NFL mock draft 2.0: Look for Cleveland to select QB Deshaun Watson with first pick

Deshaun Watson has been called 'the Michael Jordan' of quarterbacks by Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney.
(Chris O’Meara / Associated Press)
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NFL mock drafts are a little like paper road maps, a relic from the pre-smartphone age. You fold them, refold them, refold them a different way, and they eventually disintegrate and fall apart in your hands. Still, they’re an entertaining exercise, the truest form of fantasy football.

In this, The Times’ second mock, Cleveland doesn’t risk waiting until the No. 12 selection to take a quarterback, and instead grabs one with the top pick. In six of the past eight drafts, teams took a quarterback No. 1 overall.

Some notable players tumbled out of the first round in this mock — including 6-foot-4 Clemson receiver Mike Williams and lightning-quick USC cornerback/returner Adoree’ Jackson — mostly because teams have more pressing needs than receiver, and because there’s such a wealth of corners in this class.


Players who look to be rising after the combine include Washington receiver John Ross, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, and Temple outside linebacker Haason Reddick.

Players who could go a bit later than originally expected include Alabama inside linebacker Reuben Foster, who was sent home from the combine early after an argument with a medical worker (although NFL scouts say that was largely overblown), and UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau, who suffered a torn pectoral muscle while bench-pressing during pro day.

Another refolding of the road map:

1. CLEVELAND – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson — When you’re coming off a 1-15 season, don’t mess around. Take the quarterback. (Selection in first mock: Myles Garrett)

2. SAN FRANCISCO – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M — Aaron Lynch, penciled in at right defensive end, had 1½ sacks last season and weight issues. (Selection in first mock: Reuben Foster)

3. CHICAGO – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State — The 6-foot, 193-pound Lattimore won’t get pushed around. Last two years, Bears were unsuccessful in landing big corners Janoris Jenkins and Stephon Gilmore. (Selection in first mock: Jonathan Allen)

4. JACKSONVILLE – Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama — Tom Coughlin builds his teams around strong lines, and you can never have too many dominant defensive linemen. (Selection in first mock: Jamal Adams)


5. TENNESSEE – Jamal Adams, SS, LSU — Adams would help solidify the back end of a defense that ranked 30th against the pass last season. (Selection in first mock: Corey Davis)

6. NEW YORK JETS – Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina — The Jets have yet to find their answer at quarterback, so they pass on an edge rusher, safety, and tight end here. (Selection in first mock: Lattimore)

7. CHARGERS – Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State — Hooker could get snapped up by the Jaguars or Jets, but would be a nice fit in the Chargers defense. (Selection in first mock: Solomon Thomas)

8. CAROLINA – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU — The Panthers want to reduce the hits on Cam Newton. One way would be handing off to this 240-pound bruiser. (Selection in first mock: Dalvin Cook)

9. CINCINNATI – Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee — Barnett would instantly bolster Bengals pass rush. He’s Tennessee’s all-time sacks leader — topping even Reggie White. (Selection in first mock: Mike Williams)

10. BUFFALO – Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama — Zach Brown, Bills’ Pro Bowl inside linebacker from last season, remains unsigned and might not be back. (Selection in first mock: Hooker)


11. NEW ORLEANS – John Ross, WR, Washington — Who can ignore that 4.22 speed? Saints signed Tedd Ginn, but he’s on the back end of his career. Ross specializes in explosion plays and could replace Brandin Cooks. (Selection in first mock: Taco Charlton)

12. CLEVELAND – Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford — Thomas slips in this mock, but he’s a top-five talent. Elite pass rushers have eluded the Browns just like productive quarterbacks have. (Selection in first mock: Watson)

13. ARIZONA – Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech — With two quarterbacks already off the board, the Cardinals look for a young QB to learn at the elbow of Carson Palmer. (Selection in first mock: Marlon Humphrey)

