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2019 NFL mock draft: Clemson’s defensive line shapes the 1st round

Christian Wilkins is one of three Tigers who will hear his name called on Day 1 of the draft.

Can we take a moment to appreciate the Clemson defensive linemen in the 2019 NFL Draft? It seems like as we’ve gotten closer to the start of the draft we’ve forgotten that Clemson could have three players from one position group taken in the first round.

Without looking through every single college and every single draft, it seems so extraordinary to never happen at all.

Those three Clemson players would be defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence and defensive end Clelin Ferrell. Wilkins is the best of the bunch. He’s an athletic interior player who had 40.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks for Clemson in four seasons. If the draft wasn’t so loaded at defensive tackle, Wilkins would be a top-10 lock.

Lawrence routinely lined up next to him and specializes in stopping the run. That may be his role and Lawrence is 340 pounds, but he’s not an immobile big body. He’s a powerful player who can play the nose or five-technique. He could be better in the NFL, where he’ll have more of a chance to get after the quarterback.

Ferrell is the last of the three, but he’s a potential top-20 player in his own right. He’s a classic 4-3 end with power. He didn’t notch 27 career sacks by accident.

Partly because of the quality of these three, defensive line is regarded as the biggest strength of the first round. Here’s where they land in this week’s mock draft:

1. Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Offseason needs: Interior defensive line, wide receiver, tight end, slot cornerback

What the Cardinals do with the first overall pick has become infinitely less interesting than what they do with 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen. Keeping Rosen wouldn’t be a bad idea because his contract is so affordable. But trading him could conceivably land the Cardinals another pick in the top 50. While that wouldn’t cover up the silliness of trading a top-10 pick from a season ago, it could help the Cardinals accelerate the build around Murray.

2. San Francisco 49ers: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Offseason needs: Safety, edge defender, wide receiver, cornerback

Although the 49ers traded for Dee Ford, that doesn’t totally solve the team’s issue with rushing the passer. Ford is a good, if inconsistent, player. Adding Bosa will take some of the attention off of him. If San Francisco wants to do as much four-man rushing as possible, having two edge rushers is vital.

3. New York Jets: Josh Allen, DE/OLB, Kentucky

Offseason needs: Offensive tackle, edge defender, cornerback, center

This is a popular pick for many. It makes sense. Allen’s versatility will be coveted by Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. But what if a player on defense isn’t the choice? There has been some buzz in the last week or so that offensive linemen could get drafted higher than some predict. At the start of the mock draft process in December, the Jets were connected to Alabama left tackle Jonah Williams. Allen makes more sense, but maybe he’s not a certainty.

4. Oakland Raiders: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

Offseason needs: Edge defender, cornerback, running back, linebacker

If the top three plays out in this fashion, Williams is the obvious choice for the Raiders. He’s the last of the top tier of prospects in this draft, and he gives the Raiders a tremendous interior player. A defensive tackle isn’t a big need for the Raiders. They’d probably prefer Allen be here. But taking Williams over the other pass rushers is the smart play.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Devin White, LB, LSU

Offseason needs: Safety, edge defender, linebacker, offensive line

Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver has continued to be connected to the Buccaneers, but it just doesn’t make sense. He’s obviously a good player, but how much impact will he make early in his career? If Tampa Bay wants a player who will have an impact early, that is White. He’s an upgrade over the departed Kwon Alexander, and any other player on the roster.

6. New York Giants: Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

Offseason needs: Quarterback, offensive tackle, linebacker, edge rusher

It seems we’ve all given up on Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins with this pick. What is the most important position in the NFL after a franchise quarterback? Most would argue a pass rusher. Sweat isn’t on the same level as someone like Bosa or Allen, but he’s squarely in the next group.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama

Offseason needs: Offensive tackle, tight end, safety, guard

If it’s true that offensive linemen could go higher than expected, the Jaguars may be a team to keep in mind. Williams is a player who, at worst, could push for the starting right tackle spot in Jacksonville. He could also press Cam Robinson as the team’s left tackle.

8. Detroit Lions: Brian Burns, Edge, Florida State

Offseason needs: Tight end, linebacker, guard, wide receiver, defensive end

It’s still tempting to go tight end here, but this choice becomes a positional value discussion. Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson may be more of a sure thing, but Burns plays a premier position.

