BY MICHAEL FISHER
The NFL Draft starts Thursday (6 p.m., first round on 93.1 FM), and everywhere you look someone has their own mock draft of what they think should/could happen. We’re giving people a chance to be the GM of an NFL team in our KTIK contest, and now it’s my turn to be the GM for 10 teams.
No. 1 Browns – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
I saw Allen live last year on the Blue against BSU, and while he didn’t have the weapons to compete with the Broncos, he had one thing you cannot teach: arm strength. Sure he has accuracy issues; sure a generational talent should win more than eight games in a college season. Allen can sit behind Tyrod Taylor for a year and learn with QB guru Hue Jackson. The Browns’ new GM took Patrick Mahomes last year with the Chiefs, and the same applies: huge arm that can sit and learn the game for a year. Allen is the best talent at the QB position in this draft.
No. 2 Giants – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Rosen seems to avoid all the pitfalls of Allen. The No. 2 QB recruit in his class, he led UCLA to one bowl game and his best year was an eight-win season like Allen. Rosen looks the part, though, and completed 60 percent of his passes, the “magic” number in college. Rosen comes off as too smart for football, which makes him a perfect fit to play behind the last playing member of the smartest football family, the Mannings. Rosen has injury concerns, Allen doesn’t, and that drops him to No. 2. Rosen could easily be the best pick of the QBs, as he won’t be forced ahead of Eli, who the Giants need to replace sooner than later.
No. 3 Jets – Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Darnold has a great chance to join a long line of QB busts from USC, starting after Carson Palmer in 2003. However, the Jets had the most success with a USC QB when Mark Sanchez game-managed the team to back-to-back AFC championship games. The Jets feel the public pressure to draft the more prototypical QB over a guy like Baker Mayfield, who has attitude concerns and is perceived to be a little short. Darnold is the most likely of the top three to see the field earlier, and is probably the most likely to succeed early. I still feel his ceiling is lower than the guys ahead of him.
No. 4 Browns – Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
A lot of people like Barkley here, a move that would be the groundhog to the Browns losing, and guarantee more years of it, the product of hype and workout highlights. A top-five pick for a RB who isn’t a workhorse – he had just one game of more than 25 carries in his junior season – is a waste. Chubb can pair up with Myles Garret as a poorman’s version of Texas teammates J.J Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. The Browns could trade down, but no one you can get later in the first round in as good as Chubb.
No. 5 Broncos – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
While John Elway might not have the track record of finding a good QB after Peyton Manning fell in his lap, he should be able to recognize talent. Mayfield, outside his gaffe with the Chargers, seems to get it a lot more than his favorite comparison Johnny Manziel. Not to mention Mayfield started his career as a walk-on and earned his status, Manziel was an Oregon commit during its heyday before Marcus Mariota committed to the Ducks.
No. 6 Colts – Quinton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
This is assuming and hoping that Andrew Luck can throw a regulation-size football by the time the regular season starts. The Colts never seem to be able to protect Luck since drafting him in 2013. Yes, the Colts have several issues, but Luck can will them to the playoffs if you keep him healthy and that is exactly what Nelson can do.
No. 7 Buccaneers – Derwin James, S, Florida State
Could the Bucs use Barkley here? Yes, except he cannot play defense, and when you play six games against Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton every year, you need a defender who can keep your offense in the game. James was a freak athlete at FSU and can stop the run (don’t forget that Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Devonta Freeman all play in the same division). I like James over Minkah Fitzpatrick because Alabama defenders have a habit of flaming out in the NFL and James is the bigger defender in a division with two WR over 6-3 and 210 pounds.
No. 8 Bears – Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Yes, I just said Alabama defenders flame out in the NFL, but a lot of what I said about James applies to Fitzpatrick with the Bears playing in the same division as Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford and Kirk Cousins. Mitchell Trubisky is a few years away, at best, from outdueling any of the guys in 45-42 shootouts despite the weapons the Bears gave him. Let’s not forget the game last year where the punter had the longest throw of the game on a fake punt. The Bears needed to be a few games worse to get an impact player, but they can still get the best defender.
No. 9 49ers – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
If this draft had an impact WR, I would have the 49ers going with him here. Jimmy G needs weapons if the 49ers want him to be successful long term, but none of the WRs would be worth a top 10 pick, and no one is trading up to No. 9 for a QB. Barkley can make plays in space, and the 49ers have Jerick McKinnon to take the load off his shoulders. Much like the Bears, the 49ers were a little too good to end last year, and are forced to take everyone’s favorite word, the best player available.
No. 10 Raiders – Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
This is the hardest pick in the top 10 because no one knows what new coach Jon Gruden is going to do. Part of me thinks Leighton Vander Esch could go here because he was the top tackler among first-round LBs and the tackle stat is about as analytic as Gruden will get. However, for the sake of not being called a homer, I think the Raiders grab Smith. The fact he played in the SEC always increases a player’s value, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Last year, the Raiders went DB in Gareon Conley and he had off-field and injury issues that held him back and is probably the reason the Raiders don’t go DB again with Denzel Ward.
Michael Fisher produces Idaho Sports Talk with Bob & Chris weekdays from 1-3 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket. He can be found @TheFishKTIK (Twitter).