It’s that time of year again. Mock draft season is upon us.
This year it means a little more locally. Even though the Raiders don’t have a first-round pick after trading theirs to the Packers as part of the deal for wide receiver Davante Adams, the NFL draft will take place in Las Vegas for the first time April 28-30.
Here is our first attempt at predicting what could happen in the first round. Oh, and about the Raiders not having a pick in the first round?
In a draft-day stunner, we predict the Raiders will ship star Darren Waller to the tight end-needy Titans to get back into the first round and grab a linebacker who could captain the defense for years. Waller switched agents last season and has two years left on his deal. But he has earned a raise the Raiders may be unable to afford. It would be a shock, but this offseason has been full of them.
Make sure you read until the end.
1) Jacksonville Jaguars
Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan — The Jaguars have plenty of needs, but take advantage of the opportunity to pair the best player in the draft with Josh Allen to form one of the best young pass-rushing duos in the league.
2) Trade: New York Giants
Trayvon Walker, Edge, Georgia — The Giants have plenty of draft capital and take advantage, paying a small price to move up three spots and grab one of the fastest-risers on the board. Detroit is more than willing to trade out of the two spot, picking up an extra couple of lower-round picks with the belief they can still get their guy at No. 5.
3) Houston Texans
Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame — Numbers can lie. Tape doesn’t. Hamilton may be falling in the eyes of some analysts after concerning pro day numbers, but the Texans need good players all over the field and Hamilton is definitely that. He has the ability to cover the mistakes of players in front of him and be the kind of leader the Texans can build around.
4) New York Jets
Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati — Cornerbacks of Gardner’s size (6-3, 190) just don’t move like he does. Sure, the current social media obsession is that Gardner didn’t allow a touchdown in his college career. But he’s also a great scheme fit and a potential superstar for a team that needs one.
5) Detroit Lions
Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The Lions not only get a potential franchise quarterback who could be a marketing superstar, but they trade down to do it. If this is the direction they want to go, there’s not much risk as long as they stay ahead of the quarterback-needy Panthers.
6) Carolina Panthers
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh — This could prove to be a real reach, but the Panthers have a need at the position and this is their only pick in the top 100. There are also reports that owner David Tepper is all-in on Pickett and has told the front office to make the pick.
7) New York Giants
(from Chicago Bears)
Ikem Ekwonu, OT, N.C. State — The Giants add the best offensive tackle in the draft after selecting an elite edge rusher as they try to build from the line of scrimmage out. Ekwonu is by all accounts a great locker room guy who could be a star should he fully harness his massive raw potential.
8) Atlanta Falcons
Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State — The Falcons have a glaring need for a playmaking receiver on the outside to pair with tight end Kyle Pitts. While there is some disagreement on who the best receiver available is in this draft, Wilson is a smart bet.
9) Seattle Seahawks
(from Denver Broncos)
Evan Neal, OT, Alabama — Neal falling to Seattle could be a dream scenario for the Seahawks as they enter a rebuild. It’s a bit ironic the Seahawks may finally start to build an offensive line with the pick they acquired for QB Russell Wilson.
10) New York Jets
(from Seattle Seahawks)
Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon —The Jets decide to stop the slide for a player once thought to be a front-runner to be the top overall pick. It’s great value for a player who would almost certainly go much sooner if there weren’t persistent questions about his love of the game.
11) Washington Commanders
Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama — A high-risk, high-reward pick for a team that already has weapons and can afford time for Williams to get healthy. He says he should be full speed by training camp from the ACL tear he suffered in the national championship game.
12) Minnesota Vikings
Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU — He could be one of the more controversial picks. Stingley followed an unbelievable freshman season with two injury-plagued and inconsistent years. This could be an ideal landing spot with his former defensive coordinator Daronte Jones now coaching defensive backs for the Vikings.
13) Houston Texans
(from Cleveland Browns)
Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State — The Texans just need to get the best available player with each of their picks. They need an infusion of talent at just about every position. It just so happens the best available player here also plays a premium position.
