usatsi-17064418-kyle-hamilton-irish-safety-pregame-2021-1400.gif

While the NFL Mock Draft schedule never sleeps, this is the time of year when it gets a lot more fun to do mock drafts. The draft is only a few weeks away, and we have so much more information available to us. We've been through the combine and the first wave of free agency, all of which gives us a better idea of the players who will be the most desirable and where the teams believe they can improve in the draft.

While it's never easy to do a mock, things get slightly easier at this point. This will be my fifth mock of the season, but the first four were more "exploratory" than anything. It was a combination of deciphering team needs and evaluating the players on my own hoping to determine the best fits. This mock includes more "intel" than any of the previous. It's not as much "what I think should happen" as it's "here's what I think is going to happen."

Of course, it can all change in the next three weeks, and you never know who's blowing smoke up your you-know-what, but this is my best guess as to what the future holds.

NFL Mock Draft
Round 1
Round 1 - Pick 1
Michigan • 6'7" / 260 lbs
Projected Team
Jacksonville
PROSPECT RNK
2nd
POSITION RNK
1st
While he's not my top-rated edge rusher in this class, it's not as if there's some giant chasm between him and Kayvon Thibodeaux. Hutchinson has plenty of natural talent and has improved every season. The closer we get to the draft, the more people who seem to be convinced this will be the pick.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Oregon • 6'4" / 254 lbs
Projected Team
Detroit
PROSPECT RNK
5th
POSITION RNK
2nd
Thibodeaux is still my No. 1 player in the draft class. He's capable of doing things that others in this class aren't, and while some teams have concerns about his "love of football," I think we sometimes overthink things. Get him in your locker room and let him go to work. You won't be disappointed.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Cincinnati • 6'3" / 200 lbs
Projected Team
Houston
PROSPECT RNK
3rd
POSITION RNK
1st
The Texans can go any direction here, but Gardner strikes me as the kind of player new coach Lovie Smith will fall in love with. He has everything that Smith has looked for in his cornerbacks throughout his coaching career. When you have as many needs as Houston, go with the best player available, and Gardner is it.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Alabama • 6'7" / 350 lbs
Projected Team
N.Y. Jets
PROSPECT RNK
4th
POSITION RNK
1st
Neal makes a lot of sense for the Jets. If they're no longer confident in Mekhi Becton, Neal is his replacement. If Becton holds onto the job, Neal is just as capable of playing on the right side of the line. Either way, you're improving your offensive line and helping the QB you used an early pick on last year.
Round 1 - Pick 5
NC State • 6'4" / 320 lbs
Projected Team
N.Y. Giants
PROSPECT RNK
10th
POSITION RNK
4th
Ekwonu is my favorite offensive lineman in the class, and he'll give the Giants something they need. Whether Daniel Jones is the long-term QB or it's somebody else, Ekwonu can be counted on to protect them for the next decade.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Pittsburgh • 6'3" / 220 lbs
Projected Team
Carolina
PROSPECT RNK
30th
POSITION RNK
2nd
The Panthers were probably hoping that the QB market would shake out differently this offseason and allow them to address another need with this pick. But it didn't, and Pickett is the best fit for what the Panthers need if they want to compete for a playoff spot in 2022.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Georgia • 6'5" / 275 lbs
Projected Team
N.Y. Giants
PROSPECT RNK
13th
POSITION RNK
1st
Walker has been rocketing up draft boards and mock drafts in recent weeks, and I understand why. He's an intriguing talent at a valuable position, but while I like him, I'm not sure I'd be taking him this high. He's likely going to need further development as a pass-rusher to be worthy of this selection, but I wouldn't blame the Giants or anybody for betting on his ability to do so.
