1. Bengals – LSU QB Joe Burrow
A free spot on the 2020 mock draft bingo board.
We’ve never seen anything like Burrow’s 2019 ascendance. We’ve also never seen a better season from a college QB (5,671 passing yards 76.3% completions, 60/6 TD/INT). The local kid is either going to turn into Tony Romo-plus in Cincinnati or become the single biggest one-year wonder cautionary tale in the history of the draft.
I can’t wait to see how this plays out. We’ve literally never seen one-year improvement like this. Romo might be the stylistic comp. But as far as quarterbacks entering the process, Burrow is a datapoint unto his own, something completely new, an alien.
2. Redskins – Ohio State EDGE Chase Young
Theoretically the second free bingo spot – but Washington is going to have to decline some mighty attractive trade offers before turning in a card with Young’s name.
And realistically, if Miami is going to back up the Brinks truck, I’d encourage Washington to take the offer (the Lions would do backflips). The Redskins have Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan off the edge and numerous roster holes elsewhere.
But to trade out, they’ll have to turn down the opportunity to take one of the best young edge rushers to enter the process in the last few years. Being in a position to draft guys like Young is a unique opportunity. You can argue it both ways.
3. Lions – Clemson DW Isaiah Simmons
I refuse to list Simmons as a linebacker – he’s a defensive weapon. You don’t draft him to play a traditional off-ball role. You draft him to move him all over the place, erase opponents, and tick off opposing offensive coordinators.
The Lions are no doubt hoping Chase Young falls. If he doesn’t, Detroit really should take Miami’s Tua offer (or whoever has decided to buck up). Because the Lions don’t have one defensive need, they have a pride of them.
You wouldn’t argue with Jeffrey Okudah here, but Simmons’ ability to be deployed off-ball, on the edge, in the slot, and at safety feels like a better fit in a two-for-one special kind of way.
4. Giants – Georgia T Andrew Thomas
The Giants would give a kidney for Young to drop here, but that would require two teams trading up to 1.2 and 1.3 to take Tua and Justin Herbert, respectively.
Next to edge rusher, offensive tackle may be the team’s biggest need. And gosh dang they ought to take one for the sake of Daniel Jones’ sanity.
Jones has been playing behind shoddy offensive lines since he began appearing on television. You can’t exactly write the book on him until you give him the tools to succeed. Thomas is a good start. Franchise left tackles don’t grow on trees.
5. Dolphins – Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa
I’m not convinced that Tua isn’t the best player in this draft. If he fell to five, it would be due to a confluence of injury concerns and the unwillingness of the three teams above to move down.
And boy would that be a coup for the Fins. Miami led the league in sacks allowed last year while posting the fewest QB takedowns in the NFL. You could make a highly compelling argument that the team should go OL or DL, start Chosen Rosen for 16 games next fall, and either take Trevor Lawrence in 2021 if Rosen is what he’s shown the past two years or in essence find a first-round quarterback for free if he proves to be more.
On the other hand... Tua will be special if his body doesn’t betray him. A left-handed Drew Brees with better wheels is the ceiling. And that’s not a ceiling, it’s an atrium.
6. Chargers – Oregon QB Justin Herbert
Once the Chargers parted ways with Phil Rivers on Monday, Herbert became the heavy favorite for this slot (if he wasn’t already). Herbert’s bazooka will harken days of Air Coryell if this marriage comes to fruition. The Bolts need defensive help, at corner in particular – Jeff Okudah would be a great fit – but they aren’t passing on a quarterback here barring a major transaction between now and then.
Criticisms of Herbert’s game are valid. But I don’t think people consider the lack of skill talent he played with at Oregon enough when they evaluate him. His intermediate game in college underwhelmed relative to his skill level, but it’s not like he was throwing to Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs. Context matters.
7. Panthers – Alabama T Jedrick Wills
Taking Derrick Brown or Javon Kinlaw are both scenarios that will be scrutinized closely, but Carolina simply can’t go forward with the kind of offensive line play we saw last year. OC Joe Brady is a whiz kid, but his system isn’t going to work very well if Carolina’s quarterback is seeing pockets cave in like crushed Pepsi cans every play again.
