With less than two weeks until the start of the NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns are in a bind.
The Browns have a few options. They could keep Mayfield on the bench for the entire season, but that's very unlikely considering the animosity between the two sides. (Mayfield just went on a podcast and said the team disrespected him "100 percent.") They could release him, but that opens up the possibility of a certain AFC North rival (cough, cough, the Pittsburgh Steelers) picking him up and throwing him out there twice against his former team in 2022.
Seemingly the best course of action is to trade Mayfield while assuming a substantial portion of his contract. And in this mock draft, that's exactly what general manager Andrew Berry decides to do. The Browns ship Mayfield and a Day 3 selection to the Seattle Seahawks, who, despite re-signing Geno Smith to a reported one-year deal worth up to $7 million, are still interested in adding another quarterback. And in this case, that quarterback is substantially better than what coach Pete Carroll currently has on his roster.
With the Seahawks acquiring a proven signal-caller, they address another position of need with the No. 9 selection. Plus, the Saints bolster their offensive with two highly touted prospects and the Steelers land their quarterback at No. 20. Now let's get started!
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Round 1 - Pick 1
Aidan Hutchinson EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'7" / 268 lbs
Further protecting Trevor Lawrence with an elite offensive tackle prospect is enticing, but so is grabbing the best edge rusher in this class. And since the Jaguars invested so much in their line during free agency, the ultra-productive Hutchinson is the pick here.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
The Lions have reportedly done a ton of work on Thibodeaux. In addition to GM Brad Holmes going to an Oregon game this fall, Detroit met with him at the combine and then had a large contingent at his pro day. Coach Dan Campbell is also a big fan, referring to Thibodeaux as an explosive athlete and playmaker who's "pretty special on tape." With Hutchinson off to Jacksonville, the Lions select the prospect who was at the top of most draft boards before the start of the 2021 college season.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 272 lbs
The run on edge rushers continues as the Texans add Walker to new head coach Lovie Smith's defense. Houston needs to do a better job of getting after the quarterback, as the team ranked 26th in the NFL in pressure rate a year ago. Walker is capable of disrupting the quarterback from basically anywhere along the defensive line, and he'll pair with second-year breakout Jonathan Greenard (8.5 sacks in 2021) to form a formidable pass-rush duo.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
The Jets signed D.J. Reed to a multiyear deal and have returning starter Bryce Hall (16 pass breakups in 2021) opposite him, but they could use a legit lockdown corner to boost a pass defense that ranked 30th in the NFL a year ago. Enter "Sauce" Gardner, an aggressive, confident player coach Robert Saleh would love to have in the secondary.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
As long as two of the first four picks aren't offensive linemen, which at this point doesn't seem likely, the Giants will be in a great spot to strengthen their protection for Daniel Jones. Neal and Ekwonu are both available in this scenario, giving New York the luxury to choose between two immediate difference-makers up front. New GM Joe Schoen goes with the massive yet nimble Neal to play opposite left tackle Andrew Thomas.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Pittsburgh • Soph • 6'3" / 220 lbs
Carolina tries to trade back but can't find any worthy suitors, so it selects the quarterback prospect best equipped to play in the NFL right away. There are a lot of connections between Panthers brass and Pickett, and I don't think coach Matt Rhule is in a situation where he can survive having to develop a high-ceiling signal-caller like Malik Willis.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 262 lbs
Ideally the Giants would trade back a few spots, gain more draft capital and still have the opportunity to select Johnson. But it's no sure thing the Florida State standout will even make it to No. 7, especially with how this mock draft unfolds. So, New York scoops up the ultra-productive, explosive edge rusher to bolster its defensive front.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
Malik Willis would make a lot of sense here, but so would adding someone -- anyone -- for Marcus Mariota to throw to aside from Kyle Pitts. The Falcons go the latter route with Wilson, who will be able to consistently create separation from defensive backs right away. Atlanta is in rebuilding mode after trading away Matt Ryan, but if it snags one of the top quarterback prospects next year, it could have an explosive offense with Wilson, Pitts and the possible return of No. 1 wideout Calvin Ridley from suspension.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 9
Ikem Ekwonu OL
NC State • Soph • 6'4" / 320 lbs
With the Seahawks acquiring Baker Mayfield from the Browns, they address their next biggest need: offensive tackle. The draft board unfolds perfectly for Seattle, which gladly selects what could be the best offensive lineman in this class in Ekwonu.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 10
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
The Jets turn down a pass protector in favor of another pass-catcher for Zach Wilson. The 6-foot-4 London can be the wideout Wilson just throws the ball up to and expects to come down with the catch. There's no one better in this class at making those contested grabs than the USC star.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
It was only a few months ago that Hamilton was a consensus top-5 pick and a virtual lock to go in the top 10. Now, after a subpar combine and a 4.7-second 40 at his pro day, there's a realistic chance he falls out of the first half of the opening round. That won't be the case in this mock, however, as Ron Rivera can't pass up an opportunity to add a defensive unicorn to a unit that struggled a year ago.
