Draft grades are a controversial subject in their own right. How do you grade a draft hours after it happens, before the players have even had a chance to take the field, much less a couple years to learn the ins and outs of the pro game? So grading a mock draft probably isn’t a much better idea, but damn, here we are.
Dan Kadar’s latest mock draft has some shakeups among the top picks, changes that force a lot of movement further down the list of picks. It struck me while reading this week’s mock that some of those changes could end up being exactly what a few teams need to happen to make their first round a success.
So here’s a look at five teams who might just be seeing their ideal scenarios for the opening night of the draft in this week’s mock.
Titans address two huge needs
Ohio State safety Malik Hooker fills an obvious need and makes that a loaded secondary after the team signed strong safety Jonathan Cyprien and corner Logan Ryan in free agency this spring. I think they need a pass rusher too, but this is the kind of secondary that makes a front seven better.
The pick I really like here is Mike Williams, the Clemson wide receiver, who our mock has them taking with the 18th pick. Tennessee’s offense went from the worst in the league in 2015 to the ninth-best unit, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA. But they still only scored 23.8 points per game, putting them in the middle of the pack.
Tennessee has running backs, they have tight end Delanie Walker, they have one solid receiver in Rishard Matthews, and they even have a quarterback. Add in a wideout like Williams, a guy made to catch 50/50 balls and who rattles off big plays, suddenly, you’ve got an offense capable of gobbling up yards and scoring more than 25 points per game on a lark.
Saints get some defensive help, finally
Pending the outcome of the Malcolm Butler situation, the Saints have a pair of first-round picks. Those two picks would go a long way toward fixing a defense in perpetual need of fixing. In this mock, they get a pass rusher, Derek Barnett, and a good corner, Sidney Jones. There’s still a lot of work to do, but grabbing a pair of players who could be cornerstones is a nice start.
Al Davis would be proud of his Raiders
Had Washington wide receiver John Ross broken the combine 40 record eight years ago, he’d be a sure bet for the Raiders since Al Davis was still making the picks back then. The elder Davis is gone, replaced by his own Baby Huey who was smart enough to hire a good general manager and get out of the way.
The Raiders have a franchise quarterback and a No. 1 receiver, the two toughest pieces of the puzzle for teams to find. Throw in another pass catcher like Ross, one who can burn up the field on nine routes, and you’ve got an offense that’s damn hard to defend, even for a secondary like Denver’s.
Panthers commit to running the hell over everyone
Big and bruising is a tired NFL cliche, but sometimes the shoe just fits. Cam Newton is a quarterback built like a cross between a fullback and a linebacker, but his long-term health depends on him not having to do all the running over himself. That won’t be a problem if they draft LSU running back Leonard Fournette.
6’0, 240 pounds, and fast as hell for a man that size, Fournette can change the tone of an offense the minute his name gets called on draft night. Carolina’s offense has been at its best with multiple running threats; throw in a guy like Fournette with Newton and Jonathan Stewart, and it should confuse the hell out of defenses.
The Browns do exactly what we expect them to do
It’s not really a surprise to see the Browns take Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett with the first pick. That’s the biggest no-brainer in the draft. Getting Clemson QB Deshaun Watson with the 12th pick isn’t exactly a shocker either. But it’s the best possible route for the Browns and their two first-round picks at this point.
The good news for Watson is that there’s absolutely no need to rush him onto the field. Already talented, despite what some draftniks might think, Watson gets a year on bench to watch Cody Kessler work or, maybe, to learn what NOT to do if Brock Osweiler ends up starting the season.