Want to know what I love about the annual NFL draft? Analysts, fans and teams get sucked into this intense focus on surveying, studying and scrutinizing all of these college players that are the best of the best. There is more and more excitement, building slowly to a crescendo with each passing mock draft. We judge their character, personalities, old tweets, max reps, haircuts, timed speed…. and God forbid they are 2 inches shorter than the prototype for their position!! By the end we all have well thought out plans for how each of these young men, lined up in 32 single file lines, will help our squad to varying degrees of magnitude.

Then the actual GM’s and team officials come through and destroy everybody’s homogeneous expectations of what is going to happen! We laugh, we cry, and the drama gives us spinning alternate realities of what will happen to our heroes on the field. The optimism it brings is amazing. The newness, the start of fresh legacies, and the hope that this will be the guy who will put on for our city/team. We then snap back to reality later in the summer, and remember that “Oh yeah, we still have top talent on the roster – alpha dogs in their prime who are leading this team. How will they get along?!” I can’t explain that sequence, but it’s fun every year.

Below are my takes and analysis about the picks in the upcoming NFL Draft in N(C)ashville, and where I see our bright-eyed prospects landing. I’ve been going through iterations of this based on my study of team depth charts, feel for different team schemes and attitude, what I’m hearing about each prospect, and of course a dash of maniacal hunches. Your favorite analyst is a sheep (unless it’s me)….. forget what you heard.

  1. Arizona Cardinals – Kyler Murray, QB

Don’t let this pick distract you from the fact that somewhere, there is a rogue hacker on the loose… scary times. We usually hear leaked stories about the #1 pick well ahead of the draft every year (last year being the exception). I think the Kyler connection is legit. Murray and new Cardinals Coach, Kliff Kingsbury share the same agent; as well as all of the talk of coach correctly foretelling of this selection. Arizona signed Suggs, hoping for one good year book-ending Chandler Jones in their switch back to a 3-4 defense. Kingsbury, an offensive specialist coach, wants to come in and turn this offense around to silence all the doubters and put some respec‘ on his name. The Cardinals did acquire J.R. Sweezy and Marcus Gilbert this offseason to make some attempt to fix a league-worst pass blocking offensive line, and a bottom 10 run blocking line. Not convinced that the problem was all on last year’s first round QB pick, Josh Rosen, but the time is now! Quinnen Williams is the smarter pick… but Kliff drips or drowns with his guy. What happens to young Rosen?? Read on…

2. New York Giants (TRADE w/ 49ers) – Dwayne Haskins, QB

The New York Giants tried to smokescreen us into thinking that they had no interest in Ohio State Quarterback, Dwayne Haskins. Stop it. I believe that the G-Men covet him as an heir to Eli Manning. The Giants have swung from one embarrassing pendulum swing (benching Manning, then un-benching him) to the next (not being able to let go of him and take a number of talented quarterbacks who emerged in the last few drafts). Getting a marquee name will be the greasing of the wheels of Eli’s exit, and this is the only way that they can assure themselves of getting Haskins. If you’re New York, this is how you justify trading away Odell Beckham Jr. If not the Giants, somebody else may make this happen, as the 49ers acquired Dee Ford and can benefit from trading back in this D-line heavy top 10. The Giants have to give up pick #6 as well as #17 to move up here.

3. New York Jets – Nick Bosa, DE

New look, who dis? The Jets gladly take the player that many people see as the top prospect. They’ve been missing bite on the edge since the days of John Abraham. This team will improve with new coaches in place, in a creatively scheming offensive head coach in Adam Gase (who I thought did more with less in Miami) and Gregg Williams leading a new, attacking 4-3 defense. Adding Le’Veon Bell, Kelechi Osemele, Jamison Crowder and C.J. Mosley were crucial moves. Aww, don’t do this to that man haha!

4. Oakland Raiders – Josh Allen, DE

The Raiders had a piss poor pass rush last season. If they had doubled their team sack total from last year (13), it would have still left them in dead last among NFL teams in sacks. Josh Allen has potentially dominant traits (as quite possibly the draft’s best pure pass rusher) and owns the speed that will complement the two DT’s with untapped potential that they took in last year’s draft. Arden Key will also benefit from having a wingman on his upcoming trip to Vegas. New GM, Mike Mayock, needs to knock this one out of the park, as he knows that he is the Infinity Gauntlet to Jon Gruden’s Thanos.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Quinnen Williams, DT

The Bucs end up landing the most impactful player in this draft. Williams is a versatile big man on the D-line who will fit well within new DC Todd Bowles’ hybrid 3-4 defense. I think Tampa may even leverage this pick into a one-way ticket out of town on the next thing smoking for longtime star, Gerald McCoy. It would be a money-saving move, as this pick makes him superfluous. Q-Will actually has the potential to be better than McCoy at a fraction of the price.

