View photos of the second mock draft by Buccaneers.com contributors Carmen Vitali and Scott Smith. Photos by AP Images.
It's amazing how much difference two weeks can make when you're right in the middle of Mock Draft Season. That's especially true when those two weeks include the first blush of unrestricted free agency as well as a pair of landscape-altering trades. Carmen Vitali and I started our own mock draft process exactly two weeks ago, right after the NFL Scouting Combine, and we did so with a fair amount of confidence based on what we had learned from the results in Indianapolis.
And now, just a fortnight later, we come back with our Mock Draft 2.0 and each of our top eight picks have changed. So much for our Version 1.0 confidence!
In reality, the Bills-Bengals and Jets-Colts trades have made us rethink how the quarterback run is going to fall. In addition, the flurry of free agency signings has significantly clarified the most pressing needs for a number of teams. Just one example: Would the Chicago Bears still target a wide receiver in the top 10 after signing both Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel? That's Carmen's conundrum, as she's picking for the Bears at #8; see below to see what she decided.
The Jets trade up to the third spot is interpreted by most as a power move to get a new franchise quarterback. The Bills turned Cordy Glenn into a leap up from #21 to #12, perhaps to get a more reasonable launching spot to get into the top five and take another one of the passers. Can they do it? Spoiler alert: We think so.
That brings us to the one new thing we've included in Version 2.0. In our first mock draft, we specifically said that no trades were allowed. But this time, in the spirit of the bold moves made by the Jets and Bills, we are going to allow trades. It's a little tricky given that Carmen and I are alternating picks, so here's how we handled it: If the two first-round spots involved both belonged to either Carmen or me, we could simply work out a fair deal on paper. If one of the picks was Carmen's and one was mine, we both had to agree to it in the best interests of the teams we were representing. We used the classic Jimmie Johnson draft value chart to make sure our deals were fair.
And, lo and behold, two more deals were swung. Here they are:
- Buffalo trades with Denver, moving up from #12 to #5.**
Having signed Case Keenum, Denver decides to push its franchise-QB search down a year or two and pick up extra draft assets for another run at the title. There's a 500 point difference between the picks on the draft value chart, so Buffalo gives up #53 in the second round and #65 in the third round. Those two picks add up to a value of 535 points, so Denver sends back a fifth-rounder, #142, which is worth 35 points.
2. Arizona trades with Tampa Bay, moving up from #15 to #7.
As you'll see below, this Version 2.0 didn't fall as favorably for the Bucs as the last one, so they choose to move down and pick up extra assets. The difference between the two picks is 450 points, and Arizona owns #47 in the second round, which is worth 430 points. That's a little light, and the Cardinals probably need to overpay a bit for this dramatic move, so they also give up a #134 in the fourth round, which is worth 38.5 points.
So, with the two real NFL deals done and our own two projected trades about to happen, we're ready to start Version 2.0. First, however, we say this one more time for posterity: Though you are reading this on Buccaneers.com, none of this is meant to reflect the strategy or thinking of Jason Licht, Dirk Koetter or any others involved in the Buccaneers' actual draft decision-making. These are simply the (somewhat) educated guesses of Carmen and Scott.
So let's start that draft clock again, and set it ticking down for me and the Cleveland Browns.
1. Cleveland Browns: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming (Scott Smith)
Previous Pick: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn StateAnd the changes from Version 1.0 begin immediately, which is sure to have a domino effect on at least the rest of the top 10. What's changed? Well, the Browns signed running back Carlos Hyde to a three-year, $15 million deal that has $5 million guaranteed. I know it's not uncommon for teams to address the same position in both free agency and the draft (e.g. the Bucs with Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves in 2016), but this is a little different. Part of that doubling-up idea is that you can't be sure what you'll get in the draft, but that's not the case here. If the Browns want Barkley, they can go into the draft knowing they've got him. If that was the plan, why spend that much on Hyde, when you're surely going to make Barkley the workhorse? Rookie running backs don't usually wait to play. So Cleveland is going to get their franchise quarterback at #1, but which one? USC's Sam Darnold is widely considered the QB prospect most ready to step right in and play, but the Browns don't necessarily need that. They traded for Tyrod Taylor to be their "bridge quarterback" (this offseason's hot new term), so they can take time developing a hugely talented but greener passer like Allen.**
- New York Giants: G Quenton Nelson (Carmen Vitali)**
