Last year, Carmen Vitali and I started posting mock drafts here on Buccaneers.com right after the NFL Scouting Combine. This year, we're starting even earlier. What could possibly go wrong!
If, like Carmen and me, you are an avid consumer of NFL mock drafts, you know the answer to that question, and it's pretty much everything. NFL analysts who post their final mocks the week of the draft have trouble getting more than a handful of picks right, especially after the first five or 10 spots. This site analyzed more than 100 "expert" mock drafts after last year's real thing and the absolute best predictor got 10 of the picks exactly right. The site called this a "spectacular feat."
(If you follow that link, you will see that this incredible draft expert is named Scott Smith. Is that me? I mean, I'm not saying it's not…)
Most mock drafts do tend to get better as you get closer and closer to the real thing, as more information spills out and certain players distinguish themselves at the Combine and their schools' Pro Days. But you have to start somewhere and this year we're getting in on the act early. This is Version 1.0; we'll update it every two weeks. Because there are two of us combining our efforts here, Carmen and I will alternate picks. Whoever goes first also gets to pick for the Buccaneers (that's the main reason we're here, right?), so Carmen and I will also flip spots every two weeks.
Carmen gets to go first here in Version 1.0, and if she gives the Bucs a running back at the fifth-overall pick I will probably have to disown her. Choose wisely, Ms. Vitali!
Before we begin, we must repeat our usual caveat. Though you are reading this on Buccaneers.com, none of this is meant to reflect the strategy or thinking of Jason Licht, Bruce Arians or any others involved in the Buccaneers' actual draft decision-making. These are our guesses, Carmen and Scott. Blame us if you don't like them. Oh, and for at least this first version, we're not mocking any trades. Every team stays put.
Carmen, you and the Arizona Cardinals are ON. THE. CLOCK.
1. Arizona Cardinals: DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State (Carmen Vitali)
I'm not going to overthink this. Bosa is the best prospect in the draft and when picking first overall, for a position you need anyway, you go with that player.
2. San Francisco 49ers: DE Josh Allen, Kentucky (Scott Smith)
The 49ers used their first-round picks on defensive linemen in 2015, 2016 and 2017 (they went with an offensive tackle last year), and all of those players are still on the team and under contract for 2015. Would they really take another one? I think so, without hesitation. DeForest Buckner is a legit star but Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas combined for just four sacks last year. The 49ers need more pressure off the edge and that happens to be where the strength lies at the top of this draft. It falls well for them.
3. New York Jets: DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama (CV)
This may be the year of the defensive line. Gregg Williams has taken the reins of the New York defense and in his 4-3 scheme, you need rock solid guys across the line. With both Bosa and Allen off the board already at end, you solidify the interior with the Alabama product and dare running backs to try getting through the B-gap between him and Jets' defensive end Leonard Williams. I just realized, that's a lot of Williams. Meant to be, I guess?
4. Oakland Raiders: DE Rashan Gary, Michigan (SS)
You ain't just whistling Dixie, Carmen. This is a D-Line party and nobody else is invited. Remember when the Buccaneers had a league-low 22 sacks in 2017 and that prompted them to sign 40 linemen in free agency and draft Vita Vea in 2018. The Raiders had 13 sacks last year. THIRTEEN! You could double that total and Oakland would STILL rank last in the NFL in 2018. Someone who wanted to make the Raiders feel bad might point out that Khalil Mack had 12.5 all by himself, but I'm not going to be that guy. I think they would have preferred Bosa or Allen, but that's not how drafts work. They take the next best pass-rusher, or try to, and we'll say that's the former Wolverine, for now.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: LB Devin White, LSU (CV)
Am I supposed to yeehaw to that? The Raiders shade sounds like someone's been reading too much Drew Magary on Deadspin, but I digress. I get the first crack at the Bucs pick, and no, I wouldn't dream of taking a running back in this class this high. How you could even think that was a possibility is, quite frankly, a little insulting MISTER Smith. I am going to go ahead and opt for White out of LBU… er… LSU. There's some uncertainty at the position for the Bucs with injuries plaguing the unit in 2018. While I think (and hope) the Bucs retain Kwon Alexander, he's coming off an ACL injury suffered in Week Seven. Kendell Beckwith suffered an unfortunate, and serious, ankle injury last offseason in a car accident and sat out the entirety of the 2018 season because of it. White provides some insurance while conveniently also being the best player available and the first to break the D-line train.