8. Cardinals - Auburn DT Derrick Brown
The Cardinals have big needs along the offensive line, and will be beyond tempted to pop Jerry Jeudy, but I’m wondering why we keep talking about their offense when the defense ranked No. 31 in efficiency last fall (the offense finished No. 13).
Arizona’s brass would be wise to learn from history vis-a-vi why things went south for Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech. Psst. It’s because he recruited and coached like I do when I play NCAA 2014 on PS3. Resist the temptation. Go defense.
9. Jaguars – Ohio State CB Jeffrey Okudah
What a steal! The Jags need a lockdown corner, and Okudah is the best this class has to offer. Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy would be tough to pass on. But if Okudah somehow drops, you sort of have to submit a card with his name on it.
10. Browns – Iowa T Tristan Wirfs
Cleveland is probably hoping a cleaner tackle projection – Andrew Thomas or Jedrick Wills – falls here. Failing that, they have to think very hard about taking Wirfs and installing him at right tackle immediately. If that doesn’t work, you know he’s going to be a stud guard, so it’s not like it’s a risky pick.
11. Jets – Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy
Prevailing wisdom says OT here, but how are you going to pass on Jeudy if he drops to No. 11, especially if three offensive linemen have gone above you? Yes – the Jets need to protect Sam Darnold. It’s also true that Darnold needs somebody to throw to. Man will he enjoy throwing to Jeudy. Killer blend of rocket propulsion movement, Ferrari body control, and pool shark feet. Jeudy is going to be a Freddy Krueger presence for NFL corners for years to come.
12. Raiders – LSU CB Kristian Fulton
With Jeudy off the board, the Raiders can without guilt turn their attention to the unit that needs the help anyway. Fulton is the full package. With corner addressed, Las Vegas has a seven-pick wait to either double-down on the league’s worst defensive unit last year or grab a needed receiver.
13. Colts – Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb
Jacoby Brissett is going to have a tough time moving the ball if you don’t add at least one high-level playmaker this offseason. Well hello, Clarice. Lamb has vice-grip hands, he’s very difficult to stick to, and he will torch you deep. Great fit.
14. Buccaneers – South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw
If you’ve read me for a bit, you know that I’m a Kinlaw fanboy. He’s always been a physical freak, and the rapid developmental progression he’s shown over the past few years ought to have NFL teams thinking long and hard about exactly where the ceiling ends. Most of the media seems to have long ago decided upon Derrick Brown as DT1. Not so fast, my friends!
15. Broncos – Colorado WR Laviska Shenault
Too perfect for the Broncos to import the local product over from Boulder. I think Shenault is better than the general public does. He wasn’t done any favors by his offensive situation, his quarterback, or his health at CU. And on the health front: You try staying healthy when your team needs to force feed you the ball every play to win.
But I think Shenault is a pretty safe bet to turn into a guy who’ll evoke a mishmash of Sammy Watkins and Anquan Boldin. Shenault is a fortified 225-pounder who’s hell to bring down. He’s not just a tough-guy though, you can use him in a myriad of ways. Colorado lined him up all over the place, including at Wildcat QB.
16. Falcons – LSU EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson
A freaky athlete who came on at the end of LSU’s dominant run to the national title, Chaisson is another player whose developmental arrow is shooting straight up. The Falcons must use this pick to address its defense. Must.
17. Cowboys – LSU S Grant Delpit
What a coup! The Cowboys badly need a safety, and the best one in the draft just fell into their lap. CJ Henderson and Xavier McKinnley are two other options if Delpit gets popped before Dallas gets its shot.
18. Dolphins – Iowa EDGE A.J. Epenesa
The prevailing wisdom on Epenesa is that he’s a “safe” mid-first rounder who doesn’t have the highest ceiling due to athletic limitations.
Two things on that. One, his power is a special trait. It’ll be a trump card against NFL linemen same as it was against college ones. Two, while I think he projects best to remain at DE, he has the versatility to kick inside to DT situationally, which would give his NFL team the option of having an edge enforcer on early downs with an extra pass rusher coming off the bench of third down.
19. Raiders – Alabama WR Henry Ruggs
Hey, it’s the Raiders again! Oh lucky day, Henry Ruggs has fallen to 1.18! Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden love proven commodities from blueblood programs. They walk out of Thursday night with LSU CB Kristian Fulton and one of his college archrivals. Ruggs in a nutshell: Explosion explosion explosion.
20. Jaguars – TCU WR Jalen Reagor
Reagor is going to get slept on because he suffered through some rough quarterback play in college. A guy with this much juice will level up in the NFL in a big way with a quarterback who throws with timing and accuracy. If he’d plied his trade at Alabama, I think he would be viewed in a completely different light. Reagor is faster than you. That’s it.
21. Eagles – Florida CB C.J. Henderson
The Eagles could use a receiving boost, but Henderson fills a real need in his own right. The value with the Gators standout is just too much to pass up, here.
22. Bills – Clemson WR Tee Higgins
Josh Allen’s game might not be the best fit for Reagor, but man, could he and Higgins have some fun. Higgins is the jump-ball specialist Allen has been waiting for.
23. Patriots – Houston T Josh Jones
The Pats could use a tight end, but this TE class is garbage. Might I suggest Jones? A four-year starter in the G5 who quietly developed into one of the country’s best tackles, Jones figures to be a riser during the draft process.
24. Saints* – Virginia CB Bryce Hall
Penn State’s KJ Hamler would be mighty enticing, and there’s a school of thought that the Saints will submit a card with Jordan Love’s name on it in the name of bringing aboard Drew Brees’ heir apparent. Hall is a long corner with smarts and ball skills. Feels like a fit.
*If Brees ultimately retires, go ahead and change the pick to Love.
25. Vikings – USC T Austin Jackson
As always, the Vikings badly need offensive line help. Mekhi Becton is still on the board and is rated higher by most. However, Becton, an enormous lineman, doesn’t appear to be the best fit for the Vikings’ zone blocking system.
Jackson’s calling card is athleticism. And the Purple prioritize that at offensive line as much as anyone (see: past two years picks of Brian O’Neill and Garrett Bradbury). The Vikings could install Jackson at RT immediately and kick O’Neill to LT, where he’ll spend the next several years.
That would give Minnesota the makings of one of the league’s youngest (Jackson is only 20 years old), most-athletic lines, nirvana for zone guru Gary Kubiak.
26. Dolphins - Louisville T Mekhi Becton
Becton’s fall ends. The Dolphins, using a pick they acquired in the Laremy Tunsil deal, snatch up a 370-pound bodyguard for Tua. Becton, a colossus with surprisingly quick feet, is drawing Bryant McKinnie and Trent Brown comps. You might as well stick him at right tackle to protect Tua’s blindside.
27. Seahawks – Notre Dame EDGE Julian Okwara
Okwara gets overlooked a bit because of his thin build. But boy is he an athlete, top-10 on Bruce Feldman’s Freak’s list, 21 mph tracked speed. Oh, and he was an utterly dominant pass rusher for the Fighting Irish last fall.
28. Ravens – Oklahoma LB Kenneth Murray
The Ravens could really use a linebacker, and they never turn down opportunities to add Sooners. In this scenario, they have their pick between Murray and LSU’s Patrick Queen.
29. Titans – Georgia RB D’Andre Swift
Derrick Henry is a free agent. If the Titans allow him to walk – perhaps a good idea if somebody offers the world – you could rejigger your offense around Swift’s multidimensional skillset.
30. Packers – Boise State EDGE Curtis Weaver
The Packers may have bigger needs, but it would be tough to pass on Weaver here. He’s been one of the nation’s most disruptive edge rushers since stepping on the blue turf. Figures to get underdrafted. Been underappreciated for a few years now.
31. 49ers – Alabama CB Trevon Diggs
A pick at a position of need that could really boom. Diggs is long (6’2) with an eagle’s wingspan. The brother of Vikings WR Stefon Diggs, he could well go higher than this.
32. Chiefs – Utah CB Jaylon Johnson
Johnson is getting overlooked. On 52 targets thrown his way last year, he allowed only 23 catches. Pac-12 receivers know what’s up.