Coronadraft 2020: Revenge of the Armchair Generals
Things change, and yet they stay the same. While the NFL experienced major upheaval during the offseason to a bevy of roster signs and trades, so too did the world descend into the unknown of COVID-19. Today we are faced with a purely virtual draft by the GMs of the League, and while we wait for Dave Gettlemen to accidentally hang up on the Microsoft Teams call while the Giants are on the clock at 4 we can still gather that much will remain the same in the name of draft efficacy and structure. To that end I write this mock in the name of escapism, and that next year when the draft arrives in Cleveland that we may actually be able to experience the live spectacle, in person, once more.
- This is not a mock of what I would do, but what I think teams will do once they are on the clock.
- Trades are valid and expected.
- Two rounds, with the top 12 being a bit more fleshed out (they are the most important picks after all).
- When applicable, I have reached out for the input of people who know their franchises better than I do. Their thoughts have been inserted (verbatim and paraphrased) throughout the piece.
1 – Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow – QB
Was it really ever a doubt? I do think there is an off-chance that the Dolphins do make the move to nab their QBOTF, but recent reports indicate they are not too keen to move up, let alone give away all their hard-earned(?) first rounders to do so. Plus, they have many more needs than just QB to fill, and so 1.1 will remain in the Bengals’ clutches unless something drastic were to occur down in South Beach.
Joe Burrow had one of, if not the best, season by a college football quarterback ever. Sure, you can chalk it up to Joe Brady, or the wealth of talent all throughout Coach O’s Tigahs, but stats aside *cough* 5,671 yards, 60:6 TD:INT ratio, and 76.3 completion percentage *cough* Joe Burrow was, quite simply, a F***ing baller. Never once did his composure break under even the brightest of lights. Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, and the rest of the best in the nation threw the kitchen sink at the kid, but to no avail. There are so many good things to say about the kid, but it all boils down to this: he’s damn good, and he knows it. So too do the Bengals, which is why they bring the kid home to Ohio in hopes of finally emerging from a long period of treading water in the league’s cellar.
2 – Washington Redskins: Chase Young – DE
The term transcendent is not a word I’m oft to use, and reserve it for only those who really do jump off the page. Mack. Garrett. The Bosas. Now, add Young to the mix. New HC Ron Rivera has nothing to prove in the way of his coaching pedigree, and while the Redskins will likely field a multitude of calls to move back – and have ample reason to do so – Rivera does not seem to me like an advocate to punt on such a high pick in a team’s new era. Especially not when faced with the likes of picking up one of the best young (get it?!) talents of the last 20 years.
Now, I’m not as high as Young as some others are. I don’t think he’s better than Khalil Mack or Myles Garrett, but I do think he is better than the Bosa brothers. In fact, I think of him as Mack-lite and Garrett-lite stitched together into what amounts to one major problem for opposing offensive coordinators. Yes he has a limited move set and is predictable at times. But did that stop him from getting 16.5 sacks last year? Didn’t think so. Long, fluid, and powerful, the Buckeye may just be the epitome of what “prototype” has come to be known as in the NFL. He is a dream prospect, and Washington would do well to follow the KISS method when filling out their car-er…Microsoft Teams selection? With Young, the Redskins would add a sledgehammer to their already strong D-Line. Make no mistake, Rivera is ready to let loose the hogs of war.
3 – Detroit Lions TRADED to Carolina Panthers – Isaiah Simmons – DEF
You know, in my first draft of this mock I had New England trading up for Tua at pick three. But the more I read and mull it over I truly start to buy into the idea that Tua’s injury history won’t – and shouldn’t – go unnoticed, and because of that he will fall. That’s what makes the Lions so damn interesting in this draft, because their actions will dictate the rest of the dominoes to fall in the rest of the first round. I think they think that whomever they trade down with wants Tua, sneaking ahead of the Dolphins. But to trade up so high for such a wild card? I can’t see any owners signing off on that. What I could see, however, is a team trying to jump the Giants to select Isaiah Simmons, who is certainly worth pick three overall. Detroit may very well pick him up themselves, but with an uncertain future for Matt Patricia and Matthew Stafford the Lions’ brass would do well to start stockpiling assets for a potential rebuild next year. And they don’t have to fall far either, because the Panthers sit only 4 picks later, and the Lions smartly pick up a second rounder this year while still holding on to a top-10 asset.
A new regime in Charlotte means that new cornerstones need to be raised for the Panthers to stand on, and while they re-signed Christian McCaffrey to a monster deal, they lost two monster pieces in Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly. Teddy H2O can hold the fort for a few years, but Kuechly’s loss may be the most impactful to a team now having to find new QBs on both sides of the ball. Enter Simmons, the Clemson…. well, what can’t you call him? The man played snaps at damn near every position for the Tigers in 2019 and became the second most physical freak of nature in the 2020 draft class behind Chase Young himself. While a position doesn’t define Simmons what does is his unfathomable combination of length, speed, range, and explosiveness that allow him to play literally anywhere on the field. Because of that opposing OCs won’t know if he is coming to blitz, dropping into coverage, playing run support, or playing press up on a slot or Tight-End. That trait alone makes him a worthwhile addition to any squad, but to the Panthers the match is heavenly made. This is my favorite fit in the draft, hands down. If Matt Rhule is worth his salt as a coach, then Carolina may have a hybrid of Derwin James and Bobby Wagner on their hands, which is just an outstanding win for them.
4 – New York Giants TRADED to Los Angeles Chargers: Tua Tagovailoa – QB
With Simmons off the board, there is no one that I believe the Giants covet enough to stand pat on in lieu of picking up a few extra picks in the coming rounds and years given that they are still in the middle of a rebuild. If Gettleman truly is “open for business” then the offer of a 4th rounder this year and a 2nd next year – all to move down two spots – should be enticing enough for any team to make the deal, especially when you can still draft damn near anyone that you please. The Giants make a smart move and duck away for twenty minutes while the Chargers leapfrog the Fins in order to cash in on their QB of the future.
I’ve mentioned that Tua is likely going to fall due to his injury concerns, and that is likely going to scare off most teams. That all being said, the talent that Tua does possess is salivating, and of all the teams in the league that need a spark the Chargers are at the top of that list. I simply can’t believe that they are rolling with Tyrod Taylor as a starter. Having seen him start for the Browns, I can vouch that he is talented, but long term? No way. Is it a coincidence that he has some dual-threat to his game like Tua does? I don’t think so. Making the move for the riskiest prospect in a good while is just the splash the Bolts need to make in order to jump-start their anemic fanbase. If Tua hits then the franchise can contend for top dog in LA. If he misses then well… the team doesn’t have many fans to lose anyway. Tua Tagovailoa’s NFL future is literally a coin-flip ranging from “never plays a snap” to “Perennial All-Pro”. In 2020, the Chargers go all in.
5 – Miami Dolphins: Jedrick Wills – OT
To some, the Dolphins missing out on Tua and not drafting a quarterback might be the most controversial take that I may make in this entire mock. So let’s consider some things:
- The Dolphins aren’t looking to trade up for Burrow, but that doesn’t mean they won’t consider moving up one or two picks for Tua.
- They have many more holes to fill than the Chargers, who can just as easily (an I have them doing so) leapfrog the Fins for Tua.
- They are in a phenomenal position to tank (again) and be the only team with a real QB need next year that has the assets to move up for Trevor Lawrence.
To me, the Dolphins smokescreening that they are taking their QB this year when they are playing the long game to nab Lawrence next year makes almost too much sense. Fitzmagic can win them 6 games with the talent they have added this offseason and the stage will be set for a very favorable situation for Lawrence to walk into next year. Miami fans will groan and clamour for a savior now, but this is the better way to build a team.
And let’s be clear, the Fins should be jumping for joy if they can land the first tackle of this absolutely loaded class. Jedrick Wills has the pedigree that an Alabama resume brings. While he will have to transition from RT to LT to fill the void left by Laremy Tunsil let’s not forget that Tua is left-handed and Wills was still the blind side protector. His punch and fluidity make him a substantial force to get around, and while he’s a tad shorter than ideal for a LT his strength and poise are more than enough to compensate. He can learn on the fly and do well to keep Fitzpatrick upright, and should be more than up to speed when the Dolphins do move heaven and earth to bring Lawrence down to South Beach in 2021.
6 – Los Angeles Chargers TRADED to New York Giants: Andrew Thomas – LT
After trading back to pick up some more assets, Dave Gettleman brings Daniel Jones some help on the blind side by selecting Andrew Thomas from Georgia. Nate Solder gave up 11 sacks last year. That’s simply unacceptable for a starting left tackle. While Mekhi Becton’s size and Tristan Wirfs’ versatility both make them enticing prospects, I can imagine that a first year head coach like Joe Judge is going to make a push for a more consistent prospect to begin his tenure with. The Giants aren’t normally apt to take on boom-or-bust prospects unless they truly believe that they are “their guy” (lookin’ at you Daniel Jones) and Thomas fits that mold much more than the other two tackles that I just listed.
That all being said, Thomas still has the talent to be the first tackle taken off the board. Just because his ceiling may not be as high as Becton, or his athleticism as unique as Wirfs, doesn’t mean that he won’t be as good as a tackle in the NFL. He’s technically sounds and was the best lineman on the arguably the best line in college football. That says a lot. Pound for pound he may be the most “traditional” fit of all the tackles in the class, which is something that should be very appealing to many teams, especially the Giants. He may not be a prototype, but his floor is the highest of the top 4 tackles in the class and his ceiling is still “franchise left tackle”. If they can get him on a trade back no less then Gettleman would be hitting dingers early on in the draft.
7 – Carolina Panthers TRADED to Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah – CB
The Lions make out like bandits and still get Okudah to replace the revered Darius Slay in their secondary. A top 5 worthy pick in his own right, Okudah is the latest iteration of the Buckeye cornerback factory. The epitome of a “blue-chip” defender, Okudah has the ideal size at 6’1″ 205 to compete with any and all wide receivers he happens to face. Added to that his pursuit and explosion at the time of pass are beyond exceptional, his in air ability second to none in the class. Moreover, his ability to lay the hammer on any opposition is something rarely seen in corners these days. Good luck shaking him from your side too if you are trying to be shifty enough in your movements. Whatever the occasion, Okudah is up to the task. If given the chance to show out in the motor city, he will get the rev meter of the fans running high when he inevitably takes one back to the house.
8 – Arizona Cardinals: Tristan Wirfs – OT
Arizona was the talk of the town last year with their infamous move onward from Josh Rosen to select Kyler Murray with the first pick overall. So far that gamble seems to be paying off in spades, with Murray having a good-to-great rookie season and showcasing that he was more than worth the choice at 1.1. Fleecing the Texans for DeAndre Hopkins and committing to the electric Kenyon Drake continues to make the 2020 season bode well for the redbirds, and while I am tempted to pair Derrick Brown with Chandler Jones I, and the Cardinals, can’t ignore the holes at OT.
