View photos of the fourth mock draft by Buccaneers.com contributors Carmen Vitali and Scott Smith. Photos by AP Images.
I just checked the amassed expert mock drafts on NFL.com, and I found something remarkable. With just over a week to go before the real thing, there is still no consensus whatsoever about what is going to happen in the first 20 minutes of Round One.
Usually by this point there is a consensus on which player the team with the top pick will take, if not also the team right behind it. It's exceedingly difficult to accurately predict picks outside the top 10, and even the top five in many years, but there's usually not much mystery surrounding the first couple picks at this point. That's not just a general feeling; I checked.
Walterfootball.com has an archive of mock draft databases for every spring, going back quite a ways, and in each case they're listed in reverse chronological order, with the ones closest to the actual draft at the top. Check out the database for last year's draft (you have to scroll past a handful of "re-drafts" and the like to the ones starting on April 27): There is virtually no deviation from the consensus first pick of Myles Garrett to the Browns. That happened. There's a pretty strong agreement that the 49ers will take Solomon Thomas with the second pick; that didn't happen, but only because San Francisco traded down one spot with Chicago and then took Thomas.
The 2016 late-April mocks were even easier at the top because the Rams and Eagles had traded into those spots with the obvious intention of taking quarterbacks. There were a few dissenters who saw Carson Wentz going before Jared Goff, but most analysts got it right. It was a very similar story, just without the pre-draft trades, in 2015 when the Buccaneers took Jameis Winston and the Titans followed with Marcus Mariota.
Now, let's talk about those mock drafts on NFL.com. There are five analysts with their picks listed side by side, and they combine to name three different players in the top spot (Josh Allen and Sam Darnold got two votes each). All four have a different player going second. Between them, they slot five different young men into 10 possible picks in the first two rows.
So the point is, don't hold it against Carmen Vitali and I when we get our picks wrong below. Wait, no, that's not the point. The point is, the teams picking behind the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants don't really know what to expect yet, even with the countdown to the start of the draft clock drawing to an end. There is certainly a finite number of possibilities, but teams like the Broncos at #5 and the Buccaneers at #7 need to keep a bunch of different contingency plans handy.
Carmen and I have taken three cracks at this already and now we're back for a fourth try. Our picks have evolved over time, as you can see in the table at the bottom of the page, but this draft has firmly resisted falling into a consensus order. As you can see in our most recent roundup of mock drafts, there does seem to be a growing consensus of opinion that the Buccaneers will address their secondary at #7, but would that still be the case if four quarterbacks go in the top six and at least one of the Saquon Barkley-Bradley Chubb-Quenton Nelson triumvirate is still available?
We'll see. But it looks like we're going to have to wait longer than usual to really know what's going on.
A note: This is the last time that Carmen and are going to alternate picks. We'll be back next week for one final effort to put the first round pieces together, and we're going to combine our efforts to try to get our best 32-man projection.
Oh, and one more note, which you've seen before but bears repeating: 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. This is all Carmen and me.
Finally, we have factored a trade into our efforts below. While our last two versions included Buffalo trading up from #12 to #5 with the Broncos, this time we have Buffalo finding a trade partner in the Colts at #6 instead. On the classic draft value chart developed by the Cowboys in the late '80s, such a move is worth 400 points. Buffalo holds pick #53 in the second round, which is valued at 370 points on the same chart. That's a little light and Denver is holding all the cards here, so we think they'll have to throw in a 2019 second-round pick as well.
Now, on to the picks. Scroll to the bottom to see a list of the picks in all four of our mock drafts.
- Cleveland Browns: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming (Scott Smith)**
Every time we do a new version of this I'm tempted to switch this pick to Darnold. At this point, if there's any value in the combined reports of all the draft analysts and team reporters, the decision appears to be coming down to those two. The Browns have done their homework and met with all four of the top QB prospects (as well as Lamar Jackson, for some reason), but they don't have to worry about being scooped on any of them if they use their first pick on that position rather than waiting to pick number four. I have been going with Allen here for a month, and the rumors of that pairing have only seem to grow louder since, so I'm sticking with it.
