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Mock Drafts

Nystrom: Mock Draft 1.0

by Thor Nystrom
Updated On: February 5, 2019, 3:07 am ET

The accuracy of mock drafts is directly correlated with the information the analyst has collected and how effectively he analyzes that information. Last year, my colleague Evan Silva’s final mock draft finished No. 3 overall out of 137 analysts graded by Fantasy Pros. This was not a byproduct of luck, nor, I would argue, a byproduct of sheer talent. It was a byproduct of hard work combined with years of experience reading tea leaves.


I finished No. 51. Improving my accuracy this spring is high on my #draftszn priority list. To that aim, I’m getting started early this year. And while we’re currently working with incomplete information – the season just wrapped, and free agency won’t kick off til next month – the time has come to begin my march to No. 1 in the Fantasy Pros mock draft accuracy rankings later this spring. I'm kidding, of course. Those rankings mean nothing to me. I never think about finishing No. 51 when I'm handwashing a pot, or when I'm driving. Long forgotten, believe me. What I meant to say is that the time has come to make situational assumptions based on incomplete information for the purposes of entertainment. The time has come to mock. This will be my first of five between now and late April. Wish me luck, dear reader.

1. Arizona – Ohio State EDGE Nick Bosa


For a team with a greenhorn coach that could use fortification at almost every position outside of quarterback and running back, there are a few different directions Arizona could go at the top of the board. The Cardinals will not finish over .500 again until they stop getting manhandled in the trenches. Focusing on the offensive and defensive lines ought to be the strategy going in. Kliff Kingsbury’s teams at Texas Tech consistently had issues in the trenches. Kliff’s Air Raid was most effectively slowed by teams that could get pressure without blitzing, and it shouldn’t be hard to convince him of the logic of pairing a guy like Nick Bosa with Chandler Jones. Bosa is the leader in the clubhouse at the moment for 1.1 but Quinnen Williams and Josh Allen are each close enough to overtake him.


2. San Francisco – Kentucky EDGE Josh Allen


Quinnen Williams is a popular pick in this slot around the industry. But San Francisco has a far more pressing need on the edge, a more valuable position to boot, and this class happens to feature two sure-fire edge players at the top of the board. If Bosa gets popped at 1.1, no problemo, snap up the other one. Allen is a menace who’ll be a game-plan wrecker if he hits his ceiling. And whereas Williams is confined inside, Allen’s versatility provides roster value to a team like the 49ers that have movable pieces. In San Fran’s 4-3 base, Allen could either add a little weight to his 6-foot-5 frame to swing defensive end, kicking Solomon Thomas inside next to DeForest Buckner, or he could team with Fred Warner on the second level to give the Niners a dynamic young LB duo.


3. NY Jets – Alabama DT Quinnen Williams


It would be decidedly more convenient for the Jets if either Bosa or Allen fell. But you know what would be even more convenient? Using your war chest of cap room to solve the edge problem by signing two from the group of Jadaveon Clowney, Trey Flowers, Demarcus Lawrence, Frank Clark, Za’Darius Smith, Ezekiel Ansah, and Brandon Graham. If New York could pull that off and then bring in Williams to pair with Leonard Williams, defensive line would go from an area of weakness to an area of pronounced strength in three months time. Conversely, if the Jets went through on rumors of a Leonard Williams trade, Quinnen would become a must-have at 1.3.


4. Oakland – Michigan EDGE Rashan Gary


If I’m being honest, Gary’s career at Michigan underwhelmed me. Some of that was out of it his control, like the injury this past year, but some of it wasn’t. When he signed as one of the nation’s top recruits, I expected a monster, and we didn’t see enough sustained stretches of that. At the end of the regular season, there was confusion as to whether Gary wasn’t healthy enough to play or whether Gary actually wanted to play. Some in the NFL won’t care about that, but I do. Regardless, the NFL is going to love this kid. He’s got the frame, the pedigree, the athleticism and the position versatility of a top-five pick. Under Jon Gruden’s regime, the Raiders, if nothing else, have shown a propensity towards magical thinking. Throughout time, our culture’s greatest thinkers have mostly been magical thinkers. But so have most of the bums and miscreants, and their numbers tally higher. Expect the Raiders to keep dreaming on Draft Day, which means shooting for the moon each turn. There was a poem about a man born with one wing who dreamed of flying. He broke the wing trying. But he persisted under the banner of his idea. That’s a man to both admire and fear. Jon Gruden is that man. He doesn’t care. He’ll go down swinging in late April. Raiders picks, all of them, will be must-see TV. You think Gruden cares if we skewer him? You think Mike Mayock does? They used to be among our ranks on the other side of it. They know we're like children, those who write and talk about this stuff for a living, earnest and proud but ultimately toothless and fickle. No man judges Jon Gruden. Man.


