A mock draft can be as carefully crafted as possible, aligning the top prospects and positional needs with every team, acknowledging every franchise’s preferred draft method … and it still blows up as soon as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell steps to the podium and says, “We have a trade.”
So, in this version of the mock draft, we blew it up ahead of time. I’ve imagined a half-dozen trades throughout the 32 picks. Will quarterbacks be the targets in a trade-up situation? In most cases, yes, but some teams move with a non-quarterback in their sights. Tennessee Titans GM Jon Robinson did that last year to move down from No. 1, then moved back up on draft night to acquire all-pro offensive tackle Jack Conklin.
Will the Cleveland Browns start the movement at the top of the draft? Nope. Pick No. 12, however, is a different story.
1. Cleveland Browns — Myles Garrett, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
Previous projection: Browns — Garrett
The Browns won’t move this pick … if they’re smart.
*TRADE* 2. Carolina Panthers (from 49ers) — Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Previous: 49ers — Jamal Adams, S, LSU
The Panthers swap first-round picks (Carolina is at No. 8) with the 49ers and send the Niners one of their second-round picks and next year’s fifth rounder. The feeling right now is that the Panthers might be targeting LSU running back Leonard Fournette at No. 8, but they need more help defensively than you’d think.
The Panthers traded Kony Ealy to the Patriots and only have two aging veterans on the edge — Julius Peppers and Charles Johnson. Thomas is one of the draft’s hottest prospects at this point — hence the need to trade up — and will give Carolina youth and production in a 4-3 scheme. Thomas will play in the Panthers’ base defense on the outside, then bump inside on third down, next to Peppers or Johnson. That combination will be a nightmare for NFC South offensive lines.
3. Chicago Bears — Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
Previous: Bears — Allen
The Bears will listen to calls but they have to address a defensive front that allowed 121.9 rushing yards per game. Allen gives the Bears flexibility with their defensive scheme on all three downs. His medicals could impact his standing, given the fact his shoulders have been an issue. If they’re a major issue, he may fall a bit on draft night.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars — O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Previous: Jaguars — Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
The more I’ve thought about this pick, the more Howard makes more sense than Cook. The Jaguars can survive with T.J Yeldon and Chris Ivory in the backfield, with a running back target in the second round (D’Onta Foreman? Joe Mixon?). They can’t, however, live with their tight end situation. Howard can be the field-stretcher Julius Thomas was supposed to be when he signed in 2015.
*TRADE* 5. New Orleans Saints (from Tennessee from L.A. Rams) — Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Previous: Titans — Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
“Trader” Jon Robinson has two picks with which to wheel and deal in the first round and the Saints are willing to roll the dice. They’ll eventually make a deal for Malcolm Butler, as has been oft rumored, for the 32nd pick. That acquisition will help at corner, which allows the Saints to draft the best ball-hawking safety in this draft. Hooker might not be healthy enough to work out before the draft, but he’s the type of player the Saints have lacked for years. The Saints send their second-rounder this year and next year’s third-rounder to the Titans to complete the swap. The Saints also send their 32nd pick back to the Patriots for Butler.
6. New York Jets — Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Previous: Jets — Lattimore
GM Mike Maccagnan will eschew drafting a quarterback, banking on a potential second-round quarterback option (… or a later move in the first round. How’s that for foreshadowing?) to lock up the best cover corner in this draft.
7. Los Angeles Chargers — Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Previous: Chargers — Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
The Chargers get Keenan Allen back after a torn anterior cruciate ligament, but the Chargers don’t have a dynamic weapon at that position. QB Philip Rivers makes Dontrelle Inman, Tyrell Williams and company look better than they are, but Davis is a notch above all the Chargers’ current receiving options. He’ll star from Day 1, as long as he returns healthy from offseason surgery.
*TRADE* 8. San Francisco 49ers (from Carolina) — Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Previous: Panthers — Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
The 49ers have a trio at strong safety of Don Jones, Vinnie Sunseri and Marcus Ball. They could ultimately move Jaquiski Tartt to that position, but Adams is a much better option to play opposite former LSU star Eric Reid.
