I’ve always been hooked on the NFL Draft, but with the current pandemic situation, let’s just say that my attention towards it has multiplied by about 19 times. I don’t pretend to be a scout or watch a ton of college football, but I do my research and like to think that I know quite a bit about NFL rosters. I also think a lot of experts who do this kind of stuff year-round can get lost in the process, so I like to keep it simple:
- College Production
- NFL Fit
That’s basically it, with a quick blurb for each pick included. I’m not exactly trying to snipe what will happen on draft night, more so a mix of what I think could and should happen.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
A dream scenario for the Bengals. No need to expand upon this; Burrow is the best QB prospect in years and this pick is 100% going to happen. I will say…the Bengals might not suck next season. They shouldn’t make the playoffs or anything, but I’d expect way better than 2-14 after Burrow puts the cherry on top of a good offseason.
- Miami Dolphins – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
(TRADE: Miami receives Pick 1/2, Washington receives Picks 1/5, 1/18, 2021 First Round Pick from Houston)
BLOCKBUSTER! This is what Miami has been stocking up for with their roster teardown, and the Redskins get their first round picks back from the RG3 trade all these years later. This might seem insane from Miami’s perspective, and it definitely could be, but history tell us this is about what it would take to move up these three picks. And that is before you consider that Washington would be saying goodbye to Chase Young and the Dolphins would be landing a prospect who would be QB1 in most years. The best the Chargers can do to move up for Tua is likely the third pick, so Miami does what they need to do to land him.
I’m not as wild about Tua as most. The scary injury history speaks for itself, and I have doubts about how he’ll hold up without surroundings as cushy as Alabama’s were for him. With that, I see some Matt Leinart here. But at the same time, he has accuracy you can’t teach and exudes inspiration and confidence, so I don’t fault a struggling team like Miami one bit who see him as the guy who’s going to turn everything around.
- Detroit Lions – Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Home run pick for the Lions, landing the top player on most boards who also fits perfectly into this defense and fills a big need. Let’s just hope that Young only has to spend one year under Matt Patricia.
- New York Giants – Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
I’ll go a bit longer here, because I imagine a lot of people reading this care as much about the Giants as the person writing it. This pick is also one of the hardest to peg and will set the course for the rest of the first round. My gut is that the Giants are leaning Simmons, and I would be absolutely ecstatic with the selection. He’s a unicorn of a prospect with some of the most impressive college tape you will ever see. The Giants struggled on both sides of the ball last year, but defense was the bigger liability. Despite already spending big on defense in free agency, there is nobody with even close to the star power that Simmons would immediately bring. He would make everyone around him better while singlehandedly patching up a lot of the team weaknesses. It’s a poorly kept secret that Dave Gettleman’s seat is on fire, and if he thinks that Simmons is the best play towards fielding a competitive team in 2020 and thereby saving his job, I wouldn’t blame him.
Although I’m rooting for the Giants to take Simmons and don’t see any way for this team to truly contend in 2020, I do think the best course towards a playoff push next season would drafting a right tackle. If the Giants committed to the 2016 Dallas model of playing defense through controlling the ball and clock on offense with Jason Garrett calling the shots, then I could see a best-case scenario where this team goes 9-7 or 10-6. That would require a major upgrade on the offensive line though, where the Giants currently have one of the worst tackle situations in the league. This draft class is excellent at the position, including two stud right tackles near the top of big boards in Jedrick Wills and Tristan Wirfs. I think Wirfs makes a ton of sense, given that he could plug and play on the right side next year, then smoothly slide over to the blindside once Nate Solder is finally sent out to pasture. Gettleman is definitely drooling over his combine performance and workout videos too. But for all of the talk of “hog mollies,” guess how many offensive linemen Gettleman has drafted with his nine first round picks in his time as a GM? That would be zero. And while a lot of Giants fans see the Cam Fleming signing as a depth move, we thought the same thing about Mike Remmers last year, and then he went on to start 14 games at right tackle. I’m sure the Giants will do their best to make an outrageous selection at the top of the draft for the third year in a row, but I do feel good about Simmons being their guy.
