Wednesday was quite the day in Seattle. Not only did the Seahawks agree to a blockbuster trade that will send Russell Wilson to Denver, but news broke of Bobby Wagner's release as well. Perhaps Seattle won't use this pick on a quarterback, but Drew Lock isn't the long-term (or short-term) answer. Willis won't be ready to start Week 1, but no quarterback prospect in this draft class has as much long-term upside as he does. If he lives up to his potential, his dynamism as a runner and ability to stretch the field vertically will give opposing defensive coordinators nightmares.
Russell Wilson is gone, and I don't think anybody expects Drew Lock to be the long-term answer. So Seattle makes another move, getting ahead of an Atlanta team that could be in the market for a QB to get the guy they want to replace Wilson. Willis is a lot like an unpolished version of the young Wilson that had so much success in Seattle. Given time to develop and round out his game, he could be Seattle's next franchise QB.
I've been saying the Broncos would end up with either Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson, so the blockbuster trade wasn't a surprise to me. However, the Seahawks releasing Bobby Wagner was. The Otay Ranch product can rush the passer (he had seven sacks), impact the run game and make plays in coverage -- he had four interceptions this season. He'd be an ideal replacement for Wagner.
The dust is still settling on how this trade impacts the first round and how the Seahawks are going to approach their rebuild. What I do know is they get their pick of all the QBs here and Malik Willis has the best tools to build upon and groom.
Well, the rebuild is officially on in Seattle after Tuesday's agreement to send Russell Wilson to Denver. And because the Seahawks are left with Drew Lock -- who was part of the return -- as their current quarterback, you have to think they will take a very close look at this draft class' signal-callers. Do they start over with Pitt's Kenny Pickett? Do they draft Liberty's Malik Willis and bet on his upside? Both options are possible at No. 9, but I think Seattle looks to free agency for a short-term complement to Lock and focuses in on Alabama's Bryce Young or Ohio State's C.J. Stroud in the 2023 draft.
Part of that reasoning is this year's weaker QB class. The other part is the fact that Thibodeaux is still on the board. He has 4.58 speed, the ability to walk blockers back and a great arsenal of pass-rush moves at his disposal. I've mentioned that I still want to see a little more fire out of him on a down-to-down basis, and that's still true. But there's no doubt he has the talent to be a difference-maker on an NFL defense. And Seattle's unit could use that: Its 34 sacks tied for No. 22 last season, while its 38.7% pass rush win rate ranked No. 20. Thibodeaux, who had seven sacks and 46 pressures last season, gets a new era of Seahawks football rolling.
The Seahawks are set to acquire this selection after agreeing in principle to trade Russell Wilson to the Broncos. With Denver sending Drew Lock to Seattle as part of the deal, the 'Hawks can use him as a bridge starter and potential future trade commodity while they groom Willis to become the face of the franchise.
Everyone expected that the pick here might be made by the Green Bay Packers. It was not hard to connect the dots between Aaron Rodgers and the Denver Broncos, given their new head coach, and expectations were high that Rodgers might find his way to the AFC West.
Instead, the pick is going to come from the Seattle Seahawks, given the news that Wilson is instead the quarterback on his way to the Mile High City. That gives Seattle the chance to look for their next quarterback, leading them to Malik Willis. Perhaps no other quarterback has helped themselves as much as Willis so far this draft cycle, from his work at the Senior Bowl to his performance in Indianapolis, and with the trade it seems like it is time for Seattle to start the rebuild, beginning with the new face at QB.
Now yes, Drew Lock was part of this deal, and adding Lock gives the Seahawks some breathing room with Willis. But at this point the Seahawks probably know what Lock is, and are more excited about what Willis could be.
Booth is an athletic, agile and scheme-diverse cornerback. Physical and willing as a run defender, he is competitive at the catch point and has outstanding hands, as this highlight reel grab demonstrates.
I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw from Green during the on-field drills at the combine. He showed the ability to change direction without losing his balance that you don't get a chance to see often on his tape as he's an interior lineman. So while he's shown to be a much better run-blocker on the interior than pass-protector, there's reason to believe he can become an all-around stud on the inside.
