NFL Mock Draft: what I would do

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  1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett: DE – Texas A&M

With the first pick, I’d take the best player on my board. Myles Garrett is hands down the best prospect in this draft class. He plays a premium position, and he was the most impactful player on the field every game. This is a no-brainer.

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  1. San Francisco 49ers: Malik Hooker: FS – Ohio State

Many experts are projecting the 49ers to take Solomon Thomas, but I wouldn’t draft a defensive lineman in the first round for the third straight year. I think new general manager John Lynch will look to take someone at the position he played in the NFL. Although most draft experts prefer Jamal Adams, I think Malik Hooker is the best safety in the draft. He isn’t as versatile as Adams, but he’s an overall better player. He is extremely instinctive and has amazing ball skills. His range reminds me of Earl Thomas. He’s the perfect centerfielder to cover up mistakes made by the underneath coverage. Hooker is the second best player on my board and fills a need for the 49ers.

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  1. Chicago Bears: Jamal Adams: S – LSU

The Bears need help on the back end of their defense, so drafting Jamal Adams would be an ideal pick. Adams can play both free safety and strong safety, but I think he’s at his best as a strong safety playing in-the-box. He can cover tight ends and running backs in man coverage, and seems to always be around the ball. He’d be an immediate impact player in Chicago’s defense.

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  1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette: RB – LSU

Jaguars’ new CEO Tom Coughlin needs to find a way to help out quarterback Blake Bortles. I think getting a bell cow running back would be the best way to help take pressure off of Bortles. Coughlin loves this type of running back, so this seems like a perfect marriage. Fournette is the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, and he has a lot of similarities to Peterson. Although this is a deep running back class and the position has been devalued over the last few years, I think Fournette is worth being a top five pick. He’s the third best player on my board, so I think this is a good value pick that fills a need.

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  1. Tennessee Titans: Marshon Lattimore: CB – Ohio State

The Titans need to take either a wide receiver or cornerback with this pick, so I gave them the best cornerback in this draft. Mike Williams and Corey Davis would make sense here, but I think Lattimore is the better player. Although he only played one season as a starter at Ohio State, Lattimore showed he is talented enough to play in any scheme. The Titans play one of the most complex schemes under Dick LeBeau, and Lattimore has the skills to slide in as a day one starter and dominate. He had some injury concerns in college, but he’s too talented to pass on here.

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  1. New York Jets: Marlon Humphrey: CB – Alabama

This is the first shocker of my mock draft, but I’m a lot higher on Humphrey than most people in the draft community. He’s the second corner on my big board, and he’s only slightly behind Lattimore. Humphrey is a big physical corner with great athleticism. The only concern that I have is his ability to track the ball in the air. He got destroyed at times when teams attacked him down the field (like the title game against Mike Williams). Most draft experts see him as a mid-first round pick, but if he’s picked that high he’s going to be expected to improve at tracking the ball in the air. If a team is willing to pick him in the mid-first round and expect his ball skills to improve, then I’m willing to bet on him improving enough to be worthy of a top ten pick. If he didn’t have that one concern, he would be rated above Lattimore. I know he won’t go this high in the draft, but if I were in charge of the Jets I would draft him as a day one starting cornerback.

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  1. Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams: WR – Clemson

Although the Chargers would love one of the top safeties (Hooker or Adams) to fall to them, they should be happy to take the best wide receiver in the draft. The Chargers should be in win-now mode during the last few years of the Philip Rivers era. Keenan Allen is very talented, but he hasn’t proven that he can stay healthy. I like both Mike Williams and Corey Davis as high first round picks, but I give a slight edge to Williams. I have heard Williams described as a “separate in the air” receiver and Davis as a “separate on the ground” receiver. This is partly true, but I think Williams can separate on the ground better than he’s given credited for. He isn’t an elite athlete, but he’s a big physical receiver with enough route savvy to separate. He reminds me of Dez Bryant, and should be able to have a similar impact with a quarterback of Philip Rivers’ caliber.

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  1. Carolina Panthers: Solomon Thomas: DE – Stanford

I’m not as high on Solomon Thomas as most people in the draft community, but I still think he’s worthy of a top ten selection. The Carolina Panthers could use help on their defensive line, and he’s the best defensive end other than Myles Garrett. I like Jonathan Allen more as a defensive player, but Thomas plays a more premium position and fills a need more than Allen. Thomas has been compared to Michael Bennett because of his ability to play end on first and second down, then slide down to tackle on third down (pass rushing downs). I don’t think Thomas is as skilled as Bennett, but he’s a versatile defender with enough ability to make an impact on all three downs.

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  1. Cincinnati Bengals: Reuben Foster: ILB – Alabama

As a football player, Reuben Foster is worth a top ten pick. But the draft season hasn’t been kind to Foster, which could make him slide in this draft. I’d still take him in the top ten if I was able to validate his character (teams will do their homework, I don’t have the ability to interview him). Foster was kicked out of the combine because he got into an altercation with medical personnel. Foster also failed a drug test at the combine. This is a huge red flag because everyone knows they will get tested at the combine. But as a football player, Foster is a sideline-to-sideline middle linebacker and is equally great against the run and pass. He was the leader of an elite Alabama defense. Cincinnati needs to add speed to their linebacking corps, and Foster is the best player available at a position of need for the Bengals.

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  1. Buffalo Bills: Deshaun Watson: QB – Clemson

Although the Bills still have Tyrod Taylor, I view him more as a bridge quarterback than a franchise quarterback. He’s got enough skill to lead a team to the playoffs, but I’m not high on his long-term potential. Deshaun Watson is my top quarterback in this class, and I think he’d be a long-term upgrade over Taylor. Watson could use a year on the bench. When evaluating quarterbacks, I value leadership, winning, and helping teammates play up to their potential more than any other position. Watson checks off those boxes with flying colors. Being accurate and making good decisions are the most important traits for quarterbacks. Watson is usually accurate and usually makes good decisions, but he does have room for improvement in these two areas. His offense at Clemson doesn’t translate well to the NFL game, so it may take him time to learn Buffalo’s offense. He doesn’t have the upside of DeShone Kizer or Patrick Mahomes, but his floor is much higher. He’s going to be a good NFL quarterback, and he could be great if Buffalo gets the right pieces around him.

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  1. New Orleans Saints: Jonathan Allen: DT – Alabama

There’s been a lot of talk in the draft community that Allen will slide in the draft, but I think he’s still a top ten player in the draft. He goes off the board at number eleven because he doesn’t play a premium position. Allen didn’t have a great combine, but I’d rather have a great football player and decent athlete than a decent football player and great athlete. Jonathan Allen is a good enough athlete to give offensive lineman fits. He’s a very smart player with great technique. The Saints have issues all over their defense, so I’ll give them a plug-and-play defensive lineman that can help against the pass and run.

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  1. Cleveland Browns: Mitchell Trubisky: QB – North Carolina

The Cleveland Browns needs to add a quarterback in this draft. With two picks in the first round, I think taking a quarterback with this selection is necessary. There isn’t a quarterback worthy of being selected ahead of Myles Garrett, so I gave them the best quarterback available with this pick. With Watson already off the board, Mitchell Trubisky is the best quarterback that the Browns can select. Trubisky was the best quarterback on tape this season, but he only started for one season. He struggled towards the end of the season, which could be a sign that teams were figuring out how to defend him. Trubisky is a better athlete than he’s given credit for, and he’s got a live arm. He is a very accurate thrower but sometimes makes mistakes reading coverages. This issue could be because of his lack of reps, which will be alleviated in time. I like Trubisky and think he’ll be a good NFL quarterback. The Browns need to keep picking quarterbacks until one sticks, and Trubisky is the best one available with this pick.

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  1. Arizona Cardinals: Corey Davis: WR – Western Michigan

Although Corey Davis hasn’t been able to work out during this draft season, I would still take him high in the first round. His tape shows he’s an explosive athlete, and I would’ve expected him to run a low 4.4 40 yard dash if he was healthy during the NFL Combine. I think Davis will develop into a star #1 wide receiver, especially if he’s able to learn from a future Hall of Famer in Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals need a number two receiver now that they’ve cut Michael Floyd (John Brown is a #3 receiver), and Davis can be that receiver day one. He’s able to run any route and can lineup both inside and outside. Although I like Mike Williams a little more, I think Davis will be a great pick for the Cardinals.

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  1. Philadelphia Eagles: Chidobe Awuzie: CB – Colorado

The Eagles need help in their secondary, so I’ll give them a player that I’m higher on than most in the draft community. Awuzie was one of the main reasons for the turnaround at Colorado last season. He’s a six foot corner with good athleticism. He’s a classic man coverage corner and can play inside or outside. He even has the skills to play safety at the next level. His ball skills aren’t a strength, but his hands are good enough to create some takeaways. I don’t think he’s best as a zone corner, but I think he could manage to play zone coverage at times. He probably won’t be selected this high, but I’d take him in the mid-first round if I needed a cornerback that can play both outside and as a nickel corner.