Previous Pick: QB Sam Darnold, USCAllen has the higher ceiling, so with Taylor now buying Cleveland time, I agree with that change 100 percent. I realize I have a little explaining to do because Darnold is still on the board here, who I had previously tapped for the Giants. Here's the thing, though: The Giants could conceivably have Eli Manning for another couple of years, provided they take necessary steps to preserve him. In order to do that – they need an offensive line and a running game. With Cleveland now taking a quarterback, it has to be Barkley, right? Easy, right? They addressed part of the interior o-line issue in free agency by signing Nate Solder from New England and you can't possibly be thinking of taking a guard at No. 2 overall. Take Barkley. No, seriously, take Barkley. But then again… what if you did put Quenton Nelson on the other side from Solder? No one is getting through those two. It also frees up lanes for pretty much any other semi-capable ball carrier. Without the line, I don't care how shifty and versatile Barkley is, he's rendered ineffective by 300-pound defensive linemen walking across the line of scrimmage into the backfield. In all, multiple facets of the Giants' game improve with a solid offensive line protecting Manning and opening up opportunity in the run game. So in the spirit of domino effects, Nelson is shipped off to the Big Apple.3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis): QB Sam Darnold, USC (SS)
Previous #3 Pick: DE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State
Previous Jets Pick: QB Baker Mayfield, OklahomaI just don't see how this trade up is for anything but a quarterback. One of the blue chip non-quarterback prospects would have almost certainly fallen to the Jets at #6. Maybe they are a bit leery of USC's Darnold after the Mark Sanchez Experience, and I would have given them Allen if he were here since they also have time for development after re-signing Josh McCown and adding Teddy Bridgewater. But I think Darnold is the next-best prospect in the bunch and I think he's got the personality to handle playing in New York.**
View photos of Penn State RB Saquon Barkley in college. Photos by AP Images.
- Cleveland Browns: RB Saquon Barkley (CV)**
Previous Pick: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
This is the Year of the Browns, folks. Thanks to some smart moves in free agency and a bit of help from the shuffling of draft order, they get their quarterback of the future AND still come out with the No. 1 prospect in the draft. If Barkley is there at four, you have to take him. Simple as that.
5. PROJECTED TRADE: Buffalo Bills (from Denver): QB Josh Rosen (SS)
Previous #5 Pick: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
Previous Buffalo Pick: DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
So I make this big justification for the Browns not taking Barkley at #1 anymore…and then they still get him at #4. There's still the Hyde issue, but I guess I can see Barkley being too good to pass up at that point. As for this pick, I explained the trade above. I don't think the trade up from #21 to #12 makes a lot of sense if it's not to put Buffalo in position to jump into the top 5-7 for their franchise quarterback. Rosen is a polished product who had a good showing at the Combine.
6. Indianapolis Colts (from N.Y. Jets): DE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State (CV)
Previous #6 Pick: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Previous Colts Pick: Chubb
As a Bucs fan, this one stings. The Colts trade down and STILL get Chubb to fill their edge need before Tampa Bay can at No. 7.
7. PROJECTED TRADE: Arizona Cardinals (from Tampa Bay): QB Baker Mayfield (SS)
Previous #7 Pick: G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Previous Cardinals Pick: T Connor Williams, Texas
We discussed the Colts trading down again but figured they would be so ecstatic to move from #3 to #6, pick up three extra picks and STILL get Chubb that they would stay put. Meanwhile, the Bucs see Nelson, Barkley and Chubb all go in the top six. In my mind, that's the top tier, and then there's a lot still left from which to choose in the next group, including three DBs and two edge rushers I like. So the Bucs take the bait on Arizona's trade and the Cardinals get the last of the big four QB prospects, but one they may have liked more than several of the others. I don't think the signings of either Sam Bradford or Mike Glennon affect this decision at all.
8. Chicago Bears: DT Vita Vea (CV)
Previous Pick: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
So, the Bears went out and collected two targets in free agency for Trubisky, one in wide receiver Allen Robinson from Jacksonville and another in slot receiver Taylor Gabriel from Atlanta. The Bears have a soft spot for receivers from Abilene Christian, apparently. They drafted Johnny Knox in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft out of the same school. Regardless, those moves rid the immediate need for Ridley (see what I did there?) who headlines a pretty shallow receiver class. I think the Bears go in another direction now and address the defensive line with Vea, whose stock has only risen since the Combine.
- San Francisco 49ers: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick (SS)**
Previous Pick: Fitzpatrick
And finally, at pick nine, we get to one that isn't changed from Version 1.0. Two weeks ago I thought this was a real steal at a position of need for the 49ers, and I still feel that way despite the signing of Richard Sherman in the interim. Sherman isn't really a sure thing, especially not in a long-term sense, and Fitzpatrick is versatile enough to play all over the secondary and be a force wherever he lands.
10. Oakland Raiders: LB Roquan Smith (CV)
Previous Pick: Smith
Despite how busy Oakland has been on defense in free agency and its signing of former Detroit Lion Tahir Whitehead to a three-year, $18 million-plus contract in particular, I think the Raiders still add Smith. With the secondary pretty locked up, one linebacker addition isn't going to satisfy their need in the middle and Smith seems to be a good fit in a Gruden-led camp.
