Following the first and second waves of free agency, many teams have addressed needs that clear up their potential plans for the NFL Draft.
The Scouting Combine came and went, and it was followed by a frantic period of free agency which featured big money contracts and high-profile trades that have shifted the NFL landscape. Many teams used free agency as a means of plugging holes within their rosters. Those moves could have an effect on teams’ plans for the NFL Draft. Let’s take a look at some potential draft picks made by teams in the top third of the draft in late-April.
1. Arizona Cardinals: Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
Many are probably sick of seeing Bosa’s name at the top of every mock draft, but it’s there for a reason. Bosa is the cleanest prospect in the draft from a football perspective. He has the ability to take over games and was productive at a big-time school. At 6-foot-4 and 263 pounds, Bosa can play as a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker. He can also fill in on the defensive interior in pass-rush situations due to his quickness and ability to play low, both of which he uses to his advantage. He is a no-brainer pick to bookend Chandler Jones and rotate with Terrell Suggs in Arizona under new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
The 49ers pass rush sorely needed an upheaval, and GM John Lynch responded this offseason by trading for former Kansas City Chiefs EDGE Dee Ford. Despite the addition of Ford, the Niners still have holes to fill at EDGE. That’s where Allen, the Defensive Player of the Year in college football last season, comes in. A big-bodied pass-rusher who uses both strength and finesse to harass quarterbacks, Allen can play anywhere along a defensive front but is at his best when lining up on offensive tackles. Drafting yet another defensive lineman seems ridiculous for the 49ers, but there are no defensive backs or wide receivers worthy of the second overall pick. They might as well turn the defensive line into a rotating wheel of hammers.
3. New York Jets: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
A bunch of mocks have recently featured Williams instead of Bosa at the top, but it seems like those mock drafters have just grown weary of the monotony. Going second wouldn’t be a surprise either, but the 49ers have invested a lot in interior defensive linemen over the last few years. The Jets would be glad if this scenario played out. Williams is the definition of “interior disruptor”, as he causes havoc from within the middle of the defensive line and can nuke drives on first, second and even third down. A 6-foot-4, 289-pound behemoth, Williams recorded eight sacks in his final season at Alabama while playing elite run defense. With Gregg Williams in town and a 4-3 scheme likely to follow, the Jets could pair the Alabama product with star DT Leonard Williams, with underrated Henry Anderson a worthy third DT.
4. Oakland Raiders: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
The Raiders need an infusion – or two or five – of defensive talent, but the allure of Murray will likely to be too much for Jon Gruden to pass on. New GM Mike Mayock and Gruden haven’t directly committed to QB Derek Carr as the future of the franchise, and Gruden has been praising Murray all offseason. The Raiders traded for Antonio Brown and signed Tyrell Williams, two dynamic receivers that would help any young quarterback. Giving Murray those weapons, behind an underrated offensive line, would set up the Heisman Trophy winner for initial success. Carr isn’t good, but he isn’t as bad as it may seem at times. The Raiders could trade him and recoup some value, or let Murray sit behind Carr before cutting Carr and absorbing a manageable $5 million dead cap hit in 2020.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Devin White, LB, LSU
New head coach Bruce Arians and the Bucs could go in a variety of directions with this pick, but replacing inside linebacker Kwon Alexander should be a top priority. Doing so with a player in White who is not only a thumper but also fluid in coverage would be ideal. White tore up the combine in impressive fashion, flashing 4.42 wheels, jumping 39.5 inches vertically and recording times of 7.07 and 4.17 in the three-cone and 20-yard shuttle, respectively. Alexander is more than just a tackle-hungry inside linebacker, having recorded 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception over his last two years in college. He would be a perfect pairing with stellar outside linebacker Lavonte David in the heart of the Bucs’ defense.
6. New York Giants: Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
Explaining what has happened in New York under GM Dave Gettleman would require a whole book to be written, so let’s talk about what the Giants currently need: just about everything except for a running back or tight end. The Giants need a quarterback, but they’re probably not going to draft one for reasons unbeknownst to the common human. There is also a massive void at outside wide receiver left by the jettisoning of Odell Beckham Jr., but the Giants must feel that Golden Tate or Sterling Shepard will be as effective outside as they are in the slot. The defensive side of the ball is a worry because there isn’t a whole lot of talent and any of the three levels of James Bettcher’s defense. Enter Oliver, a game-wrecking bowling ball that consistently demands double and triple teams. He can be the anchor for a defensive line that is short on playmakers.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
Still defined by their defense, the Jaguars should probably pay attention to the offensive side of the ball in this draft. They already addressed their quarterback situation by signing Nick Foles to a massive contract and releasing Blake Bortles. Now they must surround Foles with a semblance of offensive talent. Leonard Fournette is on thin ice, but he will be the unquestioned starter for at least one more season. The offensive line has question marks and should be fortified, which they’ve attempted to do through free agency. Their tight end situation is dire, but they did just sign Geoff Swaim, who can be a passable starter. At wide receiver, the Jaguars are relying on oft-injured Marqise Lee, inconsistent Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole, D.J. Chark and Chris Conley. Metcalf would slide in as far and away the most talented receiver in that group and allow Westbrook to play the slot full-time. I have my reservations about Metcalf’s future in the NFL because he isn’t a great route runner and his hands are wildly hot-or-cold, but at the very least he will be a Tyrell Williams type of player. At most, he will be a star.
8. Detroit Lions: Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
The Giants – and maybe the Jaguars – are a big threat for the Lions in this draft because they have a legitimate hole at EDGE. The Lions could luck into FSU’s Brian Burns if Sweat goes before them, but they’ll likely opt for Sweat if they have the chance to choose. Sweat obliterated the Combine, setting a record by running the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.41) by a defensive lineman. A potential heart issue caused a scare over the weekend, but Sweat is reportedly fine and several NFL teams would pass him in a physical, according to NFL Network’s Gil Brandt. A transfer from Michigan State, Sweat recorded double-digit sacks in back-to-back seasons at Mississippi State. He is a bit raw in terms of pass-rushing polish, but his athletic profile is tantalizing and he has the production to back it up.
9. Buffalo Bills: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
In a top-heavy tight end class, the Bills likely won’t get a chance at any of the top three in the second round. Snagging Hockenson with the ninth pick is probably their best bet to plug a hole on the roster and give QB Josh Allen a great safety valve. Even though the Bills signed Tyler Kroft, Jason Croom is the only other tight end on the roster, and Kroft isn’t the type of talent that Hockenson is. Hockenson is a very good blocker whose receiving potential will be reached at the next level. He’s a natural mover with or without the ball and can create chunk plays down the seams with his route-running and soft hands.
10. Denver Broncos: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
If the Giants pass on Haskins, the Broncos could reap the rewards. Haskins doesn’t quite fit the mold of most quarterbacks Broncos GM John Elway has brought in over the years; he doesn’t have a ton of arm strength and relies more on accuracy. But in a questionable QB class, Elway can’t afford to get too risky with the likes of Drew Lock or Daniel Jones. Haskins is pinpoint accurate at every level of the field but needs room to operate within a clean pocket and isn’t very mobile. He could learn for a year or two behind newly-traded-for Joe Flacco before taking over when the time is right.