Do you love mock drafts?
Of course, you do. You're a fan of the NFL draft. Here at TDN, not only are we pumping out expert mock drafts with individual pick analysis, but we're also allowing a second analyst to take a look at the picks selected in each mock draft published to the site — think of it as the dissenting opinion on a court case.
This week, TDN draft analyst Jonah Tuls published his 4.0 mock to ring in the new year, and I was tasked with tearing it to shreds. In this week’s Would You Rather, I will identify a few picks that I would have rather seen go a different way.
Remember: you can always execute your own mock drafts on the TDN Mock Draft Machine.
(7) Carolina Panthers: Georgia OT Andrew Thomas
Tuls’ written analysis for this pick holds a fair point: the Carolina Panthers gave up more sacks per game than any team in the league, and if the Panthers are going to be installing a new quarterback in the offense — via trade acquisition or draft pick — they will need to protect that passer better in 2019.
The problem here is Carolina’s bad sack numbers were largely a product of poor pocket management from Kyle Allen, who struggled with his internal clock and recognition with pressure.
The offensive line could use help, but with Greg Little selected in the second round last year to eventually play on the left and Taylor Moton showing quality play at right tackle, I don't see Carolina addressing the position early in the draft, especially when you consider their other needs — namely defensive tackle.
Vernon Butler has busted tremendously, Kyle Love is a low-caliber starter, and Gerald McCoy is a free agent. Even if McCoy were to return, the Panthers have woefully overlooked the defensive tackle position over the last few years, and with a new defensive coordinator coming into the building, will invariably need better trench play to stop the bleeding of their run defense.
Namely here, Auburn DT Derrick Brown was on the board at No. 7. While Andrew Thomas is a generally equivalent talent, I just don't think the relative need stacks up well here for Carolina to go tackle. I think they would run to the podium with the ticket for Brown.
Would rather: Brown
(20) Jacksonville Jaguars: Oklahoma LB Kenneth Murray
Listen, I like Kenneth Murray a lot. I've said before that if there's a linebacker who's going to go in the late first, it will be Murray — and that was before Dylan Moses went back.
I like a linebacker to the Jacksonville Jaguars as well. Telvin Smith's retirement was obviously a surprise, and I don't think they can survive with Quincy Williams, Leon Jacobs and Najee Goode as their secondary options moving forward.
But with that all said, a No. 20 selection is quite rich for Murray's stock, even as he continues to rise and solidifies himself as the top true linebacker in the class. Clemson's Isaiah Simmons is more of the hybrid role already filled by Myles Jack. I don't think Murray brings enough third-down value to warrant this pick, even if you have a blitz-heavy defensive coordinator willing to send him after the passer.
Accordingly, I look for a player with a higher Year 1 value at a bigger position of need, which sends me to the wide receiver class. Already four wide receivers are off the board before pick No. 20, which means we aren't in a great spot but fringe first-rounders like K.J. Hamler, Jalen Reagor, and Tee Higgins all remain available at this juncture.
It's unclear who the starting quarterback is in Jacksonville, but it is certainly evident that they need more pass-catching help, quickly. In a weak linebacker class, I understand the instinct to go chasing a legit talent, but it's simply too much for me at that value, with the gaping hole at WR still staring me in the face.
Would rather: Hamler
(25) Tennessee Titans: Penn State EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos
There's a fascination with Yetur Gross-Matos that I only kinda get. He's billed as this athletic freak, but I don't see a player who's particularly more athletically interesting than Alabama's Terrell Lewis (who Tuls had gone before Gross-Matos, fairly enough) or LSU's K'Lavon Chaisson, who's athleticism isn't as evident off the bus, but far more clearly shows up on game film.
I'll spoil the surprise early: I'd rather see the Tennesse Titans go after Chaisson than Gross-Matos, which is my edit to this pick. I understand the Titans' establishment rusher is Harold Landry, and they want to acquire a larger rusher to play opposite him as Cameron Wake was able to do for infrequent stretches this season.
But Chaisson's by no means a small-fry. He's more than capable of hanging in there on the edge, especially if he grabs some extra pounds as he transitions away from being a full-time stand-up rusher as he basically was with LSU. The Tigers asked Chaisson to drop into space as a coverage backer. Tennessee will do so as well, as it likes to bring some exotic pressures, and would benefit from Chaisson's versatility there.
Even with a smaller rusher opposite him in Landry, Chaisson's ability to move around gaps and rush from the interior as a stand-up linebacker helps you get your best pass-rushers on the field while protecting them from getting mowed over in the running game. Chaisson isn't yet a finished product, but neither is Gross-Matos, and Chaisson is further along with still some of that delightful upside.
Would rather: Chaisson