NFL mock draft: How could trades impact former Iowa TEs T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant?
With the draft still more than a week away, the NFL is in the midst of full-blown liars' season, where smokescreens billow at full bloom and Pinocchio is considered an honest broker.
With so much disinformation cruising the information superhighway, it's time to embrace the noise and delve into my favorite mock draft of the year — the annual trade edition. It isn't meant to propagate falsehoods but attempts to propose "food for thought" outcomes in a league where anything can (and often does) happen — just ask Khalil Mack or Odell Beckham Jr. ... or Baker Mayfield, whom almost no one projected No. 1 to Cleveland just a year ago.
With that in mind, let's explore the possibility that Arizona stands pat under center and chooses Ohio State's Nick Bosa, who recently met with the team for two days according to reports, at No. 1 overall ... while immediately inciting chaos down the board.
1. Cardinals — Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State: Adding a defensive cornerstone and retaining Josh Rosen might not be the worst thing, especially now that new coach Kliff Kingsbury has had a chance to interact with the incumbent quarterback, last year's first-round pick. And in a division with so many formidable passers, it would certainly satisfy the smell test if Arizona decided reinforcing its defense makes more sense than rebooting the quarterback position for the second time in a year.
TRADE 2. Raiders (from 49ers) — Josh Allen, DE-OLB, Kentucky: Orchestrating deals atop the board is expensive, but Oakland has the wherewithal. In this scenario they swap No. 4 overall to San Francisco while also surrendering the second of their three first-round picks (No. 24 overall). But with Bosa off the board, new GM Mike Mayock might need to get aggressive to get an elite pass rusher like Allen — he had 17 sacks in 2018 — to finally fill Mack's void. Oakland's 13 sacks in 2018 were by far the league's fewest.
TRADE 3. Buccaneers (from Jets) — Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama: Tampa Bay brass has signaled the end of the Gerald McCoy era and could certainly use a younger player up front who can pressure the pocket and fortify the team's woeful run defense. So why not climb two spots for Williams, regarded in some circles as this draft's top player, and unload McCoy to the Jets, who also secure the Bucs' second rounder after giving theirs up in last year's move for Sam Darnold.
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TRADE 4. 49ers (from Raiders) — Devin White, ILB, LSU: Reuben Foster is long gone, and White would be an upgrade anyway over the deposed former first rounder in the center of this defense. Even after paying handsomely in free agency for Kwon Alexander, who's trying to come back from a torn ACL, the Niners are hardly set at linebacker. If Alexander recovers and plays out his contract, he and White would form an excellent every-down tandem.
TRADE 5. Broncos (from Buccaneers via Jets) — T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa: New York takes one more slide, flipping the pick they just acquired from the Bucs to Denver for Nos. 10 and 41. GM John Elway then finally addresses a position that's long festered by obtaining one of this draft's cleanest players. Hockenson could be an immediate difference maker, providing first downs in the passing game for an attack that lost WR Demaryius Thomas last year while boosting an offensive line that has struggled.
6. Giants — Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan: Even with all the quarterbacks still available, GM Dave Gettleman goes the "best available" route, grabbing an edge player with tremendous physical tools (but a lack of college production with 9½ sacks over three years in Ann Arbor) to bolster the NFC's worst pass rush from 2018 — and that was withrecently traded Olivier Vernon.
7. Jaguars — Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida: Jacksonville wants to be a physically dominant team that establishes the run. But the Jags also need to pass protect better after allowing 53 sacks in 2018, especially given new QB Nick Foles' lack of mobility. Taylor, a tailor-made right tackle, would help on all counts.
8. Lions — Montez Sweat, DE-OLB, Mississippi State: Detroit is stout up the middle but could use more than free agent Trey Flowers coming off the corner while hoping to torment Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins et al. Sweat, a Michigan State transfer, is a physical marvel (4.41 40-yard dash, a modern combine record for a defensive lineman) at 6-6 and 260 pounds but also has the numbers with 22½ sacks over the past two years.
9. Bills — Ed Oliver, DT, Houston: Buffalo would surely be thrilled if he lasts this long. Oliver is a far superior athlete to retired DT Kyle Williams, and this line doesn't currently have anyone who can create mayhem inside.
TRADE 10. Jets (from Broncos) — Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State: After picking up a pair of second rounders and McCoy, assets the new-look Jets sorely need, GM Mike Maccagnan turns in his card for a player who may be this year's preeminent pass protector — a sensible investment in order to safeguard Darnold into the future.
11. Bengals — Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State: Quite a bit of variance on his outlook, depending on whom you ask. But it might be time to make a switch from Andy Dalton as new coach Zac Taylor, who oversaw pocket-bound Jared Goff in L.A. last season, looks for the right triggerman to operate his offense. Haskins could give this club the shot in the arm it needs, but Dalton's presence wouldn't force Cincinnati to rush the redshirt sophomore into the lineup after he started just one year in college — albeit while throwing a Big Ten single-season record 50 TD passes.
TRADE 12. Giants (from Packers) — Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma: It may seem like a free fall given Murray is widely considered the presumptive No. 1 pick. But if that's the case, why is he visiting so many teams, including New York? If Arizona passes, he could drop significantly given the general lack of demand for passers this year and fact Murray may not fit philosophically everywhere the way he could in the desert. Still, if he's there at No. 12 (and Haskins isn't), the Giants might be motivated to initiate their Eli Manning succession plan — swapping No. 17 overall to Green Bay would probably cost roughly two third rounders. And don't forget what coach Pat Shurmur did with diminutive but mobile QB Case Keenum in Minnesota two years ago — though it's patently unfair to Murray to equate him to Keenum, especially when considering the possibilities of pairing him with Saquon Barkley. And if Murray doesn't seem like a prototypical Gettleman pick, remember what multi-dimensional Cam Newton did for the GM when he was running the Panthers.
