As the NFL Draft rapidly approaches, Stanford Daily sports reporters Tammer Bagdasarian, Drew Silva and Zach Zafran attempt to predict all 32 first-round picks in a mock draft. This article is the first of two installments ahead of the first round of picks on Thursday.
Pick 32: Detroit Lions (from Los Angeles Rams) — Thomas Booker, DE, Stanford
The Lions will likely use the second overall pick on a player they hope will be their defensive end of the future. But if the star pick doesn’t pan out, they can certainly bank on Booker, a player with explosive lower body strength and an appreciation for the nitty gritty details of the game of football. The Stanford product offers an otherworldly size that will make you go, “Oh wow,” if you walk past him outside of Arrillaga Family Dining Commons. His output wasn’t the strongest over the last two years, but this deficit was largely because opposing teams keyed in on him nearly every play. With a greater talent pool around him, Booker’s strength could complement a pass rush that the team will look for improved production from Week 1.
Pick 31: Cincinnati Bengals — Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
After watching what Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp did to Eli Apple in the Super Bowl, the Bengals would certainly not be against bringing in some competition at the cornerback position. Booth’s long arms, positioning and strength in the run game make him a prime candidate for a potential Apple replacement. Booth has shown the ball skills necessary to play through the receiver, as well as shut down both short and long routes. The only thing that could hold the Bengals back from drafting Booth: he did not go to LSU. Geaux Tigers!
Pick 30: Kansas City Chiefs — George Pickens, WR, Georgia
The Chiefs need receiver help. After the team traded Tyreek Hill away to the Dolphins, Juju Smith-Schuster is Patrick Mahomes’s top weapon, and though Marquez Valdez-Scantling is an always-dangerous deep threat, he cannot be expected to receive a high volume of targets next year. If the Chiefs decide not to trade up in this draft, the options will be slim by pick 30. Still, George Pickens could be a great-value option. Before suffering a torn ACL in his final college season, Pickens was chalk for the first round of the draft. Despite the injury, Pickens still possesses strong athletic tools, has a wide catch radius and could work well in a Patrick Mahomes offense.
Pick 29: Kansas City Chiefs (from San Francisco 49ers through Miami Dolphins) — David Ojabo, DE, Michigan
With an offense like the Chiefs’, bolstering the defense should continue to be the top priority of this front office. Although Chris Jones and Frank Clark have proven themselves as respectable edge rushers, Ojabo offers a ceiling that can’t be passed up, especially with the number of picks that Chiefs hold (12!). With his limited playing time at Michigan and a recovery ahead of him after a torn Achilles during his pro day, Ojabo is certainly a project. But his continued improvement in the long-term is something that the Chiefs should be willing to invest in.
Pick 28: Green Bay Packers — Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
After parting ways with Za’Darius Smith this offseason, Green Bay could look to draft his replacement. Many view Lloyd as the best linebacker in the draft, despite the majority of his college games coming against flimsy Pac-12 offenses. A long, athletic linebacker, he would leave several teams foaming at the mouths if he were still on the board at 28. Lloyd’s explosiveness and high football IQ could aid the Packers’ quest to be regular-season champions. Green Bay could also elect to take an offensive lineman in Trevor Penning or a defensive end like Minnesota’s Boye Mafe, but it would be difficult to pass on Lloyd this late in the first round.
Pick 27: Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Kenyon Green, G, Texas A&M
The Buccaneers will be looking to fill a gaping hole on the offensive line left by the retirement of Ali Marpet. Though the team is also in need of wide receiver help, the WR class is not deep enough for a first-round option to be available at 27. Instead, Tampa may mine for gold in the depths of a dense offensive-line class. Kenyon Green is a big body and can create all sorts of tunnels for the Tampa run game, taking some of the burden off Tom Brady in what could be his final NFL season. Though Green is not the best pass blocker in the draft class, that shouldn’t be much of a problem for the Bucs offense — Brady gets rid of the football faster than almost any other QB in the league.
Pick 26: Tennessee Titans — Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
The Titans brought back Ben Jones at center, but his time on the gridiron is winding down. Linderbaum not only offers a strong, long-term solution to anchor the offensive line, but also enters the draft as “the best center prospect we’ve seen in the PFF College era,” according to Pro Football Focus. Linderbaum may not have the prototypical positional size, weighing in at under 300 pounds, but his ability to translate a unique balance and agility into explosiveness make this pick an easy one for the Titans.
Pick 25: Buffalo Bills — Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
After losing Levi Wallace to free agency, drafting his replacement could appease the qualms of Bills Mafia. Adding a long, physical, fast corner in Elam will strengthen an already-elite Buffalo defense. Elam could be the missing piece in a strong secondary spearheaded by Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. Elam’s ability to attack the catch point could help fill the only hole in the Bills’ defense and could contribute to another Super Bowl run. The only other hole in this Buffalo roster could be at running back, but no running back prospects in this year’s draft have garnered much first-round attention. If the Bills are sold on him as the missing piece of the puzzle, however, don’t be surprised to see Iowa State’s Breece Hall join the young offensive core of Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis and Dawson Knox.