David Quessenberry is a free agent and earned a pay raise this season while Taylor Lewan could end up being a cap casualty, leaving offensive tackle as a legit need. Raimann is surprisingly polished for only having two years of experience at tackle. The former tight end graded out as one of the best offensive lineman in the country last season, according to Pro Football Focus. He allowed zero pressures over his last six games of 2021.
The Titans have made Harold Landry a very, very rich man. And with that in mind, the team doesn't have the same dire need at OLB as they did at the beginning of the week. As such, Tennessee instead opts for a big-bodied wide receiver who can win after the catch, win at the catch point, and bully DBs to help create explosive runs.
Tennessee took 47 sacks (seventh most) last year, and center Ben Jones is a free agent. Linderbaum not only fills a need here, he also represents outstanding value. He is highly effective as a zone blocker, which would spring Derrick Henry up the middle, and he gets great leverage in pass protection, which would buy Ryan Tannehill time in the pocket. I love this fit -- but the Titans will be lucky to get Linderbaum at this point in the draft.
We kick off a little wide receiver run with Treylon Burks from Arkansas. The Titans could use another weapon in the passing game, and an 11 personnel package with A.J. Brown, Julio Jones and now Burks gives the Titans a ton of ways to attack coverages. Burks might be at his best working downfield, on vertical routes along the boundary or deep overs and crosses from the slot, and would be a complement to what both Brown and Jones bring to the table for the Tennessee passing game.
Now, some are wondering about Burks after his 40-yard dash time of 4.55 seconds in Indianapolis. But two things. One, remember that he weighed in at 225, and that 40-yard dash time is impressive in that context. Two, watch him accelerate away from the Alabama secondary and ask yourself: What is more important? The speed on the track surface in Indianapolis, or the burst and acceleration away from SEC defenders in pads in a game situation?
Levi Wallace led Buffalo's corners in snaps played and is about to become an unrestricted free agent. Meanwhile, the team's most talented cornerback (Tre'Davious White) is recovering from a torn ACL. Although McDuffie has just average size and length, he's aggressive and physical in run support and limits yards after the catch. McDuffie has outstanding short-area quickness, fluid hips and is rarely out of position.
Ojabo is still learning the position, but he's proving to be an excellent student. He was fantastic for Michigan this season and could continue to improve should he add a few more moves to his repertoire. When he gets home, he also displays a knack for separating the ball from the QB.
Levi Wallace is facing free agency and Tre'Davious White is currently rehabbing an ACL injury. McDuffie plays bigger than his 5-11 frame. He's one of the surest tacklers at the position in this draft class and his instincts are elite.
Another wide receiver in Buffalo? Seriously? Yes, absolutely. The Bills will need to continue to keep the room dynamic as Emmanuel Sanders potentially transitions away and Cole Beasley searches for a trade. Yes, Gabriel Davis looks like the real deal, but for a team that runs a ton of 10-personnel, no, I don't think it is enough.
Scary. That's the first word that comes to mind for an offense featuring Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs and Williams. Sticking Williams' burner speed with Allen's rocket arm is a big-play recipe. Sure, he will need time to recover from an ACL tear, and yes, he's still refining his route running, but this is a luxury pick for Buffalo. Had it not been for the injury, Williams would have probably been a top-10 pick. Instead, the Bills can land him at the back end of the first round and make one of the league's highest-octane offenses that much more dynamic. And with Emmanuel Sanders and Isaiah McKenzie off to free agency, there will be targets to go around.
Once looked at as potentially a top-ten player in the draft, a shaky Combine performance combined with positional value considerations has seen Kenyon Green's stock take a bit of a hit over the past week or so.
That might make him an ideal selection for the Buffalo Bills at this point in the draft.
The Bills do not have a ton of needs, but adding at the guard spot could be listed among them. Green's film is impressive, and adding him to the group in front of Josh Allen gives both the running game and the passing game a potential boost in 2022.
It's very possible that Gardner won't last until the 12th pick, but if he does, this would be an easy choice for new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Three Minnesota cornerbacks played more than 160 defensive snaps last year, and two of them -- Patrick Peterson (884) and Mackensie Alexander (689) -- are headed toward free agency next week. With ideal length and smooth footwork, the ball-hawking -- three interceptions in each of past three seasons -- cornerback has the versatility to excel in either press or off coverage.