9. Cincinnati Bengals — Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Previous: Bengals — Foster
Foster is a heat-seeking missile at inside linebacker and would fit well next to Vontaze Burfict. The Bengals did sign Kevin Minter recently, but he’s no Reuben Foster. The former Alabama star could play any of the three linebacker positions and would solidify the second level next to Burfict. The Bengals may not be as concerned about the infamous combine incident as they will be about his health and medicals. If those check out, Foster could easily become a Bengal.
10. Buffalo Bills — Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Previous: Bills — Williams
The Bills will consider all the quarterbacks in this draft and take a quick look at next year’s crop. In the end, they’ll realize they can do better in 2018, if they find fault with Tyrod Taylor in 2017. Williams is the physical, intermediate option that’ll complement Sammy Watkins.
*TRADE* 11. Tennessee Titans (from New Orleans) — John Ross, WR, Washington
Previous: Saints — Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
The Titans must come out of the first round with a receiving weapon. Howard, Davis and Williams are all gone at this point, so Ross and his 4.22 speed are more than welcome in Nashville.
*TRADE* 12. New England Patriots (from Cleveland from Philadelphia) — Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
Previous: Browns — Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The Browns send the 12th pick, the 52nd pick and a future 2nd to the Patriots for Jimmy Garoppolo. With that 12th pick, the Patriots take the future replacement for Malcolm Butler, who appears to be on a short leash in New England.
13. Arizona Cardinals — Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Previous: Cardinals — O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Mahomes becomes the first quarterback off the board and goes to Arizona, the perfect situation for him. He’ll sit behind Carson Palmer and learn from Bruce Arians, who once schooled Mahomes’s football doppelganger, Ben Roethlisberger.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings) — Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Previous: Eagles — Adoree Jackson, CB, USC
Fournette will immediately become the hammer in this offense, taking on the Zeke Elliott role in Philadelphia. A Wentz-Fournette combination isn’t quite Prescott-Elliott … yet, but it’s a step in the right direction.
15. Indianapolis Colts — Malik McDowell, DT/DE, Michigan State
Previous: Colts — McDowell
New GM Chris Ballard has made some shrewd moves in free agency, acquiring youth for discount prices. McDowell, though, will immediately become the best interior player in a Colts jersey, no matter where he lines up.
16. Baltimore Ravens — Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Previous: Ravens — Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Cook will slide a bit on draft night, but he’s a perfect fit in Baltimore. The Ravens’ depth chart lacks a true go-to, all-around back like Cook. His fall is cushioned by the consummate landing spot.
17. Washington Redskins — Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Previous: Redskins — Reddick
Reddick can play any linebacker position, in any scheme, playing inside on first and second down, transitioning to an outside rush position on third down. Reddick is a chess piece that new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky would love to have against potent and diverse NFC East offenses.
18. Tennessee Titans — David Njoku, TE, Miami
Previous: Titans — Njoku
The Titans signed former Patriot Logan Ryan to satisfy their cornerback need and drafted Ross earlier in the night. It wouldn’t surprise me if this is a trade-up spot for a quarterback-starved team, but if the Titans hold onto the pick, Njoku makes sense as an athletic weapon alongside Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Previous: Buccaneers — Barnett
DE Noah Spence showed some potential as a rookie in 2016 and William Gholston re-signed with the Bucs after four seasons with the squad. Neither, however, can do what Barnett can. The former Volunteer has the potential to be a three-down player next to Gerald McCoy, setting the edge against the run, then rushing the edge opposite Spence.
20. Denver Broncos — Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Previous: Broncos — Garett Bolles, OT, Wisconsin
The Broncos’ offensive line has been a source of concern in Denver for a while, even with the Band-Aids John Elway applied the past couple of seasons. However, McCaffrey is a pass/run threat without peer and too valuable for John Elway to not bring home to Denver.
21. Detroit Lions — Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Previous: Lions — Charlton
The Lions need help on the edge opposite Ziggy Ansah. The former first-rounder had a rough season, finishing with only two sacks. Luckily, unheralded Kerry Hyder finished with eight, but he’s not an every-down answer at defensive end. Charlton can be exactly that and then some.
22. Miami Dolphins — Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky
Previous: Dolphins — Lamp
The Dolphins traded Branden Albert to the Jaguars, which allows Laremy Tunsil to slide over to his natural left tackle position. That opens the door for the Dolphins to add Lamp, the most technique-sound offensive lineman in this draft.