Pick 24: Seattle Seahawks (from Dallas Cowboys) — Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Let’s start with the facts: Desmond Ridder is not just a quarterback. He is also a father. Child-rearing begets maturity. And with a shaky Seattle team that is in the market for a leader, a parent if you will (and don’t try to tell me Drew Lock can fill that role), Ridder is a perfect fit. Throughout the draft process, the Bearcat phenom has been criminally slept on. His IQ and vision are second to none. His arm strength is right there with the best of them, and he has the ability to read a variety of different offensive schemes. Comparing him to this QB draft class, Ridder is every bit the quarterback talent that Malik Willis is, and at the moment he is far more NFL-ready. One of the only knocks on Ridder is that he is not as athletic as his draft competition — but he is still athletic enough. He has a unique capacity to create offensive opportunities out of structure, a skill that is highly valuable in the NFL. Unlike draft busts like Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, his footwork is admirable: never flat-footed but rarely frantic. He can reset his feet with composure after scrambling out of the pocket, stay light on his toes and position himself to always be in the right spot to make a play. Finally, he does a great job at finding the second and third options on offense. In Seattle, instead of having to rely on one designed route per play, he will be able to fully unlock the talent of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett and keep the defense on edge.
Pick 23: Arizona Cardinals — Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia
If there’s one thing that the second half of the 2021 NFL season revealed, it’s that for Arizona to make the shift from pretenders to contenders, it needs to bolster its defensive front. The Cardinals have talent at the edge, but no one reliable on the interior. While recent mock drafts have seen Wyatt slip, the Cardinals should have no hesitation in selecting him if still available at this point. The athletic defensive tackle offers versatility and a hybrid-like playstyle that fits into the culture that Kliff Kingsbury seeks to maintain.
Pick 22: Green Bay Packers (from Las Vegas Raiders) — Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
The Packers acquired this draft pick in a deal that sent All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams to Las Vegas, and Green Bay should certainly consider using this pick to improve a wide receiving corps that consists of Allen Lazard and the shells of Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins. Sure, Watkins will probably post a 10-catch, 150-yard, two-touchdown performance in Week 1, but this group will certainly not appease the demands of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. A big, physical receiver, Burks could help fuel the Packers to another NFC Championship Game loss. Despite a 40-yard dash time slower than expected at the NFL Combine, Burks certainly has substantial speed, especially given his size.
Pick 21: New England Patriots — Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
I have one word for you: bend. The slightly undersized Bulldog has it. He can slip around the edge with ease, automatically putting slower linemen and blockers on their heels. His ankle flexibility is better than most NFL rushers, and it’s a trait that players tend to maintain throughout their careers. Additionally, his smaller size allows him to bounce between guards and absorb contact. He can seal up the A gaps on the line while simultaneously scouting the B and C gaps when the running back is forced to find a second option. The speedy-blitz specialist has caught the eye of NFL scouts quickly. Rumor even has it that Bill Belichick stayed behind an extra day at the UGA pro day after his staff left just so that he could watch Dean.
Pick 20: Minnesota Vikings trade from Pittsburgh Steelers — Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
Patrick Peterson is a dominant cornerback … is something someone would have said a few years ago. But the year is 2022, and while Peterson still has fuel left in the tank, the Vikings should no longer expect to see the All-Pro we have seen in the past. It doesn’t help that Cameron Dantzler is the next man up at this position. Selecting McDuffie here makes complete sense for Minnesota: outside of size, he excels in every area you want to see from a cornerback. Plus, he’s likely to make a big impact, even as a rookie.
Pick 19: New Orleans Saints (from Philadelphia Eagles) — Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Despite being behind college teammate Garrett Wilson on most big boards, Chris Olave should be able to help revive a New Orleans offense that struggled last year. With the returns of Heisman Trophy winner/notorious crab leg enthusiast Jameis Winston and former All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas, New Orleans will certainly be looking to return to the postseason despite losing their head coach Sean Payton.
Pick 18: Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans Saints) — George Karlaftis, DT, Purdue
If Karlaftis drops to 18, the Eagles would be a very lucky team. Karlaftis’s main form of training is MMA-style, something that is clearly apparent in his playstyle. His hand-fighting skills are off the charts, helping him work past clueless linemen. His athleticism and quickness are not far off from Aidan Hutchinson, and despite his short arms and upright rushing style, he does not have too many weaknesses. Look out for Karlaftis to become the Greek Freak of the NFL.
Pick 17: Los Angeles Chargers — Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Davis doesn’t offer much versatility, but he is a stud at what he does. He’s a physical specimen, one whose ability to fill the gaps will require special attention from the interior offensive line. His sheer size and power will enable the Chargers’ edge rushers to go to work at full capacity. Considering he’ll be lining up alongside Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, selecting Davis could lead to a premier defensive line — a major recipe for success.