The NFL Draft is finally here! The Jaguars are officially on the clock at eight p.m. tonight, and 32 lucky prospects will see their dream come true before the night is over.
Without further ado, here’s my final first-round mock draft (predictive):
1 JAX: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
GM Trent Baalke is in favor of Walker, head coach Doug Pederson is in favor of Ickey Ekwonu, and owner Shad Khan is in favor of Aidan Hutchinson. Walker’s “rise” hasn’t been the shocker that it‘s sometimes depicted as, but it’s hard to imagine a prospect like this going first overall in most other draft classes.
2 DET: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Casual draft observers likely see this pick in ink, but the little-discussed reality is that Lions GM Brad Holmes likes Thibodeaux more than most, and is strongly considering him at 2. If Hutchinson remains the pick here it’ll be a result of “collaboration” with head coach Dan Campbell and other decision-makers in the building, rather than the slam dunk it’s made out to be.
3 HOU: Derek Stingley, CB, LSU
This may look like a surprise if you’ve been keeping up with mainstream mock drafts, but insiders have pegged the Texans as one of a few (possibly 2 or 3) teams with a comfortably higher grade on Stingley than Gardner. While it’s not a “lock,” after reading between the lines of Caserio and Lovie’s comments this offseason we can comfortably connect the dots here.
4 NYJ: Ickey Ekwonu, OL, NC State
This could be Thibodeaux or Jermaine Johnson, but I’m committing to my intel on GM Joe Douglas’ love for Ickey and his desire to patch up an abysmal offensive line in front of Zach Wilson—the player whom Douglas’ career will sink or swim with.
5 NYG: Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
This is where the draft opens up. Word is that the Giants diligent homework on Thibodeaux didn’t end with a passing grade, and it’s hard to get a feel for their preferred tackle. What I do know is that they love Gardner, and assuming they have a high grade on both remaining tackles (I hear they do) then they can afford to wait until 7 to fill that hole and let Carolina make the decision for them.
6 CAR: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
The Panthers want to trade back and add more draft capital, but that may be in conflict with their need at tackle. I’m 99% sure they won’t be taking QB here, and Cross is a plug-and-play blindside protector whom has been widely-connected to Carolina.
7 NYG: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
Neal has minor dings on his medical from some teams, but I don’t believe New York is one of them. He plugs in at right tackle for the Giants more comfortably than the previous two OL prospects would have.
8 ATL: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
Thibodeaux’s fall could actually be more a casualty of the board as opposed to the “concerns” that we’ve heard so much about. Some prospects will end up being a lot of team’s BPA2, and—with the exception of my read on the Giants thought process—that’s what caused the slip here. He‘s a credibly strong candidate at 2, 3, 4, and in a trade up to 6 (I’ve heard 8 is his floor). If Thibs doesn’t fall then Johnson or London (or Wilson) will be the pick.
9 SEA: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State
The Seahawks could trade down with a team looking to leap the Jets for Johnson and simply target Trevor Penning in the early-teens—or this pick could be Penning outright—but as I see it they can’t guarantee that tackle-needy teams won’t then leap them in that scenario. Adding a gritty player at EDGE when they can and re-signing Duane Brown at left tackle might be their best course of action here.
10 NYJ: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Jets leadership would be bummed to miss out on Johnson by one spot given their apparent consideration of him all the way up at 4, but we also know that they love Garrett Wilson and Jameson Williams at receiver. My guess is Joe Douglas will opt for the more physical and speedy option in Williams.
11 WAS: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
My understanding is Washington prefers the two Ohio State wideouts, and my gut tells me that they’ll opt for the higher-upside prospect with Terry McLaurin already offering a similar skillset to Chris Olave. Hamilton is likely their other option.
12 MINN: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
This could go a few different ways, and a first time GM and head coach makes this pick even more difficult to pin down. I know the Vikings like Karlaftis, and their need along the line is more pressing than corner.