What you have to love about Karlaftis is the motor never stops. He's going all-out on every snap, and he's strong enough and quick enough to make a lot of blockers look foolish. That said, he's not as fluid as you'd like when changing direction, and he does struggle when he isn't able to overpower his blocker with his strength or speed off the snap. There's plenty of potential for an above-average pass rusher here, and those are always valuable.
Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland were only signed to one-year deals and neither played well enough to be asked back -- Breeland was released in-season. Stingley features rare ball-tracking skills that make him a threat to take the ball away anytime it's in his vicinity. As an 18-year-old, he produced one of the most impressive true freshman seasons in college football history in 2019. Durability has been a concern ever since. He's a top-five talent, but there's still a lot of questions surrounding him.
The Vikings have a tenacious pass-rush duo in Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum, but Johnson can be a third impact player on their front. His 12 sacks and 45 pressures were both top-15 numbers in the country last season, and he's a great value pick for Minnesota at No. 12. In Indianapolis, the 6-foot-5, 254-pounder ran a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash and impressed with a 10-foot-5 broad jump. New Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell watched a great pass rush help his former team, the Rams, to a Super Bowl. So he'd happily welcome another smooth-moving explosive end to the mix.
Pass rusher could be in play here, with questions about Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter on the outside of their defensive front. Another area of concern is in the secondary. Derek Stingley Jr.'s 2019 tape is perhaps the best out of any of the cornerbacks in this class, and if the Vikings are getting that player in the draft, they will be quite happy.
If the Texans move Laremy Tunsil this offseason, this pick could be used on their preferred offensive tackle. That said, only four teams had fewer sacks than Houston (32) in 2021, and their only player under contract for '22 with three-plus sacks last season is Jonathan Greenard. Thibodeaux showed off his combination of speed (4.58 40-yard dash) and strength (27 bench-press reps) at the combine and along with Greenard, he would give the Texans a talented young pass-rushing duo.
The Texans will be the domino that really starts this draft. There isn't an area of the team it can't afford to improve, making it difficult to know what the Texans are going to do. I've had Kayvon Thibodeaux here in previous mocks, but with Neal still on the board, I wouldn't be surprised if this is where Houston goes. Neal is a fantastic prospect who could solve one of Houston's many problems for the next decade.
Thankfully for the Texans, every position is one of need, so it'll be hard to mess this up (even for them). There's been only one safety chosen with a top-five pick since 1992 (Sean Taylor in 2004). Hamilton is a hybrid playmaker who combines the versatility of Isaiah Simmons with instincts that are reminiscent of Hall of Famer Ed Reed. Those who pick nits with his 4.59-second 40-yard dash at the combine are digging really deep for criticism.
While Hutchinson is the most well-rounded pass rusher, I think Hamilton is the best overall player. And for a team like the Texans, who are essentially a blank slate as an organization, now is not the time to get bogged down in the details of "positional value." This is a prime #DraftGoodPlayers spot--and for my money, you won't find one better overall than Hamilton.
Houston allowed 44 sacks last season (ninth most), and its 53.8% pass block win rate was 27th in the NFL. If the Texans want to truly evaluate Davis Mills' long-term potential, they have to keep him upright -- and defenders would have a real difficult time getting to him through the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Ekwonu. Laremy Tunsil has two years left on his contract, but Ekwonu is versatile and can play other positions along the line before eventually taking over the left tackle spot. He plays with power and is a pancake machine, but he also has the quicks to ride speed rushers past the pocket.
Houston has a number of needs this off-season. One of which is their pass rush. As evaluators dive into Aidan Hutchinson, George Karlfatis, Jermaine Johnson and David Ojabo, Kayvon Thibodeaux seems to be sliding. Once viewed as a surefire top five selection, that seems in doubt. Thibodeaux did his best to change the narrative starting at the Combine with his bench press numbers, and I still believe that by the time the draft rolls around, he is going to be at the top of the board once more.
He checks many of the boxes teams are looking for in a top-flight edge rusher, and the Texans find a potential cornerstone piece to their defensive front.
