Mock draft 5.0: Debating the pros and cons — and whether Bears take a blocker
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The latest installment of the Sun-Times’ mock draft — you can read the previous one here — gives a pick for all 32 teams but debates the pros and cons of each top-10 selection, starting with a USC quarterback who wowed scouts at last week’s pro day:
1. Browns: Sam Darnold, USC QB
The reason why: If the Browns are going to draft a franchise quarterback to inherit Tyrod Taylor’s job, it has to be here. Selecting Saquon Barkley eliminates would lock them into, perhaps, the third-best quarterback on their board. It would also eliminate the possibility of them trading the No. 4 pick to a quarterback-needy team— a very real possibility. Darnold’s rainy-day showing last week put to rest any questions about how he’d throw outside of sunny SoCal.
The reason why not: If the Penn State running back is the best player in the draft, can they afford to pass on him?
2. Giants: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB
The reason why: The Giants have Eli Manning and a win-now approach, but it might be impossible for them to pass on their quarterback for the next decade. If they don’t plan on drafting this high again, they’ve got to pick a passer.
The reason why not: By trading Jason Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers last week, the Giants created a need for an edge rusher. N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb is the only player at the position who could possibly fit at No. 2.
3. Jets (via Colts): Josh Rosen, UCLA QB
The reason why: The Jets are going to draft a quarterback — it’s just a matter of which one. Rosen represents the best throwing motion of the bunch, and probably the best accuracy, too.
The reason why not: UCLA went 17-13 in the 30 games in which Rosen played last year. Mayfield lost six games in his three years at Oklahoma — with two losses coming in the college football playoffs.
4. Browns (via Texans): Saquon Barkley, Penn State RB
The reason why: He’ll be the best player on their board — if they decide to keep the pick. Chubb should draw some interest from teams desperate for an edge rusher — it’s been an awful offseason for that particular skillset — or quarterback, but a tandem of Darnold and Barkley would give Cleveland fans something to be excited about, for once.
The reason why not: Signing Carlos Hyde means the Browns are somewhat preparing themselves for life without a first-round running back.
5. Broncos: Josh Allen, Wyoming QB
The reason why: The Broncos gave Case Keenum a two-year deal for a reason — it leaves open the possibility of drafting a quarterback if one falls into their laps.
The reason why not: Signing Keenum theoretically delayed a decision on their quarterback for another year or two. Only two defenses allowed fewer points per game than the Broncos did last year; they can ride that to a playoff berth by giving Keenum a protector in Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson.
6. Colts (via Jets): Bradley Chubb, N.C. State edge rusher
The reason why: They might have taken him at No. 3, had they not traded the pick. Only the Buccaneers had fewer sacks than the Colts did last season, so Chubb represents hope for the future. So do the three second-round picks GM Chris Ballard was able to pry away from Gang Green.
The reason why not: Under a different regime, the Colts showed an utter disregard for Andrew Luck’s health — and look where he is now. It might be hard to look the franchise quarterback in the eye after passing on Nelson.
7. Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama S
The reason why: No team in the NFL allowed more yards than the Buccaneers’ 6,049 last year. Their 4,169 passing yards given up were the most in the league, too. Pairing Fitzpatrick with 2016 first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves might not fix that overnight, but it’s start.
The reason why not: Perhaps they prefer Ohio State Denzel Ward to fix their coverage unit.
8. Bears: Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame G
The reason why: Do the Bears need defensive help? Of course. But in an offseason that’s been all about protecting, developing and emboldening quarterback Mitch Trubisky, would they really turn down Nelson? The Bears have two starters — Kyle Long and Cody Whitehair — for three interior offensive line spots.
The reason why not: They need a pass rusher — good luck finding that in the later rounds. Marshon Lattimore, drafted No. 11 last year, proved a rookie cornerback can make an impact quickly; could his old Ohio State teammate, Denzel Ward, do the same?
9. 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech LB
The reason why: Edmunds won’t turn 20 until a few days after draft night. There’s no doubting his physical gifts, but some are split over whether he’s an inside linebacker or edge rusher in a 3-4 system. In the 49ers’ 4-3 scheme, though, he profiles well as a strong-side linebacker.
The reason why not: They need defensive backs, too, leaving Ward or even Florida State safety Derwin James as possibilities.
10. Raiders: Roquan Smith, Georgia LB
The reason why: He’s the most polished linebacker in the draft and can be the quarterback of Jon Gruden’s defense for years to come.
The reason why not: Does he know Spider 2Y Banana?
11. Dolphins: Vita Vea, Washington NT
There’s their Ndamukong Suh replacement.
12. Bills (via Bengals): Lamar Jackson, Louisville QB
The Bills didn’t trade to No. 12 to stay there — expect them to try to move up into the top six. In the mock, though, they luck into a quarterback.
13. Redskins: Denzel Ward, Ohio State CB
With Bashaud Breeland gone, Ward makes too much sense.
14. Packers: Marcus Davenport, UT-San Antonio edge rusher
The Packers’ new Big Cheese will be furious that Ward didn’t fall one more spot. They need cornerbacks, sure, but everyone needs an edge rusher. They can always grab a DB later.
15. Cardinals: Calvin Ridley, Alabama WR
With five quarterbacks going in our top 12, the Cardinals must move on to someone who can help their current quarterbacks of (swallows hard) Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon.
16. Ravens: Orlando Brown, Oklahoma OT
Yes, his NFL Scouting Combine was historically, hysterically bad. But he put up 18 bench press reps at his pro day — which is better, but not good. We’re suckers for a sappy story, though — his late father played the same position on the same team.
17. Chargers: Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame OT
After signing center Mike Pouncey, the Chargers could be assembling one of the league’s best lines.
18. Seahawks: Derwin James, Florida State S
He fits their defense perfectly.
19. Cowboys: Josh Jackson, Iowa CB
We’re in best-player-available territory. Jackson is that.
20. Lions: Harold Landry, Boston College edge rusher
Landry played Lions defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni in college.
21. Bengals (via Bills): Rashaan Evans, Alabama LB
If they move on from Vontaze Burfict (and they should have, oh, four years ago), Evans is a great choice to take his place.
22. Bills (via Chiefs): Courtland Sutton, SMU WR
So what exactly is going on with Zay Jones? The Bills might want to have receiver insurance after their rookie showed up naked, bloody and fighting his brother on TMZ.
23. Rams: Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State LB
Thee Rams need an edge rusher after shipping out Robert Quinn. But is the Boise alum Shea McClellin?
24. Panthers: Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State TE
The Panthers need to prepare for life after Greg Olsen.
25. Titans: Da’Ron Payne, Alabama DT
They’ll be tempted to take an interior offensive lineman here.
26. Falcons: Taven Bryan, Florida DT
He’s been our pick from the start, fitting the Falcons’ defensive line remodeling project.
27. Saints: Hayden Hurst, South Carolina TE
I don’t know if he’s the best of the big three tight ends, but he’s the one who can help them the fastest.
28. Steelers: Arden Key, LSU edge rusher
With questions about his past, Key isn’t the kind of player the Steelers typically take. But he fits as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
29. Jaguars: Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State QB
Do you think they really trust Blake Bortles?
30. Vikings: Will Hernandez, UTEP G
Playing on a guaranteed contract, Kirk Cousins must stay upright.
31. Patriots: Kolton Miller, UCLA OT
Nate Solder is gone, so they need a tackle.
32. Eagles: Mike Hughes, Central Florida CB
Do the Eagles absolutely need a corner? No. But we’ll give them the best player left.