- Washington Redskins – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Not only do the Redskins pick up two extra first rounders in this hypothetical trade down, they now can address a much greater need than they would have by taking Chase Young. This pick has to be on offense, where the Skins just have a total dearth of skill and need to put more effort into either validating or moving on from Dwayne Haskins. Jerry Jeudy dominates in space and would play to Haskins’ strength of getting the ball out quickly, and he would form arguably the league’s best young receiver duo with Terry McLaurin. This pick could absolutely be a left tackle since Trent Williams will never suit up for them again, but with 4-5 top tier tackles on the board and only 2-3 top tier receivers, Washington can address that position with their newly acquired first rounder later.
- Los Angeles Chargers – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
The Chargers have had an excellent offseason and now have a roster that’s pretty elite in terms of overall talent. Their only big holes are at left tackle and quarterback, and at least 95% of mock drafts have them going QB with this pick. But with their ready-to-win roster, I think there’s a better chance than advertised that the Bolts address QB in free agency – likely Cam Newton – as opposed to drafting Justin Herbert…in this spot. I have major doubts that Herbert would come out of the gate hot, and that’s without even considering how weird this offseason will be for rookies in light of COVID-19. They also have no fan support at the moment and a brand-new stadium to fill, which is another reason to go the household name route for the short term. With Cam and Wirfs, who could step right into the blindside and has the versality to move around the line in the event of injury as well, this team could be drafting in the Bottom 6 instead of the Top 6 in the 2021 Draft.
- Carolina Panthers – Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
This pick needs to be on defense, where the Panthers are set up to have arguably the league’s worst unit. They need help at every level, and Jeff Okudah could certainly be the guy here, but I see them taking Brown. He is absurdly strong and pops on tape even from the defensive interior – just watch his highlights from the Iron Bowl. Despite playing a less valuable position than cornerback and a rough Combine showing, Brown could go a long way in cleaning up Carolina’s god-awful run defense while still pushing the pocket. Matt Rhule is definitely smitten by him too.
- Las Vegas Raiders – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
(TRADE: Las Vegas receives Pick 1/8, Arizona receives Picks 1/12, 3/81, 2021 Second Round Pick)
ANOTHER TRADE! Jeff Okudah is one of the best cornerback prospects in years; there are really no holes in his game. If he does make it past Carolina at 7, Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden will be licking their lips. The Raiders have been active this offseason to address their defense, bringing in at least four new starters. But their cornerbacks are still terrible, and it’s becoming less and less possible to contend without production from that position. With another first round pick in this draft, Las Vegas (that’s weird to type) is in a position to be aggressive here, while Arizona with just 6 total picks – including none in the second round – could be looking to pick up extra draft capital after the DeAndre Hopkins robbery trade.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
Kinlaw is a classic NFL Draft case study. He has freakish measurables and was the single biggest standout from the Senior Bowl, and only then did we start to acknowledge that he also happened to be an AP First Team All-American playing in the SEC. He checks all of the boxes, and as an interior player who can pressure the quarterback at a similar rate to good edge rushers, multiple teams will view him as their version of Chris Jones or DeForest Buckner. (I’m fairly sure a big reason the Colts traded for Buckner is because they knew they couldn’t get Kinlaw at Pick 13.) The Jags definitely could be the worst team in football in 2020, so they have to be thinking total rebuild with this pick. Pairing Kinlaw with Josh Allen is a good place to start.
- Cleveland Browns – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Andrew Thomas is a prime example of why I hate draft season sometimes. He was a high school All-American with extraordinary length, started for three years at Georgia with improvement each season, was the highest graded Power-5 tackle at PFF in 2019, and then had a great showing at the Combine. At his size he posted the fourth best 3 Cone Drill time among all offensive linemen, which if you ask me should be a bigger deal than Mekhi Bechton running a 5.1 40. And yet, you commonly see Thomas as the fourth tackle on big boards and in mocks. I swear, the logic is “we know Thomas is going to be a 5 Pro Bowl type of player, but we’d rather roll the dice on a 10 Pro Bowl type of player!” Well, not in my mock. With this pick, Baker Mayfield would have a strong supporting cast on all levels of the offense and could only point fingers at himself if they struggle again in 2020.
