Chariton Iowa is buzzing about hometown hero T.J. Hockenson's NFL Draft prospects Zachary Boyden-Holmes, DesMoines
It won't be long until the 2019 NFL draft flips from projection to reflection.
Uncertainty still abounds ahead of the start of the first round tonight in Nashville. But with time running out, here's USA TODAY Sports' final mock draft and first-round projection:
1. Cardinals — Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma: What's left to say after nearly four months of speculation? New coach Kliff Kingsbury maintained Tuesday that the team hadn't arrived at a decision with the pick, but spurning Murray for a defensive lineman would represent one of the biggest draft stunners in recent history. Even if Josh Rosen deserves better than the chances he was afforded as a rookie, Kingsbury needs to bring some heat to the desert with his offense, and Murray seems like the right fit to do it.
2. 49ers — Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State: There shouldn't be much mystery here. A balanced counterpart to edge rusher Dee Ford, Bosa presents the best value for a defense that could use help at seemingly every level.
3. Jets — Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama: Absent a quarterback-desperate team getting trigger-happy to trade up and grab a passer, Mike Maccagnan might be stuck in this spot. Hard to feel too bad for him, though, when there's a premier talent waiting in Williams, a stout yet slippery force on the interior who can disrupt plays in the backfield and hold up at the point of attack.
ALTERNATIVE MOCK: Nate Davis' take on the first round
DRAFT RANKINGS: Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams lead defense-heavy top 50
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AFC TEAM NEEDS: Will Patriots invest top picks in receiver, tight end?
4. Raiders — Josh Allen, DE/OLB, Kentucky: Might this be the point where the draft gets thrown for a loop? Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock should be open-minded about the possibilities in front of them, but Allen checks a lot of boxes - namely as someone who will jolt a pass rush that finished with a league-worst 13 sacks after last year's Khalil Mack trade.
5. Buccaneers — Devin White, LB, LSU: Six of the past seven drafts have featured at least one trade involving a pick in the top five, which has yet to materialize this year. Keep an eye on this spot for a possible deal should some team want to jump the Giants for a quarterback. If Tampa Bay stands pat, White stands out as a potentially stabilizing presence for a maligned defense.
6. Giants — Daniel Jones, QB, Duke: Imagine what the reaction to this would be if the draft were still being held in New York. Much as Dave Gettleman might want to fortify his front seven at this spot, waiting to see which quarterback falls to him at 17 seems excessively risky if he knows which passer he wants. Jones faces several hurdles to becoming an accomplished downfield thrower, but the Giants can bring him while Eli Manning holds down the starting role for another year.
7. Jaguars — T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa: While Tom Coughlin and Co. search for offensive cornerstones for new quarterback Nick Foles, the Mackey Award winner stands out as a double dip for both the passing game as a trusted target and the ground attack as a rugged blocker.
8. Lions — Jonah Williams, OT/G, Alabama: Maybe the first big surprise of the top 10? Having signaled his intention to move back, Bob Quinn doesn't seem too keen on drafting in this spot and could call on the reliable Williams to be his third first-round offensive lineman in four years.
9. Bills — Ed Oliver, DT, Houston: A natural at creating chaos in the passing game, Oliver should find fans in Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott, who lack a disruptive presence in the middle.
10. Broncos — Devin Bush, LB, Michigan: Exhibiting restraint in drafting a quarterback could prove challenging for John Elway even after the arrival of Joe Flacco, but Bush would be a fitting piece for Vic Fangio's scheme and another embodiment of the win-now mentality.
11. Bengals — Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State: No one would fault new coach Zac Taylor for letting his gaze wander from Andy Dalton. If he grows more comfortable in the face of pressure and shifting looks from the defense, Haskins has considerable upside as a locked-in thrower who can threaten defenses at every level of the field.
12. Packers — Noah Fant, TE, Iowa: New coach Matt LaFleur said at the NFL scouting combine that tight end is "an extremely important position" because of certain players' ability to create mismatches against safeties and linebackers ... which sounds exactly like the kind of explanation he would give after selecting Fant.
