NCAAF, NFL

Introducing the Karl/Witry Challenge

As I said in my quarterbacks primer, the NFL draft is a silly, thrilling, potentially franchise altering spectacle. To that end, there’s an entire industry powered by the NFL draft and predicting the order of the draft. We here at Party Foul Sports are no different. With the NFL Draft just a week away, it’s time to usher out the inaugural “Karl/Witry Challenge.”

Rules:

“Perfect” Pick- 5 ponts

One pick off- 4 points

Two picks off- 3 points

Three picks off- 2 points

Four picks off- 1 point

Five/more picks off- 0 points

Picking a player not selected- 0 points

Highest Score Wins

 

Before I begin my mock draft, I’d like to make some points about this year’s draft class. This is a deep quarterback class, with seven or eight quarterbacks potentially being selected in the first two rounds. That said, I’m not sure this year’s quarterback class is much better than either of the last two draft classes.

Otherwise, it’s feast or famine with positional depth. While this is a deep draft for running backs and linemen on both sides of the ball, there isn’t a great deal of top-end wide receiver talent. In other words, there isn’t a clear Dez Bryant nor a top tandem of wide receivers like Mike Williams and Corey Davis in this year’s class.

 

1. Cleveland Browns- QB Josh Allen

In each of the past two years, the Browns have traded at least one first round draft pick that was used on a franchise quarterback. In 2016, the Browns received a bounty from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for the pick that would become Carson Wentz. Last year, the Browns received another first round pick for the pick that was used on Deshaun Watson. Now, the Browns have two picks in the top five but still no franchise quarterback.

I don’t think Josh Allen is the best quarterback of this class, but there’s been a lot of smoke coming out from Cleveland saying they are deciding between Allen and Sam Darnold. This could mean one of two things: either the Browns are smoke-screening the league and are preparing for a surprise, or there’s a fire there. Picking Allen would be controversial to some, but I think the Browns are ready to roll the dice.

 

2. New York Giants- QB Sam Darnold

The New York Giants need an heir for Eli Manning’s throne. After the Giants benched Manning for Geno Smith late in the season last year, it’s clear Manning is on his way out of New York. While the Giants will likely give their two-time Super Bowl champion a graceful exit, it’s clear they need someone ready to take over the reins of the franchise. If they go this route, they’ll have their choice of quarterbacks including Darnold and Josh Rosen.

That said, don’t be surprised if the Giants go another route. If the Browns draft Allen, the Giants will have their choice of the best quarterback (Rosen or Darnold,) offensive playmaker (Saquon Barkley,) or defensive player (Bradley Chubb.) I do think the Giants draft with one eye on the future and take the safest pick in Darnold.

3. New York Jets- RB Saquon Barkley

It’s entirely likely the Browns, Giants, and Jets each go with a quarterback with their first round picks. Certainly, there has been a lot of noise surrounding the Jets and quarterbacks like Rosen and Baker Mayfield.

Instead, I think the potential to draft their best running back since Curtis Martin left after the 2005 season is too much to pass up. I don’t think the Jets will wait long to draft a quarterback but Barkley can transform an offense on day one.

4. Cleveland Browns- DE Bradley Chubb

The Browns drafted Myles Garrett first overall last year but the Browns are certainly in a position to acquire as much top end talent as possible. While the offense and defensive secondary requires some work, the Browns can solidify their defensive line for years to come with Bradley Chubb. As good as Garrett was in college, Chubb might be even better.

5. Buffalo Bills- QB Josh Rosen ***TRADE WITH DENVER***

The Bills need a quarterback as much as any playoff team possibly could. The Broncos, meanwhile, appear headed for a rebuild following their decision to cut 1,000 yard rusher, CJ Anderson. If Rosen is still there after the top four picks, the Bills should be calling every other team with a top-10 pick to trade up.

They’ll certainly have competition from the Arizona Cardinals among others but the Bills have two first round picks burning a hole in their pocket. For the purposes of this mock draft, let’s say the Bills trade both of their first round picks (#12 and #22) for the #5 pick and draft Rosen. Rosen would be an immediate upgrade over AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman and would give the Bills their best quarterback since Doug Flutie.