As noted above, the Bulldogs have a lot of "freaks" on defense. According to The Athletic's Bruce Feldman's 2021 preseason list, the "biggest freak" of them all is Wyatt. Even if Davis (and Walker) dominated the headlines, Wyatt showed off his elite quickness and athleticism last weekend as well by running a 4.77 40-yard dash at 304 pounds.
No draft-eligible cornerback has had as strong of a season as Stingley has had. While it's impressive that he had such elite-level play as an 18-year-old true freshman, 2019 also feels like it was an eternity ago. With his combination of elite speed, fluidity and ball skills, Stingley would be a steal here if he were to regain his '19 form.
A repeat team and prospect pairing from Mock 1.0, Burks (6'3", 225 pounds) would complement DeVonta Smith well. Once Burks builds up speed, few defenders will catch him from behind, even if his 40-yard dash (4.55 at the combine) was a bit disappointing. While not a polished route-runner, the former Razorback said that he tries to mimic his game after Deebo Samuel, and it's easy to see Samuel's versatility in Burks. Eagles wide receiver coach Aaron Moorehead also led Burks's workout at his March 9 pro day.
As I've written before, the Eagles don't usually draft off-ball linebackers this early in the draft, but if Dean is still on the board for this pick, they should reconsider the policy. Drafting Dean means you won't have to worry about the position for at least the next five seasons, as you'll have a heat-seeking missile flying from sideline to sideline on your defense, destroying everything in its path.
Some might be put off by Burks running a 4.55 40 at the combine, but I couldn't care less. Watch the tape and try to find any defender in the country who gained ground on him once he hit the open field. He's a player that might run a 4.55 in shorts, but when you put the ball in his hands, it's a 4.4. Pairing Burks with DeVonta Smith would give the Eagles two fantastic playmakers to help out Jalen Hurts.
There's a good chance I'm higher on Elam than everybody else, but I'll pound the table for him. He has a knack for the football and the kind of playmaking ability that can change a game. There aren't a lot of those guys available on the defensive side of the ball.
Drafting Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson remains a mystery to me. London led the nation in contested catches with 19 and he only played eight games after his season ended with a broken ankle. His size, athleticism, route-running and flair for the spectacular catch will make him a problem for defensive coordinators in the NFL. He'd pair nicely with DeVonta Smith and go along way in correcting the Reagor mistake.
16. George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
The Eagles former first-rounder Derek Barnett will test free agency, while veterans Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham could be on the chopping block. Karlaftis has been one of the most consistent pass rushers in the nation during his three seasons in West Lafayette. His inside-outside versatility, overwhelming power and special athleticism could make him a star at the next level.
Jason Kelce can't play forever. If he does decide to start his Canton clock this year or next, I could see Landon Dickerson sliding over from guard to be his replacement. Johnson is a team captain-caliber player who thrived at left tackle and guard, but he projects as an impact interior lineman in the NFL. He played center most of the week in Mobile, and was impressive, considering he had never played the position before.
The Eagles getting a chance to add a second impact player on the outside opposite of Darius Slay is too good to ignore at this point. Find me a better pairing of foot speed, agility, and aggressiveness in this class. Please. I dare you. McDuffie has electric change of direction skills and his rapid movement skills allow him to stay ultra-sticky in coverage despite his length.
Defensive premium positions may not be the ideal path to surround QB Jalen Hurts and help his development, but asking him to not score a bunch of points by playing stout defense will take stress off him nonetheless. Ojabo's upside as a developmental full-time player and designated pass rusher early on projects perfectly for the Eagles, who need depth and juice off the edge.
Now here's a pick that will get Hurts excited. High-end defensive players are one thing, but finding a standout center in the mold of the long-time starter at the same position? That's an easy way to keep things humming up front. Yes, the Eagles drafted Landon Dickerson out of Alabama in round two last year, but are you going to tell me that you couldn't easily keep Dickerson at guard and be ready for a transition from Kelce with a similarly styled player?
Ah, we've entered the Eagles' portion of the draft, in which they'll make three picks over the course of the next five. April 6 is circled on the calendar of the scouts for every team that covets a first-round cornerback. It's the LSU pro day, when we should finally see Stingley in action after he opted to sit out the combine workouts while rehabbing his left foot injury a bit longer. There's not a more confusing evaluation in the class. Stingley is versatile, physical, long and fast. In fact, if I were forced to choose between Ahmad Gardner and him, and I was basing the decision on Gardner's 2021 tape (which is excellent) and Stingley's 2019 tape, I'd take the latter. That's how good he was during his freshman campaign.
