The NFL draft this year is one of the most complex in recent memory. Analysts and draft experts across the league are torn and have no idea exactly who is going where. With that being said, here are my predictions as to what each team should do with their pick in this year’s draft.
1) Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson EDGE Michigan
Aidan Hutchinson has been the consensus for the number one overall pick since he dominated Ohio State University in November. Even though there are rumors that the Jags have eyes on Trayvon Walker, I think they stay safe and take the best player in the draft right now. He has elite technique and can feel where the tackles’ leverage is when rushing and use that to his advantage. He holds up well in the running game and he always gives you the effort you love to see.
2) Detroit Lions: Trayvon Walker EDGE Georgia
Trayvon Walker has shot up draft boards over the past month or two since the combine, which he shined in. Many are speculating that he will be the first pick over Hutchinson because he has more natural talent and the dimensions that are ideal for an edge rusher. He is not as refined as Hutchinson, but he has the potential to be the best player in this draft; especially with Dan Campbell coaching him and his elite athleticism.
3) Houston Texans: Ikem Ekwonu OT NC State
Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu has surpassed Evan Neal on most draft boards as the top tackle in this draft. Along with that he is extremely versatile and has succeeded at both guard and tackle in college. He also has something that every NFL coach wants and that is that he is mean and plays nasty football. He punishes defenders and loves putting people on their backs. He is not a perfect pass blocker yet, but he is elite in the run game. If he cannot be a great tackle in the NFL, he could always slide into the guard spot and dominate.
4) New York Jets: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner CB Cincinnati
Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner is big. He is tall and long for a corner at 6’3” and 200lbs, yet he doesn’t let that stop him from having elite hip movement and great closing speed if he is out of position which happens rarely. He is also aggressive and has elite ball skills, however, he is not the best tackler but he shows no fear when going in for a hit. He can do it all and succeed at a high level in the NFL.
5) New York Giants: Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE Oregon
Kayvon Thibodeux has fallen victim to the recent “great Oregon player who falls in the draft because of qualities you cannot see.” It happened to Penei Sewell last year and Justin Herbert the year before. This year it is that Kayvon, according to reports, “doesn’t care or try.” The bottom line is that he has the talent, size, speed and technique. He doesn’t have elite flexibility or bend when rushing but he has the tools to succeed. He can be a great player and in new Giants defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s defense, he could give him a solid option to give a lot of opposing quarterbacks’ nightmares.
6) Carolina Panthers: Evan Neal OT Alabama
Evan Neal went in every week and went up against some of the best pass rushers in the nation. He is an elite player and will likely be able to lock down a side and compete with any edge rusher there is. He can be a little impatient at times but has the size and ability to be great. The Panthers are in a win-now scenario as Coach Matt Rhule’s seat is beginning to heat up, since no quarterback in this class will help them win now the way Evan Neal can.
7) New York Giants: Charles Cross OT Miss St.
Charles Cross is the best pure pass blocker in this class. He is exactly what the Giants need, and that is someone that can fill the tackle position for the first time in seemingly an eternity. They can finally have two bookend tackles to defend quarterback Daniel Jones or whoever they choose to replace him. He doesn’t have all of the natural traits that Neal and Ekwonu have, but he has the technique and ability to hold his own against anyone. The Giants here are also a prime trade back candidate as they are in a very tight cap situation and could also look to acquire some capital in next year’s draft if they need to move up for a QB.
8) Atlanta Falcons: Garrett Wilson WR Ohio State
There is no way the Falcons are willing to roll into week 1 this season with Olimide Zaccheus as their number one receiver. They need someone to put next to Kyle PItts who can compete and draw some attention away from their fourth overall pick last year. Wilson is an elite route runner and has great run after the catch ability.
9) Seattle Seahawks: Jermaine Johnson II EDGE Florida State
Jermaine Johnson II has been all over draft boards going anywhere from five to twenty-one. Recently, he has been moving further and further up as he dominated this past year for the Seminoles. He has the natural ability and size to be a great rusher. He is a little tight at times but has a chance to be a really great player early in his career.
10) New York Jets: Drake London WR USC
The Jets, having invested their second round pick in receiver Elijah Moore last year, still need some more depth at the position. Having seen what Ja’marr Chase did for Joe Burrow last year, adding an elite wideout could have a similar effect and help Zach Wilson progress to be the franchise guy the Jets are hoping he will be. At 6’5” London adds some much needed size to the Jets offense and could give them an elite wide receiver room.
11) Washington Commanders: Kyle Hamilton S Notre Dame
At one point in the draft process, Kyle Hamilton was a sure-fire top five pick. He still has top five talent, however, the value of the safety position is not where it once was. He could be the missing piece that this Washington defense needs to truly become one of the elite units in the NFL. He has great instincts and is big. Add that to his aggressive nature and feel for the ball, he can be an elite safety in the NFL.
12) Minnesota Vikings: Derek Stingley Jr CB LSU
Derek Stingley had one of the best freshman seasons that has been seen by a cornerback two years ago. He then followed that up with a mediocre sophomore season and in August this year he suffered a foot injury that took him out for the rest of the year. So he might be a bit of a risk because you don’t know if you are getting the freshman-year version or the sophomore-year version of Stingley. However, he has all of the tools to be an elite corner. He has had a great interview process and could very easily go in the top ten of this draft.
13) Houston Texans: Trent McDuffie CB Washington
At 5’11” 194 lbs Trent McDuffie is a little undersized than would be ideal for a corner. However, he has great fluidity when he moves and can do it all. He has great ball skills and is a very solid tackler. He locked down whoever he was guarding in college and rarely saw balls thrown his way. Some see him as a very safe pick who could be a great corner.
14) Baltimore Ravens: Jordan Davis DL Georgia
You look at this guy and you see a Baltimore Raven. He is big, strong and athletic. He managed to run a 4.9 second forty-yard dash at 341 lbs. That’s all that needs to be said to justify this pick. He is a big man that they can throw into the middle of the line alongside Calais Campbell to give opposing offensive linemen nightmares. He will stifle the run against any team and collapse the pocket against them when passing.
15) Philadelphia Eagles: Jameson Williams WR Alabama
The Eagles have been struggling with early round wide receivers in the past years. They seemingly hit on DeVonta Smith last year but they always could use more help after both Jalen Raegor and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside have failed to pan out so far. Jameson Williams is only dropping due to an injury sustained in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. He is an elite reciever and if healthy, he would likely have been picked a few spots earlier. He is scary fast, when watching him it always seems like he has got another gear that he kicks it in. He will be an elite deep threat and will outrun defenders left and right in the pros.
16) New Orleans Saints: Trevor Penning OT Iowa State
The Saints will be looking to replace Pro-Bowl tackle Terron Armstead who they lost to the Miami Dolphins in free agency. Trevor Penning has something different about him, he is the definition of a mean player. He is a mean-mugged tackle who throws grown men around like they are nothing. He might get the stupid penalty every now and then but watching his clips from the senior bowl will make any fan love him.
17) Los Angeles Chargers: Devontae Wyatt DI Georgia
Here the Chargers finish up their defensive offseason rebuild with the addition of a solid defensive tackle. They added a great young corner in J.C. Jackson in free agency and traded for former defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Their defense was near the bottom of the league on third downs last season and they have clearly made it their top priority to solidify this defense for a playoff run next year. Wyatt has insane upside and can rush the passer along with stuff the run.
18) Philadelphia Eagles: George Karlaftis EDGE Purdue
The Eagles with their second first round pick take the solid physical pass rusher out of Purdue. He’s had good production and is not as long as you would like to see an edge rusher. He plays physical football with passion and effort which matches the feel of this team and city.
19) New Orleans Saints: Chris Olave WR Ohio State
The Saints with their second first round pick take a great receiver to line up with Michael Thomas and give defenses nightmares. He dominated in big games with Ohio State against top competition. He has great speed and route running, but he is a little thin and can get stuck with a physical corner.
20) Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Willis QB LIberty
The Steelers have a great defense, an okay offensive line, a great young running back and a decent receiving corps and with Ben Rothlisberger retiring they need an elite QB to come in and take this team to the next level. Reports are that the Steelers LOVE Willis and if true they will run this card up to the table and take him here. He will likely compete with free agent acquisition Mitch Trubisky and possibly sit for a year as he needs to develop a little more to run a pro offense but he has the biggest upside of any QB in this draft. Willis is thick, an elite playmaker and has great arm strength. However, his accuracy can be inconsistent at times, which has caused him to fall down some draft boards.
21) New England Patriots: Devin Lloyd LB Utah
Devin Lloyd is currently very undervalued. Talent-wise he is a top fifteen player but could drop due to teams drafting more for needs. The Pats are in desperate need of help in the middle of their defense. He plays fast and smart with great ball skills for a linebacker. He can blitz well and put pressure on the quarterback along with playing the run effectively. He could be a potential Pro Bowler early in his career.