- Philadelphia Eagles – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
(TRADE: Philadelphia receives Picks 1/11 and 3/68, New York Jets receive Pick 1/21, 2021 First Round Pick, and Alshon Jeffrey)
LET’S GET NUTS. The Eagles push their chips into the middle of the table to grab the superstar out of Oklahoma, whose explosiveness you almost have to see to believe. Philly’s receiving corps might be the single greatest roster flaw among contenders across the league; it’s a certainty that they address it early in this draft. Yes, this draft is absurdly deep at receiver, but Lamb is on another level as whomever the Eagles could draft at Pick 21. The price is steep, but this is likely around what it would take to move up 10 spots in the first round to grab a player of Lamb’s caliber. The Eagles also pick up the high third round pick that the Jets stole from the Giants in the Leonard Williams trade, and the plug is pulled on the suddenly sour relationship with Alshon Jeffrey. Moving Alshon would place a financial burden on the Eagles for 2020, but as Howie Roseman’s creative accounting has started to catch up with him, ripping off the Band-Aid of his contract and replacing it with Lamb on a rookie deal would give Philly some much needed flexibility for 2021 and beyond.
As for Jets fans – and Sam Darnold – I know this would suck. The Jets could badly use Lamb or Jedrick Wills in this spot. But the lack of talent on that roster is just so palpable that they couldn’t turn down an additional first rounder. And without owing Alshon any guaranteed money by picking him up via trade, it’s a low-risk move for a guy who if healthy would absolutely be the best target that Sam Darnold has had in New York.
- Arizona Cardinals – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
(Via Las Vegas)
Talk about a win for the Cardinals. They pick up two extra good picks and still land the guy who they probably would have taken in their original slot. Wills and his mobility would be an ideal fit in Kliff Kingsbury’s up-tempo offense. I think Kyler Murray has more left to prove than most, but if he does take the next step with Wills anchoring the right side of the line, this offense could be tough to stop.
- Denver Broncos – Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
(TRADE: Denver receives Pick 1/13, San Francisco receives Picks 1/15 and 3/77)
The above trades are mostly pipe dreams, but I could really see this one playing out. Henry Ruggs to Denver is probably the most commonly mocked pick outside of Joe Burrow to the Bengals, but I’m not confident that Ruggs and his 4.27 speed make it to Pick 15. The Broncos desperately need to bring in another receiver across from Courtland Sutton, and that offense could use an infusion of speed too. Denver has three third round picks in this draft, so they are willing to depart with their top one to get the fourth Crimson Tide offensive player off the board.
As for the 49ers, while they could definitely take Ruggs themselves in this spot, they currently have no picks between Rounds 2-4, so this is a fairly easy decision to move back only two spots.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mekhi Bechton, OT, Louisville
While I think it’s ridiculous that Bechton in reality will likely go ahead of at least one player from the Wirfs/Thomas/Wills trio, you can’t teach 6’7” and 364 pounds with his athleticism. With Tampa’s need for an upgrade at right tackle, this is the furthest that Bechton would fall. He is viewed as a work in progress at his natural left tackle position, so Bucs fans should temper expectations in this event that he’s drafted to immediately hold down the right side. Still, with the combination of his sheer size and Tom Brady’s quick release, this would be an ideal destination for Bechton.
- San Francisco 49ers – Cesar Ruiz, C/OG, Michigan
While this wouldn’t be the sexiest of picks, one of the few areas of the Niners roster where they could stand to improve is the interior of the offensive line. Their guards stink and center Weston Richburg is coming off a serious injury, so the versatile Ruiz would start somewhere from day one and would insert nicely into Kyle Shanahan’s zone-heavy offense. In theory it would make more sense for San Fran to address this position with their later first round pick, but Ruiz is the clear top player in a weak interior offensive linemen class, so he might not be available at Pick 31.
- Atlanta Falcons – CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
If Henderson is still available for the Falcons, then you can write this pick in Sharpie. Atlanta’s current cornerback situation is abysmal, and Henderson is insanely athletic and plays with a ton of physicality. Totally perfect fit for a Dan Quinn defense.
- Dallas Cowboys – K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
The Cowboys could address a few different positions on defense with this pick, so I’ll roll with the guy who would likely be the top player on a lot of teams’ boards at this point. Personally I’m skeptical of the raw, bendy edge rusher types like Chaisson, and I think he’d be a better fit in a 3-4 base defense. Still, his athleticism is indisputable and he finished the season really strong. Dallas needs someone opposite DeMarcus Lawrence now that Robert Quinn is gone, and let’s just say that I don’t think Aldon Smith is the answer.
- Washington Redskins – Josh Jones, OT, Houston
Redskins fans haven’t had a lot to cheer about this century, but a draft class led by Jerry Jeudy and Josh Jones would be one of those things. Jones might not be the specimen that the offensive tackles ahead of him in this mock are, but he was the highest graded tackle at PFF in 2019 and erased any concerns of the level of competition that he faced at Houston with a dominant performance at the Senior Bowl.
- Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
(TRADE: Los Angeles receives Pick 1/19, Las Vegas receives Picks 2/37, 3/71 and 2021 Second Round Pick)
Despite everything I wrote earlier about how I think the Chargers could pass on Herbert at Pick 6 and sign a veteran QB, they make a play to get back into the first round in front of Jacksonville after watching the kid tumble! Even if LA does sign someone like Cam, that should by no means stop them from addressing QB in this draft. Herbert would be stepping into an extremely talented offense with no expectations to immediately start in this scenario, which would be perfect given his failure to rise to the occasion in some big games at Oregon and all of the reports on his apparent lack of edge.
As for the Raiders, they scoop back up a third rounder in this draft and a 2021 second rounder after trading them away in the hypothetical Okudah trade. And at Pick 37, the caliber of wide receiver that they’d likely take wouldn’t be much different than whomever they would have targeted here.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Now, would I make this pick as the GM of the Jaguars? Absolutely not, despite the fact that nobody would be feeling confident about Gardner Minshew as a Week 1 starter if he was a normal looking guy with a cleanly shaven face. While I do endorse the strategy of bringing in QBs via the draft until you find your guy – hence this mock draft placement – I certainly do not endorse using first round picks on deeply flawed and largely unproductive prospects, regardless of how much more valuable quarterback is than any other position. Love is toolsy and started to earn first round chatter after his sophomore season, but he couldn’t take care of the ball or consistently find his receivers in the Mountain West Conference. The logical best-case projection here is Josh Allen (Bills QB). That should give you pause when Allen is the best possible outcome, but regardless of your thoughts on Allen – mine aren’t high – just about anyone would take him with the 20th overall pick in a draft today.
- New York Jets – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
There are so many different directions the Jets could go with this pick. EDGE and offensive tackle are more glaring needs (and wide receiver in reality, but they addressed that with the Alshon Jeffrey trade in this mock), but there isn’t necessarily anyone on the board at those positions who would justify a selection here. The Jets roll with Fulton instead, the battle-tested senior cornerback from LSU. The tier of cornerbacks after Jeff Okudah is deep, and Fulton isn’t recognized as the most athletic of that bunch. But his production in the SEC was off the charts, and concerns regarding his athleticism are a bit unfounded in my opinion. He was a five-star high school recruit and he performed well at the Combine in every drill outside of the 20 Yard Shuttle. For how much of a revolving door the cornerback position has been for the Jets since Darrelle Revis’ departure, they could use someone with Fulton’s stability.
- Minnesota Vikings – Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
The Vikings roster has pretty quietly taken a beating this offseason, but with two of the next four picks, they should be able to quickly rebound and remain competitive in 2020. They aren’t fooling anyone with Tajae Sharpe currently listed as WR2 on their depth chart, so the first of their two picks is spent on Higgins. There are plenty of good receivers still on the board for Minnesota to choose from here, but Higgins is the best fit for their style of offense and has become an overlooked prospect in my opinion. With his 6’4” frame and excellent catch radius, Vikings fans wouldn’t be longing for Stefon Diggs’ contested catch ability with Higgins taking his place.
- New England Patriots – AJ Epenesa, DL, Iowa
This is simultaneously one of my favorite and more frustrating picks of this mock, because in a couple of years we’ll all be like, “why did we let Bill Belichick get this guy at the back of the first round?” Epenesa is a monster who physically stood out even in the Big 10. He opened draft season as a consistent Top 10 pick with well-known speed concerns, and yet we have all overreacted to his slow showing at the Combine. I’m of the outspoken opinion that the Pats are going to suck next year and might be tanking before our eyes. I’d be really shocked if they draft a quarterback in the first round – Belichick certainly isn’t going to trade up – so I have them taking the best player available. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Epenesa could become New England’s next Richard Seymour.
- New Orleans Saints – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
What do you draft when you have everything? The Saints are somehow running back another revamped roster for what feels like the fifth season in a row, and it’s really tough to find any areas of weakness. I suppose they could look to trade back or an argument could be made for off-ball linebacker, but I have them keeping the bendy slot receiver out of LSU in state. The Saints simply have to be doing everything they can at this point to beef up the offense as much as possible for Drew Brees, and Jefferson would be a unique weapon. I know they already signed Emmanuel Sanders, but he’s a constant health risk and is probably in decline anyways.
- Minnesota Vikings – Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
Now that the Vikings have addressed receiver, the other area where they need an immediate rookie impact is cornerback. Jaylon Johnson has the experience and instincts to step into a starting role right away, and Mike Zimmer would love his physicality.
- Miami Dolphins – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Despite their spending spree this offseason, the Dolphins could still use help at just about every position. The priority should be offensive line, especially if they draft Tua. Ereck Flowers is the most high profile player currently on their line, which tells you all that you need to know. Still, there aren’t any offensive linemen on the board I’m comfortable mocking to Miami this early, and they have plenty of picks later in the draft to address it. So I have them taking the Swiss Army Knife out of Alabama, who ironically enough for the Dolphins profiles similarly to Minkah Fitzpatrick. With a pair of stud corners in Byron Jones and Xavien Howard already locked up long term, Brian Flores could look to build his team through secondary like the Patriots have done recently.
- Seattle Seahawks – Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
The Seahawks are the least predictable drafters in the league so this is a fool’s errand, but I’ll try my best. They could use help on the offensive line, but that’s been the case for Seattle for years and they never seem to take it too seriously in the draft. They could use another pass rusher too, but I’d guess they solve that by bringing back Jadaveon Clowney or another veteran free agent. While Seattle has already traded for Quinton Dunbar this offseason, Pete Carroll prioritizes the secondary and they could use depth at cornerback. Bryce Hall was on his way to being a first round pick in last year’s draft, but then he returned for his senior year and seriously injured his ankle. He should be fully recovered by the preseason, and a potentially delayed start to the season would be beneficial for Hall. You don’t find him ranked highly on big boards or some Top 50 lists altogether, but Hall is long, physical and built for a zone-heavy scheme like Seattle’s.
- Baltimore Ravens – Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
The Ravens front office is as good as it gets, so they find themselves in a situation where the roster doesn’t have many gaps and yet they still have three picks within the first two rounds. Part of the reason the Ravens are so good year after year is that they emphasize versatility and find value where other teams don’t. Zack Baun isn’t exactly a diamond in the rough after his huge senior year at Wisconsin and a Top 20 draft grade on NFL.com, but most teams would overlook him in this spot for a more traditional linebacker on the board like Patrick Queen or Kenneth Murray. But I’d bet the Ravens roll with Baun, who could predominately play off-ball as a rookie but still occasionally rush off the edge. The only proven edge rusher on Baltimore is Matthew Judon and he’s on the franchise tag, so this could be a two-birds-one-stone pick.
