Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz USA TODAY
Published 9:10 AM EDT Apr 1, 2019
It’s only fitting that we roll out our latest NFL mock draft on April Fools’ Day.
No, none of the picks here are made as a prank (even if you disagree with the player slotted for your favorite team). But with less than a month until the first round begins in Nashville, we acknowledge some of these projections could end up looking a little, well, foolish. Yet with most of the biggest free agency moves settled, many of the biggest team needs have come into focus.
Here’s our latest rundown of how the first round of the 2019 NFL draft might pan out:
1. Cardinals — Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma: It’s been almost seven weeks since new coach Kliff Kingsbury said Josh Rosen is “our guy,” and the sentiment now seems distant. And while it’s entirely possible Arizona stands pat with last year’s first-round quarterback and instead turns elsewhere with this pick, Murray offers a rare package of playmaking ability for the new regime to build around. The biggest question in April: Will some team swing a deal for Rosen and remove any pre-draft drama for the No. 1 spot?
2. 49ers — Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State: After trading for pass rusher Dee Ford and signing linebacker Kwon Alexander, John Lynch said the Niners can focus on drafting the best player available at No. 2. Good news for San Francisco: There’s likely a premier defensive talent awaiting them no matter what Arizona does with the top overall pick. A proven edge presence, Bosa shapes up as a boon for a defense in desperate need of reconfiguration.
3. Jets — Josh Allen, DE/OLB, Kentucky: Short of putting the selection up on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, general manager Mike Maccagnan has sent out every signal that he’s willing to ship this pick off and move down for the right price. Should the Jets remain here, Allen’s addition as a premier pass rusher would be a salve for the sting of losing out on Anthony Barr.
4. Raiders — Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama: Oakland has some promising second-year players on the interior in Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall, but Williams is the kind of talent Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock should lunge for should he be available here. The Outland Trophy winner sizes up as a consistent disruptive presence and a potential cornerstone for a defense in need of one.
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5. Buccaneers — Devin White, ILB, LSU: As it builds its defense from the ground up, Tampa Bay needs building blocks wherever it can find them. An off-ball linebacker might seem like a luxury, but White has preternatural ability for finding the ball.
6. Giants — Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan: Dave Gettleman doesn’t seem to be in a rush to move on from Eli Manning, and the Giants once again might spurn popular opinion by using their top pick at a different position. New York could look to get ahead of a run on defensive linemen by zeroing in on Gary, a local product with tantalizing physical tools and versatility (yet underwhelming production).
7. Jaguars — T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa: After going all-in on Nick Foles with a four-year, $88 million contract, Jacksonville has to elevate the talent around him. A trusted target who’s also an outstanding blocker, Hockenson could become the Jaguars’ version of Zach Ertz. The last mock draft had Hockenson being picked at No. 8.
8. Lions — Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State: Even after making Trey Flowers the fifth highest-paid defender in the NFL, Detroit needs more from its pass rush. Though it’s unclear exactly what a heart condition revealed at the NFL scouting combine means for his draft stock, Sweat seems like a solid fit for Matt Patricia’s defense given his ability to disrupt quarterbacks while still holding up against the run.
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9. Bills — Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson: It won’t be known for some time whether Buffalo gave second-year quarterback Josh Allen sufficient support in free agency, but general manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott can turn their focus back to the defense in the first round. Wilkins’ expertise at snaking into the backfield would make him an immediate standout for a line that needs to pressure the quarterback more consistently, and he’ll win over coaches and teammates alike with his leadership skills.
10. Broncos — Noah Fant, TE, Iowa: Never rule out a quarterback for John Elway, as 34-year-old Joe Flacco likely can only hold things down for so long. Given the apparent reticence to rebuild, however, the Broncos might look to Fant to rejuvenate their receiving corps with his proclivity for creating mismatches. The last mock draft had Fant going at No. 12.
11. Bengals — Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan: At 5-11 and 234 pounds, Bush might have been viewed as an outlier or tweener just a few years ago. Now his skill set is in demand, and Cincinnati is a sensible landing spot given that the team is sorely lacking athleticism at linebacker.
12. Packers — Ed Oliver, DT, Houston: Even for a team that supercharged its pass rush by adding Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith in free agency, Oliver is too sublime a talent to pass up at this juncture. Questions of scheme fit notwithstanding, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine should be doing a Lambeau Leap if he gets the opportunity to deploy Oliver on a line with Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark.
13. Dolphins — Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida: Don’t say the word “tank” around new coach Brian Flores or general manager Chris Grier, who have both pushed back on the idea Miami is packing it in for 2019. Yet even though the Dolphins have uncertainty at quarterback after trading Ryan Tannehill to the Titans, they might be best off fortifying their line with the mauling Taylor and looking to next year’s draft for a signal-caller.
14. Falcons — Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama: Atlanta has taken an interest in reshuffling its line this offseason, so bringing on the polished Williams would be a fitting next step. A standout at reaching defenders at the second level, he’s well-suited for the Falcons’ zone-blocking scheme.
