To this point, I have explored trades of Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers -- both of which I now believe have slim to no chance of happening -- but I believe this is the first thought exercise to include a Russell Wilson trade. There seems to be more substance to a potential Wilson trade right now, so how would that alter the first round? We explore that scenario in addition to the strategies of teams with multiple first-round selections.
Without further ado, let's kick this thing off!
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Round 1 - Pick 1
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
If the Jaguars are aggressive in free agency and sign Terron Armstead, then it does not automatically mean they would not consider Neal. However, it opens the door for them to draft the best player available. Neal played right tackle previously, so he could easily be the bookend opposite Armstead.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Aidan Hutchinson EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'7" / 268 lbs
Hutchinson to Detroit feels like a lock unless Jacksonville takes him No. 1 overall. The narrative that he has already immersed himself into that community and would be a culture fit for Dan Campbell's team is absolutely true and should not be overlooked. His talent justifies consideration this early.
Round 1 - Pick 3
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
Houston could take an edge rusher, offensive lineman or cornerback. Nothing is off the table. The Texans hired a defensive-minded head coach. If he has any say in the personnel, then it is reasonable to suggest he might be interested in adding a defensive player. Stingley has some production questions over the past two years, but his performance during the 2019 season is going to lead one team to take a chance on him high.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
Thibodeaux seems like he wants to be in a bigger market, so he gets his wish with New York selecting him at No. 4 overall. The Jets should get a healthy Carl Lawson back this season, so the idea of pairing him with Thibodeaux and Quinnen Williams has to be exciting.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Ikem Ekwonu OL
NC State • Soph • 6'4" / 320 lbs
Many mocked Dave Gettleman's traditional approach to building a football team, and yet the draft strategy has not changed in his absence. It made sense for New York to consider an offensive lineman when Gettleman was employed, and it still makes sense today. If Daniel Jones is going to have a chance, then the offensive line play has to be sound.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
It is hard to envision a scenario in which Carolina does not trade for, sign or draft a quarterback. In this scenario, let's pretend that the Panthers traded a non-first round pick or signed a mid-tier veteran and want to improve his protection. Cross is an athletic tackle who is great in pass protection and still learning the finer points of run blocking.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
George Karlaftis EDGE
Purdue • Soph • 6'4" / 263 lbs
Karlaftis is a bit polarizing. Some view him in the latter stage of the first round while others, including myself, have him in the top 10. He is a mature pass rusher who is just as capable of doing the dirty work and aiding in run defense as he is rushing the passer. His track record of production dates back to his true freshman campaign.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
Calvin Ridley trade winds have picked up to gale force, and there could be movement at the NFL Combine. Whether or not he returns, Atlanta would be wise to address the wide receiver position. Kyle Pitts is a fantastic outlet, but the team does not want to be in a position where all defensive eyes are locked in on him.
Mock Trade from Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 9
Pittsburgh • Soph • 6'3" / 220 lbs
Seattle begrudgingly trades Russell Wilson and wants to get him out of the NFC. In return, the Seahawks get a treasure trove of picks, including the No. 9 overall selection, which was used on Pickett. I do not have a first-round grade on the former Pitt Panther, but feel it is likely he will taken inside the first round.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 10
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
New York address two cornerstone pieces of its defense with the selections of edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and now Gardner. It is easy to envision Robert Saleh's defense coming together with Carl Lawson, Quinnen Williams, Thibodeaux and Gardner as tent poles. If Zach Wilson can take a step forward in his career, the Jets would be a team poised for a large leap.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
Washington is said to be aggressively pursuing help at the quarterback position. In the event that those options do not work out, the Commanders stay put and select Hamilton, who is arguably the best player in the draft. The counterargument is that the franchise has invested a lot into the defense and, without a quarterback, it is easy to see how it could all unravel.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 262 lbs
Minnesota has had some unconventional struggles with the edge rusher position, so it would benefit the team to add some stability. Johnson, a transfer from Georgia, was sensational this past season before elevating his stock even more at last month's Senior Bowl.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
Cleveland has its choice of wide receivers outside of Drake London. It elects to take Burks, who is a bigger body who can contribute in the run game as well as be a matchup nightmare with his combination of size and speed. The Browns should be creative in the way he is used.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 304 lbs
Wyatt was another standout performer at the Senior Bowl, but I would argue his tape already validated him as a first-round selection. Georgia used a lot of stunts and misdirection along its defensive front to create chaos, but Wyatt has shown the strength and agility to push the pocket. Baltimore needs to get younger and cheaper along the defensive line.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 15
Washington • Soph • 5'11" / 193 lbs
McDuffie and Clemson's Andrew Booth Jr. are going to be popular projections for the Eagles in the first round considering they have three selections. Both players fall into the bucket of having played a lot of zone in college, and that is what Philadelphia showed last season.
From Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 16
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • Soph • 6'3" / 235 lbs
With their second choice, the Eagles add a rangy linebacker who excels in getting off blocks and making plays at or near the line of scrimmage. He has grown in pass coverage as well. Jalen Hurts has received support in Philadelphia, so it is unlikely the team makes a change at quarterback. It allows it to be more aggressive in upgrading other spots on an aged roster.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
I expect Los Angeles to franchise tag Mike Williams at the very least, but do not rule out a wide receiver. It would not be a surprise if the team moved on from either Keenan Allen or Williams in 2023. In the meantime, fans saw the impact of three receivers on the field for Joe Burrow this season. Let Justin Herbert flambé!
Round 1 - Pick 18
Matt Corral QB
Ole Miss • Soph • 6'2" / 205 lbs
Sean Payton and Drew Brees are gone, which opens the door for a fresh start. Corral would give the franchise some invigoration, which would hopefully lead to success that continues for another decade-plus. He showed quick decision-making and got the ball out quickly this season, which has been a hallmark of the Saints offense in recent years.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 272 lbs
With the selection of Walker, Philadelphia has upgraded all three levels of its defense. The offense has an identity grounded in the run game, so as long as it has the linemen to block, in addition to Devonta Smith and Dallas Goedert, the Eagles should be fine on that side of the ball. Upgrading the defense is a necessary evil of ensuring a seamless transition from aged pieces on the roster to a new order.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Sam Howell QB
North Carolina • Soph • 6'1" / 220 lbs
It is going to look a lot different with Howell under center relative to what fans have come to expect from Ben Roethlisberger. Stature aside, Howell should allow the team to push the ball more vertically while taking some pressure off of the run game. The offensive line still needs to be addressed.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
New England pounces on the chance to take one of the top wide receivers in this class. When I think of the Patriots, I think of players who are not flashy but know what is expected of them and execute. Mac Jones is that type of player and Olave is as well. He is a good route runner who can make critical plays for that offense.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Alabama • Soph • 6'1" / 180 lbs
Conversely, Las Vegas IS a flashy franchise. It wants the big names and the athletic specimens. Williams showed he can stretch defenses vertically when healthy. He would have been one of the fastest performers at the NFL Combine had he not gotten injured. With Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller and Williams, the Raiders can focus attention on the defense and offensive line.
Round 1 - Pick 23
David Ojabo EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'4" / 265 lbs
Arizona was aggressive in building a Super Bowl-caliber roster last season, and it just did not come to fruition. If the Cardinals take a step back and allow Chandler Jones to walk in free agency, then Ojabo is a good replacement.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Nakobe Dean LB
Georgia • Soph • 5'11" / 231 lbs
Dean is a player who is comfortable handling the dirty work that a defense requires. He is going to blow up lead blocks and fight through double teams. His presence frees up Micah Parsons even more to make plays.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Jordan Davis DL
Georgia • Soph • 6'6" / 336 lbs
I think back to that game against New England when Buffalo could not stop the run. Mac Jones threw for 17 yards and the Patriots emerged victorious. Davis is a player who offers limited pass-rushing upside, but his presence allows the team to fix its run defense in one fell swoop.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Northern Iowa • Soph • 6'7" / 325 lbs
After re-grouping from the Isaiah Wilson debacle, Tennessee swings back around for a second attempt at a long-term solution at right tackle. Penning is a physical player who strives to end every play with his defender on the ground. The Titans need that type of tenacity in the run game.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Jahan Dotson WR
Penn State • Soph • 5'11" / 182 lbs
The loss of Antonio Brown could mean more opportunity for Tyler Johnson, but it felt as though Tampa Bay didn't have anyone to turn to when Brown departed. I could see Dotson being added as that speedster who can operate at all three levels and take the top off of defenses in that Bruce Arians scheme.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Central Michigan • Soph • 6'6" / 303 lbs
Elgton Jenkins' play at left tackle in the absence of David Bakhtiari was commendable, but he is better suited playing inside. Green Bay needs more stability along that unit, and Raimann is a prospect who could be the solution at right tackle for a decade.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 29
Iowa • Soph • 6'2" / 305 lbs
Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel is likely to run a wide-zone Shanahan-esque scheme that relies on mobility in space. As Miami searches for offensive line upgrades, I would love to see it sign Terron Armstead and draft Linderbaum.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Boye Mafe DL
Minnesota • Soph • 6'4" / 261 lbs
Kansas City gets some youthful invigoration to its pass rush as Mafe replaces Melvin Ingram. His presence should take some of the pressure off of Chris Jones. Viewed as a late riser, Mafe is a prospect with plus athleticism who checks all the boxes as a well-rounded player.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Zion Johnson OL
Boston College • Soph • 6'3" / 316 lbs
A strong Senior Bowl performance from Johnson has the interior offensive lineman firmly in the conversation of first-round consideration. Cincinnati desperately needs to upgrade its interior offensive line, and the Boston College product is someone with the versatility to play guard or center.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 32
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
Detroit buys a lottery ticket who can sit behind Jared Goff and hopefully develop into a feasible starting quarterback in the NFL. Willis is raw as a passer, and his clock needs to hasten, but his elite mobility should have teams excited considering the recent trend at the position.