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  1. Indianapolis Colts: Haason Reddick: LB – Temple

Nobody has helped themselves more during the draft process than Haason Reddick. He was seen by most in the draft community as a mid-round pick after his season ended, but has excelled every step of the way during his draft process. He played as an undersized defensive end in college, but will have to move to linebacker in the pros. He showed he can make the transition by dominating at the Senior Bowl and NFL combine. He could probably play all three linebacker positions in a 4-3 defense and all four linebacker positions in a 3-4 defense. Reddick could also play as a defensive end on obvious passing downs. His versatility and elite athleticism has vaulted him up draft boards. Indianapolis needs help on their defense, and adding a linebacker with pass rushing talent like Reddick would be a great selection.

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  1. Baltimore Ravens: Derek Barnett: DE – Tennessee

Derek Barnett is a professional pass rusher. He is stout against the run, but will make his money getting after the quarterback in the NFL. Barnett isn’t an elite athlete, but he’s a great technician with a high motor. He needs to add a few counter moves for situations when his initial move is stopped, but that’s something that can be coached into him by NFL coaches. He’s got violent hands and understands how to use leverage to defeat his opponents. He broke Reggie White’s career sack record at Tennessee, which shows how great he was in college. Although college production doesn’t always translate to the professional level, Barnett is too talented to not make an impact wherever he is drafted. The Ravens could use pass rushing help, and Barnett can step in and start day one and become a ten sack per season pass rusher.

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  1. Washington Redskins: Jabrill Peppers: S – Michigan

Jabrill Peppers is one of the most polarizing players in this draft. Some draft experts don’t like him because he didn’t play one position in college. He was extremely versatile, but didn’t show the ability to do anything at an elite level (except as a returner). The reason he wasn’t able to show elite traits on defense was because of the plethora of roles he was forced to learn. It’s hard to maximize your potential when you are spreading yourself extremely thin. He’s a very versatile defender and gets compared to Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon. I think he’s more of a combination of the two than one or the other (Mathieu is a safety-corner hybrid, Bucannon is a safety-linebacker hybird). For me, this is an extremely simple evaluation. Peppers is an elite football player. I think he can do anything on the field if he focuses on that one role. I think he could be an in-the-box safety, single-high free safety, nickel corner, in-the-box dime linebacker, running back, slot wide receiver, or elite returner. He’s talented enough to fill any of these roles if he’s given a chance. You could also use Peppers as a matchup defensive player whose role changes week-to-week depending on the opposing team’s personnel. I’d also like to see Peppers play offense on occasion because he’s elite with the ball in his hands. He’ll be an elite returner day one, and should develop into a great defender if he’s coached up.

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  1. Tennessee Titans: O.J. Howard: TE – Alabama

Although the Titans have a greater need at wide receiver, I think O.J. Howard is too good to pass on. They already have Delanie Walker, but it doesn’t hurt adding another starter-quality tight end to this roster. This selection came down to Howard or John Ross, and I chose to give the Titans the better player. Howard can be an asset for Marcus Mariota in the passing game, but he’s also a physical blocker that can open holes for DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. I think Howard is a top ten player in this draft, but he’ll slide because of the position he plays and the depth at the tight end position in this draft. Howard would be a great fit in Tennessee.

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  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dalvin Cook: RB – Florida State

Dalvin Cook’s draft stock has taken a hit since the season ended, but I still think he’s worth a mid-first round pick. He’s an elite running back prospect that can catch the ball out of the backfield. He didn’t have a good day at the combine, but I think it’s easier for an elite athlete to have a bad day at the combine than a bad athlete to have a great day. I’ll give Cook the benefit of the doubt because of what I’ve seen on tape. Cook wouldn’t have to go far from Tallahassee to Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers can’t count on Doug Martin, so moving on with a talent like Cook would be the decision I’d make.

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  1. Denver Broncos: David Njoku: TE – Miami

Although drafting an offensive tackle would fill a bigger need for the Broncos, I don’t think they can pass on an athlete like David Njoku. I’m not as high on Njoku as most people in the draft community, but I think he can develop into an elite pass catching tight end. He’s extremely young, so it will take time to coach him up. But this is a long-term play that could pay off handsomely if he reaches his potential. There aren’t any elite offensive lineman in this draft, so I would take a player with elite potential over a decent offensive lineman.

