Though many of us loathe to admit it, we all miss the National Football League, and as a result, we can’t help but give into the guilty pleasure that are Mock Drafts. That notion is particularly relevant now, as the world of sports has come to a screeching halt due to the global pandemic that is the deadly Coronavirus. However, that doesn’t stop us from putting our imaginations to good use and prognosticating what our favorite team will do when they find themselves on the clock in two weeks, with that feeling intensified due to the 2020 NFL Draft serving as literally the only major sporting event to take place during these strange times. And while the Draft will reportedly be conducted remotely, with simulations of the players meeting a virtual version of Commissioner, Roger Goodell, upon their selection, there is some hope that life will indeed return to some reasonable facsimile of normal sooner rather than later. For after all, folks, a deadly outbreak can’t stop the NFL Draft!!! All jokes aside, as I, The Oracle, look to do my very best impression of the best Draft Analysts in the business, such as Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay, Daniel Jeremiah, and Matt Miller just to name a few, let’s keep in mind that these current global circumstances will no doubt have an effect on this Draft in the following ways:
- With prospects unable to perform at their respective Pro Days, an emphasis will be placed on their showing at the Scouting Combine and studying their film, while not benefitting from the opportunity of working out for interested teams, proving their good health or easing other concerns.
- With most franchises closing their doors in early March, many of the homework that their scouts would’ve done on these prospects simply hasn’t taken place, meaning that they may be even less likely to take a chance on prospects that have been deemed risky.
- With the Draft being conducted remotely by everyone involved, this could have a real effect on how many trades we see throughout the three-day event. Wheeling and dealing has always been a hallmark of the Draft, but due to the restrictions in communication, teams may be less liable to negotiate with each other.
- Prospects from smaller schools may not be selected as high as they have in the past, due to once again, prospective suitors not having the luxury of meeting them face to face.
- The same applies to players with major injury concerns. Some prospects have been cleared medically by independent physicians, but have never been cleared by team doctors, which could cause them to fall down many Draft Boards. Furthermore, with hospitals around the country overtaxed, some prospects may have yet to even undergo surgical procedures, altering their personal timetable and possibly turning away potential suitors.
So with that said, the 2020 NFL Draft is set to be a truly unique experience, and I simply couldn’t help but try my hand at predicting what will happen on April 23rd. So as I peer into my crystal ball and consult the fates, here’s how I believe the First Round will play out, and as always feel free to leave a comment, as I’m sure to hit on a few selections and whiff on many more as well…
1.) Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
With the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select… c’mon, folks, we all know where this is going. Easily the most anticlimactic selection in this Draft, expect the Bengals to tab 2019 Heisman and National Champion, Joe Burrow, to be the official face of their rebuild. The Ohio native is fresh off arguably the greatest single season in College Football History, tossing a whopping SIXTY Touchdowns, highlighted by an absolute masterclass against reigning National Champion, Clemson, in the CFP Final, with 463 Yards and Six Total Touchdowns. Don’t expect the incumbent, Andy Dalton (59.5%, 3,494 YDS, 5.74 NY/A, 16 TD, 14 INT), to be in Cincinnati much longer, as the team has gone out of their way to start stacking the deck in favor of their new leading man; Cincy managed to keep veteran Pro-Bowl Receiver, A.J. Green, via the Franchise Tag, and should benefit from the healthy return of last year’s First Round Pick, Jonah Williams, who missed the entirety of 2019 with a torn labrum, bolstering an Offensive Line in dire need of help. Furthermore, Tyler Boyd (90 REC, 1,046 YDS, 5 TD) emerged as a playmaker in Green’s absence, while Joe Mixon (278 CAR, 1,137 YDS, 5 TD) earned top billing in the Backfield in just his second season in the league. Burrow flourished with a surplus of draftable talent surrounding him at LSU, and should benefit from the weapons expected to be at his disposal. Smart, accurate, and possessing a rare poise beyond his years, the Heisman recipient is quite frankly the easiest selection to mock in this Draft, addressing not only need, but likely a significant upgrade over his predecessor, all the while legitimizing and accelerating what for all intents and purposes figures to be a lengthy rebuild.
2.) Washington Redskins: Chase Young, Edge, Ohio State
Next up are the Washington Redskins, who are embarking on a new era in the Nation’s Capital, led by veteran Head Coach, Ron Rivera, who was tabbed to lead a long overdue rebuild. There is a certain credibility that is associated with Rivera (76-63-1, .546), who presided over a largely successful stretch with the Carolina Panthers, that featured three NFC South Titles and a trip to the Super Bowl. With a new regime in place, the temptation is absolutely there to replace last year’s First Round Pick, Dwayne Haskins (58.6%, 1,365 YDS, 5.0 NY/A, 7 TD, 7 INT), with a new potential Franchise Quarterback, particularly when you’re selecting at No. 2 Overall. However, this is a team that has a plethora of other needs, with perhaps the greatest being at Left Tackle, with perennial Pro-Bowler, Trent Williams, doing everything in his power to force his way out of the District. While there are a slew of quality prospects at Offensive Tackle expected to come off the board shortly, and without a Second Round Pick thanks to maneuvers made in last year’s Draft, the smartest thing for the Redskins would be to trade down and recoup some more assets, while ensuring they’ll be able to properly protect Haskins moving forward. With that said, if there aren’t any seismic offers to tempt them, expect Washington to select the Draft’s highest-rated prospect, Chase Young, who was a proverbial wrecking ball last season for Ohio State, leading the nation with 16.5 Sacks despite missing a pair of games. Young slotted on the opposite side of 2019 First Rounder, Montez Sweat (50 TKL, 8 TFL, 13 QBH, 7.0 SK, 2 FF), will give Rivera one of the most threatening Defensive Fronts in the league. Yes, Edge Rusher isn’t necessarily a need for this team, but this is simply a case of best player available, and by all accounts Young is the best player PERIOD.
3.) Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
The next pick is another fairly obvious one, with the Detroit Lions choosing Jeff Okudah, the only true shutdown Cornerback in this Draft Class. Pass Defense was a major weakness for the Lions last season, yielding a league-worst 284.4 Yards per Game through the air, which was only exasperated by the departure of Pro-Bowl Cornerback, Darius Slay (46 TKL, 2 INT, 13 PD), whom they traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. Needless to say, Detroit needs MAJOR help in the Secondary, and they’re fortunate enough to have Slay’s replacement available to them at No. 3 Overall. At 6-1, 200 lbs, Okudah has the size, length, speed, and toughness to excel in a variety of schemes, while also factoring into defending the run. Matt Patricia has struggled to properly implement his defensive vision since arriving in the Motor City two years ago, and a cover man like Okudah should go a long way towards realizing that goal. While the Ohio State product is expected to be the selection if the Lions do indeed keep this pick, there remains strong potential that they trade down. Rumors suggest that teams coveting one of the other Quarterbacks that are expected to be available at this point will be in contact with Detroit in an effort to move up, and with just six overall selections and a laundry list of needs, this is a team that simply must keep all of their options on the table. However, if they can’t secure a king’s ransom to move down, Okudah will be their guy, serving as a cornerstone of the Secondary and the Defense as a whole.