But 2020 brought uneven play, and 2021 was largely lost to injury. Failing to quiet concerns at the combine only heightened the apprehension around using an early pick on him. All that said, he has the traits to be a shutdown corner in the NFL. Darius Slay and Stingley could be one of the top duos in the league.
The Eagles' 29 sacks last season were No. 31 in the league, Derek Barnett is a free agent, and age is starting to catch up to Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. Ojabo has a quick first step and closes with explosion. That explosion was on display at the combine, where he ran a 4.55 in the 40 and had a solid 10-foot-2 broad jump. His production (11 sacks last season) would be welcomed in Philly.
I still think the Eagles will stick with Jalen Hurts at quarterback -- Pittsburgh, next on the board, is undoubtedly holding its breath here -- so let's instead address another potential issue. The only team to take a first-round receiver in three straight drafts was the Lions in 2003-05, but the Eagles could join them. They were 30th in passing yardage last season when targeting wide receivers. Jalen Reagor hasn't panned out, and while DeVonta Smith looks like a dynamic pro, Hurts could certainly use another target. Olave is a silky smooth runner with 4.39 speed and great acceleration -- and he scored at least once in nine of 11 games last season. He'd be a reliable downfield target to complement Smith.
Last week in Indianapolis, both Nick Sirianni and general manager Howie Roseman talked about the growth the Eagles have seen from Jalen Hurts, and how they look to continue that growth. They also talked about how the Eagles have a huge opportunity to improve on both side of the football, given their cap space and the three picks at their disposal in the first round.
They start that process on the defensive side of the football.
Jermaine Johnson has seen his stock rise since the Senior Bowl, and is a refined player off the edge who can also help against the run. He is an experienced player with a solid plan as a pass rusher, and steps in to shore up Philadelphia's needs on the EDGE.
Another area where the Eagles need to improve defensively is on the second level. Devin Lloyd is the kind of player that defenses need in the modern NFL on that level, with his coverage skills and ability to impact both the running game and the passing game. In coverage, Lloyd is at his best when in underneath zones, and in the Eagles' defense he will be a three-down player given their system.
Having addressed the defensive side of the football with their first two picks, the Eagles turn to the offense.
Head coach Nick Sirianni joked at the Combine that a keg was on its way to center Jason Kelce -- courtesy of Lower Merion Beverage -- to help him make his mind up about returning next season. But with that up in the air, adding Tyler Linderbaum might be a smart move. Linderbaum is a perfect fit for the Eagles, given what he shows as a blocker in zone designs, and is plug-and-play should Kelce retire.
Pickett's hand size (8½") is not much smaller than Taysom Hill's (8¾"), but playing in a controlled environment for eight (or nine) home games and a road game in Atlanta every year would help to minimize (no pun intended) any potential impact. With good arm strength and mobility, Pickett moves quickly through his progressions and throws well on the move. After throwing 39 touchdowns and 25 interceptions from 2017 to '20, Pickett threw an ACC-record 42 touchdowns to only seven interceptions last season.
I don't know who the Saints will have at QB next season, and they may address the position here. If they go a different route, whoever they end up with will be happy to have Wilson to throw to. Wilson accelerates at a ridiculous rate, and he is excellent at making contested catches in traffic. He has some work to do on his footwork and route-running, but he has No. 1 WR potential.
The Saints are either drafting a quarterback or wide receiver in the first round. The Heisman finalist is most dangerous outside of the pocket when he goes off script. Pickett has good size, overall athleticism and solid arm talent, but needs to work on his anticipation throws and his comfort within the pocket. His hand size (or lack there of) has been a story, but he handled himself perfectly in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, and at the combine, where every team who interviewed him came away impressed.
The Russell Wilson deal, through three or four degrees of separation, bubbles all the way into the late teens. With no cap space to work with, New Orleans' odds of running it back with a top quarterback suddenly seems like a long-shot, so you may as well lock one down here.
When the combine began last week, there were concerns about Pickett's 8½-inch hand size, which is worrisome for a quarterback who has struggled in bad-weather games and with turnovers. But it ended with a great performance from him throwing the football during on-field workouts. I was impressed with the way he put all of the morning's chatter behind him and put on a show. I still have Liberty's Malik Willis ranked higher, but Pickett is the most NFL-ready signal-caller in the class. New Orleans, which had the NFL's lowest passing yards per game (187.4) and tied for the worst completion percentage (58.1%) last season, would be getting a quarterback with good touch, field vision and accuracy.
The door is still open for Jameis Winston to re-sign, which might change the approach, and Taysom Hill is of course under contract. But we know Hill isn't the answer, and Pickett would offer the Saints a potential long-term solution to their signal-caller woes for new coach Dennis Allen.
New head coach Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael have a decision to make at quarterback. They could look to run things back with Jameis Winston, but assuming they do not, then Kenny Pickett could be an ideal fit for the offense we anticipate Carmichael installing. Pickett also fits what teams are looking for from a decision-making and mental standpoint.
Plus, for those worried about Pickett's hand size, playing eight games in the climate-controlled environment of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome could ease those concerns.
After using their franchise tag on offensive tackle Cam Robinson, the Jaguars still rank sixth in available cap space, per Over the Cap. Whether they negotiate a long-term contract with Robinson or use the 2022 season as a bridge to Walker Little becoming their left tackle in 2023, this move likely signals they will go in a different direction than Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu at No. 1.
My top-ranked prospect in this year's draft, Hutchinson set Michigan's single-season sack record (14) in 2021. His 40-yard dash (4.74) was a little slower than expected, but his 10-yard split (1.62) was good and his agility numbers -- three-cone (6.73) and 20-yard shuttle (4.15) -- were elite for someone his size. His combination of leadership qualities, nonstop motor, athleticism and production makes him about as safe as it gets.
I've had Evan Neal here in my first two mock drafts, but I'm going with my heart this time. I've had Ekwonu as my No. 1 OT in this class all along, and he showed people why at the combine. Jacksonville is either trading down or taking an OT here, so I'm simply choosing my favorite OT for them to take. It could still be Neal or another tackle.
Many believe placing the franchise tag on Cam Robinson will preclude the Jaguars from selecting an offensive tackle with the first overall pick. Perhaps, but their entire offensive line graded out mediocre to poor in the run game this past season and Robinson wasn't the only one facing free agency. Former All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell will likely command a hefty sum. Ekwonu was the most dominant run-blocking tackle in the Power-5 conferences this season -- it really wasn't close -- and I envision him thriving at tackle or guard in the NFL.
I understand Jacksonville just slapped Cam Robinson with the franchise tag for the second straight year. That's a one-year fix and the Jaguars aren't exactly brimming with established NFL talent elsewhere up front. Once upon a time, Neal played guard for Alabama and he's held down spots on both sides of the line. Get the trenches right for Trevor Lawrence.
I thought hard about NC State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu here even after the Jaguars put the franchise tag on Cam Robinson on Tuesday, but that move means Jacksonville will be paying Robinson $16.6 million in 2022. Would the Jags commit that kind of money to the position and then still draft a tackle when they have the chance to instead bring in the best prospect in the class? Hutchinson can be a franchise cornerstone on defense. He racked up 14 sacks and 66 pressures last season, his 6.73-second three-cone drill shows incredible short-area burst, and he is the most technically efficient pass-rusher in the entire class. A pairing of Josh Allen and Hutchinson would torment opposing quarterbacks.
No change at the top of the board. With Doug Pederson heading to Jacksonville to be the Jaguars' next head coach, we can start to surmise what their plans might be for the draft. Regardless of head coach, building around -- and protecting -- Trevor Lawrence should be atop the to-do list. When Pederson won Super Bowl LII with the Philadelphia Eagles, that roster had a fantastic offensive line in front of Carson Wentz and Nick Foles. So look to the Jaguars to try and build in front of Lawrence, kicking off the draft with the Alabama tackle.
It's likely that Linderbaum will be drafted later than where I have him ranked on my big board, but he's the best player available here. The Cowboys have bigger needs than center (or interior offensive line), but they have gone with the best player available in situations where a talented player fell further than expected (see Lamb, CeeDee).
