AROUND THE NFL

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

DE TAKK McKINLEY is detained in Los Angeles amidst concerns about his mental health.  TMZ.com had the scoop:

 

Atlanta Falcons defensive end Takkarist McKinley was detained by police in L.A. on Tuesday and is undergoing a mental evaluation following an incident at a hotel … TMZ Sports has learned.

 

McKinley was with a friend at a high-end hotel around noon when something happened and the friend became concerned about McKinley’s well-being. We’re told the friend called police for help.

 

We’re told cops spoke with McKinley who agreed it was in his best interest to get help — and he cooperated and left with police. We’re told McKinley was NOT arrested or booked for any crime.

 

The 23-year-old was selected in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of UCLA and had a solid rookie season for the Falcons — posting 20 tackles and 6 sacks.

 

McKinley famously brought a framed picture of his late grandmother to the stage at the NFL Draft and explained that he had made a promise to her on her deathbed that he would make it to the NFL.

 

 

CAROLINA

Perry Fewell, a blast from the Giants coaching past, has a new gig.  Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer:

 

The Carolina Panthers have hired Perry Fewell to coach their secondary and generally assist in defensive responsibilities, the team announced on Tuesday.

 

Carolina had a vacancy at the position after head coach Ron Rivera fired former assistant Jeff Imamura at the beginning of December.

 

A source told the Observer last week that Rivera will continue to call defensive plays while keeping Eric Washington as defensive coordinator, which is how the Panthers operated since Week 13 of the 2018 season.

 

Fewell, 56, is a longtime defensive backs coach who also served as a defensive coordinator (New York Giants) and an interim head coach (Buffalo Bills). He most recently was the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defensive backs coach.

 

“It’s a dream come true, so to speak,” said Fewell, a Cramerton, N.C., native. “Coaching for your home team – what better joy could you get? I’m just excited to get to work.”

 

He was the defensive backs coach for the Chicago Bears in 2004-05, when Rivera was the defensive coordinator. He then became the defensive coordinator of the Bills from 2006-09, when he became the interim head coach after Dick Juaron was fired.

 

Fewell became the defensive coordinator of the Giants in 2010, and helped the team to a Super Bowl victory in 2012. In 2015, he coached defensive backs in Washington for two seasons.

 

Fewell actually interviewed for the Panthers’ head coaching job in 2011, before Rivera was ultimately hired.

– – –

His coaching experience is thought to be an asset on a defensive staff that was full of first-year assistants and coordinators last season.

 

The Panthers also announced that assistant Richard Rodgers will continue to coach the safeties.

 

Still vacant for Carolina is the role of wide receivers coach, and assistant special teams coach.

– – –

The Panthers are worried that QB CAM NEWTON won’t have the zip back in his shoulder and arm come summer.  Steve Reed of the AP:

 

Panthers owner David Tepper said Tuesday that while the team is exhausting all options to make sure Newton’s throwing shoulder gets the medical attention he needs this offseason, it is important to “keep their options open.”

 

The hope, he said, is Newton will be healthy. However, it’s been 2½ weeks since Carolina’s season ended, and the team still doesn’t know if the 2015 league MVP will need surgery.

 

The Panthers have never said what the injury is — and Newton doesn’t know either.

 

“If you know what you might be facing next year, or not facing — hopefully Cam’s shoulder is fantastic and we’re hunky dory and we’re all happy — (but) if it’s not, you may need more cap space,” Tepper said. “You need to be able to go out and find somebody. If you don’t, (reporters) are going to be writing up what a dope we are here. Why didn’t we make these other moves?”

 

Newton struggled most of the season throwing the ball more than 15 yards downfield because of a lingering shoulder issue, partially stemming from surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in 2017. The Panthers eventually shut him down with two games remaining after being eliminated from playoff contention.

 

The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton was a mere shell of himself in the passing game the second half of last season as the Panthers finished 7-9 after starting the season 6-2.

 

Newton threw six interceptions and two touchdowns in his final three games.

 

“Of course it’s a concern,” Tepper said of Newton’s shoulder. “… Cam Newton is the guy we are going to be depending on. He’s a talent. But it would be foolish for anybody to say that you’re not having an awareness of what could be and potential things that could happen through the year.”

 

Tepper also pointed to Colts QB Andrew Luck as a player who returned from a shoulder injury to play at a high level this year — although that came after Luck sat out all of the 2017 season.

 

“From our people on the inside and his people on the outside there are a lot of people looking to see what is the best course of action,” Tepper said.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Bruce Arians is asked about WR ANTONIO BROWN – and he doesn’t seem enamored with hitching his wagon to the 2019 version.

 

Bruce Arians spent Antonio Brown’s first two NFL seasons as offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach doesn’t see the same player he remembers.

 

“There’s too much miscommunication, too much … diva,” Arians said Tuesday on The Adam Schefter Podcast, via ESPN. “I’ve heard so many stories — I like Antonio — he plays as hard as anybody on Sunday, and he practices hard. He’s just gotta make better decisions off the field, be on time, do some of those little things.”

 

Brown has generated a litany of off-field issues the past few years, from the Facebook Live incident in the locker room a few years back to skipping team practices prior Week 17 and being held out of the game by Mike Tomlin.

 

Since the offseason ended, Steelers president Art Rooney II intimated Pittsburgh is actively considering trading the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver.

 

That “diva” receiver isn’t the player Arians recalls coaching in 2010 and 2011.

 

“He was the hardest working,” Arians said. “He and Emmanuel Sanders, boy they went after it because [Steelers head coach] Mike Tomlin used to tell them, ‘Two dogs, one bone.’ And at that time, we had Mike Wallace, Hines Ward — I mean, we had a pretty good run for one of them to get on the field. By the end of the season, they were both winning for us to go to the Super Bowl.”

 

Like Sanders and Wallace, Brown might find himself playing in a new jersey.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

This tweet from Mike Garafolo of NFL.com:

 

The #49ers are hiring Joe Woods, longtime DBs coach and most recently the #Broncos’ defensive coordinator, source says. He’ll be the passing game coordinator for DC Robert Saleh and HC Kyle Shanahan

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Add RB C.J. ANDERSON to the list of quality players shipped out by the Raiders this season.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

C.J. Anderson is as surprised as anyone to find himself a key player on a team that’s one win away from the Super Bowl.

