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NFL Mock Draft - Part II
NFL Mock Draft - Part I

Editor's Note: Be sure to check out all of Bruce Marshall's content on VegasInsider.com.

In our last update, we projected the first half of the first round in the upcoming NFL Draft in the following manner:

1-Cleveland Browns...Sam Darnold, QB, Southern Cal
2-New York Giants...Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
3-New York Jets (from Indianapolis)...Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
4-Cleveland Browns (from Houston)...Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
5-Denver Broncos...Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
6-Indianapolis Colts (from NY Jets)...Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
7-Tampa Bay Bucs...Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
8-Chicago Bears...Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
9-San Francisco 49ers...Roquan Smith, OLB, Georgia
10-Oakland Raiders...Tremaine Edmunds, ILB, Virginia Tech
11-Miami Dolphins...Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
12-Buffalo Bills (from Cincinnati)...Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
13-Washington Redskins...Vita Vea, DTR, Washington
14-Green Bay Packers...Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
15-Arizona Cardinals...Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
16-Baltimore Ravens...James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

We complete our first-round preview and team updates in this issue. Remember, inevitable trades are almost certainly going to alter the proceedings and draft order, but for the moment (as of Monday, April 9), here’s how we see the remainder of the first round progressing, beginning with the L.A. Chargers’ pick in the 17th slot.

17-LOS ANGELES CHARGERS...It’s not often that we talk about kickers being the most important offseason additions, but after their PKs connected on only 20 of 31 FG attempts a year ago and cost a couple of games early last season, the Chargers’ FA signing of former Eagles PK Caleb Sturgis (who missed almost all of last season due to hip problems) might be their most important pick-up for 2018. Given that the Bolts now appear to be the Chiefs’ top challenger in the AFC West after John Elway’s mis-steps in Denver and Oakland gambling on HC Jon Gruden, it’s the little things like an improved PK that might push Philip Rivers & Co. into the playoffs in January. Of course, QB Rivers (entering his 15th season) is the subject of speculation, too, as the Bolts are going to have to make a move pretty soon to identify his successor, though most believe GM Tom Telesco will opt for a developmental QB with a later pick rather than force a selection in the middle of the first round. Telesco was not too active in the early stages of free agency (ex-Bronco TE Virgil Green the only other notable signing aside from Sturgis) and could go a variety of directions, though shoring up a rush “D” that faltered after an injury to MLB Denzel Perryman will be on the priority list. Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

18-SEATTLE SEAHAWKS...There is growing suspicion that the Seahawks’ recent title window closed last year, and with HC Pete Carroll (at 67 in September the NFL’s oldest) now apparently a year-to-year proposition, Seattle looks to be a candidate for a retro-fit (though the Hawks cannot be completely dismissed as long as QB Russell Wilson remains in the fold). The hire of d.c. Ken Norton, Jr. (dismissed by the Raiders midway last season) is also a bit curious, though it reinforces the notion that Carroll still calls the shots for the Seattle stop unit. Whatever, the five-season playoff run ended last season, and the old “Legion of Boom” secondary is no more with CB Richard Sherman having moved to the 49ers. And a further different look on defense with DE Michael Bennett moving to the Eagles, and the future of DE Cliff Avril very cloudy due to his neck injury. Most of the offseason adds were of the stop-gap variety, including the seemingly-endless attempt to upgrade the OL, while new targets for Wilson (TE Ed Dickson & WR Jaron Brown, respectively) hardly seem upgrades from the departed Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson. Does the Carroll era in Seattle end after this season? Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

19-DALLAS COWBOYS...In the end it was perhaps no surprise that the Cowboys slipped to 9-7 and out of the playoff mix last year after the six-game midseason suspension of RB Ezekiel Elliott. But there were other problems for Jerry Jones besides the plight of Zeke, as the “D” regressed and the OL did not dominate as it did in 2016. Dak Prescott also didn’t take a step forward at QB last fall, though there were some forces working against him. Moreover, the future landing spot for WR Dez Bryant, who remains unsigned, is still up in the air. Though the thought persists that answers for an upgrade probably lie within the existing roster, and, with the hope of a distraction-free 2018, Jones did move to improve his pass rush in free agency by inking ex-Jets DE Cony Ealy, a previous Dallas target. Don’t be surprised if Jones looks for another potential impact defender early in the draft, though ol ‘Jer will also probably be looking to make provisions at WR in case Bryant does not return. Can HC Jason Garrett, with more downs than ups in his Dallas career, survive another playoff miss? Leighton Vander Esch, OLB, Boise State