4.) New York Giants: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Now this is where the Draft officially gets interesting, folks, for the Giants have a multitude of options available to them on the table at No. 4 Overall. First, they would have their pick of any of the top Offensive Tackles, addressing a clear need at a position that will help maximize the play of their last two First Round Picks, Tailback, Saquon Barkley (217 CAR, 1,003 YDS, 6 TD), and Quarterback, Daniel Jones (61.9%, 3,027 YDS, 5.50 NY/A, 24 TD, 12 INT). Veteran Tackle, Nate Solder, has been nothing short of underwhelming since Big Blue broke the bank for him two years ago, and if General Manger, Dave Gettleman, and new Head Coach, Joe Judge, want to ensure Jones’ growth, protecting his blindside will go a long way towards accomplishing that. Second, the same notion that applies to Washington and Detroit also applies here, as they could trade back a few spots and still have their pick of Tackles while also recouping more picks to address their many needs. However, if they stand pat, the rumors overwhelmingly suggest that they’ll pick Isaiah Simmons, who may just be the most versatile defender to enter the league in a decade. Simmons (104 TKL, 16.5 TFL, 8.0 SK, 3 INT, 8 PD) literally played all over the field at Clemson, with his otherworldly showing at the NFL Scouting Combine confirming the magic exhibited on the field. At 6-4, 230 lbs and faster than some Receivers and Cornerbacks, this guy figures to be the ultimate swiss-army knife in an era where versatility is more paramount than ever. Though some skeptics will claim that he doesn’t have a true position, we’d urge the Giants not to overthink things. Simply put Simmons on the field, and let him make plays… good things should follow.
5.) Miami Dolphins: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The first real surprise of the Draft comes at No. 5 Overall, where the Dolphins select the prospect that they HOPE will develop into their Franchise Quarterback, although it’s not who everyone had pegged them taking for the past four months. Overwhelming rumors permeating from South Florida indicate that Miami is head over heels for Oregon’s Justin Herbert, who may be the ultimate boom or bust prospect in this Draft. At 6-6, 237 lbs, possessing excellent arm strength and rare mobility for his size, Herbert is the ideal physical specimen at the game’s most important position. However, the concerns over his mechanics, anticipation, and ability to progress through his reads within the confines of an NFL Offense are very real, exhibited last season despite playing behind one of the most decorated Offensive Lines in the country. General Manager, Chris Grier, and Head Coach, Brian Flores, tore down their roster last season in an effort to accumulate as many premium picks as possible, amassing a treasure chest of capital, including three picks in this First Round. If Herbert is indeed their choice over say, Tua Tagovailoa (more on him in a bit), there is a reasonable logic that he could be available the next time that they’re on the clock (No. 18 Overall), which in turn would allow them to land one of the top Offensive Tackles that are available at this point. And make no mistake, the Offensive Line is a position group that needs to be addressed, particularly when you consider them looking to add a Quarterback. But in this case, the passer takes precedence over his protection, which means Herbert will be traveling from one corner of the country to the other.
6.) Los Angeles Chargers: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Provided they don’t move up to secure a Quarterback, the general logic is that the Chargers will indeed select whichever Signal-Caller that the Dolphins don’t, and in this case they end up with Tua Tagovailoa, which all things considered is not a bad consolation prize at all. One of the most productive passers over the past two seasons while performing at the highest level with Alabama in the SEC, Tagovailoa has all the tools to be at the very least a quality starter in the NFL for a decade. The lefty has excellent presence and poise within the Pocket, tremendous accuracy and touch, and has excelled within a pro-style offense tossing a ridiculous SEVENTY-SIX Touchdowns in comparison to just Nine Interceptions over the past two seasons in Tuscaloosa. However, the concern with Tua is his murky medical history, consisting of surgeries to both ankles, and a dislocated hip that ended his 2019 campaign prematurely. Due to the fact that teams simply haven’t been able to get these prospects evaluated by their own Medical Staffs, any franchise willing to select him must trust that he is in fact completely healthy. And even with that said, the true question isn’t even IF this kid is currently healthy, it’s given his history can he in fact STAY healthy? This of course brings us to the Chargers, who after saying farewell to Phillip Rivers (66.0%, 4,615 YDS, 7.03 NY/A, 23 TD, 20 INT) have the luxury of one of the most experienced Backup Quarterbacks, Tyrod Taylor, to lean on while Tagovailoa further acclimates himself. Basically, even if he isn’t 100%, Los Angeles can afford to bring him along slowly, which is the ideal course of action for a prospect who before this latest bout with injury was heralded as the top Quarterback in this Draft class, totally on par with the aforementioned Burrow. And make no mistake that the Chargers are in dire need of a fresh new face of the franchise, as they move into their brand-new stadium in 2020; the Hawai’i native should have plenty of cache on the West Coast, and his presence could attract the fanbase in Southern California, which is something this team has notoriously struggled with since relocating two years ago.
7.) Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
After turning the page towards a new era of football, it’s difficult to predict where the Panthers will go with their first selection under the new regime headed by former Baylor Head Coach, Matt Rhule. Carolina has managed to address some of their litany of needs during Free Agency, replacing the departed Cam Newton (56.2%, 572 YDS, 5.57 NY/A, 0 TD, 1 INT) with Teddy Bridgewater (67.9%, 1,384 YDS, 6.23 NY/A, 9 TD, 2 INT), adding former Jets’ Receiver, Robby Anderson (52 REC, 779 YDS, 5 TD), and importing veteran Offensive Tackle, Russell Okung, in a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers. However, there are still some significant needs for a team that bottomed out at 5-11, losing their final eight contests of the 2019 campaign. The Panthers lost Starting Cornerback, James Bradberry (65 TKL, 1 TFL, 1 QBH, 1.0 SK, 3 INT, 12 PD), in Free Agency, and must find a way to replace All-Pro Middle Linebacker, Luke Kuechly (144 TKL, 4 TFL, 5 QBH, 2 INT, 12 PD), who shockingly retired from the sport at the age of 28. While Cornerback is certainly an option, particularly if they trade down, and Linebacker would make plenty of sense if the aforementioned Simmons was still available, the choice here is most likely to be Auburn’s Derrick Brown at Defensive Tackle. With veterans, Gerald McCoy (37 TKL, 7 TFL, 13 QBH, 5.0 SK, 2 PD), Dontari Poe (22 TKL, 7 TFL, 6 QBH, 4.0 SK), and Mario Addison (34 TKL, 6 TFL, 14 QBH, 9.5 SK, 2 FF) leaving in Free Agency, the Defensive Line is littered with holes, which the mammoth 6-5, 318-lb Brown would fill. Adding a premium run-stuffer, who will occupy blockers so that last year’s First Round Pick, Edge-Rusher Brian Burns (25 TKL, 5 TFL, 16 QBH, 7.5 SK, 1 FF, 1 TD), can be free to make plays makes an awful lot of sense to us, in this clear case of need meeting value; remember, the Panthers struggled mightily against the Run last season, relinquishing a dismal 143.5 Yards per Game on the ground and a league-worst 5.2 Yards per Carry.
8.) Arizona Cardinals: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
And now the run on Offensive Tackles begins… though rumors coming out of the desert indicate that the Cardinals would absolutely select the aforementioned Brown to bolster the interior of their own Defensive Line, he simply isn’t available in this particular scenario. So with that said, why don’t General Manager, Steve Keim, and Head Coach, Kliff Kingsbury, find some proper protection for last year’s No. One Overall Pick, Kyler Murray (64.4%, 3,722 YDS, 5.78 NY/A, 20 TD, 12 INT)? The Offensive Line was a HUGE problem area for Arizona last season, as their Rookie Quarterback was sacked a whopping FORTY-EIGHT times, or in other words, on 8.1% of his Dropbacks. In Kingsbury’s wide-open, Spread Offense there is a heavy emphasis placed on the Tackles standing their ground without the benefit of help from Tight Ends and Tailbacks to chip away at incoming rushers. The franchise re-signed Left Tackle, D.J. Humphries, in the early stages of Free Agency, but still has a need on the right side of the Line. This is where Wills comes into play, folks; a technician with excellent footwork and balance, who played predominantly at Right Tackle for the Crimson Tide, the Junior has also exhibited the power and nastiness to maul opponents in the run game. Keep in mind that he also essentially protected his Quarterback’s blindside at Alabama, for the aforementioned Tagovailoa is lefthanded. The Cardinals made waves in the Offseason by pulling off a heist in the form of poaching All-Pro Receiver, DeAndre Hopkins (104 REC, 1,165 YDS, 7 TD), from the Houston Texans, and if they want their young Quarter back to take advantage of the new toy that they acquired for him, ensuring that he remains upright would be a wise decision.
9.) Jacksonville Jaguars: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
Though they’re picking Ninth Overall, there isn’t a team in this Draft with more needs than the Jaguars. Though General Manager, David Caldwell, and Head Coach Doug Marrone, remain in power, this is a team that is undergoing a wholesale makeover, particularly on Defense, where they have lost a wealth of quality starters. Think about the heights that this unit had reached just three years ago in reaching the AFC Championship Game, only to now have to replace the likes of a pair of Pro-Bowl Cornerbacks, Jalen Ramsey (50 TKL, 2 FF, 1 INT, 5 PD) and A.J. Bouye (65 TKL, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 8 PD), Defensive End, Calais Campbell (56 TKL, 10 TFL, 25 QBH, 6.5 SK, 2 FF, 1 TD), Linebacker, Telvin Smith, and perhaps even Edge-Rusher, Yannick Ngakoue (41 TKL, 13 TFL, 15 QBH, 8.0 SK, 4 FF, 1 INT, 6 PD). Jacksonville franchised Ngakoue, only for the 24-Year Old to take to social media and all but demand a trade, which will in all likelihood take place during this Draft. Possessing two First Round Picks (the other at No. 20 Overall), the Jags certainly possess the requisite ammunition if they wish to trade up for defensive studs such as the aforementioned Young or Okudah, or even one of the Quarterbacks if they wish to develop one behind rookie standout, Gardner Minshew (60.6%, 3,271 YDS, 6.14 NY/A, 21 TD, 6 INT), after trading away his veteran counterpart, Nick Foles (65.8%, 736 YDS, 5.41 NY/A, 3 TD, 2 INT). However, at this point the greatest need is to restock the Defense, and what better place than to start in the trenches with South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw? According to many scouts the monstrous Defensive Tackle is very comparable to his fellow classmate, Derrick Brown, though there is one major difference separating the two, and that’s his potential as a Pass-Rusher. Thanks to Aaron Donald, the stock of interior rushers has never been higher, and Kinlaw’s impressive performance at the Senior Bowl in which he absolutely embarrassed the Offensive Lineman in his path, has caused his stock to soar. Big, freakishly strong, and armed with a first step unique for his size, the 6-6, 310-lb Lineman would be an excellent building block for Jacksonville, who can in turn address their need at Cornerback later in the First Round.
10.) Cleveland Browns: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
The run on Offensive Tackles continues with the Browns, who may need a blindside protector more so than any other team in this Draft. Predicted by many to take a major leap forward heading into 2019, Cleveland was instead one of the most disappointing teams last season, stumbling to a 6-10 record with 2018 No. One Overall Pick, Baker Mayfield (59.4%, 3,827 YDS, 6.17 NY/A, 22 TD, 21 INT), suffering from a dreadful Sophomore Slump. The general train of thought is that much of Mayfield’s struggles were due to some very poor play along the Offensive Line, particularly at both Tackles, causing him to rush through his progressions and escape the confines of the Pocket prematurely. With the franchise once again overhauling their Front Office and Coaching Staff, former Vikings’ Offensive Coordinator, Kevin Stefanski, has arrived to bring some much-needed discipline to the most penalized team in the league, while also looking to implement some balance to an Offense loaded with playmakers. Cleveland already made a splash in Free Agency by signing former Pro-Bowl Right Tackle, Jack Conklin, and is universally expected to select one of the top Offensive Tackles here at No. 10 Overall. With the aforementioned Wills off the board, expect Tristan Wirfs to be the choice by the new regime; the Iowa product put on an absolute show at the Scouting Combine, while exhibiting the film of a true technician that is adept at both Pass Protection and Run-Blocking, also showing the versatility to kick inside at Guard. He also comes from a program that has quite the history of sending quality Linemen to the NFL, making him one of the safest prospects in this Draft, with arguably the highest floor at his position.
11.) New York Jets: Mekih Becton, OT, Louisville
Another team in dire need of help along the Offensive Line is the Jets, who must do everything in their power to upgrade the Supporting Cast around third-year Quarterback, Sam Darnold (61.9%, 3,024 YDS, 5.93 NY/A, 19 TD, 13 INT). Of course, New York traded up to select Darnold back in 2018, and have yet to see significant improvement from their potential savior. While a case of mononucleosis sidelined him for a month during the 2019 campaign, it’s not like the team has done a good job of ensuring his growth; in the past two years, Gang Green has made changes at both Head Coach and General Manager, while letting many of their own Free Agents leave (I.E. Robby Anderson), and failing to add much in the way of support. Seriously, if they think that George Fant is their answer at Left Tackle, then maybe the whole thing needs to be torn down. With clear needs at Wide Receiver, Cornerback, Edge-Rusher, and Offensive Tackle, General Manager, Joe Douglas, and Head Coach, Adam Gase, could go in a multitude of directions here, though they really can’t justify passing on one of the top Offensive Tackles in this Draft, which in this case brings them to Mekih Becton, the mammoth-sized prospect out of Louisville. At 6-8, 364 lbs, he has the size, strength, and length to manhandle any defender he gets his hands on, and after his own eye-opening performance at the Scouting Combine, he has proven to possess an athleticism that is truly unique for a prospect of his considerable size. While he still needs to work on his technique, Becton would grant Darnold a true wall protecting his blindside, while also bolstering a Rushing Attack that ranked 31st in Yards per Game (78.6) and dead-last in Yards per Carry (3.3). With all that said, the Jets still have a serious amount of cap space, and if they happen to pull off a trade for Trent Williams (who would reportedly only cost a Second Round Pick), then they could in turn shift their attention to Receiver, finally giving Darnold some legitimate weapons to work with. The value for the top-tier Receivers is excellent at this point of the Draft, with the best getting ready to come off the board shortly…
12.) Las Vegas Raiders: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
At this point, the run on Receivers is expected to begin for what has been widely reported as arguably the deepest class in history. At No. 12 Overall the Raiders will almost certainly select a Wideout to address what is clearly their biggest need; no Receiver had more than Forty-Nine Receptions for them in 2019, which isn’t necessarily surprising given how Head Coach, Jon Gruden, spent the Offseason tailoring the Passing Game around the talents of Antonio Brown, who was infamously released before the season ever began in one of the most bizarre sagas in recent memory. So it’s with that said that Las Vegas will be itching to add a playmaker here, and they’ll have their choice of the top Receivers on the board if the scenario plays out as such. We’ve heard that the only thing that really separates these prospects is preference and scheme, and given that General Manager, Mike Mayock, has repeatedly lamented his team’s need to add speed, the choice here will in all likelihood be Henry Ruggs, who is definitively the fastest player in this entire Draft Class. A bonafide vertical threat that can absolutely take the top off a Defense, Ruggs has the kind of speed that would make former owner, Al Davis, rise up out of his grave, adding a missing element to an Offense in dire need of it. Ruggs ran an insane 4.27 40-Yard Dash at the Scouting Combine (which actually DISAPPOINTED some scouts), and after reeling in Eighty-Six Catches for 1,487 Yards and Eighteen Touchdowns over the last two seasons in Tuscaloosa despite sharing the field with the likes of Jerry Jeudy (more on him shortly), and future First Rounders, Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, it really makes you wonder what he could’ve done as the focal point of the attack. Some picks just FEEL like a natural fit for their team, and Ruggs to the Raiders may just be the most natural of selections in this Draft.