23. New York Giants — Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
Previous: Giants — Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
The Giants don’t have much at the running back position, but the offensive line has more overt, pressing issues. Former top-10 pick Ereck Flowers shouldn’t play tackle for this team and Bolles can step into that role in due time.
*TRADE* 24. San Francisco 49ers (from Oakland) — Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Previous: Raiders — Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt
The 49ers will anticipate the Texans want one of the three remaining quarterbacks still on the board. As such, they know that they need to get in front of them to select Trubisky. They’ll package the second-rounder they got from Carolina and their own second rounder to move up to 24 to draft Trubisky.
25. Houston Texans — Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Previous: Texans — Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
Because I am an employee of the Houston Texans, my friends at The Post made the selection on my behalf … and they’re not happy with Tony Romo. The former Cowboys signal-caller will apparently move into the CBS Television booth with Jim Nantz and not move down I-45 to Houston. As such, the Texans may need to repeat the move-up-one-spot-to-get-THEIR-guy maneuver if they really like Trubisky over Watson. My gut tells me they’re not enamored with any of these quarterbacks but Watson provides some thrills at the position that this organization has never had. It’s Tom Savage’s job for now; it’s just a matter of how long “for now” actually is.
26. Seattle Seahawks — Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
Previous: Seahawks — Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA
The Seahawks have to love the domino impact of Tony Romo’s decision. The Texans need a right tackle badly, but need a quarterback perhaps more so. Houston could still surprise by selecting Ramczyk, but in the end, Watson is too good at that spot to pass up. That leaves the Seahawks open to drafting Ramczyk. In doing so, they can leave Germain Ifedi at guard, where he belongs and allow Ramczyk to develop at tackle. Tony Romo did this, Seahawks fans, keep that in mind!
27. Kansas City Chiefs — Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Previous: Chiefs — Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
The Chiefs don’t have a consistent answer at cornerback opposite Marcus Peters, so Humphrey makes a ton of sense in this spot. He’s physical and can run, but needs work on playing the ball in the air. The Chiefs will add some depth at linebacker, defensive line and running back in later rounds.
28. Dallas Cowboys — Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan
Previous: Cowboys — Peppers
The Cowboys don’t have a reliable pass-rusher, but they lost two starters at the safety position in free agency. Byron Jones will take over at one position; Jeff Heath is slated to step into the other. Peppers is a much more palatable option, which allows Heath to stay in a nickel role.
29. Green Bay Packers — Kevin King, CB, Washington
Previous: Packers — King
King’s name hasn’t been thrown around all that much for first-round consideration, but he’s 6-foot-3, can fly and was highly productive at Washington opposite Sidney Jones, who would’ve been off the board if not for an Achilles injury he suffered on his pro day. The Packers’ cornerback situation is far from optimum and the athletically gifted King fills a need here for certain.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers — Adoree Jackson, CB, USC
Previous: Steelers — John Ross, WR, Washington
The Steelers have worked out quarterbacks privately, including Patrick Mahomes, but he and two others are off the board. As such, teams at the top portion of the second round have no incentive to move up and trade with Pittsburgh. The Steelers still aren’t set at cornerback and Jackson is too good of an athlete to overlook. He can also reduce Antonio Brown’s punt return responsibilities too, if necessary.
31. Atlanta Falcons — Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri
Previous: Falcons — Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama
The M.O. in Atlanta is speed. Look at this defense. Grady Jarrett at defensive tackle. Vic Beasley on the edge. Inside linebacker Deion Jones. The youngsters in the secondary. They all can fly. Harris plays much faster and more explosively than his testing proved at the combine. With Beasley and Harris on the edge on third down, the Falcons won’t allow NFC South quarterbacks Cam Newton, Drew Brees or Jameis Winston much time to throw down the field.
*TRADE* 32. New England (from New Orleans from New England) — Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
Previous: Saints — Evan Engram, TE/WR, Ole Miss
This pick has yo-yoed back and forth between the Patriots and the Saints, but as noted earlier in this mock draft, the Saints will sign Malcolm Butler and assign the pick back to New England. This pick came down to Davis and Vanderbilt star Zach Cunningham. Davis is a bigger, inside thumper than Cunningham and could evolve into a poor man’s Jerod Mayo in the future.
John Harris contributes to The Washington Post’s NFL draft coverage. He is the sideline reporter and football analyst for the Houston Texans and owner of footballtakeover.com.