Every year the draft throws up storylines, controversy and renewed optimism to fan bases. This year is very different, the current situation as we all live in the world has had a knock-on effect to all sport. The NFL Draft is no different, there will be no thousands lining the streets, there will be no cheering or jeering when picks are announced, Vegas strip will be empty…..even the Commissioner won’t get booed.. or maybe he will.
This year, teams are going to have to do it differently, reliance upon technology and those General Managers savvy enough to embrace it and make it part of their draft strategy will thrive. 90% of Pro Days didn’t happen, players who decided against certain drills in the Combine and instead opting to perform at their Pro Day could have a serious disadvantage this year. Teams have no way to gauge the usual deluge of information they gain from player visits, a Skype or Zoom conversation is small consolation.
So just how will teams ethos and usual habits change this year? Teams will potentially be less willing to take risks on players with injuries or character concerns, be that an attitude or some infringement. First round selections may be a solid starter instead of “that guy” who could elevate your franchise to the next level. A team may look to move back more than normal as they have a value on a player and cannot justify spending or reaching too much again due to lack of information.
The lack of team medical staff performing analysis on mid to late round players could see talented players drop all together and I truly believe the Undrafted Free Agent Class could be one of the most talented in an age. Despite the lack of fanfare this will still be captivating television and will give us fans some much needed hope and optimism right now.
The player depth this year is strongest among wide receivers with some analysts having up to 14 or 15 receivers in their Top 50. It’s a full ice cream shop of size and flavours for your selection. So after the initial big names disappear where do you next find value with the selection? The sweet spot and time for a run feels like middle of Day 2.
Cornerback also seems a position that could see a surprising amount in the first round. Corner is a position that I believe every team should draft every year, due to its importance I expect a lot to go early.
Trench depth seems split with Defensive Lineman promising some explosive athletes whereas the edge class is weaker, driving coaches’ decisions on later draft selections for players with tools and future potential.
On the other side of the ball the tackle class is full of potential stars, freak athletes, high quality and Day 2 selections that are more than just projects. All the talk will of course be on primary position of QB. Will there be an upset at the top of the draft, will Tua finally go to the Dolphins, and just how many will go in the first round.
Trades alter any draft and my yearly mock never plans any, this is more about selection of a players to a team so….
1 – Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow – QB – LSU
The Bengals were a bad team last year, you don’t own the 1st pick otherwise, but there is room for optimism. They lost 8 games last season within 1 score, Tyler Boyd showed the ability to lead his teams receiving corps with a quiet 1000 yard season and Joe Mixon ran hard for them all year. A.J . Green will also be returning from injury. They spent money at corner in Free Agency on Trae Waynes and D.J. Reader adding further depth at safety with Vonn Bell to team up with the impressive Jessie Bates. Geno Atkins remains with Carlos Dunlap and they have 2 young pass rushers in Carl Lawson who needs to stay fit and Sam Hubbard who has more sacks than any other rusher from that draft class. Whilst Dalton appeared to get worse and confusingly still remains on the roster the Bengals will be moving on from him and have publicly stated they will assist in finding the right trade partner. Dalton was not this new regime, under Zac Taylor’s player and they have the chance to start from scratch. So take the man who had the record breaking season in Joe Burrow, look at the numbers, 76% completion rate, over 5500 yards and 60 TDs. It truly does sound like Madden video game statistics. Is there a downside? Well these numbers were vastly better than the previous season’s 56% completion rate and modest returns and there’s rumbles about him not being too enthused to be going to Cincinnati. Bengals pick Burrow and get the draft moving with their future franchise QB.
2 – Washington Redskins – Chase Young – Defensive End- Ohio State
The Redskins end a messy year picking 2nd overall after the firing of Jay Gruden seemed inevitable from the start last season. The rumour mill suggested Dwayne Haskins was a Dan Snyder pick and the rest of the coaching staff were not all in on him, this led to the house being swept clean and included General Manager Bruce Allen. The Trent Williams situation remains a mess with the Redskins allegedly turning down a 1st round pick from the Ravens, it’s clear they want full value here. Riviera arrives with an impressive NFL resume and has wasted no time clearing the roster of dead wood. Gone are Josh Norman who regressed hugely, Ereck Flowers, Jordan Reed, Chris Thompson and Case Keenum. The only odd decision seemed to be allowing their best corner Quinton Dunbar walk as they didn’t want to overpay him. Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby come in as corner tandem and signing of Kyle Allen could be a masterstroke if Haskins isn’t ready depending on whether we get an off-season. Norv Turner’s system will be implemented here and Allen will instantly feel comfortable in it.
Redskins Defensive Line/Edge remains a position of strength with the team, Jonathan Allen, Da’ron Payne and Matt Ioannidis combine with Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan. However, Kerrigan is 31 and entering the final year of his contract. Chase Young, seen by many as the best player in the draft, fits as a base end in the 4 -3 system that Washington will be moving too. Last year alone he had 16.5 sacks and 6 Forced Fumbles. His speed and motor should help the team in a divisional of young athletic QBs.
3 – Detroit Lions – Jeffrey Okudah – Cornerback – Ohio State
It seems a long time since the Lions led the NFC North back in September last year. Injury to Stafford and key players with seemingly no one to run the ball for Detroit yet again led to a disappointing season finishing with their worst record since 2012. Patricia was brought in to change the Lions to adopt the “Patriot Way” but this vision has not become a reality. Their aggressive stance in Free Agency strengthened positions of need bringing in Jamie Collins, Duron Harmon and Desmond Trufant. They paid a lot of money for Halapoulivaati Vatai at Left Tackle but let Mike Daniels, Damon Harrison & A’Shawn Robinson walk in Free agency. They have a need at Corner and Interior Defensive Line which should find value at back end of 1st round, early 2nd. The Patriot way has been to build more from the back of the Defense to the front investing in certain players to stifle Offenses nearer the line of scrimmage. The Lions traded away both starting corners in Quandre Diggs and Darius Slay, one was a puzzling trade and the other presumably to save cap space. They desperately need depth and quality here despite adding Trufant. Jeffrey Okudah brings athleticism and the ability to be a true lockdown corner at the next level. His size and strength will be a plus for the Lions to compete in a division with Davante Adams and Adam Thielen. Okudah’s coverage stats are impressive as e has only seen 93 targets when lined up at outside corner since 2018 and has allowed a first down on only 20% of those targets. On his 400 coverage snaps just six resulted in a gain of 15 yards or more. His press man coverage skills will be a real bonus for the Lions here.