Of all the “big four” tackles at the top of this draft, Tristan Wirfs schemes best with the type of offense that Kliff Kingsbury and co. have brought down to Arizona. His ridiculous combine showed off his unique athleticism that would be a boon for the hyper-aggressive air raid that is only going to grow louder at State Farm Stadium. Having a tackle that can not only hold his own against the toughest rushers but also be a road grader to block on a Murray scramble is a knife so perfectly balanced it would make Thanos stand in awe. With Wirfs, the Cardinals continue to build on to a roster quickly becoming relevant once more.
9 – Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown – DT
I’m not entirely sure that I buy that the Jaguars really do think that Gardner Minshew is their QBOTF (although I certainly would like him to be), but I’m willing to bet that the team is content to follow a “wait-and-see” approach to their QB conundrums as they have multiple 1st rounders this year. So while Herbert and Love still remain on the board I can see the situation arise where the BPA on their board is indeed Derrick Brown, a top 5-worthy prospect who fills a major need in the Jags once vaulted defense that now needs a serious influx of talent with the losses of Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus.
I love watching Derrick Brown highlight reels, especially when the first clip in this one shows him dropping into coverage and laying a monster hit on an unsuspecting RB. The man is a physical monster, and if he were a few inches shorter it may give him the leverage to be a spitting image of Aaron Donald. Now, I won’t quite give him that level of clout, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Brown has all the traits to burst onto the league in a big way, which will give something the hard-pressed Jax fans to cheer for. He does need to play lower, but if that is my only criticism then I think the Jags would be running… er… repeatedly hitting enter to cast their choice for this guy. You want cornerstones? This guy will hold up the whole damn city.
10 – Cleveland Browns TRADED to Atlanta Falcons: C.J. Henderson – CB
The Browns have a plethora of options at pick 10, and while the need for a tackle is incredibly real, so too is the fact that Bill Callahan might be the best OL coach in the league. Mekhi Becton is an incredibly tempting option here, but I don’t think the rumors that the Brownies like Ezra Cleveland are without merit. Given that now-GM Andrew Berry was instrumental in the strip-down and asset accumulation for the team a few years ago I am wont to believe that he wouldn’t mind having some extra picks to play around with. What’s more, they can put many a team into a bidding war for their pick as the run on wide receivers is likely to begin with the Jets. The Broncos have already seem to have called, and the Raiders appear to be itching to pick up a Z receiver. The victor of the spoil that is pick 10 though is the Falcons, who see the 49ers on the board a few picks later. It’s not much of a secret that the Dirty Birds want to trade up, and C.J. Henderson would fill a crucial role for the team that could have won a Super Bowl last year had they not blown a most crucial of coverages. The Falcons, in quite a pickle with a depleted secondary, opt to pony up pay the egregious price that the Ivy League Browns demand of the pack – a second round pick – for the right to draft the Florida Gator.
It should speak to Henderson’s talent that I believe he is worth the high cost to move up. Fluid and quick, he exhibits everything that you would want of a CB1 in today’s NFL. He may get a bit turned around if he plays too much zone but as a lockdown boundary corner you may not find anyone better in the draft (Okudah notwithstanding). A ballhawk (ball-falcon?) through and through, C.J. is patient and holds his eyes on the QB, exhibiting a predator instinct whenever the ball is in mid-air. The uniforms may not have been a wise move, but picking up Henderson certainly would be for a team looking to find their identity once again.
11 – New York Jets: Mekhi Becton – OT
I’m sure that the Jets have a hankering to get their hands on who they deem to be the top wide receiver of the draft – I’m sure many a team probably think Gang Green may do so as well. Simply put, Breshad Perriman, Josh Doctson, and Jamison Crowder are a fine trio, but nowhere near where everyone thought they could be when compared to their projections on being drafted. Ruggs, Jeudy, Lamb… all make sense and would be a fine addition. But none of it matters if Sam Darnold can’t stay upright.
We saw what life was like for the Jets last year with Sam Darnold sidelined, and everyone knows that the team is not wont to do that ever, ever again. The last of the “big four”, Mekhi Becton is indeed the biggest, standing at 6’7″ 364. His athleticism for his size jumps off the page – a 5.1 40 at his size is nearly unconscionable. His tape shows that he won a lot of battles just by utilizing his sheer physical dominance, but if molded correctly his clay could be a masterpiece. I think of him as the Josh Allen of OTs. If Adam Gase can take Becton to the next level they have a franchise left tackle and ample security for their franchise QB.
12 – Oak… LAS VEGAS Raiders: Henry Ruggs III – WR
Jon Gruden jumps for joy as Mike Mayock hits send for the first receiver off the board. Henry Ruggs might just be the most physically gifted athletes to debut in the NFL in the last 5 years. He may only be 5’11” and pushing 190 pounds but his 4.27 speed is nothing to scoff at. His explosiveness is beyond elite. Truly a rare find, Ruggs can be to the Vegas’ squad what Antonio Brown failed to be. Oh, and the kid can DUNK (see dictionary: explosion).
13 – San Francisco 49ers: Jerry Jeudy – WR
Jones, Cooper, Ridley, and now Jeudy. Alabama is a factory for high end WR1’s, and Jeudy might just be the best route runner of any of them. Disciplined, clean, consistent, productive, and with 4.45 speed to boot. While Ruggs has the edge in game breaking ability, Jeudy fits more for a team looking to grind down an opponent and cut them down play by play. There is no one better at that today than Kyle Shanahan, who I think would love to add the versatile Jeudy into an offense that just wasn’t enough to match the Kansas City onslaught in the Super Bowl. Finally the 49ers find their number 1 receiver after years of trying to make it work with a motley crew. All of a sudden a Jeudy/Samuel/Sanders combo kickstarts a Niners squad looking to avenge the L they took on the grandest stage of them all.