5. Tampa Bay – LSU CB Greedy Williams


Tampa also needs offensive line help and an interior defensive lineman. Ed Oliver makes sense, but the perception of his value is trending down enough at the moment that in this market climate I cannot justify a top-five slot. No offensive lineman in this class is a value fit here, either. A trade down with a team wanting a quarterback would be ideal, but barring that, snapping up the draft’s best corner would make for a good Thursday night.


6. NY Giants – Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins


I’m on record on Twitter with this take, and I’ll repeat it in this space: I wouldn’t use a top-10 pick on Haskins. I see a boom-or-bust guy who lacks a top-seven NFL quarterback ceiling even if he booms. But Fortuna smiled upon Haskins this winter when Phil Knight re-signed Oregon QB Justin Herbert. I kid! Herbert’s absence from this draft rendered what would have been a mediocre quarterback class a downright awful one. NFL franchises don’t have the patience to defer a need at quarterback, so I fully expect the Giants to compound last year’s mistake of taking Saquon Barkley over Sam Darnold by taking Dwayne Haskins over somebody like Clelin Ferrell, Ed Oliver or Jonah Williams. Fun!


7. Jacksonville – Iowa TE TJ Hockenson


Conventional wisdom has Jacksonville taking a quarterback. But the smarter move is to see if OC John DeFilippo can make lemonade with Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater or former pupil Nick Foles for a year. If he can’t, no problem, we Bustin for Justin fam. If the Jaguars can resist the urge to take a Drew Lock (a player with a high bust profile not unlike Bortles coming in) or Kyler Murray (who would become perhaps the biggest boom-or-bust top-10 proposition of all time as a player who has never existed before and can just leave for baseball if he fails), they could focus on fixing their issue at either tight end or edge. The contrarian take here is Montez Sweat or Ed Oliver. I’ll do you one better. TJ Hockenson is a force. He was arguably the nation’s best receiving tight end – Hock, not ballyhooed teammate Noah Fant, was the focal point of the passing attack from the jump on a team with an NFL-like coaching staff famous for developing tight ends – and doubled as a tour-de-force blocker. The guy is a third offensive tackle – he manhandles defensive ends. Hockenson’s blocking highlight reel is already #TwitterFamous. His receiving highlight reel is going to open eyes. In conjunction, they may show the best tight end prospect to enter the draft since Vernon Davis. Hockenson would be of particular appeal to the Jaguars, not only because they desperately need a tight end, but because Hockenson appeals to the base’s two biggest dreams: 1) A big receiving stud to help Blake Bortles (or Nick Foles) and 2) A next-level turbo-charger inline weapon for the Leonard Fournette-smash mouth wet dream. Plus, new OC John DeFilippo loves to make use of his tight ends. This is a marriage made in heaven.


8. Detroit – Clemson EDGE Clelin Ferrell


With Ziggy Ansah a free agent and the cornerback slot across from Darius Slay a black hole, the Lions need an edge rusher and a corner in the worst way. With Greedy Williams off the board, they can focus on edge help. Ferrell gets nitpicked because he doesn’t have Josh Allen’s physical tools, but he’s a consistent problem for offensive tackles because he’s so well-rounded. Ferrell wracked up 50.5 TFL and 27 sacks over the past three years on college football’s biggest stage.


9. Buffalo – Houston DL Ed Oliver


D.K. Metcalf is a popular pick here. But slotting him in the top-10 is assuming his neck is going to check out and that he’ll go supernova at the NFL Combine – he’s an extremely unconventional top-10 overall receiving prospect. The Bills also need offensive line help, but if Oliver is no the board, they’ll need to defer that to another day. I’m not on board with the current trend of Ed Oliver shade. Unlike Gary, Oliver was the monster we wanted him to be in college. Don’t ding him too much for last season: Oliver was hurt and the coaching staff was such a joke that it got dismissed despite an eight-win season. Houston’s defense was sub-100 S&P+, almost unthinkable for a G5 unit with Oliver and Isaiah Johnson. I’d be happy to bet on Oliver.


10. Denver – Missouri QB Drew Lock


I don’t agree with it. I've been consistent on this for a year: I wouldn't take Lock in Round 1. But the Lock-to-Denver smoke started as early as December, between internet reports, DM conversations between reporters, and, you know, John Elway telling anyone with a media credential that he loves Drew Lock. I’ll have plenty more later this #draftszn on why I don’t. The mock draft construct, as a medium, doesn't lend itself to dissertations.


11. Cincinnati – Florida OT Jawaan Taylor


For a team that needs linebacker help so desperately, Devin White would be ridiculously attractive if he fell here. But Cincy’s best-case scenario has come to fruition in this scenario: Neither White nor any offensive lineman has been taken. That means Cincy can address either of its two biggest weaknesses with the player of its choice, And I think the Bengals will acknowledge the reality that they cannot in good conscience go into next season without major fornication on the offensive line. Taylor is a nice place to start.


12. Green Bay – Florida EDGE Jachai Polite


This is a convenient draft to need help along the defensive front and on the edge. The Packers are one of many teams with edge at the top of the shopping list. If they choose, they should be able to leave Thursday night with one of Ferrell, Polite, Brian Burns or Montez Sweat. Polite blew up this season and is gonna torch the NFL Combine. If you want a quarterback hunter on the edge, this is your guy. Dude accelerates 0-to-60 and closes for the kill shot in the blink of an eye. And he’s got more developing to go.


13. Miami – Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray


Does this make sense? No, of course not. But some organization is going to take the plunge on Kyler in the top-20. And if you’re looking around the NFL table for a sucker, your eyes don’t have to scan long to find Miami’s place at the table. This pick would have the short-term benefit of “re-invigorating the base” while having the potential downside of “zero to show for 1.13 in three years.” Sounds like the kind of proposition Miami would sign up for.


14. Atlanta – Clemson DL Christian Wilkins


With Grady Jarrett’s dueling Spiderman GIF doppelganger Ed Oliver off the board, Atlanta doesn’t even have to entertain the possibility of how viable an interior duo of Oliver and Jarrett could be. A burlier, rangier interior lineman to complement Jarrett makes more conventional sense. In this scenario, take your pick between Wilkins, teammate Dexter Lawrence, and Jeffery Simmons. I’ll side with Wilkins using character as a tiebreaker. Installing Wilkins next to Jarrett would make a delicious DL sandwich bookended by Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley sure to cause indigestion for NFC South offenses.


15. Washington – Mississippi WR D.K. Metcalf


Of course, the Redskins could opt for a quarterback. But in this scenario, the only realistic option would be Daniel Jones, a prospect who’d be a surefire Day 2 guy in a better class (even if Herbert had just declared). If that’s the choice that must be made, Washington ought to find itself a one-year stopgap, fortify the receiving corps with the class’ most talented outside target, and go from there. If the wheels come off next season, the relative upside is that Washington may be in a position to pair a guy like D.K. long-term with somebody like Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa.


16. Carolina – Delaware S Nasir Adderley


Carolina will absolutely consider the offensive line and edge at this pick as well, but adding safety help is imperative and recent reports have suggested it's atop Carolina’s offseason shopping list. Fortunately for them, there’s a decent chance that no safety will be picked above 16. I side with Adderley over Deionte Thompson at this juncture. I was there for the Thompson breakout campaign – I drafted him in my college fantasy football IDP dynasty league in August and everything (yes, that league exists – and yes, it’s glorious). That said, I thought he was a tad overbilled as the fall got going and his stock is trending back toward a more realistic range. Adderley now has a very real chance to unseat him as S1 in this class. Adderley is a super fun eval – not only do you have to parse the small-school competition thing, but he’s a mishmash of different things as a 5’11/200 safety with extensive CB experience who rolls downhill and blasts fools like a linebacker. On the surface, the profile is boom/bust, but Adderley competes like a gladiator and seems likely to claw for every rung in his climb to his athletic ceiling. He’s the kind of kid I’d bet on. If he booms, you’ve got yourself a matchup-mismatch-nullifying chess piece to counteract the pre-snap machinations of those clever offensive nerds like McVay and Nagy.


17. Cleveland – Mississippi State DL Jeffery Simmons


I’m going to defer to a Monday report from my friend Tony Pauline, which stated that Browns GM John Dorsey is likely to select Simmons were he to fall to 1.17. That makes so much sense. In a deep iDL class, Simmons’ infamous assault video is the sort of thing that could cause him to lose close-calls during the on-the-clock decision-making process such as I referred to above with the Falcons pick. But Simmons was lauded at Mississippi State for the work he put in on and off the field, and by all accounts, he learned from his mistake and has turned out well. I’m a second-chance guy, myself. Simmons is one of the few human beings roaming this earth that knows what it’s like to be disdained for a two-minute slice of his 22 years on earth. At rock bottom, you choose to stay the course (recidivism) or tear down your egoic structures and rebuild yourself from the ground up (rebirth). Simmons has thus far chosen the latter path and if he keeps walking it he could become a fortified value-giver for the rest of his life. This isn’t the same situation, but note the differences in Ryan Leaf’s personality between after he got drafted by the Chargers and today. That’s hard-earned wisdom from a jail cell and the pit of the human experience, son. Today, Leaf is a person who changes lives as part of his outreach mission. This transformation is perceived as sort of unthinkable – but Leaf’s incredible interpersonal resurgence is not necessarily a unique phenomena. In fact, there are many Ryan Leafs roaming the earth right now. Nobody would ever choose to hit rock bottom, and yet there are riches down there for those courageous enough to kill off who they were for who they will become. I’m not saying that Simmons will become an inspirational human being and a dogged worker who reaches his athletic ceiling – but I am saying early returns are promising enough that I’d absolutely co-sign John Dorsey’s decision if he went this direction.


18. Minnesota – Alabama OL Jonah Williams


I was sworn to secrecy on this bit last late-April but I don’t think it’s a secret anymore, so let’s just state it outright: The Vikings badly wanted an offensive lineman in Round 1 last year, and they specifically targeted Arkansas’ Frank Ragnow, a Chanhassen native. But Ragnow and a few of his OL contemporaries went earlier than expected and the Purple were left a bit flat-footed at the end of the stanza, eventually calling the old reliable BPA audible with UCF CB Mike Hughes (to be clear: a much better plan than Vinny Cerrato’s old “F- it, Reach!” philosophy). This time around, there can be no misreading of the board. This time around, the Vikes have empirical evidence of what a shoddy offensive line can do to the fortunes of an otherwise Super Bowl-contending roster. The mantra of the last Thursday night in April in Minny this year should be OL-or-bust, and if trading up is the only avenue to get the guy Rick Spielman wants, great – just don’t get Ragnow’d by misreading the players around you at the poker table again. Williams fits like a glove. Guard? Tackle? Center?! Who cares! Stud! The Vikes have the luxury of starting him off at guard – Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neill are established outside for 2019 – and seeing how that goes. After a year of eval, Minny can either shift him to RT while kicking O’Neill to LT to replace Reiff, or, if Williams dominates and they prefer the inside fit, draft or sign yourself a RT a year from now. Done and done.


19. Tennessee – Florida State EDGE Brian Burns


It’s a rare and beautiful thing when dueling philosophies of need-based drafting and BPA point toward the same player. Tennessee is sitting pretty: There are so many stud edge defenders in this class that I like their odds of getting huge value at a need spot no matter how the board above them shakes out.