 

Anderson told the #PFTPM podcast that if he’d been told a month ago that he was going to be the Rams’ leading rusher in a playoff win, he never would have believed it. Anderson has already been cut by the Broncos, Panthers and Raiders in the last year, and when the Raiders waived him and no one claimed him, he figured his next chance to sign with an NFL team would be after free agency started in 2019.

 

“I wouldn’t have believed you a month ago,” Anderson said. “When I got released by Oakland I thought the season was over for me and hopefully my resume would get me an opportunity in free agency in March.”

 

Instead, a great Rams offensive line is opening big holes for Anderson, and he’s making the most of a great opportunity: He has played three games in a Rams uniform and has 167, 132 and 123 rushing yards in those three games. A player who thought his season was over is now a big-time player in the postseason.

 

Here is Anderson’s recent timeline

 

November 12, 2018 – cut by Carolina

 

December 5 – signed by Raiders

 

December 11 – cut by Raiders (did not play in a game for Oakland)

 

December 18 – signed by Rams

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

The Broncos add another veteran coach as Ed Donatell returns for a third stint with the Navy and Orange.  Mike Klis of KUSA.com:

 

Ed Donatell helped coached Broncos defensive backs at the beginning of the Mike Shanahan era.

 

Donatell came back to Denver for the end of Josh McDaniels.

 

And now Donatell will make one more trip back to Broncos headquarters to help usher in the new term his good friend Vic Fangio.

 

The Broncos have reached agreement with Donatell to be their next defensive coordinator, a source told 9News.

 

Donatell, who turns 62 in three weeks, began his interview with the Broncos  Tuesday. The Bears tried to retain Donatell as a defensive backs coach, but after the team opted instead to have Chuck Pagano replace Fangio as defensive coordinator, Donatell returned to Denver where a promotion was waiting.

 

It should be noted that Fangio will still call defensive plays on game day, but he and Donatell will share in the weekly game planning.

 

 

KANSAS CITY

Bill Belichick on the challenge of WR TYREEK HILL.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick knows there’s only so much he can do to get his team ready to face the speedy Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

 

Asked by a reporter today if there’s anything he can do to coach for Hill’s speed, Belichick answered, “What do you mean coach for it? Like, can we make somebody that fast?”

 

There’s nothing Belichick can do to make any of his players as fast as Hill, who may be the fastest player in the NFL. But he says his players know what they need to be prepared for when facing Hill.

 

“We’ve seen it. A lot of our players have dealt with it and, as you said, have to make those subtle adjustments in terms of angles and leverage and so forth,” Belichick said. “Every situation is a little bit different. Who’s where and how fast everybody is moving and what direction we’re going in and the opponent is going in and so forth. Yeah, certainly there has to be an awareness of that. It’s a little bit different with him than everybody else; no question.”

 

When the teams played in the regular season, Hill caught seven passes for 142 yards and three touchdowns. Belichick is hoping Hill doesn’t run wild like that again on Sunday.

– – –

Adam Schein of NFL.com is all in with QB PATRICK MAHOMES, even though he’s playing the GOAT:

 

There’s one storyline that is beyond sizzling. There’s one matchup that takes the cake on Championship Sunday.

 

The G.O.A.T. vs. The Kid. The best to ever do it going against the best to do it this season. Tom Brady taking on Patrick Mahomes, with a trip to Atlanta on the line.

 

And wouldn’t it be absolutely perfect and poetic for the 2018 campaign if Mahomes were to beat Brady and punch the Chiefs’ ticket to Super Bowl LIII? Why would anyone put it past the MVP front-runner? I wouldn’t. I won’t.

 

Patrick Mahomes is beating Tom Brady. A passing of the torch, if you will.

 

Mahomes is truly a special talent, doing things that have never been done before. It’s the no-look pass. It’s the lefty throw. It’s the shortstop-like delivery. It’s the majestic bombs. It’s the touch. It’s spreading the ball around, exploiting his stars like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce while making everyone else better. Patty Mahomes is John Elway meets Superman. Only better.

 

Mahomes’ numbers in his first season as an NFL starter are freakishly amazing. He joined Peyton Manning in the ultra-exclusive 50-touchdown/5,000-yard club, guiding the Chiefs to a 12-4 record, an AFC West title and the top seed in the AFC playoffs. But plenty of folks questioned the Chiefs entering the postseason, given the franchise’s playoff history, Andy Reid’s January resume, the fact that Kansas City had appeared vulnerable down the stretch and that the Colts were the hottest team in football.

 

Then the Chiefs immediately jumped out to a 17-0 lead on Saturday and never looked back, cruising to a 31-13 win over Andrew Luck and Co. Mahomes put on another clinic, Kansas City’s defense supplied its most impressive effort of the season and the Chiefs punched history in the mouth. Because of course they did. The past isn’t prologue with these Chiefs. Not with No. 15 under center.

 

2018 is the season of Mahomes. There was laughter over the summer when I predicted across all media platforms that the second-year pro would dominate, calling him “a dark-horse MVP candidate” in this space. Who’s laughing now? Mahomes is an unprecedented gift to football. On Friday, I picked the Chiefs to down the Colts on SiriusXM Radio and CBS Sports Network. Why stop now? Who wants to pick against MVPatty?

 

 

THE RAIDERS

There’s talk that the Raiders might meekly return to Oakland this year.  Tim Kawakami of The Athletic tweets out some unsolicited advice:

 

@timkawakami

Mark Davis will not like this, but oh well: If I’m the Coliseum bureaucrats/politicians, I tell the Raiders you can play one more year in Oakland — but it will be at $15 million, double the price originally discussed.  Take it or leave it.

 

@timkawakami

1. The Raiders, still practicing in Alameda, would destroy 2019 if they play their home games anywhere but in the Bay Area.