6. Indianapolis Colts- OL Quenton Nelson

The best player in this draft might actually be an offensive lineman. Since their appearance in the 2014 AFC Championship Game, the Colts have struggled keeping their franchise quarterback on the field. Drafting Nelson would go a long way to improving an offensive line in desperate need of help. There are other needs on this roster, but the Colts need to protect Andrew Luck at all costs.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- CB Denzel Ward

The Buccaneers are in a weird situation as a franchise. They’re trapped in a division that very easily could produce three playoff teams last year while Dirk Koetter sits squarely on the hot seat going into the season. While the Buccaneers would’ve loved to see Chubb or Barkley unexpectedly drop, they can fill an immediate need with Denzel Ward.

8. Chicago Bears- LB Tremaine Edmunds

The Bears would’ve been a great landing spot for Quenton Nelson as the Bears try to grow their offense around Mitchell Trubisky. Alas, Nelson is gone and so is the best defensive back in this class. Meanwhile, keeping Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator is major plus for new head coach Matt Nagy.

While the Bears defense was solid, it is also aging with a specific weakness in the linebacker corps. Nick Kwiatkoski and Sam Acho have been strong additions but Edmunds can be a great linebacker for an organization known for having legendary linebackers.

9. San Francisco 49ers- LB Roquan Smith

The San Francisco 49ers are suddenly a team on the rise after trading for Jimmy Garoppolo last season. However, with Barkley and Nelson gone and no wide receiver rated this highly, it’s unlikely the 49ers would reach for an offensive player here. Instead, John Lynch can get down to the business of rebuilding a 49ers defense that still needs some work.

With Reuben Foster under investigation for domestic violence, the 49ers can and should draft an immediate replacement with Smith. Smith was a breakout star for the Georgia Bulldogs defense that came one field goal away from the national championship in January. Smith can immediately improve a 49ers defense on the rise.

10. Oakland Raiders- S Derwin James

Jon Gruden certainly is molding the Oakland Raiders in his own image, for better or worse. The Raiders shocked some in 2016 when they drafted Karl Joseph in the first round but they still need help on the defensive side of the ball.

James is a safety by trade but like Jalen Ramsey before him, is athletic enough to play anywhere in the defensive secondary. Outside of Bradley Chubb, Derwin James is my favorite defensive player in this draft.

11. Miami Dolphins- QB Baker Mayfield

Who knows what Ryan Tannehill will be going forward. Since we saw him last in week 14 of the 2016 season, Tannehill has suffered two different knee injuries. Despite this, Adam Gase said Tannehill is the week one starter at quarterback. But if Mayfield falls this far, the Dolphins might have to draft Mayfield over more glaring needs.

Gase rose through the ranks coaching Peyton Manning in Denver and Jay Cutler in Chicago, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to develop a quarterback. Enter Baker Mayfield, the outspoken Heisman winner from the University of Oklahoma. He’s a little undersized for a professional quarterback but more than makes up for it with physical talents including plus arm strength and mobility outside of the pocket. If Tannehill cant go week one, Mayfield can step into a starter role early in his career.

12. Denver Broncos- CB Minkah Fitzpatrick *Trade with Buffalo*

After the Broncos traded Aqib Talib this offseason, there’s suddenly a hole in Denver’s defensive secondary. Fitzpatrick started the draft process as the top cornerback but his stock has fallen, with reports saying some teams don’t value Fitzpatrick as much as some draft experts. Even still, the Broncos can find an immediate replacement for Talib with Fitzpatrick.

13. Washington- EDGE Harold Landry

Harold Landry is the rising star of this draft process. Within weeks, the former Boston College standout has gone from a late first round pick to a potential top ten selection. For now, I’ll keep him in the top half of the draft. Washington has a lot of needs, but it can check one off the list with Landry here.

14. Green Bay Packers- CB Josh Jackson

The biggest problem facing the Packers heading into the draft is that they pick too low to select either of the top cornerbacks in Ward or Fitzpatrick. The Packers have been very active in new general manager, Brian Gutekunst’s first offseason after taking over from Ted Thompson.

Under Thompson the Packers typically drafted the best player available, rather than based on need alone. But given the depleted nature of the Packers secondary, they absolutely need to consider the best available cornerback, whether that be Jackson, Jaire Alexander, or Mike Hughes.

