We’re in that window of secrecy. After the Combine, where rumors are thrown around recklessly, and before free agency, when teams are forced to be honest and show their plan through their wallets. Obviously these picks will change over the next few weeks, but this is a fine gauge as to where prospects might stand and immediate needs teams must fill.
ATTN: As always, this mock is a guess as to what will happen, not what I think should happen.
1. CINCINNATI BENGALS – QB JOE BURROW, LSU
Thank you, Joe, for halting the “Bypass the Bengals” narrative at the Combine. Burrow will enter the NFL surrounded by nice skill position players - Joe Mixon finished the year as one of the best backs in the league, A.J. Green has been underappreciated for a decade, Tyler Boyd is an ideal slot receiver ... but Burrow will be protected by a line full of question marks. Can the Bengals ever change the perception of their franchise?
2. WASHINGTON REDSKINS – QB Tua Tagovailoa, ALABAMA
Before diving in, let’s talk about Tua’s medicals. I am no doctor and multiple reports emerged during Combine week that Tua was cleared by teams. I don’t doubt that, but just from observing the league it becomes clear every year that clubs hate taking risks during the draft process. They consistently hate being first to step onto the invisible bridge. This isn’t a shoulder or a knee that teams see every year. It’s a hip, and that could cause numerous teams to avoid the unknown.
Now to a new quarterback in Washington. Perhaps this is unfair to a passer playing in an awful situation last year, but what did Haskins do to encourage hope? Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and others instantly elicited promise. Did you get that feeling watching Haskins. So while passing on Chase Young would be immensely difficult, no quarterback on the roster should stand in their way if Washington does indeed love Tua.
3. DETROIT LIONS – EDGE CHASE YOUNG, OHIO STATE
Daniel Jeremiah expects the Lions to move out of this slot, which makes sense if Tua is still on the board. That would be difficult with Young still available, as he is an instant difference maker. The Lions need those, on both sides of the ball. Trey Flowers was a great signing, but the Lions can absolutely improve on the pass rushing from Devon Kennard and Romeo Okwara. And if Young isn’t available, Jeffrey Okudah makes perfect sense.
4. NEW YORK GIANTS – OT MEKHI BECTON, LOUISVILLE
Planet Theory, a phrase uttered by Bill Parcells simply to say “There are a limited number of enormous human beings in the world with legitimate athleticism, so when you find one, acquire him.”
Dave Gettleman has his own term for this: hogmollies. Becton absolutely fits, with his effortless 1.77 10 yard split and 5.10 forty at 364-pounds. In his previous stop, Gettleman constantly referred to “tackle feet,” players with the athleticism and size to hold up on an island. How could he resist?
5. MIAMI DOLPHINS – LB ISAIAH SIMMONS, CLEMSON
Players like Simmons aren’t common. He fluidly flips from rushing the passer on one play to working as a single high safety the next. Versatility is only real if the player wins from each spot - otherwise he’s just losing from multiple alignments. Because a player like Simmons is rare, it is fair to wonder if most teams can really be creative enough to maximize his skills. I trust the Dolphins can.
6. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS – QB JUSTIN HERBERT, OREGON
Kim Jones’ report during Combine activities still rings in my head every time I see Herbert’s name - that one team views Herbert as the most talented quarterback in 2020 and 2019. Anthony Lynn’s suggestion that he feels comfortable with Tyrod Taylor as the team’s starter leads me to believe the Chargers will not be active at the position in free agency… leading me to conclude their target is in the draft.
7. CAROLINA PANTHERS – OL TRISTAN WIRFS, IOWA
Matt Rhule prioritized athleticism during his recruiting process at Baylor, and it clearly gave him an edge. Unfortunately, Marty Hurney has no obvious process, so I feel Rhule’s style will dominate here. It was a lost rookie year for Greg Little, a Hurney favorite, but his performance should not stand in the way of selecting a player of Wirfs’ talent. The Iowa blocker needs coaching, as his balance wavers in every game that I watched - surprising for a player with an athletic profile in the 99th percentile.
Okudah is certainly tempting, but the best position a future quarterback can walk in to is behind an offensive line that allows him to stay inside of structure. And yes, this mock was written before the rumored Russell Okung trade to the Panthers. Perhaps Wirfs could play a season inside at guard then kick outside after a year with Okung as the starter.