9. Buffalo Bills: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

Offseason needs: Defensive tackle, cornerback, tight end, offensive tackle

Oliver is too good to let drop further than No. 9. There are a number of directions Buffalo could go with this pick, namely an offensive tackle like Jawaan Taylor or a pass rusher like Rashan Gary. But Oliver carries a higher grade and would give Buffalo a nice combination of Oliver and Harrison Phillips.

10. Denver Broncos: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

Offseason needs: Linebacker, tight end, cornerback, defensive tackle

Too many people continue connecting Lock to Denver to overlook it. That speculation has come despite the Broncos acquiring veteran quarterback Joe Flacco this offseason. Regardless of whether the Broncos should take Lock, there are much worse situations for him. Playing in Denver behind Flacco would allow him the time to continue refining his game and learning how to control his big arm.

11. Cincinnati Bengals: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

Offseason needs: Linebacker, tight end, quarterback, offensive tackle

Suddenly everyone dislikes Haskins. He’s gone from a potential top-five player to someone outside the top 10 entirely. While most have him targeted for Washington or Miami, Cincinnati makes sense too. Andy Dalton has been underwhelming and has just two years left on his contract. Haskins, who went pro after his redshirt sophomore season, could sit behind him for a season and take over in 2020.

12. Green Bay Packers: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

Offseason needs: Tight end, safety, defensive line, offensive line

The No. 12 pick in recent weeks has gone between Iowa tight end Noah Fant and an offensive lineman. But if Hockenson is available, he’s just the smart choice for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers has never really had a tight end who can do what Hockenson can do.

13. Miami Dolphins: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

Offseason needs: Quarterback, offensive tackle, edge defender, defensive tackle

An offensive tackle is a possibility here, but Gary could be just what new Dolphins coach Brian Flores wants in Miami. Coming from the Patriots, Flores is used to having defensive linemen who can move all over the place. Gary can be that player for him. He’s raw, sure, but Miami will give him time as the team is rebuilt.

14. Atlanta Falcons: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Offseason needs: Defensive tackle, cornerback, tight end, pass rusher

One of the high-end right tackles in this draft, like Jawaan Taylor of Florida or Cody Ford of Oklahoma, may be in play here. It’s just hard to argue passing on Wilkins. We’ve talked all offseason about the Falcons needing a defensive tackle. In the deepest tackle class in years, Wilkins is too good to pass up.

15. Washington: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

Offseason needs: Quarterback, edge rusher, left guard, wide receiver

Unless Haskins, Lock, or Burns falls to No. 15, Washington’s needs don’t really line up with the players who will be available. That’s why you have to wonder if the team will look to move off this spot on draft night. Ferrell could be in play as well. He’s not a natural fit as a standup edge rusher, but the same was said when Washington drafted Ryan Kerrigan.

16. Carolina Panthers: Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida

Offseason needs: Edge defender, offensive tackle, safety, guard

With the best pass rushers off the board, the Panthers could shift their focus to protecting Cam Newton. Right tackle Daryl Williams was brought back on a one-year prove it deal as he returns from injury. If he plays well, he could price himself out of town next offseason. Taylor is an easy replacement.

17. New York Giants (via Cleveland Browns): Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

Offseason needs: Quarterback, offensive tackle, linebacker, edge rusher

I’m so sorry. But if mock drafts are made on the basis of what you think will happen, this is very much possible for the Giants.

18. Minnesota Vikings: Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma

Offseason needs: Guard, defensive tackle, tight end, offensive tackle

When Ford arrived at Oklahoma, he did so as a power-blocking guard. While he excelled at right tackle for Oklahoma, he could dominate on the inside in the NFL. If the Vikings want to run the ball more, Ford is the type of player who can help.

19. Tennessee Titans: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Offseason needs: Guard, tight end, nose tackle, edge defender

Although it’s still tempting to go with North Carolina State interior offensive lineman Garrett Bradbury here, it’s hard to pass up on Fant if he’s available. He’s the type of reliable target that could help Marcus Mariota. He can also stretch the field, something the Titans need.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

Offseason needs: Cornerback, tight end, safety, wide receiver

The Steelers should have their pick of the first cornerback in the draft, so it’s just a matter of figuring out which one fits best. If the Steelers want to continue playing more zone coverage, Murphy fits best. If the team wants an aggressive player, it’s Deandre Baker of Georgia. If the team wants pure physical talent, it’s Greedy Williams of LSU (though he may remind them too much of Artie Burns).

21. Seattle Seahawks: Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware

Offseason needs: Defensive line, guard, safety, wide receiver

Most are speculating a defensive lineman for the Seahawks, if not a trade back. A safety like Adderley should be an option as well. It’s impossible to replace Earl Thomas, but the closest comparison to him in this draft is Adderley.

22. Baltimore Ravens: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

Offseason needs: Edge rusher, wide receiver, linebacker, offensive line

The Ravens don’t have a receiver who can do what Metcalf can do physically. He’s an impressive jump-ball target who can stretch the field for Lamar Jackson. If Jackson is to develop as a quarterback, he needs viable targets who will can score touchdowns. Metcalf is that player.

23. Houston Texans: Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State

Offseason needs: Offensive tackle, cornerback, defensive line, tight end

If the Texans really want Dillard — and they should — a trade up might be required. Dillard is regarded as the top pass-blocking left tackle in the draft, and those players generally don’t last until the 23rd pick.

24. Oakland Raiders (via Chicago): Devin Bush, LB, Michigan

Offseason needs: Edge defender, cornerback, running back, linebacker

Bush’s draft value is a little hard to pin down. You can really argue him as a top-10 player because of his speed and ability to play all over the field. You can also knock him for positional value and his size. But to get him at No. 24 is a steal.

25. Philadelphia Eagles: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

Offseason needs: Safety, offensive line, running back, defensive line

The Eagles could use some help on both lines. An interior offensive lineman like Chris Lindstrom of Boston College could be a target at No. 25. But a run stopper like Lawrence has appeal. The Eagles finished near the bottom of the NFL in rushing last season, and need more talent next to Fletcher Cox. Malik Jackson was a decent signing, but his best days are behind him. In a division with Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott, this has to be fixed for the Eagles.

26. Indianapolis Colts: Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame

Offseason needs: Defensive end, cornerback, wide receiver, defensive tackle

It’s clear that the Colts need a real three-technique defensive tackle on their line. Denico Autry is a solid player, but the Colts don’t have much more up the middle of the defense. Tillery is a player who can fill that role.

27. Oakland Raiders (via Dallas): Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

Offseason needs: Edge defender, cornerback, running back, linebacker

Williams to the Raiders just seems like a classic fit. He’s in the Raider mold as a super athlete with size and somewhat questionable technical skill. For the Raiders, he gives them a viable cornerback to start opposite Gareon Conley.

28. Los Angeles Chargers: Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State

Offseason needs: Offensive tackle, defensive tackle, linebacker, quarterback

Here’s your surprise player breaking into the first round. The Chargers may be so desperate to find a right tackle that a player like Howard could jump from the second round to the first.

29. Kansas City Chiefs: Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia

Offseason needs: Edge rusher, cornerback, defensive tackle, center

The cornerbacks for the Chiefs last season were terrible. Losing Steven Nelson in free agency doesn’t help either. Baker likes to be aggressive and physical with receivers, and has good enough speed and quickness to stick with receivers.

30. Green Bay Packers: (via New Orleans): Garrett Bradbury, OL, North Carolina State

Offseason needs: Tight end, safety, defensive line, offensive line

It’s possible that the top guards in the draft fall this far. The position isn’t highly valued, first of all. Secondly, neither Bradbury nor Chris Lindstrom of Boston College were considered first-round players before the NFL Scouting Combine. That could ultimately benefit the Packers, who can get a starting lineman in the back of the first round.

31. Los Angeles Rams: Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College

Offseason needs: Linebacker, guard, cornerback, defensive line

This offseason, the Rams have lost center John Sullivan and guard Rodger Saffold. 2018 draftees Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen could fill those spots, but the Rams would be smart to add some talent just in case.

32. New England Patriots: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

Offseason needs: Edge defender, tight end, defensive tackle, wide receiver

The Patriots are arguably the most forward-thinking team in the NFL in terms of roster construction. So while Simmons may not factor into things in 2019, it would be like New England getting a top-10 player for 2020.