Post-NFL Combine fictional drafts can generally play out in two ways. Either they become some of the exact fictional drafts of the offseason because the information is fresh and the analysts don’t have time to think too much about the players between now and the draft. Or they are reactionary and overcompensate after a single practice performance that was really good or really bad.
The Atheltic’s Dane Brugler is one of the most respected draft analysts in the industry, and he has ties to virtually every organization in the NFL. After this weekend’s Combine events, Brugler has surely gained more insider info, and he’s likely using some of it to guide him through his fictional third draft of the offseason (subscription).
In Brugler’s first mock draft — which he elaborated on during a PODcast — he gave the Michigan Lions EDGE Aidan Hutchinson and Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks (with the 23rd overall pick at the time. In his second mock draft, Brugler stayed with Hutchinson being the Lions pick at No. 2 but switched receivers from Burks to Ohio State’s Chris Olave (Lions pick No. 38), and in the second round, Detroit nabbed Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary.
In this mock draft (version 3.0), Brugler remained consistent with the Lions’ first choice:
No. 2, Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
“Hutchinson has done nothing at the combine to detract from his draft status as one of the best players in the class,” Brugler said in his post, an opinion shared by most analysts.
After an impressive combine, Hutchinson was one of our star performers, as he had incredibly impressive explosion and agility scores. This is something that Brugler also made a point of mentioning.
“While his 40-yard sprint time was average,” Brugler explained, “he led all defenders in the front seven with a three-cone shuttle of 6.73 and a short shuttle of 4.15, which are two To put those times in perspective, Von Miller posted a 6.70 three-cone and Khalil Mack had a short 4.18 shuttle.
With the Lions’ second first-round pick, Brugler went in a different direction from his prized what-if projects by opting for a quarterback over a wide receiver.
No. 32 Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
“The Lions have done their homework on several quarterbacks in this class, including an official meeting with Ridder at the combine,” Brugler noted. “With Jared Goff as a starter in 2022, the Lions could develop Ridder at his own pace instead of forcing him into immediate action.”
While the logic makes sense, it’s not a strategy I have behind this offseason. Lions general manager Brad Holmes may only have one shot at a franchise quarterback during his tenure in Detroit, and if Ridder isn’t that guy, then Holmes wasted a big fat part of the Matthew Stafford business.
Could Ridder become a franchise quarterback? Of course it’s possible, he was also one of our best Combine players at quarterback. But even Brugler had Ridder ranked as the 41st top prospect in this class in his last top-100 ranking (subscription), which isn’t an inspiring vote of confidence that it will happen.
Bottom line, it’s a gamble taken on the No. 32 quarterback pick and a Holmes can’t miss.
In the second round, Brugler moved back into Michigan’s defense to give the Lions a secondary assist.
No. 34 Daxton Hill, Safe/Nickel Corner, Michigan
Going back to Brugler’s top 100, Hill is actually his 23rd best player on the roster, which is great value, and I have to imagine he went for Ridder at the end of the first round against Hill due to the Fifth year option that comes with #32 pick.
Brugler had no explanation for this selection in his fictional draft, but he did say this about Hill in his top 100:
“Arguably the best Nickel defender in the draft, Hill can cover wide receivers and tight ends while providing punch in the run game and as a blitzer,” Brugler wrote. “Although he’s the size of a cornerback, he should test the charts and play with the tenacity of a safety. With his versatile skills, Hill is exactly what many teams are looking for in their secondaries.
Like Hutchinson and Ridder, Hill has also been recognized as one of our best harvesters.
Further Notes on Brugler’s False Draft
There were other interesting things that happened in Brugler’s fictional draft that were notable.
After Jacksonville took offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu (NC State) to No. 1 and Hutchinson moved to No. 2 at the Lions, it was Georgia EDGE Travon Walker— who Jeremy Reisman correctly identified as one of the players who improved his stock dramatically at the Combine — who came third overall at the Houston Texans.
The other player in Reisman’s rating was North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watsonwho left the roster at the Kansas City Chiefs’ No. 62 pick.
Our Lady security Kyle Hamilton landed at pick No. 8, while Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux went to No. 9, which is a slight, but noticeable drop for both players.
state of floridaby Jermaine Johnson went to the No. 10 pick, making him the fourth rusher on the board among the top 10 picks.
Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett was the first quarterback selected at the No. 11 pick, Liberty’s Malik Willis went No. 18, and Ridder was next, bringing the first-round quarterback’s total to just three. Sam Howell from North Carolina was pick #47, Matt Corral of Mississippi No. 52, and were the only second-round quarterbacks.
At linebacker, Utah’s Devin Lloyd and Nakobe Dean from Georgia went to the first round, while Georgia’s Quay Walker went to pick No. 33, right between the Lions taking Ridder and Hill.
The first ball carrier caught was state of michiganby Kenneth Walkerwho left the No. 50 pick board. Speaking of colleges in Michigan, MichiganOL center Bernhard Raimann had to go first (pick #25), while Skyy Moore, West Michigan wide receiver was placed just ahead of Walker at pick no. 49.