Exhaustive research. Scrutinizing game film. Poring over measurables. Interviewing scouts. All of these things go into the crafting of a great NFL Mock Draft.
I keep meaning to try that sometime, although it never seems to do Mel Kiper Jr. much good, so I just stick with my own buffed-to-a-sheen formula that combines educated guesswork, wild hunches and reading Kiper’s ESPN mock so I don’t repeat his mistakes.
This week’s 82nd NFL Draft and 52nd for the Miami Dolphins is our 26th Official Miami Herald Mock Draft. I do not believe in doing multiple drafts each year like some other guys, so this is not Mock 4.0 or 17.0, this is Mock 1-point-only. It’s humiliating enough to be wrong on one guess for a Dolphins’ first-round pick, let alone being wrong on 17 tries.
Neither do I believe in trying to get into the impossible morass of predicting first-round trades, even though at least half of the teams in the top 10 are looking to trade down — further decreasing the likelihood of accuracy on my part. Hey, I’m being honest here. Setting a low bar. Last year, I correctly had 24 of 32 first-rounders; alas, only five were bull’s-eyes — exact player to exact team.
The whole process is a crapshoot. Even the teams with all their fancy research are just glorified guessing. As in, Miami’s trade-up to take Dion Jordan — how’d that work out?
OK, enough with the disclaimers.
As always, our exclusive Super Bonus Draft Facts are interspersed. Now let’s get to guessing!
1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE/OLB, Texas A&M — Garrett is the best player in this draft and a generational talent, according to Garrett. Cleveland also could trade down and take another stab at a quarterback, or hope for that with the 12th overall pick. Or, they could really be the Browns and overreach by taking a QB No. 1. (Does Johnny Manziel have a younger brother?) But I’m wild-hunching the Earthtones make an adult pick for a change.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Solomon Thomas, DE/DT, Stanford — Niners need everything, everywhere, including the defensive help a better pass rush would bring. They need it enough to keep this Stanford kid at home in Santa Clara. Also need a QB, but no unequivocal franchise guys are in this draft.
3. Chicago Bears: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State — Some draft-graders think fellow safety Jamal Adams is a safer bet, but Hooker has the big upside to bring Ed Reed comparisons, highest possible praise for the position.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU — Need a tackle even though they traded for Branden Albert, but no OTs are worthy of this pick. Jags love DeShaun Watson, but this is a more sure pick to goose an anemic offense.
5. Tennessee Titans: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State — Titans also own 18th pick after getting this one in trade from Rams last year. Wide receiver (maybe Mike Williams) will tempt here, too, but secondary a more pressing need.
▪ SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: Bitter rivals ESPN and NFL Network are going all out this week to fill way too many hours of draft-related programming. Tuned into ESPN this morning and came across the tinkling piano and mournful strings of a maudlin retrospective on Chris Berman’s ebbing career. NFL Network countered with an exclusive whatever-happened-to piece on Manziel, who has been mysteriously missing from headlines for nearly two weeks.
6. New York Jets: Jamal Adams, S, Louisiana State — This pick could be sooo Jets with a reach for project-quarterback Mitch Trubisky. NYJ also entertaining trade-down offers. But can’t go wrong with Adams at biggest need position after QB.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama — The San Dieangelos Chargers need blocking help for Philip Rivers, but no OL’ers are top 10-worthy. Also might prefer a safety here should either Hooker or Adams fall.
8. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford — Incumbent Jonathan Stewart is 30 now (Methuselah for the position), and McCaffrey figures as a dynamic, dual-threat asset for Cam Newton.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama — A wide receiver for Andy Dalton is very possible here, but Foster is a pro-ready inside run-stopper from the Saban Factory. However, Foster’s draft stock has slipped with off-field issues. It would not entirely shock if he tumbled all the way into Miami’s sights (and Fins would love-love-love him), but I doubt that happens.
10. Buffalo Bills: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson — A pass rusher will tempt, but Buffs’ wideout room is Sammy Watkins and a whole lotta nuthin’, so this pick makes much sense. (And is one more reason I think the division-mate Dolphins will be leaning cornerback with their top pick.)
▪ SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: The NFL Draft, no longer held in New York every year, is this week in Philadelphia, where perpetually angry Philly fans have been booing all week in anticipation of the Eagles’ pick. Extra police will be on hand Thursday night amid reports of a planned massive demonstration by protesters who want to abolish the draft in favor of an all-volunteer NFL.
11. New Orleans Saints: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple — Adrian Peterson saying he’s signing with Saints is one more indication N’Awlins will go with D here. Corner may be bigger need but regard for Reddick is burgeoning. He’d seriously tempt Miami at 22 if miraculously he fell.
12. Cleveland Browns: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama — Taking Garrett No. 1 frees Cleveland to think offense with this pick obtained from Philadelphia, and Howard is draft’s premier TE. These are the Browns, of course, so a stab at a quarterback would not surprise.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina — Carson Palmer is 37, Cardbirds need an heir to the air, and Mitchell is the perfect developmental guy they can wait a year or two to unleash. Also need help in secondary.
