“Trust the tape.”
We hear it and are reminded throughout the pre-draft process when evaluating the next crop of NFL journeymen. However, come this time every year, it’s stopwatches and bench presses that take over the scene and force us to bend the rules for the next few weeks.
As we over analyze straight-line speed and broad jumps, the combine is far from useless as it has become a barometer and measuring tool to help decipher Player X from Player Z. Players can watch their stock soar in a matter of tenths of a second, literally.
Previous Round Mocks:
Meeting with these prospects off the field and in front of the whiteboard has become just as valuable over the past decade, if not more so than ever before. With nearly every collegiate player entering the draft in close to tip-top shape, dissecting their mental sharpness, personality and passion for the game helps teams gain a better understanding into what makes a guy tick before they invest an early pick and put their jobs on the line.
With the winners and losers from Indy set in stone, here’s my newest post-combine mock draft.
33) Cleveland Browns: Curtis Samuel, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
After a blazing combine, Samuel proved why he’s worthy of a top-40 pick with his ability to chew up big chunks of yards when the ball is in his hands. While he may never be a traditional wideout, the Browns need any and all help they can get with offensive skill players.
34) San Francisco 49ers: Takkarist McKinley, EDGE, UCLA
He has a bum shoulder needs to be fixed, but when healthy McKinley is next in line from a long list of talented UCLA linebackers that have thrived in the NFL. Speed and pass rush moves at the linebacker spot are what the Browns have been lacking as of late and McKinley fits the bill with outstanding traits and a motor that just does not quit.
35) Jacksonville Jaguars: Dion Dawkins, Offensive Line, Temple
This is an under-the-radar kid who has been climbing since the Senior Bowl. Dawkins may come up too short for tackle, but has the mean streak of a nasty trench player who can add some toughness to the Jaguars’ soft offensive line.
36) Chicago Bears: Desmond King, Defensive Back, Iowa
King is going to add a ton of value and versatility to the Bears secondary that simply put just doesn’t have enough talent right now.
37) Los Angeles Rams: Dan Feeney, Offensive Guard, Indiana
Feeney adds physicality in space at both the first and second level. If he can stay healthy, this is Todd Gurley’s new best friend.
38) Los Angeles Chargers: Taco Charlton, EDGE, Michigan
His stock took a hit after the combine showed he doesn’t have the bend we ideally prefer from our edge rushers. With that said, many will still make a case he’s the second-best pass rusher in the draft. Adding him opposite Joey Bosa is a young duo that will make AFC West passers miserable for a long time.
39) New York Jets: Marlon Humphrey, Cornerback, Alabama
A deep class pushes him into the second round which is a blessing for the Jets secondary that’s in dire need for young talent after the sinking of Revis Island.
40) Carolina Panthers: Taylor Moton, Offensive Tackle, Western Michigan
He’s my favorite tackle who no one talks about. Moton is a monster of a man with NFL strength ready for battle day one and adds a tenacity inside of the Panthers’ trenches. That’s music to Ron Rivera’s ears.
41) Cincinnati Bengals: Charles Harris, EDGE, Missouri
The Bengals need speed on defense, specifically in the front seven after another lackluster year getting after the quarterback. Harris gets off the snap quicker than anyone else in this draft, adding a critical dynamic to the front four, even if he is just a third-down role player.
42) New Orleans Saints: Zach Cunningham, Outside Linebacker, Vanderbilt
The Saints are committed to rebuilding this defense. His combine was sluggish, but speed isn’t Cunningham’s game. Instead, he chews up blockers like a man on a mission and in turn is a tackling machine playing with great instincts. Piece by piece, the Saints defense is starting to look competitive again.
43) Philadelphia Eagles: Kareem Hunt, Running Back, Toledo
Here’s my favorite tailback outside of the “big three.” Hunt has the best balance I’ve seen from a running back and will make a big impact and change a game when given 15-20 touches on a consistent basis.
44) Tennessee Titans (From Buffalo): Cordrea Tankersley, Cornerback, Clemson
What great value here in the second round, as Tankersley has the foundation of cover corner skills that equates to a solid starting NFL player. The Titans get to plug him in from day one and let him grow into their starting No. 1 cornerback through trial and error.
45) New York Jets (From Cardinals): Antonio Garcia, Offensive Tackle, Troy
The Jets need an overhaul on the offensive line to help protect whichever quarterback is under center. Garcia has a ton of tools to mold and develop into a starting tackle. While it may take a few years to get him there, luckily the Jets have nothing but time as it’s looking like they are in rebuild mode for the next few seasons.
46) Indianapolis Colts: Kevin King, Cornerback, Washington
A major winner from the combine, King is soaring up draft boards with his 6-foot-3 size and length. With his Richard Sherman mold, King can become the physical cornerback the Colts have lacked when matched up against teams No. 1 wideouts.
47) Baltimore Ravens: Zay Jones, Wide Receiver, East Carolina
Though he may not dominate any one specific trait, Jones remains polished up and down his game. Finding a free-agent wide receiver should remain a priority; however, Jones will be a rock-solid contributor as a No. 2 or 3 option in the passing game you can always count on to take advantage of single coverage.
48) Minnesota Vikings: Jabrill Peppers, Safety/Linebacker, Michigan
Rick Spielman won’t reach in a bad offensive tackle class, remaining true to his board by taking the best available player. Although he’s a tweener, Peppers reminded us what we saw on tape with outstanding athleticism that helped him become one of the nation’s biggest playmakers. If anyone can maximize his unique and ultra talented skill set it’s Mike Zimmer, who will find multiple sub packages for Peppers in both the 4-3 and nickel looks. Peppers fills two major defensive needs at both linebacker and safety opposite Harrison Smith, while adding a dangerous return man if the team lets Cordarrelle Patterson leave in free agency.