- Indianapolis Colts – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
(TRADE: Indianapolis receives Picks 1/29 and 7/224, Tennessee receives Picks 2/34, 4/122 and 2021 Third Round Pick)
The Colts have been extremely aggressive this offseason, signing Philip Rivers to a one-year deal and trading their first round pick for DeForest Buckner then signing him to a long-term extension. Chris Ballard doesn’t stop there, as he trades back into the first round to stop the unexpected slide of the sideline-to-sideline linebacker out of LSU. Queen is undersized and a bit unproven, and Indy doesn’t necessarily have a need at linebacker, but this value is too good to pass up. Queen has rare speed for a linebacker and has good instincts to go along with it. You don’t see three linebackers on the field at once as much as you used to, but the trio of Darius Leonard/Bobby Okereke/Queen is athletic enough to hold their own over the middle of the field with Malik Hooker as the single-high safety. A simple trade value chart will tell you that the Colts are overpaying in this scenario, but there are three teams between Picks 30-33 with glaring needs at inside linebacker, and Ballard understands the value of the fifth-year option on first rounders as well as anyone. This version of the Colts defense could be great.
As for the Titans, I doubt they want to move out of the first round – let alone to allow their division rivals to sneak in – but they have only four picks in the Top 6 rounds this year. Picking up two solid picks to move back five spots is a good haul. I also figure they’re seeking a cornerback with their first selection, and a good one should still be available at the top of the second round.
- Green Bay Packers – Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
It’s definitely possible that the Packers could go defense with this pick, especially with memories of getting gashed by the 49ers rushing attack in the NFC Championship Game fresh in mind. Kenneth Murray or Justin Madubuike would make a lot of sense. Still, this is my mock draft, and I will not allow the Packers to go into another season with some bum WR2. Aaron Rodgers isn’t getting any younger, so no more of Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, or Allen Lazard. Green Bay needs someone who can step in and immediately become the home run hitter of the offense. Aiyuk was a YAC machine at Arizona State, posting an absurd 18.3 yards per reception. For as deep as this receiver class is, they are going to fly off the board in the second round, so the Packers get their guy here.
- San Francisco 49ers – Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Kyle Shanahan got the 49ers first pick on his side of the ball, so now Robert Saleh gets his. Grant Delpit’s pedigree suggests that he should go much higher than Pick 31, being a two-time All-American and the leader of a National Championship-winning defense. But his 2019 was filled with nagging injuries and missed tackles, so he now finds himself as a borderline first rounder. John Lynch and Co. are smart enough to scoop him up here, despite Delpit being a true free safety when the 49ers just locked up Jimmie Ward at the position. Still, Delpit (and Ward for that matter) is versatile and talented enough to find his way onto the field. His ball skills and playmaking ability are second to none among defensive backs in this class, so he should thrive in a defense with Nick Bosa terrorizing quarterbacks.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
For being the defending Super Bowl champs, the Chiefs roster really isn’t well rounded at all. They have major concerns at the following positions: guard, center, edge rusher, linebacker, and cornerback. Package that with a current path towards their salary cap being in the red, and Brett Veach has his work cut out for him. But you know what? Kansas City had most of these roster issues last year too and still won it all, which speaks to what Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes are capable of together. So I say, screw it. The Chiefs are unlikely to land a major impact rookie at one of those positions listed above, and they still have Mahomes on the books for about 10% of what he’s actually worth. Upgrade at running back and try to score 40 points per game in the immediate future. I’m riding shotgun in the “running backs don’t matter” car – notice how I haven’t mentioned one until now despite this being a pretty good class. But Jonathan Taylor is incredible, and I seriously cannot believe that traditional draft experts aren’t gushing about him more. He averaged over 2,000 yards per season over three years at Wisconsin, and then he went out and ran the fastest 40 among running backs at the Combine. And speed isn’t even really his game! Andy Reid deceptively likes to run the ball a lot, and he’s smart enough to avoid second contracts for running backs. With Taylor under control for five years, Reid would run him into the ground and maybe into another Super Bowl or two along the way.
Don’t like who I mocked for your team? Any other thoughts? Let me know on Twitter @Real_Peej