14. Philadelphia Eagles: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan — Birds had big interest in Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley with this pick obtained from Minnesota, but a miserably timed rape accusation against Conley could see him plummet from first round entirely. Would also love RB McCaffrey if he falls.
15. Indianapolis Colts: Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky — Here’s a guy Miami would strongly consider as draft’s only 1R-certified guard, but Andrew Luck has been sacked 156 times in five seasons, is coming off shoulder surgery and needs immediate help.
▪ SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: The Dolphins will stage their annual draft-day fans’ party Thursday night from 7:30 to 11:30 on the field at Hard Rock Stadium. The event will feature appearances by bitter former players born too soon for the gravy train, entirely independent live reports by impartial journalists paid by the Dolphins, free cheerleader autographs (no, seriously) and also instant and expert analysis by Cam Cameron of the No. 1 draft pick’s family.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama — Help for Joe Flacco is Ravens’ priority, and Robinson is draft’s highest-graded tackle. Could be a receiver here if not a blocker.
17. Washington Redskins: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee — Barnett targets need for a pass rusher. Skins would love a running back, but the only two worthy of first round are long gone.
18. Tennessee Titans: John Ross, WR, Washington — Titans went defense with fifth overall pick, so balance that with a nice little gift for quarterback Marcus Mariota.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: David Njoku, TE, Miami — Dolphins’ season-opening opponent takes a Miami kid to goose the offense and make Jameis Winston’s life easier. Bucs have greater needs (outside linebacker) but can’t resist Njoku’s field-stretching, big-play ability — something that also interested the Dolphins.
20. Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah — Broncos will have inexperience at QB no matter who starts, so an extra second in the pocket could make a difference.
▪ SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: Bitter-rival South Florida sports radio stations The Ticket Miami (790) and WQAM (560) are ramping up their commitment to draft coverage this week, unaware that, in a national poll of what would most make listeners drive screaming off a cliff into a ravine to stop the sound, the No. 1 answer was, “Hearing a local radio host probe Trent Dilfer on Mitch Trubisky’s rising stock.”
21. Detroit Lions: Kevin King, CB, Washington — Detroit has not spent a first-round pick on a cornerback in 17 consecutive drafts, longest stretch of any NFL team. Time that ended.
22. MIAMI DOLPHINS: CHARLES HARRIS, LB/DE, MISSOURI — In my first draft of my mock draft I had the Dolphins taking Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley here. Then came that rape accusation. I still do not discount the possibility. Did they not jump on Laremy Tunsil despite the gas-mask bong thing? The controversy embroiling Conley is obviously worse, but he might still be the pick here if Miami determined the accusation is baseless and that Conley won’t be charged — a huge if. Harris is a safer choice as an outside linebacker who also can adapt smoothly to pass-rush end role. Todd McShay calls him the draft’s best pure OLB and he might not last, but I think there’s a chance he could fall to the Fins. Miami emphasized defense in free agency led by Lawrence Timmons but still should have that side of the scrimmage line as their priority in the draft. (By the way, am hearing the Dolphins covet Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers as a Day 2 pick if they can get him.)
23. New York Giants: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida — Biggies need a run-stopper and Davis is an inside-’backer who fits the role. Also need blocking help. Right, Eli?
24. Oakland Raiders: Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State — The Oakvegas Raiders are thin on interior D-line and need to beef up the run stopping. Hauling RB Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to fortify an already scary offense only underlines the likelihood they’ll go with defense here.
25. Houston Texans: DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson — Why? Because Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden are your quarterbacks, that’s why.
▪ SUPER BONUS DRAFT FACT: Some might not be aware ESPN’s Kiper consults experts in each city for inside draft info and that I was his Miami guy until that unfortunate mixup in 2014. What happened was, I slightly misheard a tip from a trusted source, and based on that, instead of reporting that Miami would select tackle Ja’Wuan James in the first round, Kiper instead reported that Dolphins planned to draft La’Bron James.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin — Cornerback Richard Sherman is still a Seahawk, so team can turn to a more pressing need. Russell Wilson needs protection.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State — Jamaal Charles is gone, and Alex Smith needs a run-buddy, and the shifty former Seminole is the best ballcarrier left.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan — Charlton is a good fit for ’Boys defense. There also are rumors Dallas could reach for the big upside of his Michigan teammate Jabrill Peppers.
29. Green Bay Packers: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama — Primary need in secondary makes cornerback a near-certain Pack target, although a RB such as Cook would tempt if he’s still around.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin — J.J.’s kid brother has the bloodlines, and Steelers have the need at this position, with Lawrence Timmons gone to Miami and James Harrison turning 39 in two weeks.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA — Atlanta has a big need for pass-rushing helping. Opinions on McKinley vary, with some thought that he could go by mid-round.
32. New Orleans Saints: Tre’Davious White, CB, Louisiana State — Saints went defense with 11th overall pick and stay there with this pick obtained from New England in the Brandin Cooks trade. Drew Brees has spent a career needing better D.