Is the NFL draft primed for a defensive end surge? One analyst now includes four ends in the draft’s first hours, with a pair of SEC stars among them.
NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein has four defensive ends in the first nine picks, the most of any position, in his latest mock draft.
At the head of the list, not surprisingly: Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett first overall to the Cleveland Browns and Alabama’s Jonathan Allen going fifth to the Tennessee Titans.
Zierlein projects defensive ends going 1-2, with Stanford’s Solomon Thomas heading to the San Francisco 49ers with the second pick.
His fourth early-round defensive end is not Tennessee’s Derek Barnett but instead Michigan’s Taco Charlton, whom he expects to go at No. 9 to the Cincinnati Bengals. Most drafts have projected Charlton later, sometimes much later, in the opening round. Zierlein does have Barnett in the first round, at No. 19 to Tampa Bay.
The mock draft also predicts six cornerbacks in the opening round, the most of all positions. Among them are Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey (No. 14 to the Philadelphia Eagles) and LSU’s Tre’Davious White (No. 28 to the Dallas Cowboys); they are two of the 11 SEC players that Zierlein projects as first-rounders.
The other first-round corners are the Ohio State pair of Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, Washington’s Kevin King and USC’s Adoree’ Jackson.
Zierlein projects five SEC players in the opening eight picks: Garrett, LSU running back Leonard Fournette fourth to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Allen, LSU safety Jamal Adams sixth to the New York Jets and Alabama tight end O.J. Howard eighth to the Carolina Panthers.
His prediction of 11 SEC first-rounders, which would lead all conferences, also includes Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis at No. 24 to the Raiders.
Among other notables:
* Zierlein projects North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky as his number-one quarterback, at No. 10 to the Buffalo Bills. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson (No. 25 to the Houston Texans) and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes (No. 27 to the Kansas City Chiefs) are his other first-round quarterbacks.
* In addition to Howard, there’s another tight end in Zierlein’s opening round. That’s Miami’s David Njoku, projected to join the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 30th pick.
* Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk is projected at No. 15 to the Indianapolis Colts, the highest offensive tackle on Zierlein’s board. Alabama’s Cam Robinson (No. 23 to the New York Giants) is the only other offensive tackle in the first round.
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