4 – New York Giants – Isaiah Simmons – Linebacker – Clemson
A new era dawns in New York Big Blue with Joe Judge taking over the head coach position, the acquisition of Jason Garrett as Offensive Coordinator certainly raised a few eyebrows and should theoretically provide a more aggressive downfield scheme. Shurmur, whilst a failure as a head coach, has always developed a friendly scheme for his Quarterbacks so Daniel Jones will be asked to do more in his second season. His first showed promise and inconsistency, he had 3 games with a QB rating of over 120 but had 18 fumbles of which 11 were non recoverable. Knowing little about Joe Judge it’s difficult to say what schemes are going to be implemented but coming from the Patriots coaching tree you have to assume that it will be “Belichickian”. They currently have no elite pass rusher and the unit weakened further by the loss of Markus Golden means with a less than elite class at edge, they will have to rely on scheme to gain pressure. The signing of James Bradbury to the Secondary should strengthen this area and they’ll be looking for De’Andre Baker to put a bad first season behind him and improve. The trade of Leonard Williams should be seen as a positive and provides a true talent on the Defensive Line. It’s the loss of Mike Remmers at Right Tackle that provides concern and despite the signing of Cameron Fleming, more for depth, I have the Giants looking at the 2nd round pick to rectify this and have them taking Isaiah Simmons here. Simmons was a Team Captain at Clemson and is a physical freak registering in 90% percentile for all combine workouts. At 6’4 and 230lbs running the 40 yard dash in 4.39 seems inhuman! He can cover, has flexibility and fluid movement to chase the ball, rush the passer and even drop into zone. Gettleman has shown previously with the selection of Saquon Barkley that general consensus positional value means very little to him. I have them going for a true difference maker here, you just hope they have a plan to use him.
5 – Miami Dolphins – Justin Herbert – Quarterback – Oregon
The Dolphins season after the first 4 weeks was looking like a record breaker for all the wrong reasons. Being outscored 163 points to 42 with a point differential of minus 121 is utterly disastrous. Only time will tell if the decimation of the roster by Chris Grier to control this draft and have a serious stake in the next one will have paid off, but credit must go to Brian Flores for getting 5 wins and an impressive 4-3 record in their last 7 games. The victory over the Patriots certainly gave the Fin Fandom something to smile about at the seasons end. When the starting QB job was handed back to Ryan Fitzpatrick there finally seemed a locker room leader who the players could look up to. Whilst fans may want a losing situation to improve the draft situation, players are playing for their jobs and they never quit on their team. The Dolphins allowed their starting QBs to be sacked 58 times during the season and with Fitzpatrick being the team’s leading rusher they certainly have other needs to fill with later picks, but with the number 5 pick it’s all about getting the player for a new era. The Dolphins marriage to Tua Tagovailoa seemed destined to be until the fateful injury. Despite Chris Grier allegedly going to see Tua play personally four times they are also doing a lot of work on Justin Herbert. In a draft, as previously mentioned, without visits and many Pro Days, Oregon were a team that got theirs in early and the Miami back office were able to meet and question/interview Herbert. There’s a lot to like with a big arm and a pretty ball thrown but no doubt some teething problems with his ability to play beyond his first read and become entrenched in more complex schemes at the NFL level, let’s also not forget taking snaps under center. Each season has seen a steady improvement in yardage and his low interception rate, whilst helped with scheme, shows Herbert takes care of the ball. They will however be hoping to coach some aggression into his game as at times he appears reluctant to force a pass which he’ll have to do at the next level. With uncertainty around injury status I have Dolphins taking Herbert here.
6 – Los Angeles Chargers – Mekhi Becton – Offensive Tackle – Louisville
The Chargers also have an obvious QB need after moving on from Philip Rivers after 16 years. As it seems for every season, the Chargers suffered with injuries and losing Defensive playmaker Derwin James would’ve had a huge impact on the Defense as a whole. The Chargers had 3 needs this off season, replace the Quarterback, and upgrade the Offensive Line which they’ve done with additions of Trai Turner and Bryan Bulaga, and upgrade the run defense. The signing of Linval Joseph should help in this regard and adding Chris Harris gives an excellent slot presence. With James back next season, Joey Bosa and with Melvin Ingram the Chargers boast a Defense that should challenge to be Top 5. They still have plenty of weapons on Offense with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and will look to add Running Back depth after allowing Melvin Gordon to leave after his contract holdout fiasco. They will of course be hoping Hunter Henry can stay fit as he continues to give good production and a true red zone threat when fit. Tyrod Taylor will start the season and has previously worked with Anthony Lynn in Buffalo so there is familiarity and they know what they have in him what he can do well and his limitations. I fully expect the Chargers to trade up to try and get Herbert above Miami. Miami hold more capital so what then do the Chargers do? They need a splash at QB to get tickets sold and increase LA fandom, but I’m not sure at this pick and losing out on Herbert they have enough trust to draft Tua here. Tom Telesco has an excellent record at drafting players and I expect them to address the need later and potentially make a splash at a “showbiz” Free Agent like Cam Newton. They have an immediate Day 1 starter need at Left Tackle. Mekhi Becton is a monster of a man at 6’7 and 364 lbs he moves with a fleetness of foot that someone his size has no right to. His raw power in the run game in college looked unfair at times and he destroys opponents with his initial punch in pass sets. The upside is huge and never has the description of “Dancing Bear” felt more appropriate. The Chargers fill an immediate position of need.