14 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Jones – OT
Past the “big four” OTs in this draft the waters get a tad murky in deciphering just who is the next man to go off the board to a tackle needy team. While I can certainly see a future where the Bucs trade up to nab one of the top four guys there will likely be enough movement in the top ten to where their needs get lost in the mayhem. Nevertheless, the amount of times that Jameis Winston got knocked around last year is something the team cannot afford to let happen again, the 43 year old body of Tom Brady notwithstanding. Like Mekhi Becton, Josh Jones is a very raw prospect with an imposing physical frame and flashes a mean streak when on the field. His issues lay more in hand technique and footwork, but they aren’t things that Bruce Arians can’t handle. Having the responsibility of keeping Brady clean should light a fire under the development of Jones, which may prove beneficial in the long run.
15 – Denver Broncos: CeeDee Lamb – WR
Drew Lock needs another weapon, and while the addition of Melvin Gordon is a good step in the right direction the Broncos still have a ways to go in revitalizing their offense. CeeDee Lamb provides an antidote to Cortland Sutton having to put the passing game on his back. The linchpin of the Oklahoma passing core over the past three years, Lamb has had no shortage of opportunities to show off what he can do with his 6’2″ frame. No part of the field seems to deter Lamb from adding to his highlight reel. While he could use some work in his press release, the overall potential that Lamb exhibits could eventually supersede that of Ruggs or Jeudy down the line. Mile high is going to have much to cheer for if they do indeed land Lamb, even more so if they don’t have to trade up for him.
16 – Atlanta Falcons TRADED to Cleveland Browns: Patrick Queen – LB
I wrote earlier that the Browns opt to trade down as Ezra Cleveland is the hot tackle on their radar. While that is still true I think the general consensus is that Cleveland is a late-first round talent at best. For a team as analytically inclined as the Browns it seems like too much of a reach. GM Andrew Berry’s recent comments that they are evaluating talent like an expansion team is a big pointer that they are going best-player-available in this draft (while trying to accrue more assets). At pick 16 Patrick Queen might just be the best player available in a position of need.
The departures of Joe Schobert and Christian Kirskey have left sophomores Mack Wilson and Sione Takitaki at the helm of the Browns’ linebacker group. While both have shown a good deal of promise the team could still stand to bring in a blue chip talent to the position. Queen comes from an LSU lineage that includes Deion Jones, Devin White, and Kwon Alexander. A speedster that hits like a semi-truck, Queen is a hyper-athletic prospect with eye-popping tape to back up his measurables. Considering the team needs someone to chase down Lamar Jackson twice a year the addition of Queen is a boon to a team that needs to inject some talent into the middle of their defensive squad.
17 – Dallas Cowboys: Cesar Ruiz – C
Jerry Jones wants to make a sexy pick. The loss of Travis Frederick is too big a loss for such a vaulted O-line to ignore. For the good of all things Dak and Zeke Jerry bites his tongue and picks up the top center in the draft in Cesar Ruiz. The top center prospect in the country coming out of high school, Ruiz carved out a solid role for himself under Jim Harbaugh with the Michigan Wolverines. Quick off the snap, Ruiz shows of considerable awareness and security at the point of attack but does need to bulk up a tad to secure his anchor on pass sets. He’s not terribly wide for a center either, yet his fluidity and natural discipline are going to make him fit in just fine with a Cowboys regime trying to maintain the status quo.
18 – Miami Dolphins TRADED to New Orleans Saints: Jordan Love – QB
Queue the revolt of South Beach porpoise enthusiasts. The Dolphins passing on a QB, let alone trading to a team that selects one, is not going to sit well with many a draftnik unless your draft is predicated on the thought that the Fins are going to do everything in their power to ensure they can select Trevor Lawrence in 2021. The Saints offer 24 and their second rounder next year to move up ahead of the Raiders and their shaky confidence in Derek Carr. And no, I haven’t forgotten Justin Herbert.
Jordan Love’s presence in the pocket rivals any of the top QBs this year. His 6’4″ frame and cannon for an arm are attractive traits to possess. So why isn’t he a top dog? Simply, he hesitates. While I can’t quite pinpoint if this is him not reading the defense well or him being not confident in his abilities it certainly is a concern nonetheless. A couple of years on the bench would do him well to learn and grow for when he eventually takes the field (see Chiefs, Mahomes). For that reason New Orleans is the spot for him as Drew Brees begins his ride off into the sunset. If Sean Payton can rear the kid right the Saints are going to keep on marching for many, many years to come.
19 – Las Vegas Raiders: Justin Herbert – QB
On the surface Vegas has no need for a new Quarterback, but shiny new teams need shiny new players to bring the fans in. The faith in Derek Carr has waned in recent years, and Marcus Mariota isn’t exactly inspiring hope. Herbert was supposed to be the savior of the Dolphins or Chargers. What went wrong? Why the Rodgers-esque fall?
I think he’s a bust. I think teams are starting to see that, too. Don’t get me wrong, Herbert has the stature and all the physical traits to succeed in the league. But his on-field play is handicapped by easy completions and great scheming. He does make some solid throws here and there, but will then follow them up with an absolutely boneheaded decision. There’s no growth. There’s no improvement. He just… is. Brett Kollmann fleshes out all these struggles in this video. After going through some of the tape myself… I agree. At face value Herbert does showcase that he can do the things required of a top tier NFL QB, then he does something stupid enough to be riding the bench for the now-defunct New York Guardians. Now envision this scenario where he falls to the Raiders. Tell me you can’t see Gruden pleading to Mayock, “I can fix him.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, Sin City’s First Sin: Justin Herbert.
