Draft Season is coming to a close... but it’s not over yet!
Justin and I wanted to test this new article concept where we go through the draft order and try to predict the picks for each team. We are tentatively calling this concept a “mock draft”. It’s kind of ‘out there,’ we know, but we really think this type of thing might be a big hit.
First, some ground rules... We are expecting to see lots of trades in the actual draft on Thursday night, but to keep this from becoming insanely complicated, we are banning trades in our mock. This is not a mock draft about what we would do, but rather one that tries to predict what teams will do based on reporting that’s out there right now. The goal is to get the right player matched up with the right team even if they end up taking that player in a different draft slot.
Unless we happen to instead match a player with the correct draft pick, but for a different team. I feel that we deserve credit for being “right” either way.
When the Titans were on the clock, we discussed our options together and settled on a selection,
fantasizing role-playing as if we were Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel in the Titans’ war room.
We traded off making picks for the 31 other teams.
With that in mind, here are our picks for the first three rounds including specific commentary for each of our picks for the Titans.
1. Cleveland Browns - Sam Darnold, QB, USC
2. New York Giants - Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
3. New York Jets - Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
4. Cleveland Browns - Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
5. Denver Broncos - Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
6. Indianapolis Colts - Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Derwin James, S, FSU
8. Chicago Bears - Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
9. San Francisco 49ers - Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
10. Oakland Raiders - Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
11. Miami Dolphins - Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
12. Buffalo Bills - Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
13. Washington Redskins - Vita Vea, DT, Washington
14. Green Bay Packers - Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
15. Arizona Cardinals - Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
16. Baltimore Ravens - D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
17. Los Angeles Chargers - Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
18. Seattle Seahawks - Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
19. Dallas Cowboys - Connor Williams, OT, Texas
20. Detroit Lions - Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
21. Cincinnati Bengals - James Daniels, G/C, Iowa
22. Buffalo Bills - Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
23. New England Patriots - Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
24. Carolina Panthers - Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA
25. Tennessee Titans - Josh Sweat, EDGE, Florida State
Justin: Well don’t look so surprised.
I mean, what else can I say that I haven’t already said...
For a counterpoint to the pro-Sweat argument, read MCM staff writer Daniel R’s recent thoughts on the draft.
Anyway... I expect the Titans will try very hard to trade back from this spot, but if they cannot, I simply think that Josh Sweat is the most likely player for the Titans to select based on many factors relating to reported interest and positional need, as well as athletic upside. While some concerns about his inconsistent get-off and so-so production remain, Sweat flashes enough tantalizing abilities to make me a believer that, newly freed of his clunky knee brace, his best football is ahead of him.
Paul Kuharsky theorized that Sweat could be “this year’s Adoree Jackson.”
Jon Ledyard reported that the Titans have shown a lot of interest in Sweat.
Nick Martin of Behind the Steel Curtain says Josh Sweat is a talent the Steelers must consider at no. 28.
I certainly think there are other prospects in play, especially if Robinson feels that Sweat could be available later. Sam Hubbard, a player many think will be available at no. 57, has plenty of ties to the new coaching staff through Ohio State University. Bama LB Rashaan Evans fills an obvious need, although the Titans haven’t shown much reported interest. Stanford S Justin Reid is a talented player with whom the Titans met and who has received a lot of recent buzz. Any of them and more could be the pick, but at the end of the day, Mike and I agreed to choose Sweat for the Titans in this mock.
Mike: Sweat is among the most polarizing prospects in the draft. Some get concerned about the medical history and his relatively pedestrian sack numbers during his three years at FSU while others see the freakish athleticism, impressive raw power, and the fact that he was played out of position while wearing a clunky knee brace (that he has since shed) in college and love his enormous upside. As you all know by now, I fall into camp #2.