2. Mark Davis doesn’t want to play at Levi’s.

3. Oracle/AT&T Park doesn’t seem practical.

— The Coliseum makes the most sense. Make the Raiders pay for it

 

@timkawakami

Levi’s Stadium has always made the most sense as a Raiders temporary home, just ask the NFL. But Mark Davis can’t stand the idea of playing there and has said so repeatedly.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

The Bills hired an offensive line coach – and it wasn’t Joe Philbin.  Matt Parrino of NewYorkUptstate.com:

 

The Buffalo Bills have hired Indianapolis Colts assistant offensive line coach Bobby Johnson to be the team’s new offensive line coach.

 

The Colts offensive line allowed a league-low 18 sacks of quarterback Andrew Luck in 2018 and were widely considered one of the most improved units in the NFL this season.

 

Johnson served under Colts head coach Frank Reich and offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo for the one season he spent in Indianapolis. The Colts let DeGuglielmo go this afternoon and many fans believed he would be an immediate candidate for the Bills’ opening. Johnson was announced as the new o-line coach just hours later.

 

Former Bills offensive line coach Juan Castillo was fired earlier this month after his unit blocked for the 30th-ranked offense in the NFL last season.

 

Johnson has been in the NFL as a coach since 2010 when he served as assistant offensive line coach for the Bills. He then coached tight ends in Jacksonville, Detroit and Oakland before going back to assistant offensive line coach with the Colts.

 

The Bills reportedly hired former Panthers assistant special teams coach Heath Farwell as their new special teams coach today, as well. The team hasn’t made that hiring official yet

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Albert Breer tweets some stats love for QB TOM BRADY:

 

@AlbertBreer

Patriots QB Tom Brady has now made the playoffs in 16 of the 17 full seasons he’s played. In 13 of those 16 playoff trips, he’s made it to the AFC title game.

 

@AlbertBreer

There’s not even an argument who the greatest of all-time is anymore. Brady’s just running the score up on everyone else.

 

Here’s one more insane stat … Brady now has more playoff wins (28) than any other QB in NFL history has playoff starts.

 

Here is another sickening stat – the Patriots already have the NFL record for most wins in a decade and there is still a year to go.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The New England Patriots on Sunday won their 127th game since 2010, which makes this the winningest decade in NFL history. Breaking a record set by the Patriots last decade.

 

As noted by the Patriots’ Twitter, the previous record for most wins in a decade was 126, set by the Patriots from 2000 to 2009.

 

It’s rather amazing to consider that the Patriots, who could still win two more games this postseason and have another full season next year, have already won the most games in any decade in the history of the league. And it’s also amazing that the Patriots could set the record in one decade and break it in the next decade.

 

The team with the third-most wins in a decade, after the 2010s Patriots and 2000s Patriots, was the 2000s Colts. Fourth was the 1990s 49ers.

 

It’s worth noting that the 2010s, 2000s and 1990s are the only decades when every season was 16 games, so it’s not surprising that those three decades produced the four teams with the highest win totals. But what the Patriots have accomplished since 2000 is stunning.

 

Here are the top teams for wins in this century

 

MOST WINS SINCE 2000 (counting playoffs)

 

New England Patriots                253                                      

Pittsburgh Steelers                    212                                                   

Indianapolis Colts                       203                                                  

Green Bay Packers                    196                                                 

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

ODDS TO WIN

Here is how ProFootballFocus ranks the chances of the four remaining teams to win the Super Bowl by their super-secret stats methods:

 

As we did last week, we are going to explore the Super Bowl odds for the remaining four teams in the NFL playoffs.

 

This model uses our PFFELO rating system, opponent-adjusted PFF grades, coaching and “spot” (weather, familiarity, etc.) variables, and simulates the remainder of the season 30,000 times. These are numbers are related to those that go into the PFF Greenline product, but may vary depending on injury statuses and market sentiment, which are built into Greenline but are not completely built into the playoff simulation. Enjoy!

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

(38.5% to win the Super Bowl)

The Saints outlasted the defending Super Bowl champions at home on the back of their coverage unit and brilliance of Michael Thomas. It definitely wasn’t Drew Brees‘ best performance, but he was effective when he needed to be as Michael Thomas turned 16 targets into 12 receptions, seven first downs and a ridiculous 171 yards with 54 coming after the catch. With St. Nick and the Eagles driving as the game wound down, Marshon Lattimore came up with his second interception of the game on a deflection off of Alshon Jeffery‘s hands to seal the victory. Most encouraging for the Saints was their coverage performance when not applying pressure. Foles was under pressure on 10 of his 31 dropbacks, and when he wasn’t under pressure, he completed only 62% of his attempts for 127 yards and two interceptions. With the Rams heading to New Orleans, the Saints will have to continue to perform at a high level in coverage.

 

The Rams have allowed one of the lowest pressure percentages in the NFL with Goff splitting a 92.9 passing grade when clean vs. a 46.7 passing grade when under pressure. Paramount to their success this weekend will be how well they can perform in coverage when Jared Goff is kept clean behind his fantastic offensive line.

 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

(25.5% to win the Super Bowl)

The Chiefs took down a surging but overrated Colts team on Saturday, with Patrick Mahomes generating 240 yards on 35 clean-pocket dropbacks. More than 100 of his passing yards went to tight end Travis Kelce, and the offense as a whole clearly benefited from the return of Sammy Watkins, who turned eight targets into 62 yards in his comeback from a foot injury. Damien Williams continues to demonstrate that running backs are a dime a dozen, producing a Kareem Hunt-like 129 yards on the ground (77 after contact), many of which helped ice the game when the Chiefs were already ahead.

 

If they are going to advance and play in the second Super Bowl in franchise history, their defense will have to play as well as it did against the Colts, where they held Andrew Luck to just 5.9 yards per clean-pocket pass. Rookie undrafted cornerback Charvarius Ward has added a spark to the defense as the third cornerback in place of veteran Orlando Scandrick, breaking up three of the eight passes that came into his coverage while allowing just 42 passing yards the entire day. Their trio of Ward, Kendall Fuller and Steven Nelson is quietly good enough for this team to advance, especially with Dee Ford, Chris Jones and Justin Houston providing solid pass rush all season.