11. Miami Dolphins: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech (SS)
Previous Pick: Edmunds
I'd be lying if I said I knew what the Dolphins have been doing over the last few weeks. That said, nothing has really changed in terms of their need for some young, athletic linebackers and, if anything, Edmunds' stock has only risen since our last draft.
12. PROJECTED TRADE: Denver Broncos (from Buffalo): DE Harold Landry Boston College (CV)
Previous #12 Pick: T Kolton Miller, UCLA
Previous Broncos Pick: Rosen
Alright so Denver signed Case Keenum last week, who presumably fills their quarterback need (for now), and took Buffalo's offer to trade down in our scenario here. The Broncos have done little else in free agency and could use an edge guy. I realize Marcus Davenport is still on the board at this point but I (and a lot of others) are pretty high on Harold Landry. I honestly think he may end up being a better player. His Combine results were on par with Chubb's and with a Boston College schedule that included Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Clemson last year – you have to believe Landry is a little more battle-tested than Davenport at UTSA.
13. Washington Redskins: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State (SS)
Previous Pick: Ward
Some mock drafts have the Bucs taking Ward as high as #7. If Tampa Bay trades back and just misses the Buckeye star by two picks, will they regret the move? Again, we can't accurately report what Jason Licht's draft board looks like, but you don't make the move unless you have enough options to be satisfied with your eventual pick at #15. As for Washington, this pick only looks better than it did two weeks ago.
14. Green Bay Packers: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama (CV)
Previous Pick: DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
I think the Packers switch priorities after the departure of receiver Jordy Nelson and signing defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson to a one-year deal in free agency. They locked up another target in tight end Jimmy Graham as well, but with the number one receiver prospect still on the board, they go with Ridley to further try to compensate for losing Rodgers' bff.
- PROJECTED TRADE: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Arizona): DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA (SS)**
Previous #15 Pick: T Connor Williams, Texas
Previous Buccaneers Pick: Nelson
How do the Bucs really feel about this intriguing, and perhaps a bit unproven, smaller-school product? We may never know, depending upon how the draft falls. But if they are high on Davenport and still nab him after a trade down, this is a huge win for Tampa Bay. What a great deal I worked out with myself! (By the way, this is the best reason to do multiple versions of a mock draft. If I change the Bucs' pick every time and one of them hits, I can go back to just the one version that got it right and declare myself a genius. (You know who I'm talking about.))
16. Baltimore Ravens: T Connor Williams, Texas (CV)
Previous Pick: T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
So, should we be doing thing weekly instead to increase our odds - cough – I mean, provide more valuable insight and analysis? Sorry, tickle in my throat there. Now that Connor Williams is available this go-around, the Ravens get the tackle from Texas, instead. Especially with his Combine results, it's hard to argue Williams isn't the best offensive tackle prospect this year.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan (SS)
Previous Pick: VeaI'm not thrilled with my work here, to be honest. I've learned in fantasy drafts (relevant!) that the worst thing you can do is react to missing out on your coveted player by taking the next-best option at the same position. But I'm sticking to my Version 1.0 contention that the Chargers are on the edge of contention and their biggest need is a powerful presence in the middle to complement their awesome edge rushers and help their league-worst run defense. It was probably a pipe dream that Vea would be on the board at #17 anyway.
18. Seattle Seahawks: S Derwin James, Florida State (CV)
Previous Pick: James
Excerpt from my 1.0 rationale: "Can you imagine a secondary that includes Derwin James, Earl Thomas and a healthy Richard Sherman? The Legion of Boom is in full force with the Seahawks getting this guy in a steal…" L o l. Further proof free agency doesn't care about your mock drafts and predictions. However, James is still a steal and Seattle needs him now more than ever.
19. Dallas Cowboys: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU (SS)
Previous Pick: Sutton
Excerpt from my 1.0 rationale: "Dallas really needs a receiver." I didn't actually look that up but I'm assuming that's what I said, and I'm saying it again.
20. Detroit Lions: DT Da'Ron Payne, Alabama (CV)
Previous Pick: Landry
Landry is now gone, which admittedly was my own doing. I hate that we lose out on a great story of a coach and his former college player reuniting on the NFL stage. However, the Lions need help on the interior as well so they go with the Alabama product to fortify their defensive line all the way through.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo): T Kolton Miller, UCLA (SS)
Previous #21 Pick: Hurst
Previous Bengals Pick: Miller
Did the Bengals miss long-time stalwart Andrew Whitworth last year? Methinks they did. The run game cratered from 13th in the league to second-to-last and the pass protection ranked 23rd in sacks allowed per pass play. Miller somehow plummeted nine spots from our Version 1.0 and was even passed by Connor Williams, but the Bengals stop his slide here and hope for better results than their big 2015 O-Line draft investment in Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi.
22. Buffalo Bills: T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame (CV)
Previous Pick: QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
To be honest, I wasn't confident in my previous pick of Lamar Jackson as it was. The Bills' signing of A.J. McCarron made it easier to switch and with Buffalo addressing a lot of defensive needs through free agency, I think they try to address the offensive line in the draft. McGlinchey makes for a great place to start.
23. Los Angeles Rams: C Billy Price, Ohio State (SS)
Previous Pick: Price
I didn't change this pick from our last version, but I probably should in the next one given that the Rams chose to re-sign center John Sullivan. I thought they would let Sullivan move on, given that he's 32 and his good 2017 season seemed like it might have been an anomaly. But what do I know; I guess the Rams deserve the benefit of the doubt given their recent track record on personnel decision. In other words, move along, nothing to see here.
24. Carolina Panthers: WR James Washington, Oklahoma State (CV)
Previous Pick: Washington
You've said before it's not out of the question that teams address the same need in both free agency and the draft… Yeah, ok, probably not in this case. I tried, Scott. For Carolina's pick, the Panthers have been a non-factor in free agency and they still need a receiver. Therefore, my pick is still Washington.
- Tennessee Titans: WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M (SS)**
Previous Pick: RB Ronald Jones, USC
I really struggled with this pick. I feel like the Titans have a bigger need on the defensive line but I don't like the value here. Also, would Tennessee take a wide receiver in the first round two years in a row? We love Jon Robinson around these parts and don't want to paint him with a Matt Millen brush. That said, Eric Decker is moving on and Rishard Matthews doesn't move the needle for me. Marcus Mariota needs to take another step forward in Season Four and a dynamic target like Kirk could help when coupled with a potential sophomore breakout from Corey Davis.
26. Atlanta Falcons: DT Taven Bryan, Florida (CV)
Previous Pick: Payne
I, too, have fallen victim to the 'next man up' trap here but the truth is, I struggled with this one as well – for the opposite reason. Atlanta doesn't need a lot. But with Dontari Poe gone, they do need more depth at their defensive line. Bryan is explosive and athletic enough to play virtually any position on the line, so ultimately I think the Falcons see value in pairing him with Grady Jarrett.
27. New Orleans Saints: TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina (SS)
Previous Pick: Kirk
I picked Kirk for New Orleans last time with Hurst still on the board because I was guessing we'd soon have a Saints-Jimmy Graham reunion. Instead, Graham becomes the latest in the Packers' annual tight end signing (which, off topic, will surely make fantasy players wildly overvalue him). I didn't pick Kirk this time because, well, he's already off the board, but also because I think the Saints' priority now shifts to tight end. Like the Falcons, they don't need much, so they can use this pick to make Drew Brees's life even better. As if that was fair.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State (CV)
Previous Pick: Vander Esch
If you can play on a blue field and still somehow track down your opponents, you can certainly handle Heinz Field. I'm sticking with this guy thriving in a Mike Tomlin defense.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame (SS)
Previous Pick: Hurst
I haven't studied this scientifically but I feel like the Steelers always draft great linebackers in the back half of the first round. So I'm jealous of your last pick. However, I'm guessing you will be jealous of me picking a guy named Equanimeous. That's every vowel, and some! Anyway, the Jaguars signed tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, so I'm switching this to a receiver pick and taking the Notre Dame product. He's big and fast and his name means "to stay calm and cool under pressure," according to NFL.com.
30. Minnesota Vikings: G Will Hernandez, UTEP (CV)
Previous Pick: Hernandez
Sheesh. That was some foresight by his parents, huh? You deserve that pick after all that vowel work. Moving on - the Vikings need some help up front. Especially now that their offensive line will be protecting their fully-guaranteed $84 MILLION investment in Kirk Cousins. At this point, I wouldn't put it past them to trade up to get Quenton Nelson for plain security reasons. I'll repeat the sentiment now in a different context: sheesh.
- New England Patriots: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa (SS)**
Previous Pick: Jackson
I didn't like Jackson falling to the Patriots two weeks ago and I don't like it now.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: RB Derrius Guice, LSU (CV)
Previous Pick: Guice
I know Ronald Jones Is now available, but Guice is a bigger back that I think complements Ajayi and the Eagles' current ground game. I'm still sippin' on 'Guice'. (It works, Scott!)
(Editor's Note: No, it does not. Since Guice is pronounced like "Gice" with a hard G, you would have been better served rhyming it with the ice in your glass rather than the juice. Try that in Version 3.0.)