13. Dolphins — Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson: Versatile. Talented. Perhaps most important, the kind of player who could help re-establish the culture of a franchise essentially taking its roster down to the studs.
14. Falcons — Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama: Whether at guard or tackle, he would upgrade the right side of Atlanta's line and improve a 27th-ranked ground attack.
15. Redskins — Drew Lock, QB, Missouri: Frankly, Rosen might be their best option if Arizona goes with Murray and makes him available. But at this spot and under this circumstance, Washington needs to look for an option beyond journeymen Keenum and Colt McCoy given Alex Smith's future remains unclear. Lock is an experienced passer who can drive the ball downfield to players like TE Jordan Reed and WR Paul Richardson.
16. Panthers — Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson: Seasoned just down the road, he's a high-effort player who would be a nice base option opposite Mario Addison. And as Carolina moves into the post-Julius Peppers era, Ferrell's presence would allow Bruce Irvin to conserve his snaps for passing downs (as Peppers did late in his career).
TRADE 17. Packers (from Browns via Giants) — Noah Fant, TE, Iowa: After picking up some extra ammo from Big Blue, Green Bay is still able to secure this year's most athletic tight end. Fant might pick up some wisdom from incumbent Jimmy Graham but could probably step in to do a lot more damage horizontally and vertically at this point than the veteran red-zone threat.
18. Vikings — Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma: Minnesota wants to achieve offensive balance by re-establishing the run. Ford could help immeasurably while allowing the team to try different combinations at guard and tackle.
19. Titans — Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma: Antonio Brown's cousin, "Hollywood" might bring long-sought star power to Tennessee's passing attack. His home run ability to all points of the field and would nicely complement outside WR Corey Davis and new slot man Adam Humphries.
20. Steelers — Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan: If he's on the board this late, Pittsburgh should pounce at the opportunity to enlist an instinctive, athletic player who might finally alleviate the absence of Ryan Shazier.
21. Texans (from Seahawks) — Byron Murphy, CB, Washington: Houston takes the opportunity to start replenishing its secondary by snaring arguably the best corner coming out in 2019. Seattle, which currently owns just four selections, gets a package of picks in return, including both of the Texans' second rounders — no time like the present to start restocking the weaponry around newly minted QB Russell Wilson.
22. Ravens — D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi: Baltimore has a cringeworthy history when trying to find receivers in Round 1 (Mark Clayton, Breshad Perriman and Travis Taylor). Metcalf hardly looks like a complete receiver at this juncture, but he's big, strong and runs fast — traits that could make him uniquely suited for downfield blocking and deep routes for what promises to be a run-oriented playbook.
23. Texans — Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina State: Houston can't afford to let Deshaun Watson, sacked a league-high 62 times in 2018, to go down the David Carr trail. Bradbury could immediately take over in the pivot and maybe force Nick Martin to compete for a spot at guard.
TRADE 24. 49ers (from Bears via Raiders) — Greedy Williams, CB, LSU: The knock on Williams is his lack of physicality, but the guy can cover — an obvious plus in a division where Sean McVay and, now, Kingsbury will have the ball in the air incessantly. Williams can also generate turnovers, and San Francisco needs that element after picking off two passes in 2018, five fewer than any other club.
25. Eagles — Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State: At some point, his value is too good to pass up. Even if Simmons has to redshirt after tearing his ACL in February, Philadelphia can afford to bring him along slowly behind Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson.
26. Chiefs (from Colts) — Brian Burns, OLB-DE, Florida State: Admittedly, he's undersized (6-5, 249) to play base end on a four-man front. But Kansas City needs some kind of fastball — even if it costs a mid-round pick — after sending Dee Ford and Justin Houston away and might be fine just letting Burns play in sub packages.
27. Raiders (from Cowboys) — Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama: Mixing in Antonio Brown is great, but it still might be a good idea to find a capable replacement for Jared Cook, Derek Carr's favorite target in 2018.
28. Chargers — Chris Lindstrom, OL, Boston College: His versatility and athleticism could be a boon to a front five that has some holes and hasn't gotten any production from 2017 second rounder Forrest Lamp.
29. Colts (from Chiefs) — Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State: A heat-seeking enforcer, he'd meld beautifully with center fielder Malik Hooker on Indy's back line.
30. Packers (from Saints) — A.J. Brown, WR, Mississippi: With 160 grabs and more than 2,500 yards over the last two seasons, not hard to argue he's a better football player than former Rebels teammate and combine star Metcalf. Brown can play outside or could move into the slot and become more of a mismatch than Randall Cobb was.
31. Patriots (from Rams) — N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State: New England does a deal with its Super Bowl opponent, surrendering both of its second-round picks for L.A.'s spot at the back of Round 1. Harry is big (6-2, 228), physical, athletic and productive and can also handle return duties. Sounds like a pretty good option given Tom Brady's been stripped of so many targets — and the recent retirement of TE Rob Gronkowski, well after the free agency period began, may force Bill Belichick to break character and move up the draft board rather than his preferred pattern of dealing down.
32. Patriots — Daniel Jones, QB, Duke: They've got to plan for life post-Brady at some point. Right? With veteran backup Brian Hoyer heading into a contract year, it might also be time to create some competition behind TB12. Beyond that, it makes sense for New England to snag a passer here because it can control a first rounder's future one year longer than a player taken 33rd or later.
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis