Draft Day

Joshua Jordan Mock 4.0: The Draft is finally upon us

I don't think Barkley slips past the Browns at No.4, but he could go as high as No.2 to the Giants. Penn State Football/Facebook

Here is my final mock draft and I have made several changes this week, to say the least. I think I have a better feel now for how the middle of the 1st round will play out, but we'll find out for sure tonight. Now, I certainly don't have the resume of Mike Mayock or Mel Kiper, but I do have the luxury of talking football with guys like NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, and have co-hosted draft shows in the Houston market the last few years. I watch as many players as I can, look at the needs and tendencies of every team, and get information from people I trust. So here we go. The NFL Draft is like Christmas morning for me, and I can't wait for this thing to get started. 

1. Cleveland Browns- Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield

The Browns finally get their franchise QB. There's a lot of buzz about Baker Mayfield being selected here, so I'll trust what I'm hearing. 

2. New York Giants- NCST DE Bradley Chubb

The Giants find a replacement for JPP, or they trade back.

3. New York Jets- UCLA QB Josh Rosen

I'm hearing that the Jets prefer Rosen over Darnold.

4. Cleveland Browns- Penn St. RB Saquon Barkley

Cleveland selects the best player in the draft. They could trade this pick to Arizona, Buffalo, or even Denver.

5. Denver Broncos- USC QB Sam Darnold

I can't believe it, but I think the Broncos can stay put and take Darnold at #5.

6. Indianapolis Colts- Virginia Tech OLB Tremaine Edmonds

The Colts add an incredible playmaker to their defense.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Ohio St. CB Denzel Ward

The Bucs get the best corner in the draft.

8. Chicago Bears- Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson

The Bears get one of the best players in the draft and protect their young QB.

9. San Francisco 49ers- Georgia LB Roquan Smith

I'm going with Lance's advice and keeping Roquan Smith in my Top 10. If you missed Lance Zierlein shaming me, you can check it out here

10. TRADE--------- Buffalo Bills via Raiders- Wyoming QB Josh Allen

The Bills trade with the Raiders to jump in front of Miami and grab their QB. Adam Gase and the Dolphins are rumored to be interested in a QB, so the Bills make their move.

11. Miami Dolphins- Washington DT Vita Vea 

 The Dolphins replace Suh, and give Tannehill another year.

12. TRADE--------- Oakland Raiders via BillsAlabama DT  Da'Ron Payne

The Raiders get some help on the d-line and add some picks.

13. Washington Redskins- Florida State S Derwin James

Washington gets a steal and adds to the secondary.

14. Green Bay Packers- UTSA OLB Marcus Davenport

The Packers are excited to get their pass rusher. Some compare Davenport to Lions DE Ziggy Ansah, but I see a lighter lowercase Jadeveon Clowney. 

15. Arizona Cardinals- Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick

Arizona gets great value and upgrades the secondary.

16. Baltimore Ravens- Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey

Now the Ravens have bookend tackles with McGlinchey and Ronnie Stanley. I was lucky enough to watch some coaches tape of McGlinchey, and this dude looks legit.

17. Los Angeles Chargers- Boise St. LB  Leighton Vander Esch

The Chargers bolster their defense. This guy can PLAY.

18. Seattle Seahawks- Iowa CB Josh Jackson

Pete Carroll and John Schneider get their replacement for Richard Sherman. Jackson posseses size and terrific ball skills. He has Seahawk written all over him.

19. Dallas Cowboys- Florida DT Taven Bryan

The Cowboys could go Rahaan Evans or Calvin Ridley, but I'm betting they would take Bryan if he's available.

20. Detroit Lions- Boston College DE Harold Landry

The Lions get some help on their defensive line. Ziggy Ansah is playing on the franchise tag.

21. Cincinnati Bengals - Alabama LB Rahaan Evans 

Evans fills a need and he's a terrific player.

22. TRADE---------Oakland Raiders via Bills- Louisville CB Jaire Alexander

The Raiders take the extra pick from the Bills and get some much-needed help at corner.

23. New England Patriots-  UCLA OT Kolton Miller

The Pats need both tackle and corner, but this draft is thin at tackle. They can grab a corner at pick #31.

24. Carolina Panthers- Alabama WR Calvin Ridley

They get Cam a much-needed weapon outside.