13 LAC: Trevor Penning, OL, Northern Iowa
*TRADE* Chargers send a Day Two pick to Houston
There’s a belief that a deal is already in place between these two teams pending how the board falls, and the Chargers are expected to be aggressive to add protection for Herbert on the right side.
14 BAL: Jordan Davis, NT, Georgia
The Ravens are the earliest of a few teams known to like Davis, and they badly need an influx of youth in their aging DL.
15 PHI: Kyle Hamilton, S/LB, Notre Dame
Hamilton’s availability in the early teens is all but given, but will he last to 15? In the event that he does, Howie shouldn’t hesitate to add a safety/linebacker hybrid tailor-made to fix the Eagles bugaboos on the second level of their defense.
16 NOLA: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The Saints need to get Jameis some weapons and protection, and starting with receiver makes the most sense given the board behind them. Olave is a plug and play NFL threat at the Z, and he’ll fit nicely across Michael Thomas in that offense.
17 HOU: Treylon Burks, Wide Receiver, Arkansas
The Texans’ love for Burks has flown under the radar, but they’ll want to get Pep Hamilton and Davis Mills a real weapon to work with in year one.
18 PIT: Desmond Ridder, Quarterback, Cincinnati
*TRADE* Steelers send a Day Two pick to Philly
Howie will no doubt be fielding calls from teams looking to leapfrog Pittsburgh for a QB, and my guess is he’ll leverage that to pry a small pick from Kevin Colbert and still get his guy at 20. As for the Steelers, some may be anticipating Willis, but my intel points to Ridder as their darling.
19 NOLA: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa
The Saints need to protect Jameis Winston, and my understanding is they like Smith, a prospect who’s easy to fall in love with.
20 PHI: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
McDuffie at 20 is excellent value, and while I don’t think there’s a high likelihood of doubling-up on the secondary, it’s not impossible given the Eagles needs back there. (Hamilton should be viewed more as a linebacker, anyway).
21 KC: Drake London, WR, USC
*TRADE* Chiefs send a second round pick and future Day Three pick to New England
London was almost the pick at 8, and my understanding is he’s the favorite at that spot, but Thibs‘ tumble forced him to fall. The Chiefs would be more than happy to trade up and end that slide.
22 GB: Logan Hall, DL, Houston
The Packers might jump at their preferred receiver here, but precedent tells us they’ll wait until 28 to jump at one (at the earliest). Hall can slide up and down the defensive line and make plays, expect to hear his name called earlier than expected.
23 ARI: Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College
I’ve heard that Arizona prefers Green here, so I might regret this pick, but I’m rolling with the prospect that more teams have rated higher.
24 DAL: Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
Dallas wants to get back to a road-grading offensive line and Green provides that and then some.
25 DET: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
*TRADE* Lions send a Day Two pick to Buffalo
The Lions are well known to love Willis, but don’t have the guts to take him at 2. Expect an aggressive move up from 32 if he begins to fall. (They’ll want to leap Tennessee, for sure)
26 TEN: Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, PSU
The Titans would love to scoop up one of the interior lineman if they slid here, and they’re likely the floor for Burks, but with all three off the board they’ll opt for the top remaining pass rusher in Ebiketie. It doesn’t fill a dire need, but it’s a need.
27 TB: Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
The Bucs need a running mate next to Vita Vea and Wyatt is a three-down disruptor.
28 GB: Jahan Dotson, WR, PSU
Dotson is a perfect fit with Rodgers and the Packers would rejoice if he‘s still available at 28.
29 NE: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Pats slide back and add a versatile playmaker in the middle of their defense—classic Belichick.
30 KC: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
Gordon is an upgrade at corner for a Chiefs team in the middle of an AFC West arms race. A majority of teams have a first round grade on Gordon.
31 SEA: Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
*TRADE* Seahawks send a Day Two pick to Cincinnati
Seattle is eyeing a trade up into the back of the first, and my understanding is they prefer Matt Corral.
32 BUF: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
Buffalo can likely wait longer than this to add Hall, but getting that fifth year option for a running back might not be a bad idea.