Penn State WR Chris Godwin will certainly be the first Nittany Lions player selected in the NFL Draft, which starts tonight. But where will he go, and can he sneak into the first round? Associated Press Photo
Well, tonight’s the night the top draft-eligible players in college football get to find out where they will start their professional careers. I don’t see the point of putting too much stock into mock drafts, because one trade messes them up, and it’s impossible to predict every trade. But mock drafts sure are fun, and they give a look at the players who can be considered first-round possibilities.
So, I’ll run down my selections for the first round, and then give my thoughts on which Penn State players will get drafted, and where they’ll go.
1. Cleveland Browns – DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
I actually agree with Warren Sapp when it comes to Garrett, but I still think he’ll go No. 1 overall. And, I really believe he should. Does he have a great motor? No. But the Browns aren’t contending next year anyway. This is a perfect spot to take a player who needs some development, some coaching, and maybe a dose of reality that his pure athleticism can only carry him so far. Garrett is far more explosive as a pass rusher than Solomon Thomas or Jonathan Allen, and the Browns have not been a threat to opposing quarterbacks in years. Garrett could easily flop if he doesn’t improve his technique. But athletically speaking, Garrett is the total package.
2. San Francisco 49ers – DE Solomon Thomas, Stanford
I don’t love this pick, because Thomas looks to me more like a defensive tackle than an end, and if you’re taking a defensive lineman this early, you want him to be a physical freak. But if it’s between Thomas and Allen, Thomas was a pretty productive player in college who looked very strong at the Combine. I love Thomas at No. 10, but he’ll have a nice career regardless.
For the record, I think the 49ers are going to try like madmen to trade this pick today.
3. Chicago Bears – TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
Not sure if this is what the Bears will do, but it’s what they should do. For my money, Howard is the best offensive prospect in this draft, and the Bears need offense. Howard was a big-time producer in huge games for the Crimson Tide, and athletically, he has wide receiver skills. The question is whether he’ll ever be a great blocker, and to take a tight end this high and make it work out, he might have to be. But, the Bears need to get Mike Glennon in a position where he can excel, and with Jordan Howard at tailback and some top receivers already in the fold, taking the final piece can make the Bears pretty good offensively next year.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
This is an easy one. The Jaguars have T.J. Yeldon, who looks a lot like a pretty good change of pace back. Fournette would give them a grinder. He’s not a game-breaking back. But man, he churns out the yards and wears defenses down. There’s still a place for that in the NFL, and good teams have this kind of player.
5. Tennessee Titans – SAF Jamal Adams, LSU
Here’s another pick I think can get dealt, especially considering the quarterbacks have not been selected yet. (Cleveland, for example, has a million picks and seems to really like North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky.) If the Titans hold onto this one, Adams is a good, safe choice to bolster the secondary. He’s a ball-hawking safety who plays the run well and is a high character guy. He’s a winning player for a team on the verge. If he’s available, the Titans should consider not trading down far.
6. New York Jets – SAF Malik Hooker, Ohio State
Word is the Jets are going to look in the defensive backfield in the first round, and coming from someone who has seen a lot of Ohio State, Hooker is more of a sure-bet defensive factor than the Buckeyes cornerback, Marshon Lattimore. He has great instincts against the pass — he’s puts himself in places at times that it doesn’t seem possible he can be, he anticipates so well — and I don’t think Hooker is as shaky against the run as some of the scouts do.
7. Los Angeles Chargers – RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
The Chargers, to me, are the most interesting team in the top 10. Because, there’s not a player they need who would otherwise be projected to go here. Clemson WR Mike Williams is the easy prediction, because he’s probably the top receiver prospect available, has prototypical measurables and has been a productive player, although he has had some fumbling issues and certainly isn’t a speedy deep threat. But watch the Chargers do something crazy with this pick. This is a team with really significant public relations issues right now, after moving from its longtime home in San Diego to a soccer field in a city that really doesn’t want a second team. The Chargers aren’t in desperate need of a running back, just a few years after taking Melvin Gordon. But McCaffrey is an exciting player, and the Chargers want some positive mojo. Stanford is a few hours up the coast from L.A., but he’d at least make the Chargers somewhat enticing for their new fans. If any team is going to make a pure P.R. pick, it’s this one.
8. Carolina Panthers – DE Jonathan Allen, Alabama
Few are predicting Allen will fall this far, but like Thomas, he’s a bit of a tweener like Thomas is, and there will be questions about him. He’s a fine player, though. Very productive. Works hard. Technically sound. The Panthers can use some help off the edge, and Allen dropping this far would be big for them, considering they probably are crossing their fingers that McCaffrey doesn’t go among the top seven picks.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – OLB Haason Reddick, Temple
This is another player I saw quite a bit against Penn State, and some other teams, through the last few years. Can’t believe he went to Temple as a walk-on. Terrific pass rusher as a college defensive end, good against the run, and really a terrific kid. Teams are looking for fast linebackers to play inside, and Reddick certainly can do that for the Bengals. But he may get his first look on the outside.
10. Buffalo Bills – CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
The Bills get lucky here, because they badly need a cornerback, and Lattimore — who only started one season for the Buckeyes — slips a little in this scenario. Good all around talent, although a bit raw. Very reminiscent of last year’s Giants first-round pick, Eli Apple. This would have been the first spot where someone would have strongly considered Gareon Conley, but until the sexual assault allegations against him are cleared — or not — he’s probably going to be off-limits for most NFL teams, especially on the first few days.
11. New Orleans Saints – CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
Best-known, perhaps, as the Tide corner who got picked out of the play on which Clemson won the national championship. Humphrey is a prototypical corner size-wise. But, his ball skills are a major question.
12. Cleveland Browns – QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina
Trubisky is a big gamble, because he was an inconsistent player who doesn’t come to the league with a lot of game experience. But when he was good, he was really good, and there’s plenty of potential here. If he’s your second pick in the top 12, it makes the gamble more worthwhile. But anyone trading up is going to be doing so for the chance to get him before the Browns can.
13. Arizona Cardinals – QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
Understand this much: I don’t think there’s a quarterback with true first-round ability in this draft. But if I absolutely had to take a quarterback, I’d probably take Mahomes. He’s big. He can run. He has proven durable. For my money, he has the best arm in the draft. He is the son of the former Twins pitcher Pat Mahomes, so you know he has that professional approach to his game. Are there issues here? Sure. His decision-making wasn’t always great. He’s a Brett Favre-like gambler on the field. But he’d be perfect for someone with an aging, established, star quarterback who can teach him the ropes. The Cardinals and the Steelers are the perfect fits for Mahomes. But like a freight train, once the run on quarterbacks starts in the draft, it’s hard to stop it.
14. Philadelphia Eagles – RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State
Cook is a player that might wind up off a lot of teams’ draft boards, because trouble seemed to find him during the early days with the Seminoles. But even though this is a deeper class for running backs, and even with a guy like Alabama’s Reuben Foster (who has some issues of his own) still available, Cook is a more special talent than what’s left. He’d make the Eagles a lot better, at a position where they could really use a game-breaker.
15. Indianapolis Colts – MLB Reuben Foster, Alabama
The troubled players have to go somewhere, because as long as the off-field issues are known ahead of time and can be investigated, they never fall too far — unless, well, you know. Foster had some shoulder issues last year, and then got sent home early from the Combine after some kind of argument with a nurse. Anybody who needs an inside linebacker — and there aren’t many sure bets at that position in this draft — is certainly going to do some investigating on Foster, and they’ll likely clear him because he’s a top-tier talent. He’ll help the Colts if he can right the ship.
16. Baltimore Ravens – DE/OLB Derek Barnett, Tennessee
There are a few ways it can go here. But Baltimore is much better at sniffing out defensive talent than offensive, and there will be receivers available in the upcoming rounds to bolster that spot after using a first-rounder on Breshad Perriman a few years ago. Barnett is a productive player out of the SEC who can get to the passer and is a hard, hard hitter. Plus, he can learn from Terrell Suggs.
17. Washington Redskins – DE/OLB Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
Some experts see the 15th through 40th picks as a bit of a free-for-all, and I’ve seen mock drafts where McKinley is a second-round pick, or a late first. But he’s a hard worker who plays very hard, maybe harder than anybody else in the draft. The Redskins can use the pass rusher, and hey, McKinley belongs in D.C., right?
18. Tennessee Titans – WR Mike Williams, Clemson
The Titans can be the darlings of the first round if Williams falls. He’s was a star player on the best team in college football, played well under the bright lights and physically is a matchup problem for cornerbacks big and small. Titans, in this scenario, can get the top-ranked player at two positions of need (safety and receiver). And even if Williams is gone, Western Michigan’s Corey Davis should be here, and he’s a really good prospect, too.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR John Ross, Washington
I keep hearing that Ross is slipping down draft boards because of his injury history. But the man ran a 4.2 at the Combine, and he was really the best offensive player a team in the College Football Playoff had last season. Guys like that don’t slip down the first round. The Buccaneers signed Desean Jackson this offseason, and Ross is a similar-ish player. But they need some depth at the skill positions around Mike Evans to help quarterback Jameis Winston. This is a team that can pull a bit of a surprise. Or, they can go with Corey Davis, who to me, is too similar to Evans to project to the Bucs.
20. Denver Broncos – OT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin
This is the safest pick in the first round, to me. The Broncos need a tackle, and it’s difficult to imagine Ramczyk not being at least a pretty good one. Easily Wisconsin’s most impressive offensive player last season.
21. Detroit Lions – OLB Charles Harris, Missouri
Harris is a good athlete and has some natural pass rush tendencies that he can bring to a team that can sure use some explosion off the edge.
22. Miami Dolphins – LB Jarrad Davis, Florida
The inside linebackers in this draft have taken a beating from the scouts, but Davis is a really productive player who is tough, mean and a good leader. He kind of fits what Miami wants to do on defense, and recently signed Lawrence Timmons would be a good mentor.
23. New York Giants – OT Garett Bolles, Utah
Getting the feeling that, if the Giants had their choice between Ramczyk and Bolles, they’d take Bolles. He’s a bit of a project, being that he has only played one year in the FBS. But athletically, he’s significantly ahead of the competition at tackle in this class.
24. Oakland Raiders – DT Malik McDowell, Michigan State
Not sure what to think of McDowell, because seeing him play the last few years, he has top-10 talent and third-round production. But when he’s on, he’s fantastic, and the Raiders will love to get that athleticism into a position of dire need.
25. Houston Texans – QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Don’t be surprised if the Texans try to move back and add some picks, because they’ll be on the lookout for a quarterback, and some of the ones that fit Bill O’Brien’s coaching style a little bit better than Watson will be available late in the first round. But, Watson is the best football player in that group. So, tough call for a team that badly needs this pick to be the right one.
26. Seattle Seahawks – CB Kevin King, Washington
He’ll need to tackle better as a pro, but the Seahawks tend to make raw prospects at corner into great players. King is 6-foot-3 and has 4.4 speed. That’s a rare combination.
27. Kansas City Chiefs – QB Davis Webb, California
When the rumor is that you are pining to pick a quarterback in the first two rounds, that typically means you’re taking a quarterback in the first round. Webb is a second-round projection for most, but he is a tall quarterback who can see the field and has a decent arm. He is extremely accurate on short throws, and he has some potential to be better on longer ones. He needs an offensive minded coach and some time as a backup to truly reach his potential, and Andy Reid and Alex Smith would provide him that.
28. Dallas Cowboys – DE Taco Charlton, Michigan
Another one of those players who really should have dominated but didn’t always dominate. But he’s a 6-foot-6 defensive end who really, in fairness, was a much more consistent player as senior. He’ll be a good player.
29. Green Bay Packers – OLB T.J. Watt, Wisconsin
The man was born to play for the Packers, and they have the need for an edge rusher.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Tre’Davious White, LSU
There has been talk of an edge rusher for the Steelers, and if McKinley falls, that is a good fit. But that can be addressed in the second round, especially considering Bud Dupree was good last year once he got healthy. This pick almost has to be a defensive back, and White is an interesting prospect. He’s SEC-tested at LSU, and he can play man to man, which the Steelers want. The knock on him is that he’s not physical. But at some point, if the Steelers want to play some man coverage every once in a while, they need a guy who can, you know, play in man coverage.
31. Atlanta Falcons – OG Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
Lamp is the most-NFL-ready offensive line prospect in the Draft. He’d be better suited moving inside from his tackle spot, though. The Falcons can use the guard.
32. New Orleans Saints – SAF Budda Baker, Washington
Baker, to me, is a great college player that I have difficulty envisioning as a traditional safety because he’s a big smaller and plays/hits like he’s a lot bigger. Not sure he’s a safety who can cover a bigger receiver, and he’s not going to be able to stay with the better tight ends. But, he’s an elite attitude player, and the Saints defense needs an attitude.
Now, let’s look at where I’m projecting the Penn State prospects to go…
47. Baltimore Ravens – WR Chris Godwin
I have Western Michigan’s Corey Davis slipping out of the first round, with more teams focusing later on receivers. Davis should go within the first five picks of the second round, but I think Godwin can be the fourth receiver off the board. The Ravens could sure use the help there.
207. New York Giants – DE Garrett Sickels
Sickels just looks like a Giant. He’s a high-motor guy who was productive enough, but who doesn’t have that elite burst. The Giants seek that out, they like Penn State guys, and he can be a nice addition to the rotation late in the draft at the end of the sixth round.