Linderbaum's 290-pound frame may limit him to center only, but the Rimington Trophy winner is the best center prospect in not only this draft class but over the past several. He has elite athleticism and movement skills for the position.
It's a pick that makes a lot of sense for a Dallas team that could use an upgrade to the interior of its offensive line. From a perspective of a player's ability to play their position, there might not be a better player in this draft than Linderbaum. Unfortunately for him, you rarely see centers going early in drafts.
Leighton Vander Esch is an unrestricted free agent and the Cowboys need a linebacker who frees up Micah Parsons to focus primarily on rushing the passer. Murmurings about Dean's size not translating well to the next level have hurt his draft stock. It certainly didn't hurt the Butkus Award winner in the SEC, where the tape showed a dynamic blitzer who is capable of making plays all over the field.
The Cowboys have already shown they have an affinity for Oklahoma defensive tackles when they drafted Neville Gallimore a few years back. This isn't quite that, though. Instead, Winfrey has prototypical length and I would assume he can play some odd front end, base end, and serve as a 3-tech. The Senior Bowl (and combine) showcased what Winfrey can look like when he's not playing zero-tech... and I like that projection quite a bit.
Dallas needs to decide where it wants to play Micah Parsons. Does it want to keep him off the edge, where he excelled with 13 sacks last season? Or does it want to return him to his true position at linebacker and let him impact the game in even more ways -- and potentially be even better than he was in his rookie year? Either way, the Cowboys could use more pass-rushing support with Randy Gregory and Dorance Armstrong going to free agency. Karlaftis has the ability to transition his quick take-off burst into power and bull rush opponents, and he'd be an immediate contributor for one of the league's best defenses.
With Amari Cooper looking like his days in Dallas with Cowboys are over, wide receiver could be a need at this spot for the Cowboys. But Dallas is also in the market for a safety, and they look to plug that need with Daxton Hill from Michigan.
Hill is a scheme-diverse player who can operate in single-high coverages, or in the slot. He plays well in zone coverage and can read and react well to a quarterback's movements in the pocket. His sideline-to-sideline range on film was something that he confirmed in Indianapolis.
The last two years' first rounds have netted the Chargers a franchise quarterback (Justin Herbert) and a franchise left tackle (Rashawn Slater). This pick would shore up the right side long term. Not only did Bryan Bulaga play just 45 snaps in 2021, but the soon-to-be-33-year-old tackle will be a free agent next offseason. Penning has ideal length (34¼" arms), size, strength, toughness and temperament his coaches will appreciate.
As I said up top, in a vacuum, I'm not taking a run-stuffing defensive tackle in the first round of this draft, but it makes sense for the Chargers to do so. They just traded for Khalil Mack to pair with Joey Bosa, and that duo should provide all the pass-rush juice the team needs.
Only the Texans and Steelers allowed more rushing yards per game this season. At 6-foot-6, 340 pounds, the Outland and Bednarik trophy winner is an immovable object who could anchor the Chargers' run defense for years to come. His 4.78-second 40-yard dash in Indy suggests there's some potential as a pass disruptor as well.
You saw what Davis put on display this weekend, right? And you're aware that he plays nose tackle, a position the Chargers desperately need after allowing nearly 140 rush yards per game last season? Okay then, glad we're all on the same page.
There isn't much more to say about Davis' combine workout. It was one of the most impressive showings I've ever seen at the event. Running a 4.78 in the 40-yard dash and jumping 10-foot-3 in the broad jump at 341 pounds seemingly defies physics. If he keeps his weight in the 340-pound range, Davis is going to be a problem for offensive coordinators in the NFL. Against the run, he's a space-eater who plays with power. He sees double-teams regularly but still appears impossible to move off his spot.
That's all good news for the Chargers, who gave up 4.6 yards per carry last season (tied for the fifth-worst rate in the NFL) and lose defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Justin Jones to free agency. Davis' big-time combine showing cemented his top-20 status, but if he keeps up his conditioning and can get on the field more often in the pros, Los Angeles could have a steal at No. 17.
The Chargers were terrible at stopping the run last season. That changes with the addition of the block-eating Davis, whose combination of size and athleticism should allow him to play anywhere along the line.