The first round of the NFL Draft is always full of surprises including slides, early reaches, shocking trades and over-hyped prospects who fall out of the first round altogether. The sports media hammers in their projections and evaluations for months heading into the draft. A lot of times the league sees things completely different and sometimes certain GMs and player agents feed the media false information to benefit their own interest.
All of that is going to lead to a ton of surprises in the first round, it always does. Mock drafts are like NCAA Tourney brackets. After a few picks everyone’s mock drafts look way off and we’re playing catch-up from there.
With this draft class lacking talent at the top and a lot of character issue prospects getting first round hype, expect a ton of shockers. Here are my 10 bold predictions for the first round:
Reuben Foster Falls Out of the First Round- There is a major difference between how the fans view Foster and how the league does. Foster on tape is a throwback linebacker who plays with a ton of anger so I get why fans love him so much. I believe(and have heard) that the league seems things way differently.
Foster has medical concerns(shoulder), character concerns with a diluted urine sample and being kicked out of the combine. He also wasn’t the leader of his defense in terms of lining his teammates up, which is a standard responsibility of your top inside linebacker. I also believe that 4-3 teams won’t see first round value in a linebacker and neither will 3-4 teams in a inside linebacker.
All of that combined with some bad team interviews will lead to Reuben Foster falling out of the first round.
Garrett Bolles Will Get Drafted Before Any Quarterback- The latest reports and rumors involving the quarterbacks in this draft are GM or agent driven, I can promise you that. DeShaun Watson isn’t going in the top 5 and Mitch Trubisky isn’t going first overall. More than likely the first quarterback domino will fall between picks 6-12.
Bolles fits today’s NFL offenses and plays at way too important of a position to not go this early. Plus he’s an outstanding athlete with a real nasty streak. He’s going to go before any of these quarterbacks because the risk is lower and his ceiling is higher. Keep in mind that there are about 7 or 8 quarterbacks that are viewed as top 50 to top 75 prospects. You can take a tackle in the top 10 and still get a quarterback in the next round, so teams will be less likely to force a quarterback pick early.
DeShaun Watson Will Be the 5th Quarterback Drafted- Fans love Watson because of his performances in big games, including two against Nick Saban’s defenses in National Title games. But college and the NFL are two completely different animals and there are a ton of concerns with Watson’s game and how it will translate to the next level.
Watson has really sloppy mechanics that affect his accuracy on every type of throw and he doesn’t have a huge arm. He’s also coming from a very simplistic college spread offense so his learning curve will be pretty great. Add that with a lower ceiling(Alex Smith at best) and it’s very likely that Mitchell Trubisky, Deshone Kizer, Patrick Mahomes and Davis Webb all get drafted ahead of Watson.
Gareon Conley Will Be the First Cornerback Drafted- This hot take is based on what I hear more than what I see. I have Conley outside of my top 40 overall because I think he doesn’t offer enough physically(speed, vertical, strength) to give you a high enough ceiling to take early. The league sees things differently. They love his feet and how technically sound he is already. I think he could easily sneak into the top 5.
Dalvin Cook Goes 19th Overall to Tampa Bay or He’s Out of the First Round Altogether- Cook had outstanding tape at Florida State, but he comes into the NFL with a ton of issues. I have heard his shoulder is a concern holding up against the physicality of the NFL. Teams are also worried about the guy he is surrounding himself with. He also had 13 career fumbles in college.
I love the fit in Tampa Bay because the offense is loaded around him, he gets his former college teammate in Jameis Winston leading the huddle and Tampa Bay isn’t afraid to take on character concerns and make it work.
Mike Williams Falls Outside the Top 20- This kid is LaQuon Treadwell 2.0 who went 23rd overall last year. Williams, like Treadwell is a big receiver who wins at the catch point but doesn’t get a ton of separation. He’s a great possession receiver, but his average leaping ability and below average speed and quickness will push him down the first round just like it did for Treadwell last year.
John Ross Goes In the Top 10- The NFL loves speed because big plays are everything in this league. They also love speed because it opens up the rest of the offense because it dictates how the safeties play you. Ross ran a ridiculous 4.22 40 at the combine and he’s just as quick and also an outstanding route runner.
The only concern with Ross is his durability. He’s had shoulder and knee issues in the past. He’s only about 190 pounds so his long-term durability is a huge question mark, but I’m guessing some team in the top 10 will be okay with the risk and take the ultimate deep threat.
No Safeties Go In the Top 10- There is a disconnect between fans and NFL GMs about the value of the safety position. 14 corners in the NFL average at least $10 mil a year in their current contracts while just 5 safeties average that amount. Top 10 picks usually go to corners, quarterbacks, left tackles and elite pass rushers. Those are the highest paid positions and all are the biggest impact positions as well.
Jamal Adams and Malik Hookers are great safety prospects, but based on recent trends there is a very good chance both are taken after the top 10.
Jonathan Allen Gets Drafted Outside of the Top 5- His 285 pound frame and shoulder concerns have dropped Allen from a likely top 2 pick to someone who likely falls later in the top 10 or possibly even in the teens. His frame is going to scare a lot of 2-gap teams away because you worry about him holding up against the run. Remember Aaron Donald was a dominant 285 pound interior rusher, but he went 13th overall.
Haason Reddick Sneaks Into the Top 10- Reddick is a crazy good athlete who shines as a blitzer in space. I don’t love him as a 4-3 linebacker or defensive end, but as an edge rusher in a 3-4 defense he can be really special. I not only think he goes into the top 10, I also believe that a team will trade up to get him at that spot.