7 – Carolina Panthers – C.J. Henderson – Cornerback – Florida
At the beginning of the 2019 season the Carolina Panthers players and staff knew they were in a “win now” situation. With an aging playing staff and a series of 1 year contracts handed out to Bruce Irwin and Gerald McCoy they were trying to compete for success with no long term plan. With a new owner itching to put his own stamp on an organization he’d made few changes to since taking over in May 2018 the inevitable happened. With Cam Newton suffering yet another injury the wheels soon came off and despite heroics from Christian McCaffrey changes were made. Dontari Poe and Kawaan Short were also injured leaving the middle of the defensive lacking talent as opposing teams ran all over them. I applaud David Tepper’s restraint allowing Riveira time but a new era comes in with Matt Rhule and intriguingly Joe Brady at Offensive Coordinator who obviously had such a big part of LSU’s record breaking success. Panthers need a new identity, gone are Newton and Greg Olsen and Luke Kuechly’s retirement, whilst totally justifiable, means saying goodbye to one of the games great modern linebackers. Some of the off season moves have been puzzling losing both starting guards in Trai Turner and Greg Van Roten, the former being swapped for a declining Russell Okung. They overpaid for Robby Anderson and traded Kyle Allen, who would’ve been an adequate backup after Carolina gave Teddy Bridgewater a 3 year contract, Bridgewater has never played all 16 games in a season.
Rhule’s turnarounds in Temple and Baylor took time and he has a culture and ethos that his teams bought into. The Panthers could be a team to trade back as their needs are many, they were 31st in the league on Opponents Points per Play and Points per Game but looking at their Cornerback Depth chart is immediately alarming. I have them taking Henderson who is one of the top athletes the draft and is clearly one of the better man coverage corners after Okudah. In 2019 Henderson has allowed 20 catches on 44 targets and only allowed sixteen 1st downs. Rhule values speed but Henderson will have to work and be more willing in his tackling than he’s show in college. Panthers help their secondary with this pick.
8 –Arizona Cardinals – Tristan Wirfs – Offensive Tackle – Iowa
Arizona made a huge gamble last draft by admitting a mistake the year before and moving on after 1 year from Josh Rosen and investing in Kyler Murray to partner with Kliff Kingsbury’s air raid scheme. The early signs are positive but General Manager Steve Keim must have consistent drafts. The fact that only 3 players remain from the 2016 and 2017 draft class show how much of a backward step the Cardinals have taken without evaluating talent in consecutive seasons. They addressed the need at receiver in a trade that offloaded a huge contract for the oft injured David Johnson by bringing in DeAndre Hopkins opposite the evergreen Larry Fitzgerald. The young receivers Christian Kirk and Hakeem Butler need to stay fit to provide depth. Patrick Peterson’s best days are behind him but Byron Murphy got playing time during Peterson’s suspension last season yet the team remained 31st in the NFL allowing a 70% completion percentage against opposing QBs and the defense only had 7 interceptions showing a need for pressure on the opposing QB. I have them addressing interior line need in the early 2nd round and after extending DJ Humphries the Cardinals also need another bookend tackle and I have them selecting Tristan Wirfs here. The agility and athleticism are a perfect fit for an athletic and mobile QB like Murray. Wirfs put on an a show at the combine and whilst the bench press was sub-par Wirfs holds an Iowa weight room record for lifting so strength should not be a concern. His performance which put him in 99th percentile for Broad Jump, Vertical and 40 Yard Dash, make him a prospect hard to ignore and has a similar profile of that matching a certain Trent Williams. He can start at right tackle straight away and would be hard to ignore in this spot
9 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Javon Kinlaw- Defensive Line – South Carolina
The Jaguars have picked in the Top 11 every year but one since 2012, yet their draft haul seems consistent with the selections of talented players, so why do they always seem to be in this spot. Since their deep play-off run 2 years ago to the AFC Championship game they paid the wrong player in Blake Bortles then made the same mistake again with Nick Foles and the rest is history. Tom Coughlin was brought in and should share some of the plaudits for the turnaround and the team’s success, but it soon went sour and the old school mentality and discipline seemed to wear thing with Jaguars veterans. Coughlin is gone but the coaching staff remains. The “Sacksonville” Defense have gone with Ramsey traded, AJ Bouye traded, Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus released. The contract issue with Yannick Ngakoue remains and Telvin Smith remains unavailable, Josh Allen falling into their laps last year was too good a prospect to turn down. They have 3 picks in the top 45 and have two 1st round selections in next year’s draft potentially for a run at the QB talent available. They managed to offload Foles’ contract and have a need at corner which can be addressed later. I have them replacing Calais Campbell with the selection of Javon Kinlaw. The upside and talent combined with the high character and fascinating personal story all combine to giving the Jaguars Defensive Line more penetration skills. He stood out at the senior bowl with an explosive first step and moves lightning fast for a man of 315lbs at 6’5. He can get bullied in the run game but the upside is huge here, Sacksonville is returning.
10 – Cleveland Browns – Andrew Thomas – Offensive Line – Georgia
Cleveland Browns had the razzmatazz of highly paid Free Agents all trying to blend in one locker room with a first year Head Coach seemingly out of his depth. The reports seemed to be a lack of organisational game plan and discipline which came to a head with Myles Garrett’s shocking on field antics versus Pittsburgh. Kevin Stefanski comes in as a calmer presence and an offensive mind that aims to bring the best out of Baker Mayfield and probably the best one two Running Back punch in the NFL with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb ran for 1500 yards at an average of 5 yards per attempt last season. Stefanski’s scheme will likely be a zonal run scheme with multiple Tight Ends sets and whilst they overpaid for Austin Hooper, he and Njoku provide plenty of ammunition for Baker Mayfield. The losses of Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey lean more towards reluctance to pay linebackers their desired amount due to the salary cap and they’ll be hoping for last year’s selections Mack Wilson and Sione TakiTaki to fill in here. The signing of Jack Conklin to the right side of the line fits the scheme perfectly and I have them selecting the left side here with Andrew Thomas. He may not have the upside of some of the other tackles but he’s the surest thing available and fits in well to a run heavy scheme as a people mover. He has an enormous wingspan boasting 36inch arms providing length and range in pass sets giving Cleveland two quality tackles teaming with Joel Bitonio and JC Stretter in the center of the line, Mayfield should be able to take the next step in his development.