 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

(20.0% to win the Super Bowl)

Like clockwork, the New England Patriots are in the AFC title game in 2018. Unlike their previous five Super Bowl appearances, though, New England will have to travel on their road to the Super Bowl, a path that was not fruitful in 2013 and 2015, when they lost in Denver in both instances.

 

The Patriots have a lot going for them; their offense is now top four in EPA generated on early-down passes, despite playing some of the season without the combination of Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and now Josh Gordon. Going into last week, we noted that they had the league’s highest drop rate on third down passes, something that, if abated, could see their offense soar in subsequent weeks. We saw that against the Chargers, but will it continue in Kansas City, where Andy Reid has often had Bill Belichick’s number, and the Chiefs’ defense has improved in recent weeks. We’re not going to doubt them.

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

(16.0% to win the Super Bowl)

Now that the Rams finally have a running back who breaks tackles, they looked sharp as ever offensively against the Cowboys. Jared Goff was under pressure only five times all night, turning his 24 clean-pocket dropbacks into 7.3 yards per pass attempt with no turnovers, distributing roughly evenly to Robert Woods (69 yards) and Brandin Cooks (65 yards). While running the football and asking Goff to do less will likely not be a positive EV approach moving on the playoffs, it did help them advance against a Dallas team that, while 8-3 in their last 11 games, were -8 in point differential during that time.

 

They go back to New Orleans without Cooper Kupp, who appeared to be Goff’s favorite target before his injury, averaging over 2.25 yards per route run, which is a top-10 mark at his position. Beginning with Sheldon Rankins, the Saints have their fair share of injuries as well, but in our opinion, the Saints should be favored heavily to reach their second Super Bowl in franchise history next Sunday, leaving the Rams’ probability to secure their second title where it currently is.

 

 

2019 DRAFT

Todd McShay of ESPN.com has a list of his 32 top prospects, although he doesn’t try to fit them to a team.  QB KYLER MURRAY of Oklahoma is on the list, as are a whopping 13 defensive linemen, plus 3 outside linebackers:

 

Well, the 2018 college football season is over, and Monday’s deadline to declare for the 2019 NFL draft is in the rearview mirror (although a full list of underclassmen who were accepted into the draft class will be sent to teams Friday).

 

The class is certainly starting to clear up, but there is still a long way to go. So much can still change. Look for more shuffling to come over the next few months as players attend all-star games, the NFL scouting combine (beginning Feb. 26) and work out at pro days.

 

When we last ran through the Top 32, Auburn’s Derrick Brown and Oregon’s Justin Herbert still inhabited spots — but both highly coveted players will be returning to their respective colleges. Three new players jump into the rankings, including the quarterback drawing all the buzz this week. So where does Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray rank?

 

Note: Underclassmen — who have all declared — are marked with an asterisk.

 

1. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State*

Grade: 95 | Height: 6-foot-4 | Weight: 263 | Previous: 1

An elite talent (with elite bloodlines), Bosa isn’t just a gifted pass-rusher; he always knows where the ball is and is active against the run. He projects best as a 4-3 defensive end in the NFL but is scheme-versatile with his length and power. Bosa had six tackles for loss (TFL) and four sacks in three games before suffering an abdominal injury against TCU on Sept. 15. This isn’t the type of injury that will worry NFL scouts, and he has since withdrawn from school and declared for the draft. In my Mock Draft 1.0 from December, Bosa went No. 1 overall to the Arizona Cardinals.

 

2. Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama*

Grade: 94 | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 295 | Previous: 2

Williams does a great job with his hands and has a nose for putting pressure on the quarterback with a terrific first step. In 15 games, he had 19.5 TFL (tied for 10th in the country) and eight sacks, along with 12 quarterback hurries. He also is stout against the run. I’m really impressed with how he took his game to another level this season, outperforming more highly touted members of that Alabama front seven. He has real strength in advancing the pass rush while engaged.

 

3. Devin White, ILB, LSU*

Grade: 94 | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 240 | Previous: 3

A converted running back, White is a physical specimen who moves with explosiveness and control. Always around the ball, he shows good range in coverage, and he won’t have to come off the field much in passing situations. White had 123 tackles (tied for 23rd nationwide), including 12 for loss, while also forcing three fumbles. He posted eight tackles and forced a fumble in LSU’s 40-32 win over UCF in the Fiesta Bowl. You see some of the Vikings’ Eric Kendricks in him.

 

4. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State*

Grade: 93 | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 300 | Previous: 16

Simmons plays with a natural leverage at the line. He has above-average awareness, good range and more strength than his frame would suggest, but he certainly can improve his hand usage. The junior had 17 TFL this season. He fits best in a one-gap-heavy scheme and plays a lot of snaps. There is some character history here, though, that teams will take into account.

 

5. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU*

Grade: 93 | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 184 | Previous: 4

A tall corner with long arms and at his best in press-man coverage, he has great quickness and is smooth for a player with his length. Williams can bait quarterbacks into mistakes, and then he has the closing speed to take advantage; he had two interceptions and nine passes broken up this season for the Tigers. He looks like a play-right-away type when he gets to the next level.

 

6. Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan*

Grade: 93 | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 283 | Previous: 5

Three years after he arrived in Ann Arbor as the most celebrated recruit in the country, Gary somehow matched the hype. A powerful run defender and edge setter, he has an outstanding combination of size and athleticism to will fit any scheme: explosive, sudden and a nightmare to block. His closing burst, high motor and natural instincts helped him to 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in nine games. He missed three consecutive games earlier in the season with a shoulder injury, but he was productive in his return.

 

7. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson*

Grade: 92 | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 265 | Previous: 9

Ferrell has very good, if not elite, physical tools. He grades out as an every-down NFL starter, though he could be used as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end. His hands aren’t overly violent at the line, but they are quick and active. In 13 games, his quick first step helped him to 19.5 TFL (tied for 10th in the country) and 11.5 sacks (tied for sixth).