Round 1 - Pick 12
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
Easy pick here for the Vikings. They need a No. 1 corner, and Stingley has the traits to end up as the best one in this class. Plus, he'll have a phenomenal mentor in fellow LSU alum and eight-time Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 13
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
The Texans aren't drafting a defensive lineman at No. 3 and expecting a top offensive lineman to be here, but that's the case in this scenario. Houston needs to protect second-year quarterback Davis Mills so it can accurately evaluate whether he's a viable long-term option, and adding Cross would go a long way toward accomplishing that.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
We know the Browns and Steelers want to rely on their running games, but that would be hard to do with Davis clogging up the middle for the Ravens. And with veteran Calais Campbell coming back, he and Davis will be able to collapse the pocket and make life easier for promising young pass-rusher Odafe Oweh.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 15
Alabama • Soph • 6'1" / 180 lbs
A healthy Williams would have likely been the first receiver taken, so getting him at No. 15 is still solid value. After all, he said a few weeks ago that the plan is to be ready by training camp, and even if that's not the case, he's well worth the wait. Williams brings explosiveness, and the Eagles need explosive plays to complement their run-first offense. Equip Jalen Hurts with Williams and Devonta Smith, and there's no reason he shouldn't take another step forward in Year 3.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 16
Northern Iowa • Soph • 6'7" / 325 lbs
Having two first-round picks is significant for a Saints team that remains solid overall but has some glaring needs. One of those is offensive tackle after Terron Armstead left for Miami. In this mock, New Orleans finds his replacement in Penning, a well-built, athletic lineman who will add some nastiness to the unit.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Washington • Soph • 5'11" / 193 lbs
Tough break for the Chargers as they lose out on both Jordan Davis and Trevor Penning. That leads to the unexpected selection of McDuffie. Yes, Los Angeles paid J.C. Jackson a boatload of money, but this team was the worst in the NFL when it came to third-down defense. A majority of those plays were passing situations, so the Chargers must improve across the secondary. McDuffie doesn't have ideal size, but his competitiveness, athleticism and instincts make him a quality addition.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 18
Clemson • Soph • 6'0" / 194 lbs
Booth, while inconsistent at times, has the measurables, athleticism and ball skills to develop into a playmaker on the back end of the Eagles' zone-coverage defense. Let Darius Slay take Booth under his wing, and Philadelphia fans will be happy with the eventual result.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 19
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
The Saints appear content with seeing if Jameis Winston can build off his 5-2 record as a starter last year before his season-ending injury. If that's going to happen, Winston is going to need more weapons, and Olave is a high-volume wideout who can also stretch the field. He and Michael Thomas, along with Alvin Kamara, would provide Winston with the necessary weapons to help New Orleans compete in a down NFC.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
The Steelers run to deliver the draft card because they land Willis without having to trade up. Willis, with his rocket arm and electric rushing ability, can sit behind Mitch Trubisky until he's ready to take over an offense full of exciting skill players.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • Soph • 6'3" / 235 lbs
Blitzing, covering, tackling -- Lloyd does it all. He's lighter than the typical linebackers deployed in Bill Belichick's defense, but he's also faster and more explosive. Those are traits co-defensive coordinator Jerod Mayo put emphasis on a few months ago when asked about the team's plans on that side of the ball.