25. Tennessee Titans- Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk

Kirk can help Mariota get the ball out fast, and that will help keep their QB healthy. They just took Corey Davis in the 1st round last year, but there aren't any LBs or pass rushers worth taking here. They may look to trade down.

26. Atlanta Falcons- Michigan DT Maurice Hurst

Dontari Poe left in free agency, so the Falcons add a DT.

27. New Orleans Saints- UTEP OG Will Hernandez

The Saints know the running game was a difference maker for them last year. 

28. Pittsburgh Steelers- Stanford S Justin Reid

This dude can run and has Pro Bowl potential. 

29. Jacksonville Jaguars- Louisville QB Lamar Jackson

Blake Bortles will have competition.

30. Minnesota Vikings- Texas OL Connor Williams

The Vikings spent a ton of money on Kirk Cousins, so they add some help on the line to protect him.

31. New England Patriots- UCF CB Mike Hughes

The Pats get lucky and grab Hughes to replace Malcolm Butler. Hughes should go sooner , but several of the teams in front of the Pats have bigger needs than corner.

32. Philadelphia Eagles- SMU WR Courtland Sutton

The Super Bowl champs add another toy for Carson Wentz, and Alshon Jeffery is recovering from a shoulder injury.

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Here's what to make of the Rockets free agency moves. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

No NBA team with title aspirations entered the offseason with more questions than the Houston Rockets. Ironically, Houston's situation got more precarious as the offseason went along. From head coach Mike D'Antoni walking away after the season to general manager Daryl Morey following suit shortly after that, the Rockets have been a sinking ship in desperate need of stability. They found some of that once new head coach Stephen Silas was hired, but the boat took on more water when star players James Harden and Russell Westbrook demanded to be traded a couple of weeks later.

It's been a giant roller coaster and it was unclear how Houston would approach their free agency. Would they double down on contending for a championship to try and convince their star players to stay or would they be forced to rebuild?

It looks like Houston tried to thread the needle and accomplish both: They appear ready to rebuild if they can't convince James Harden to stay, but also addressed roster needs and acquired better fitting pieces for their stars. It's hard to say whether or not they got better, but they're certainly a lot younger and look to play a lot different. Let's take a look at each player and how they fit into the framework.

Christian Wood

Contract:

3 years, $41 million

Grade:

B+

If there's a signing that embodies Houston's offseason, it's Christian Wood. For obvious reasons and some subtle ones, Wood is the exact kind of player Houston had to acquire this summer. Let's start with the obvious: Wood is the perfect player to have alongside both James Harden and Russell Westbrook because of his unique set of skills. Wood can hit threes at a high clip for someone his size (36.8% for his career) and stretches the floor for the moments you want Russell Westbrook barreling to the rim or James Harden trying to break a trap.

Lob threat

The Rockets didn't have a big man with that capability on the roster last year, so they had to resort to trading for Robert Covington and going small so they could properly space the floor. However, in doing that the Rockets lost their best lob threat and limited themselves on offense even further. This is where Wood solves the second problem: He may not be as good of a lob threat as Clint Capela, but he's damn close.

Over the past few years, the Rockets have slowly phased out pick and roll out of their offense and resorted to isolation. Part of it is because of how teams have defended the pick and roll, but part of it is also them not having the option anymore. James Harden is too good of a pick and roll ball handler for it to not be a part of the Rockets' attack. Adding more pick and roll to Houston's offense should be a priority next season, regardless of what else Silas decides to do.

Clint Capela was the perfect center for James Harden. P.J. Tucker was the perfect center for Russell Westbrook. Christian Wood is the perfect center for both.

Defensive rebounding

Another weakness Houston needed to address this offseason was their defensive rebounding (26th in NBA last season). It got to the point where it was a rarity that Houston would win the rebounding battle against good teams. This was partly by design and partly because of roster weakness. Houston was so porous at rebounding in the beginning of the season, they decided to emphasize turning over opponents to even the possession battle. If Houston were to even marginally improve in defensive rebounding, it could have a drastic positive impact on their defense.

