With the NFL season officially in the books (congratulations to the Chiefs, I guess), I thought what better time than now to release my first mock draft of the season? For die-hards such as myself, it’s always draft season, but nothing really brings the draft into focus like the end of the season.
Without further ado, here we go:
1. Cincinnati Bengals | Joe Burrow | QB | LSU
The decision is easy here. The Bengals have a clear need at the quarterback position and Burrow is coming off a historically excellent season. He has every tool necessary to elevate the Bengals passing attack. Zac Taylor gets his face of the franchise at the top of the draft and a perfect fit to run his offense. Burrow is coming home, Ohio.
2. Washington Redskins | Chase Young | EDGE | Ohio State
The Redskins will be happy to sit here and select Young. The front seven is already a strong unit in Washington, but Young is simply too good to pass up. Any non-quarterback hungry team would likely draft Young in this scenario. He has all the tools to become one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL.
3. Detroit Lions | Jeffrey Okudah | CB | Ohio State
Detroit will probably get a lot of action on this pick. It’s a prime spot for a team that’s looking to trade up for Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert. With that said, Matt Patricia will be on a short leash heading into the 2020 season. Okudah is an elite cornerback prospect, the best I’ve scouted since Marshon Lattimore. His ability to match his opponent’s steps and movements are uncanny.
4. New York Giants | Andrew Thomas | OT | Georgia
Daniel Jones had a better rookie season than almost anyone imagined he would. The Giants must do a much, much better job protecting him in 2020 than they did in 2019 however. Thomas has the frame and athletic ability to be an elite pass protector at the next level. He’s ready to start immediately, and I can see general manger Dave Gettleman falling in love with him throughout this process.
5. Miami Dolphins | Tua Tagovailoa | QB | Alabama
It’s funny how things play out over the course of a season. This is the marriage that many envisioned would come to fruition with the No. 1 overall pick prior to the 2019 season even kicking off. Fast forward a few months and the Dolphins won more games than many thought they would, and Tua’s injury issues paired with Burrow’s historic season have likely changed his draft outcome. I’m personally still incredibly high on Tua despite his disappointing campaign. As long as he’s healthy, he has all the tools to become a franchise QB.
6. Los Angeles Chargers | Justin Herbert | QB | Oregon
What an incredible run it’s been for Phillip Rivers as the face of the Los Angeles Chargers franchise. Despite falling short of the ultimate goal during his tenure with the Chargers, I still believe he’s a future Hall of Famer. All signs now point to the Rivers era coming to an end. Although Herbert will likely be a frustrating evaluation throughout this process, there’s no denying that the sky is the limit for him. A dynamic athlete at the position with the ability to create something out of nothing, Chargers fans would have reason to be excited about this pick.
7. Carolina Panthers | Jedrick Wills Jr. | OT | Alabama
It must be an exciting (or nervous?) time to be a Carolina Panthers fan. The hiring of head coach Matt Rhule paired with Joe Brady as his offensive coordinator make the Panthers one of the more intriguing teams to watch as we kick off the off-season. The first priority should be to fix an offensive line that’s been a bit of a mess as of late. Wills is a tremendously powerful blocker that generates a ton of movement in the run game especially.
8. Arizona Cardinals | Tristan Wirfs | OT | Iowa
Cardinals fans have plenty to be excited about heading into the 2020 season. Pairing Kliff Kingsbury with Kyler Murray in 2019 was a risky move, but it’s one that appears set to pay off down the road. Murray was exceptional as a rookie, but the Cardinals need to do a better job protecting him going forward. Wirfs is a phenomenal offensive tackle prospect that’s just as effective in pass protection as he is in the run game. His balanced skill-set would be an excellent fit in Arizona.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars | Isaiah Simmons | LB | Clemson
The Jaguars defense will go through a bit of a makeover this off-season. Star EDGE rusher Yannick Ngakoue appears set to depart via free agency, and Marcell Dareus likely won’t be around next year either. While I believe their need on the interior to be larger, Simmons may be too good to pass up here. I can’t remember the last time I saw a defensive prospect as versatile as Simmons. He can legitimately play all over the field. This pick would make me very jealous.
10. Cleveland Browns | Mekhi Becton | OT | Louisville
Four offensive tackles in the top 10? Yup. The Browns have a glaring need at offensive tackle and I expect Becton to be a huge riser throughout this process. Offensive tackles simply aren’t supposed to move that well at his size. Becton is a behemoth of a man and he understands how to use his length to his advantage. He’s incredibly power, and his extension and punch are downright devastating. He’s worthy of this selection.