20 – Jacksonville Jaguars: K’Lavon Chaisson – EDGE
The Jags are likely to deal Yannick Ngakoue during the draft. To whom and when, that I cannot predict, but it would seem that there is no way the franchise tagged defensive end plays in the teal and gold any longer. To that end the team has begun to revitalize its D-line with the selection of Derrick Brown at pick 9. Here they double down on reinforcements for the front and get Brown a running mate in the LSU Tiger K’Lavon Chaisson.
Chaisson reminds me of Leonard Floyd. Long. Quick. Agile. Not worth a top ten pick. Probably worth a top 20 pick though. Chaisson has the pedigree of an LSU resume and highlight filled tape to back up a first round selection. His fights through a torn ACL and personal tragedy paint the image of someone hungry to keep on fighting in the name of himself and others. His leadership will be much needed on a team recovering from internal strife from the last few years, and paired with Brown the Jags can get back to their bread and butter of relentless aggression.
21 – Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson – WR
I had Philly pegged to attack the defensive side of the ball first in this draft up until the rumors that they are going to move Alshon Jeffery began. I don’t know what the Eagles are thinking in moving their best wide receiver, especially considering their receiver room was on life support throughout the season. I’m a big believer in J.J. Arçega-Whiteside but he can’t do it alone on offense. Jefferson is an ideal possession receiver to pair with the big-bodied JJAW. His catch skills can contest for best in the class, and he still has room to improve on a glowingly impressive array of separation moves. Carson Wentz gains a safety net in the middle of the field and the Eagles start to fly again after wrapping up their recent stint in the emergency room.
Derek’s Thoughts: With the phenomenal depth at WR in this draft the Eagles can wait a round or two to find a running mate to Alshon Jeffery. The departures of Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill have left a vast gap in the middle of the Philadelphia defense and as such the team would to well to find a hyper-athletic stud to fill the void. With Isaiah Simmons likely off the board early the likes of Patrick Queen or Kenneth Murray would excel in a three down role in Jim Schwartz’ defense. Kenneth Murray is the choice here though as he is a bona-fide playmaker with unbelievable range and can be the guardian lynchpin in Philly for years to come.
22 – Minnesota Vikings: A.J. Epenesa – DE
Longtime Viking Everson Griffin has left the building, and while the Viking have a big need at WR they can capitalize on the depth of the draft to bring in a pass catcher later on. For the time being though they find Griffin’s replacement in the Iowa Hawkeye A.J. Epenesa. A certified mauler, Epenesa reminds me of an angry bear trying to reclaim his pickinic basket. He’s tight. He’s not so fluid. He isn’t a “finesse” guy. But my goodness he will tear you up like a helpless Leo DiCaprio. While his speed will come as he adjusts to the NFL game his natural strength and power makes him a perfect compliment to Danielle Hunter and the Vikings D-line.
23 – New England Patriots: Zach Baun – LB
Wouldn’t it be the biggest middle finger to the NFL world if Belichick takes a Jarrett Stidham led Patriots squad to the playoffs? Short answer: Yes. Beli opts to bolster his defense – now sans Jamie Collins – with the Senior Badger Zach Baun. Last year Chase Winovich was the prospect that just SCREAMED New England, and this year I get the same vibe from Baun. He’s a grinder in practice with a no-nonsense demeanor and is just starting to scratch his potential as a linebacker. Scheme dependency might determine his level of success in the NFL, and nobody does it better than the main man in New England. Baun will play his role and be a pro-bowler for it only to be cast off for a comp pick in 4 years’ time. Oh… he was also recruited as a QB going into UW… so there’s that. Rinse and repeat – with new uniforms this time!
24 – New Orleans Saints TRADED to Miami Dolphins: Javon Kinlaw – DT
It’s time to start cashing chips in Miami, and BPA is the name of the game. Kinlaw is an intimidating sunuva-gun that would be a perfect pairing to last year’s pick Christian Wilkins. Violent, Forceful. The Gamecock brings a much needed bruiser to the much-maligned Dolphins defense at the central point of attack. In an era where Aaron Donald has revitalized the defensive tackle spot Kinlaw is a prototype for the “see ball, hit player” athlete that should make any opposing center or guard brace a little more carefully on any given play.
25 – Minnesota Vikings: Tee Higgins – WR
Stefon Diggs’ departure opens up a new need for the Captain Kirk & Co. Show. Tee Higgins is a bit leaner than Diggs but still provides the same game-breaking ability. Scoring on 20% of his catches should be enough to showcase his production. Digging deeper though we see that Higgins has enough nuance in his step to pair with his immaculate jump ball stills that make him uniquely qualified to be a matchup nightmare on any given Sunday. He needs to figure out how to break out of coverage, but even if he doesn’t the kid still WINS in all that he does. A certified baller at the wider receiver position and a heckuva pickup for the Purple Gang.
26 – Miami Dolphins: D’Andre Swift – RB
The world watched Kenyon Drake go from from zero to hero upon his trade from Miami to Arizona. Just as well, Kalen Balage is no-one to write home about. Swift, on the other hand, is worthy of Shakespearean sonnets to a sweetheart. The latest generation of the Georgia Running Back Machine, Swift – oh so aptly named – looks like a sure-fire thing to run forward with the legacy that Gurley, Michel, and Chubb have left for him. Patient, aware, decisive – Swift knows when and how to hit a hole to maximum effect. He won’t bowl you over, nor often take one all the way to the house, but he is a back that is capable of averaging 6 yards a clip and can provide a dangerous passing option out of the backfield. Think Le’Veon Bell if you will. If Swift can come even close to Bell’s peak then the Dolphins round out their first round with a major offensive weapon to help out whichever signal caller may come their way.
