With most of the major chips having fallen in free agency, let’s take a stab at every football fan’s guilty pleasure: NFL mock drafts! There will be multiple revisions and updates as we near the draft, so stay tuned.
1. Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
A foregone conclusion at this point, the record-setting Heisman winner stays in his home state after a breathtaking National Championship season.
2. Redskins: Chase Young, DE/EDGE, Ohio St.
When you have as many holes as the Redskins do, you take the best player on the board regardless of position. With elite production and measurables, Young is the best player in the entire draft. Think Jadeveon Clowney/Von Miller-level talent.
3. Chargers (Projected trade with DET): Tua Tagavailoa, QB, Alabama
I’m not one for projecting a lot of draft day trades, but this one makes too much sense. The Chargers’ window for winning is in the next three years, and the last piece they need is a quarterback after Philip Rivers’ departure. Tua is everything you’d want in a franchise quarterback with elite accuracy and the ability to process reads with pressure in his face. So far, so good with his hip recovery.
4. Giants: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
The Giants have holes everywhere, but the first order of business is ensuring Daniel Jones isn’t chronically seeing ghosts in the pocket due to poor protection. Enter Tristan Wirfs, an all-world athlete who has experience on both sides of the line.
5. Dolphins: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Isaiah Simmons is one of the most impressive players I’ve seen in a college uniform the past decade, and his combine numbers proved that. He is a jack-of-all-trades who was created in a lab for the spread offense concepts dominating the league. I wouldn’t argue with someone who said he was the second-best player in this draft. With the amount of draft capital in their pocket, the Dolphins can afford to go “best player available” here.
6. Lions (Projected trade with LAC): Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio St.
Seemingly perenially struggling in the secondary, the Lions dealt Darius Slay to the Eagles. Desmond Trufant is a decent number two corner, but Okudah – the consensus top CB in the draft – would make a lot of sense for Matt Patricia & Co.
7. Panthers: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn:
Laughably terrible against the run in 2019, the Panthers need to rebuild their defense from the inside-out. Derrick Brown popped off the screen in 2019, but unlike Isaiah Simmons, his on-field performance did not translate into good combine numbers. At worst, Brown is a high-floor player who will clear up lanes for linebackers. If he can learn some pass-rushing moves, watch out.
8. Cardinals: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Kyler Murray can scramble with the best of them, but the Cardinals should make sure he doesn’t have to do so. The uber-athletic Becton will fit nicely in the spread scheme that Kliff Kingsbury runs.
9. Jaguars: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
As much as we all love Minshew Mania, the Jaguars need to find a franchise quarterback. I get Jake Locker flashbacks when I watch Justin Herbert, but he has a Ben Roethlisberger-like ceiling.
10. Browns: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
A really solid combine helped quell concerns of Wills’ worrisome interviews, and the Browns still need to find someone to protect Baker Mayfield opposite of Jack Conklin. Wills should help stabilize what was the Achilles heel (from a personnel standpoint, at least) for the Browns offense in 2019.
11. Jets: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
A great combine would’ve vaulted Lamb into the top ten, but the Jets get a desperately needed playmaker here. With Robby Anderson in Carolina, can Adam Gase really feed Breshad Perriman 120 targets? Lamb wins at all levels of the field and is used to being force-fed the ball (173/3292/32 in 40 games at Oklahoma).
12. Raiders: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
After a blistering early start to the season, there were whispers of Jeudy being a top-two selection. But did Jeudy fade, or are Henry Ruggs, Jaylen Waddle, and Devonta Smith simply studs as well? I tend to believe the latter. His tape shows a bit of Odell Beckham Jr. in that he seems to be moving at a different speed than his defender – but for Jeudy, that is due to elite footwork and route-running skills. Ultimately, Jeudy is a Calvin Ridley-clone with a higher ceiling due to breaking out at an earlier age.
13. 49ers (from IND in DeForest Buckner trade): C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
The 49ers have few weaknesses on their team, but their lack of depth in the secondary could prove troublesome once again. Henderson is easily the second-best corner in this class, and he’ll have plenty of safety help playing opposite Richard Sherman. Henderson is your classic cover corner/ball hawk.
14. Buccaneers: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Suddenly in win-now mode after signing Tom Brady, the Buccaneers need some help on defense. McKinney had a really rough combine, but he’s the best safety in the class for a team who really needs one.
15. Broncos: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Denver probably needs another wideout, but with Chris Harris’s departure, the Broncos need help at the cornerback position. Diggs is an excellent press corner who rarely gets beat deep. This will enable stud safety Justin Simmons to be able to continue roaming free and making plays.
16. Falcons: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
With the Vic Beasley experiment finally over, the Falcons are once again in need of a pass rush. The defense should be much-improved with Keanu Neal and Deion Jones back, but Chaisson – arguably the best player on LSU’s championship defense – would pair nicely with Dante Fowler coming off the edge.
17. Cowboys: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
The Cowboys would love to have Kinlaw fall to them here. The feel-good story is an excellent interior pass-rusher and run-stopper. His college production isn’t eye-popping (17 TFLs in three years of college), but his tape earned him All-American honors.