11 – New York Jets – Ceedee Lamb – Wide Receiver – Oklahoma
The Jets finished dead last in Total Points in 2019. Add this to finishing bottom of the pile in yards per play and yards per game shows that Sam Darnold needs to start producing. The questions seems to be if he’s held back by Adam Gase who seems to be the NFL pantomime villain right now. Gase was brought in to mentor and aid Darnold’s development but the “seeing ghosts” comment has not helped the relationship between QB and coach and the Jets failure to build around Darnold shows why they’re constantly in this position. The clearing of the old Offensive Line should help and adding center Connor McGovern, Guard Greg Van Roten and paying a lot of money for George Fant who is more a swing backup tackle at least provides a unit upgrade. They still need tackle help and at edge but last season the Jets averaged 6.6 yards per reception as a team and with the departure of Robby Anderson I give them CeeDee Lamb. The big body and contested catch ability will give the Jets a different dimension as the number one receiver than Robby Anderson ever did. Lamb’s Yards after Catch ability are also deadly, in 2019 he averaged 11 in the YAC column and broke 26 tackles, add 14 Touchdowns to that and finally Darnold should find a big time receiver to find some chemistry with.
12 – Las Vegas Raiders – Tua Tagovailoa – Quarterback – Alabama
The Raiders move to Vegas was meant to be a full trumpet fanfare accompanied with the draft. Due to the global situation right now to say it’s very muted is an understatement. The pairing of John Gruden and Mike Mayock was above initial expectations in the first season. They raised many eyebrows drafting Clelin Ferrell 4th overall citing “high character individuals” as player they wanted on the roster. Josh Jacobs is a Top 10 Running Back and there is high expectation for Jonathan Abram following a devastating first game injury. Hitting on later picks with Trayvon Mullen at corner, Maxx Crosby at Defensive Line and Hunter Renfrow as a reliably handed slot receiver gave the Raiders the building blocks to compete. The way the organization dealt with the Antonio Brown situation was professionally done, seemingly with no fall out after in the locker room. Despite having Tyrell Williams and picking up Nelson Agholor in free agency they still seem to be missing the alpha receiver, but what attracts new fans? Big stories and big players. Grudens relationship with Carr felt forced in Hard Knocks and the organization has never felt fully committed to him after he signed the long contract and Gruden has been on board, the signing of Mariota speaks volumes. If they were looking to offload Derek Carr, his deal runs till the end of 2023 however they could cut him now incurring only just over 10million in dead money. If Tua falls past the Chargers and Dolphins teams will be circling and it may be the Raiders and possibly the Patriots who look to push their way up the board. Tagovailoa was a college star at Alabama and I feel we’ve been robbed of a storyline for the Number 1 pick if he’d have stayed fit. The injury must be a huge concern as mentioned in the introduction around lack of team medical staff doing their own analysis. He is however accurate with a lively enough arm and quick processing skills. He can improvise and has quick feet to manipulate his throwing platform. His 2018 numbers of nearly 4000 yards and 33 Touchdowns were impressive and he has the leadership qualities to succeed at the next level. Let the chaos commence as Tua falls and gets picked here, knock on wood if you’re with me.
13 – San Francisco 49ers – Jerry Jeudy – Wide Receiver – Alabama
After the 49ers Superbowl loss to Tampa few would’ve predicted that they would be spoilt for choice in improving an impressive and dangerous roster by picking so high. They opted to trade DeForest Bucknor to the Colts to gain draft capital and ultimately find a way to not pay the high contract Bucknor sought. The 49ers running attack seemed, at times in 2019, unstoppable finding production from Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and previous undrafted journeyman Raheem Mostert with pre snap movement and schemes that baffled opposing Defensive Coordinators. It was rated 2nd in the NFL behind the Baltimore Ravens and such was the dominance that Quarterback play was rarely required. Critics will turn to Garoppolo for missed opportunities at the big stage but he’s proven enough that the team can get to the dance with him and win big games with the Saints in the Superdome being an obvious example last season. The fact remains the team are not locked heavily into his contract after this season, so it feels the 49ers need to compete again this season to avoid a change at the position. The Defensive side of the ball was built around a Defensive Line of Bucknor, Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead whom they extended to a $12million a year contract. They were 2nd overall in Opponents Yards per game, Yards per Play and 3rd down conversion percentage. This year with two 1st round picks no selection until the 5th round they are a prime candidate for a trade back here or at 31 but losing Emmanuel Sanders will have an effect on the roster which is why I see Jerry Jeudy a perfect replacement. Jeudy is a smooth runner and has a Rolls Royce feel to him in everything he does, nothing seems forced and everything looks smooth and easy. He has excellent hands and is a route technician, in 2018 he averaged 19 yards a reception and has had double digit touchdowns in the past 2 seasons. His production dropped a little in 2019 however this is more due to the Alabama receivers he was competing for targets with. Despite having Deebo Samuel and Maquise Goodwin they can only add quality with Jeudy’s selection.
14 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jedrick Wills – Offensive Tackle – Alabama
One of the biggest off-season stories ended with Tom Brady ending the greatest Quarterback dynasty in the game moving to warmer sunnier climes in Tampa Bay. The quite incredible season by Jameis Winston, who was the leading passer by yardage in the NFL would’ve had Bruce Arians pulling out his hair if he had any left. The 30 Touchdowns to 30 interceptions was a remarkable statistic and unlikely to ever be repeated. With a 43-year-old QB and a Head Coach in his sixties your win window is small and immediate. Brady has a wealth of receiving options around including Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, this is arguably the best he’s had since Welker and Moss were in New England. They would look for productivity from Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard who must be the most pleased to see Brady arrive knowing his love of using Tight Ends in the passing game. The visible frustration on Brady’s face was evident in his final season in New England and with a 2nd round RB also being selected, Brady’s frown should turn upside down! Defensively the Buccaneers need to add depth in the secondary, but Lavonte David and Devin White spearhead the linebacking unit with the front four fearsome enough with the surprise of last season Shaquil Barrett signed to a franchise tag. He’ll partner Jason Pierre-Paul, Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh. If you’re putting all your chips into Brady this and next season then despite his excellent pocket presence Brady needs to stay upright and whilst Donovan Smith will marshal one side of line there’s a hole on the other. Jedrick Wills of Alabama is a pure technician in hand placement and punch and an excellent tackle prospect. He protected Tua’s blind side in the college game and has developed to be a standout sure thing at the next level. The potential is also there to switch to the left side, he also compliments well in the run game and will brawl to get to the next level. Wills allows the Buccaneers to be set with and beyond Brady era in Tampa Bay.
