By MIKE HERNDON
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we try to predict the unpredictable? We are gluttons for punishment, for the embarrassment of being wrong, but we can’t help ourselves.
We can’t help but try to mock the NFL draft.
What will the Cleveland Browns do with the first overall pick? (If history is any indication, the wrong thing.) How many quarterbacks will go in the first round? (At least one more than probably deserve to go that early.) How many SEC players will be selected on the first day? (A lot, as per usual.)
It’s a fool’s errand, ticketed for failure. If you ever get more than a handful of picks dead-on, you’ve accomplished something.
This year, I’ve decided the typical red-faced draft-day shame isn’t enough. I’m breaking a long-held, self-imposed rule against trying to predict trades. It’s difficult enough to try to read through the layers of smoke to put together a realistic mock of 32 picks, but trying to guess where a trade will happen and between which teams is sheer folly.
This year, however, it’s likely that you’ll see at least a couple on the first day. Several teams want to try to trade out of the top 10. If the quarterbacks fall as I believe they might, we also should see some teams trying to trade back into the bottom of the first round.
So why not? Laugh it up. I doubt yours is any better. We’ll all be wrong this weekend together.
(Note: This mock draft was updated on 4/26 after news of a rape allegation against Ohio State CB Gareon Conley.)
- Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Mitch Trubisky is reportedly still in play here, and the Browns certainly need a quarterback. Garrett’s upside as a gifted pass rusher and physical specimen – and more of a sure thing than a quarterback with just 13 collegiate starts under his belt – tips the scales in his favor.
- San Francisco 49ers – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Here’s another team in need of a quarterback, and another possible landing spot for Trubisky, but San Francisco could use some defensive help, too. Corner is a deep position in this draft, but Lattimore is clearly the best of the bunch and would allow the 49ers to move Jimmie Ward back to safety.
- Chicago Bears – Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Thomas is ticketed in most mocks for San Francisco, but the 49ers have spent each of their last two first-round picks on defensive line. If he slips to the defense-needy Bears, expect them to pounce.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
T.J. Yeldon hasn’t been the bellcow the Jaguars hoped he’d be. Chris Ivory hasn’t been the dependable complement the Jaguars hoped he’d be. While he won’t have the same type of offensive line here, Fournette’s blend of speed and power make him an Ezekiel Elliott type of prospect – a game-changer for the offense.
- Tennessee Titans – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The Titans have a budding star at quarterback in Marcus Mariota but are sorely lacking in weapons. The 6-4 Williams will give Mariota the go-to receiver he needs.
- Cleveland Browns (trade from NY Jets) – Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
The Browns have an NFL-high 11 picks in this draft, having repeatedly traded down in previous drafts to stockpile picks. Now it’s time to use them. The Jets are looking for a quarterback, too, but they haven’t yet given Christian Hackenberg a full look and they have a lot of other needs they could fill with the extra picks they’ll get in a trade here.
- Los Angeles Chargers – Jamal Adams, S, LSU
The Chargers, who lost Eric Weddle to free agency a year ago, should be very pleased to have their pick of the best safeties in the draft here.
- Carolina Panthers – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Two running backs in the top 10? It could happen. Jonathan Stewart isn’t getting any younger and the versatile McCaffrey would give Cam Newton a new, different kind of weapon.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
The Bengals can’t take another cornerback in the first round, can they? Not if Allen, one of the top defensive linemen in the draft, falls to them.
- Buffalo Bills –Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Yes, the Bills need receivers. But they also need to remake their secondary, and they can get one of the draft’s top safeties here in Hooker.
- New Orleans Saints – Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
The Saints, as always, need defensive help and Barnett would give them a polished pass rusher to line up opposite Cameron Jordan.
- New York Jets (from Cleveland) – O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
One way to help out your quarterbacks is to give them more weapons. Howard has unique athleticism for the tight end spot and would give the Jets mismatch potential in the middle of the field and the red zone – sorely needed after the departure of Brandon Marshall.