2. New York Giants: QB Sam Darnold, UCLA (Carmen Vitali)
Well for my (and the Giants') sake, stick to Allen. If you were to switch, I think it would change things drastically because it seems the Giants like what they see in Darnold, specifically. They have to like the idea of giving a quarterback with his work ethic time to develop behind Eli for a couple of seasons. I know there's been talk of the Giants trading down in this case too, but I've said it before: You take advantage of having the number-two overall pick when you have it. The franchise didn't suffer through an awful 3-13 season to end up picking 12th in the draft.
3. New York Jets: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (SS)
I'm sticking to my guns on this one, too, even though Josh Rosen might seem like a safer prediction. I think Mayfield is the safer pick though. If he was a few inches taller, he'd probably be going first overall, based on his comparative body of work in college. NFL talent evaluators aren't dumb and they aren't prejudiced against those of us who are, uh, vertically challenged. It's a real concern, but one that a talented and driven quarterback can overcome. I think Mayfield could follow in the footsteps of Drew Brees and Russell Wilson in that regard.
View photos of Penn State RB Saquon Barkley in college. Photos by AP Images.
- Cleveland Browns: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State (CV)**
Everyone keeps saying how much of a game changer Barkley is yet I keep seeing him slip further and further in mock drafts. Come draft night I just don't see how you pass up on this kid. I think Cleveland's signing of Carlos Hyde actually bodes well for drafting Barkley. It takes some of the pressure off the young rookie to shoulder the ground game workload in this scenario and gives the Browns a one-two punch at running back to take some pressure off a new franchise quarterback as well.
5. Denver Broncos: DE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State (SS)
We've had Denver trading out of this spot in the last two versions, giving Buffalo a chance to jump up and get its new franchise quarterback (or try to, at least). The more I think about this, however, the more I think the Broncos stay put as long as Chubb falls to them. They won Super Bowl 50 because they had the league's fiercest defense, one that sacked Cam Newton six times in the big game. They still have Von Miller, but their sack totals have dropped from 52 in the Super Bowl year (first in the NFL) to 42 in 2016 (tied for third) to 33 last season (22nd). Chubb helps them restore that relentless pass rush. Denver is still going to keep a line open with Buffalo during the first hour of the draft, and if Chubb has gone they might take that offer after all.
6. [PROJECTED TRADE] Buffalo Bills via Indianapolis Colts: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA (CV)
With Chubb and Barkley gone, I think the Colts think they can afford to trade down further here. They need an edge rusher and Chubb is off the board. Defensive ends Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport would be welcome additions – but six seems too high to take either. It's a bit of a gamble considering there are multiple teams between 6-12 that could use the same help, but it's probably worth it to get the Bills' second-round pick. Considering the Bills need to snag one of the top QBs, they would be okay overpaying just a little bit to snag the most NFL-ready of the signal callers in Josh Rosen.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame (SS)**
Well, I'm glad to see that the Bills still got their man after the Broncos called off the original deal for #5. I'm glad not because I particularly care if there is a fresh new QB prospect in Orchard Park but because I'm a Buccaneers fan. That fourth quarterback selection is what Tampa Bay needs, most likely, to get a shot at Nelson. I know that most of the mock drafts now have the Bucs picking a defensive back, and that does make a lot of sense. However, when you're picking this high in the draft, you have to make sure you don't leave too much value on the table by forcing a specific pick. Guard may not be quite as pressing of a need as cornerback for the Buccaneers, but if Nelson is a generational talent who can step right in and give the Bucs a formidable interior wall next to Ali Marpet and Ryan Jensen, it's still the right move right here.
8. Chicago Bears: DT Vita Vea, Washington (CV)
I was tempted to change this pick out for an edge rusher or a linebacker – both needs for the Bears, whose defense relies heavily on the play of each. But, using the above Scott Smith (and general) logic, I think the value in getting Vea here makes this the right pick. He could really solidify the defensive line with how athletic he seems to be at 347 pounds after his showing at the Combine. A do-it-all lineman, his versatility would allow him to be a great fit into Vic Fangio's trademark 3-4 defense, too.
- San Francisco 49ers: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State (SS)**
Slight change here, as I had given the 49ers Minkah Fitzpatrick in the last three versions. That would probably still be a good pick, but I'm thinking the 49ers might prefer Ward, who is quite clearly a cornerback, whereas there is some question about where Fitzpatrick would fit best into a secondary.
10. Oakland Raiders: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia (CV)
This is the first of my picks that has stayed the same through all four versions and I don't see a reason to change it now. Oakland is in need of a linebacker and Smith is about as dynamic as they come.