8. ARIZONA CARDINALS – OT JEDRICK WILLS, ALABAMA
Kyler Murray constantly elevated the players around him. Kliff Kingsbury’s running game elevated the blockers that performed it. The Cardinals No. 1 goal should be to identify and acquire players of equal talent to Kyler Murray. A rising tide lifts all boats.
While this receiver class has been termed historic, I’d argue the top of the tackle group is even more impressive. Wills immediately steps up on the right side and improves the quality of the line. The left and right side are of equal importance. Wills possesses the athleticism needed in Kliff’s offense.
9. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS – CB JEFFREY OKUDAH, OHIO STATE
Yes, it is unlikely the top corner in this class stays on the board this long - but the fit makes total sense. The Jaguars traded Jalen Ramsey during the 2019 season, then traded AJ Bouye just before the free agency period. D.J. Hayden is a very solid slot corner, and Okudah can be a difference maker on the outside. Let’s hope the Jaguars actually create an environment that top players want to stay in.
10. CLEVELAND BROWNS – OT ANDREW THOMAS, GEORGIA
While the Browns have strengths on their roster, offensive tackle surely isn’t one. Two new starters could be in place heading into next season. I loved watching Thomas - fluid yet aggressive. He’s nasty. While the offensive line and playcalling were both issues last season, Baker Mayfield didn’t help his cause when the situation around played at a winning level.
11. NEW YORK JETS – CB C.J. Henderson, Florida
At least I didn’t project a defensive tackle here, Jets fans. An offensive tackle certainly would be ideal, and Joe Douglas has been a member of front offices that trade up for blockers, but in this layout one just did not fall here. Adding an outside corner with size and an athletic profile in the 90th percentile can be a massive benefit to a defense.
12. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS – DT DERRICK BROWN, AUBURN
I know, the Raiders have solid interior defensive linemen in Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall. Yet Mike Mayock mentioned the position during his Combine appearance on the NFL Network. Maybe I’m reading into that statement too much, but I know some believe Brown is one of the top talents in this class. That might be re-evaluated after his poor agility scores - interpreted as a lack of juice… but the combo of Mayock and Jon Gruden don’t strike me as the types who would knock Brown because of that.
13. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS – DT JAVON KINLAW, SOUTH CAROLINA
I bet Chris Ballard prioritizes his defensive front in free agency, possibly landing a player like Javon Hargrave. Until then a player of Kinlaw’s skillset makes so much sense. He’s the type of interior lineman who record four or five snaps of absolutely wrecking an offense’s plan, and that impact trickles down to all levels of the team’s defense.
14. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS – OT Josh Jones, Houston
Currently, Bruce Arians seems to be in the market for one of the top veteran quarterbacks with recycling Jameis Winston as a fallback option. In either case, right tackle should be a priority. Demar Dotson is well over 30 and a free agent. Jones might be the last tackle in that top tier and is outstanding in pass protection.
15. DENVER BRONCOS – WR Henry Ruggs, ALABAMA
Imagine pairing the speed of Ruggs with the talent of Courtland Sutton. That’s it. That’s the blurb.
16. ATLANTA FALCONS – EDGE K’LAVON CHAISSON, LSU
The Falcons have a type. Explosiveness along the defensive front with an aggressive mentality to get to the quarterback or ball carrier. Unfortunately, that has not resulted in an abundance of success in Vic Beasley or Takk McKinley. Chaisson’s flexibility always gives him a chance to win a one on one matchup, and would relieve Grady Jarrett from having to carry that entire pass rushing front.
17. DALLAS COWBOYS – CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama
With the Cowboys set to lose Byron Jones and potentially Anthony Brown, they will be in dire need of a starting-caliber corner in this class. Two have already come off the board. Diggs boasts great size and length of a man outside corner.
18. MIAMI DOLPHINS (VIA PIT) – QB Jordan Love, Utah State
This mock draft does not feature trades, but I fully expect the Dolphins to move up to acquire the quarterback they want thanks to their stockpile of picks they’ve spent the last year acquiring. It was difficult to have a conversation at the Combine where Love’s name did not come up. And that is not from the media end - it is from NFL teams who seem to be attracted to his playmaker mentality and will to create something out of nothing.
19. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (VIA CHI) – WR CeeDee Lamb, OKLAHOMA
After finding value with their initial first-round pick, the Raiders can pluck from a variety of talented pass catchers with this selection. Lamb offers everything you want at the position: size, fluidity in routes to create separation and yards after the catch thanks to broken tackles.
20. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (VIA LAR) – DL Marlon Davidson, Auburn
Admittedly, I had a difficult time projecting this pick. As of now no interior offensive linemen are viewed as top 20 prospects - that can change. The Jaguars defensive line rotation should look very different next year with a number of names likely on their way out. Davidson has spent plenty of time on the outside and is morphing his body to also be successful as an interior rusher.
21. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES – WR Jalen Reagor, TCU
That one game with DeSean Jackson was really fun, Philadelphia. The plan with the veteran vertical threat was clear - but unfortunately all of the eggs went into one basket. In this situation the Eagles could go with Jerry Jeudy (more refinement) or Reagor (a rocket ship). Reagor’s athletic profile is very similar to DK Metcalf, minus four or so inches in height.
22. BUFFALO BILLS – EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
Just looking at the Bills roster … it’s very solid with few pieces not returning for 2020. While Ed Oliver can continue to be even more of a disruptive impact on the inside, the Bills could be looking for a disruptive counterpart on the outside. Epenesa is not an athletic edge rusher, but understands how he wins and tends to play within himself.
23. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
Mohamed Sanu could not separate last year. N’Keal Harry could not separate. Julian Edelman is not getting younger. It is widely known how difficult the Patriots Offense is to pick up for a receiver, but Nick Saban certainly will sign off on Jeudy’s ability to buddy Bill Belichick.
24. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS – CB Jeff Gladney, TCU
This is another team who could be looking to trade out. There are plenty of receivers on the board, but the Saints’ moves during the final stretch of last season (adding Janoris Jenkins) indicated they could be looking to improve on the outside opposite Marshon Lattimore.
25. MINNESOTA VIKINGS – CB Jaylon Johnson, Utah
The Vikings defensive backfield should go through a massive change this offseason. Harrison Smith remains fantastic, maybe Mike Hughes turns it around. After that, complete question marks. We know Mike Zimmer trusts his own corner evaluations, maybe he’ll find one in Johnson.
26. MIAMI DOLPHINS (VIA HOU) – OT Austin Jackson, USC
So far the Dolphins drafted a truly versatile defensive playmaker, a quarterback to develop and now can add to their offensive line. Jackson’s initial position might not always be perfect, but he constantly worked to recover and has the athleticism to match.
27. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS – DL Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
The Seahawks continue to need defensive line help, with or without Jadeveon Clowney. Gross-Matos did not workout at the Combine, but I’m certain he would have drawn eyeballs if so. Plus, he has a tremendous story of conquering unfathomable obstacles during his life, something the Seahawks cite after selecting prospects every single year. Conquering adversity.
28. BALTIMORE RAVENS – LB Patrick Queen, LSU
The Ravens have routinely built through the inside-out. That changed a bit defensively last year. Adding a rangy linebacker at the second level is an injection of talent the team could use.
29. TENNESSEE TITANS – OT Ezra Cleveland, Boise State
Right now it sounds as if Jack Conklin is on his way out. If the Titans bring the band back together, maintaining a strong front five blockers is paramount. Cleveland hit the short shuttle threshold that consistently projects success based on a single athletic test and could now find his way into the first round.
30. GREEN BAY PACKERS – WR Denzel Mims, BAYLOR
It was a clear mistake to not attempt to elevate the receiver talent around Davante Adams prior to last season. Mims’ draft process has been perfect thus far, recently capping it with an athletic profile in the 93rd percentile at 6-foot-3. That’s not to say he’s perfect - Mim’s route tree was fairly limited (not as limited as previous Baylor wideouts), but already showed a natural feel to separate one on one during Senior Bowl practice tape I reviewed.
31. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS – S Ashtyn Davis, Cal
Without a pick in the second, third or fourth rounds, expect the 49ers to deal out of this spot. But from a fit standpoint, Davis could take over the spot Jimmie Ward might be leaving: a rangy safety who is also unafraid when asking to operate closer to the line of scrimmage and make plays downhill.
32. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS – CB Kristian Fulton, LSU
This obviously isn’t a team with many holes. A number of talented receivers are still on the board if the team wants to improve on Sammy Watkins. Cornerback is also possible if Bashaud Breeland and others do not return. My guess? Another trade out.