The NFL season is the most joyous time of the year, but the offseason ain't bad either. We're in the middle of the NCAA Tournament, we've got the Masters on deck and it's MOCK DRAFT SZN, baby. And Mock SZN means it's time for the godfather of the Veteran QB Trade Mock Draft (aka me) to test out some craziness.
Special shoutout to Lamar Jackson, then, for coming out on Monday morning and announcing he demanded a trade way back on March 2, before Baltimore hit him with the non-exclusive franchise tag. Lamar's tag allows other NFL teams to step in and put together an offer sheet. If Lamar accepts the contract, the Ravens can either match or get two first-round picks back from the team securing his services.
There's also a pathway for the Ravens to pull of a sign-and-trade deal with another team. A team that makes a ton of sense for said sign-and-trade is the Indianapolis Colts. Indy holds the fourth pick in the draft and could be boxed out for the immediate impact quarterbacks. Lamar would quickly solve that problem and if there's a team possibly interested in Jackson -- and for an interesting number of reasons there haven't been a ton -- Indy fits the bill pretty perfectly.
In this instance, the Colts could work with Lamar to find out what kind of deal he wants, have him sign his tag with the Ravens and then trade for Lamar and give him the contract he's interested in. With Lamar having no agent, it's a little trickier to pull off and requires plenty of trust between three parties.
Baltimore would obviously prefer two first-round picks, but a sign-and-trade might make sense here with Indy giving up the fourth overall pick, quite the valuable commodity. Instead of the offer sheet plus picks, the sign-and-trade would allow Indy to give back something like a conditional second-round pick next year, which turns into a first-round pick if Lamar plays X number of games or the Colts make the playoffs, etc.
Colts owner Jim Irsay even said Monday he doesn't see money as a problem, but lamented the draft-pick compensation for potentially acquiring Lamar. So there's a pathway forward for this potentially happening. Let's see what would happen if the Ravens and Colts actually struck a deal for Lamar (for ease of use, we'll just make it the standard offer sheet).
There are only 31 picks in this mock draft because the Dolphins were stripped of their first-round pick due to tampering.
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From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 1
Bryce Young QB
Alabama • 5'10" / 204 lbs
The Panthers didn't trade up to No. 1 hoping to figure out which quarterback they wanted. Maaaaaybe they were hoping to really fall in love with a Will Levis type (don't think it's out of the question), but David Tepper lacks patience and Bryce Young has the highest floor of this group, so despite C.J. Stroud's betting market, I'll pencil him in here as the first overall pick.
Round 1 - Pick 2
C.J. Stroud QB
Ohio State • 6'3" / 218 lbs
It would be fascinating to know the Texans' thought process on possibly moving up to No. 1 if they truly believed someone was going to trade with the Bears. It doesn't matter now -- the Texans feel more likely to value a guy with the ball placement, accuracy and rhythm throwing of C.J. Stroud for Bobby Slowik's offense.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Will Anderson Jr. EDGE
Alabama • 6'4" / 243 lbs
The Cardinals could ~easily~ trade out of this pick and, depending on how things shake out above them, will likely get plenty of interest from teams who want the third QB available. But for now, they can just sit and take the best player available in Anderson -- moving down could cost them a shot at a stud in this draft.
Mock Trade from Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 4
Will Levis QB
Kentucky • 6'4" / 229 lbs
I freaking love the idea of Lamar Jackson going to the Colts and a Shane Steichen offense cutting him loose behind a rejuvenated offensive line with Jonathan Taylor behind him and some decent weapons at receiver. The Ravens and Lamar just feel too far apart at this juncture, and the ability to secure a potential franchise quarterback near the top of the draft to replace Lamar makes a ton of sense.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 5
Jalen Carter DL
Georgia • 6'3" / 314 lbs
Many will say this is too early for Carter, but he's an elite player who would be in play for No. 1 overall were it not for the off-field stuff. Pete Carroll isn't scared to take a chance and I think they're being a little TOO loud about their interest in the young quarterbacks in this draft class.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 6
Oregon • 6'2" / 201 lbs
I'd never be surprised to see the Lions draft a hog molly on either side of the ball, but with their investments in the trenches the last few years they could dabble on the back end of this defense.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Tyree Wilson EDGE
Texas Tech • 6'6" / 271 lbs
Adding protection for Jimmy Garoppolo would make sense for Las Vegas but this is a steep price to pay when they already locked up their left tackle Kolton Miller this offseason. But Wilson could also provide an important addition as a pass rusher opposite Maxx Crosby when the Raiders (likely) bail out of Chandler Jones contract after 2023.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Florida • 6'4" / 232 lbs
Here's another very viable spot for Lamar, but Atlanta seems intent on a slower rebuild. Adding Taylor Heinicke to a QB room with Desmond Ridder and signing some of their offensive linemen provides a pretty solid landing spot for Richardson to sit, learn and prepare for next year while also fitting in nicely with an Arthur Smith system.
From Carolina Panthers
Round 1 - Pick 9
Northwestern • 6'4" / 313 lbs
This would be a pretty ideal situation for the Bears unless they're dead set (as some teams likely are) on moving Skoronski to guard instead of tackle. Ninth overall isn't too early if he's a really good guard, but he needs to be really good if that's their plan.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 10
Nolan Smith EDGE
Georgia • 6'2" / 238 lbs
Philly doesn't immediately need help at pass rush but all of their primary guys are getting a little long in the tooth. Even Derek Barnett has been in the league for six years now and Howie Roseman isn't afraid to look a little down the road and has not been shy about looking towards the UGA program recently.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Georgia • 6'5" / 311 lbs
The Titans' identity is hard to figure out but as long as Derrick Henry's on the roster, they'll want to pound the rock. The Titans still need help at tackle and if you want to run, who better than a UGA product?