6. San Francisco 49ers (TRADE w/ Giants) – Devin White, LB

The Niners trade back, as Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury held a magnifying glass to the gaping holes on this roster. After Pat Willis and NaVorrow Bowman left, Reuben Foster was supposed to take the torch… but he only torched his career in the Yay. Take this year’s complete, stud linebacker who owns speed and versatility, and move new addition, Kwon Alexander outside. All of a sudden you have a gritty front seven with which to make a statement to the offensive units in the NFC West to cool it now.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Rashan Gary, DL

Rashan Gary is the Charmander to Calais Campbell’s Charizard. And don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about! Campbell played like a DPOY candidate two years ago, but is now a twelfth-year vet, and old enough for his play to fall off a cliff at any moment. Hoorah! Sacksonville lives on to give power to another questionable QB!! Just playin’… Foles is a Philly folk hero. The Jags get their right tackle later in the draft.

8. Atlanta Falcons (TRADE w/ Lions) – Ed Oliver, DT

This really could be Dan Quinn’s last stand in Atlanta. His credentials, as one of the architects of a legendary Seahawks defense have yet to transfer over from Seattle. A few key Falcons will be coming back from injury, but Quinn takes a big swing here by trading up and taking a disruptor (who has a similar profile to Rams dynamo, Aaron Donald) to place in the middle of his defense. This will provide more opportunities to some of their playmakers, while also acting as insurance for Grady Jarrett. Atlanta gives up a 3rd rounder and one of their two 4ths to swap 1st round picks with the lions and move up 6 spots in the top 15 (according to the old NFL draft trade value chart).

9. Cincinnati Bengals (TRADE w/ Bills) – Drew Lock, QB

Back-to-back trades! New Bengals coach, Zac Taylor learned the game from Sean McVay // Don’t cuss me out like a sailor, but Lock will make him go out his way! Excuse my bars…. but this is the start of a new era: refuse, ship my opinion to Mars? I dare ya. Can you really fault him, if he doesn’t want to roll with Dalton? The Marvin Lewis Bengals? The regular season games they won by really playing it safe, but Taylor wants to make sure all his guys are A1, cuz he’s got a lot at steak. Get at me. Rhymes aside, Cincy gives up a mid to late rounder to move up two spots in a 1st round pick swap………………………. let’s just hope the squad doesn’t play like dirt-brown pig slop. I’m not sorry.

10. Denver Broncos – Devin Bush, LB

So many directions that the Broncos could go here. They signed Ja’Wuan James to a big money contract at right tackle, and traded for Joe Flacco to man the QB position. I think they give Flacco the chance to show what he can do, and keep rebuilding the defense. Vic Fangio is a well respected defensive general, and many moons ago, ran that side of the ball for one Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh coached Devin Bush at Michigan and will be able to give Fangio the scoop on his abilities and potential. The Broncos choose to add a tone setter and tackling machine who would be perfect as an off-ball linebacker in between Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. They may consider a nose tackle (as my Broncos fan informant (friend) wants), but there is more depth there later in the draft than at the linebacker position.

11.Buffalo Bills (TRADE w/ Bengals) – T.J. Hockenson, TE

The Bills trade back, get a bit of value, and soften the blow and shock value of taking a tight end so high in the draft. Hockenson is getting comparisons to Rob Gronkowski, a well-known adversary for the Bills. While generational players like Gronk don’t come around very often, Hockenson can provide a safety valve for the erratic (quarterback) Josh Allen, as well as helping pave the way in the run game to support the offense. Taking the beastly wide receiver, D.K. Metcalf will be verrryyy tempting for the Bills after they were spurned then roasted by Antonio Brown (petty ex status), but they get a more well-rounded player that fits in with their current ecosystem. The Bills also signed about 12 (6) Mid-level to good O-linemen so that they would have draft flexibility.

12.Green Bay Packers – Jawaan Taylor, OL

My Packers source (buddy who may someday write an article for this very site), tells me that Bryan Bulaga cannot be trusted. Even if Bulaga stays healthy this season, the Pack may choose to let him go next offseason and bring new blood in to keep Mr. Discount Double Check upright. This is great value with the way offensive tackles are getting paid these days. The best tackle in the draft also provides the flexibility to move some pieces around, as his power can also translate well to the guard position. Taylor can be crammed in as the bedrock of Matt LaFleur’s supposedly high-flying offense.

13.Miami Dolphins – Christian Wilkins, DT

There is a rebuilding process going on in South Beach. Some of it is incredibly captivating, while some of it is just the natural mechanism of middling teams who need to break the cycle of mediocrity. Will GM, Chris Grier and team sit on their laurels, Tank for Tua and be content with mailing this season in until they can find their savior? There is work to be done. Wilkins is a multi-dimensional player who adds to the culture of the new regime. He is a character and a half, takes joy in playing football, and aids in the process of the Dolphins being in evaluation mode. Good trench players give those around them opportunities to show off their talents. I can also see an O-lineman going here for that very same reason, but Wilkins has an infectious leadership trait. I also predict that Kaepernick finally finds a backup job (with opportunity for advancement) in Miami.

14. Detroit Lions (TRADE w/ Falcons) – Montez Sweat, DE

The run on pass rushers early on lets the Lions drop back for better value in their pick. Montez Sweat can get to the quarterback, but also has the ability to drop into coverage… a coveted Patriot duality. Speaking of the Patriots, it already seems like, after one year, that Brian Flores was a better DC than Lions Head Coach, Matt Patricia. Patricia shows out by improving this defense this year. He got his hands on Trey Flowers and injects blazing speed off the edge with Montez Sweat. The Lions can get fast and furious in the Motor City to supplement their $100M QB.

15.Washington D.C. – Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, WR

The team in our nation’s capital may boast a squad on defense this year. The acquittal of Reuben Foster, and the acquisition of Landon Collins help. All three levels of the D are solid. Let’s give new quarterback, Case Keenum a fire-cracking playmaker right out of the gate. No quarterback??? While you’re pouting, Washington is flipping a 2nd round pick to Arizona for incumbent QB, Josh Rosen. This is a perfect situation, as Washington has a better line, receiving corps, and defense than the Cardinals. You can give him a year or two to prove he’s not a bust, and then BOOM! You either reinsert Alex Smith after his recovery or draft the miracle boy from Clemson.

16.Carolina Panthers – Andre Dillard, OT

Twas a sad sight to see toward the end of the season when quarterback, Cam Newton was clearly playing hurt and his abilities were significantly dampened. The highest priority needs to be in protecting his repaired shoulder, as he is the engine that propels this team forward. Let’s give him a chance to play with that same freedom and joy we saw in his MVP season. Andre Dillard is a straight-up, pure pass protector out of WSU. Give Cam the protection that allows him to be a big kid again, instead of a jaded, beleaguered old auntie.

17. San Francisco 49ers (TRADE w/ Giants) – Jonathan Abram, S

The Niners cap off their trade-back bounty, and also tie together their improved defense with the selection of this heavy hitting safety out of Mississippi State. The painful safety play by the bay stops here. Abram and Derwin James are the two most Legion of Boom type players I’ve seen come out in a while, and something tells me that Richard Sherman will appreciate that. Jonathan Abram does not lack in confidence, and that fire and mindset is something that you like to see.

18.Minnesota Vikings – Garrett Bradbury, OL

This may have been the most straight-forward pick to me… on paper, there aren’t very many holes on this roster. Taking Abram as a box safety would have made sense, but the Vikings select the draft’s best interior lineman. Bradbury allows the offense, and big money free agent quarterback prize to maximize their clear potential. Anthony Barr came home from the cold New York streets and professed his love to the Vikings… still a better love story than Twilight!

19. Tennessee Titans – D.K. Metcalf, WR

Tennessee is not the first team to contemplate it, but they are the squad that ends up sending out the distress signal to D.K. Metcalf. He is a physical marvel who gives Marcus Mariota (or Ryan Tannehill… They’ve morphed into different shades of the same person in my mind) his best chance to date to show that he shouldn’t be given up on quite yet. The Titans haven’t been able to get a steady performer (outside of Derrick Mason) for a long time. Remember Nate Washington? Kendall Wright? Eric Decker? Justin Hunter? Rishard Matthews? Tajae Sharpe? Metcalf has mad amounts of boom or bust potential, but he and Adam Humphries along with the tease of Corey Davis could provide some type of viable firepower. Taking a DT or nose tackle could also be a great move here and could unlock some of the potential in this defense (aiding Jurrell Casey, Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry). Gerald McCoy could be in play as a trade target.

20.Pittsburgh Steelers – Greedy Williams, CB

I don’t think the Steelers would have taken a wide receiver here, even if they were all still on the board. They had a bad breakup with Antonio Brown, and want to show that they good over here. JuJu (Smith-Schuster) is on that beat, and the team is hoping for steps upward by James Washington. Steven Nelson is not a starting quality corner, so Pittsburgh gets a little greedy in shoring up the island and takes the first CB of the draft.