You can get my full thoughts on Sweat as a prospect here, but I’d also encourage you to check out this Tweet thread and listen to Jimmy and Terry’s interview with Jon Ledyard which gives a lot of insight on Sweat. Ledyard maintains that he expects Sweat to go in the top 50 picks so if that’s the read that Jon Robinson has on the draft, they’re going to have to grab him here or trade back a few spots (which could be a good option) if they want him. Other teams with reported interest include the Seahawks, Redskins, Giants, Jets, Patriots, and Lions. The Lions, Seahawks, and Patriots all pick between 18 and 31 as things currently stand with the Patriots picking twice.
The Titans have shown a lot of interest in Sweat throughout the draft process. He was one of the first reported top 30 visits with the news leaking out right after the combine. While this may be a total coincidence, the timing of his visit — the last player to visit on the final day — is shared by 2017 1st round pick Corey Davis. I also found it interesting that they brought in one of Sweat’s high school teammates — Virginia defensive lineman Andrew Brown who is expected to be a Day 3 pick — for a top 30 visit too. Again, could be a complete coincidence, but it’s at least interesting.
If the Titans didn’t go Sweat here, I think they also would have considered Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans — though, as Justin mentioned, there has just been limited reported interest in him from the Titans — and safety prospects Justin Reid and Jessie Bates. Sam Hubbard is the other likely edge candidate and if the Titans have similar grades on Sweat and Hubbard, both of them being on the board could further encourage a trade down scenario.
26. Atlanta Falcons - Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
27. New Orleans Saints - Lorenzo Carter, EDGE, Georgia
28. Pittsburgh Steelers - Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama
29. Jacksonville Jaguars - Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
30. Minnesota Vikings - Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
31. New England Patriots - Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
32. Philadelphia Eagles - Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Round 1 Recap:
As we mentioned in the opening, we’re expecting a flurry of trade activity to open up the draft. With no movement allowed in our version, we still had 5 QBs go in the top 15.
Some guys that fell out of the first round in our mock that we could see drafted Thursday night include Jaire Alexander, Taven Bryan, Maurice Hurst, and Isaiah Wynn. We’ll see how long into Day 2 those guys stay available.
Only two wide receivers went in our Round 1, while Guice just barely snuck in at pick No. 32.
There continues to be buzz that Harold Landry is valued less by NFL execs than he is by draft media, but I continue to not believe it. What NFL team doesn’t need a guy who can get after the quarterback like Landry? We ended up putting him at what I consider to be his floor with the Lions at pick 20, but I could easily see him going before then and possibly even being a surprise top 10 pick.
One thing that struck me during this process was how poor this offensive tackle class is. Outside of McGlinchey, most of the tackle picks felt like reaches based on glaring needs more than good value picks at those spots. Interior offensive line, on the other hand, is extremely strong up top and could see as many as five players go in the first round (with Wynn possibly joining the four we have projected here).
1 (33). Cleveland Browns - Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
2 (34). New York Giants - Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
3 (35). Cleveland Browns - Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
4 (36). Indianapolis Colts - Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
5 (37). Indianapolis Colts - Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
6 (38). Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
7 (39). Chicago Bears - Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
8 (40). Denver Broncos - Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
9 (41). Oakland Raiders - Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
10 (42). Miami Dolphins - Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
11 (43). New England Patriots - Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
12 (44). Washington Redskins - Uchenna Nwosu, LB, USC
13 (45). Green Bay Packers - James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
14 (46). Cincinnati Bengals - Justin Reid, S, Stanford
15 (47). Arizona Cardinals - Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
16 (48). Los Angeles Chargers - Austin Corbett, OL, Nevada
17 (49). Indianapolis Colts - Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
18 (50). Dallas Cowboys - Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
19 (51). Detroit Lions - Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
20 (52). Baltimore Ravens - Ronald Jones, RB, USC
21 (53). Buffalo Bills - D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
22 (54). Kansas City Chiefs - Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford
23 (55). Carolina Panthers - Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
24 (56). Buffalo Bills - Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
25 (57). Tennessee Titans - Jessie Bates, S, Wake Forest
Mike: The Titans take care of another need at 57 by taking Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates. Bates is an athletic, versatile safety who could pair with Kevin Byard to form a talented and interchangeable safety duo for years to come in the back end of the Titans defense. His coverage skills would free up Byard to better take advantage of his diverse skill set, allowing him to pop up anywhere on the field at any given time without exposing the back end of the defense.
A couple good reads on Bates that you can check out are below:
2018 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Wake Forest FS Jessie Bates
NFL Draft 2018 Player Profiles: Wake Forest’s Jessie Bates may be Micah Hyde 2.0
The Micah Hyde comp is a good one and I think the Titans would be happy if Bates lived up to it. Some have Bates as a possible late 1st round pick so this would be a pretty strong value pick at 57. He is another player that the Titans have been linked to during the pre-draft visit process.
Other players that we thought about here included Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson, Auburn guard Braden Smith, and Colorado cornerback Isaiah Oliver, but at the end of the day we felt like Bates was the best of that group and fit a big need for the team.
Justin: Our top two targets for this pick in Justin Reid and Uchenna Nwosu are off the board, so the Titans grab a player they brought in on a Top 30 pre-draft visit to challenge for a starting spot in the secondary.
Bates is a smart, do-it-all safety who brings a combination of hard-hitting power and ball-hawking coverage abilities. He is a versatile player that could be moved around the back end of the defense. Bates’ tackling form is a little inconsistent and he sometimes gets lost moving backwards when starting near the line of scrimmage, but the Wake Forest product is an intriguing prospect that could play right away as the third safety in the rotation with a long-term plan of supplanting Johnathan Cyprien as the starter opposite Kevin Byard.
As far as checking off Robinson’s production and accolade boxes, I’ll just leave this quote from his NFL.com Draft Profile here:
Bates was a consensus Freshman All-American and the ACC media’s runner-up conference defensive rookie of the year behind Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence. He made 100 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and finished among national leaders with five interceptions -- returning two for touchdowns. Bates was an honorable mention All-ACC selection in 2017, posting 79 stops, six for loss, one interception and five pass breakups.
26 (58). Atlanta Falcons - Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
27 (59). San Francisco 49ers - Tyrell Crosby, OT, Oregon
28 (60). Pittsburgh Steelers - Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech
29 (61). Jacksonville Jaguars - Braden Smith, OG, Auburn
30 (62). Minnesota Vikings - B.J. Hill, DT, NC State
31 (63). New England Patriots - Rasheem Green, DE, USC
32 (64). Cleveland Browns - Brian O’Neill, OT, Pittsburgh
Round 2 Recap:
Our fictional Round 2 saw a substantial run on offensive skill players, including 4 running backs, 5 wide receivers, and 2 tight ends taken over a span of 21 picks.
There are a lot of really good players in this round which, again, makes trading back from 25 seem like a good idea unless Harold Landry is on the board. The partners that could make the most sense to me include the Browns, Patriots, Giants, Bills, and Colts. All of those teams have at least 3 picks between 26 and 69. Perhaps Jon Robinson could get one of them to package two of those to come up to 25 for a target there.
The caveat is that many teams will likely be looking to trade back, so the value of moving down may not be good enough for Jon Robinson to risk missing out on ‘his guy.’
1 (65). Buffalo Bills - Duke Dawson, CB, Florida
2 (66). New York Giants - Kemoko Turay, EDGE, Rutgers
3 (67). Indianapolis Colts - Billy Price, C, Ohio State
4 (68). Houston Texans - Nick Nelson, CB, Wisconsin
5 (69). New York Giants - Dante Pettis, WR, Washington
6 (70). San Francisco 49ers - Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
7 (71). Denver Broncos - Nathan Shepherd, DT, Fort Hays State
8 (72). New York Jets - Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State
9 (73). Miami Dolphins - Rashaan Gaulden, DB, Tennessee
10 (74). San Francisco 49ers - Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
11 (75). Oakland Raiders - Holton Hill, CB, Texas
12 (76). Green Bay Packers - Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, EDGE, Oklahoma
13 (77). Cincinnati Bengals - Darius Leonard, ILB, South Carolina State
14 (78). Kansas City Chiefs - Dorance Armstrong, EDGE, Kansas
15 (79). Arizona Cardinals - Quenton Meeks, CB, Stanford
16 (80). Houston Texans - Jemarco Jones, OT, Ohio State
17 (81). Dallas Cowboys - Tre’Quan Smith, WR, UCF
18 (82). Detroit Lions - Tim Settle, NT, Virginia Tech
19 (83). Baltimore Ravens - Chris Herndon, TE, Miami
20 (84). Los Angeles Chargers - Deadrin Senat, DT, South Florida
21 (85). Carolina Panthers - DeShon Elliott, S, Texas
22 (86). Kansas City Chiefs - Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA
23 (87). Los Angeles Rams - Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
24 (88). Carolina Panthers - Armani Watts, S, Texas A&M
25 (89). Tennessee Titans - Oren Burks, ILB, Vanderbilt
Justin: If this exercise has taught me anything, it’s that pick 89 is (another) good place to look for a trade down. We discussed more options for this pick than for either of the first two picks combined, including OSU’s Jerome Baker, Miss. State’s Martinas Rankin, Auburn’s Carlton Davis, Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton, Clemson’s Deon Cain, LSU’s Arden Key, Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews, Indiana’s Ian Thomas, and Texas Tech’s KeKe Coutee. We went back and forth a bit on the value of this pick but eventually settled on the hybrid Vanderbilt linebacker.
Burks began his career at Vanderbilt as a safety, starting 7 of 8 games as a true freshman before an injury cut his season short. The 6-3, 230-pounder moved to linebacker for his final two seasons in school. Character-wise, he’s a homerun; Burks’ was named to the 2016 Allstate-AFCA FBS National Good Works Team for his work in the community.
Burks tested very well at the combine (click here for his mockdraftable spider graph). This may be a little early for Burks to come off the board, but he’s a smart player who is adept in coverage that could fill the linebacker void left by Avery Williamson while improving the Titans’ coverage abilities in regards to running backs and tight ends. Burks needs to get better at shedding blocks and playing downhill in the run game, but he could add quite a bit to the defense as a coverage linebacker.
Chris Pflum of Big Blue View wrote a nice breakdown on Burks. You should check it out.
Mike: As Justin mentioned, we really went back and forth on this pick quite a bit. We started with Burks, then kicked around a few wide receivers and even — GASP — a tight end before finally settling back on Burks. The Vanderbilt product profiles as a modern NFL linebacker with sideline-to-sideline speed and great coverage skills. He also fits the mold of versatility that Mike Vrabel has talked about going all the way back to his introductory press conference.
“Versatility is a huge thing. If you’re a versatile player, capable of learning more than one spot, then we can move you around and create matchups.”
Burks’ experience as a safety early in his career at Vanderbilt would give the Titans additional flexibility when he’s on the field. In this scenario, the Titans could choose to feature a nickel package on passing downs consisting of Jayon Brown and Oren Burks at linebacker with Kevin Byard, Jessie Bates, Malcolm Butler, Adoree Jackson, and Logan Ryan playing behind them. That’s an extremely athletic group with outstanding ball skills that would make the Tennessee pass defense a pretty scary group.
26 (90). Atlanta Falcons - DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Penn State
27 (91). New Orleans Saints - Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
28 (92). Pittsburgh Steelers - Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond
29 (93). Jacksonville Jaguars - Daurice Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa
30 (94). Minnesota Vikings - Nyheim Hynes, RB, NC State
31 (95). New England Patriots - Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
32 (96). Buffalo Bills - Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
33 (97). Arizona Cardinals - Genard Avery, LB, Memphis
34 (98). Houston Texans - Kyzir White, S, WVU
35 (99). Denver Broncos - Geron Christian, OT, Louisville
36 (100). Cincinnati Bengals - Martinas Rankin, OL, Mississippi State
Round 3 Recap:
The value of Round 3 appears to be before the Titans’ pick and well after. This seems like one of the more likely places in the draft that the Titans could actually look to trade up, especially if they’ve already managed to trade down earlier in the draft and acquired more picks. We were a bit cornered into choosing a position of need here and thus disregarded value to some extent because we really liked the player.