13.) San Francisco 49ers: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Coming off the board at No. 13 Overall is Ruggs’ teammate, Jerry Jeudy, who appears to be such a good fit for the 49ers’ Offense that it should be branded criminal. Of course, the reigning NFC Champions acquired this pick in a trade with the Colts which sent Defensive Tackle, DeForest Buckner (62 TKL, 9 TFL, 14 QBH, 7.5 SK, 2 FF, 2 PD), to Indianapolis in exchange for an opportunity to add a playmaker to the attack. Granted, San Francisco has other needs at Cornerback and Center, but they also have their own pick (No. 31 Overall) to address either of those positions later in this Draft. The Niners were aggressive in adding help at Receiver during the season, evidenced by their acquisition of veteran, Emmanuel Sanders (66 REC, 869 YDS, 5 TD), whom they in turn allowed to walk via Free Agency a month ago. Head Coach, Kyle Shanahan, is one of the most creative offensive minds in the league, and one would have to figure that he would be frothing at the mouth to add a pass-catcher of the caliber of Jeudy, who has been one of the most prolific Wideouts in College Football over the past two years, reeling in 145 Catches for 2,478 Yards and Twenty-Four Touchdowns for the Crimson Tide, doing so while sharing the field with the aforementioned Ruggs and a host of other playmakers. As smooth a route-runner to come into the NFL in over a decade, this kid feels like a perfect match for Shanahan, who is supremely adept at devising schemes to get his Receivers open. Simply put, Jeudy will be an immediate starter from Day One, and represents an upgrade over his predecessor, making this another perfect case of value meeting a need. After a 13-3 campaign and trip to Super Bowl LIV, the 49ers are getting richer, folks…
14.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Taking a break from the run on Receivers, the Buccaneers bring Offensive Tackle back into the spotlight, selecting Andrew Thomas at No. 14 Overall. The moment that Tampa Bay acquired Tom Brady (60.8%, 4,057 YDS, 6.05 NY/A, 24 TD, 8 INT) via Free Agency, all of their plans building their roster shifted towards maximizing what is left of the 42-Year Old’s illustrious career. With that in mind, General Manager, Jason Licht, and Head Coach, Bruce Arians, MUST improve the protection around Brady, even though there are legitimate needs elsewhere, particularly in the Defensive Secondary and in the Backfield. Simply put, this is not one of the better Offensive Lines in the league, allowing their former Quarterback, Jameis Winston (60.7%, 5,109 YDS, 7.17 NY/A, 33 TD, 30 INT), to be sacked FORTY-SEVEN times in 2019. Now, we’re well aware that Winston has his issues remaining settled within the Pocket, but he’s also much more mobile than the man replacing him, meaning that Licht and Arians will be turning over every stone to ensure that the six-time Super Bowl Champion remains upright. Fortunately, they’re positioned to pounce on one of the remaining Tackles expected to be available in the first half of this Draft, with Thomas appearing to be the logical choice to protect Brady’s blindside. Though he’s not as large, long, or as athletic as the Tackles selected before him, the Georgia product is by far and away the most experienced member of this class of Tackles, exhibiting power in the Run Game and solid technique in Pass Protection. Granted, he may not have the substantial upside of the aforementioned Wills or Becton, but his floor is much higher than both, and with the Bucs very much in win-now mode, his ability to immediately slot in at Left Tackle makes him an easy choice at this point.
15.) Denver Broncos: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Getting back to the run on Receivers, the Broncos continue to rebuild their Offense with CeeDee Lamb out of Oklahoma at No. 15 Overall. While he’s certainly earned his share of criticism in the past, Czar of Football Operations, John Elway, is doing a solid job of rebuilding the attack; Courtland Sutton (72 REC, 1,112 YDS, 6 TD) is a star in the making at Wideout, while Drew Lock’s (64.1%, 1,020 YDS, 6.17 NY/A, 7 TD, 3 INT) performance down the stretch has the folks in Mile High feeling good about their Quarterback for the first time in half a decade. Furthermore, last year’s First Round Pick, Noah Fant (40 REC, 562 YDS, 3 TD), has shown promise at Tight End, while Elway added former Pro-Bowl Tailback, Melvin Gordon (162 YDS, 612 YDS, 8 TD), to an already strong Backfield in Free Agency. While they still have a rather glaring need at Offensive Tackle, rumors out of Denver suggest that Elway would prefer to further round out the Offense with another Receiver opposite of Sutton, and at this point who would be a better choice than Lamb? Though he didn’t turn heads at the Scouting Combine with his speed (4.5 40-Yard Dash), this kid is all about production and volume; over the last two years at Oklahoma, Lamb hauled in 127 Receptions for 2,485 Yards and Twenty-Five Touchdowns, exhibiting a ridiculous catch radius and a constant ability to make plays after the catch. The Sooners’ Wideout represents a far better choice than reaching for an Offensive Tackle, which is the mistake that the Broncos made three years ago when they selected Garrett Bolles at 20th Overall. Moving back to take a Pass-Protector is certainly an option, but continuing to add to Lock’s Supporting Cast with a talent like Lamb will likely be too tempting for Elway to resist.
16.) Atlanta Falcons: C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
Sometimes the board just plays out perfectly, which is precisely the case for the Falcons, who would be sprinting their way to the podium to turn in their selection. After back-to-back 7-9 finishes, the heat is on Head Coach, Dan Quinn, to return Atlanta back to the Playoffs, and the most logical way of doing so would be finally fixing the Defense, which simply hasn’t been good enough during his tenure with the franchise. Last Offseason, the Dirty Birds focused heavily on the Offense in the Draft, selecting a pair of Linemen in the First Round, and continued that trend early into this Spring, adding Tight End, Hayden Hurst (30 REC, 349 YDS, 2 TD), via trade, and former Offensive Player of the Year, Todd Gurley (223 CAR, 857 YDS, 12 TD), after the Tailback was released by the Rams. This Offseason, that emphasis has shifted towards the opposite side of the football, adding Edge-Rusher, Dante Fowler (11.5 SK, 16 TFL, 16 QBH, 2 FF), in Free Agency. However, they allowed Starting Cornerback, Desmond Trufant (18 TKL, 1 TFL, 4 INT, 7 PD), to leave, creating a massive need in the Secondary, though they are fortunate to find themselves in prime position to acquire the services of the top remaining talent in the Draft, Florida’s C.J. Henderson. An excellent blend of size, speed, athleticism, and attitude, Henderson was a pillar in Gainesville for the past three years, forged in the fires of the SEC. While some of his detractors will point out that he’s not the most willing of tacklers, particularly when it comes to run support, we’d like to counter that neither was another Falcons’ Cornerback, Deion Sanders. Simply put, this kid can cover, and given what’s left on the Depth Chart, you can expect him to contribute immediately in Quinn’s Cover-Three/Press-Bail scheme. And speaking of Quinn, he had better get this ship turned around soon, for it’s not been for a lack of talent; after this Draft, there will be grand total of FOURTEEN First Round Picks on Atlanta’s roster, the most in the league.