13. Dolphins — Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida: Miami doesn't look in prime condition to integrate a rookie quarterback given the state of its offensive line. Chris Grier and Brian Flores can address that deficiency here and lay the groundwork for picking a passer in 2020.
14. Falcons — Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson: Pairing franchise-tagged Grady Jarrett with the slippery Wilkins would give Atlanta a formidable interior rush capable of igniting the pressure that Dan Quinn craves.
15. Redskins — Drew Lock, QB, Missouri: Turning to a strong-armed but unsteady passer in the aftermath of Alex Smith's leg injury would be quite the sea change for Washington's offense, and perhaps a somewhat welcome one given the dearth of big plays from the passing attack last season.
BOOM OR BUST: Drew Lock, Rashan Gary among 13 boom-or-bust prospects
16. Panthers — Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State: Cam Newton is long overdue for a long-term investment in a blindside protector, and Dillard is the most experienced and fleet-footed option in this class.
17. Giants (from Browns) — Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan: A homecoming for the New Jersey product might be just the thing to help the former No. 1 overall recruit tap into his considerable potential.
18. Vikings — Cody Ford, OT/G, Oklahoma: Shifting parts along the offensive line likely could be end up troublesome, so the simplest path for an upgrade up front might be sliding Ford in at guard to push around anyone trying to level Kirk Cousins or Dalvin Cook.
19. Titans — Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State: Even if he has to sit as a rookie while recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Simmons is a top-10 talent who would be worth the wait.
20. Steelers — Byron Murphy, CB, Washington: General manager Kevin Colbert has detailed his change of heart on cornerbacks and growing interest in players who can create turnovers, and Murphy is as good as anyone at this class on getting a break on the ball.
21. Seahawks — Brian Burns, DE, Florida State: After trading Frank Clark to the Chiefs, Seattle can turn to the bendy Burns as its new pass-rushing maven off the edge.
22. Ravens — Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma: With no second-round pick, Baltimore can't afford to pass up a dynamic deep threat like Brown as it looks to surround Lamar Jackson with more playmakers in Year 2.
23. Texans — Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina State: If Houston is to unlock its offense's full potential, it has to find a smooth-moving offensive lineman like Bradbury to safeguard Deshaun Watson and open holes in the running game.
24. Raiders (from Bears) — Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama: Bye bye, Beast Mode. With Marshawn Lynch retiring once again, per multiple reports, Oakland gets a bell-cow back who can make a significant mark in the passing game.
25. Eagles — Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson: Philadelphia's rotation of defensive ends could stand to get younger and find a mainstay on the edge opposite Derek Barnett.
26. Colts — Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State: His punishing hits against receivers and running backs alike could set the tone for a defense stocking up on young talent after Darius Leonard's stellar debut campaign.
27. Raiders (from Cowboys) — Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College: With the last of his three first-round picks, Mayock gives a nod to his alma mater - and affords Derek Carr additional relief as the offense looks to incorporate Antonio Brown.
28. Chargers — Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame: Scraping by with Brandon Mebane and spare parts at defensive tackle seems foolhardy, so picking up Tillery to help push the pocket would be a shrewd move.
29. Seahawks (from Chiefs) — D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss: Pete Carroll's affinity for supersized wide receivers could push him toward Metcalf, a deep-ball dynamo whose route running will require polishing.
30. Packers (from Saints) - Dalton Risner, OT/G, Kansas State: A throwback blocker for a new-school regime, Risner can put his savvy to work either as Bryan Bulaga's successor at right tackle or as a guard.
31. Rams — Erik McCoy, C, Texas A&M: Solidifying the interior with a versatile pivot like McCoy would go a long way toward ensuring Jared Goff stays on track and Todd Gurley gets back on it.
32. Patriots — A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss: With six picks in the first 101 selections, Bill Belichick won't be cowed into taking a pass catcher earlier than he's prepared to. But finding at least one target in the early going should be on his to-do list, and the big-bodied Brown would be a worthy selection as the first receiver to be selected by New England in the first round during Belichick's reign.
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.
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