DAY 3 THOUGHTS
Since we went heavy on defense in rounds 1, 2, and 3 here, we would probably look to wide receiver as the most likely position to target in round 4 with guys mentioned above like KeKe Coutee and Deon Cain being potential targets as well as others like MTSU’s Richie James and Southern Miss’s Korey Robertson getting in the mix. We would have given heavy consideration to wide receiver in the 3rd round, but the run on guys towards the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd took our preferred options off the board.
Interior offensive line could still be an option and there are still two good fits on the board as we head in to day 3: Michigan’s Mason Cole and UCLA’s Scott Quessenberry. If one of those guys is still around at pick 125 or 162, they could be added to the already strong depth there, but it’s a not really a necessity that they draft a player here.
Running back seems like a pretty likely Day 3 target for the Titans and there are some good ones left in this mock. Guys like Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson, Tennessee’s John Kelly, and Miami’s Mark Walton lead the available backs, but a few that have been reported as guys that the Titans visited with or worked out are Southern Miss’s Ito Smith, Iowa’s Akrum Wadley, and Chase Edmonds out of Fordham. Any would be great additions behind Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis.
Cornerback could remain in play here as well with a couple players the Titans have been connected to in Kansas State’s D.J. Reed and Indiana’s Rashard Fant standing out as possible targets after meeting with the Titans during the pre-draft process. The Boston College duo of Isaac Yiadom and Kamrin Moore could also be interesting late round selections. We’ve seen the Titans show some interest in highly rated corners which comes as a bit of a surprise given the amount of depth they now have after the Malcolm Butler signing, but I do subscribe to the idea that you can never have too many good corners in the modern NFL.
The last position to mention is quarterback. The Titans signed Blaine Gabbert to come in and back up Marcus Mariota in 2018, but they may still consider adding another arm to the quarterback room. The split between two-QB teams and three-QB teams is about 60-40 in favor of the two-QB plan, but with Mariota having missed games due to injury in three straight seasons, the Titans may feel like it’s wise to carry another option here. They’ve kept Alex Tanney around this long, so perhaps Robinson likes having a third QB.
They have certainly been sniffing around quarterbacks in the pre-draft visit process, meeting with Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Western Kentucky’s Mike White, Houston’s Kyle Allen, and Colorado State’s Nick Stevens. They also reportedly spent time with Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek at the combine and also had QB coach Pat O’Hara on hand for Tech’s pro day. I think White will go too high for the Titans to realistically consider taking him, but Allen, Stevens, and especially Shimonek seem like good options in round 6 or 7, particularly if the Titans trade back and acquire some extra picks along the way.
One possible reason for all the meetings with quarterbacks could be to gather information on their pass-catchers. Mason Rudolph threw passes to highly-rated prospect James Washington as well as “sleeper” receiver Marcell Ateman, who could be a Day 3 pick. Kyle Allen threw to a couple of potential UDFA receivers in Steven Dunbar and Linell Bonner. Nick Stevens’ primary target was obviously Michael Gallup (both of them skipped the Broncos local Pro Day to workout privately with the Titans). Nic Shimonek connected often with KeKe Coutee at Tech.
Some of these QBs are certainly prospects the Titans are considering, but other meetings were likely fact-finding missions.
The Titans would be well set up to attack “best player available” on Day 3 if they were able to acquire a high-upside EDGE, a versatile safety, and a fluid linebacker on Thursday and Friday, as we have them doing here.
So what are your thoughts on the mock?