21. Kansas City Chiefs (TRADE w/ Seahawks) – Nasir Adderley, S

The Chiefs trade up ahead of the Eagles to swoop on a rangy center-fielder. Many will be surprised by this, as the team signed Tyrann Mathieu in the offseason… but rumor has it that KC also pursued Earl Thomas III after already having signed Mathieu. Because of this, I think that they view the Honey Badger best utilized as a jackknife strong safety. Patrick Mahomes will get this team into shootouts, and having two dangerous safeties on the back end to curb the big shots would be a game changer. Additionally, the biggest competitive advantage in today’s game that we’ve seen teams try to replicate is to have an elite young quarterback on his rookie contract while you make bold moves to capitalize on the lack of having to pay a big money deal under center. Kansas City gets aggressive in trading a 3rd and a 5th round pick to the Seahawks to swap 1st rounders and move up 8 spots to maximize the impact of Mahomes.

22.Baltimore Ravens – Clellin Ferrell, DE/OLB

The Ravens have two glaring needs here: a weapon at wideout for Lamar Jackson, and some sort of pass rusher to compensate for the losses of Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs. The top two receivers are off of the board, so the Ravens take Clellin Ferrell who can play the T-Sizzle role. ETIII is a walking legend, but he won’t cure all after the defensive exodus in Maryland. Though it is alarming that Baltimore doesn’t have a 2nd round pick with which to draft a wide receiver (they’ll have to address this later in the draft), they do still have two young tight ends so that the cupboard won’t be completely bare.

23.Houston Texans – Jonah Williams, OL

Ever since he lost Duane Brown as his bodyguard (left tackle), Deshaun Watson has been running for his life, and getting pounded into the ground. Let’s stop that. Let’s build a proper launchpad for him and let him be lethal like he was in his rookie season. Jonah Williams can play multiple spots on the line. Make the move. Watson will love him. They’ll also need to find a consistent running back threat at some point, but that can happen later in the draft.

24. Oakland Raiders – Byron Murphy, CB

After having taken an elite pass rusher at #4 to solidify their D-line, the Raiders complete their secondary, and give the pass rush some coverage help with Byron Murphy out of the University of Washington. Oakland uses the pick acquired in the Khalil Mack trade to select Murphy, who is Richard Sherman-esque in his length, and in that he is not known for his speed, but is a very instinctual player. Maybe this defense becomes respectable??? New defensive coordinator, Paul Guenther comes from Cincinnati where he is used to insane cornerback depth. Depending on Beast Mode‘s plans, Josh Jacobs also gets some thought here.

25. Philadelphia Eagles – Mack Wilson, LB

This was going to be Josh Jacobs on everybody’s board, but Philadelphia (and most teams) don’t like to be put in a box leading up to the draft; they traded for Jordan Howard at running back. Some may see the selection of Mack Wilson as a bit of a reach, as there is somewhat of a drop-off in talent after Devin White and Devin Bush at the linebacker position. This happens to be the weakness of the Eagles defense, however. Philly could go for best player available and take someone like Dexter Lawrence, but he would be a part of a rotation, with the signing of Malik Jackson, and the presence of Fletcher Cox. The talented but raw Wilson could conceivably sit behind LJ Fort for a bit, and eventually jump into the water and solidify the middle of this defense and be an every-down player. The Eagles have two 2nd round picks, and I don’t think that they dare wait to take a player that they really like. Philly’s D has depth everywhere but the linebacker corps.

26.Indianapolis Colts – Rock Ya-Sin, CB

Chris Ballard has been doing an astounding job filling this roster with tough-minded, grimy football players. This stands in start contrast to the paper-thin, shallow roster that was hanging off of the shoulders of Andrew Luck before Ballard took over. Rock Ya-Sin has a cool name, and just seems like the next in line of Ballard-type, physical, hard-working players. I almost put Brian Burns down here for similar reasons. A receiver also has to be in the conversation here, as I don’t think they’ve even maximized Luck’s abilities yet. Luck and reigning MVP, Patty Mahomes should be the new tops of the food chain (joining the primes of Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson) if Luck can get a bit more help. Luck is a nice guy, but I don’t think he’ll have a problem with sending more kids across the AFC to bed early!

27.Oakland Raiders – Noah Fant, TE

The Raiders are slowly starting to realize that they signed a maniac in Antonio Brown. That comes with definite pros as well as cons. With the first-round pick that they acquired from the Dallas Cowboy in trading away Amari Cooper, Oakland gets an elite, lightning fast receiving threat up the seam who may be able to maximize his talent and opportunities in the shadow of A.B. and his super Saiyan training. The Raiders get an upgrade on Jared Cook.

28. Los Angeles Chargers – Cody Ford, OL

The Chargers need to capitalize on the closing championship window that the final years of Philip Rivers’ career provides them (which is why I don’t think that they take a QB in round 1). After going 12-4, and executing an ingenious game plan to shut down the Ravens in the playoffs, LAC got made an example of by the New England Patriots. If I were the Chargers, this would either be Jerry Tillery or Cody Ford. Tillery addresses a flaw that was exposed by the Patriots, but Ford takes care of the only weak point on their O-line. This is the toughest decision in round 1, but it is dependent on how much they think current DT Brandon Mebane has left on his legs. In the end, the bolts take a guy who can step in and really bookend the offensive line so that Rivers and his playmakers can perfectly compliment this defense.

29.Seattle Seahawks (TRADE w/ Chiefs) – Jeffrey Simmons, DT

The Squad… Pete Carroll has intentionally supplemented all of the areas of need with competition, so that he’d have the flexibility to take the best player available at the time of his first draft pick. When that pick will be, I’m not sure of, as the Seahawks will undoubtedly trade back at least once since they currently only have 4 picks in this year’s draft. Poona Ford and Jarran Reed are a very potent combo on the interior D-line, but since Seattle PAID Russell Wilson they can’t keep everyone. Frank Clark has been budgeted for, but Jarran Reed may not get the big contract (in Seattle) he desires down the road. Jeffrey Simmons can redshirt this season and come in and prove all of the scouts right that named him as potentially one of the best players in this draft. The problem? He tore his ACL, and teams don’t have patience to wait and see on his recovery. Carroll and John Schneider do, and gamble on the best player available since the top 2 safeties are off the board. Alternately, if the Hawks trade Frank Clark (who can earn a contract in the neighborhood of $20MM per year), a new Jarran Reed contract may be more realistic, and this pick will be Brian Burns. Burns meets the short shuttle time and arm length requirements that the Seahawks usually have for their edge rushers. The receiver position does look sparse as well, but Seattle doesn’t usually take them high, and lead the league in rushing yards last year. But c’mon… nobody will predict the Hawks’ pick correctly… John Schneider will make sure of that!! I’m just glad this didn’t happen.

30.Green Bay Packers – Jerry Tillery, DT

The Packers are in position to take the best player available, and an heir to Mike Daniels. Tillery is a very large, athletic and misunderstood player. He also finished last season with Pro Football Focus’ top interior pass-rushing grade in college football. Some may question if football is really his passion… Green Bay has the luxury of taking swings while they have two first round picks. Brian Gutekunst takes this year to strengthen the trenches.

31. Los Angeles Rams – Dexter Lawrence, NT

Two big needs here…. with Roger Saffold and John Sullivan’s departures this past offseason (as well as Andrew Whitworth briefly considering retirement), a lot of analysts are mocking an offensive lineman to the Rams in this spot. That may still be the case, especially after LAR was shut all the way down in the Super Bowl this past February, but the Rams are confident in two 2nd year players to take on the mantle of the departed. They stick to the plan, and instead get a massive nose tackle who can replace Ndamukong Suh and keep Aaron Donald and his fellow pass rushers clean. Here’s to hoping that Godd Turley returns to dominant form after his knee injury limited his powers in the Super Bowl.

32. New England Patriots – N’Keal Harry, WR

One of the NFL’s all-time great offensive weapons just retired, Josh Gordon is banished, and we don’t know when/if he’ll be back, and 7/11 is gone. This happens all the time… Belichick isn’t sweating it, as he’s lost great players each year, and yet replaces them effortlessly. Geppetto (according to my Jets homie) is onto his next diabolical plan in his workshop. After signing Austin Seferian-Jenkins at TE, and Demaryius Thomas at WR, the Pats can actually go in any direction they want. Do they sign a young QB with a 5th year, 1st round option in his contract, to learn from and take over for Tom Brady? Very possible with Will Grier and Daniel Jones still on the board here. A team, like the Chargers, could also trade up to this spot for this very reason. In the end, the Patriots wish upon a star for a big redzone threat here so that they can maneuver with their two 2nd rounders for a QB they want. It’s a good thing the league stopped Jeffrey Simmons from sliding to the Pats here… that would be Kevin Durant going to the Warriors.

Notable names not taken in the 1st Round: Jachai Polite, Deionte Thompson, Taylor Rapp, Devin Singletary, DeAndre Baker, Chris Lindstrom, Dre’Mont Jones, Brian Burns, Josh Jacobs, AJ Brown, Greg Little, Kaleb McGary, Daniel Jones, Dalton Risner, Irv Smith Jr.