Round 1 - Pick 8
LSU • 6'1" / 195 lbs
Projected Team
Atlanta
PROSPECT RNK
6th
POSITION RNK
2nd
Derek Stingley Jr. has nearly everything you want in a corner, but teams are understandably hesitant. When you watch the tape, he's brilliant but showed too much inconsistency the last couple of seasons. That said, life at LSU has been inconsistent for everybody the last two years. Get him into a professional environment, and he could revert to the player we saw his freshman season.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Mississippi State • 6'5" / 311 lbs
Projected Team
Seattle
PROSPECT RNK
8th
POSITION RNK
2nd
Some think the Seahawks will take a QB here, but a part of me wonders if the Seahawks aren't relieved to move on from Russell Wilson because there won't be as much external pressure to throw the ball as much. Drew Lock lets Pete Carroll be the run the dang ball and play good defense coach he's always loved being. So I can see the Seahawks addressing needs on the offensive line here. Cross didn't do a lot of run-blocking last season, but that was the offense he was playing in more than his ability to do so.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Ohio State • 6'0" / 192 lbs
Projected Team
N.Y. Jets
PROSPECT RNK
7th
POSITION RNK
1st
It might not be Wilson, but I'm confident the Jets will go for a WR here. Drafting an OT and a WR in the top-10 is the definition of helping out your young QB, and Wilson is terrific after the catch. He also does an excellent job of using his body and catch radius to make contested grabs.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Utah • 6'3" / 235 lbs
Projected Team
Washington
PROSPECT RNK
16th
POSITION RNK
2nd
Lloyd is the kind of linebacker that is becoming more and more important to have in the NFL. He can play on early and passing downs, and he has more than straight-line speed. He needs to improve his tackling technique, but given his frame and strength, I'm not worried about his ability to do so.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Washington • 5'11" / 195 lbs
Projected Team
Minnesota
PROSPECT RNK
22nd
POSITION RNK
4th
I've talked to some people who believe McDuffie is the best corner in this class. I'm not willing to go that far, but he's an outstanding prospect that can be used in a variety of ways. He'd be an immediate boost to the Minnesota defense.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Florida State • 6'5" / 262 lbs
Projected Team
Houston
PROSPECT RNK
20th
POSITION RNK
3rd
Outside the top edge rushers in this class, Johnson is my favorite. I don't think he'll become an all-world pass-rusher, but I'm more confident he'll be reliable for 7-10 sacks per year than I am the other remaining options on the board.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Georgia • 6'6" / 336 lbs
Projected Team
Baltimore
PROSPECT RNK
18th
POSITION RNK
2nd
I've talked to people far more intelligent than I am who are becoming more and more convinced this will be the pick for the Ravens if Davis is on the board. If Davis can become a consistent three-down player who develops as a pass-rusher, he could be unlike anything we've ever seen before. If he doesn't, he will still be a reliable cog in the middle of your defensive front.
Round 1 - Pick 15
USC • 6'4" / 213 lbs
Projected Team
Philadelphia
PROSPECT RNK
12th
POSITION RNK
3rd
London reminds me of Mike Evans from both his frame and ability. He's not a burner, but he's a fluid athlete who will dominate smaller defensive backs. He could quickly become Jalen Hurts' go-to target.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Liberty • 6'1" / 219 lbs
Projected Team
New Orleans
PROSPECT RNK
23rd
POSITION RNK
1st
Malik Willis has a chance to be a tremendous professional QB, but being drafted into a situation where he's asked to play right away won't do him any favors. New Orleans is an excellent place for him because he'll be able to develop on the bench behind Jameis Winston for at least a year before being asked to take on the starting role.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Central Michigan • 6'6" / 303 lbs
Projected Team
L.A. Chargers
PROSPECT RNK
21st
POSITION RNK
5th
Raimann is a tremendous athlete for a player of his size but could afford to put on more weight if he's going to hold up at left tackle in the NFL. For somebody who doesn't have a lengthy history of playing the position (he's only played there two seasons), he's shown to be a natural.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Georgia • 6'3" / 304 lbs
Projected Team
Philadelphia
PROSPECT RNK
29th
POSITION RNK
4th
I've given up tilting at windmills trying to convince the Eagles to draft Nakobe Dean. They have their drafting philosophy, and I'm going to respect it. So, instead of Dean, they take a Georgia defender at a position they're willing to use a first-rounder on. Wyatt wasn't the best player on Georgia's defensive line last season, but that's more about how ridiculous Georgia's defensive line was than Wyatt.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Ohio State • 6'1" / 188 lbs
Projected Team
New Orleans
PROSPECT RNK
25th
POSITION RNK
5th
There are concerns about Olave's size and his ability to withstand hits at the NFL level, but he's a terrific receiver who will stretch the field vertically for this Saints offense. Olave over the top with a healthy Michael Thomas beneath will give defensive coordinators a headache.