 

8. Devin Bush, OLB, Michigan*

Grade: 92 | Height: 5-11 | Weight: 233 | Previous: 10

Bush has good instincts as a pass-rusher, displaying patience and good closing speed when he gets a line to the quarterback. He shows good range and quickness as well as decent tackling ability. However, he is undersized, and he struggles to disengage when a blocker gets into his pads. He has the potential to be a three-down starter in the NFL and is still trending up. In 12 games, he recorded 79 tackles, including nine for loss and five sacks.

 

9. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston*

Grade: 92 | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 292 | Previous: 7

Oliver missed four consecutive Cougars games with a knee injury and had an explosive exchange with coach Major Applewhite on the sideline in mid-November before returning at the end of the regular season. But on the field, you don’t want to have to block this guy. He explodes out of his stance, has elite initial quickness and is totally disruptive and usually unblockable one-on-one. Oliver has great range and always plays hard. He had 54 tackles, including 14.5 for a loss and three sacks, in eight games.

 

10. Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky

Grade: 91 | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 260 | Previous: 11

A versatile linebacker with the ability to play on the inside or the outside, regardless of the front, Allen has outstanding range as a run defender with above-average closing speed. He does need to work on his change-of-direction skills in coverage, however. The onetime high school wide receiver finished with 21.5 TFL (tied for sixth in the nation), 17 sacks (second) and five forced fumbles (tied for second) this season, along with four passes broken up and seven QB hurries. He was an absolute beast for the Wildcats, and he will continue to cover box scores at the next level.

 

11. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State*

Grade: 91 | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 220 | Previous: 18

Haskins has impressive natural touch and anticipation as a passer, in addition to a high-level arm to drive the ball down the field with accuracy. Based solely on his physical tools, the bar is really high for the Ohio State starter despite a limited college career. He has the talent to ultimately be the first QB off the board. The numbers were eye-popping for the third-year sophomore: 50 passing touchdowns, just eight interceptions, more than 4,800 passing yards and a 70.0 completion percentage.

 

12. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama*

Grade: 91 | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 301 | Previous: 12

An immediate starter in Tuscaloosa, Williams progressed as you might expect, going from starter at right tackle and then to left, and he now is squarely on the radar of NFL scouts. After a bad year for offensive tackles in the 2018 draft, Williams could be part of a rebound in 2019. He handles speed off the edge extremely well and is quick out of his stance, but he occasionally fails to finish.

 

13. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

Grade: 91 | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 340 | Previous: 13

Lawrence has remarkable agility and athleticism for his size, giving him great range for a run defender. He needs to be better about pad level, but single blockers can’t move him at all. His power is overwhelming, and he looked more fluid this season after dealing with an injury in 2017. He recorded 7.5 TFL on one of the best lines in the country, and there’s a lot of talent here. He was suspended for both College Football Playoff games for failing a drug test with trace amounts of a banned substance, but it should not impact his draft status.

 

14. Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma

Grade: 91 | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 338 | Previous: 14

Ford is a nasty finisher on a good Sooners offensive line. He is a big, strong tone-setter up front, and he had a great season for Bill Bedenbaugh’s OL unit. I think he could move from tackle to guard at the next level. Ford is flying up boards.

 

15. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia

Grade: 90 | Height: 5-11 | Weight: 185 | Previous: 15

An instinctive corner, Baker does a good job of reading receivers’ routes in man coverage and is excellent in dealing with route combinations. While not big, he contains well and has no fear mixing it up in run support. Extremely experienced, Baker had a pair of interceptions this season with 82 return yards, and he broke up 10 passes.

 

16. Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson*

Grade: 90 | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 310 | Previous: 17

At his best in a 3-technique role, Wilkins is scheme-versatile and has experience playing inside and outside — and he wreaks havoc either way. He has great foot speed, and when he doesn’t get home, he gets his hands in passing lanes. Wilkins brought a high motor and excellent awareness to a talented Clemson defensive line, and he projects as a three-down starter in the NFL. With Clemson this season, he had 15 TFL, six sacks, a forced fumble … and a pair of rushing touchdowns.

 

17. Jachai Polite, OLB, Florida*

Grade: 90 | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 242 | Previous: 26

Polite is a top-tier talent. With fantastic speed and athleticism, he is a force off the edge. Polite is slippery and displays good instincts as a playmaker. In 13 games for the Gators, Polite had 11 sacks (eighth in the nation), 17.5 TFL and six forced fumbles (first).

 

18. Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame

Grade: 90 | Height: 6-7 | Weight: 305 | Previous: 19

Tillery uses great upper-body strength to press in the run game and flashes upside as an interior pass-rusher. He does play a little high and doesn’t have great closing burst, but that didn’t stop him from dialing up eight sacks, three forced fumbles and 10.5 TFL in 13 games for the Fighting Irish this season.

 

19. Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss*

Grade: 89 | Height: 6-6 | Weight: 325 | Previous: 21

The onetime top high school offensive tackle in the nation, Little carried it all over into SEC play. A smooth mover for his size, he can be outstanding in pass protection if he gets a little better with his hands. He has good quickness as a run-blocker and takes smart angles, though he’s not a mauler.

 

20. Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State*

Grade: 89 | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 286 | Previous: 22

Jones has been more consistent with his hands, finishing more frequently than he did over the previous two seasons. He displays a good first step and above-average straight-line speed for his size. But he does lack a consistent plan as a pass-rusher, despite a solid motor and good instincts. Jones had 13 TFL, 8.5 sacks and a pick-six for the Buckeyes in 14 contests.

 

21. Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

Grade: 89 | Height: 6-6 | Weight: 241 | Previous: 23

Excellent takeoff quickness and flexibility make Sweat a handful for offensive tackles, who are frequently off balance while trying to slow him down. He has good range against the run, but he struggles if you run right at him. That’s really the issue: He needs to add bulk to his frame. However, his elite speed and strong change-of-direction skills off the edge produced 11.5 sacks (tied for sixth in the nation), 14 TFL and seven QB hurries this season for the Bulldogs.

 

22. Zach Allen, DE, Boston College

Grade: 88 | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 285 | Previous: 24

He is sudden with his movement, and his quick first step and lateral agility turned into sacks. He also converts speed to power as a pass-rusher, and he is a solid run defender — one of only two linemen who had 100 tackles in 2017. (He had 61 tackles this season, including 15 for a loss and 6.5 sacks.) You see a little of the Saints’ Cameron Jordan in Allen.