- Arizona Cardinals – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Larry Fitzgerald will be 34 when the season begins. Michael Floyd is no longer a Cardinal. Arizona could use another big target like the 6-3 Davis to groom as Fitzgerald’s successor.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
There are a lot of conflicting reads on Humphrey, who has the size, speed and big-conference pedigree but whom some have compared to former Alabama bust Dee Milliner. Cornerback is an area of need for the Eagles.
- Indianapolis Colts – Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
He got sent home from the combine and added another red flag recently with a diluted sample in a drug test, all of which should cause him to slide a few spots. But Foster hits like a truck and would give the Colts’ defense some attitude.
- Baltimore Ravens – John Ross, WR, Washington
Would you be comfortable going into a season with Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman as your starting wide-outs? Me neither. Joe Flacco needs weapons and Ross gives him a 4.22 burner.
- Washington Redskins – Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
The Redskins can beef up their defensive line with this 6-6, 277-pound pass rusher.
- Tennessee Titans – Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
After addressing offense with their first pick, the Titans look to improve a secondary that was 30th in the NFL last year against the pass.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – David Njoku, TE, Miami
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins didn’t pan out and Cameron Brate, while productive, isn’t exactly Rob Gronkowski. In Njoku, the Bucs can add a weapon at tight end who has a chance to be special.
- Denver Broncos – Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
The Broncos’ once-proud offensive front is in need of new blood, and Ramczyk is a proven talent with the drive-blocking chops to fuel up the Broncos’ run game.
- Detroit Lions – Haason Reddick, OLB, Temple
The Lions need help at linebacker and the speedy Reddick has used an impressive Senior Bowl performance to fly up draft boards.
- Miami Dolphins – Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
His 2016 performance didn’t measure up to his junior year, but Harris is a talented edge rusher who could line up opposite – and eventually replace – Cameron Wake.
- New York Giants – Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
The Giants must find a left tackle to enable them to move Ereck Flowers back to the right side, and Bolles may have the best feet of all the first-round caliber linemen.
- Oakland Raiders – Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
The Raiders will likely be looking to add playmakers to their defense, especially at linebacker.
- Houston Texans – Pat Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
While Deshaun Watson is considered by most to be the second-best QB in this draft (and some may consider him the best), Bill O’Brien reportedly really likes Mahomes – and he really needs a QB.
- Chicago Bears (trade from Seattle) – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The Bears reportedly are enamored with Watson and, if he falls, a trade here would make sense to snag him before the 49ers have a shot at him in the second round. Seattle has traded out of the first round three times since 2011.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama
The Chiefs have no glaring needs, but their running game did take a step backward last year, averaging nearly 20 fewer yards per game than in 2015. They have a chance here to add one of the draft’s best linemen to help fix that.
- Dallas Cowboys –Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
Cornerback is a bigger need but the Cowboys struck gold with one combine freak from UConn in Byron Jones and could add another one here. The 6-4, 224-pound Melifonwu runs 4.4, has a 44-inch vertical and a 141-inch broad jump.
- Green Bay Packers – Kevin King, CB, Washington
The Packers need a running back, but Dalvin Cook’s legal and injury histories make him too much of a risk, particularly for a team that hasn’t drafted a running back in the first round since 1990. The Packers value versatility in their defenders and the 6-3 King fits the bill.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA
James Harrison will be 39 years old next week. The Steelers need to find his successor and McKinley, a high-motor player with 4.59 speed, would be a nice fit.
- Atlanta Falcons – T.J. Watt, DE/OLB, Wisconsin
The Falcons are looking for more pass rushers to help Vic Beasley pressure the quarterback. Watt, the younger brother of J.J., has the tools and technique to be a good one.
- New Orleans Saints – Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
Cornerback’s a bigger need, but the Saints could land a steal – and a special teams weapon – should the multi-talented Peppers fall here.