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 12
Lukas Van Ness EDGE
Iowa • 6'5" / 275 lbs
Man, have I loved the Texans offseason so far. It's interesting to note in the last three years they've drafted exactly one player not from a Power 5 conference (a fifth-round Rhode Island wide receiver). Adding some more pass rush makes plenty of sense given the veteran/stop gap measures they've taken in that regard.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Ohio State • 6'6" / 310 lbs
The Jets might go all in on Aaron Rodgers this year, but it shouldn't stop them from acquiring more tackle depth, particularly for the future (one has to presume Rodgers will play at least two years) with Duane Brown aging and Mekhi Becton still a question mark for the future.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Drew Sanders LB
Arkansas • 6'5" / 234 lbs
The Patriots probably trade down out of this spot because Bill Belichick, but history tells us the Patriots coach/GM is most likely to go after defense if he uses a pick in the top 15 and if he can find a versatile defensive option it only makes it more likely to snag him.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Utah • 6'4" / 240 lbs
Brian Gutekunst has focused on big school defensive players in the first round (he LOVES Georgia guys, his last three picks have been from Kirby Smart's rosters) but after trading Aaron Rodgers and moving to Jordan Love, it would make a lot of sense to get his guy another weapon.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Alabama • 6'0" / 190 lbs
Another P5 heavy draft team, Washington internally thinks it's closer to being a competitive team than most people on the outside. They add another pro-ready piece to their secondary.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Illinois • 6'0" / 180 lbs
It will be interesting to see what first-year GM Omar Kahn does here -- the Steelers could beef up the secondary if they don't go after a weapon for Kenny Pickett.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Notre Dame • 6'4" / 265 lbs
Detroit dealt T.J. Hockenson midseason last year and has a void at tight end. The Lions could have gone Luke Musgrave here, but Mayer is a run-blocker who fits what Dan Campbell and this front office like to build around. Detroit adding protection up front for Jared Goff improvement is a very interesting thought.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Syracuse • 6'5" / 322 lbs
The Buccaneers had one of the most vaunted offensive lines just a few years ago and it's quickly taken a turn thanks to tons of attrition, so they can start reloading there. Baker Mayfield with a bad offensive line is a dangerous combo.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Texas • 5'11" / 215 lbs
Kind of an outrageous pick and yet completely on brand for Pete Carroll and Seattle. Rashaad Penny is out the door and Seattle's offense sorely missed Kenneth Walker when he was injured last year. Why not double down, add Bijan to the backfield and start cooking with gas in a defense/run/Geno system?
Round 1 - Pick 21
Zay Flowers WR
Boston College • 5'9" / 182 lbs
Keenan Allen will be 32 next year and the Chargers can save $23M in cap space if they let him go (almost assuredly either that or a restructure will happen). Flowers is a monster and there's nothing wrong with giving Justin Herbert more weapons.
Round 1 - Pick 22
TCU • 6'4" / 215 lbs
Pairing Levis with a deep ball threat like Johnston is an extremely fun idea in the post Lamar Jackson era in Baltimore.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Keion White DL
Georgia Tech • 6'5" / 285 lbs
Defense has to be a priority in this draft for the Vikings and adding some youth up front would make a ton of sense. A CB would be fine here too.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Bryan Bresee DL
Clemson • 6'5" / 305 lbs
Anything to help Trevor Lawrence is a perfectly reasonable decision to make but the Jaguars need to keep piling up pieces on defense if they want to remain top dog in the AFC South.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Penn State • 6'2" / 194 lbs
The Giants focused on the trenches last year in the draft and getting Daniel Jones a weapon here would work fine as well, but instead they add some more talent on the back end.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Tennessee • 6'6" / 335 lbs
The Cowboys aren't scared to keep loading up on the offensive line. I don't think they're as concerned about tight end as people might think, but if Mike McCarthy wants to pound the rock he'll need some more depth here.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Myles Murphy DL
Clemson • 6'5" / 275 lbs
More EDGE please. The Bills signed Von Miller to that huge deal but have to understand how important having a strong pass rush is -- Patrick Mahomes is the bane of their existence and Aaron Rodgers might be coming to the division for a few years.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Josh Downs WR
North Carolina • 5'10" / 175 lbs
Tyler Boyd's going into the final year of his deal and holy cow would Downs pair well with Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 29
Will McDonald IV EDGE
Iowa State • 6'4" / 245 lbs
Everything on offense looks pretty stout for the Saints if Derek Carr works out and Alvin Kamara avoids legal issues. Losing Marcus Davenport (who cost two first-round picks, yikes) means a need for pass rush help.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Ohio State • 6'1" / 200 lbs
Nothing better than hoping Howie Roseman is pulling the trigger on a wide receiver in the first round, if only because eventually it means he can yell at fans in the stands.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Jalin Hyatt WR
Tennessee • 6'0" / 185 lbs
Big-play speed at wide receiver for an Andy Reid offense that's continually morphing? Yes please.