17.) Dallas Cowboys: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
After an 8-8 finish following a 3-0 start that could only be described as underachieving, the Cowboys are starting a new era under the guidance of new Head Coach, Mike McCarthy, as they look to finally unlock the vast potential of this very talented roster. However, as talented as they are, Dallas is now at point where they’re being forced to pay a premium to retain said talent, which has been the storyline that has dominated their Offseason thus far; outspoken Owner, Jerry Jones, has already doled out hefty contracts to keep the likes of Ezekiel Elliott (301 CAR, 1,357 YDS, 12 TD), Jaylon Smith (142 TKL, 6 TFL, 2.5 SK, 1 NT, 9 PD), DeMarcus Lawrence (45 TKL, 10 TFL, 16 QBH, 5.0 SK, 2 FF, 2 PD), and most recently Amari Cooper (79 REC, 1,189 YDS, 8 TD) in house, while the franchise continues to search for a long-term deal with Pro-Bowl Quarterback, Dak Prescott (65.1%, 4,502 YDS, 7.68 NY/A, 30 TD, 11 INT), whom they franchised in early March. Basically, there simply isn’t enough money to pay everyone, making the Draft all the more important as they look to improve in the cheapest way possible. As of now, the Cowboys’ biggest weaknesses lie in their Secondary, particularly at Cornerback following the departure of Byron Jones (46 TKL, 1 FF, 6 PD) in Free Agency. In this scenario, they’re undoubtedly disappointed to see the aforementioned Henderson selected immediately before them, though all is not lost, for while he may not be a Cornerback, Alabama’s Xavier McKinney would address another major need in the Secondary at Safety. The Cowboys also lost Jeff Heath (63 TKL, 3 TFL, 2 QBH, 7 PD) in Free Agency, creating another hole on the back end of the Defense, and McKinney would represent a clear upgrade over anyone at that position currently on their roster. Smart, athletic, and versatile, the Junior functioned in a number of roles for the Crimson Tide, shadowing Tight Ends and covering Receivers in the Slot, while also dropping back into deeper coverage in centerfield. Described as a slightly larger version of his predecessor, Minkah Fitzpatrick, McKinney could very well be the next major defensive playmaker to emerge from Tuscaloosa.
18.) Miami Dolphins: Josh Jones, OT, Houston
With their second of three picks in the First Round, the Dolphins have already selected their Quarterback of the future, and now must do everything in their power to protect him. As we mentioned earlier, Justin Herbert had some issues going through his reads despite having the benefit of one of the best Offensive Lines in the country protecting him. Could you imagine what his first season in the NFL will be like with Miami’s current position group? The aforementioned Grier and Flores packaged Left Tackle, Laremy Tunsil, for a First Round Pick, creating a clear need coming into this Draft. Between Ryan Fitzpatrick (62.0%, 3,529 YDS, 6.13 NY/A, 20 TD, 13 INT) and Josh Rosen (53.2%, 567 YDS, 3.79 NY/A, 1 TD, 5 INT), the two Quarterbacks were sacked a whopping FIFTY-SIX times, and even though the likes of Julie’n Davenport and Erek Flowers were added via Trade and Free Agency, there is still plenty of work left to be done in order to adequately protect Herbert, or whoever is lining up under Center come September. The synergy of drafting a Quarterback and Left Tackle in the same class makes a lot of sense not just from a developmental standpoint, but from a financial one as well, allowing the franchise to keep both players under cost-controlled contracts for the next five years. In this case, the most promising Tackle left on the board is Josh Jones out of Houston, who at 6-7, 310 lbs, possesses the length and balance to excel in Pass Protection. Granted, playing in the American Athletic Conference doesn’t lend itself to the best of competition, and though he still needs to work on his technique a bit, the proverbial ceiling is very high with Jones, who is quick to get out of his stance and can really make a difference once he reaches the second level.
19.) Las Vegas Raiders: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
After addressing their most glaring need with the first of their two First Round Picks, the Raiders go back to the well in Tuscaloosa, this time selecting Trevon Diggs out of Alabama to fill their need at Cornerback. In his first Draft as their General Manager, the aforementioned Mayock showed a proclivity for drafting standouts from the biggest and most successful programs in the country, and there is no reason to think that he won’t do so once again in 2020. After all, Diggs addresses another glaring weakness in the Secondary, which was only made the all the more so after the team’s acquisition of veteran Cornerback, Eli Apple, in Free Agency was voided following the player’s physical. In response, Las Vegas immediately signed versatile Defensive Back, Damarious Randall (61 TKL, 3 TFL, 2.5 SK, 6 PD), though the rumors out of the Black Hole is that he is expected to see far more action at Safety, a position that he played in college and over the last two seasons with the Browns. That acquisition facilitates the selection of Diggs, with the 6-2, 207-lb Corner showing the requisite size, speed, and fluidity needed to man the boundary in today’s NFL. With that said, there is talk circling around the league that the Raiders could move back from this pick in order to recoup a Second Rounder, which they lack as of this moment. There is also a prevailing feeling that the aforementioned Gruden could indeed pounce on a Quarterback, particularly Utah State’s Jordan Love, whom the erstwhile Head Coach has already interviewed. Yes, Las Vegas still has Derek Carr (70.4%, 4,054 YDS, 7.14 NY/A, 21 TD, 8 INT) under a team-friendly contract and hedged their bets by adding Marcus Mariota (59.4%, 1,203 YDS, 5.63 NY/A, 7 TD, 2 INT) via Free Agency to compete for the starting job, but ruling out a young talent that he and his Coaching Staff could develop should not be removed from the table, particularly as they embark on their first season in Las Vegas.