20-DETROIT LIONS...Keep an eye on the Lions, who have had an itchy look since the end of last season, jettisoning HC Jim Caldwell in favor of ex-Patriots d.c. Matt Patricia, who appears to have at least trimmed his New England beard (and likely discarded his backwards baseball cap) now that he is working for Detroit franchise matriarch Martha Ford. Rumors continue to float from Ford Field that GM Bob Quinn might be looking to move up in the draft, ostensibly for a shot at Penn State RB Saquon Barkley. The Lions haven’t had a top-notch feature runner since Barry Sanders and are way overdue for the sort of infantry component that Barkley could provide. In case Quinn can’t swing that deal, RB signee LeGarrette Blount should at least provide a bit of an upgrade. Free agent departures also took a bite out of the Lions DL, and with rush defense additions needed, Quinn did spend some FA money on DT Sylvester Williams (most recently with the Titans), and hopes to have bolstered his LB corps by adding Devon Kennard (Giants) and Christian Jones (Bears), the kind of versatile components that Patricia valued in New England. Also familiar to Patricia is ex-Patriot LB Jonathan Freeny, another addition who should provide depth. If Quinn can’t swing a deal for Penn State’s Barkley, he might target the next RB in line (LSU’s Derrius Guice?), or could be tempted to provide another defensive toy for his new coach. Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College

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21-CINCINNATI BENGALS (from Buffalo)...Marvin Lewis produced a save worthy of Pekka Rinne at the end of last season when it looked as if his 15-season run as Cincy HC was about to end. But a couple of nervy wins to close out 2017 vs. the Lions and Ravens (especially the latter) convinced Mike Brown to bring back Lewis, who still hasn’t won a playoff game with the Bengals but does work a bit cheaper than most NFL coaches. (No wonder Brown likes to keep Lewis around!) Cincy has added a few extra picks after swapping first-round selections with the Bills, but has yet to seriously address its area of biggest need (OL upgrades) in the offseason. As expected, QB AJ McCarron has departed in free agency (signed by Buffalo), leaving Andy Dalton in the saddle for at least another year; the well-traveled Matt Barkley has been signed as the new backup, but is not considered a down-the-road alternative to Dalton, who like his coach, might be running out of time to finally produce a playoff win. Even if the Bengals don’t look to the OL in the first round, they will likely target the forward wall sometime early in Arlington. Will Hernandez, G, UTEP

22-BUFFALO BILLS (from Kansas City)...The thought persists that the Bills are a candidate to move up, especially as they already have the 12th pick in this round via Cincy (we projected SMU WR Courtland Sutton to the Bills with that earlier selection last week). And if moving up, Buffalo would likely be doing so to nab one of the featured QBs, with FA ex-Bengal AJ McCarron more of a bridge (to whom, we’re still not sure). If the Bills can’t swing a deal, they could still reach a bit early for one of the next-tier QBs. In the offseason, they’ve already done some reloading on the DL (DE Trent Murphy from the Redskins, DT Star Lotulelei from the Panthers) in hopes of bolstering an anemic pass rush. If the Bills hold onto this pick, another weapon on the edge could also be targeted. Buffalo has this extra selection at 22, courtesy Kansas City, from last year’s draft-day swap that allowed the Chiefs to move up and nab Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

23-NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (from L.A. Rams)...Bill Belichick moves up higher than usual in the first round after last week’s deal of WR Brandin Cooks to the Rams, who have been pretty aggressive in the offseason. Belichick threw in a 4th round pick with Cooks to receive this pick and the Rams’ 6th-round selection. Some suspect that Belichick, now armed with a pair of first-rounders, might be looking to move up even further with growing urgency to find a successor to Tom Brady, who has been hinting since the Super Bowl loss vs. Philly that he might not be interested in playing until he’s 45 after all. We’ll see, but the fact that Jimmy Garoppolo is no longer around as insurance and isn’t going to bounce back to Foxborough after signing a big-bucks extension with the 49ers has some believing the Patriots have something up their sleeve. In the meantime, New England spent some FA dollars on Eagles LT Matt Tobin as Belichick looked for a stop-gap following Nate Solder’s FA move to the Giants, and ex-Falcon DE Adrian Clayborn was added to bolster an underachieving position last year. Belichick’s picks always intrigue, but there’s an extra layer this season with QB perhaps on the front burner. Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA

24-CAROLINA PANTHERS...Still in a period of flux in Charlotte, with owner and franchise founder Jerry Richardson forced to put the team up for sale, and former GM Marty Hurney back in his old job on an interim basis, at least until the ownership situation is resolved. Fortunately for Carolina fans, a bit more stability on the field with HC Ron Rivera still in the fold and the Pan-thas back into the playoffs last fall, with Cam Newton still appearing to be a potential difference-maker. Hurney was relatively busy in free agency and was able to minimize the departure of key DT Star Lotulelei to the Bills by adding a slightly-less expensive replacement, Dontari Poe, from the Falcons (at $27 mill over three seasons), though signing ex-Vikings G Jeremiah Sirles does not quite fill the shoes of All-Pro Andrew Norwell, who moved to the Jags. Re-signing vet DE Julius Peppers, who enters his 17th NFL season off a rather productive (11 sacks) 2017, has lessened the need to add another pass rusher, though Hurney might be looking to add more depth than ex-Giants CB Ross Cockrell in the secondary. Derwin James, S, Florida State

25-TENNESSEE TITANS...We’re not sure what the Titans will be doing in the draft, but we do know that they not only have a new coach (Mike Vrabel, off a stint as the Texans’ d.c.), but a snappy new set of uniforms complete with new blue helmets, too. The makeover might seem a bit curious after a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, but after some deft personnel upgrades (much of it via the draft) by GM Jon Robinson the past couple of years, more was expected from HC Mike Mularkey. Keeping DE DaQuan Jones in house during early free agency was perhaps Robinson’s best offseason move, along with holding onto G Josh Kline, though if fragile QB Marcus Mariota goes down again in the fall, adding well-traveled backup QB Blaine Gabbert might prove Robinson’s best piece of recent business. Short of Gabbert being forced into the lineup, adding former Super Bowl hero CB Malcolm Butler from the Patriots might prove the Titans’ best offseason addition. Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama

26-ATLANTA FALCONS...The “Super Bowl loser” jinx did not land too hard in Atlanta, where even though the season was a bit of a grind, the Falcons made it back to the playoffs after their hard-to-swallow loss to the Patriots in Supe LI. Atlanta even won a game in the postseason (at the Rams) before narrowly missing a derailment of the Eagles’ Super Bowl train in the Division Round. Though the NFC South is a competitive neighborhood, the Falcs look well-positioned to stay among the NFL’s elite, with the bulk of the roster still appearing to be in its prime. Granted, Atlanta lost some of its DL in free agency (DT Dontari Poe to division foe Carolina, and DE Adrian Clayborn to New England), but early free agency was not an especially active period for GM Tom Dimitroff, who is instead looking ahead to 2019, when he will have several contract extensions on his mind. With Poe and Clayborn leaving, Dimitroff made sure to re-ink DE Derrick Shelby, but it would be no surprise if the Falcs, without too many holes on their roster, look at the DL early in the draft. Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

27-NEW ORLEANS SAINTS...The biggest concern of the offseason was the chance that QB Drew Brees might leave the fold, but there was little chance of that happening, especially with the 39-year-old ex-Purdue man still going strong and with a sense of unfinished business after that bitter playoff loss at Minnesota. Brees also knows his best chance to get back to the Super Bowl is with New Orleans, and GM Mickey Loomis was able to carve out enough salary space to bring back his QB on a 2-year deal (though at a slight market discount). That potential issue avoided, there was still a back-to-the-future feel in the offseason, with former Saints such as TE Ben Watson, versatile OL Jermon Bushrod, and CB Patrick Robinson all returning to the Superdome on modest FA deals. Meanwhile, like Brees, DE Alex Okafor was retained. There is a bit of urgency, however, to identify an eventual successor to Brees, who, even in a best-case scenario, probably doesn’t figure beyond 2019; holdover ex-BYU Taysom Hill and ex-Texan Tom Savage, signed to effectively replace the departed Chase Daniel, might not be long-term options (though some believe Hill is an intriguing possibility). With a roster pretty well set, and having struck gold with some of his 2017 picks, might Loomis gamble on a next-tier QB late in the first round? There are also concerns about a possible franchise sale after the recent passing of long-time owner Tom Benson, though that looms as more of a possible issue (certainly for HC Sean Payton) down the road. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

