SportsPulse: Move over Tom Brady, the Cleveland Browns are set to be next great team in NFL says USA TODAY’s Trysta Krick. Yes, those Browns. Here’s why.
Free agency’s plethora of moving parts will significantly impact the NFL draft landscape, which was indelibly altered this week when the Browns sent their first-round pick to the Giants as part of a package that brought superstar Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland.
Rest assured, fellow draftnik Mike Middlehurst-Schwartz will provide his next mock draft when the free agency dust (plus associated trades) has completely settled. But, for now, here’s an updated version to my post-combine edition, factoring in the Browns’ exit from Round 1 and some of the early aftereffects of veteran players who are changing their mailing addresses.
1. Cardinals — Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma: His pro day performance dropped safely into the fairway, he appears like the choice — based both on his prodigious talent and ability to snugly plug into new Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense. If GM Steve Keim could pry a nice return for incumbent QB Josh Rosen, this franchise’s rebuild could suddenly be well ahead of schedule.
2. 49ers — Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State: Even with former Chiefs OLB Dee Ford headed to the Bay Area, this still appears like an ideal fit for Bosa. The Niners are solid up the middle with DeForest Buckner but probably can’t have enough athletic edge defenders in a division featuring Russell Wilson and, potentially, Murray.
3. Jets — Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama: Given they have no second-round pick, the NYJ could be open for business here. But if they stick, no reason to overthink it. Highly regarded talents like DL Leonard Williams, S Jamal Adams and QB Sam Darnold “fell” into the Jets’ laps in recent drafts. And pairing the Williamses together could be the ideal way to make Tom Brady miserable — unleash two terrors right up the gut.
4. Raiders — Josh Allen, OLB-DE, Kentucky: Oakland has already made a lot of noise on the personnel front. But the Raiders have yet to address their primary deficiency: a pass rush that collected a league-low 13 sacks in 2018 without Khalil Mack. Allen has 31 sacks over the past three seasons, including 17 last year.
5. Buccaneers — Montez Sweat, DE-OLB, Mississippi State: He showed too much size (6-6, 260 pounds) and speed (4.41 40-yard dash, a modern record for a defensive lineman) at the combine for Tampa Bay to pass — especially given the Bucs ranked 26th against the pass and surrendered the most points in the NFC.
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6. Giants — Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State: The makeover is officially underway with OBJ leaving town. Haskins has long seemed like the right guy for New York, given the value of an apprenticeship under Eli Manning. And GM Dave Gettleman’s decisions to part with Beckham and S Landon Collins seem like a strong indication that he’s less interested in winning now than setting this franchise up for the future. The Giants spurned the chance to draft a passer in Round 1 last year, but that seems unlikely now.
7. Jaguars — Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State: Nick Foles is headed to Jacksonville. Now? Gotta keep the not-so-fleet-footed quarterback upright. Dillard would be a good candidate for Foles’ blind side while enabling the Jags to shift Cam Robinson, who’s coming off a torn ACL, to right tackle.
8. Lions — T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa: Clones are never as good as the source material, but Detroit coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn seem to be attempting to create the Motown Patriots. Hockenson isn’t Gronk, but in the spirit of the apparent game plan …
9. Bills — Ed Oliver, DT, Houston: Buffalo has been busy putting fresh pieces around second-year QB Josh Allen. This would be a good spot to bolster the league’s second-ranked defense, which currently doesn’t have anyone who can penetrate up the middle like Oliver can.
10. Broncos — Devin White, ILB, LSU: Could they go quarterback again? Maybe, but 10th seems awfully rich given who’s on the board and who just joined the roster (Joe Flacco). Why not give defensive-minded head coach Vic Fangio the type of linebacker he values — one who can swiftly flow to the ball.
11. Bengals — Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan: New head coach Zac Taylor might prefer somebody who can help the offense, but Gary is too good to bypass, especially with Michael Johnson gone.
12. Packers — Noah Fant, TE, Iowa: Might be Jimmy Graham 2.0 given his ability to be a gamebreaker downfield and inability to be one in-line. Green Bay has reloaded on defense the past few days but could still use another weapon for Aaron Rodgers.
13. Dolphins — Drew Lock, QB, Missouri: Probably going to be a veteran under center in Week 1, but Miami will likely still need a young quarterback to build around amid its latest reboot.
14. Falcons — Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida: The release of RT Ryan Schraeder creates an opening for a line getting a face-lift. Taylor appears like a tailor-made right tackle who could help Atlanta re-establish its ground game.
15. Redskins — Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma: The quicksilver cousin of Antonio Brown should be ready to go for training camp despite recent Lisfranc surgery. And with Jamison Crowder gone, Washington could use a dynamic slot threat given none of its current quarterbacks are well-equipped to strike deep.
16. Panthers — D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi: A much stronger, much faster version of former starter Devin Funchess, Metcalf doesn’t need to run nifty routes to be a major asset for an offense that has so many players who do their best work in the short and intermediate parts of the field.
COMBINE WINNERS, LOSERS: D.K. Metcalf, Montez Sweat stand out among pack
17. Giants (from Browns) — Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State: He struck a woman while in high school and pleaded no contest to simple assault but was apparently a model citizen in Starkville. Last month, Simmons tore his ACL. He might be a top-five pick with a clean résumé, and that kind of value might be too good for Gettleman to pass up (even if Simmons’ 6-4, 301-pound build isn’t quite at Hog Molly specs) as he restocks New York’s ailing defense.
18. Vikings — Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama: Coach Mike Zimmer wants to run the ball and establish a tougher identity. Williams fits those priorities. His acquisition would likely mean last year’s second-rounder, Brian O’Neill, would move to left tackle, leaving Williams and Riley Reiff to sort out who’s best at guard and tackle in the wake of Mike Remmers’ release.
19. Titans — Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson: Excellent on the field and off, he’s the kind of dude with whom you lay a cultural foundation. Wilkins might need to get a bit stronger to hold up in some of Tennessee’s varied looks, but Mike Vrabel and company will figure out how to maximize his estimable value.
20. Steelers — Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan: All of their recent drama on the offensive side — yes, Kevin Colbert, drama — has overshadowed the ongoing need for a defensive playmaker in the middle of the field post-Ryan Shazier.
21. Seahawks — Byron Murphy, CB, Washington: At 5-11 and a newly rocked-up 190 pounds, he still doesn’t resemble Seattle’s corner prototype. But this overhauled secondary needs more firepower.
22. Ravens — Brian Burns, OLB-DE, Florida State: At 6-5 and 249 pounds (some of that weight very recently packed on), he doesn’t have the anchor of Baltimore’s model edge rusher. But with OLBs Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith moving on, replenishing the position currently looms as a bigger priority than further recalibrating the offense for QB Lamar Jackson.
23. Texans — Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma: Houston allowed the most sacks in the league (62), and its running backs barely topped 4 yards per carry last year.
24. Raiders (from Bears) — Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia: Oakland needs more beyond CB Gareon Conley in coverage, particularly in a division where the ball’s in the air so often.
25. Eagles — Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama: A violent runner who also catches the ball smoothly, he’d be a boon to a 28th-ranked running game that produced 91 yards total in Philly’s two playoff games last season. And with Le’Veon Bell now off the market, this could be the way to go rather than signing an aging back.
26. Colts — Greedy Williams, CB, LSU: Can’t ever have enough speed or cover guys on your roster, and corner is an area where Indianapolis can improve even with Pierre Desir returning to the fold.
27. Raiders (from Cowboys) — Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama: The arrival of WR Antonio Brown revamps Oakland’s passing game. But new GM Mike Mayock might want to snag a promising tight end here given QB Derek Carr’s reliance on Jared Cook last season.
28. Chargers — Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson: A virtual human roadblock, the Bolts could use his girth between DEs Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram with DT Corey Liuget now departed and Brandon Mebane turning 34.
29. Chiefs — Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson: With Kansas City switching to a four-man front, just as Justin Houston and Ford are backing up the moving trucks, the need for pass rushers to refurbish new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s signature NASCAR packages is evident.
30. Packers (from Saints) — Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State: Green Bay has spent a lot of time adding defensive backs who can cover over the last year, former Bears S Adrian Amos in free agency being the latest example. But the Pack could still use an enforcer type to set a tone in the run game while making opponents think twice on crossing routes.
31. Rams — Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina State: With C John Sullivan and LG Rodger Saffold gone, the NFC champs suddenly have two holes on their offensive line.
32. Patriots — Jerry Tillery, DL, Notre Dame: He’s long (6-6, 295), strong, talented and smart. Sounds like a Patriot to me, especially with DE Trey Flowers headed to Detroit while Danny Shelton and Malcom Brown are unsigned. Michael Bennett can’t do it alone.
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
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