20.) Jacksonville Jaguars: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Speaking of Jordan Love, the polarizing prospect out of Utah State comes off the board at No. 20 Overall to the Jaguars. This is the pick that Jacksonville acquired via the trade with the Rams for Jalen Ramsey, and though there are still a litany of needs on the defensive side of the football, this team could really use an injection of talent on Offense, and Love could be the answer that they’ve long sought after at Quarterback. Just one year after handing him a major contract in Free Agency, the Jags traded Nick Foles to the Bears, and as of now are prepared to head into the 2020 campaign with Gardner Minshew as their Starting Quarterback. While he certainly had his moments, the former Sixth Round Pick is fairly limited as far as his potential as a signal-caller. With the aforementioned Caldwell and Marrone likely on the hot seat, what better way to buy some more time in this rather arduous rebuild than selecting a potential Franchise Quarterback? Supremely athletic with a cannon for an arm, Love is arguably the most polarizing player in this Draft Class, particularly after exhibiting poor mechanics, accuracy, and decision-making during his Junior campaign with Utah State. However, as a Sophomore he completd 64.0% of his Passes for 3,567 Yards, Thirty-Two Touchdowns and Six Interceptions, while rushing for another Seven Touchdowns under the tutelage of former Head Coach, Matt Wells. Unfortunately, Wells left the program for greener pastures, and as a result, Love regressed under his successor, completing just 61.9% of his Attempts for 3,402 Yards, Twenty Touchdowns and Seventeen Interceptions. So who in fact is the REAL Jordan Love? A strong showing in the Offseason has some scouts branding him as the next Patrick Mahomes, while others think that he’s the second coming of Mitchell Trubisky. We think that he’s somewhere between the two, and if he does land in Jacksonville, he’ll be afforded the opportunity to learn at his own rate, sitting behind Minshew until Marrone feels he’s ready to take the reins. For a franchise that hasn’t had a real quality Starting Quarterback since the days of Mark Brunell, and has thus been subjected to some of the worst in recent memory (I.E. Blaine Gabbert and Blake Bortles), while routinely struggling to fill their stadium, this pick could serve as the catalyst towards solving at least one of those problems…
21.) Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
After a brief pause, the run on Receivers continues with the Eagles, who may be the most needy team in the league in this regard. Injuries absolutely ravaged this position group, exposing a severe lack of depth for an Offense that was forced to manufacture their Passing Game in creative ways. DeSean Jackson returned to the franchise after a five-year departure only to see his season come to an end after just two games, while Alshon Jeffery (43 REC, 490 YDS, 4 TD) missed six games due to injury, with Nelson Agholor (39 REC, 363 YDS, 3 TD) missing five of his own and continuing to struggle with drops. With Agholor already out the door, it’s realistic to think that both Jackson and Jeffery could be joining him before Training Camps begin. Furthermore, last year’s Second Round Pick, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside struggled immensely when thrust into action, hauling in just Ten Receptions on Twenty-Two Targets as a Rookie. With Franchise Quarterback, Carson Wentz (63.9%, 4,039 YDS, 5.91 NY/A, 27 TD, 7 INT), no longer a bargain and firmly locked into his lucrative contract extension, Philadelphia needs to do everything in their power to get him some reliable weapons, which is why just about every rumor coming out of the City of Brotherly Love has the Eagles selecting the highest-graded Receiver left on the board, which in this case is LSU’s Justin Jefferson. As one component of the Tigers’ prolific passing attack, Jefferson reeled in 111 Catches for 1,540 Yards and Eighteen Touchdowns. As one of Heisman-winner Joe Burrow’s top targets, he showed the speed and fluidity in and out of his routes to excel in the NFL, particularly in Head Coach, Doug Pederson’s, version of the West Coast Offense. Oh, and he has some of the softest hands in this Draft, which should endear him quite nicely to the faithful in Philadelphia. Due to this Receiver Class being so deep, the Eagles could instead opt to select a Linebacker or Safety here and look at a Receiver later in the Second Round, though selecting Jefferson is an easy case of value meeting a major need.
22.) Minnesota Vikings: Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
Though they surprised many by advancing to the Divisional Round of the Playoffs, the Vikings have a number of needs that they need to address, particularly on Defense where they really began to show their age at a number of positions in 2019. The Secondary in particular was a problem area for Mike Zimmer, with Starting Cornerbacks, Xavier Rhodes (63 TKL, 5 TFL, 6 PD) and Trae Waynes (58 TKL, 4 TFL, 1 INT, 8 PD), exposed far too much for the Head Coach’s liking. Although he’s only 29-Years Old, Rhodes fell off the proverbial cliff last year, prompting Minnesota to cut ties with him in the Offseason, while also allowing Waynes to leave in Free Agency. Of course, this creates a significant need at the position, but fortunately there are plenty of options remaining at No. 22 Overall, which brings us to Utah’s Jaylon Johnson. At 6-0, 195 lbs, Johnson has the size, physicality, and ball-skills to thrive in Zimmer’s scheme, capturing Seven Interceptions and Defending Twenty-One Passes in his three seasons with the Utes. The crown jewel of a Utah Defense that allowed just 15.0 Points per Game and a meager 187.4 Yards against the Pass, Johnson would have likely heard his name called earlier had it not been for a torn labrum which he had surgery on back in early March after the Scouting Combine. Teams may be wary of his medicals given the fact that his workout at the Combine was certainly effected by the injury, but any that are patient enough to have done their due diligence will see a playmaker available later than initially projected. The Vikings need a Cornerback opposite of Mike Hughes (45 TKL, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 9 PD), and they could do a lot worse than this prospect who fits their scheme like a glove.
23.) New England Patriots: K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU
And now we come to the Patriots, who are now venturing into the unknown wilds of rebuilding for the first time since Bill Belichick arrived in New England back in 2000. Of course, future Hall of Fame Quarterback, Tom Brady, decided to leave Foxborough following twenty seasons of unparalleled success featuring Six Lombardi Trophies and a staggering Seventeen Division Titles. While it would be far too easy to hit the panic button and mock the Pats selecting Brady’s successor with this pick, every rumor coming out of New England indicates that they plan on heading into 2020 with second-year Signal-Caller, Jarrett Stidham, as their Starting Quarterback. At this point, we’re inclined to give both Belichick and Offensive Coordinator, Josh McDaniels, the benefit of the doubt, instead focusing on a wealth of other needs that they’ll likely address. One thing that this team needs to do is get younger at a variety of positions, and though they lack many playmakers in the Passing Game, we have a feeling that Belichick will be far more apt to inject some youth and athleticism into his Front Seven, which brings us to LSU’s versatile Edge-Rusher, K’Lavon Chaisson. At 6-4, 250 lbs, he has the size and versatility that Belichick covets, exhibiting an ability to rush the passer from a variety of positions, with his hand in the dirt or standing upright. In fact, Chaisson compares very favorably to former Patriots’ Edge-Rusher, Tre Flowers, albeit bigger and much more athletic. Granted, New England drafted Chase Winovich in the First Round of last year’s Draft, but that shouldn’t preclude them from taking another Pass-Rusher with this selection. After all, Winovich (26 TKL, 4 TFL, 10 QBH, 5.5 SK) played primarily on Special Teams, while their two leaders in Sacks, Jamie Collins (81 TKL, 10 TFL, 10 QBH, 7.0 SK, 3 FF, 3 INT, 7 PD, 1 TD) and Kyle Van Noy (56 TKL, 7 TFL, 15 QBH, 6.5 SK, 3 FF, 3 PD, 1 TD), have left via Free Agency, making the need all the more imperative. Predicting what Belichick will do is always difficult, and they are always liable to trade back and accumulate more picks, but if they stand pat (no pun intended), Chaisson is yet another solid case of value meeting a need.
24.) New Orleans Saints: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Up next is the Saints, and while it would very tempting to predict them selecting an heir to Drew Brees (74.3%, 2,979 YDS, 7.41 NY/A, 27 TD, 4 INT), there simply isn’t any Quarterback worthy of this selection, particularly with the aforementioned Love off the board. With Brees returning for his twentieth season in the league, and his Backup, Teddy Bridgewater, now plying his trade as a Starter for the Panthers, the only viable option behind the future Hall of Famer is Taysom Hill, who despite being a very effective “gadget” player, is rather limited in what he can do within the confines of Sean Payton’s Offense, no matter how much the venerable Head Coach chooses to build him up. With Love off the board, the pressure is off New Orleans to make such a significant decision, and with their Super Bowl Window still open they can instead opt to choose an immediate starter who can contribute right away. Receiver figured to be a major need early on, particularly given their lack of a reliable weapon opposite the prolific Michael Thomas (149 REC, 1,725 YDS, 9 TD), but they addressed that well enough with the addition of veteran Wideout, Emmanuel Sanders. In this case, the Defense still needs reinforcements, particularly at the second level, where Linebacker would make a lot of sense. In that regard, Payton wouldn’t have to look far for the answer, with LSU’s Patrick Queen wrecking shop in his back yard of Baton Rouge. Athletic and rangy, Queen led the National Champion’s Defense, showing a versatility that would allow him to make plays within the Saints’ scheme, totaling Eighty-Five Tackles (12.0 for Loss), Three Sacks, and an Interception in his Junior campaign with the Tigers, and racking up Eight Tackles apiece in the two College Football Playoff matchups. In 2019, Demario Davis (111 TKL, 11 TFL, 9 QBH, 4.0 SK, 1 INT, 1 PD) was selected to his first Pro Bowl, but turned 31-Years Old in January, and fellow Linebacker, A.J. Klein, left via Free Agency, while Kiko Alonso is often injured. Line Queen up next to Davis and you have a violent Linebacker Corps that will feed off the energy at the Superdome for 2020 and beyond.