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  1. Detroit Lions: Jarrad Davis: LB – Florida

I’ve been a huge Jarrad Davis fan for two seasons. When preparing for last year’s NFL Draft, I was distracted by Davis when watching Florida draft prospects. I was trying to watch particular players but kept getting distracted by #40. Turns out that #40 was Jarrad Davis. His tape was better last season than this season, but he was dealing with injuries. He wasn’t able to work out at the combine, but showed off elite athleticism at his pro day. He is an instinctual linebacker that can play the run and pass. I think he can play all three linebacker spots in a 4-3 defense (although he’d be best inside) and inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. The Lions need help at linebacker after cutting former Pro Bowler DeAndre Levy, and Davis could be a day one starter that becomes a leader for their defense. He’s one of my favorite players in the draft, so it would take me all of five seconds to make the decision to draft him if I was running the Lions on draft day.

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  1. Miami Dolphins: Forrest Lamp: T/G/C – Western Kentucky

I love Lamp! Forrest Lamp is my highest rated offensive lineman in this daft. Although he’ll likely be moved inside to guard (or center) at the next level, I’d try him at tackle and force him to prove he can’t play outside before moving him inside. Watching him play left tackle against Alabama was one of the most impressive game tapes I’ve seen all draft season. He was dominant against Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, and Ryan Anderson. With the offensive tackle crisis in the NFL, I think it’s more important to have a good tackle than a great guard. It’s a lot easier to find a guard than a tackle, so why not try Lamp outside? I had the same opinion about tackles-turned-guards Zack Martin, Joel Bitonio, and Brandon Scherff. The Dolphins need help on their offensive line (especially at guard if last year’s first round pick Laremy Tunsil moves to left tackle), so I’ll give them the best and most versatile lineman in this draft.

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  1. New York Giants: Garett Bolles: OT – Utah

Although he only started one season at Utah, Garett Bolles is my top rated pure offensive tackle prospect. He has an incredible story that led him to Utah, and is generally someone that I’d root for. The way he’s overcome his past shows how mature he’ll be as a player. He isn’t someone that you’ll have to worry about when you draft him. He needs to clean up his technique in pass protection, but he has the skill set to become elite with NFL coaching. He’s already a mauler in the run game, and should be an instant upgrade over Ereck Flowers at left tackle. If I was in charge of the Giants, I’d draft the top tackle on my board in Bolles and play him as a day one starter at left tackle.

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  1. Oakland Raiders: Christian McCaffrey: RB/WR – Stanford

I’m not as high on McCaffrey as many draft experts are, but I think he’s a nice gadget player that could make an impact on the right team. I learned my lesson with gadget players by overvaluing Tavon Austin (although I think he’d be good on a team that isn’t as clueless as the Rams), but I think taking McCaffrey in the late first round is fine. I don’t think McCaffrey is as electric as Austin, but he is a bit more versatile. I think McCaffrey will never be a workhorse running back, but he’d be perfect as a change-of-pace back that can lineup in the slot as a receiver. I think he can run the ball outside, but I have concerns about him running between the tackles. Honestly, I think he’s a better receiver than running back. He’s essentially a bigger Danny Woodhead with elite returner skills. I think Oakland could use a player with McCaffrey’s skill set, so I’d take him if I was running the Raiders.

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  1. Houston Texans: Ryan Ramczyk: OT – Wisconsin

Although he only started one season at Wisconsin, Ryan Ramczyk is one of the safest players in the draft. Ramczyk has an interesting past that led him to Wisconsin including going to welding school, but he had a change of heart and decided to pursue football. Clearly he made the right decision. Ramczyk will be a plug-and-play tackle at the next level. Although he’ll probably play right tackle for the Texans, he could eventually move to left tackle when the team moves on from Duane Brown. Right tackles have become a more important position in the NFL because teams are putting their best pass rushers on the left side of their defensive line. Houston needs offensive line help, and Ramczyk would be an ideal first round pick for the Texans.

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  1. Seattle Seahawks: Cam Robinson: OT – Alabama

The Seahawks desperately need help on their offensive line. Their center Justin Britt was the only starter that wasn’t terrible last season. Last year’s first round pick Germain Ifedi struggled, but he has the upside that could make him a good player as a guard or right tackle. Cam Robinson didn’t play as consistently last season as most people expected, but he has more upside than any offensive lineman in this draft. He’s already more talented than every other offensive lineman on the Seahawks roster, and should be a day one starter at left tackle over former basketball player (and soon-to-be former football player) George Fant. Tom Cable is a genius and should be able to coach up Robinson to become an elite talent at left tackle. This pick is a no-brainer.