15 – Denver Broncos – Henry Ruggs III – Wide Receiver – Alabama
Denver enter this year’s draft with 5 picks in the 1st 3 rounds so I expect them to be aggressive in moving up to obtain their chosen player at receiver given the obvious need. They paid Joe Flacco last year and said the right things about him being their chosen Quarterback preseason. This didn’t work out and Flacco was awful, in 8 games played he had 65% completion rate with 6 Touchdowns and 5 interceptions. The Broncos threw the keys to Drew Lock for the final 5 games of the season and the signs were positive. He won 4 games with 7 TDs and 3 interceptions and displayed a lively arm developing chemistry with Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant. This will be a huge relief for Elway who has drafted a QB in every draft since Peyton Manning retired, all with little success. The addition of Pat Shurmur at Offensive Coordinator partnered with an old school Defensive head coach brings memories of Shurmur’s successful time in 2017 with the Minnesota Vikings, his QB friendly schemes looks to maximize Locks potential for play action behind acquiring Melvin Gordon to pair with Phillip Lindsay. They were just outside the top 10 in a number of defensive categories and with AJ Bouye adding to Justin Simmons in the secondary and Jurrell Casey on the Defensive Line Broncos fans have reason for optimism. As stated the receiver position outside of Sutton, who is a true “Number 1”, is limited so I have Henry Ruggs III being chosen here. Sceptics will look at combine numbers and compare with John Ross selected high by the Bengals, however Ruggs plays with more aggression and physicality than Ross. Ruggs’ college production also was never more than a high 46 receptions and 744 yards receiving, he was far from the “go to guy” in a crowded Alabama receiving room. Similar statistics in 2018 saw 11 touchdowns but it’s the run after catch ability and the blazing speed that gets creative coordinators manufacturing touches behind the line of scrimmage or short screen and drag passing routes for Ruggs to exploit his talents. Ruggs teamed with Sutton would give Denver a balanced attack.
16 – Atlanta Falcons – K’Lavon Chaisson – Edge – LSU
The goodwill of the Falcons 2016 campaign is starting wear thin with both Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn seemingly fortunate to escape last season with their jobs intact. The turnaround in fairness to Quinn in the final 6 weeks was probably the saviour. The Falcons seemingly are going for an overhaul, long term players Devonta Freeman, Austin Hooper, Vic Beasley, De’Vondre Campbell and Desmond Trufant are all no longer on the roster. They paid a high asking price in draft capital for Hayden Hurst and they’ll be hoping Dante Fowler continues his production following his renaissance after his move to the Rams. The Todd Gurley signing contains some risk as to whether the knees hold up to the workload but the contract is friendly to the team and there has to be genuine excitement for such a talented player “coming home”. Atlanta were joint 29th (with 3 other teams) in sack totals with 28 last season and with little pressure on opposing QBs they find themselves in the bottom 3rd tier of Defensive Passing statistics. The turnaround at Defensive Coordinator with Dan Quinn essentially sacking everyone and taking the reins himself only to relinquish this again, showed them to defensively be in disarray. The selection of K’Lavon Chaisson gives an exciting long and explosive athlete to put on the end of their line and pin their ears back causing havoc. At 6’3 and 254lbs he projects to 2 and 3 point stance but the worrying lack of production from a sack perspective of only 9.5 in his entire college career is a reason for more required development in finishing his obvious pressures that show on tape. Atlanta has a huge need at corner also but I have them taking edge early here.
17 – Dallas Cowboys – Derrick Brown – Defensive Line – Auburn
Jerry’s patience finally wore thin with Jason Garett after several seasons of mediocrity. He’ll hope Mike McCarthy can come in and bring some veteran coaching presence and change the Cowboys fortunes to compete and advance in the off season. McCarthy’s West Coast offense should suit Dak Prescott, as his own contract situation needs to be sorted in the long term. On each occasion they seem to pay the wrong player with Ezekiel Elliot holding out, the Cowboys gave an extension to Jaylon Smith, when DeMarcus Lawrence needed paying, they paid Elliott and when Dak needed paying they paid Lawrence and Amari Cooper. The refused to pay Byron Jones and let him walk so maybe it’s Dak’s turn next! The retirement of Travis Frederick is hugely unfortunate and the Cowboys will miss his presence as they did when he was unavailable over the past 2 years. They could be a prime candidate to move down in this draft if the board doesn’t fall this way as they have needs in multiple areas including Corner and Safety. They addressed a need at Defensive Line signing 2 aging veterans in Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy but with the board falling this way it will be hard to resist a long term replacement in this area and investing in the Defensive trenches which they haven’t done for some time. Derrick Brown was a constant menace in the SEC for Auburn at 6’5 326lbs his huge frame and high motor adds interior pressure for pushing the pocket as well as a very high run defense grade in college. With a consistent game tape and production why will he fall? Brown’s combine numbers were so poor that it shocked watching scouts and is he really an impact player like Aaron Donald and will be on the field all 3 downs? The stats didn’t always have Brown as the top defensive lineman in College Football and is he more than just a run stuffer which has little positional value. This isn’t the Cowboys first need but it would be hard to pass up here as he is a Day 1 starter and a can’t miss player at his position if his skillset that he brings to your team is understood.
18 – Miami Dolphins – Kenneth Murray – Linebacker – Oklahoma
With the draft capital the Dolphins have it would be obvious if they traded up from the 18th pick to get a player of quality to start. If they sit at 18 the board may not fall favorably and they may be in a position to take “Best Player Available”. They need Offensive Line but taking interior here seems too high and the best tackle prospects are equally as developmental as what they have, so I have them using their final pick in the 1st round on this position. They signed Byron Jones to a huge 5 year $82.5 million contract and he teams up with Xavien Howard to form an impressive starting pair. Eric Rowe was brought in to be a corner but successfully transitioned to a box safety providing run support and Tight End covering skills, he was a plus in a bleak season. Shaq Lawson, Emmanuel Ogbah and Kyle Van Noy were the final pieces to provide pressure on opposing QBs which again Miami were last in the NFL with only 23 QB sacks. It will be interesting to see the defensive scheme and how they get all these Edge/Linebackers on the field. Christian Wilkins a guy used to winning at Clemson and was a locker room leader and Team Captain, he showed huge upside on the Defensive line and again Miami could strengthen here to partner someone with him. Despite having Jerome Baker, I’m giving them Kenneth Murray the Linebacker from Oklahoma, who projects well to a Sam linebacker at the next level taking up blocks and making plays around the ball. His impressive combine numbers showed his range as a prospect, with 69 and 71 individual tackles and over 100 total tackles in both his full starting seasons a pick like this adds more depth and strength to Miami in this draft.
19 – Las Vegas Raiders – Denzel Mims – Wide Receiver – Baylor
The Raiders need that explosive “Number 1” receiver and downfield threat and they’ve also been in the bottom 3rd in Red Zone scoring the past 3 seasons, as outlined in their previous pick their attempts to replace Amari Cooper have failed each time. The cast of players they have added are all depth starting caliber. Darren Wallers’ 1000 breakout season was a welcome bonus and despite Jason Witten being very long in the tooth his veteran instinct should help find the soft coverage in the End Zone. I have the Raiders doubling down on receiver in this draft but here I give them Denzel Mims. His sub 4.4s 40 yard dash shows he has the downhill speed to take the top off a defense. The vertical, broad jump and the 3 cone drill shows him to be a super explosive receiver, although his router running is limited what he does do, he does very well. The NFL learned a lesson last season from letting DK Metcalf drop due to the same reason. If Mims is deployed well in a scheme he can beat corners off the line and will run away from them. His 1015 yards and 12 TDs from 66 receptions show an impressive 15.3 yards per receptions. It’s this production Raiders are looking at improving in their offense.
20 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Kristian Fulton – Cornerback – LSU
After trading away AJ Bouye the Jaguars snapped up Rashaan Melvin in Free Agency. He’s 30 and is nothing more than an experienced campaigner to help provide depth. D.J. Hayden is a quality nickel but is also not getting younger. Ronnie Harrison showed promise as a first year safety but his play was inconsistent and his tackling was hit and miss. Their Defense was solid without being spectacular last season with the run defense showing the biggest weakness. I have the Jaguars selecting a do it all versatile Cornerback in Kirstian Fulton. Fulton can play in man or press coverage which suits Todd Walsh who is the Defensive Coordinator and has links to the Gus Bradley coaching tree which consisted of mainly a Cover 3 defensive scheme. Looking at the Next Gen Stats Fulton has forced tight coverage on 65.5% of his snaps as he sticks to receivers like glue, 34.5% of his targets remain contested catches with the receivers he’s covering. On the 38 contested targets he only allowed 9 to be caught with 25 forced incompletions. He was known for giving up big explosive plays earlier in his college career but his versatility here will serve Jacksonville well and provide a corner to build the secondary around.
21 – Philadelphia Eagles – Jalen Reagor – Wide Receiver – TCU
The Eagles struggled to make post season in a division no one wanted to win as Carson Wentz tossed passes to a who’s who of recently signed receivers. The injuries to DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor’s drops proving so bad a member of the general public saving a baby from a burning building mocked him. In trying circumstances they found production from Greg Ward at receiver and Boston Scott out of the backfield. JJ Arcega-Whiteside struggled to make an impression despite having the raw talent leaving Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert to be the team’s leading receivers in 2019. Yet again it seems the Eagles find themselves in desperate need at receiver. They added Darius Slay in a trade with the Lions to bolster the Cornerback position which was also looking empty before Free Agency, Nickell-Robey Coleman was also signed and he should position himself into the slot. The move of Jalen Mills to safety is a strange one as it’s clear he was struggling at corner so filling the cleats of Malcolm Jenkins seems a tough role to be assigned to him. The Eagles were in the lower 3rd of the NFL of Yards per play and you can’t help thinking of successful Eagles teams in recent years off the back of a healthy and fit DeSean Jackson. His deep threat ability allowed the field to be stretched for bigger body receivers and tight ends in zone coverage. The selection of Jalen Reagor seems a perfect fit here, whilst his 9 drops this season are a worry, evaluators who are high on him will point to poor Quarterback play stifling him. His production in 2018 of over 1000 yards at 72 receptions and 9 TDs make a huge difference to only the 43 receptions 611 yards and 5 TDs in 2019. He does provide contested catch ability and good ball tracking on downfield throws. He’s also electric out of his breaks and has the ability to leave cornerbacks on the floor in the dust. Maybe, just maybe the Eagles finally have their Jackson replacement.
22 – Minnesota Vikings – A.J. Terrell – Cornerback – Clemson
The Vikings off season started with huge cap issues, Kirk Cousins restructured and extended his contract to allow the team to compete in the Free Agency market. For years Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman have built an enviable suffocating defense that was number 1 overall in 2017, a lot of these pieces have disappeared and regressed in their play with Everson Griffen saying a tearful farewell and Linval Joseph also being released from the Defensive Line. They replaced Joseph with run stuffer Michael Pierce from Baltimore who is one of the Top 5 premium rush defenders along the line and should eat the ample space Joseph used to consume, Minnesota at times struggled to stop the running conceding 4.3 yards per play. They will hope Ifeadi Odenigbo continues to improve following a 7 sack season and will add depth in the draft later at Edge. The Linebackers with the outstanding All-Pro Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr remain along with the Safety pairing of Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris, although as Harris was franchised don’t disregard a draft day trade involving him. The Corner class was decimated however with the Vikings unsurprisingly releasing Rhodes after a poor season. Trae Waynes tested the market and got paid more than the Vikings could ever hope or want to give him. Mackenzie Alexander followed Waynes to Cincinatti in what seemed a fall out with Zimmer over being asked to play injured in the Week 17 game against Chicago. Jayron Kearse provided Safety Depth and big nickel duties and also walked following an extended punishment for bye week misdemeanors. The Vikings got picked on in the secondary last year and allowed 6.2 Yards per pass which shows the explosive play give up. I expect the Vikings to pick 2 corners in this draft to play opposite the inconsistent and talented, but oft injured Mike Hughes and Holton Hill who will hope to contribute more on the field than spending time suspended off it. With this pick I think Zimmer will get misty eyed looking at the intangibles in A.J. Terrell. His fluid hips and change of direction allow him to mirror wide receivers down the field. In the past 2 seasons Terrell has allowed 22 receptions on 52 targets allowing 8 first downs and making 11 plays on the ball. He can get bullied down the field as shown in the Championship game against Lamarr Chase of LSU however to Terrell’s credit he was in position and Chase is maybe a Top 5 pick next year. Zimmer will hope with more coaching he can be a true NFL lockdown corner.
23 – New England Patriots – A.J. Epenesa – Edge – Iowa
For the first time in a long time the Patriots need a Quarterback. The Brady era is over and the Patriots fans now wait in anticipation at the question, “What Now?” The Patriots have said Jarrett Stidham is a player they have confidence in and it’s whether we believe this to be true or not with Belichick giving very little away….in fact in his own words he doesn’t see anything different and will prepare in the same way with another QB starting under center. The Patriots were fortunate they were in a poor division last year as they somehow managed to win the division for the 11th season in a row. This was mostly thanks to opportunistic Special Teams play and mostly to that of a defense that until week 8 were on for a record breaking season in points per game allowed. They finished the season first in most categories with an average of 14.4 Points per Game, 4.7 Yards per Play and allowing a 3rd down completion rate of 25.6%. It was of course on offense they stumbled. 1st Round selection from last year’s draft N’Keal Harry struggled to get open, the Mohammed Sanu trade was a high price to pay for a veteran and he got injured, Edelman is not the player he was and was suspended at the start of the season. The huge Gronkowski shaped hole was also sorely missed. Without trying to 2nd guess the Patriots way forward on offense they could pick Jordan Love if they fell in love with him and may even trade up to get him, but I’m giving them A.J. Epenesa. He seems a true Patriots type player to me, plenty of effort strength and power. His production at Iowa, with double digit sacks for his 2 starting seasons and 4 Forced Fumbles in each of those two, shows it’s hard to argue his skills won’t transition into the NFL. The complaint being the lack of bend and flexibility to be a true difference maker at edge. What he does have is height, at 6’5 he has power and is a hand to hand technician. This fits him to a 5 tech moving inside on 3rd and long obvious passing downs to do damage against slower Interior Lineman. The Patriots do have a need on the interior and especially one that can provide more than just run blocking ability having lost QB pressure players Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins in Free Agency.
24 – New Orleans Saints – Trevon Diggs – Cornerback Alabama
The Saints roster looks to be the most impressive from top to bottom and with Brees back for what will probably be the his final season they can be in the position to pick the best player available here. Their offensive line remains probably the best unit of 5 in the NFL with Ryan Ramczyk, the newly resigned Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, Larry Warford and Terron Armstead providing excellent run and pass blocking allowing only 25 sacks all season. They’ll be looking for an upward trend from Alvin Kamara following a below par season and with him being on a contract year and Christian McCaffrey being paid I expect a return to form. He’ll be backed up by Latavious Murray as an excellent blocker and 3rd down back who is also on his final year, they could look to add depth at this position later in the draft as at time they struggled to run the ball and struggled in critical moments in the Red Zone ranking 11th in Red Zone efficiency percentage. The Saints have no round 2 pick so they’re a prime candidate for a trade back should a QB hungry team be calling. They added Emmanuel Sanders in Free Agency addressing a need for someone to play opposite Michael Thomas following his huge season. The addition of veteran Malcolm Jenkins adds considerable depth to a safety quartet completed with Marcus Williams, Chaucey Gardner-Johnson and DJ Swearinger. I’m not sure whether I believe Taysom Hill is the successor to Drew Brees but I don’t see a QB being drafted here. Instead I see them taking a player who is opportunistic at corner like Trevon Diggs. Whilst he is raw there is a lot to love with size and ball production with 3 interceptions last season and one being returned for a score. At 6’1 205lbs with near 33 inch arms Diggs has the tools NFL teams covet and fits a need, albeit a developmental one, at corner with the Saints seemingly forced to bring back P.J Williams. Diggs should develop into a quality starter opposite Marshon Lattimore.
25 – Minnesota Vikings – Josh Jones – Offensive Tackle – Houston
With the Vikings picking at 25 so soon after 22 we must look at the big storyline of the Stefon Diggs trade. Diggs it seems was not content with his role in the Minnesota offense, with Adam Thielen there and Dalvin Cook being the main focal point of the offense Diggs had ambitions to be the true Number 1 receiver. His obvious in game frustration at Cousins or the play calling meant for an unhappy time when winning football was not being played. Whilst the fan base remains unhappy with this obvious loss of talent and elite route running skills it can’t be argued that Rick Spielman did not get excellent value for this trade from Buffalo, (especially in comparison with the Arizona Hopkins trade). The Vikings have needs in a lot of areas, Wide Receiver being an obvious one. Bisi Johnson far outplayed his 7th round draft selection and Tajae Sharpe brings depth to the receiver room but the Vikings also have a huge need along the Offensive Line, Josh Kline who was a solid starter was surprisingly released with no obvious cover, Pat Elflein has played poorly for too long now and will likely be replaced. Garrett Bradbury last year’s 1st round selection started poorly but had some good games later in the season and besides centers can take time to adapt to the NFL game. Brian O’Neill has been excellent at Right Tackle and Riley Reiff is probably over paid for average left tackle play. I’m sure the Vikings would like to add a future starter at this position and offload Reiff’s contract so I have them taking Josh Jones from Houston here. Jones has tremendous athleticism and upside but is a raw prospect. His pass blocking grade at Houston was inflated due to the offense essentially asking him to punch once into the opposing rusher before the ball came out of the Quarterbacks hands half a second later, however he answered questions at the Senior Bowl after a shaky start and dominated in one on one drills moving him up draft boards. The Vikings will be doing their homework on tackles in this draft and I can see them forgo drafting a receiver due to the positional depth and taking an area of future need.