 

23. Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida*

Grade: 88 | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 328 | Previous: 25

Taylor lacks length but shows quickness, often riding faster rushers past the quarterback if he’s able to get his hands on them. He still needs to work on his angles and play with better body control when coming to the second level, but there is pop in his game. He has the athletic ability to develop into a strong zone blocker.

 

24. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma*

Grade: 88 | Height: 5-10 | Weight: 195 | Previous: NR

Sure, he has limited experience (only 14 starts), and there’s still that whole might-go-play-baseball thing, but Murray is just an exceptional athlete. I think he is the most athletic quarterback prospect since Michael Vick in terms of quickness and speed. He possesses a quick trigger and good arm strength, and he can process the play extremely fast. His style fits today’s NFL — think Kansas City offense — but his size does leave a lot of questions, including whether he can stay healthy. He threw for 4,361 yards, 42 touchdowns and only seven interceptions (and added another 1,001 yards and 12 scores on the ground) this season for the Sooners, culminating with a Heisman Trophy.

 

25. Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma*

Grade: 87 | Height: 5-9 | Weight: 168 | Previous: 27

Brown is a burner, and though he lacks ideal size, he has the ability to win vertically and create chunk yardage after the catch. Brown also has soft hands and can pluck the ball away from his body, even while he’s in fifth gear. He will get pushed around a bit at times by bigger press-man corners, but he is a savvy route runner and explodes from the line of scrimmage. Averaging 17.6 yards per catch, Brown had 10 touchdowns and 1,318 yards this season for the Sooners. He went off for 243 yards and two touchdowns on 11 catches against West Virginia near the end of the season, but then he suffered an ankle/foot injury against Texas in the Big 12 championship game.

 

26. Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama*

Grade: 87 | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 196 | Previous: 8

Thompson fell a bit, not popping as much in the College Football Playoff as he did earlier in the year, but he does have excellent athleticism and speed. He had two interceptions, six passes broken up, three forced fumbles and 78 tackles this season in 15 games. In short, he did a little bit of everything in the Alabama secondary. Thompson has good range and can make plays on the ball when it’s in the air. He’s a real ball hawk.

 

27. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa*

Grade: 86 | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 241 | Previous: 29

He has the burst to separate regularly from linebackers, and his size creates matchup problems for defensive backs. Fant also has the speed to stretch the field and the quickness to threaten after the catch. He has great body control and is a natural pass-catcher, but his blocking needs work. He lacks the strength to be effective as an in-line blocker, but he does have the frame and quickness to develop into an adequate space blocker. Fant had 39 catches for 519 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games before declaring for the draft and forgoing the Outback Bowl. T.J. Hockenson, the other Iowa tight end this season, also recently declared for the draft and will join Fant.

 

28. Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State

Grade: 85 | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 215 | Previous: 30

A hard-hitting strong safety with a very good size-speed combination, Abram can intimidate the opposition. He is a powerful finisher with an explosive closing burst, and he flies to the line of scrimmage in run support. Abram holds up well in the deep-half zone and is very quick. He had 99 tackles — including nine for loss — and two interceptions this season.

 

29. Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama*

Grade: 85 | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 241 | Previous: 31

Smith was a big part of the Crimson Tide’s electric offense this season. Smith had 44 receptions for 710 yards and seven touchdowns. He wasn’t on the radar in the preseason, but he has a lot of speed and athleticism for a big tight end. He had catches of 76, 68, 47 and 42 yards this season, displaying ability to create after the catch. Smith has average size, but he improved throughout the season as a blocker. He can be a tough matchup, especially when in multiple-TE sets.

 

30. Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Louisiana Tech

Grade: 85 | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 262 | Previous: 32

Ferguson can overwhelm blockers with his speed to power, exploding off the ball. He has active hands and shows above-average initial quickness. I like the way he sets the edge, fitting best in the NFL as a 4-3 defensive end; but his range and frame put him in the 3-4 outside linebacker conversation as well. He recorded astonishing numbers this season: 17.5 sacks (first in the nation), 26 TFL (second) and a pair of forced fumbles.

 

31. N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State*

Grade: 84 | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 216 | Previous: NR

A big target with good body control, Harry will go and get it for you, as he consistently rewards his quarterback for throwing him 50-50 balls. Even at 6-foot-4, he is a threat after the catch and regularly runs right through contact. Not a flyer, he is still a dangerous deep threat. Additionally, he isn’t afraid to do the dirty work in the middle of the field, and he is a tough blocker. He was held under 60 yards receiving just twice this season while registering 1,088 yards and nine touchdowns (plus an additional rushing score).

 

32. JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford*

Grade: 84 | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 225 | Previous: NR

He is a natural pass-catcher and shows above-average body control. His speed and ability to go up and get 50-50 balls make him a real threat in the vertical game, but he also can pick up yards after the catch with hard running. There might not be a ton of explosiveness to him, but he creates separation with savviness and physicality in his routes. Arcega-Whiteside has experience outside and in the slot, and he has shown the ability to block when needed. In all this season, he had 14 trips to the end zone and 1,059 receiving yards.

– – –

R.J. White of CBSSports.com offers a Mock Draft where he foresees moves upward even for this crop of QBs.

 

In my first mock draft of the year, I had the Jaguars trading up to No. 4 to select Dwayne Haskins. Because mock drafts this early are nothing if not thought experiments to see how the board could fall come April, I wanted to switch things up this time around.

 

Instead, I had the Jaguars trade up to No. 3.

 

Who knows if they’re going to fall in love with Haskins over the predraft process? But it’s undeniable that they need to fix the QB position to return to contention, and if that means trading up to ensure they get their guy, that’s what they should do.

 

Another key change for this mock: Rather than sending Josh Allen to the 49ers at No. 2, I had John Lynch just go BPA and take the guy I think is the only clear blue-chipper outside of NIck Bosa. With those changes at two and three, we’ll see how the mock draft unfolds differently from there.

 

One guy you won’t find below is Kyler Murray. I’m still not sure he’s going to give up baseball to play football just yet, and without that 100 percent commitment from NFL teams, I don’t expect any team to use a high draft pick on him. That, like everything else associated with mock drafting, is subject to change.

 

1. Arizona Cardinals

Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State. Bosa has been the clear No. 1 prospect for most, if not all, of the 2018 season, and he would be a great fit opposite Chandler Jones to give the Cardinals a dangerous pass rush. I could also see them auctioning off this pick and targeting offensive line help if they move down. But someone would have to blow them away to pass on Bosa.

 

2. San Francisco 49ers

Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama. The 49ers would certainly prefer an edge rusher here, but if Williams establishes that he’s leaps and bounds better than the rest of the prospects available, will John Lynch really be able to pass on him for less of a sure thing? We’re still a long ways away from determining who emerges as the cream of the crop, but right now I have a tier drop after Bosa and Williams, and if that’s ultimately what happens, Williams should be in play for the 49ers if Bosa is gone.

 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (NYJ mock trade)

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State. If the Jaguars want to ensure they get their preferred quarterback, this is at least as far as they need to move. Each of the next three teams probably think they’re set at quarterback for 2019, but if Haskins blows the doors off the predraft process, who knows? Unless every quarterback falls flat over the next few months, expect some jockeying at the top of the draft to grab the No. 1 option. With this trade, the Jets help offset the cost it took to move up for Sam Darnold last year.

 

4. Oakland Raiders

Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky. Allen could have entered the draft last year but the odds were slim that someone would have taken him in the first round. Now, unless he has a terrible predraft season, he’s almost certain to go in the top five after a year where he doubled his sack total (to 14) after adding weight. 

 

5. Miami Dolphins (TB mock trade)

Daniel Jones, QB, Duke. Jones beat up Temple in the Independence Bowl and should be ticketed for a pick in the top half of the first round, but he has the ability to tear up the predraft process and cause a QB-needy team to jump up the board for him. After the Dolphins saw the Bills and Cardinals trade ahead of them and get their quarterbacks last year, they could decide to take the plunge, no matter the report that they’re eyeing 2020 to draft a QB.

 

6. New York Giants

Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama. The protection on the offensive line was nothing but a rumor for much of 2018, and if the team is going to put themselves in the best position to succeed, addressing those issues should be priority No. 1. Williams doesn’t have the arm length many teams crave, but he makes up for it with his technique. The best part is he doesn’t have to come in as a blindside blocker with the Giants, as he can adjust to the NFL at right tackle before an eventual move to the left side in 2020 if Nate Solder doesn’t live up to his contract.

 

7. New York Jets (JAC mock trade)

Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson.  The Jets would do well to sit at No. 3 and take Allen, but if a QB-needy team bowls them over with a trade offer, why not recoup some of the draft capital they spent trading up for Sam Darnold last year? Ferrell has 36.5 tackles for loss and 21 sacks over his last two seasons, but he’s also an excellent run defender and would give New York a three-down talent on the edge.

 

8. Detroit Lions

Greedy Williams, CB, LSU. The Lions should have the opportunity to add an impact player to their defensive line, but they also need to boost their talent in the secondary, and one way they can do that is by taking the best corner prospect in this year’s draft. Williams is an excellent man cornerback who still has room to grow, and teams thinking about taking him will hope he has a Patrick Peterson-type ceiling in the NFL.

 

9. Buffalo Bills

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston. The Bills said goodbye to a fixture on the interior of the defensive line on Sunday in Kyle Williams, so why not use this pick on someone who can be the same thing for the next decade? Oliver is an absolute monster at blowing up inside blocking, as his 53 tackles for loss in three seasons attest. He’s drawn the inevitable Aaron Donald comparisons, and while he has a ways to go to have that type of impact, that’s a pretty nice ceiling on a ninth-overall pick.

 

10. Denver Broncos

Byron Murphy, CB, Washington. The Broncos will certainly be looking for quarterback help, but they showed last year that they won’t force it if the guy they want isn’t there. Murphy is a smart player capable of handling man-to-man or zone coverage, and his anticipation on routes should have him on the highlight reels often as he chases pick-sixes. Once teams get a good look at him, he could end up getting locked in to the top half of the first round.

 

11. Cincinnati Bengals

Devin White, MLB, LSU. The Bengals need to find a new piece to build around at linebacker, as Preston Brown is heading into free agency, Vontaze Burfict’s career is in jeopardy due to his seventh concussion and 2018 third-round pick Malik Jefferson hasn’t shown he can take over as “the guy.” The athletic White has everything you want in a middle linebacker, and letting him man the middle while Jefferson tries to play the weak side could take this defense to the next level.

 

12. Green Bay Packers

Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida. The Packers are going through a coaching transition, but it looks like they’ll be sticking with the 3-4, and that means Polite would be an excellent way to boost their pass rush on the edge. He had 11 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss as a junior before heading to the NFL, and while he probably isn’t a three-down player initially, he addresses the biggest weakness of the Green Bay defense from Day 1.

 

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (MIA mock trade)

Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama. The Buccaneers could try and auction off their pick to the QB-needy teams if they want to address multiple areas with premium picks, and if they move to the middle of the first round, Thompson is someone who makes sense for them. He has the opportunity to be one of the best centerfield prospects in the game, though he can man up when called upon as well. You’re not going to find many with his range at the safety position. 

 

14. Atlanta Falcons

Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan. Gary hasn’t put up massive sack numbers at Michigan, but that’s because that’s not his job. He excels at setting the run on the edge but can still offer some pass-rush talent from the interior. He’d be a great addition to the Falcons defensive line, even if the team signs Grady Jarrett to a contract extension. With a guy as talented as Gary, you’d be wise to just take him and let the rotation shake out however it may.

 

15. Washington Redskins

Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma. Washington could very well decide to land their quarterback of the future with this pick, but I think it’s more likely they sign an affordable veteran for 2019 and see where they are with Alex Smith next season before potentially diving into the 2020 QB class. Ford would be a massive upgrade at guard for a team that never seems to have enough healthy offensive linemen.

 

16. Carolina Panthers

Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss. The Panthers just saw what happens when you have major problems on the offensive line, as Cam Newton was limited by a shoulder injury in the second half that ultimately caused him to be shut down early. Daryl Williams and Ryan Kalil are free agents, and Matt Kalil has no business starting even when healthy. The Panthers have to go best offensive lineman available if they care about Newton’s health at all moving forward.

 

17. Cleveland Browns

Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia. Baker has experience playing in all types of coverages, and while he didn’t post gaudy interception totals at Georgia, his ball skills are top-notch and he’s a disruptive force for receivers trying to make a play. The Browns hit a home run by taking Denzel Ward in last year’s draft, and Baker gives them a nasty 1-2 punch at the position on what could be a dominant defense in 2019.

 

18. Minnesota Vikings

Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida. Taylor could rocket up boards if he tests well over the next few months, but at bare minimum I expect him to go in the middle of the first round with the crushing need for offensive line around the league. He could develop at tackle or move inside to guard but, surprise, the Vikings need upgrades in both spots. I’d give him a shot at right tackle to start and see how his athleticism translates.

 

19. Tennessee Titans

Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State. The Titans smartly started building for the future of their edge rush in the last draft by taking Harold Landry, and now they give him a running mate with Brian Orakpo retiring and Derrick Morgan a free agent. There’s no question what you bring Burns in to do: get after the quarterback. He’s an ideal fit for a 3-4 team at his size, but his explosiveness will make him difficult to handle for all but the most athletic of offensive tackles.

 

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State. This isn’t the Steelers’ biggest need, but having Simmons fall out of the top half of the draft would be too big a steal to pass up. He’s disruptive as a penetrator, and while he doesn’t have the size to be a true nose tackle, he was used that way by Mississippi State and has experience dealing with double teams. And he still managed 27.5 tackles for loss in his last two seasons.

 

21. Seattle Seahawks

Devin Bush, LB, Michigan. K.J. Wright is heading into free agency, leaving the Seahawks with a massive need at the position next to Bobby Wagner. Enter Bush, who can play on all three downs and is a great mover in open space who can chase down the ball-carrier.

 

22. Baltimore Ravens

Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State. Sweat might not be a prototypical 4-3 defensive end at his size, but that’s where he plays his best and that’s how his NFL team will likely use him. Sweat has posted double-digit sacks in back-to-back seasons and is also a quality run defender, so if you look past his size and slightly advanced age (he’ll be 23 as a rookie), there’s plenty to love.

 

23. Houston Texans

Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama. With Jacobs declaring for the draft, he should be considered the favorite to be the first running back off the board. The Texans need to do something about their offensive line, but with linemen getting snapped up in the teens in this mock, they’ll fall back on adding the talented Jacobs, who can do everything you need at his position, to an offensive core of Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins.

 

24. Pittsburgh Steelers (OAK mock trade)

Yodny Cajuste, OT, West Virginia. I think Antonio Brown is getting traded this offseason, and the Raiders seem as good a fit as any. He’s not nearly the salary commitment of an Amari Cooper extension, as the Raiders would be responsible for just $38.9 million over three years. He’d give them a superstar to bring to Las Vegas as well. For Pittsburgh, getting a first-round pick could be worth the huge dead cap hit, especially if they can add a talent like Cajuste who can start at guard and eventually move to tackle.

 

25. Philadelphia Eagles

N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State. The Eagles could go in a few different directions, but one area of concern is at wide receiver, where they traded for Golden Tate during the season to give them a boost despite him hitting free agency this offseason. Harry is in the mix to be the first player at his position off the board as a potentially dominant outside receiver with great hands. If he has a big combine, he could shoot up the first round projections.

 

26. Indianapolis Colts

D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss. The Colts surprised some people with their run in 2018 behind a healthy Andrew Luck and an outstanding 2018 draft class. But one place they need to get better is at receiver, where it’s T.Y. Hilton followed by not much else in terms of reliable options. Metcalf’s season was ended early by a neck injury, but his upside as an outside receiver makes him one to watch during the predraft process.

 

27. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas)

Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama. Who could have guessed when the Raiders traded for this pick that it would end up being so low? Smith is a complete tight end prospect who should be in the mix to be the first guy at his position drafted. Jared Cook seemed to help unlock the Raiders passing game early in the season, but he’s heading into free agency, and adding Smith as his replacement could be a big step toward getting better on offense.

 

28. Los Angeles Chargers

Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama. The Patriots exposed the Chargers’ defense in the divisional round of the playoffs, and the Chargers desperately need to get better at linebacker so that doesn’t happen again. Wilson should boost the run defense while also offering the ability to cover running backs out of the backfield.

 

29. New England Patriots

Noah Fant, TE, Iowa. I think this is going to be the last year for Rob Gronkowski, and even it is isn’t the Patriots must know they can’t count on him as a receiving weapon in 2019. Fant would be the future for New England at the tight end position as a 6-foot-5 matchup nightmare who should blow up the combine.

 

30. Los Angeles Rams

Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson. The Rams only signed Ndamukong Suh to a one-year deal last offseason, and if he leaves in free agency, they should be on the lookout for Lawrence at the end of the first round. He has the size of a pure nose tackle but is able to do more than just occupy space, and he’d join Aaron Donald in giving offensive lines fits on the interior.

 

31. Kansas City Chiefs

Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson. Wilkins put together another fine performance as a senior to solidify his stock in the first round. Dexter Lawrence may be a more physically imposing presence at his size, but I think teams will value Wilkins’ versatility and technique a little more, and he could go much higher than this. The Chiefs are in danger of losing Allen Bailey in free agency, and replacing him with Wilkins would be a best-case scenario.  

 

32. Denver Broncos (GB mock trade)

Drew Lock, QB, Missouri. If a first-round caliber quarterback is still around as Day 1 draws to a close, you start to see teams angling to trade into one of those late picks and grab him so that they’ll get the benefit of the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. The Broncos are a candidate to take Lock at No. 10, but if they pass and he’s still around late in the first round, I can see them making a move up to get him. They have extra ammunition on Day 3 after trading Demaryius Thomas and Trevor Siemian.