15. Arizona Cardinals- OL Mike McGlinchey 

The Cardinals, like the Packers, face an awkward drafting situation. Their biggest positional need is quarterback, but unlike the Bills, they don’t have two first round picks to spend on a trade up. While they could go with Lamar Jackson or Mason Rudolph here,

I don’t believe either of those two are high enough on anyone’s board to merit a selection here. Instead, the Cardinals can add a stalwart offensive lineman who can protect their de facto starting quarterback: Sam Bradford.

16. Baltimore Ravens- DL Vita Vea

The Ravens have a pretty large need at wide receiver but none of the available wide receivers really fit their type. Courtland Sutton would be an interesting choice here but that feels like a reach when a guy like Vita Vea is there.

For a man of his size, Vea is incredibly athletic. As an interior defensive lineman, I think Vita Vea can be a game changer for a Ravens defense that has looked mediocre.

17. Los Angeles Chargers- DL Da’Ron Payne 

This feels like a luxury pick for a defense that already boasts Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram but the rich get richer. Payne, like his National Championship game opponent Roquan Smith, rode his excellent performance in the College Football Playoff to rise up draft boards. Payne may not be as athletic as Vea but on a defensive line that features Bosa and Ingram, he doesn’t necessarily have to be.

18. Seattle Seahawks- DL Maurice Hurst

This has been a bizarre offseason for the Seattle Seahawks. Instead of trying to improve their biggest need, the offensive line, the Seahawks sprung a few new holes as Legion of Boom stalwarts Michael Bennett and Richard Sherman bid farewell to Seattle. Now, Hurst can be the first pick in the reborn Legion of Boom. Now, there are some quality offensive linemen that make sense for Seattle, but I like Hurst here.

19. Dallas Cowboys- WR D.J. Moore

Finally, a wide receiver! The Cowboys had a rough year last year and now have a Dez Bryant sized hole on their offense. Having Zeke Elliot for something closer to a full year this year with Dak Prescott and DJ Moore can see the Cowboys return to their 2016 form instead of a mediocre step back last season.

20. Detroit Lions- RB Derrius Guice

Do you want to know the last time the Lions had a running back go for more than 100 yards in a game? Not since Reggie Bush ran for 117 yards against the Packers IN 2013! In total, the Lions have seen a running back run for more than 100 yards just seven times in Matthew Stafford’s career. Reggie Bush has three of those games, all in 2013. Kevin Smith had two while Mikel Leshoure and Jahvid Best each had a 100 yard game since 2009.

That’s beyond absurd. While the Lions have other pressing needs, especially on defense, they need to address the running game.  Guice can help them do that and while he may not be on the same level as former LSU Tiger, Leonard Fournette, Guice is very nice.

21. Cincinnati Bengals- OL Will Hernandez

The Bengals are in a weird spot as a franchise. Marvin Lewis is somehow still the head coach while whatever hopes the Bengals had of winning their first playoff game since the days of Boomer Esiason with this core have faded somewhat. Even still, the Bengals should try to extend the viability of this core for as long as possible if they’re not planning on rebuilding anytime soon.

22. Denver Broncos- EDGE Marcus Davenport *Trade with Buffalo*

Like the Bengals, the Broncos are probably closer to a rebuild than they are to competing. A year after having arguably the worst coaching situation in the entire league with Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian, the Broncos signed Case Keenum this offseason, but lost Aqib Talib and CJ Anderson.

While I have the Broncos addressing the secondary with their first pick, I think it’s still too early for Sony Michel or Ronald Jones. Going with an offensive lineman could be a smart move to protect their new investment but having Davenport stay on the board this late is absurd enough. The Broncos will be more than happy taking Davenport here and pairing him with Von Miller.

23. New England Patriots- OL Kolton Miller

The Patriots have two first round picks this year and have some actual holes on their roster to address. Some have wondered if the Patriots would package their two picks and possibly trade up or for an established star.

For now, I think Bill Belichick will try to address a hole left on his roster from Nate Solder with a comparable player in Kolton Miller. As Tom Brady’s career nears its twilight and without an heir apparent, it’s even more important that the Patriots protect their legendary quarterback.