14) Baltimore Ravens
Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia — The rare workout warrior from the combine who just so happens to also be a superstar player on the field. Davis dazzled in drills in Indianapolis and could be the kind of massive defensive tackle the Ravens love to build around on the line of scrimmage.
15) Philadelphia Eagles
(from Miami Dolphins)
Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah — The Eagles have three of the next five picks and are in absolute control of the middle of the first round. Expect them to try to make moves to acquire additional capital next year unless they have a player they want to move up for in this draft. Lloyd is a very good player who fills a need.
16) Philadelphia Eagles
(from Indianapolis Colts)
Jermaine Johnson, Edge, Florida State — Johnson is trending way up and could be long gone by this point. If he does fall, this will be another easy choice for the Eagles.
17) Los Angeles Chargers
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State — There is a glaring hole at tackle and the Chargers could still use some depth at cornerback, but they take the chance to add to their offensive arsenal and fire another shot in the arms race that is the AFC West.
18) New Orleans Saints
Drake London, WR, USC — Even if Michael Thomas is healthy and happy, which are question marks, this is a team in need of an infusion of talent on the outside. London falling to this spot could make for an easy decision.
19) Philadelphia Eagles
Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington — It seems pretty unlikely the Eagles will make all three of these picks, but here they take the opportunity to stay put and add a cornerback to solidify all three levels of the defense in the course of five picks.
20) Pittsburgh Steelers
Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan — Quarterback remains a possibility and Willis could be their guy. But if they’re not in love with any of the remaining options, they may opt for drafting assistance for free-agent signing Mitch Trubisky.
21) New England Patriots
George Karalaftis, Edge, Purdue — There are several directions the Patriots could go, including cornerback where they have lost a ton of talent. Karalaftis provides great value and helps bolster a pass rush that could use more juice.
22) Green Bay Packers
(from Las Vegas Raiders)
Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas — The Packers use the pick they received from the Raiders in exchange for Davante Adams to grab another receiver. Burks is exceptionally good after the catch.
23) Arizona Cardinals
Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State — Iowa interior lineman Tyler Linderbaum could be a fit, but Watson is a fast-riser and one of the more complete receiver prospects.
24) Dallas Cowboys
Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia — Wyatt helped himself with a great combine that answered questions about his explosiveness. He may go much sooner if he hadn’t already turned 24 years old.
25) Buffalo Bills
Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson — The Bills expect Tre White to be back and healthy. Now they need to find answers at the other cornerback position.
26) Las Vegas Raiders
(from Tennessee Titans)
Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia — The Raiders acquire Dean, a linebacker who could captain the defense for years, in exchange for Waller. Dean, the 2021 Butkus Award winner and projected top linebacker prospect in the draft, was a three-year starter at Georgia.
27) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Zion Johnson, G, Boston College — Tampa Bay did a decent job of covering for offseason losses on the interior of the offensive line during free agency, but there is still a need for depth and talent. Johnson makes a ton of sense.
28) Green Bay Packers
Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa — Green Bay could go with another receiver as the need there is that great, but the Packers instead take advantage of the recent slide of Penning and draft a player they hope can start at right tackle.
29) Kansas City Chiefs
(from San Francisco 49ers
through Miami Dolphins)
Boye Mafe, Edge, Minnesota — Kansas City has a lot of catching up to do with the pass rush units the rest of the division have assembled.
30) Kansas City Chiefs
Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida — The Chiefs have only made two first-round picks since 2016. Elam gives them a physical presence on the outside.
31) Cincinnati Bengals
Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M — Wherever Joe Burrow is watching the draft, he stands up and gives a round of applause for an interior lineman who should be able to start from day one.
32) Detroit Lions
(from Los Angeles Rams)
Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan — He can play just about every position in the secondary and would probably figure out a way to play linebacker or even defensive line if he was asked to at some point. The Lions need help at all those places.