The Howler’s NFL Mock Draft

Varun Vishnubhotla, Sports Editor

With the NFL free agency period coming to a close, teams that were unable to land the league’s top superstars have a chance to make amends: the heralded NFL Draft. Casual fans of struggling NFL franchises have had April 29 circled on their calendars for months, as they fantasize their teams drafting perennial superstars and late-round gems that will propel their squads to success. Ahead of the big day, The Howler takes its shot at predicting the first 10 names off the draft boards while providing insight on our selections.


1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence

Clemson University: 3,153 yards, 24 touchdowns, 5 interceptions

Considered one of the best high school quarterbacks of all time, Lawrence built on his dominant legacy at Clemson University where he did nothing but impress. Lawrence has proven that he has a pro-ready cannon of an arm, a calm composure even under the brightest lights and a tactical awareness that few possess. Despite having the green light to let the football rip through the heart of opposing defenses, Lawrence seems to always take what the defense gives him, evidenced by his impressive efficiency numbers. A trait that separates him from his quarterback peers is his deep ball accuracy. A maestro at navigating his teammates down the field for huge gains, Lawrence is also able to open up plays in the run game, making him a versatile option that could revitalize any struggling franchise. The Jaguars have struggled to find their answer at quarterback, but with Lawrence, that hunt may finally be over. It would send shockwaves through the football world if Lawrence is not chosen first overall; it’s practically a no-brainer. 


2. New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson

Brigham Young University (BYU): 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns, 3 interceptions

With a blockbuster trade that dealt former franchise quarterback Sam Darnold to the Panthers, the Jets have come to terms with drafting another quarterback in this draft. With the grit to start from day one, Wilson seems like the perfect fit for Head Coach Robert Saleh’s offense. Additionally, for Wilson, there is an extra factor that has to be considered: the ‘Wow’ factor. Wilson’s knack for throwing off-platform passes with power and accuracy has scouts comparing him to future Hall of Fame quarterback Patrick Mahomes. For the Jets, the weapons on the outside should motivate the front office to gauge wide receiver Denzel Mims and recent signee wide receiver Corey Davis. Certainly the biggest pick of the draft so far, New York can signal a shift to the youth movement, giving their young guys more reps while the AFC East continues to be dominated by the Buffalo Bills. 


3. San Francisco 49ers: WR Ja’Marr Chase 

Louisiana State University (LSU): 84 receptions, 1,780 yards, 20 touchdowns

This may be a surprising selection considering Jimmy Garoppolo has struggled in his time as starting quarterback, outside of the lone Super Bowl year. However, fans are not far removed from when Chase set the record for the most receiving yards in a game at 221, in LSU’s dominating win over Clemson in the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Chase doesn’t just put up empty stats on a bad team, as he was one of the primary reasons LSU went undefeated during his sophomore season, culminating in his offensive onslaught in the title game. With the 49ers needing a big-play wide receiver, something they have lacked since their short Super Bowl stint with Emmanuel Sanders, Chase is the perfect fit for Head Coach Kyle Shanahan’s high-scoring offense. Despite opting out of the past college season, Chase immediately began preparing for the NFL draft. Pending any draft day trades, Chase should be the pick for the 49ers if they don’t go with a quarterback. 


4. Atlanta Falcons: OT Penei Sewell 

University of Oregon: 678 offensive snaps, 1 sack allowed

The Falcons’ late-season win streak may have cost them a top three pick, but there is certainly no shortage of talent on the board. A beast of a lineman, Sewell’s production is not measured in stats—even though he allows a sack less than 0.15% of the time—but is seen in his dominance on the edge. Playing for the hotbed of pro-football passing talent at Oregon, Sewell lined up against some of the biggest names in the Pac-12, dominating his side of protection. Not to mention, his advanced mobility standing at 6 feet 6 inches and 331 pounds should not go unnoticed. The Falcons are presumably giving veteran quarterback Matt Ryan another run at a starting gig, so Sewell would serve as a true test to Ryan’s ability, as Ryan would finally get to showcase his talents under a capable offensive line. If Sewell is not the first lineman to be picked, it would surely mean that a team missed out on the NFL’s next great lineman. 


5. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Rashawn Slater

Northwestern: 355 offensive snaps, 0 sacks allowed

This may be a stretch, but it makes sense; the Bengals have a gem at quarterback in Joe Burrow. Now, it’s time for them to maximize his talents, and beefing up the offensive line is the way to go. Slater’s pass-blocking is his most valuable asset, as he uses his freakish athleticism to stay in front of oncoming pass rushers. Furthermore, his versatility is certainly a necessity for a Bengals’ offensive line that mightily struggled with keeping their rookie quarterback safe from pressure, as they ranked among the bottom three NFL teams in offensive line production. Any chance at offensive line help should be first and foremost on the Bengals’ mind, and Slater is certainly a great prospect for Cincinnati to consider. 


6. Miami Dolphins: WR Jaylen Waddle

University of Alabama: 28 receptions, 591 yards, 4 touchdowns

Waddle’s stats may seem strikingly low for a potential sixth overall pick, but fans forget Waddle only played four games after a season-ending ankle injury. The injury doesn’t look to be career-altering, so teams shouldn’t overlook his productivity due to injury concerns. The Dolphins need to gauge their budding star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s value over the course of this season; providing with a weapon he had in college will allow the coaching staff to make a more accurate assessment of him. Outside of underrated receiver Davante Parker, the Dolphins desperately need a perimeter playmaker. Waddle’s blazing speed would keep opposing defenses guessing and create a young offensive juggernaut that could possibly compete in the AFC South. The Dolphins are in the best position for any young team, but what can assets do if they aren’t capitalized on? 


7. Detroit Lions: LB Micah Parsons

Penn State University: 52 solo tackles, 5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles

Parsons strongly emerged onto the national scene after dropping a shocking 4.39 second 40-yard dash, marking him as the second fastest incoming linebacker in NFL history. Parsons is the effort player every team needs. His aggressive playstyle makes him a threat to rush the quarterback while also matching up against the best ball carriers down the sideline— a scheme fit in rookie Head Coach Dan Campbell’s offense. The Lions’ defense has been historically atrocious in recent years, and it is time they shore up the holes on that side of the ball. With many more gaps to fill, the Lions could slide up in the draft and pick off the names above, but Parsons is certainly no slouch of a player either. 


8. Carolina Panthers: QB Trey Lance

North Dakota State University (NDSU): 2,947 yards, 30 touchdowns, 1 interception

After trading for Sam Darnold, it shouldn’t be surprising if the Panthers still take a quarterback, especially given Darnold’s poor quarterback play in the past. A late-season riser, Trey Lance seems like the perfect candidate to earn the respect of his teammates from day one. Lance’s athleticism is off the charts, and his rare combination of finesse and power make him the perfect modern-day quarterback. Lance has always had a chip on his shoulder, so there shouldn’t be any doubt that his work ethic will take a backseat to his god-given talents The typical boom or bust prospect of any college draft, Lance, if he booms, will be an explosion that opposing defenses will fear for years to come. With the Panthers’ offensive talent on the outside, in wide receiver D.J. Moore and do-it-all running back Christian McCaffery, the risk is perfect for them, especially if the Darnold experiment completely flops. 


9. Denver Broncos: QB Justin Fields

Ohio State University: 2,100 yards, 22 touchdowns, 6 interceptions

At the beginning of the year, any football fan would have been shocked to see Fields fall out of the top two picks. However, with the emerging talent on the draft board, coupled with teams not needing quarterbacks, Fields could see himself landing in the Mile-High City. The Broncos are one piece away from becoming playoff contenders, and they have a chance to fix the one need on the team: a quarterback. Second year quarterback Drew Locke was extremely careless with the football during his time at the helm, so seeking out another option in a quarterback-heavy class may be their best move. If Fields performs as advertised, the Broncos could wreak havoc in the AFC North and provide the Kansas City Chiefs some long-awaited competition. 


10. Dallas Cowboys: TE Kyle Pitts

University of Florida: 43 receptions, 770 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns

Pitts is another one of those fallers in this mock draft. With the tight end position slowly switching to do-it-all players, Pitts could see himself fall due to his lackluster blocking ability. While making strides and showing plenty of effort on that end of the ball, Pitts’ blocking is definitely not outstanding. Still, in a fairly weak tight end class, Pitts dominates his peers with his superb hands, quick feet and offensive IQ. The Cowboys have always been America’s Team, but the last few years have been plagued by disappointment. With franchise quarterback Dak Prescott coming back from a horrific injury, the Cowboys could add some more firepower to their loaded offense to, hopefully, bring them back to the playoffs in the weak NFC North, where a solid offense alone will give any team the edge.