11. Miami Dolphins: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech (SS)
I'm circling back to Edmunds for the Dolphins after last version's detour to a DT. I was probably being a little too reactionary to the departure of Ndamukong Suh. This class is deep in DTs and Miami might be able to find one later, but there aren't many analogous players to Tech's huge and athletic linebacker. I feel like Smith and Edmunds' combined draft stock is on the rise, and this 11th pick is the floor to where the second one will go. Wouldn't even be surprised to see Chicago or San Francisco take one of them, but in this draft he's still available and the Dolphins are thrilled.
- [PROJECTED TRADE] Indianapolis Colts via Buffalo Bills: DE Harold Landry, Boston College (CV)**
Well looky here. After trading down and scooping up yet another second-round pick (this would give them a whopping total of four), the Colts still get a great edge rusher in Landry. This guy's stock is indisputably on the rise and I think he's the next best edge guy in this draft behind NC State's Bradley Chubb. The Colts are just collecting 2018 draft picks left and right and get their guy in the first round. Now hopefully for Indianapolis that translates to some major improvement this coming season.
13. Washington Redskins: DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan (SS)
Washington would love one of the top linebackers, and indeed I gave them Edmunds in our last mock. I could also see them jumping on Ward if he makes it this far. But, assuming none of those three slips I think they'll try to get some interior help for their run defense.
14. Green Bay Packers: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (CV)
Like Scott said, it's unclear where exactly Fitzpatrick fits in at the NFL level, but the Packers would be elated and probably a little surprised to see him fall to them. It would continue a pattern of defensive back selections for Green Bay, which has taken a DB in three of the last four with its first pick. The Alabama product will add flexibility to any defense he lands in, which is something that the Packers could use in their current secondary situation.
15. Arizona Cardinals: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama (SS)
It's a run on 'Bama players! Carmen can attest – I thought long and hard about having the Cardinals grab Lamar Jackson here. In the end, I thought they weren't completely sold on the Louisville star, and the additions of Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon would allow them to kick that QB-of-the-future decision down the road another year. Instead they find the heir apparent to the great Larry Fitzgerald. I had the Cardinals taking an offensive lineman in the last version, and that is a big need for them, but this is the first time in our four mocks that Ridley has fallen this far.
16. Baltimore Ravens: QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville (CV)
Just FYI Scott's "long and hard" thought process lasted about 47 seconds. Also, allow me to stop that run on 'Bama players in its tracks and peg a freaky athletic quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. Yeah, I did it. Their signing of RGIII I think at least shows they aren't afraid of an unconventional signal-caller and they had Jackson in for a private visit the other week. I'm probably higher on the Louisville product than most, but as far as I'm concerned his college production and HEISMAN TROPHY speak for itself. Yes, I know the Ravens need receivers or a tight end but Calvin Ridley, who I had them taking in 3.0, is now off the board and I think 16 is too high to take any of the tight end prospects. So, here's my 'out of left field' pick for 4.0. Welcome to Baltimore, Lamar.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: DT Da'Ron Payne, Alabama (SS)
You thought you stopped the Alabama run in its tracks but nope. It rolls on here with the third defensive tackle off the books. The Chargers are glad this is a deep class of DTs, because Vea and Hurst came off the board quickly and they really need one to help the league's second-worst run defense.
18. Seattle Seahawks: S Derwin James, Florida State (CV)
Eye-rolling at the 'rolls on' comment. It doesn't continue here as the Seminole safety is still on the board. Seattle has to jump at the chance to take James to help rebuild their secondary to its former booming glory.
19. Dallas Cowboys: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU (SS)
I was pairing the Cowboys up with Sutton even before their receiving corps developed a Dez-sized hole in it. Dallas has added Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson but neither moves the needle much for me. Now that the Bryant era is over, the Cowboys need a new young star around which to build that corps.
