. Tampa Bay seems to have reached a breaking point with Jameis Winston, who has been unreliable on and off the field.
10. Detroit: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
The Lions franchise-tagged Ziggy Ansah but haven’t gotten much out of him this season as he’s been struggling with a shoulder injury. Ansah’s future in Detroit is uncertain, but even if he does stay long-term, the Lions could use a guy with Lawrence’s raw power on the defensive line.
11. Cleveland: N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
Weird to see the Browns without more than one top-10 draft pick… Cleveland said goodbye to Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon and need to upgrade at reciever. The 6' 4" Harry could be a big target for Baker Mayfield.
12. Houston: Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
The Texans have struggled badly up front the pas two seasons, and Little could step in immediately at left tackle. The 6' 6", 325-pounder consistently wins against edge defenders.
13. Dallas: A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
Only two receivers were taken in the first round in 2018, and none in the top 20, creating a thirst for receivers in this draft. Dallas has a major need for an outside receiver. Enter A.J. Brown, who has demonstrated a consistent ability to make tough catches in traffic.
14. Jacksonville: Will Grier, QB, West Virginia
Games like the past two weeks are why the Jaguars can’t be satisfied with Blake Bortles as their only option under center.
15. Philadelphia: Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
Baker decided to come back for his senior year and the decision has paid off. He already has two picks on the season and he’d have a chance to compete for a starting job as a rookie in a place like Philadelphia.
16. Seattle: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
The Legion of Boom rebuild continues with the 6' 5", 325-pound Brown, a bulky but explosive interior pass-rusher.
17. N.Y. Jets: Montez Sweat, DE/OLB, Mississippi State
Sweat has 19.5 sacks in 19 games since transferring to Mississippi State from Michigan State, and would add a jolt of speed to the Jets’ middling pass rush.
18. Minnesota: Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
This draft is loaded with defensive linemen. The 6' 7", 305-pound Davis had 8.5 sacks last year, and had proven he can be a force in the pass rush even if his numbers have dropped this season.
19. Pittsburgh: Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
Bush was under-recruited coming out of high school because of his height (5' 11"), but he has developed into the new prototype for NFL linebackers—not necessarily big, but fast and aggressive.
20. Miami: Zach Allen, DL, Boston College
Allen has the speed to be a pass-rush talent but is also sound as a run defender. He had 100 total tackles last season.
21. Tennessee: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
With Delanie Walker out for the season, Luke Stocker leads the Titans’ tight ends with five catches for 63 yards. The 6' 5" Fant is a logical choice.
22. Green Bay: Devin White, LB, LSU
Jake Ryan’s torn ACL exposed Green Bay’s thin linebacker corps this season. White has 66 tackles and seven of those for loss this season. He has range and versatility, and would be a great fit in Mike Pettine’s system.
23. Oakland (via Chicago): Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
The Raiders’ new coaching staff has not been impressed by 2016 first-round safety Karl Joseph, and current starters Reggie Nelson and Marcus Gilchrist are not long-term answers. A Nick Saban product would fit the bill; Thompson has thrived as a rangy centerfielder in his first season as a full-time starter.
24. Cincinnati: Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
He continues to build on his breakout junior year, as Oruwariye has the size and ball skills to thrive as a boundary corner.
25. Washington: Josh Allen, LB, Kentucky
We wrote about Allen a few weeks ago. He’s thirty pounds heavier than last season and it has added a noticeable power to his game. He has played a huge role in the surprising resurgence of Kentucky football (5-1, No. 14 ranking nationally) this season. Allen would bring a potential force off the edge opposite Ryan Kerrigan.
26. Carolina: Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama
He’s played right and left tackle at Alabama, though Williams might best fit at guard at the next level. Regardless of where he ends up, he has the athleticism, power and experience to be an immediate factor for a power-running offense like Carolina’s.
27. L.A. Chargers: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
It’s time to finally draft Philip Rivers’s successor. Ohio State’s single season starter fits the bill.
28. Baltimore: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
Yet another defensive back from the Washington pipeline, Murphy’s blend of cover skills and aggressive run support would allow him to fit right in on a Ravens defense that could be looking to replace veteran Brandon Carr.
29. New England: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
Wilkins is a versatile defensive lineman, a great fit for Bill Belichick, who prefers players who can do a number of things well.
30. Green Bay (via New Orleans): Jerry Tillery, DL, Notre Dame
Lanky (6' 7") and explosive, Tillery should provide an immediate impact as an interior pass-rusher at the next level.
31. Kansas City: Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson
Mullen’s speed and sticky hands would be just what the Chiefs need after dealing Marcus Peters last offseason.
32. L.A. Rams: Jalen Jelks, DE/OLB, Oregon
As great as the Aaron Donald-Ndamukong Suh tandem is inside, the Rams need to get better around them. Jelks is a bit raw, but the 6' 7", 245-pound edge rusher is loaded with potential.
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