Road to the Draft

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O’HARA’S MOCK 8 2.0: Pre-Combine edition

I liked my first mock draft of the year, partly because of potential defensive help for the Detroit Lions.

I like my second one more, mostly for the same reason.

Mock 8 1.0, the first selection projected the first eight picks of the first round, from the Arizona Cardinals with the first pick to the Lions at No. 8.

All eight picks reflected the prevailing opinion that the strength of the NFL’s 2019 draft is on defense, and teams looking to take a quarterback will choose from prospects with a variety of skill sets and sizes.

There is always room for improvement – and there’s also room for further analysis and second thoughts that lead to change.

That is the case with my second mock draft – Mock 8 2.0, pre-Combine. I like it better than my first mock draft because of changes with some picks and stronger feelings with others.

With the annual Combine starting this week in Indianapolis, teams will have some of their questions answered by how prospects perform on the field in workouts and how they handle themselves in personal interviews.

Mock 8 2.0 projects how those Combine questions will impact the first eight picks.

As always, my mock drafts do not include trades, although the possibility is included in the analysis of each team.

And as always, feel free to disagree.

1. Arizona Cardinals (3-13): They’re in better shape to trade down than most teams with the No. 1 pick have been because they have solid options. One is to trade QB Josh Rosen, their first-round pick last year, and use the acquired picks to build the roster while staying at No. 1. Another is to keep Rosen and trade down for picks. Salary cap issues play a role, too.

Combine question: Does Nick Bosa look healthy after being limited by injury to three games in 2018? Drafting this high makes it imperative that you won’t take home someone with availability concerns on April 25.

Pick: DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State.

No change.

2. San Francisco 49ers (4-12): It’s tempting to take DT Quinnen Williams of Alabama. That would make it four defensive linemen in the first round in five years. But an edge rusher can go after the quarterbacks.

Combine question: Will an edge rusher or interior lineman show more promise to step in and help the defense?

Pick: DE/OLB Josh Allen, Kentucky. 17 sacks in 2018 proved his value.

No change.

3. N.Y. Jets (4-12): Change is coming on offense under new head coach Adam Gase, but not at QB, where Sam Darnold validated the Jets’ decision to draft him third overall last year. A young QB needs help, but no receiver or running back warrants being drafted this high, and the Jets could use both.

Combine question: Which Williams from Alabama will look like a better fit? The choice is between OL Jonah Williams, who can also play guard, and DT Quinnen Williams, who’s powerful and athletic enough to play anywhere on the defensive line.

Pick: DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama.

Change from Jonah Williams.

4. Oakland Raiders (4-12): They have to fill holes they created by trading their top pass rusher, Khalil Mack, before the season and their top receiver, Amari Cooper, during the season. Three first-round picks will help them rebuild. It starts on defense.

Combine question: Will good test results erase concerns about a drop in production?

Pick: DE Rashan Gary, Michigan. He was injured part of 2018 but showed his potential in 2017 with six sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

No change.

View photos of pass rushers that will participate at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine.

5. Tampa Bay Bucs (5-11): After a one-year retirement from coaching, Bruce Arians is back as head coach of the Bucs. He says he’s committed to Jameis Winston as his quarterback, so he ought to give him help.

Combine question: Will the best offensive lineman in the draft show that he’s better suited to play guard than tackle? And will that impact his draft status?

Pick: OL Jonah Williams, Alabama. If he plays guard, Williams can match up with the wave of athletic interior defenders.

Change from CB Greedy Williams, LSU.

6. N.Y. Giants (5-11): Nothing has changed their draft situation since my first mock. It’s the right spot for the top QB in this draft, and the Giants need to groom Eli Manning’s replacement.

Combine question: Watching this year’s QB class will be like shopping for a new car. You’re buying. The only question is which style you prefer.

Pick: QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State. I wouldn’t complain if the Giants take Kyler Murray of Oklahoma, but Haskins is the best pocket passer in the draft, with good size (6-3) and 50 TD passes in his one full season as a starter. Having Pat Shurmur as head coach makes the timing even better.

No change.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11): Blake Bortles’ five-year reign is over as the Jags’ starter. They need to move on and not waste time second guessing why they didn’t draft a quarterback last year. Amazing stat for this era: Bortles never threw more than 18 TD passes in a season, and he had only 11 in 13 games last year.

Combine question: How much will they see in Indy to narrow their decision between Kyler Murray of Oklahoma, Daniel Jones of Duke or Drew Lock of Missouri?

Pick: Drew Lock, Missouri. He has more traditional QB qualities, which will appeal to Jags executive VP Tom Coughlin and GM Dave Caldwell.

Change – for now -- from Kyler Murray.

View photos of quarterbacks that will participate in the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine.

8. Detroit Lions (6-10): Offensive priorities are tight end and wide receiver, but no prospect at either position is in play at No. 8.

That makes a playmaker on defense the choice, and that could be a ball-hawking defensive back or an impact player who can rush the passer and help generate turnovers.

Detroit’s defense improved dramatically in statistical rankings last year from the first game to the last, but there is one misleading category. Even with a respectable 43 sacks the defense lacked a dominating pass rusher who opponent teams had to game plan to stop.

Combine question: How do the field tests and interviews begin to separate a number of prospects on the board at multiple positions at this point who can upgrade the defense?

Cornerback Greedy Williams and linebacker Devin White of LSU, and defensive end Clelin Ferrell of Clemson are among the group that have to be considered by the Lions.

GM Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia have to identify which ones – at whatever position -- will fit a scheme that demands versatility and football intelligence. Some prospects, such as Ferrell, produce on the field but aren’t likely to post electrifying results in workouts.

That’s part of what makes evaluating players such a challenge.

Pick: DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson. In 44 games he had 50 tackles for loss with 27 sacks.

No change – for now.

View from the Wiggle Room: There’s something about Devin White that makes drafting a linebacker in the first round twice in three years appealing. And there’s something about the Lions position that puts them in a great position to be a trade partner for a team wanting to move up to take a quarterback.

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