- Detroit Lions: DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA (CV)**
I have the Lions taking a defensive lineman in every version of our mock draft because… the Lions need a line. Period. I had Harold Landry first, he's gone. Had Da'Ron Payne in 2.0 after that – gone. But hey, seeing as how Davenport (who I pegged for the Lions in 3.0) has fallen yet again, I'm sticking with the small school defensive end in Detroit.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: T Connor Williams, Texas (SS)
Four mock drafts, four different picks at #21. It's not (just) that I'm being wishy-washy; in our first version this pick still belonged to Buffalo. Since then, I've consistently given the Bengals an offensive tackle, but the specific name keeps changing. I switched last time from Kolten Miller to Mike McGlinchey because I thought the latter might be a better fit at right tackle, with Cordy Glenn stepping in on the other end. However, Connor Williams was already gone in those last two versions. This time he's available to the Bengals and this pick is a guess that he's at the top of the OT column on their draft board.
- Buffalo Bills: T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame (CV)**
And now that McGlinchey is available, I'll take him for Buffalo anyway. The Bills are in need of offensive linemen to protect whatever theoretical franchise quarterback they end up with in this draft. While McGlinchey's former offensive line teammate from Notre Dame, Quenton Nelson, has garnered most of the attention, McGlinchey is a good prospect with his experience protecting the QB's blind side and is arguably one of the best tackles in a deep draft.
23. New England Patriots: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa (SS)
So I had given the Patriots Jackson at pick #31 in each of the last three versions, but I was recently starting to wonder if that would be possible because it seems like the Hawkeye corner's stock is on the rise. Well, problem solved. New England got the 23rd overall pick from the Rams in the recent Brandin Cooks trade, so now they can just take Jackson eight picks earlier. Now what am I going to do at pick #31?! I'm suddenly full of angst.
24. Carolina Panthers: TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina (CV)
Carolina needs more targets for Cam and it's no secret how much he likes to throw to tight ends (see Greg Olsen's stats). With Olsen getting up there in NFL years, the Panthers will need another big body waiting in the wings. I had Hurst staying in the Carolinas in 3.0 and I'm sticking to it.
25. Tennessee Titans: LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State (SS)
This is another player whose name seems to be creeping up the mock draft boards as the real thing draws nigh. In fact, it has been reported that the Titans had a visit scheduled with Vander Esch but canceled it when they became convinced he would be picked before #25. I'm not sure if that's true, as that's not how teams generally do business. Even if you think a player is out of reach at your spot, you never know when a trade might materialize. Anyway, it's a moot point here because Vander Esch did make it to 25, where he is taken three spots earlier than in our previous versions.
- Atlanta Falcons: DT Taven Bryan, Florida (CV)**
Yeah, three spots earlier and messing up my (probably delusional) most confident pick from versions 1.0 - 3.0. Scott says he didn't do that on purpose, but I'm skeptical. Regardless, my pick for Atlanta has remained the same in 2.0 and 3.0 – no sense in changing it for 4.0. It's probably easiest to predict a defensive lineman for Atlanta considering they lost Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn. As we've noted before, Atlanta has a frustratingly short list of needs so this pick continues to make sense.
27. New Orleans Saints: TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State (SS)
We held steady on all three of our NFC South pals, as I'm sticking with the extremely-athletic maybe-not-such-a-great-blocker Gesicki as another dynamic weapon for Drew Brees. So maybe Gesicki spends more time in the slot than on the end of the line, but that worked out pretty well for the Giants and Evan Engram last year. Also, I have some vague recollection of another tight end putting up decent numbers in such a role in New Orleans.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashaan Evans, Alabama (CV)
One more for the Crimson Tide - shocker. Scott took Vander Esch out from under me but I really think Pittsburgh takes a linebacker in this first round. Evans is by no means a consolation prize as NFL.com has him predicted as an instant starter. Lance Zierlein even noted he'd be a great fit for a 'blitz-happy 3-4 defense' and guess what Pittsburgh employs?
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M (SS)
The Jaguars have to go offense, right? Would they entertain Lamar Jackson if he fell this far? They don't have that option in our mock, so let's give them somebody who can help out the current quarterback, Blake Bortles.
- Minnesota Vikings: G Will Hernandez, UTEP (CV)**
This pick has remained consistent across all versions because if you're the Vikings – you must protect Kirk Cousins AT ALL COSTS. That's all.