25.) Minnesota Vikings: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
With their second pick in the First Round of this Draft, the Vikings can now address the need that they created for themselves when they chose to ship out wantaway Receiver, Stefon Diggs (63 REC, 1,130 YDS, 6 TD) to the Buffalo Bills. Minnesota recouped a treasure trove of assets in this deal, including the No. 22 Overall Pick, along with their Fifth and Sixth Rounders, and their Fourth Round Selection in 2021. While the Receiver Class is indeed very deep and they could wait until the Second Round to address this need, our guess is that they’ll be tempted to find Diggs’ replacement with the No. 25 Overall Pick, which in turn leads us to Baylor’s Denzel Mims. At 6-3, 215 lbs, Mims is a very different Receiver in comparison to Diggs, with excellent size and speed allowing him to go up and win 50/50 balls, shielding the defender in the process. While he isn’t close to the precise route-runner that his predecessor was, and has shown an issue with drops, his physicality and larger catch radius will add a different dimension to the Passing Game, which should benefit their Quarterback, Kirk Cousins (69.1%, 3,603 YDS, 7.20 NY/A, 26 TD, 6 INT), greatly. The Vikings elected to sign Cousins to a lucrative contract extension following an efficient season that featured some public clashes with Diggs. However, while it’s no surprise that the Quarterback won that power struggle, leaving him void of weapons was never in the plans for the aforementioned Zimmer and General Manager, Rick Spielman. Cousins posted a stellar 7.20 Net Yards per Pass Attempt in 2019, his highest since becoming a full-time Starter back in 2015, and with Mims at his disposal that progression should continue. The Baylor product was prolific in his final three years with the Bears, accumulating 182 Receptions for 2,901 Yards and Twenty-Eight Touchdowns for one of the most improved teams in the country over that span; 1-11 in his Sophomore campaign coinciding with arrival of Matt Rhule, he and the Bears went 11-3 last season with an appearance in the Sugar Bowl for their efforts.
26.) Miami Dolphins: D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
With their third and final First Round Pick, the Dolphins continue to overhaul their woeful Offense, with the first Running Back off the board, Georgia’s D’Andre Swift. Miami shipped out Kenyan Drake, and tried six different Tailbacks in 2019, yet somehow their leading rusher was none other than 37-Year Old Quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick (54 CAR, 243 YDS, 4 TD), leading us to believe that Brian Flores didn’t particularly care for any member of his Backfield. This Offseason, they signed veteran rusher, Jordan Howard, who in his brief stay with the Eagles failed to make a sizeable impression, with the franchise allowing him to leave via Free Agency a year after trading for him. With that said, Howard represents an upgrade over the current crop in South Beach, but that by no means should preclude the ‘Fins from adding a true playmaker to accompany him in the Backfield. Enter Swift, whose versatility and dynamism will make him the perfect complement to his veteran teammate, before ultimately unseating him in the pecking order. Part of that loaded Backfield in Athens that included Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, Swift may end up being the best of the bunch, thanks in large part to his ability to make plays as a Receiver out of the Backfield; over his career, Swift hauled in Seventy-Three Catches for 666 Yards, and Five Touchdowns, despite playing within a run-heavy scheme that rarely took advantage of his skillset. At 5-9, 215 lbs, he packs plenty of power within his frame, and can certainly make things happen between the Tackles, rushing for over 1,000 Yards in each of his last two seasons at Georgia, while topping 6.0 Yards per Carry every year, which is a testament to his explosiveness. With Miami adding premium players at Quarterback, Left Tackle, and now Tailback, their Offense is beginning to really take shape as they move into Year Two of this substantial rebuild, and with four more picks on the second day of this Draft there is still plenty of opportunities to add quality pieces to fill their plethora of remaining needs.
27.) Seattle Seahawks: Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State
With the No. 27 Overall Pick, here come the Seahawks who find themselves in limbo thanks to the current global health crisis that caused much of the league’s Offseason Activities to grind to a screeching halt. As of now, Defensive End, Jadeveon Clowney (31 TKL, 7 TFL, 3.0 SK, 13 QBH, 4 FF, 1 INT 3 PD, 2 TD), arguably the top Free Agent left on the market, has yet to re-sign with the Seahawks, or even visit other suitors of his talents. The former No. One Overall Pick was traded to Seattle shortly before the beginning of the 2019 campaign, and though he played the latter stages of the season with a core muscle injury, he still managed to make quite an impact; don’t let his Three Sacks fool you, just refer to his performance against the 49ers on Monday Night Football, or his impact in the Playoffs for proof of his considerable talent and impact on the game. However, as talented as he is, Head Coach, Pete Carroll, and General Manager, John Schneider, are well aware that it’s going to cost A LOT of money to keep Clowney in the Pacific Northwest, and while they have plenty of cap space left, they may be hesitant to dole out such a hefty contract to a player who doesn’t always play to his potential. So with that uncertainty, expect the Seahawks to search for his replacement, and at this juncture of the Draft, Yetur Gross-Matos would make for an excellent succession plan, be it immediately or eventually. Even with Clowney’s presence, Seattle was rather poor (certainly by their standards) against the Pass, yielding 263.9 Yards per Game (27th Overall) on 6.7 Net Yards per Attempt (24th Overall), while mustering a meager Twenty-Eight Sacks (30th Overall). Furthermore, their Pressure Percentage checked in at just 19.3% (28th Overall), giving credence to the thought that perhaps they should add the Penn State product even if they manage to keep Clowney. At 6-5, 264 lbs, Gross-Matos has the size and length to effect Quarterbacks, while sporting the athleticism to drop back into coverage when necessary. This kid won’t turn the Defense back into the Legion of Boom, but he’ll definitely help them improve upon last year’s unit.
28.) Baltimore Ravens: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
After a franchise-best 14-2 campaign, the Ravens are enjoying another excellent Offseason, adding veteran Defensive Linemen such as Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe, while franchising Edge-Rusher, Matthew Judon (54 TKL, 14 TFL, 9.5 SK, 33 QH, 4 FF), and fleecing the Falcons for a Second Round Pick in exchange for Tight End, Hayden Hurst. As you can imagine, this team lacks many true weaknesses to speak of, though if you look close enough there are some clear areas that Head Coach, John Harbaugh, and General Manager, Eric DeCosta, would like to improve upon. Adding more weapons around reigning MVP, Lamar Jackson (66.1%, 3,127 YDS, 7.13 NY/A, 36 TD, 6 INT), is certainly a good idea, while fortifying the Offensive Line in the wake of perennial Pro-Bowler, Marshall Yanda’s, retirement should not be overlooked. However, with this Draft still flush with quality Receivers, the rumors out of Charm City is that the franchise will look to further rebuild their Defense, particularly the Front Seven where they will search for a replacement for former Linebacker, C.J. Mosley. Baltimore really missed his presence in the middle of their Defense in 2019, evidenced by the 4.4 Yards per Carry they allowed (21st Overall), and the 217 Yards they relinquished to Derrick Henry and the Titans in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs. This is why Murray would be a perfect fit for this Defense, for his range and athleticism in this class is second only to that of Isaiah Simmons. Over the last two years in Norman, Murray totaled 257 Tackles, including 29.5 for Loss, and 8.5 Sacks. This is a proverbial plug and play starter from day one, giving the Ravens the field general on Defense that they have lacked. We touched upon earlier as to how some picks just feel appropriate, and this one feels VERY appropriate.
29.) Tennessee Titans: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
Now we come to the Titans, who following their surprising trip to the AFC Championship Game, look to build upon their solid foundation laid by Head Coach, Mike Vrabel, and General Manager, Jon Robinson. With both pillars of the franchise coming from the New England Patriots, it’s no surprise that they’ve cultivated this roster in that particular image. This Offseason, they’ve gone out of their way to keep the gang together, re-signing Quarterback, Ryan Tannehill (70.3%, 2,742 YDS, 7.98 NY/A, 22 TD, 6 INT), to a lucrative new contract, while placing the Franchise Tag on last year’s leading Rusher, Derrick Henry (303 CAR, 1,540 YDS, 16 TD). With that said, this team was only 9-7 in 2019, and still has quite a few weaknesses though while not glaring, could certainly stand to be improved upon. Tennessee lost Right Tackle, Jack Conklin, in Free Agency, and traded Pro-Bowl Defensive Lineman, Jurrell Casey, to the Broncos, and very well may end up losing Cornerback, Logan Ryan this Offseason as well. While the rumors that we’re hearing lead us to believe that they want to add some more pieces to their Front Seven, there just isn’t a lot of value here where they’re selecting, which could see their focus shift to the Secondary, where the need for a young Starting Cornerback is real. How about Clemson’s A.J. Terrell? Cornerbacks with size, length, and speed rarely last long in the Draft, and the Junior was nothing short of a solid contributor over the past three years, which were VERY successful for the Tigers. Terrell deflected Thirteen Passes and totaled Six Interceptions at Clemson, playing a major role on a Defense that allowed just 13.5 Points per Game and 172.3 Yards against the Pass. Sure, he ended up getting roasted by LSU’s Ja’Mar Chase in the National Championship Game, but to be fair, there’s a long list of bodies left in the wake of that dude. Alongside former First Rounder, Adoree’ Jackson, and veteran, Malcolm Butler, the Titans’ Secondary wouldn’t miss a beat with this kid.
30.) Green Bay Packers: Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame
At No. 30 Overall, the Packers are on the clock, and once again the need to refurbish the Supporting Cast around Aaron Rodgers is a priority. Green Bay focused heavily on the defensive side of the football in 2019 in both the Draft and Free Agency, and saw that hard work pay off on the gridiron, though now they must shift their focus to the Offense. At 36-Years Old, it’s unreasonable to believe that Rodgers (62.0%, 4,002 YDS, 6.15 NY/A, 26 TD, 4 INT) will continue to play at the otherworldly level that he has for the majority of his career for much longer, particularly when you take into account his transition into Head Coach, Matt LaFleur’s, system, which could have been described as glacial at best. As his powers wane, the mandate for more weapons becomes greater, and though the emergence of Tailback, Aaron Jones (236 CAR, 1,084 YDS, 16 TD), was a revelation, the Passing Game still lacked viable threats, a fact that was only made painfully aware when Pro-Bowl Receiver, DaVante Adams (83 REC, 997 YDS, 5 TD) missed four games due to a sprained toe. General Manager, Brian Gutekunst, let the corpse of Jimmy Graham leave in Free Agency, and focused heavily on trying to get a Tight End, particularly Austin Hooper, to Lambeau Field, which could be an intent towards strengthening the position in the Draft. While this Tight End class is rather weak, we would suggest a compromise in the form of Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool. A physical freak at 6-4, 230 lbs, he has the size to create mismatches with smaller Defensive Backs and the speed and athleticism to outmaneuver Linebackers. While we wouldn’t recommend utilizing him like a traditional Tight End or splitting him out on the boundary like a proper Receiver, a creative offensive mind such as LaFleur will find ways to get the most out of his unique talents. In his Senior Season with the Fighting Irish, Claypool logged Sixty-Six Catches for 1,037 Yards and Thirteen Touchdowns, which would make him a unique weapon for Rodgers to make use of, particularly in the Red Zone where he has historically been at his deadliest.
31.) San Francisco 49ers: Cesar Ruiz, OG, Michigan
As we get to the end of the First Round with the two participants in Super Bowl LIV, the 49ers are back on the clock with their second and final pick in the First Round. After getting a MAJOR boost in the Receiving Corps with the addition of Jerry Jeudy at No. 13 Overall, San Francisco can now focus on some of their other needs, which quite frankly aren’t many in number. While they could certainly go after a Cornerback to pair opposite the ageless Richard Sherman (61 TKL, 2 TFL, 3 INT 11 PD, 1 TD), we have a feeling that they’ll instead focus on the interior of their Offensive Line, particularly Guard, where the release of Mike Person has created a gaping hole at the position. Fortunately for General Manager, John Lynch, and the aforementioned Shanahan, there are plenty of options still on the table, with Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz figuring to be the best of the bunch. A two-year Starter in Ann Arbor, Ruiz has the agility, feet, and balance to become an instant contributor within Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme, while also sporting the nasty disposition to take the fight to defenders at the second level in the Run Game. As a team, the Wolverines averaged 151.2 Yards per Game on the ground in 2019, and that was without a surplus of premium talent at the skill positions. San Francisco in turn ranked Second Overall in Rushing Offense last season (144.1 Y/G), and with so much of their attack coming off Play Action, with which their Quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo (69.1%, 3,978 YDS, 7.31 NY/A, 27 TD, 13 INT), was so effective. Keeping him clean and the Run Game thriving is essential to their success, making Ruiz yet another case of need meeting value.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
With the final pick in the First Round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the reigning Super Bowl Champion, Kansas City Chiefs, select Jeff Gladney out of TCU. Sure, the franchise would no doubt love to add a Running Back or bolster the Offensive Line, but at the end of the day there is nobody inside of their building that wouldn’t admit that the Defense still needs work. Though his unit came together over the second half of the season and performed well in the Playoffs, the Chiefs are kidding themselves if they think that they are a finished product on this side of the football. The Secondary has been a problem for them for years, and though they struck gold in Free Agency last year with the signing of versatile Safety, Tyrann Mathieu (75 TKL, 3 TFL, 2 QBH, 2.0 SK, 4 INT, 12 PD), they still lack much talent at Cornerback, a notion that has only been made more viable after the departure of Kyle Fuller (49 TKL, 3 TFL, 1 QBH, 1.0 SK, 2 PD) in Free Agency. Head Coach, Andy Reid, and General Manager, Brett Veach, need to address this position, plain and simple, and fortunately for them there figure to be plenty of quality options still available at this point of the Draft. Gladney would certainly fit the bill for Kansas City, spending five seasons at Texas Christian where he was an aggressive cover man, sporting natural ball skills while also being a very willing tackler. Granted, he didn’t run as well at the Scouting Combine as many would have liked (4.48 40-Yard Dash), but his film doesn’t reveal many struggles to keep up with faster Receivers. In Defensive Coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo’s, scheme, he would slot in at one boundary immediately and assert himself as one of the unit’s top Defensive Backs.