18. Dolphins (from PIT for Minkah Fitzpatrick): Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
After trading Laremy Tunsil, the Dolphins need some cornerstones on their offensive line. Andrew Thomas is a nasty grinder who will set the tone for the Dolphins’ rebuild.
19. Raiders (from CHI for Khalil Mack): Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Seemingly always bereft of difference-makers on defense, the Raiders need some athleticism at the second level. Queen is an 80th percentile athlete who popped off the screen in the playoffs.
20. Jaguars (from LAR for Jalen Ramsey): Kenneth Murray, EDGE, Oklahoma
Even after signing Joe Schobert, the Jaguars can use some linebacker help. Murray is a great athlete (4.52 40 at 241 lbs) and can add some pass-rushing juice off the edge to help replace their offseason losses on the defensive line.
21. Eagles: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
It was apparent the Eagles needed more threats in the passing game even before an ungodly amount of injuries to their pass-catchers last year. Alshon Jeffery is on his last legs, JJ Arcega-Whiteside is unproven, and DeSean Jackson cannot be a number one guy anymore. Some believe Ruggs will be the first WR off the board, but Ruggs could be the missing piece that Carson Wentz and Co. are looking for. An insane athlete who plays at a different speed than his peers, Ruggs can operate near the line of scrimmage as Jackson clears out space, Jeffery/Arcega-Whiteside are winning jump balls downfield and Zach Ertz wins down the seam.
22. Vikings (from BUF for Stefon Diggs): A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
Suddenly shallow on the defensive line after losing Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen, the Vikings can add Epenesa to solidify their losses. Above-average in most areas, Epenesa is a steady, high-floor player who wins with flawless technique. There may be guys with more upside, but the Vikings need to hit on this pick as their championship window begins to become smaller.
23. Patriots: Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
The Patriots simply aren’t going to go into the regular season with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer competing for the starting job. Turnover-averse Bill Belichick is not going to touch Jameis Winston, and Fromm fits the profile for Belichick as a game-manager whose main focus is not throwing picks. Fromm is not the highest upside quarterback or even a consensus first-rounder, but we all know Belichick is going to take his guys no matter what.
24. Saints: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
With no off-ball linebackers worth taking here to shore up the middle, the Saints get the luxury of taking a corner to finally solidify the spot opposite Marshon Lattimore. Terrell isn’t anyone’s idea of a shutdown number one corner, but he is a perfect number two guy who has big-game experience – something that is going to be necessary as the Saints enter the season as a Super Bowl favorite.
25. Vikings: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
After trading Stefon Diggs to the Bills, the Vikings have a glaring weakness at wide receiver. This was obvious when Adam Thielen was sidelined last year, and Reagor is a great Diggs replacement. He isn’t the route runner that Diggs was, but Reagor is fantastic with the ball in his hands and is a very explosive threat on the outside: his breakout age and burst score are elite. I was thinking Justin Jefferson here, but he would have to play the slot at the next level, and that is Adam Thielen territory.
26. Dolphins (from HOU for Laremy Tunsil)- Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn St.
After recording only 23 sacks as a team in 2019 (fewest in the NFL), the Dolphins need more juice off the edge. Gross-Matos had excellent college production (35 TFLs and 17.5 sacks the past two seasons) and has more-than-adequate size and athleticism to become even better than he was in college. He is slightly raw, but his production shows that his floor is pretty high.
27. Seahawks: Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
The Seahawks were 11th-worst in total rush defense and gave up 4.9 yards per carry. The Seahawks plugged a hole in the secondary by acquiring Quinton Dunbar, but Blacklock would give them a steady presence in the middle in front of Bobby Wagner.
28. Ravens: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Jefferson was college football’s best second-fiddle in 2019, catching 111 balls as the Robin to Jamarr Chase’s Batman. Jefferson isn’t the most explosive threat, but he will be an excellent chain-mover at the next level and will complement Marquise Brown perfectly.
29. Titans: Austin Jackson, OT, USC
After losing Jack Conklin in free agency, Austin Jackson would be a great fit for a team that absolutely needs a solid offensive line for their run-heavy/play-action deep offense. Dennis Kelly has been a great swing tackle whenever coming off the bench, but the Titans are really lacking depth behind him.
30. Packers: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
It is becoming clear that the Packers have zero real threats behind Davante Adams in the passing game, as none of their later-round dart throws have worked out the past few years. Tee Higgins is a huge presence 6’4″/216lbs and is a very similar prospect to schoolmate Mike Williams. Higgins will win downfield against a team’s number two corner while Davante Adams remains in the driver’s seat.
31. 49ers: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
An analytics and combine darling, Mims is a late riser – but perhaps analysts were unfairly sleeping on him the entire time. Mims is best at winning on slants and back-shoulder throws – a perfect compliment to Deebo Samuel. The 49ers have few holes and can spend this pick on luxuriously replacing Emmanuel Sanders.
32. Chiefs: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Similar to the 49ers, the Chiefs have precious few holes to fill. Taylor would be the icing on the cake for the league’s most explosive offense as the only running back prospect in this class in the Ezekiel Elliott/Saquon Barkley tier in terms of athleticism, production, and potential. Damien Williams would be best served as a backup, and Taylor can play all three downs.