14. PHILADELPHIA – Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State — The Eagles haven’t used their top pick on a corner since Lito Sheppard in 2002. Conley is quietly rising. (Selection in first mock: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington)

15. INDIANAPOLIS – Garett Bolles, T, Utah — The Colts need to better protect Andrew Luck’s blind side, and the athletic Bolles has a mean streak on the field. (Selection in first mock: Takkarist McKinley)

16. BALTIMORE – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan — The Ravens need a big-time target after Steve Smith retired and Kamar Aiken signed with the Colts. Could be Clemson’s Mike Williams, too. (Selection in first mock: Barnett)


17. WASHINGTON – Haason Reddick, OLB, Temple — The Redskins need another playmaker off the edge. The rising Reddick is the best remaining fit in this mock. (Selection in first mock: Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State)

18. TENNESSEE – O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama — The Titans already have an athletic tight end in Delanie Walker. But he’s not getting any younger, and Walker and Howard would be a tough combo. (Selection in first mock: Teez Tabor, CB, Florida)

19. TAMPA BAY – Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State — Doug Martin is suspended for the first three games and is injury-prone. The Buccaneers need help at running back. (Selection in first mock: Fournette)

20. DENVER – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford – Playing for his dad’s old team would be a great story, but McCaffrey is also a legitimate fit. He also could go earlier, maybe in the top 12. (Selection in first mock: McCaffrey)

21. DETROIT – Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA — The Lions need to ramp up their pass rush (31st in sacks), and McKinley could be a bookend to Ziggy Ansah. (Selection in first mock: Charles Harris)

22. MIAMI – Charles Harris, DE, Missouri — Cameron Wake is 35, William Hayes is on a one-year deal, and Andre Branch is pretty average. Harris could really help. (Selection in first mock: Zach Cunningham, OLB, Vanderbilt)


23. NEW YORK GIANTS – Ryan Ramczyk, T, Wisconsin – Ramczyk could take over at left tackle and protect Eli Manning’s blind side, allowing Ereck Flowers to move to the right side. (Selection in first mock: Howard)

24. OAKLAND – Jarrad Davis, ILB, Florida — Davis can play sideline to sideline, and he’s stout against the run. Would strengthen a young Raiders defense. (Selection in first mock: Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida)

25. HOUSTON – Cam Robinson, T, Alabama — The 6-6, 322-pound Robinson would fill the Texans’ need at right tackle. If Mahomes is still on the board, Bill O’Brien could go quarterback. (Selection in first mock: Ramczyk)

26. SEATTLE – Kevin King, CB, Washington — The 6-foot-3 King fits the mold of a big Pete Carroll corner in a secondary that could be in transition. Seahawks could go offensive tackle, too, or linebacker. (Selection in first mock: Bolles)

27. KANSAS CITY – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama — Humphrey could go earlier. If he’s around, he could be an excellent sidekick to Marcus Peters, who has 14 picks in two seasons. (Selection in first mock: Raekwon McMillan, ILB, Ohio State)

28. DALLAS – Jabrill Peppers, SS, Michigan — The Cowboys could use the versatile Peppers at multiple spots. Good for a secondary that was raided by free agency. (Selection in first mock: Adoree’ Jackson)


29. GREEN BAY – T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin — The Packers can wait a bit to get a corner, but Watt — younger brother of J.J. Watt — would be a productive, popular, and prudent pick here. (Selection in first mock: Watt)

30. PITTSBURGH – Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida – The Steelers want cornerbacks with range and size, the 6-1 Wilson fits the bill and the Steelers defense. (Selection in first mock: Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama)

31. ATLANTA – Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky — With right guard Chris Chester retiring, Lamp could step in at that spot for the Falcons and be a starter from Day 1. (Selection in first mock: Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn)

32. NEW ORLEANS – Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan — Sean Payton has said the Saints’ No. 1 need is a pass rusher, so the team figures to go that direction with one of its first two picks. (Selection in first mock: Peppers)


Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer