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Thor’s Mock Draft: Day 1

Tee Higgins

Tee Higgins


It’s a special mock week here on the Rotoworld NFL Draft section. Below is my Day 1 mock-up. Look for Day 2 on Tuesday, and a complete team-by-team analysis and breakdown to follow on Thursday. Enjoy!

1. Bengals – LSU QB Joe Burrow

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 or become the single biggest one-year wonder cautionary tale in the history of the NFL 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

A slam dunk pick – but Washington is going to have to turn down some mighty attractive trade offers before turning in a card with Young’s name on it.

And realistically, if Miami (or LAC, or a mystery team) is going to back up the Brinks truck to guarantee they leave Thursday night with Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa, I’d encourage Washington to take the offer. The Redskins have Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan coming off the edge and numerous roster holes elsewhere.

But to trade out, the Redskins will have to turn down the opportunity to take one of the best young edge rushers to enter the process in the last few years and watch as Detroit’s brass celebrates the unexpected coup in their war room. 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, e.g., that another team will trade up into Washington’s 1.2 slot. If that doesn’t happen, Detroit itself 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. That was the thinking with T.J. Hockenson last year. Let’s find trump cards.

4. Giants – Iowa T Tristan Wirfs

We know a few things about Dave Gettleman at this point. We know that he fetishizes big uglies. That he wants to build from the lines out.

We know that he falls in love with a player during the pre-draft process and has a very hard time keeping that love to himself. You could call him media friendly. The Giants labored to plug organizational leaks heading into last year’s draft. They just ended up being the mystery team that egregiously over-drafted Daniel Jones.

This year, barring the heavens opening up and EDGE Chase Young dropping – which is, granted, a theoretical if remote possibility; it would require two teams trading up to 1.2/1.3 to select QBs Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert – the Giants must take an offensive linemen here. Everything we know about Gettleman suggests he’s beyond giddy to do so.

And for the sake of Daniel Jones’ sanity, we should hope so. Jones has been playing behind shoddy offensive lines since he began appearing on television. Jones played through a broken collarbone for most of his senior season at Duke behind a five-orange-cone offensive line before getting thrown to the wolves last year.

You can’t exactly write the book on Jones until he’s been given a season to, you know, drop back and survey his options like everyone else. And Gettleman isn’t going to. Gettleman could take a more traditional left tackle like Andrew Thomas here. Or he could take flavor of the week Jedrick Wills. But rumors early in the process already have him drawn to Tristan Wirfs.

And that makes sense. Wirfs – a colossus and athletic freak with supreme position versatility – isn’t going to play left tackle in the NFL, but he offers Pro Bowl upside at either guard spot or right tackle. Heading into last year, Wirfs was a raw collection of insane athletic traits, an all-time Bruce Feldman Freak-lister.

But last year, Wirfs utterly dominated on the field for the Hawkeyes. I don’t think you can scoff at a top-5 selection anymore. And Gettleman is the kind of cat that doesn’t care if you do, anyway. He has multiple holes on the line. Bring Wirfs to camp, see where you most need immediate help, and plug him in there. Year 2, you can always move him.

Iowa shifted Wirfs to LT no problem in-season last year to cover for LT Alaric Jackson’s injury before shifting Wirfs back to RT. Kirk Ferentz, in fact, said Wirfs only spent most of his career at RT because Jackson happened to get installed at LT first. But keep in mind that Wirfs was the first true freshman to ever start at tackle for Ferentz. Brandon Scherff, Riley Reiff, Bryan Bulaga and Robert Gallery didn’t.

“He can do both,” Ferentz said of Wirfs. “I think you could play him probably anywhere but center, and he probably could do that if you gave him some time. You play a guy like that inside, he’s basically going to kill guys. He’s a dominant player that way. Me personally, I would play him at tackle if I was still in the NFL. Maybe that’s why I’m not. But anyway, that’s where I’d play him. Tackles are such a valuable commodity in the NFL — any level.”

This slot may seem steep for Wirfs until the NFL Combine. Wirfs is going to destroy it in Indy.

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 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 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, Herbert became the heavy favorite for this slot. Herbert’s bazooka will harken days of Air Coryell if this marriage comes to fruition.

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, 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 if pockets are being caved in like crushed Pepsi cans. I understand the impetus to take a defender here – that’s HC Matt Rhule’s calling card – but I don’t see how you can eschew the offensive line if you intend to keep Newton. And even if Carolina has traded Newton, if three quarterbacks are already off the board, it’s not like the Panthers can throw up their hands and pop Jordan Love. The value isn’t there.

Carolina finished No. 22 in PFF’s pass-block grading last year. LSU’s pyrotechnic offense last year owed a heckuva lot more to its Joe Moore-winning offensive line (e.g., best in the nation) than the public realized.

The Panthers spent a Round 2 pick on Greg Little last year, and injuries forced Round 6 pick Dennis Daley into the starting lineup for nine games. So at least you have youngsters on the developmental continuum already on the perimeter. The Panthers’ have a more glaring need on the interior, and they may prefer Wills to Andrew Thomas in part because of that.

Wills has a very clean projection to either guard or right tackle in the NFL, with the power of a snowplow and the feet of a 4-wheeler. He’s going to be a plus-plus run blocker from Day 1.

8. Cardinals - Auburn DT Derrick Brown

The Cardinals have big needs along the offensive line, and HC Kliff Kingsbury will have to be subdued and dragged from the war room to be prevented from phoning in a pick of Jerry Jeudy.

But I’m wondering why we keep talking about Arizona’s offense when the defense ranked No. 31 in efficiency last fall. The offense finished No. 13. Almost every mock draft I have seen has the Cardinals going offense in Round 1.

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. Last year, he unloaded a clip of draft capital at that side of the ball. It’s time to address the other side.

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 – Georgia T Andrew Thomas

The Browns are praying that one of Tristan Wirfs, Jedrick Wills or Thomas drops down the board. Thomas might be Cleveland’s best-case scenario.

For a player who has dominated in the SEC since his true freshman season, Andrew Thomas has curiously seen his stock – at least as measured by mock drafts and media discussion in early February – stagnate a bit as newer, fresher names have arrived on the scene. But let’s not forget that this kid posted a dominant 92.4 PFF grade and allowed only six pressures last fall.

Andrew Thomas is the Justin Herbert of this tackle class. We’ve been talking about Thomas so long that we’ve moved past the effusive praise cycle that a guy like Mekhi Becton is enjoying right now into nitpicky stuff. Careful. Thomas outplayed Becton his entire career against superior competition.

11. Jets – Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy

The Jets are in a position where they’re likely to go best available at either WR, OT or EDGE. In this scenario, the class’ three-best tackles have all flown off the board, but you’ve got your pick of the receivers in a top-heavy class.

Darnold hasn’t gotten to work with many top-notch receivers going back to his college days. He got one year with JuJu Smith-Schuster his first year as a starter. In his second – his last – Deontay Burnett easily led USC in catches. The rest of the receiving corps was very young. Michael Pittman, who shows up on Day 2 in this mock draft, was a sophomore on that team who had 23 catches.

It would be nice to see Darnold with a true No. 1. And Jeudy is a true-blue No. 1. 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 – Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb

Lamb doesn’t have the break-the-Matrix explosive element to his game that Jeudy does. But he runs divine routes, making him impossible to stick to. When the ball is in the air, he’s a basketball leaper with insane body control and vice-grip hands.

He’s one of those high-volume receivers who could potentially lead the NFL in receptions multiple times. I’m not convinced that Lamb isn’t WR1 in this class.

13. Colts – South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw

If you’ve read me for a bit, you know 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.

14. Buccaneers – Louisville T Mekhi Becton

I hate to rain on the Mekhi Becton hype parade, but his collegiate portfolio probably doesn’t justify a top-15 pick.

Prior to last year, he had a couple of decent developmental seasons before improving to a solid 81.3 PFF grade, just south of 80.0 as both a run and pass blocker. And yes, I get that he’s 6’7/370 and that his highlight reel features clips of atrocities against smaller men.

But keep in mind that Becton’s three-worst graded games last year came against Notre Dame, Wake Forest and Miami. He played passable against Clemson, nothing special. The rest of the schedule featured games against two directional Kentucky teams, Boston College, Syracuse, Willie Taggart’s dead-on-arrival FSU team... you get the idea.

Wirfs, Thomas and Wills have all proven far more. Against his level of competition, you would have liked to have seen Becton utterly dominate. He didn’t.

15. Broncos – Colorado WR Laviska Shenault

Too perfect for the Broncos to import the local product over from Boulder. 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 like a lightning bolt 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.