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  1. Kansas City Chiefs: John Ross: WR – Washington

Everyone freaked out when John Ross broke the combine record by running a 4.22 40 yard dash. Since then, he’s vaulted up most draft experts’ draft boards. I’m not going to make that same mistake. Before the combine, we all knew that John Ross was incredibly fast and injury prone. He proved it at the combine when he ran a record breaking 40 yard dash and got hurt in the process. Before the combine I thought he was a late first round pick, and I’m not going to change my evaluation after watching him run in shorts. John Ross isn’t just a speedy athlete, he’s a legit wide receiver prospect. I think he’s best suited to play inside where he won’t have to deal with getting pressed at the line of scrimmage. The Chiefs need wide receiver help. Tyreke Hill is a gadget player and Jeremy Maclin is aging, so they need to add some youth to the position. Travis Kelce is a phenomenal receiving tight end, but they need someone else to catch the football. They could use a taller outside receiver more than Ross, but it’s hard to pass on his talent. They could keep developing Chris Conley as an outside receiver and allow Ross and Hill to be their slot receivers. With Ross falling this far in the draft, I’d gladly take him if I was running the Chiefs.

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  1. Dallas Cowboys: Tre’Davious White: CB – LSU

Tre’Davious White is the latest cornerback that will be drafted from “DBU”. Although many experts see him as a second round pick, I would take him late in the first round if I was drafting for a team that needs cornerback help. The Dallas Cowboys have an elite offense, but need more playmakers on defense if they want to compete for a championship. White doesn’t have the size that many teams covet in their cornerbacks, but he’s a great competitor that can play in any defensive scheme. White has the ability to play outside or inside as a nickel corner. The Cowboys need help in their secondary, and White could become a day one starter. Although he doesn’t have elite upside, I would draft White and make him my number two corner in Dallas.

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  1. Green Bay Packers: Joe Mixon: RB – Oklahoma

Yes, I understand that this is a controversial pick. Joe Mixon committed a horrible act by knocking out a female student while at Oklahoma. I think one team will overlook his past and draft him based on his abilities as a running back. If he didn’t have character concerns, Mixon would be a top ten pick. He’s the best versatile running back in this draft. He compares favorably to Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson because of his abilities as a runner and receiver. The Packers have Ty Montgomery as their starting running back, but I think he’s more of a change-of-pace gadget player. Joe Mixon could be their day one starter if they are comfortable with his character. If I was okay with Mixon’s past (which I would determine through an investigation that I can’t do), I would draft him if I was running the Green Bay Packers.

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  1. Pittsburgh Steelers: DeShone Kizer: QB – Notre Dame

Although I like DeShone Kizer more as a second round pick, I think he’s a great fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can still play at a high level, but he may only play a couple more seasons. Kizer reminds me a lot of Roethlisberger. He’s got great size and a huge arm, but was very inconsistent at Notre Dame. I like quarterbacks that are winners, leaders, and make their teammates better, which are concerns that I have about Kizer. He was on a talented Notre Dame team that could only win four games last season. His inconsistency was a huge part of their losing season. When he’s at his best, he can do things that no other quarterback prospect can do. His ceiling is higher than anyone else’s at his position. I think he’ll need one or two years on the bench, and there’s nobody better to learn from than Roethlisberger. If I was running the Steelers, I’d draft Roethlisberger’s successor in DeShone Kizer with the thirtieth pick.

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  1. Atlanta Falcons: DeMarcus Walker: DE/DT – Florida State

Yes, I might be the only person in the world who thinks DeMarcus Walker is a first round pick other than DeMarcus Walker himself, but I loved watching his tape and think he’ll be a great pro defensive lineman. Walker is scheme versatile, but I think he fits best in a 4-3 defense. The Atlanta Falcons need pass rushing help at both the defensive end and defensive tackle positions, and I think Walker is someone that can fill both roles at times. He’ll be a base end, but can slide inside to tackle on obvious passing downs. He’s a good run defender, but will make his money as a pass rusher at the next level. If I was running the Falcons, I’d have no issues drafting a player that many will say is a reach because I’m certain I’ll get the last laugh when he becomes a dominant player.

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  1. New Orleans Saints: Budda Baker: S – Washington

If Budda Baker was a few inches taller, he’d be a top ten pick. He’s every bit as talented as Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams, but he doesn’t have the size that NFL teams covet. When watching Washington’s draft prospects last season, I was amazed by the range and versatility of Baker. Although he’s small, he’s physical enough to play as an in-the-box strong safety. I think he’d make a great free safety, but many people see him as a nickel corner at the next level. His ability to lockdown receivers, tight ends, and running backs in man coverage will be extremely valuable if he plays as a nickel corner. I think the team that drafts him should use his versatility to their advantage. The Saints need a lot of help on defense, so drafting a player as talented and versatile as Baker could help them immensely. After taking Jonathan Allen with the eleventh pick, I think the Saints should take a defensive back with this pick. Budda Baker would be a day one starter for the Saints.

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