  Mock Trade from Pittsburgh Steelers
Round 1 - Pick 20
Arkansas • 6'2" / 225 lbs
Projected Team
Green Bay
PROSPECT RNK
15th
POSITION RNK
4th
The Packers trade up a couple of spots to ensure they get the receiver they want as they look to replace Davante Adams and give Aaron Rodgers another weapon. I can see Burks being used in many of the same ways the Packers had been using Adams. He has good hands and is tremendous after the catch. His route running could use some refining, though.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Notre Dame • 6'4" / 220 lbs
Projected Team
New England
PROSPECT RNK
1st
POSITION RNK
1st
Teams have been scared off Hamilton a bit in recent weeks because of his 40 times, but he's an intelligent defender who can be used in different ways. In other words, he's the kind of defensive back that Bill Belichick would happily snap up if he falls this far.
  Mock Trade from Green Bay Packers
Round 1 - Pick 22
Northern Iowa • 6'7" / 332 lbs
Projected Team
Pittsburgh
PROSPECT RNK
35th
POSITION RNK
8th
I think Penning is a right tackle at the NFL level, but the Steelers can use upgrades on their offensive line, and Penning has the kind of demeanor that will quickly endear him to the hometown faithful.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Florida • 6'1" / 191 lbs
Projected Team
Arizona
PROSPECT RNK
46th
POSITION RNK
6th
I've mentioned it in previous mocks, but Elam is the one corner in this class I'm surprised hasn't received more hype. He's long, fast and has an excellent knack for making plays on the football. He's going to be a steal for somebody.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Georgia • 5'11" / 231 lbs
Projected Team
Dallas
PROSPECT RNK
14th
POSITION RNK
1st
Frankly, it's not fair that the Cowboys had Micah Parsons fall to them last season and then have Dean fall to them in this mock draft. Good luck to any offense that tries to do anything horizontally if this happens.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Alabama • 6'1" / 179 lbs
Projected Team
Buffalo
PROSPECT RNK
11th
POSITION RNK
2nd
Williams is likely to miss the start of the season as he recovers from an ACL injury, but no receiver in this class has his speed. He ran away from people you shouldn't be able to run away from last season. Imagine a guy who can run past everybody playing with a QB who can throw it over everybody. Could be pretty fun, no?
Round 1 - Pick 26
Texas A&M • 6'4" / 323 lbs
Projected Team
Tennessee
PROSPECT RNK
28th
POSITION RNK
6th
Green played everywhere but center at A&M, but his best position will be guard. He strikes me as a perfect fit for a team that likes to run the ball as much as Tennessee does.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Boston College • 6'3" / 316 lbs
Projected Team
Tampa Bay
PROSPECT RNK
34th
POSITION RNK
7th
The Bucs have done a good job addressing needs in free agency this offseason, so they could go a multitude of directions here. Still, I think Johnson could be an excellent long-term fit on the interior of their offensive line while also contributing right away.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Michigan • 6'0" / 192 lbs
Projected Team
Green Bay
PROSPECT RNK
19th
POSITION RNK
2nd
The Packers could afford to add more depth to their secondary, and Hill is a versatile playmaker. He's shown an ability to play safety as well as the slot. If you're looking for a Tyrann Mathieu-type player but unable to sign the actual one, Hill is your guy.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Clemson • 6'0" / 194 lbs
Projected Team
Kansas City
PROSPECT RNK
17th
POSITION RNK
3rd
Booth has only been a full-time corner for one season, so it's hard to know how good he can be. Clearly, he's already doing pretty well if we're mocking him in the first round of the draft. With his ceiling, he's the kind of late-first round pick well worth taking a shot on.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Penn State • 5'11" / 182 lbs
Projected Team
Kansas City
PROSPECT RNK
40th
POSITION RNK
7th
While he's not Tyreek Hill, Dotson is an excellent deep threat that should pair well with what the Chiefs do on offense. He doesn't have top-end speed but changes direction quickly without losing his top speed. I think he has a chance to be a Pro Bowler out of the slot.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Iowa • 6'2" / 305 lbs
Projected Team
Cincinnati
PROSPECT RNK
9th
POSITION RNK
3rd
If you're the Bengals, you need to continue improving your offensive line, so why not draft the best center in this class? I don't know if Linderbaum will go on to an All-Pro NFL career, but I'm extremely confident he's going to be a good player at his position for a long time.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Cincinnati • 6'3" / 207 lbs
Projected Team
Detroit
PROSPECT RNK
75th
POSITION RNK
5th
Getting a QB at No. 32 to get the fifth-year option on the contract just makes too much sense for the Lions not to do it. Jared Goff is not the answer, but Desmond Ridder could be, and it's not like there's a lot of pressure on the Lions to "win now." It's a gamble worth taking, whether it's Ridder or the top QB on Detroit's board.