Per 36 minutes:

22.0 PPG

10.6 RPG

1.5 BPG

65.9% True Shooting

Houston also replenished their coffers in the process of acquiring Wood. By flipping Robert Covington to the Blazers, the Rockets netted two draft picks back after losing two the prior offseason in the Westbrook trade. It may not matter in the grand scheme of next season, but these assets could be especially useful if Houston pivots to a rebuild. They could also be useful to upgrade the roster at the trade deadline if Houston gets Harden's buy-in. (As an aside, the series of transactions that led to Wood are impressive and reflect well on new GM Rafael Stone's ability to get deals done.)

The subtle reason Wood embodies their offseason is his age, 25 years old. Wood would immediately become the youngest starter on the team and be a building block piece on the next iteration of the Rockets. He's also old enough to make an immediate impact should Houston acquire a ready-made blue chip prospect in a James Harden trade. With the 76ers rumored to be a team interested in Harden's services, it probably isn't a coincidence that Ben Simmons (24 years old) falls neatly into Wood's age group. It also probably isn't a coincidence that the ideal team for Simmons has always been imagined to be a team that can spread the floor at the four other positions on the court. Having Wood is great start to try and accomplish that.

David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, and Jae'Sean Tate

Contracts:

Negligible

Grade:

B-

Nwaba, Brown, and Tate are all being placed in one category because it's quite clear what the Rockets are trying to accomplish: Take bets on young, cheap wings on the market and hope one pans out enough to make the final rotation for Stephen Silas.

While David Nwaba technically wasn't signed this offseason, he's essentially a free agency signing because the Rockets signed him up a few months ago with the knowledge he wouldn't be able to play in the first year of his deal. He's the oldest of this group (27 years old), has the largest wingspan (7'0"), and has logged the most NBA minutes (3295). Because of all this, he's probably the safest bet to make Houston's final rotation. However, just because he's the 'safest bet' doesn't mean he's a 'safe bet' per se.

Nwaba suffered a season-ending achilles injury on December 9th of last season and has spent the past year rehabbing. It's unclear how he will respond from this, but before the injury, Nwaba had found a nice role in Brooklyn as a combo forward who could shoot well enough from beyond the perimeter (34.4% for his career). The Rockets have desperately needed competent perimeter defenders off the bench since their 2017-18 campaign and a healthy Nwaba was just that.

Sterling Brown, 24, found his way on the fringes of the Bucks' rotation the past few seasons and gained the trust of head coach Mike Budenholzer enough to play nearly 15 minutes a game. Brown is a pesky defender and average three-point shooter (34.5% for his career) and like the other wings in this category, he doesn't need the ball. He's probably the second most proven wing here and if he cracks the rotation, it's unlikely he will have to play more than he did in Milwaukee.

Jae'Sean Tate, 25, is probably the most intriguing prospect of this bunch as he's never played in the NBA before. Tate played under new Rockets assistant coach Will Weaver on the Sidney Kings and averaged 16.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists on 66.0% shooting from the field last season while earning first-team All-NBL honors. He's 6'4" with a 6'8" wingspan and was considered to be one of the top basketball prospects outside the NBA before signing with Houston. The Rockets appear to be quite high on him considering they used part of their mid-level exception to sign him to a three-year deal.

The Rockets already have much of their rotation locked in:

James Harden and Russell Westbrook will likely play at least 35 minutes a piece, P.J. Tucker will probably play around 32 minutes, and finally Danuel House and Christian Wood will likely play around 30 minutes each. That leaves 78 minutes for a bench that already has Eric Gordon and Ben McLemore. Also, Houston will probably sign another center before the season starts. Now, the Rockets may try to ease the load off of some of their older starters, in which case there might be more time available. However, whatever way you slice it, they really only need one of these wings to crack the rotation for regular season purposes.

It's unlikely all three signings end up backfiring for them, but we'll see. Stranger things have happened.

It's also convenient that all three of these players are 27 years or younger should the Rockets decide to trade Harden at the trade deadline. Like Wood, these signings give Houston the option to pivot in another direction. Because of Houston's lack of room under the apron, they didn't have the option to use their full mid-level or bi-annual exception. Ring-chaser types also weren't going to sign with the Rockets for the minimum given the uncertainty surrounding their stars. This was a nice way for Houston to hedge their bets while also filling out the roster with possible contributors.

The Rockets aren't done making moves yet, but they're close. Understanding the circumstances, it's hard to be too critical of what they did in free agency.

Overall Grade: B

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