The NFL Draft is much much more than a place where a couple of hundred young men get their start in the NFL.
It’s become a TV phenomenon and an event which ignites chatter and debate for months and months before and after the actual draft has come and gone.
Pre-draft trades, draft night trades, player controversy, speculative picks and boom or bust selections are some of the topical items that make the NFL draft such a gigantic event, watched by an average of 15 million people.
Predicting the draft is almost as fun as seeing the picks happen in real time.
Experts and pundits alike love to whip up their own mock drafts to try and be the man in the room when it comes to what has become a night with endless narratives and jaw-dropping drama.
So, I’ll join those pundits and have a crack at my own Mock Draft. Unlike ESPN gurus Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr I am not doing half a dozen versions, this is my Mock 1.0 – here’s hoping I can nail at least one selection…
1 TREVOR LAWRENCE (Jackonsville, QB, Clemson)
Lawrence has been the No. 1 overall pick in this draft for quite some time. He’s got everything you want in a franchise QB – size, strength, arm talent, experience and championship pedigree.
Lawrence, along with former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, will be tasked with turning around the fortunes of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Expect Lawrence to be a difference maker immediately but the roster will need some tuning up to help him become great.
2 ZACH WILSON (New York Jets, QB, BYU)
Wilson is as locked into pick 2 as Lawrence is at 1.
Despite facing limited opposition across his BYU schedule, Wilson flashed incredible talents and is pegged as a franchise-changing QB, something the Jets sorely need.
The query is whether he can remain an explosive QB who can make all the plays once the defences are ramped up. BYU only faced two ranked opponents this season, resulting in a win and a loss.
3 MAC JONES (San Francisco, QB, Alabama)
Jones has come from the clouds to almost become the unanimous prediction for this pick. Niners HC Kyle Shanahan has been a quarterback whisperer and experts believe Shanahan looks at Jones as the ultimate organiser and distributer for a squad already armed with offensive weaponry.
Sure, giving up so much to acquire a ‘game-manager’ is risky business but if you think he’s your guy, you go all in to secure the man you want.
Should San Fran select someone else, they’ll have fooled a lot of smart and well-informed folks.
This is where the draft begins to get real interesting, real quick.
4 KYLE PITTS (Atlanta, TE, Florida)
I am completely lost with this selection. Firstly, I firmly believe Atlanta will move off pick 4 to try and acquire extra picks later in this draft or in future drafts.
Some have Justin Fields or even Trey Lance going to the Falcons as the successor to Matt Ryan but something tells me Arthur Smith thinks he can win now with this roster.
Pitts is an other-worldly talented tight end who should step straight in and catch 75 passes. He has remarkable athletic traits and his film from his days as a Gator speaks volumes.
Pitts will create match-up problems and make life considerably easier for his QB.
5 PENEI SEWELL (Cincinnati, OT, Oregon)
Sewell was an opt-out this season but the man mountain is easily the best tackle prospect in this draft. His size alone (6-6″ 150kg) makes him difficult for edge rushers to get past but he combines that size with excellent hands and surprisingly quick feet.
As a left tackle, not having the extra season in the trenches at Oregon should actually be seen as a good thing. He’s got a little extra tread on the tires for the Bengals, who simply must protect Joe Burrow.
The sexy pick for them is Ja’Marr Chase – Burrow’s LSU team mate – but they already have Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon at skill positions. The time has come to solidify the offensive line.
6 JA’MARR CHASE (Miami, WR, LSU)
Chase opted out of this collegiate season but such was his epic 2019 season, few have forgotten just how deadly he is. Standing just over 6-0″, Chase possesses absolutely everything you want in a wideout.
He’s excellent at separating using his sub-4.4 speed, he makes contested catches, runs slick routes and can play inside and outside.
Those who wonder about him translating to the next level should watch the tapes where he roasted current NFL cornerbacks during LSU’s run to the ‘chip. Chase gave Falcons CB AJ Terrell fits, exploding for 221 yards and 2 TD.
7 JAYLEN WADDLE (Detroit, WR, Alabama)
With the arrival of Jared Goff, but the depature of Kenny Golladay (among others) the Lions are desperately in need of a receiving weapon to make Goff’s life tolerable in chilly Michigan.
Waddle missed almost all of this season at ‘Bama with an ankle issue but his talent is endless. He’s a threat of taking it to the house every snap, as evidenced by some of his house calls in the Crimson jersey.
Waddle has the home run ability but he’s also tough and will make clutch catches when you need them.
8 DEVONTA SMITH (Carolina, WR, Alabama)
The Heisman Trophy winner erupted this season, throwing up mind-blowing numbers on his way to one of the more memorable seasons from a wide receiver in NCAA history.
Smith weighs just 79kg and that will worry many NFL personnel people but his talent overrides those concerns. His route running is as clean as can be. Smith torched some of the SEC’s best corners, many of whom you’ll eventually see in the NFL as well.
Carolina took care of its defence in last year’s draft, now after adding Sam Darnold they need to provide him with more firepower than just Christian McCaffrey.
9 RASHAWN SLATER (Denver, OT, Northwestern)
Yet another opt-out. Slater brings versatility to the offensive line. He’s played right and left tackle, making him a valuable commodity. Yes, franchise left tackles are the golden goose but versatility is also of great value in the NFL.
Experts say Slater could also kick inside and play guard at the elite level.
In his signature performance, Slater clashed one-on-one with former Ohio State stud and current Washington Football Team megastar Chase Young, where Slater more than held his own against the premier pass rusher.
10 PATRICK SURTAIN II (Dallas, CB, Alabama)
The jungle drums are beating that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is quote – ‘infatuated’ – with Florida TE Kyle Pitts. Firstly, who isn’t enamoured with Pitts, he’s a genuine freak-show. But, could Jerry again overlook a leaky and stinky defence to select another offensive star?
Surtain II is a big, strong corner with great all-around skills. Thanks to Surtain’s grooming at Alabama, he has the chance to become a genuine shutdown cover corner – something Big D’s defence desperately desperately needs.
Best of the rest;
Trey Lance QB, North Dakota State
Justin Fields QB, Ohio State
Caleb Farley CB, Virginia Tech
Alijah Verah-Tucker OT, USC
Najee Harris RB, Alabama
Christian Darrisaw OT, Virginia Tech
Micah Parsons LB, Penn State
Jaycee Horn CB, South Carolina
Terrace Marshall WR, LSU