27 – Seattle Seahawks: Yetur Gross-Matos – EDGE
Losing Jadeveon Clowney to free agency is a major blow to the Seahawks front four. While the jury is still out on if the team is able to bring back the former number one pick it likely wouldn’t be for more than one year anyhow. Regardless, the Seahawks have slowly been moving the strength of their defense forward in the wake of the Legion of Boom. A team can never have too many good pass-rushers, and if Clowney is indeed on the outs then the Seahawks would to well to find a replacement. A Junior out of Penn State, the 6’5″ Gross-Matos has some room to grow into his body and add some healthy weight. On tape he exhibits a fine balance of strength and speed, but lacks composure when turning the edge or trying to shed a block. I like to think of him as a big block of steel ready to be forged into a glaive, and there’s not many better a blacksmith in the NFL than Pete Carroll. YGM may have a respectable but otherwise quiet start to his career but when he turns it on believe me – you will know his name.
28 – Baltimore Ravens: Kenneth Murray – LB
Dammit. This is a really good pick. The Browns fan in me hurts to write this out but there is no question that the Ravens would be over the moon to add Kenneth Murray to their roster. If nothing else he is definitively better than L.J. Fort – their (as of now) starting middle linebacker. If everything is considered then Murray is one of the more imposing, athletic, and versatile defenders in the entire draft. A playmaker at heart and a heat-seeking missile on tape, Murray exudes all the qualities that Baltimore instills in their flagship piece on defense. Can he over-commit or make some bad judgments? Sure. Will he lay enough hit sticks or stops behind the line for it to matter? Well, talk to me in 2021. Damn you, ratbirds.
29 – Tennessee Titans: Isaiah Wilson – OT
If the Titans are so inclined to put the weight of their franchise upon the shoulders of Derrick Henry once more then they absolutely have to find a road-grader to replace the void at right tackle left by Jack Conklin. Luckily for them, Isaiah Wilson might be the purest run-blocker in the class. He has elite size at 6’6″ 350 and has the 35 1/2″ arms needed to be the first one to make contact in almost every fight on the line. Of course with that size comes a lot of momentum to handle, and Wilson seems to need some help in finding his balance. NFL conditioning will surely help the fella, and if molded right he is a big piece of clay that you can mold into the plow to match Henry’s diesel-fueled 8-cylinder.
30 – Green Bay Packers: Michael Pittman – WR
Where Davante Adams excels in big-play catch and runs, Michael Pittman can contribute to the Pack attack by imposing his will as a red zone threat and a possession receiver. Sure-handed in a 6’4″ frame, the USC product is certain to contribute as a third down safety-net and jump-ball target for Aaron Rodgers early on in his career. If he can find an extra gear in his footwork the guy has a chance to shine, but for now he lacks any game-breaking speed. A nice yin to Adams’ yang, Pittman brings balance to Green Bay.
31 – San Francisco 49ers: Xavier McKinney – S
When getting toasted in the Super Bowl costs you the game, it’s never a bad idea to look towards finding a potential diamond in the secondary. As it happens the 49ers can still take the first safety off the board all the way down at the end of the first round. The name of the game with McKinney is his high football IQ and versatility to play anywhere from free safety to slot corner to down in the box. I can imagine Kyle Shanahan would have a number of uses for such a player, one that he can throw anything at and McKinney has the smarts to handle. The kid represents the new breed of hybrid defenders and can be a staple for the 49ers on the back end of their defense as they try to find their way back to the promised land in 2020.
32 – Kansas City Chiefs: J.K. Dobbins – RB
Chiefs nation continues to relish in their Super Bowl victory, and for as long as Patrick Mahomes is decked out in red the team will always be a contender to make it back year after year. Finding the right supporting cast for the QB is then the most important thing for KC to accomplish. To start with, their running back group hasn’t been the same since Kareem Hunt was ousted from the squad. While Damien Williams was instrumental in bringing the Lombardi back to Kansas City the group still could use some help with the likely departure of LeSean McCoy. J.K. Dobbins is a bruiser with a knack to make plays happen on third-down situations. He can take on almost every situation and seems to have a good deal of durability with just how much of a load he carried at OSU. Speaking of which, Dobbins was put into the spotlights of the nation playing for such a prominent school – the bright lights might help him adjust to the “it” team in the NFL. Whatever that case may be, no one in KC is going to complain about the team getting Mahomey getting another weapon.
33 – Cincinnati Bengals: Austin Jackson – OT
The Bengals pick up a right tackle to match last year’s redshirt first rounder and starting left tackle Jonah Williams. New franchise QB Joe Burrow needs all the help he can get in Cincy.
34 – Indianapolis Colts: Cole Kmet – TE
The Colts know they only have a year to make the most of Philip Rivers, so providing him with enough weapons to succeed is key. In a relatively weak tight end class Kmet still manages to stand out as the best in the group. He’s more of a pass-catching, Jimmy Graham-esque style of TE, but that’s exactly what the Colts need over the middle and as a safety dump-off option for Rivers.
35 – Detroit Lions: John Simpson – OG
Matt Stafford may not be in the Lions’ plans for much longer, but no one wants to trot David Blough back out there again, so let’s keep Stafford upright for now, yeah? Simpson might be a little slow coming out of the gate but he has the ideal size, power, and character that the folks in motor city will fall in love with.
