March Madness has long been reserved for buzzer beaters, upsets and Cinderellas in the NCAA Tournament. But after what's transpired over the past few weeks, the NFL more than deserves inclusion when discussing this month's wackiness.
Consider the last few days: Selection Sunday, one of the biggest events on the college basketball calendar, had to compete with the greatest quarterback in league history un-retiring after 40 days. Then there's been free agency, the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, the rift between Baker Mayfield and the Browns, and the Packers bringing back elite duo Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams -- only to trade Adams to the Raiders.
And finally, on Friday, there was the Browns swooping in at the last moment to land Watson in a blockbuster trade.
NFL free agency has been crazy so far, and in this mock draft, we explore how teams' priorities have shifted since the start of the league year. Now let's get started!
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Round 1 - Pick 1
Aidan Hutchinson EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'7" / 268 lbs
The Jaguars could still take an offensive lineman here -- even after franchise tagging left tackle Cam Robinson for the second straight year and paying top dollar for guard Brandon Scherff in free agency. Instead, they bolster the defensive front by selecting the tenacious and technically sound Hutchinson.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
Hutchinson to the Lions seemed like the surest thing among the top 5 picks, but that's no longer the case with Jacksonville addressing its offensive line through free agency. Detroit loses out on Hutchinson but still gets its potential All-Pro pass rusher in Thibodeaux.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Round 1 - Pick 5
Ikem Ekwonu OL
NC State • Soph • 6'4" / 320 lbs
Ekwonu made a strong case for being the No. 1 offensive lineman in this class with his performance at the NFL combine. He can step in and play tackle right away for a unit that must do a better job of keeping Daniel Jones out of harm's way.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Pittsburgh • Soph • 6'3" / 220 lbs
The Panthers miss out on Deshaun Watson and go with the most NFL ready quarterback prospect in this year's draft. Whether Pickett turns into a franchise QB and Matt Rhule's savior is a much bigger question.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 272 lbs
Want proof that Walker could wind up being the best all-around edge rusher in this class? Just check out what he did at the combine. He has the athleticism and the skillset to disrupt offenses from multiple positions along the defensive front.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • Soph • 6'3" / 235 lbs
In this mock draft, the Falcons convince Matt Ryan to stick around and add some weapons late in free agency to liven up the offense. That frees Atlanta up to take Lloyd, whose versatility and knack for making game-changing plays will immediately boost the defense.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 9
Matt Corral QB
Ole Miss • Soph • 6'2" / 205 lbs
Corral has flown way under the radar after not participating in the combine due to an ankle injury, but he has the necessary traits to wind up as the best quarterback in the class. In this mock, the Seahawks come to the same conclusion and select him to replace Russell Wilson.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 10
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
The Jets have made a bunch of quality moves in free agency, but they have not signed an outside receiver. That's fine, because they will be in position to potentially select the first wideout off the draft board. That's the case here, and New York is thrilled to get Garrett Wilson to pair with Zach Wilson.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
Washington should aim to help Carson Wentz as much as possible, and getting him a potential No. 1 receiver is one way to do that. Pairing Olave with fellow former Buckeye Terry McLaurin would be scary for opposing defenses.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
With the first of three first-round picks acquired in the Watson trade, the Texans get great value on Cross, who is widely regarded as the No. 3 offensive tackle in this class. Kyle Hamilton and Cross will greatly help Houston as it aims to re-establish itself in the AFC South.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 262 lbs
The Ravens appeared to land an elite edge rusher ... until Za'Darius Smith backed out of his reported four-year, $35 million deal. Baltimore is instead forced to address the position in the draft, going with the explosive Johnson, who put up big numbers at Florida State.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 15
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
The Eagles buy low on Stingley, the consensus No. 1 corner entering 2021 before inconsistent play and a season-ending injury allowed others to close the gap. If Stingley can regain his 2019 form, when he had 15 pass breakups and six interceptions, he'll be a worthy complement to Darius Slay in the secondary.
From Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 16
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
The Eagles have missed out on/chose not to pursue the top free agent wide receivers so far, so using one of their three first-round picks on the position would make sense. Burks is a YAC machine, which will make Jalen Hurts' job that much easier and take pressure off DeVonta Smith.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Northern Iowa • Soph • 6'7" / 325 lbs
The Chargers have made all the right moves in free agency, from re-signing Mike Williams to adding J.C. Jackson to trading for Khalil Mack. Now it's time to provide better protection for Justin Herbert. Los Angeles selected Rashawn Slater 13th overall in last year's draft, and he earned Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors as a rookie. It's unreasonable to think Penning will replicate those accomplishments, but he should be a quality starter pretty quickly.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
Missing out on Watson hurts, but the Saints still get the quarterback prospect with the highest ceiling to fall to them. New Orleans could re-sign Jamies Winston and have Willis learn and develop behind him, allowing the team to still contend for the postseason while building for the future.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 304 lbs
Even with the Eagles bringing back veteran Fletcher Cox after initially releasing him, they could still use another quality player along the defensive front. Wyatt will fortify that unit as a stout run defender and able pass rusher.
Round 1 - Pick 20
The Steelers have re-signed Miles Killebrew and Ahkello Witherspoon in the secondary, yet haven't locked down starting strong safety Terrell Edmunds. If he signs elsewhere, the versatile and instinctual Hill would be a quality replacement.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
New England hasn't signed a wide receiver despite reportedly having done "excessive" work on the veterans in the free agency and trade market. The Patriots must surround Mac Jones with as many weapons as possible, so drafting the jump-ball monster that is London would be a worthwhile alternative.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Jahan Dotson WR
Penn State • Soph • 5'11" / 182 lbs
Having traded away perhaps the NFL's best receiver in Davante Adams, It's absolutely time for the Packers to draft a first-round wide receiver for the first time since Javon Walker in 2002. Green Bay received this pick as part of the Adams' trade, and it uses it to get Rodgers a weapon who can make plays all over the field.
Round 1 - Pick 23
George Karlaftis EDGE
Purdue • Soph • 6'4" / 263 lbs
With Chandler Jones headed to Sin City, the Cardinals replenish their pass rush with the not flashy yet uber-productive George Karlaftis. He won't overpower tackles with his athleticism, but his advanced technique will help him continue disruptive quarterbacks at the professional level.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Round 1 - Pick 27
Logan Hall DL
Houston • Soph • 6'6" / 283 lbs
The Buccaneers' defensive front remains up in the air with Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul and Will Gholston all free agents. If Tampa Bay wants to get younger, Hall would be a quality selection at this spot.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Boye Mafe DL
Minnesota • Soph • 6'4" / 261 lbs
While Preston Smith and Rashan Gary are a Pro Bowl-caliber duo off the edge, there's basically no depth behind them. Mafe is still relatively raw, but he'll develop quickly learning behind his elder counterparts.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 29
Nakobe Dean LB
Georgia • Soph • 5'11" / 231 lbs
Chances are the second linebacker comes off the board before pick No. 29, but that's how this mock draft played out. The Dolphins are grateful, as they gain a three-down linebacker who can immediately become one of the leaders of Miami's defense.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
Davis won't provide much of anything as a pass rusher, at least not right away, but playing him on the same defensive line as Chris Jones and Frank Clark will make everyone's life easier (and everyone else in the AFC West's lives harder).
Round 1 - Pick 31
Clemson • Soph • 6'0" / 194 lbs
This pick was going to be an offensive lineman until the Bengals addressed that glaring need. Cincinnati did so in free agency by signing guard Alex Cappa and center Ted Karras, so it shifts its focus to the secondary and takes Booth.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 32
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 207 lbs
Ridder put himself firmly in the first-round conversation by showcasing his eye-popping athleticism and faring well in the on-field workouts. He could be the successor to Jared Goff assuming the latter doesn't greatly improve in Year 2 in Detroit.