49) Washington Redskins: Caleb Brantley, Defensive Line, Florida
Some call him the second-best interior tackle of the class. The Redskins find great value here in Brantley, who can make an impact against the pass instantly while sliding up and down the line with versatility.
50) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derek Rivers, Defensive End, Youngstown State
The best small-school find has been Rivers, who woke people up at the Senior Bowl as a fierce pass rusher off the edge. Adding him to the mix with Noah Spence gives the Bucs a good mix of young talent at a position of need.
51) Denver Broncos: Chris Wormley, Defensive Line, Michigan
The Broncos took a step back on the interior of their defensive line after losing Malik Jackson in the offseason. Wormley can help out in multiple facets and can shift inside to the nose position after he bulks up a year down the road.
52) Cleveland Browns (From Tennessee): Justin Evans, Safety, Texas A&M
Evans won’t wow you with any one dominant trait; however, he was always around the play in Mobile. He showed great instincts for a tough position and the speed and quickness to make a play in a hurry. I would fully expect him to start in the Browns secondary from day one and give them a huge upgrade from what they have now.
53) Detroit Lions: Carl Lawson, Defensive End, Auburn
Had he been able to stay healthy, we’d be talking about Lawson as a first-round pass rusher. He has the bulk and strength that translates immediately and the pass rushing moves to become a three-down player. Just stay healthy!
54) Miami Dolphins: Isaac Asiata, Offensive Guard, Utah
The Pac-12 lineman of the year, Asiata is a bulldozer in tight spaces and will instantly add a brand of physicality wherever he goes. With Laremy Tunsil set to kick outside, Asiata fills the would-be hole at guard, completing the Dolphins’ offensive line transformation into one of the best units in the entire league.
55) New York Giants: Joe Mixon, Running Back, Oklahoma
Somebody had to do it. While he may never fix his off the field reputation, Mixon remains one of the most explosive players in the entire draft class. The Giants can ease him in as he shares touches with Paul Perkins; however, sooner or later Mixon will demand 15 touches per game because of his refined talent and home-run ability.
56) Oakland Raiders: Jaleel Johnson, Defensive Tackle, Iowa
The Raiders aren’t many pieces away from filling in the entire puzzle. Strengthening the middle of the defense remains the priority and the addition of Johnson does exactly that. When his leverage and technique is right, Johnson has the country strength to toss his opponents around like rag dolls and collapse the pocket from the inside with Khalil Mack attacking off the edge.
57) Houston Texans: Jared Davis, Inside Linebacker, Florida
Davis was one of the rocks in the middle of one of the best defenses in the country for back-to-back years. The Texans defense was solid in 2016, but was missing that rock in the middle of the linebacking core they could rely on late in games.
58) Seattle Seahawks: Will Holden, Offensive Line, Vanderbilt,
The Seahawks remain committed to fixing one of the worst offensive lines in football last season by doubling down on the tackle position. Holden showed up to the Senior Bowl a day late, but made up for lost time looking like a potential NFL tackle with good strength at the point of attack and the proper footwork to handle the edge.
59) Kansas City Chiefs: Tre’Davious White, Cornerback, LSU
The Chiefs are still looking for someone to hold their own opposite Marcus Peters. White has been up and down throughout his three years starting; however, he played his best football at the end of his collegiate career, showcasing the hips and feet to become a legitimate NFL cornerback. White also adds an extra dimension on special teams too, just in case the Chiefs need even more help in that area.
60) Dallas Cowboys: Quincy Wilson, Cornerback, Florida
The Cowboys are set to lose Morris Claiborne, which will put a weak position in dire need of capable bodies. Wilson didn’t get the attention his teammate Teez Tabor did at Florida, but still shows excellent cover skills and would be a great value this late in the draft for a potential No. 1 cornerback three years down the road.
61) Green Bay Packers: Raekwon McMillan, Outside Linebacker, Ohio State
Grabbing the best defensive prospects is ultimately the only priority the Packers front office should be focused on, as the team is needing help and talent at all three levels. McMillan looked good in combine drills and was better than people give him credit for in the passing game. This gives the team a new three-down linebacker while adding some much-needed youth to the position.
62) Pittsburgh Steelers: Gareon Conley, Cornerback, Ohio State
The Steelers have had some tough luck with former second-round pick Senquez Golson, who just can’t stay healthy. Mike Tomlin is forced to go back to the well and find a cornerback who can play in his aggressive-natured defense. Many were surprised Conley declared early for the draft, but he has all the talent as some of the other top cornerbacks in the draft. He will need to be refined from a technique standpoint as he learns on the fly from his new starting role.
63) Atlanta Falcons: Ethan Pocic, Offensive Line, LSU
The Falcons looked exposed on the offensive line during the Super Bowl collapse, getting pushed around for most of the game. While Alex Mack doesn’t deserve much of the blame, the fact remains he’s on his last leg and finding his replacement needs to be looked at. Pocic can actually kick outside to tackle in the meantime and work on refining his versatility until he’s needed back inside at center, giving the team good depth at multiple positions with just one pick.
64) New England Patriots: T.J. Watt, Outside Linebacker, Wisconsin
Is there a more Patriots pick than this? Watt tore up the combine and displayed some similar traits of his big brother — stemming from the same freaky gene pool. Watt will learn under the master (Bill Belichick) and will be eased into action early on, but ultimately becoming a key piece to the front-seven when the time comes. It’s called “The Patriot Way”