We’re drawing ever closer to the NFL Draft and on Tuesday Todd McShay published his latest two round mock draft with some huge surprises.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to conflate “surprises” with “wrong.” Everything I’m seeing in this mock absolutely could happen, and there’s a lot of logic behind every pick. That said, as a Carolina Panthers fan, I might throw up in my mouth a little bit if Kennt Pickett is selected No. 6 overall — but I digress.
Head over to ESPN and read the full breakdown, but here are the big things that jumped out at me.
No. 1: The meteoric rise of Travon Walker
McShay isn’t the first to have Walker flying up the board. Hell, over on NFL.com Charles Davis has him going with the first pick to the Jaguars. Still, it’s astonishing to see Walker going with the No. 2 overall pick to the Lions.
It’s not that this would be a bad pick, it just feels like too much of a consolation prize to me. Detroit obviously needs pass rush help, and the dream scenario is that Aidan Hutchinson is on the board for them — but if he’s gone would they really pass up on more sure things at other positions to risk on an upside defensive end?
Personally, I don’t think so. I respect the pick, and think Walker will be very good, but the Lions are in a position of building a really solid foundation. I’d rather see them take a top defensive back or wide receiver, even if it’s not an immediate pressing need, vs. trying to force taking a pass rusher.
No. 2: The Panthers taking Kenny Pickett at No. 6
I hate this so much because of how accurate McShay’s justification is here.
“Rhule recruited Pickett while he was Temple’s coach, and Rhule has been locked into the signal-caller pro days this spring. Of the bunch, Pickett is the most NFL-ready quarterback available, and his fast processing ability, smooth pocket presence and excellent accuracy would elevate Carolina’s offense.”
I think Pickett will actually be a decent NFL quarterback, but I’m not sold on him being a franchise-defining quarterback. It’s the low risk, low reward selection — and I kind of hate it. I’d much rather Carolina take Malik Willis, if they want to roll the dice on a QB in 2022, because at least I see flashes that he could be a top-tier franchise passer in the future, if he can put it all together.
With offensive tackles Evan Neal and Charles Cross on the board I detest forcing Pickett in, only to get sacked behind a sub-par offensive line. This means Rhule will probably pressure this into happening.
No. 3: Derek Stingley Jr. sliding to the Vikings
Minnesota would be doing backflips for joy is the draft unfolds like this. It wasn’t long ago that Stingley’s name was in consideration for the No. 1 overall pick, and nobody had him falling lower than No. 3. Now the over-analysis of draft season is setting it, and it’s caused his stock to cool.
In terms of a pure, plug-and-play cornerback, Stingley is the best in the draft. He might not have the same ludicrous potential that Sauce Gardner does, but he’s really not far off. If he’s there at the Vikings pick they would sprint to the podium and laugh endlessly that they managed to land him.
No. 4: Malik Willis lasting this long
McShay has Willis going to the Steelers at No. 20, which was around his landing spot prior to the NFL Combine. I cannot imagine that some of the teams between Carolina and Pittsburgh wouldn’t take a flier here.
As it stands you have the Falcons, Seahawks, Eagles and Saints, all of whom either need a QB right now, or are on the verge of needing to evaluate the position. The Eagles have two picks before the Steelers, as do the Saints following their trade. I cannot imagine both these teams passing on Willis’ upside, twice.
Pittsburgh would obviously be thrilled, because they get the best QB in this draft with the most future upside, and never needed to move up to get it. I would just be stunned if someone didn’t pull the trigger to grab him.
No. 5: Desmond Ridder sneaks into the first round
Granted, it’s to the Lions at No. 32, but he gets in under the wire. I actually really like this pick.
There’s going to be a lot of debate on who the best QB is after Pickett and Willis. Ridder, Matt Corral and Sam Howell could all make a case — but of these three I think Ridder is the one with the best potential to become a star.
I like the value, and I’m definitely not surprised to see Ridder rise up. It’s more interesting to see the Lions grab him here and cut off any risk of a trade being executed with the Jaguars after night one to see them jumped in the second round.
No. 6: Kaiir Elam’s slide
I have Elam as the 4th ranked CB in this draft class, but McShay has him plummeting to the 54th pick, being selected by the Patriots. It’s really weird to see the likes of Auburns Roger McCreary and Washington’s Kyler Gordon go before the Elam.
I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just stunned that a fluid, 6’2” CB who doesn’t bite on double moves would fall this far in the draft. Much like Stingley Jr. to the Vikings, this is a pick the Patriots would absolutely adore, I’m just not sure it’ll play out that way.