22) Green Bay Packers: Zion Johnson OG Boston College
Zion Johnson is the top guard in this class and dominated at BC this past year. His coaches all speak high praise of the kid who transferred from Davidson after his sophomore year. He is a hard worker and is loved by many general manager’s around the league. The Packers needed some help on the offensive line last year and with back-to-back MVP winner Aaron Rodgers signing a four-year extension they need to protect the aging legend.
23) Arizona Cardinals: Treylon Burks WR Arkansas
Burks is a big physical receiver who can make people miss in open space. He didn’t run the full route tree in college but under the right coaches he could become an elite route runner. The Cardinals could always use more ammunition on offense to make quarterback Kyler Murray happy.
24) Dallas Cowboys: Tyler Linderbaum C Iowa
Linderbaum is widely loved for his hustle, makeup and leadership abilities. He hustles and plays hard along with finishing plays violently. He lunges at times which puts him in a bad position but he could be very successful due to his strength and his awareness.
25) Buffalo Bills: Breece Hall RB Iowa State
The Bills have a top three defense in the league, a solid offensive line, great wide receivers, two solid tight ends and a dominant quarterback. They need an elite running back to make this team unstoppable to allow them to make their Super Bowl run. Breece Hall is that guy, he can catch the ball and is stocky, fast and athletic. Combine that with his elite patience and ability to sneak through holes, he could be a great running back in the NFL.
26) Tennessee Titans: Tyler Smith OT Tulsa
This is a need pick, he is not the top player available here but the Titans need a good tackle. He has had some penalty issues but has the size and strength which combined with good coaching could lead to him being very successful. He has tremendous upside and the Titans have betted on upside before with their picks.
27) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Andrew Booth Jr. CB Clemson
The Bucs have been taking the best player available with their late first round picks over the last few years. This one is a very good cornerback who dropped in this draft simply due to teams needing other positions more. He could very easily go top 20 and has elite technique and could dominate.
28) Green Bay Packers: Jahan Dotson WR Penn St.
Here is the pick that Packers fans around the country will love. Twenty years after the Packers picked their last wide receiver in the first round they stepped up and took the polished route runner out of Penn State. They lost two starting wideouts this year with the trade of Davantae Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling signing with the Chiefs in free agency. Dotson is a great player who will look to be added to a long list of wideouts that Rodgers has helped make great.
29) Kansas City Chiefs: Boye Mafe EDGE Minnesota
The Chiefs struggled all year last year to put pressure on the quarterback. Here they use one of their two first round picks to take the powerful pass rusher Boye Mafe who stood out in the Reese’s Senior Bowl this year. He puts together his great power with his elite speed to beat linemen left and right. He is a little raw but the Chiefs will have faith in their coaching staff and bet on upside.
3o) Kansas City Chiefs: Skyy Moore WR Western Michigan
After losing Tyreek Hill in a trade they come up and attempt to replace him with a great player from a smaller school in Skyy Moore. He can play in the slot and on the outside giving him some great versatility. He has elite quickness and plays strong. He is a little small which is a concern but he bounced off tacklers left and right in his college career showing he could compete and become a playmaker in the NFL.
31) Cincinnati Bengals: Kenyon Green OG Texas A&M
Kenyon Green is the second best guard in this draft and after watching the Super Bowl this past year, I think everyone knows that the Bengals want to protect Burrow more than anything. They have a solid left tackle in Jonah Williams, and went out and signed former Bucs starting guard Alex Cappa and Cowboys Pro-Bowl right tackle La’el Collins. Here they continue their offseason theme and sure up their line to ensure Burrow has a long and healthy career.
32) Detroit Lions: Desmond Ridder QB Cincinnati
Ridder has the talent and the strength to play quarterback in this league. He will likely sit a year under Jared Goff and then come in with a solid offense being built around him and play. The Lions will also love that he will likely be around $25 million cheaper per year than Goff would be if he played his contract out in Detroit. Ridder improved in every season he played in Cincinnati. He has the arm strength, size, mobility and experience to play in the NFL. He also has reportedly had great interviews with general managers across the league. He does have some accuracy issues at times and can also be a little too aggressive leading to turnovers. He could be a long-term investment taking a year or two to develop before fully coming to form and playing at his best.
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