NFL mock draft: Will Georgia’s Travon Walker be first pick?
Everybody is looking for that sure thing, especially in this town.
But this year, with the NFL draft being held in Las Vegas for the first time, there’s no consensus on who the No. 1 pick should be.
Most likely, it will be someone who can topple a quarterback like tumbling dice — a pass rusher such as Georgia’s Travon Walker, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux or Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson — someone who can help the Jacksonville Jaguars bully their way back to relevance.
“I’ve been playing football for a decade and now it’s like, bro, I don’t care where I get drafted, I don’t care what happens,” Thibodeaux said. “It’s just got to happen.”
The only player from a Southern California school likely to be selected in Thursday’s opening round is former USC receiver Drake London, potentially a top-10 pick.
A quarter of the NFL teams don’t have a draft pick in first round, but that doesn’t worry the champion Rams or the other seven teams with alternate plans.
London, too, is not so much concerned about when he hears his name called, only that he eventually hears it.
“I could be Mr. Irrelevant,” he said, referring to the nickname for the final selection in each draft. “At the end of the day, I know what my skill set is, I know what I can bring to the table. So I feel like I’m fine.”
The final Times mock draft:
1. JACKSONVILLE: Edge Travon Walker, Georgia — The Jaguars want a pass-rushing bookend to Josh Allen. This could be Hutchinson, too.
2. DETROIT: Edge Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan — Lions would be delighted to land this local, as they too need to ramp up their pass rush.
3. HOUSTON: T Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State — Unlikely Walker would be available here, but Texans would like him too. Both Ekwonu and Evan Neal are outstanding.
4. NEW YORK JETS: Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon — This guy would be a marketing machine in New York. Jets haven’t had a great edge rusher since trading John Abraham in 2006.
5. NEW YORK GIANTS: T Evan Neal, Alabama — Lots of scouts have Neal as the best tackle in this draft. The Giants have a pressing need at the position.
6. CAROLINA: T Charles Cross, Mississippi State — No sure-thing quarterbacks in this draft, so the Panthers turn their attention to protecting the one they have.
7. NEW YORK GIANTS: CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati — With No. 1 corner James Bradbury on his way out, Giants take a guy who sees himself as the next Jalen Ramsey.
8. ATLANTA: WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State — Russell Gage and Calvin Ridley are gone, so the Falcons take a guy who’s great at picking up yards after the catch.
9. SEATTLE: Edge Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State — The top-shelf offensive tackles are gone, so the Seahawks turn their attention to the other side of the ball.
10. NEW YORK JETS: WR Drake London, USC — Good news for Zach Wilson. He gets a big, physical receiver who can reel in those jump-ball passes.
Former NFL receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who is training USC’s Drake London for the draft, says nuances more important than speed to make it in pros.
11. WASHINGTON: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame — Steal for the Commanders if the versatile and ultra-athletic Hamilton is around at this point. He can replace Landon Collins.
12. MINNESOTA: CB Derek Stingley Jr., Louisiana State — Patrick Peterson, another former LSU star, can take Stingley under his wing and help him transition to a No. 1 corner.
13. HOUSTON: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama — The Texans have the luxury of waiting for Williams to fully recover from his knee injury … because no one expects them to be good.
14. BALTIMORE: DT Jordan Davis, Georgia — Davis is an outstanding run stopper who can learn how to get to the quarterback as he develops as a pro.
15. PHILADELPHIA: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah — The Eagles haven’t drafted a linebacker in the first round since Jerry Robinson in 1979, but their need is great enough to break with tradition.
16. NEW ORLEANS: T Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa — Watch for the Saints to try to move up, but if they stay put they could address their need for a left tackle.
17. CHARGERS: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State — Olave could help the Chargers stretch the field in a way that Jalen Guyton didn’t during the last two seasons.
18. PHILADELPHIA: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington — Eagles might try to pull the ripcord and trade down. If they stick with this pick, it could be someone to fortify the secondary.
19. NEW ORLEANS: QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh — Forget that stuff about small hands, Pickett is the quarterback most ready to step into a pro system. He can sit behind Jameis Winston.
20. PITTSBURGH: QB Malik Willis, Liberty — First no quarterbacks, now a mad dash for them. Well, two. Willis eventually could lead the next generation of the Steelers offense.
Other than his first pick as Chargers general manager, Tom Telesco has done very well with first-round selections. The rest has been hit and miss, as with the rest of the NFL.
21. NEW ENGLAND: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida — Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson are gone. The Patriots need to address their need at corner as soon as possible.
22. GREEN BAY: WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas — The Packers wouldn’t expect him to be Davante Adams, but Burks would be a welcome gift for Aaron Rodgers.
23. ARIZONA: CB Kyler Gordon, Washington — Is there room for another Kyler on this team? There is if he can help fortify the Cardinals secondary.
24. DALLAS: G Zion Johnson, Boston College — The Cowboys need a left guard, and Johnson could start right away. Lloyd would provide good linebacker help if he’s around.
25. BUFFALO: CB Roger McCreary, Auburn — With All-Pro corner Tre’Davious White recovering from a devastating knee injury, there’s an area of need for the mighty Bills.
26. TENNESSEE: G Kenyon Green, Texas A&M — The Titans need to replace two starters on their offensive line, and Green would be an excellent choice to fill the need at left guard.
The Rams are without a first-round NFL draft pick again, and without a second too this year too, but they’ve had a ton of success with third-round selections, starting with Cooper Kupp.
27. TAMPA BAY: S Lewis Cine, Georgia — The Buccaneers could go with a defensive tackle, but Cine has turned a lot of heads and could be a fixture in that secondary for years to come.
28. GREEN BAY: LB Quay Walker, Georgia — The Packers are looking for a linebacker to pair with All-Pro DeVondre Campbell, and Walker could help bolster the nickel defense.
29. KANSAS CITY: WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State — He might not be Tyreek Hill (who is?), but Dotson is a burner who would be a nice addition to Patrick Mahomes’ arsenal.
30. KANSAS CITY: DE George Karlaftis, Purdue — Karlaftis could tumble out of the first round. Would be wild, but Chiefs could go receiver-receiver. They do need help on the line.
31. CINCINNATI: DT Devonte Wyatt, Georgia — Wyatt has had some legal issues, although that kind of stuff hasn’t scared off the Bengals in the past. Really tough pass rusher.
32. DETROIT: S Daxton Hill, Michigan — Lions could pair him with Tracy Walker and lock down the back end of their defense. This would have them taking Michigan players with their first two picks.
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