31. New England Patriots: T Kolton Miller, UCLA (SS)
Alright, no more angst. This is a great scenario for the Patriots after they lost Nate Solder in free agency. There isn't an obvious heir apparent to protect Tom Brady's blindside in New England, so getting the draft's third offensive tackle at pick #31 seems like a bit of good fortune for a franchise that could really use one. /eye-roll emoji.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: RB Derrius Guice, LSU (CV)Alright, I'm all out of Guice/juice jokes because this pick has remained the same for me across all four of our mocks. In fact, I've had four such scenarios to Scott's one. Does that mean I'm actually *more *decisive than Scott Smith, after all? #ConsistencyIsKey #TrustTheProcess
|**Team**||**Version 1.0**||**Version 2.0**||**Version 3.0**||**Version 4.0**|
|1||CLE||S. Barkley, RB||J. Allen, QB||J. Allen, QB||J. Allen, QB|
|2||NYG||S. Darnold, QB||Q. Nelson, G||S. Darnold, QB||S. Darnold, QB|
|3||NYJ||(IND) B. Chubb, DE||S. Darnold, QB||B. Mayfield, QB||B. Mayfield, QB|
|4||CLE||S. Rosen, QB||S. Barkley, RB||S. Barkley, RB||S. Barkley, RB|
|5||DEN||J. Allen, QB||(BUF) S. Rosen, QB||(BUF) S. Rosen, QB||B. Chubb, DE|
|6||IND||(NYJ) B. Mayfield, QB||B. Chubb, DE||B. Chubb, DE||(BUF) S. Rosen, QB|
|7||TB||Q. Nelson, G||(AZ) B. Mayfield, QB||Q. Nelson, G||Q. Nelson, G|
|8||CHI||C. Ridley, WR||V. Vea, DT||V. Vea, DT||V. Vea, DT|
|9||SF||M. Fitzpatrick, DB||M. Fitzpatrick, DB||M. Fitzpatrick, DB||D. Ward, CB|
|10||OAK||R. Smith, LB||R. Smith, LB||R. Smith, LB||R. Smith, LB|
|11||MIA||T. Edmunds, LB||T. Edmunds, LB||M. Hurst, DT||T. Edmunds, LB|
|12||BUF||K. Miller, T||(DEN) H. Landry, DE||(DEN) H. Landry, DE||(IND) Landry, DE|
|13||WAS||D. Ward, CB||D. Ward, CB||T. Edmunds, LB||M. Hurst, DT|
|14||GB||M. Davenport, DE||C. Ridley, WR||D. Ward, CB||M. Fitzpatrick, DB|
|15||AZ||C. Williams, T||(TB) M. Davenport, DE||C. Williams, T||C. Ridley, WR|
|16||BAL||M. McGlinchey, T||C. Williams, T||C. Ridley, WR||L. Jackson, QB|
|17||LAC||V. Vea, DT||M. Hurst, DT||D. Payne, DT||D. Payne, DT|
|18||SEA||D. James, S||D. James, S||D. James, S||D. James, S|
|19||DAL||C. Sutton, WR||C. Sutton, WR||C. Sutton, WR||C. Sutton, WR|
|20||DET||H. Landry, DE||D. Payne, DT||M. Davenport, DE||M. Davenport, DE|
|21||CIN||(BUF) M. Hurst, DT||K. Miller, T||M. McGlinchey, T||C. Williams, T|
|22||BUF||L. Jackson, QB||M. McGlinchey, T||K. Miller, T||M. McGlinchey, T|
|23||NE||(LAR) B. Price, C||(LAR) B. Price, C||(LAR) R. Evans, LB||J. Jackson, CB|
|24||CAR||J. Washington, WR||J. Washington, WR||H. Hurst, TE||H. Hurst, TE|
|25||TEN||R. Jones, RB||C. Kirk, WR||C. Kirk, WR||L. Vander Esch, LB|
|26||ATL||D. Payne, DT||T. Bryan, DT||T. Bryan, DT||T. Bryan, DT|
|27||NO||C. Kirk, WR||H. Hurst, TE||M. Gesicki, TE||M. Gesicki, TE|
|28||PIT||L. Vander Esch, LB||L. Vander Esch, LB||L. Vander Esch, LB||R. Evans, LB|
|29||JAX||H. Hurst, TE||E. St. Brown, WR||J. Washington, WR||C. Kirk, WR|
|30||MIN||W. Hernandez, G||W. Hernandez, G||W. Hernandez, G||W. Hernandez, G|
|31||NE||J. Jackson, CB||J. Jackson, CB||J. Jackson, CB||K. Miller, T|
|32||PHI||D. Guice, RB||D. Guice, RB||D. Guice, RB||D. Guice, RB|