11. New York Jets | Jerry Jeudy | WR | Alabama
I expect one of the four offensive tackles I mocked earlier to be the pick here should one of them be available. In this scenario, they aren’t. While the Jets desperately need to do a better job of protecting Sam Darnold going forward, they also need more weapons in the passing game. Jeudy is an explosive play-maker with the vertical ability to threaten even the best cornerbacks. The Jets simply need to find more explosive plays on offense in 2020 than they did in 2019. Jeudy could give them that.
12. Oakland Raiders | CeeDee Lamb | WR | Oklahoma
It’s safe to say that the Antonio Brown trade did not work out well for the Raiders. His strange departure left the Raiders with a massive hole at receiver, one that they must fill going forward. Lamb is the perfect fit for a Jon Gruden-ran offense. An exciting play-maker that’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball, Lamb would give the Raiders the true No. 1 WR they currently lack.
13. Indianapolis Colts | Jordan Love | QB | Utah State
The Colts are a pretty good football team, but their ceiling is capped with Brissett at the helm. While he seems to be an excellent leader and teammate, he can only take them so far. Love is a raw prospect coming off a disappointing campaign, but the upside is huge with him. His processing skills are a work in progress, and he may be best suited to sit for at least a year. With that said, Love is such a natural thrower of the football. If you’re going to gamble here, go big or go home.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Josh Jones | OT | Houston
This may seem like a reach to you, but Jones was an intriguing name entering the Senior Bowl and he absolutely killed it in Mobile. He may be in for a Andre Dillard-like rise. The Buccaneers offensive line severely hampered their downfield passing attack in 2019, and Bruce Arians wants to push the ball downfield to his two star receivers. The technical aspect is still a work in progress for Jones, but he has all the traits to become a quality tackle at the next level.
15. Denver Broncos | Derrick Brown | DT | Auburn
The Broncos may need to look a defensive linemen here with both Derek Wolfe and Shelby Harris currently set to hit free agency. This is a situation where need could meet best player available. Brown is an immensely talented prospect who’s motor is always running hot. If he’s available this late, he’s a no brainer.
16. Atlanta Falcons | A.J. Epenesa | EDGE | Iowa
Vic Beasley is set to hit free agency, and he hasn’t been the sack artist the Falcons envisioned he’d become when they made him a first round pick back in 2015. The Falcons also had the fourth fewest sacks in 2019. That’s simply unacceptable. Enter Epenesa, an overwhelmingly powerful edge prospect with the length and technical hands to become a big-time player at the next level.
17. Dallas Cowboys | Javon Kinlaw | DT | South Carolina
Dallas’ interior defensive line was sub-par at best in 2019. They could desperately use a play-maker up the middle to take some pressure off DeMarcus Lawrence and to allow Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch get back to what they do best in 2020. Kinlaw is incredibly quick and has the ability to reset the line of scrimmage. He has all of the tools to become a lethal pass rusher.
18. Miami Dolphins | K’Lavon Chaisson | EDGE | LSU
With the quarterback position already addressed with their first of two first round picks, it’s time for the Dolphins to turn their attention to the other side of the ball. Chaisson returned from a torn ACL in 2018, and compiled just a modest 6.5 sacks in 2019, but he has all the physical tools to be a dynamic pass rusher for Brian Flores. He may be a boom-or-bust type player, but the reward will be huge if everything works out for him.
19. Oakland Raiders | Patrick Queen | LB | LSU
Having drafted a game-breaker at wide receiver earlier, we turn our attention to the other side of the ball for the Raiders here. Oakland hasn’t received consistent play from the linebacker position in a while, and they simply must get faster up the middle if they hope to compete with the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. Queen is a dynamic athlete with the ability to make plays all over the field. Watching him read-and-react is a sight to see.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars | Kristian Fulton | CB | LSU
The Jaguars continue to address their defense with this selection. Losing Jalen Ramsey was devastating and replacing him has to absolutely be a priority for them this off-season. Fulton is a sticky corner with the length and ball-skills to excel at the next level.
21. Philadelphia Eagles | Henry Ruggs III | WR | Alabama
I’m pretty sure I was one injury away from playing receiver for the Eagles last season. Woof. Even if they get healthy at receiver next season, the Eagles need to add a young play-maker to the offense in 2020 and beyond. Ruggs may be the fastest receiver in this entire draft class. He’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and watching him run away from defenders was a pleasure to watch throughout 2019. This would be an excellent fit for all involved.
22. Buffalo Bills | Laviska Shenault Jr. | | WR | Colorado
Shenault reminds me a little of Sammy Watkins coming out. That’s probably not what Bills fans want to hear, but he’s the type of offensive play-maker that would compliment Josh Allen well. You have to manufacture some touches for him, but Shenault has the ability to create something out of nothing. Whether he’s taking a jet motion to the house or winning vertically, Shenault is the type of weapon that the Bills offense severely lacks.
23. New England Patriots | Brandon Aiyuk | WR | Arizona State
Would the Patriots dare to go back to Arizona State in attempt to solve the same receiver woes that N’Keal Harry failed to solve as a rookie? The Senior Bowl’s executive director Jim Nagy thinks that Aiyuk is a first round pick and I agree. Aiyuk is an exceptional athlete that can create separation with ease. He’s also incredibly dangerous after the catch and would give Tom Brady (do we really think he’s leaving?) the game-breaker at receiver he so desperately needs.
24. New Orleans Saints | Jalen Reagor | WR | TCU
Drew Brees just turned 41 years old and the Saints should remain in “win now” mode as long as he’s under center. While Michael Thomas is coming off what was quite possibly the most prolific season in wide receiver history, the Saints could use another weapon opposite him. Reagor is an explosive prospect who wins at the top of his routes on a consistent basis. His ability to create after the catch would be an exciting addition to an already scary Saints offense.
25. Minnesota Vikings | C.J. Henderson | CB | Florida
Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are both set to hit free agency as things stand. The Vikings have gotten tremendous cornerback play out of that group (and Xavier Rhodes) over the last couple of years, but it’s time to look towards the future. Henderson is a long corner with the ability to disrupt the catch point. He’s an exceptional athlete that would would be a nice fit in the Vikings aggressive defense.
26. Miami Dolphins | Grant Delpit | SAF | LSU
Could the Dolphins select two defenders from LSU in the first round? Sure, why not? Alebit a different player, Delpit can help replace the versatility the Dolphins lost when they traded Minkah Fitzpatrick to Pittsburgh. Delpit is a versatile play-maker that’s equally as effective in man coverage as he is in zone. He’s also a pleasure to watch in the box. Brian Flores would get awfully creative with a weapon like Delpit in the fold.
27. Seattle Seahawks | Yetur Gross-Matos | EDGE | Penn State
Defense ends Ziggy Ansah, Jadeveon Clowney and Quinton Jefferson are set to free agency as of now. Clowney will obviously have a ton of suitors if he hits the open market, and the Seahawks may have to look towards the draft for a long-term replacement. Gross-Matos is a long-armed, powerful technician that understands how to win in a variety of ways.
28. Baltimore Ravens | Curtis Weaver | EDGE | Boise State
The Ravens may need to re-load on the edges this summer. Matthew Judon is their best edge defender and he’s set to hit the open market. Weaver is a powerful defensive line prospect that understands how to use his hands. He has a little Marcus Davenport to his game.
29. Tennessee Titans | Trevon Diggs | CB | Alabama
The Titans are an interesting position here. Assuming they retain their key free agents, they don’t really have any glaring holes entering this off-season. Boy, how long’s it been since we could say that? Depending on what happens in free agency, they could go in a number of directions with this pick — QB, RB, OL, EDGE or CB.
Even if they retain Logan Ryan, he and Malcolm Butler aren’t getting any younger. You can never have too many defensive backs in today’s NFL and Diggs could come in handy down the line. Diggs uses his length well to disrupt the catch point. His ball production has been impressive. I’m a big fan.
30. Green Bay Packers | Kenneth Murray | LB | Oklahoma
How about someone that can stop Raheem Mostert here? All kidding aside, the lack of speed up the middle on the Packers defense was exposed time and time again throughout 2019. Murray was one of the more productive linebackers in college football last season, and he has the sideline-to-sideline speed the Packers so desperately need.
31. San Francisco 49ers | A.J. Terrell | CB | Clemson
From the No. 2 overall pick to the 31st overall pick in just a year. Wow, how about that? This 49ers roster doesn’t appear to have many areas of need, but it’s looking less and less likely that Ahkello Witherspoon will turn into the quality corner he appeared to be throughout 2017. Terrell may have struggled during the National Championship, but he’s a terrific athlete with an aggressive mindset.
32. Kansas City Chiefs | D’Andre Swift | RB | Georgia
Ah, the rich get richer. The Chiefs currently lack a stud running back and they’d get to choose their favorite prospect from the position in this scenario. Swift is a human highlight reel and he’s plenty physical. Watching him land in Kansas City would be borderline unfair to the rest of the league.