20. Pittsburgh – LSU LB Devin White


Need-based drafting and BPA align, Part Deux! What an absolute coup this would be. White is better than the 20th person in the class. In fact, I may well have him as a top-10 overall player when my top-400 drops in late April. But there are a bunch of premium players at more valuable positions in this year’s class, and many of the teams above the Steelers happen to badly need help at those positions in question. I think White falling to 20 is a scenario that’s in play. Pittsburgh won’t sprint to the podium if it happens – they’ll hit send on the text to the card guy the second the Titans take their edge guy of choice.


21. Seattle – Washington CB Byron Murphy


The situation: Seattle needs a corner. The story: The local kid stays home. The truth: The local kid may be the best corner in the class. The upshot: This could be a very successful marriage indeed.


22. Baltimore – Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry


Man, I love this fit. I know some of the year-round Draft guys are a bit down on Harry (Lance Zierlein and Kyle Crabbs, for two, didn’t mock him in R1). But I’m a big fan. Harry is never going to excel at separating. But he’s an insanely good rebounder – I’ve seen few prospects better at the catch point over the past three years. The Action Network’s Matthew Freedman referred to him as a sort of evolved version of the King Crab himself, Michael Crabtree. I like that. Lamar Jackson needs a N’Keal, not a Hollywood Brown. Hollywood needs to go to a rhythm throwing offense. Lamar will buy extra time to throw and also extra throwing opportunities his entire career due to his electric legs but he will never be a Drew Brees marksman – ergo, instant separation isn’t as important for the job as catch radius, plucking and winning in traffic. Picture Lamar’s primary options are covered, he’s shaking a defender, he’s spinning out of the pocket, N’Keal’s route is done and it’s time to freelance, Lamar is scrambling, he’s sucking defenders up, N’Keal is charging downfield 1-on-1, Lamar uncorks one on the move, and it’s N’Keal against some poor 5’11 corner in a rebounding situation. Six.


23. Houston – Kansas State OL Dalton Risner


I love Risner, and he’d be an outstanding addition to Houston’s beleaguered line if available. I’ve seen Greg Little mocked ahead of Risner a bunch, an indication, to me, that Little still isn’t done extracting value out of his prep recruiting ranking. Risner is smart, and he’s mean, and he’s versatile. He’ll excel wherever Houston needs him.


24. Oakland (CHI) – NC State WR Kelvin Harmon


Oakland looked defense its first go-round. This time, they’ll do Derek Carr a solid by plugging Harmon into Amari Cooper’s old spot. I expect Oakland to swing from the heels on almost every pick. But it would be unnecessary with this pick if Harmon is here. He’ll never be Randy Moss, but he’ll start from Day 1, make routine plays in the intermediate sector, win downfield despite lacking Maserati speed, and provide value as a blocker.


25. Philadelphia – Oklahoma WR Hollywood Brown


This might not be a rational, pick. But give me this one. I want the DeSean Jackson clone in green, grey and white.


26. Indianapolis – Georgia CB Deandre Baker


Indy might not need secondary help as bad as they needed offensive line help last draft, but it’s clearly at the top of the priority list. Baker’s ceiling may not be in the top-three of this year’s CB class, but his floor is really high. This guy is going to be a solid starter for a long time. And with Indy’s contention window open right now, I think they’ll take the cost assurance.


27. Oakland (DAL) – Alabama S Deionte Thompson


After taking Gary and Harmon, the Raiders hop back to defense with a guy they hope will play good center field defense from Day 1. The leakiness of the defense in front of him will give Thompson plenty of opportunities for work.


28. LA Chargers – Washington State T Andre Dillard


A freak athlete who has a billion pass-pro reps out of Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense? Check please.


29. Kansas City – Alabama RB Josh Jacobs


What a journey it's been for my guy JJ! One of the craziest prospect narratives of a potential first-rounder since I started doing this a few years back, for sure. Jacobs was a zero-star recruit until he posted his prep highlights online and got an offer from Alabama. That offer couldn't be finalized until the Tide knew they had space to sign him on National Signing Day. He unexpectedly worked his way into the rotation as a true freshman and flashed as PFF's No. 1-most elusive back in the country. Jacobs bulked up while retaining his athleticism heading into his sophomore year, but a hamstring injury and a broken ankle (which he kept to himself and played through) compromised his effectiveness and touches. Championed by the fringe society that is #CFBTwitter as a breakout candidate, Jacobs was a curious and rare case indeed: A criminally underrated Alabama player. Healthy in 2018, Jacobs finished second in touches amid Alabama's three-headed RB platoon (Damien Harris had 32 more, Najee Harris had 19 less). Jacobs ended up scoring 14 TDs and breaking through nationally at the end of the season, flashing during the Tide's run to the title game. And then a weird thing happened: The guy who was arguably the most underrated player in his high school recruiting class and was one of the nation's most underrated weapons on a per-play basis for his first 2.5 seasons suddenly saw his profile explode. Daniel Jeremiah mocked him in the top-10. He was seen as the consensus RB1 and anybody with a divergent opinion was #roasted by #DraftTwitter. Members of the community brawled in Jacobs threads like the Anchorman fight scene over who discovered him first. And in short order it became this sort of thing where the narrative on Jacobs swung so decidely to the other polarity that he passed right through the properly-and-objectively-rated phase and into a Twitter hyperbole contest. Not because he isn't a good player. But because, in our enthusiasm to at long last give Jacobs his rightful due, we made it about us, and not about him. Six runners have gone in the top-20 of the past six drafts. Rarified air, right? Are we convinced Jacobs is a player worthy of that call? Are we really convinced? Here's a stat I bet you haven't read: Jacobs set a career-low in yards per touch this past season by a full 1.0 yards per touch. And sure, it was with more usage (140 touches in 2018 versus a combined 159 between 2016-2017), and with a higher percentage of carries baked in. But as long as we're adding context, we should add this: Damien Harris also averaged 6.3 yards per touch this season. On 32 more touches. And Harris had 30 more carries on his ledger (two more catches), while getting more run early in games as the lead back in the platoon. Harris also averaged 6.6 yards per touch over 529 career touches (477 carries, 52 catches) at Alabama, while Jacobs averaged 6.9 over 299 (251, 48). I get that stats can only say so much, but we're comparing apples-to-apples situations between two top draft prospects at the same position. Do they say nothing? And if they are to be explained away by three years of chroNic Jacobs tactical misuse by the staff, we should keep in mind the staff we're talking about here. Jacobs was used situationally, and in Nick Saban's opinion leveraged effectively, and his rough per-play damage wasn't significantly higher than Harris' despite marked usage differences. I'm just saying. It's worth thinking about. And listen, don't get me wrong. I'm just questioning where the narrative has gone. I'm not questioning the player. I like me some Malt-O-Meal Kamara (as my friend Arif and I call him). I agree with the RB1 take. I just think we gotta pump the breaks for a sec and get some perspective. This is a more appropriate range for Jacobs and he'd find himself at long last in the spotlight as Pat Mahomes' trusted sidekick.


30. Green Bay (NO) – Iowa TE Noah Fant


The Packers took care of their edge issue earlier in the round. This time, they’ll take another projectable athlete and give Aaron Rogers a move-TE who could become quite dangerous in the NFL. Fant disappointed me last season when he was clearly passed bypassed by Hockenson... as a receiver (Hockenson always had an enormous edge in the blocking department). Regardless, Fant’s receiving chops are very real, as is his athleticism. Fant isn’t a finished product, not by a long shot, but he was a red zone killer at Iowa even during stretches where he otherwise wasn't making an impact. He should be a goal line weapon from Jump Street.


31. LA Rams  – Mississippi State EDGE Montez Sweat 


I kind of like the fit of Michigan LB Devin Bush because the Rams’ linebacking corps had issues clamping down on RBs and TEs in the passing game this season and he'd be a nice start in addressing that issue. But the Rams could also use edge help and I think if Sweat fell this far the Rams would figure the universe is telling them something.


32. New England – Louisiana Tech EDGE Jaylon Ferguson


Man, I love me some Sack Daddy. One of “my guys” in this class for sure. The All-Time FBS sack leader, Ferguson also has a good frame and is likely to test well. I’m not sure why he isn’t talked about more. I think he’ll get taken higher at the end of the day. But if he’s here, the Pats will submit the card and take their coup as is their custom.

Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is NBC Sports Edge’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!