24. Carolina Panthers- CB Jaire Alexander

Several years on, the Panthers still don’t have a replacement for Josh Norman. Between this and Cam Newton’s injury problems, the Panthers haven’t fully returned to their 2015 heights when they went 15-1 and made the Super Bowl.

The Panthers have prided themselves on finding diamonds in the rough with cornerbacks. Josh Norman himself was a fifth round pick out of Coastal Carolina. However, Jaire Alexander can be a fine pick for a Panthers team in a pass heavy division.

25. Tennessee Titans- LB Leighton Vander Esch

2017 was an up and down campaign for the Titans. Despite adding even more weapons for Marcus Mariota, the Titans limped throughout the regular season, not even winning a fairly winnable AFC South.

Despite winning a wild card matchup against Kansas City, the Titans still fired Mike Mularkey and replaced him with former pro-bowl linebacker, Mike Vrabel. With the attention apparently turning towards the defense, the Titans can give Vrabel a linebacker to form in his own image.

26. Atlanta Falcons- DL Taven Bryan

The Falcons took a step back last year after their near-Super Bowl winning campaign in 2016. Part of this can be attributed to a Super Bowl hangover and the loss of Kyle Shanahan to San Francisco. Even still, the Falcons made it to the divisional round of the playoffs last year, coming close to toppling Nick Foles and the Super Bowl winning Eagles.

While Grady Jarrett has quietly become one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game, adding Taven Bryan to the mix can help the Falcons become even more dynamic.

27. New Orleans Saints- TE Hayden Hurst

Last year, the Saints rode some excellent rookie breakouts from Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore to nearly make the NFC Championship Game. This helped ease some of the pressure on Sean Payton. It also showed that the Saints should move fast if they want to win another Super Bowl with Drew Brees.

While Kamara is electric out of the backfield, the Saints have sorely missed a dynamic, play making tight end since Jimmy Graham left town. While I like Penn State’s Mike Gesicki as the top tight end in this class, Hurst is repeatedly connected to the Saints so I’ll keep him here.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers- LB Rashaan Evans

From here on, we enter prime territory for teams trying to trade back in to the first round for a quarterback such as Lamar Jackson. For now, I’ll say the Steelers hold on to their pick and select someone who can come in and fill in the void left by Ryan Shazier. Evans isn’t a flashy name but he’ll slot in nicely in the Steelers defense.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars- WR Calvin Ridley

Considered the best wide receiver in a weak class for receivers, Calvin Ridley is consistent, but doesn’t have the highest ceiling for receivers. The Jaguars, meanwhile, were arguably the most shocking team in the entire league last year.

Despite losing Allen Robinson early in the season, the Jaguars rode a strong defense to the AFC Championship Game. By this point, we already know what to expect from Blake Bortles but that doesn’t mean the Jaguars shouldn’t try to maximize his effectiveness. Adding Ridley to this offense more than makes up for the loss of Robinson.

30. Minnesota Vikings- OL Isaiah Wynn

After adding Kirk Cousins via free agency, the Vikings have the task of meeting some lofty expectations in Minnesota. The first priority should be keeping their new star quarterback healthy and on the field. That’s where Wynn comes in. Again, it wouldn’t shock me if the Vikings look to trade down here. Assuming they don’t, the offensive line could use an upgrade after being exposed somewhat by the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.

31. New England Patriots- CB Mike Hughes

Bill Belichick infamously benched Malcolm Butler for most of the Super Bowl and now Butler is a Tennessee Titan, meaning Belichick has a hole in his secondary. Enter Mike Hughes, a crucial part of the Central Florida defense that helped the Knights go undefeated this year.

Belichick prides himself on his defense and while Matt Patricia is gone, the Patriots can keep their run of success going for as long as Tom Brady is playing.

32. Philadelphia Eagles- OT Orlando Brown

I very nearly went with a trade here for Lamar Jackson but I think the Eagles will hold on to their pick here. Jason Peters is 36 years old and coming off a major knee injury. If the Eagles want to avoid losing Carson Wentz to another knee injury, they would be wise to invest in Orlando Brown.

Unless someone really blows them away, I don’t think the Eagles are going to pass up drafting a lineman like Brown. The Eagles, as presently constructed, look poised to break off a run of playoff appearances while Washington and New York look to perhaps rebuild their rosters.

 

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