36 – New York Giants: Laviska Shenault – WR
Golden Tate is a given and Darius Slayton was a nice surprise, but the G-Men still need some more playmakers to take the pressure off of Jones and Barkley. Shenault – nicknamed “2 Live” – is an electric prospect with phenomenal deep ball potential. He’s aggressive in breaking coverages, but lacks a full route tree. With some development he could bring a facet to the New York offense that has been sorely missed since the departure of Odell Beckham.
37 – Los Angeles Chargers: Robert Hunt – OT
If Tua is indeed the pick for the Chargers then they must prioritize keeping the oft-injured QB safe. Robert Hunt is a 4 year starter with the Ragin’ Cajuns. That type of experience bodes well for someone looking to get up to speed fast and take over duties right away. He’s big, works hard, has the experience, and carries enough athleticism to compete with anyone. Solid plug ‘n play guy for a team who needs someone to fill the void now.
38 – Carolina Panthers TRADED to Detroit Lions: Denzel Mims – WR
Mims, if he hits his potential, is the next Calvin Johnson. Detroit can I interest you in that? Can Brett Kollmann? Golladay and Jones are in the last year of their contracts. It just makes sense that the Lions add playmaking depth. Mims is a lottery ticket that has the potential to be the best wide receiver in perhaps the most loaded class ever.
39 – Miami Dolphins: Jeff Gladney – CB
Byron Jones is a fine addition to the Dolphins’ secondary, but it’s like the team could use another first round level talent in the secondary… weird. Gladney is an extremely sticky press corner than the Dolphins can match up with the opponent’s most shifty route runner.
40 – Houston Texans: Ross Blacklock – DT
Would anyone be surprised if Watson is dealt to the Patriots during the draft? Anyone? Well, assuming that Bill O’Brien decides to get it through his thick skull that he needs talent on his team then Blacklock is a fine selection to help in rebuilding a depleted defensive line. The 2018 achilles tear is a worry, but damn this guy is a madman on the loose when plugged into the middle of a line.
41 – Cleveland Browns: Ezra Cleveland – OT
The Browns find their future LT about 31 picks later than expected, but Bill Callahan is the best OT coach in the league and the Browns still could pick up Jason Peters on a one year deal to help in Cleveland’s development. Jersey sales notwithstanding, Cleveland is a good fit for the wide zone scheme that Stefanski employs, making him a great project to hook up with Baker and Co. long term.
42 – Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnathan Taylor – RB
With Leonard Fournette on the block and likely out of Jacksonville on draft day the team needs to recoup its rushing potential. Taylor is perhaps the most complete frame of any of the backs in the class and has a bounty of reps to build off of for his entry into the NFL.
43 – Chicago Bears: Antione Winfield Jr. – S
Eddie Jackson needs a running mate on defense and Winfield is the switch safety to make it happen. Strong and versatile, he can thump tight ends while also being a center fielder on the windiest of days at Soldier Field.
44 – Indianapolis Colts: Trevon Diggs – CB
Veteran corner Pierre Desir is gone and the Colts would to well to find a young, talented corner to help hold down the edges. Of all the corners in class he has the best combination of size, speed, and strength. Someone Matt Eberflus can mold into a shutdown corner for Indy in the years to come.
45 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A.J. Terrell – CB
Just because Tampa has the most hyped offense in the league doesn’t mean they can neglect a porous secondary. Terrell brings a championship pedigree to the back end of a team sorely needing some help in pass protection.
46 – Denver Broncos: Jaylon Johnson – CB
The run on corners continues into the second round as the Broncos find a press-man replacement for Chris Harris. Johnson is a mean mugger on the boundary and never shies away from even the most imposing pass catchers, which should leave quite the impression on the nard-nosed Vic Fangio.
47 – Atlanta Falcons TRADED to Cleveland Browns: Kyle Dugger – S
Sheldrick Redwine showed a lot of promise during his rookie season at free safety, but likely needed a year on the bench. Meanwhile, Kyle Dugger oozes a playmaking aura that the team would love to pair with the newly acquired Karl Joseph to form an imposing 1-2 presence over the top in Joe Woods’ scheme.
48 – New York Jets: Brandon Aiyuk – WR
A YAC monster (nicknamed the YAK, or Yards After King) that can play all over the field, Aiyuk brings a stable floor to a wide receiver group that needs some consistency from its playmakers. He may still be up and coming but as of this moment his potential is much higher than any WR on the Jets roster.
49 – Pittsburg Steelers: Chase Claypool – WR
The Steelers could utilize the 6’4″ Claypool as an addendum to the Juju Smith-Schuster experiment. A red zone behemoth, Big Ben can lob duck passes to the overwhelming presence that the Notre Dame receiver brings to the table. 4.42 speed at that size is quite impressive as well.
50 – Chicago Bears: Jalen Hurts – QB
The Bears know they probably sit on a rental in Nick Foles, and at this point are likely formulating plans to unload Mitch Trubisky. Hurts represents an opportunity for Matt Nagy to find the perfect match for one of the most unique and creative offensive schemes in football. What’s more, Hurts showcased an outstanding level of poise and improvement on his pocket presence at the combine. Out of all the QB prospects in the class he is the hardest worker and best leader, and the man I think the Bears want at the head of their organization for the foreseeable future.
51 – Dallas Cowboys: Noah Igbinoghene – CB
Is it ever a draft when Dallas doesn’t select a cornerback? No, no it is not. Igbinoghene is a buff, physical corner who likely wants to bump and run with anyone he faces. That sort of competitiveness and physicality would do well for the team that thinks oh so highly of itself. Mike McCarthy likely wants someone to come in and give a lick to one or two of the offensive members who need to get their heads off of stacks of cash.