*denotes LSU product
6. New York Giants: QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State (SS)
I mean, they've got to finally pull the trigger on this, right? In our no-trade scenario they are fortunate to be the first team really looking for a quarterback (maaaaybe the Raiders) so they get their top choice. They could also have their pick of offensive tackles, too, but can probably wait until the second round for that. It's time to get Eli's successor. Finally.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma (CV)
I didn't want to do this. I did it. But I didn't want to do it. Blame Blake Bortles. The only thing he's been good for lately is a landing pad for Jason's inadvertent jokes about Jacksonville on The Good Place, which is a great show. You should watch it. Just like the Jaguars should get another quarterback and the Kyler Murray Experiment is too intriguing for them to pass up.
8. Detroit Lions: CB Greedy Williams, LSU (SS)
There are so many tantalizing defensive linemen in this draft. I could see Detroit going for Ed Oliver or any of the thousands of Clemson guys, but they really need help at cornerback and the way this has fallen they can take the first guy on their list. Carmen gave the Bucs a linebacker from LSU but it wouldn't be shocking to see them go in this direction instead. We'll see. I'm picking for the Bucs in Version 2.0. Oh, and yes, The Good Place is so, so great.
9. Buffalo Bills: T Jawaan Taylor, Florida (CV)
It's no secret the Bills need to do a better job of protecting their now-franchise quarterback in Josh Allen, whom they selected with their first pick of the 2018 draft. Allen started 11 of the 12 games he played for Buffalo and had just a 52.8 completion percentage. He threw 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, often being hurried or flushed from the pocket due to his offensive line breaking down. This isn't the deepest class to find offensive linemen, but there is a good amount of tackle talent and Taylor has been graded by the NFL as a projected instant starter at a 6.14 and that's exactly what the Bills would need.
10. Denver Broncos: QB Drew Lock, Missouri (SS)
Yes, the Broncos try again to find their quarterback of the future. Lock looked better than Duke's Daniel Jones during the Senior Bowl week (Carmen can verify, she was there), but obviously there's a lot of time left for either passer's draft stock to rise or fall. I read a scouting report comparing Lock to Jay Cutler (in terms of tools, not demeanor) and I couldn't decide if that would make the Broncos more or less likely to draft him.
11. Cincinnati Bengals: T Cody Ford, Oklahoma (CV)
Either way, Jay Cutler DOOOON'T CARE. And yes, though Jones performed well in the game itself, we all know it's more about practice (insert Allen Iverson's "We talkin' about practice??") where Lock was the better player all week. As for the Bengals, I feel like they're always in this situation. They need more offensive linemen. So I'm going again with a lineman, despite saying previously this wasn't a particularly deep class for the position. Ford helped protect Baker Mayfield before Kyler Murray and Cincinnati just needs all the help it can get.
12. Green Bay Packers: DE/LB Montez Sweat, Mississippi State (SS)
There's a lot of ways the Packers could go here, including getting the first receiver off the board. However, they also need pass-rushers and they should get one while the getting's still good. Green Bay has another pick later in the round thanks to their trade with New Orleans last year, so they can address receiver, offensive line or safety then. There might be a few guys still on the board who are currently ranked higher by draftniks, but Sweat had a great Senior Bowl, has tons of potential and is a guy who may rise up the board in the coming months.
13. Miami Dolphins: DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson (CV)
I have to imagine that former Patriots Defensive Coordinator and now current Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores would have a place for Ferrell in his defense. Ferrell was part of a Clemson defensive line that could produce multiple first-round picks in this draft after their national championship performance in 2018. Plus, Miami could use a pass rusher and with Ferrell still on the board, they jump at the chance to grab the former Tiger.
View photos of the top draft prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft.
14. Atlanta Falcons: T Jonah Williams, Alabama (SS)
There's a chance Williams goes significantly higher than this, but here we are in this mock draft and the Falcons really need a tackle. Jake Matthews was quietly great last year but Ryan Schraeder fell off the table and the Falcons are expected to replace him. Here's how. Williams played left tackle the past two years in Alabama but was a right tackle as a freshman. He's athletic and powerful but not particularly long-limbed; he might be a really good fit on the right side.
15. Washington Redskins: WR N'Keal Harry, Arizona State (CV)
Washington probably has a bigger need at quarterback with the uncertainty following Alex Smith's gruesome injury last season. However, with this shallow class of QBs, I don't think they rely on a rookie to shoulder the load for at least the first part of the 2019 season. Instead, they'll draft weapons for whichever QB comes in and while I'll admit to some bias coming into play here (#ForksUp) – Harry is as good a receiver as any in this draft class.
16. Carolina Panthers: DE Jachai Polite, Florida (SS)
The pass-rushing gifts just keep coming. Julius Peppers just started the clock on his Hall of Fame eligibility and Carolina could use a new pass-rusher. It would be rude to suggest that Polite can be the next Peppers but I'm feeling spicy.
17. Cleveland Browns: DT Ed Oliver, Houston (CV)
There's a Polite joke about being spicy in there somewhere. There's a great chance Oliver goes higher than this – I'd even venture to say he may be worth a look at five for the Bucs. But the draft gods continue to shine on Cleveland and they get reinforcements on the interior of the defensive line for new Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks' 4-3 defense.
18. Minnesota Vikings: DT Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State (SS)
Dang. I think this is the first time this has happened, but I was hoping to get Ed Oliver here before you sent him to Cleveland at 17. Wait, Cleveland is picking 17th? That's new. Anyway, there's an off-field issue with Simmons that could hurt his draft status, but if the Vikings are comfortable with the pick they get a top-20 guy.
19. Tennessee Titans: WR D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss (CV)
Titans QB Marcus Mariota needs more guys to throw to, plain and simple. At 6'3, Metcalf provides a big target for the Tennessee offense and could be the second part of a one-two punch with wide receiver Corey Davis, who is still looking for his breakout season.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB DeAndre Baker, Georgia (SS)
I'm sorely tempted by Michigan inside 'backer Devin Bush and I think that's a need for the Steelers, but I think cornerback is a bigger issue. Pittsburgh's recent draft history at the position isn't great, but I don't think that will make them gun-shy. Even if they address cornerback in free agency it would still make since to build for the future.
21. Seattle Seahawks: S Nasir Adderley, Delaware (CV)
The Legion of Boom is no more and Seattle still needs to solidify their secondary at both safety and corner. Adderley was one prospect I got to see in person at the Senior Bowl and he got a lot of work in practice at nickel corner, too. His playmaking ability in space probably still has him translating to a safety at the NFL level but that cornerback experience can only help his cause and that versatility makes him an intriguing prospect the Seahawks take a chance on.
22. Baltimore Ravens: WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma (SS)
There are some different types of receivers available here, but I'm going with the burner and thinking Lamar Jackson can fine-tune his deep ball. Would be pretty devastating when paired with his skills around the line of scrimmage, huh?
23. Houston Texans: T David Edwards, Wisconsin (CV)
To say that the Texans need help along the offensive line would be a gross understatement. Quarterback Deshaun Watson was sacked 62 times in 2018. 62! Poor guy. Good thing he's mobile. Edwards comes from good midwestern offensive linemen stock, playing his collegiate career at Wisconsin and is probably the best tackle available at this point. Houston needs to take what they can get to give Watson some protection on the edge and this issue resolved.
24. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago): RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama (SS)
I can't believe I'm doing this. Jon Gruden took a running back fifth overall in 2005 (Cadillac Williams). Times have changed, of course, but the thing is Oakland has three first-round picks so it can afford to use one of them on a back to try to revitalize the offense.
25. Philadelphia Eagles: DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson (CV)
Here's the second player of that 2018 National Championship Clemson Tiger defensive line to go off the board in the first round and again, he may not be the last. The 6'4, 300-pound tackle played all four years of his Clemson career, playing in 11 games as a true freshman. He's the prototypical three-technique player and can help Fletcher Cox shore up the interior on Philadelphia's defensive line.
26. Indianapolis Colts: WR A.J. Brown, Ole Miss (SS)
The last time the Colts used a first-round pick on a receiver, nobody thought they really needed one, including some of the players already on the roster. Let's just say the Phillip Dorsett selection in 2015 was not well received. Didn't work out either. (Well, it worked out for Dorsett; he just got a ring for watching Julian Edelman catch every pass.) Anyway, this time the Colts _do_ need another big-time receiver for the rejuvenated and (finally) well-protected Andrew Luck. Brown would be a big, strong complement for the fleet T.Y. Hilton.
27. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas): CB Byron Murphy, Washington (CV)
For their THIRD first-round pick, Oakland goes after a cornerback as their latest plug-and-chug piece in the rebuilding of their defense. He's slight at 175 pounds but he's 6' and makes up for his size with athleticism and quickness. The Pac-12 is known for its speed above everything else, so you know he's used to keeping up with those kinds of receivers. The Raiders check another need off the box with this developing corner.
28. Los Angeles Chargers: T Dalton Risner, Kansas State (SS)
Here's a fast riser. In an effort to impress Carmen, Risner had a great Senior Bowl week against top-notch competition. He's NFL ready and could step right into a Chargers lineup that did a pretty good job of protecting Philip Rivers last year but, on paper, doesn't look that strong at tackle. Last year I was convinced that the Chargers were going to take a defensive tackle, just sure of it, and they didn't. So that means they probably will take one this year if I predict OT. We'll see; they have three potential unrestricted free agents at DT so their priorities could change in March.
29. Kansas City Chiefs: CB Lonnie Johnson, Kentucky (CV)
It's my world and we're all just living in it, Scott. Glad you've come around. I actually almost took Risner for the Texans instead of David Edwards because he did have a great Senior Bowl and it was almost surely solely to impress yours truly. As for the Chiefs, they have a painfully low number of needs and they're all on the defensive side of the ball. These guys are built for the long haul which is why I went a little rogue with Lonnie Johnson. I'll be honest – I didn't know who he was until Mobile, but seeing his size in person and the hits he delivered in practice, I think this try-hard, athletically gifted player fits right in with a defense that needs a big shutdown corner.
30. Green Bay (from New Orleans): WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina (SS)
I get to make both Packers picks. I could really make some shivering shareholders sweat. (And, in fact, I already gave them Sweat earlier.) I'll admit, I struggled with this pick. I would have liked a guard or a safety but I'm not sure there's one worthy of this slot. So I'll give Aaron Rodgers a new target. They drafted three receivers last year but all in the fourth round or later, and it's not clear yet whether any of them will work out long-term (USF's Marquez Valdes-Scantling seems like the best bet). Samuel helped himself at the Senior Bowl, too. He's solidly built and explosive and Aaron Rodgers could turn him into a star.
31. Los Angeles Rams: CB Amani Oruwariye, Penn State (CV)
SCOTT SMITH DAD JOKE. God, I love those. The Rams need a corner who's not going to commit egregious penalties that don't get called, just in case they _do_ get called next time (too soon?). Oruwariye was another prospect I got to know at the Senior Bowl, he's a Tampa-native, and while his week of practice was only okay, one of his strengths is run support which isn't necessarily something on display at an exhibition bowl game where players are trying to avoid injury prior to the draft. He should still translate well to the NFL level, especially given his smarts – he's coming out of Penn State with not one, but two degrees.
32. New England Patriots: TE Noah Fant, Iowa (SS)
Does it even matter who the Patriots take? Maybe they'll just draft another quarterback here and then trade him four years later when Tom Brady announces he's going to play until he's 50. Anyway, it seems like Gronk is slowing down, so Fant arrives as the apparent successor, giving Brady an athletic weapon who is excellent on jump balls.