15. Redskins — Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State: Case Keenum’s arrival guarantees nothing for Washington in either the short or long term as Alex Smith’s recovery status remains unclear. If he slides into the Redskins’ range, Haskins, a Maryland native, could flourish in Jay Gruden’s offense by feasting on short throws and quick reads while he becomes a more refined downfield passer.
16. Panthers — Brian Burns, DE, Florida State: As Carolina prepares to integrate more 3-4 looks into its defense, the team needs to follow up on the Bruce Irvin signing by making a more substantial move for a pass rusher. In the pass-happy NFC South, Burns would provide the Panthers with a pliable and speedy threat off the edge.
7. Giants (from Browns) — Drew Lock, QB, Missouri: Dave Gettleman has noted his admiration for the Chiefs’ smooth quarterback transition from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes, and the first-round pick added in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade might yield the opportunity to enact a similar plan. Lock likely would benefit from being able to sit while he works with an NFL coaching staff to iron out issues with his accuracy and mechanics.
18. Vikings — Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State: Minnesota was undone by its shortcomings on the interior line last season, yet the best solution for the problem might be to find another offensive tackle. Dillard could team with Brian O’Neill at tackle while Riley Reiff moves inside to stabilize the outlook at guard.
19. Titans — D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss: While Marcus Mariota set a franchise record last year with a 68.9 percent completion rate, Tennessee ranked 30th in the NFL with just 37 pass plays of 20 yards or more. With newly signed slot target Adam Humphries serving as a safety blanket, the Titans can seek out their big-play threat in Metcalf, who could unlock new possibilities for Mariota with his rare blend of size and speed.
20. Steelers — Byron Murphy, CB, Washington: Assuming Devin White and Devin Bush are both off the board for Pittsburgh, the Steelers might not have a suitable Round 1 option to address their hole at inside linebacker. Murphy could comfortably man the slot in the early going before taking over for Joe Haden later on.
21. Seahawks — Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State: Seattle still seems like a solid bet to move back given its league-low four picks. But if the Seahawks stay here, they could swing big for Simmons, a top-10 talent who seemingly will need a redshirt year after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in February.
22. Ravens — Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma: As much as Baltimore needs to revamp its pass rush after Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs left in free agency, Lamar Jackson will require more than Willie Snead to take a significant step in Year 2. Taking Brown, a bona fide big-play threat on deep passes and screens alike, would be proof the Ravens are committed to providing their quarterback with top-line talent after the earlier move to sign running back Mark Ingram.
23. Texans — Cody Ford, OT/G, Oklahoma: Matt Kalil won’t suffice as the lone addition for an offensive line that gave up a league-worst 62 sacks last year. Though his pass protection skills aren’t as polished as many of his first-round peers, Ford should be an early standout in the run game, particularly if he’s moved inside.
24. Raiders (from Bears) — Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson: Landing a savvy and powerful edge presence this late would be cause for celebration in Oakland. Even though he might not make plays in the backfield with the same regularity that he did at Clemson, Ferrell still has several tools he can use to overwhelming opposing offensive tackles.
25. Eagles — Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State: The trade for Jordan Howard both clarifies the outlook at running back and addresses Philadelphia’s biggest question mark. At his best working downhill against the run, Abram thrives when allowed to operate almost like a linebacker, though he could be a liability in coverage.
26. Colts — Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson: After Indianapolis’ offensive line made significant strides last season, Chris Ballard could look for a similar transformation from a defensive front that already has added former Chiefs pass rusher Justin Houston. The 6-4, 342-pound Lawrence can do more than clog the middle, and teams might be hard-pressed to answer for his power and athleticism.
27. Raiders (from Cowboys) — Greedy Williams, CB, LSU: Maybe adding help for Though he might be pushed around early by more physical receivers, especially in the run game, Williams’ prowess in press-man coverage would give the Raiders a fitting running mate for fellow young corner Gareon Conley.
28. Chargers — Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame: Despite bringing back Brandon Mebane, the Bolts are perilously thin on the interior defensive line. Tillery would be an imposing presence on a front that already boasts Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram on the edge.
29. Chiefs — Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State: A porous pass defense is in need of more reinforcements, and the ascendant Layne can throw receivers off their game and make plays when the ball is thrown in his vicinity.
30. Packers (from Saints) — Taylor Rapp, S, Washington: After adding Adrian Amos from the division-rival Bears, Green Bay can complete its overhaul at safety by grabbing Rapp, a versatile piece who can handle a wide assortment of assignments.
31. Rams — Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina State: There’s perhaps no better alignment of a first-round prospect’s skill set and a team’s scheme than the possible pairing of Bradbury with the Rams. A zone-blocking maven, Bradbury would be a natural successor to John Sullivan and help stabilize a line that will be integrating two new starters.
32. Patriots — A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss: Bill Belichick has never drafted a wide receiver in the first round during his Patriots tenure, but it’s time for him to end the drought and add a big-bodied target to an undersized receiving corps. Brown’s rugged approach should help him earn Tom Brady’s trust off the bat. A replacement for Rob Gronkowski can wait until a later round.
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.
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