From Las Vegas Raiders
Round 1 - Pick 22
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
The Packers scoop up Burks with their first of two opening-round selections. Aaron Rodgers is incredible, but he needs a legitimate No. 1-caliber wideout after Davante Adams' departure. Rodgers will quickly realize that all he has to do is get the ball in Burks' hands and he'll handle the rest.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 304 lbs
The Cardinals need to get better up front defensively, and there's a lot to like about Wyatt's game. His lackluster stats, which were a result of all of the playmakers on Georgia's defense, don't do him justice. He's a stout run-stopper and flashes some big-time ability as a pass-rusher.
Round 1 - Pick 24
George Karlaftis EDGE
Purdue • Soph • 6'4" / 263 lbs
Ryan Kerrigan terrorized Cowboys quarterbacks for a decade as a member of Washington, and Karlaftis, a fellow Purdue Boilermaker, exhibits many of the same traits. His stats this past season were underwhelming, but he still finished third in the Big Ten with 50 pressures. His success stems from converting speed to power and having a relentless motor. He would fit in nicely for a Dallas defensive front that lost Randy Gregory in free agency.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Zion Johnson OL
Boston College • Soph • 6'3" / 316 lbs
Fortifying the valuable castle that is Josh Allen is never a bad thing, and Johnson is looked at as the best interior offensive lineman in this class. Plus, he has plenty of experience at tackle and even played some center during Senior Bowl week. At the very least, he would provide Buffalo with great depth in Year 1, but there's a good chance he's ready to start right away.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Jahan Dotson WR
Penn State • Soph • 5'11" / 182 lbs
The Julio Jones signing was a failure. Plain and simple. The Titans have to forget about it, move on, and find a playmaking receiver to complement A.J. Brown and Robert Woods -- the latter of whom just turned 30 and is coming off a torn ACL. Dotson can be that player. And with Brown and running back Derrick Henry commanding most of the attention, the Penn State standout should have an opportunity to fully unleash his smooth athleticism and exquisite ball skills.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Kenyon Green OL
Texas A&M • Soph • 6'4" / 323 lbs
The Buccaneers have a few other needs, but the No. 1 priority should always be to provide maximum protection for Tom Brady. That's where Green comes in. He should be able to take over at left guard in short order.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Central Michigan • Soph • 6'6" / 303 lbs
With Raimann still available, it makes sense for the Packers to slot him in at right tackle and move Elgton Jenkins back to guard, where he was a Pro Bowl starter in 2020. This is a quality first round for Green Bay, which not only gets Aaron Rodgers a much-needed wide receiver but also another capable pass-blocker to ensure he stays upright.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 29
Boye Mafe DL
Minnesota • Soph • 6'4" / 261 lbs
Mafe improved every season at Minnesota and then had a standout Senior Bowl week. He'll need to improve against the run, but he'll show flashes of being a dynamic pass-rusher right away. He has all the tools to be a really solid edge defender once he has time to put it all together.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
This may seem like a reach, but there are not many No. 1 "X" wide receiver candidates in this class. Pickens is one of them, and the biggest knock against him is the torn ACL that limited him to just four games this past season. If he can stay healthy, he has the size, speed and playmaking ability to ensure the Chiefs' offense remains one of the most dynamic in the league for years to come.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Cornerback is the more pressing need, but if the Bengals plan on moving on from safety Jessie Bates III after this season, drafting Hill makes a ton of sense. He's versatile enough to play in the slot in 2022 and then transition to free safety in the years to come.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 32