52 – Los Angeles Rams: Shane Lemieux – OG
Austin Corbett is not going to keep Jared Goff upright. While the Rams have a plethora of holes they need to plug, they ought to start with damming their atrocious O-line. Lemieux is a veteran Duck who has earned his stripes. He should be a plug and play guard for the Rams and an instant improvement over Corbett.
53 – Philadelphia Eagles: Josh Uche – LB
A potential pick through and through, Uche sat for three years on the Wolverine’s bench until exploding onto the stage as a Senior. He still has a lot to learn and room to fill out but the ceiling is high enough where the Eagles feel confident that Jim Schwartz can coax out the best of the kid in order to fill a major gap in their tackle box.
54 – Buffalo Bills: Marlon Davidson – DE
A high-floor, low-ceiling prospect that can still be a cornerstone on the D-line, Davidson wallowed in the shadow of Derrick Brown down in Auburn. Yet, he still managed to make a name for himself on tape and is consistent all game long. He pairs nicely with a Buffalo front that takes pride in always packing their lunch for a long day out on the gridiron. He’s a solid running mate for Ed Oliver and a low-risk investment for a team without a first round pick.
55 – Baltimore Ravens: Damien Lewis – OG
Once cannot simply replace the presence of Marshall Yanda, but the Ravens have little choice but to try with a scheme so dependent on the run. While Lewis stumbles as a consistent pass protector he is a bulldozer in the run game who can eat up space for MVP running back Lamar Jackson (JK).
56 – Miami Dolphins: Jalen Reagor – WR
Another piece to the massive puzzle the Dolphins are starting to construct, Reagor is a burner and a playmaker that makes up for his lack of height with a fiery competitiveness that would be a boon for the up-and-coming Miami squad. While not on the same tier as Odell Beckham he possesses a lot of similar traits that would make him a great pairing with DeVante Parker.
57 – Houston Texans: Prince Tega Wanogho – OT
For the love of all things good someone please give Deshaun Watson a hug. Maybe Prince Tega can. Certainly more of a developmental project, he is an athletic prodigy with nowhere to go but up. If he can learn a thing or two from Laremy Tunsil and come around quickly on his development he may just turn into the Prince of “No-Go” down in Houston.
58 – Minnesota Vikings: Grant Delpit – S
If the Vikings are keen to move Anthony Harris in the draft then they had better have a backup plan to ensure that Harrison Smith doesn’t lose his mind from having to do everything himself. Grant Delpit experiences a Greedy Williams-esque fall in this draft, but it was not long ago that he was considered top-5 pick caliber. If the Vikings can knock loose some effort cobwebs they might have the steal of the draft.
59 – Seattle Seahawks: Harrison Bryant – TE
If the Seahawks want to keep having Russell Wilson play Houdini then maybe they had better get the QB a present to unwrap. Bryant is a savvy player who portays himself to be much in line with the George Kittles of the world. Hyper-athletic with a chip on his shoulder, he would be a nice pairing for the run-first offense that Seattle is trying to build.
60 – Baltimore Ravens: Bryan Edwards – WR
The Ravens may have hit paydirt with Marquise Brown last year, but Myles Boykin is still up in the air as to whether or not he can fulfill the role of the X receiver. Edwards brings four years of starting experience to the field along with a 6’3″ frame. He may lack top end speed and ball tracking skills but in this offense he does not need to be the home-run hitter. Brown may make all the flashy plays, but Edwards can eat up yardage and put the Ravens in even better positions to do damage.
61 – Tennessee Titans: Clyde Edwards-Helaire – RB
If Derrick Henry goes down the Titans are F***ed. While I’m inclined to give them a running back that can match his size and brutality the pickings for that type of player this year are slim. Conversely, Edwards-Helaire brings lighting to Henry’s thunder. He may stand at only 5’7″, but the LSU tiger showed time and again that he has electric feet and a knack to make game-changing plays at any time. He’s everything that the Titans hoped Dion Lewis would be, and is talented enough to shoulder the load should tragedy strike in Nashville.
62 – Green Bay Packers: Jake Fromm – QB
Yes, yes, Aaron Rodgers will bitch and bitch and bitch if this comes to pass, but the man is starting to creep up in age. Call it tradition, but Green Bay cannot sit back and watch as they start to approach an uncertain future. Fromm likely should have stayed in school another year, but in Green Bay he gets Rodgers’ed for 3-4 years until he can finally take the field. By that time he should have greatly increased his arm strength and have built on his fantastic intangibles to continue the line of great QB play for the cheesehead faithful.
63 – Kansas City Chiefs: Terrell Burgess – S
The versatile Burgess would be a welcome sight for a secondary that has failed to live up to expectations the past few years. Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller are gone, too. Burgess can step in and play where needed and is widely regarded by scouts and coaches for his dedication to the classroom. His strengths don’t just lie in his preparedness either, as he boasts a fantastic acumen of physical and mental traits that always seem to put him in the right place at the right time to make a play.
64 – Seattle Seahawks: Raekwon Davis – DT
Being consistent with their plans to move the strength of their defense to the front end Seattle picks up the imposing Davis to be a running mate to fellow pick Yetur Gross-Matos. The next product to come off the vaulted Alabama line, Davis has the discipline and understanding of the game one would expect from someone entrenched in the teachings of Nick Saban. He’s a freight train that Pete Carroll can use to wreck havoc on every single play.