28-PITTSBURGH STEELERS...Unlike a year ago, when Steelers fans had a nervous offseason with QB Ben Roethlisberger waiting a long time to commit to 2017, Big Ben spared any angst among the support base by announcing he will definitely be back (and probably for the next two seasons before revisiting his future again) shortly after the stinging Division Round loss to the Jags. That doesn’t mean, however, that Pittsburgh can wait much longer to identify a successor at QB, with Roethlisberger entering his 15th season this fall (where did the time go?) and now a short-term option at best; GM Kevin Colbert did tab Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs in the 4th round last April, and longtime backup Landry Jones is still in the mix, though it’s doubtful either is a long-term answer. Staff shakeup in the offseason, too, with Todd Haley out as o.c. and QB Randy Fichtner promoted to take his place. This year’s offseason question was RB Le’Veon Bell, who hinted that he might not play for a second straight year on the franchise tag, though Colbert slapped it on him anyway in early March. Stay tuned, though no one in the Steel City really expects Bell to sit out this fall. As long as Bell returns, and with Big Ben and his loaded receiving corps in the fold, more draft attention is likely paid to the defense, where ILB Ryan Shazier’s serious neck injury has perhaps ended his career. Colbert opted for a less-expensive FA LB, ex-Colt Jon Bostic, but could definitely look for further LB upgrades in Arlington. Elsewhere on defense, ex-Packer S Morgan Burnett was added as an alternative to recently underperforming Mike Mitchell Colbert might also look at CB with the position proving a problem last fall after Joe Haden’s late-season injury. Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

29-JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS...The Jags’ exciting breakthrough last season and near-advancement to the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl were real feathers in the caps of team president Tom Coughlin, returning to J’ville after being the original coach in the expansion years, and HC Doug Marrone, retained by Coughlin after succeeding Gus Bradley on an interim basis at the end of 2016. There is still some question about the viability of QB Blake Bortles, and if the Jags’ mostly-smashmouth offensive philosophy (featuring, when healthy, last year’s star rookie RB Leonard Fournette) merely camouflaged Bortles, but Coughlin re-signing Bortles for 3 years at $54 mill temporarily takes the QB position out of the discussion. The rest of the roster appears in very good shape, especially a “D” that rose to the elite level last season and boasts of a young core of playmakers that appear to be entering their prime years. Coughlin and GM David Caldwell were not especially active in early free agency, though adding ex-Colt WR Donte Moncrief might provide Bortles a needed downfield target, especially after Allen Robinson left for the Bears. The release of vet Marcedes Lewis prompted a couple of FA signings (ex-Jet Austin-Sefarian Jenkins and ex-Redskin Niles Paul) at what has been an underachieving TE spot. If they can, would expect Coughlin and Caldwell to prioritize some extra help for Bortles. Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina

30-MINNESOTA VIKINGS...On the cusp of the franchise’s first Super Bowl visit in 42 years, Vikings GM Rick Spielman made one of the big splashes in free agency by winning the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes and thus completely overhauling the QB position (a bit of a rarity for a team that reached a conference final), with only 2017 rookie and ex-Bronco Kyle Sloter remaining from last year’s signal-caller group that saw Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, and Teddy Bridgewater all depart. Spielman apparently has more use for ex-Denver QBs than John Elway after adding Trevor Simeian in trade to back up Cousins this fall. In the rich-get-richer department, Spielman also added another Pro Bowler, ex-Seahawk DT Sheldon Richardson, to what was already one of the best DLs in the NFL. Those signings took up most of Spielman’s available cap space. At the draft it would be no surprise to see the Vikings look for upgrades along an OL that was forced to often re-shuffle a year ago, with seven different combinations being used up front, and prompting Spielman to bring back G Nick Easton, who was a solid starter last season before being felled by injuries. Connor Williams, G, Texas

31-NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS...Bill Belichick has a bit of flexibility with a pair (albeit low) first-round picks thanks to the aforementioned add of the Rams’ pick at the 23-spot in the deal for WR Brandin Cooks. The same dynamics apply as earlier in the round, with the Patriots a better threat to trade up than before the Cooks deal and perhaps interested in an eventual successor to Tom Brady after Jimmy Garoppolo’s midseason trade to the 49ers last October. If New England isn’t dealing, and would rather wait a bit to draft a developmental QB, expect the OL and secondary to be targeted early by Belichick after each performed below par for much of last season. Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

32-PHILADELPHIA EAGLES...They don’t know how to react in the Delaware Valley with nothing to complain about (well, if excluding the Phillies) after the Birds won their first championship in 57 years. With Super Bowl hero Nick Foles remaining in the fold at QB just in case Carson Wentz is slow to recover from his knee injury, Eagles supremo Howie Roseman mostly concerned himself with low-end, depth-adding deals in early free agency, helping out special teams by adding LBs Corey Nelson (ex-Broncos) and Paul Warrilow (ex-Lions), while WR Mike Wallace (via the Ravens) and DT Haloti Ngata (via the Lions) were the sort of low-risk, potential high-reward deals that Roseman made work so well elsewhere on the roster in 2017. There aren’t may holes to fill, but the Eagles could be looking at the LT spot with vet Jason Peters attempting to return from season-ending knee surgery last October, and might be very intrigued by Oklahoma’s mammoth Orlando Brown, who appears a bit of a project...but with a very high ceiling. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

  
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