College football has transitioned into the postseason and the NFL is not far behind on the calendar either. Add in the fast-approaching holiday season and it won’t be long at all before everybody’s rolling into Nashville for the 2019 NFL Draft.
While the exact order of the teams isn’t yet set — and we’re bound to have a few trades between now and then — it’s never too early to examine team needs, player fits and how it all might play out in a mock draft. Factoring in underclassmen decisions to stay or go and who could be fast risers throughout the process, here’s a look at how picks 1-32 could play out in late April.
Draft order is based on current NFL standings (entering Week 15) and the current playoff picture:
1. San Francisco 49ers — Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
The 49ers may be able to auction this pick off to anybody who wants a quarterback but if they stay put atop the draft, they have a chance to take one of the best defensive players available. Yes, the franchise has already invested a ton of draft capital in their defensive line but Bosa’s skills getting to the QB can take that unit to another level.
2. Arizona Cardinals — Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
The Cardinals have their franchise quarterback so it only makes sense that they need to A) find Josh Rosen weapons in the draft and B) protect him. The latter has been much more of an issue for the team, which will also likely have to stay this high to land a quality left tackle. Alabama’s Jonah Williams is a bit more polished but Little’s athleticism will give him the slight edge come April.
3. Oakland Raiders — Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Seems like a near certainty that the team will be ending the Derek Carr tenure relatively soon which means Gruden needs a QB of the future to take to Las Vegas. Herbert isn’t quite ready for primetime but he has all the tools and would be a good fit in the offensive system.
4. Atlanta Falcons — Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
Dan Quinn will pound the table furiously if Williams is available, both given what the team needs and given how incredible a prospect he is after a stellar campaign for the Crimson Tide.
5. New York Jets — Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
Similar to the Cardinals ahead of them, protecting a young franchise quarterback is a priority in 2019 for the Jets. Williams can play either left or right tackle just about from Day 1, adding to his value.
6. Buffalo Bills — Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
Tre’Davious White has worked out so well, the Bills might as well, um, go back to the well. While somebody like N’Keal Harry would make life much easier for Josh Allen, GM Brandon Beane can’t pass up this kind of talent to secure a terrific secondary tandem for years to come.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars — Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
The Heisman finalist faces a big decision as to whether he only wants to spend a season in Columbus but if he does depart, Jacksonville makes a lot of sense. It’s clear the franchise will be moving on from Blake Bortles and Haskins has a chance to come in and start somewhat early as a rookie.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Josh Allen, LB, Kentucky
The Bucs first need to figure out who is making this pick, who the head coach will be and what the status of QB Jameis Winston is long-term. Only after that is sorted will the team be able to figure out what to do with this pick, which includes the UK star. Allen still has tremendous upside and is also already a pretty polished prospect after winning several national awards with the Wildcats.
9. New York Giants — Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
Yes, the Giants need to find Eli Manning’s replacement but unless GM Dave Gettleman wants to trade down (or up), there probably won’t be anybody close to the value he sees with this pick. Ferrell is a top-10 talent that can be stout against the run in a tough division and rush the passer too.
10. Detroit Lions — Deionte Thompson, DB, Alabama
The Lions have one of the worst coverage grades in the league despite possessing a handful of solid starters. Thompson is smart, instinctive and can be plugged in to start from Game No. 1, finding a good match with Matt Patricia’s defense.
11. Cincinnati Bengals — Devin White, LB, LSU
This just makes too much sense, given that it's beyond time to re-tool the linebacking corps in Cincy and swap out veterans like Vontaze Burfict for better, more athletic guys like White. He’ll fit in well in the AFC North and form a nice tandem with Malik Jefferson down the road.
12. Green Bay Packers — N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
Just because the Packers will have a new coaching staff doesn’t mean their needs aren’t the same: weapons for Aaron Rodgers and impact defensive players. Harry certainly fits in well with regards to the former and he can be a mainstay in Green Bay for a long time given how polished he is already.
13. Cleveland Browns — Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
Last year GM John Dorsey snagged Denzel Ward and now he finds a running mate in Baker, who won the Jim Thorpe Award as college football’s best defensive back. His physicality at the line will help against all those Steelers wideouts twice a year.
14. Washington Redskins — Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
This might be a tad high for Bush but he’s a rare commodity with his ability to rush the passer and be just as physical at the line of scrimmage against the run. He’ll play off the Washington defensive line well and reinforce the front seven.
15. Carolina Panthers — Jachai Polite, DE, Florida
Polite was a force to be reckoned with this season with the Gators and will surely rise quickly up the draft boards as he moves through the process. He’ll be a nice addition to the Panthers as their front seven continues to get younger and more athletic.
16. Philadelphia Eagles — Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State
Risner will get hardly any hype in the draft process given his position and the program he played for but he’s as solid as they come. He’ll be able to play either tackle spot and certainly could be Jason Peters’ long-term replacement if the team opts to not pick a cornerback here.
17. Denver Broncos — Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
College football fans will be crying out for a team to take Oliver but he somehow lands in the lap of the Broncos. The former five-star recruit is still developing as a pass rusher but he’s stellar against the run, two things this team can certainly live with as he takes some pressure off Von Miller and company up the middle.
18. Miami Dolphins — Brian Burns, DL, Florida State
Burns was once a top prospect coming out of nearby Fort Lauderdale and continued to get better and better while in Tallahassee. The Dolphins can keep him in-state and make him the heir apparent to the aging Cameron Wake.
19. Indianapolis Colts — Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
The Colts' defense has made giant strides the past season but gets an even bigger boost in having Lawrence land in their laps. He’s athletic enough to get push up the middle of the pocket and still occupy two gaps.
20. Tennessee Titans — Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State
Pivotal offseason for the Titans ahead but the team might have to go all-in on offense to make a final push with Marcus Mariota under center. Harmon is a big target with terrific hands and has an underrated ability to get loose downfield.
21. Minnesota Vikings — Oshane Ximines, LB, Old Dominion
The Vikings' brain trust won’t mind reaching for a player or going with somebody from a smaller school as long as they can ball. Ximines qualifies as a quality pass rusher off of the edge who can either team up next to Danielle Hunter or replace Anthony Barr if he leaves through free agency.
22. Baltimore Ravens — Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Lamar Jackson needs weapons and Hollywood fits that bill with his ability to take the top off opposing defenses. He’ll be able to grow with the young quarterback and help take the offense to another level after years of searching for a No. 1 option.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers — Taylor Rapp, DB, Washington
Corner is a more pressing need for the Steelers but it will be hard to pass on Rapp, a hard hitter who is still one of the best guys in coverage west of the Mississippi. Mike Tomlin, an old defensive backs coach, will have his eyes light up if the front office turns this card in.
24. Seattle Seahawks — Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
Frank Clark and the team could part ways in free agency so Seattle can find a ready-made replacement in the draft with another Michigan man in Gary. He figures to put up some huge numbers at the combine and the Seahawks just might have themselves another steal at the back of the first round.
25. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas) — Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
Simmons has tremendous upside and the underlying talent of a top-10 pick but off-the-field issues could push him down the board. Line him up next to Arden Key and Mo Hurst and Oakland will have a terrific, athletic core to build around up front.
26. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago) — Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State
Butler checks off a lot of boxes with his 6-foot-6 frame and ability to go up and make the acrobatic catch. The Raiders need big plays and the Cyclones' star can deliver plenty. There are a few questions about his speed but a good combine showing will clear that up.
27. Houston Texans — Yodny Cajuste, OL, West Virginia
The Texans' offensive line woes are well documented and they can shore up Deshaun Watson’s protection by snagging the hard-nosed Cajuste. His flexibility to play tackle or get kicked inside will add to his value if the team finds additional help up front through free agency.
28. Los Angeles Chargers — Will Grier, QB, West Virginia
Despite an MVP-caliber season from Philip Rivers, the time is certainly coming where the franchise will need a new signal-caller leading the way. Grier has a good arm and quality release but is not a finished product just yet. He can sit and learn behind Rivers to refine his craft and then take over in a few years.
29. New England Patriots — Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
Father Time is coming for Tom Brady at some point and the Pats have to be thinking about the future more than ever. Jones ticks off all the things you’re looking for and gets QB guru David Cutcliffe’s seal of approval. There’s no pressing case for him to play right away but the day will be there in Foxborough soon enough.
30. Los Angeles Rams — Montez Sweat, LB, Mississippi State
The run on QBs helps push a talent like Sweat down the board a bit to find a perfect landing spot in Los Angeles. The defense needs to find a youth movement when it comes to rushing the passer and Sweat fits the bill with his speed and power in Wade Phillips' scheme.
31. Kansas City Chiefs — Zach Allen, DE, Boston College
It’s no secret that the front office needs to beef up on defense to match Andy Reid’s already prolific offense. Allen is already one of the more polished guys coming off the edge this year and would immediately contribute for the Chiefs.
32. Green Bay Packers (from New Orleans) — Chase Winovich, DE, Michigan
Clay Matthews isn’t getting any younger and may eventually play elsewhere in 2019 via free agency so who better to replace his spot in the lineup than a guy who could admirably fill in as his little brother. He is a sound tackler, can get after the quarterback from the edge and has the same kind of motor that will make him a pain in the neck for opponents.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.