26 – Miami Dolphins – Isaiah Wilson – Offensive Tackle – Georgia
The Dolphins Offensive Line was the worst in football last year. As previously stated their QBs were sacked 58 times and on nearly 9% of their passing plays. After Quarterback their biggest need in the draft is for offensive lineman and lots of them. They also finished last in rushing yards per game and 31st in average yards per rush. They signed starters in Free Agency including Ereck Flowers who has found more success as a guard than at tackle and Ted Karras who deputised in New England after David Andrews went down with an injury. Jesse Davis provides Guard or Tackle depth and Julie’n Davenport is raw at left tackle with good fundamentals. Michael Deiter a 3rd round selection from last year’s draft showed most promise of the unit. The Dolphins signed Jordan Howard and you have to assume a Running Back addition early on Day 2 so I have them taking Isaiah Wilson from Georgia with this pick. Wilson is an enormous man at 6’6 and 350 lbs, his combine workout and athletic toolset has seen his rise up many boards. He should immediately help in the running game providing an imposing presence in power schemes. He had over 1600 snaps at Georgia and had seasons run blocking for Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Miami will look to add more depth here but this selection gives a player with high upside.
Note – It’s at this point I can see a trade up from potentially Chargers or Colts to Seattle, Tennessee or San Francisco for a QB. I fully expect 4 QBs to go in the 1st round but trades are impossible to predict and my mock deals with Team Needs and trends to try and predict who will go where.
27 – Seattle Seahawks – Cesar Ruiz – Offensive Line – Michigan
For a team that has traded out of their 1st round pick 3 times in the past 6 years it’s difficult to gauge a draft strategy for their first round pick. John Schneider’s hit rate for early picks is mixed but he continues to have an excellent mid to late round success rate. The 2020 season will be all about Russell Wilson again. In a season where Wilson’s numbers of 66% completion over 4100 yards 31 TDs 5 Interceptions he was at times talked about as an MVP candidate. The manner in which he was playing with a porous Offensive Line which had him running for his life, made you feel sorry that such a talent was being wasted. No more did this show up than in the Play-off Game against the Packers. They need to improve the talent around him to maximize their opportunity to contend now. They lost George Fant in Free Agency and released Mike Iupati whose best days were behind him. They added depth on the Line in Brandon Shell, Cedric Ogbuehi and Chance Warmack but this still feels an area of need as these players best days remain behind them or likely won’t ever get to them! DK Metcalf was a plus this season flashing dominantly at times, his 900 yard 7 Touchdown season with an average of 15 yards per reception finally gave Seattle a target outside of Tyler Lockett. The Secondary remains an area of strength and Bobby Wagner is arguably still one of the best off ball linebackers in the NFL. The loss of Jadeveon Clowney will be felt by the team with their on field play rather than on the stat sheet with Seattle still feeling like a potential trade candidate for Yannick Ngakoue. However it’s Offensive Line that’s needed and I’ve given Seattle Cesar Ruiz here. He’s by far the best interior lineman in the class and has the flexibility to play center or guard. At only 20 years old when declaring, the junior has shown all the physical attributes required for the next level whilst being so young he still has plenty of growth in size and ability. The advantage of this selection is Ruiz being an immediate starter in an area of need.
28 – Baltimore Ravens – Patrick Queen – Linebacker – LSU
There’s not a lot left to say following the Baltimore Ravens brilliant and exciting 2019 season. They broke franchise and NFL records in rushing having a team combined 3,296 yards. This is nearly 900 more than 2nd placed team San Francisco whose own running game was problematic for opposing Defenses. Lamarr Jackson’s rise to the current level he’s playing at could never have been predicted to this extent. It does however show true commitment to a Quarterback and more importantly a scheme that he will thrive in. From the moment he was drafted Baltimore set about changing to adapt to spread offense and true option style running and passing game. Some of the greats of the 60s would’ve loved the throwback to some of the formations and single wing elements Baltimore used. Their offense, especially in the AFC, is one Defensive coordinators will be spending the off season studying. However Jackson has another year of development as a passer and I expect Baltimore to add to their receiving corps. Mark Andrews was the team’s leading receiver. Marquise Brown showed a fleetness of foot but played hurt and his potential was stifled. Greg Roman would love another receiver to contribute to this team and fit. The retirement of Marshall Yanda is a difficult space to fill with him being a future Hall of Famer, so interior Offensive Line could be looked at in later rounds. The Ravens franchise tagged Matt Judon but nothing screams a Ravens pick than a Linebacker. I have Patrick Queen being a perfect fit here. Queen plays with high energy and elite speed at the position as displayed by a 4.5s 40 yard dash. He’s able to chase the ball sideline to sideline and has good coverage skills allowing just 165 yards in 355 coverage snaps last season. Ravens get another good linebacker to finally replace the loss of CJ Moseley.
29 – Tennessee Titans – Jeff Gladney – Cornerback – TCU
The Tennessee Titans were the surprise package of last season, with Marcus Mariota benched into their 7th game with a current 2 and 4 record it seemed an uphill struggle to mediocrity. However Ryan Tannehill came in and played a season that maybe even he didn’t think he was capable of, pulling the Titans into the AFC Championship game with a huge upset over the Baltimore Ravens on the way. This was mostly thanks to Derrick Henry who took the rushing crown and provided the consistency his game has at times lacked since being drafted 4 years ago. They wisely franchised Henry this season for another run but paid Tannehill handsomely, for a player considered a “trailor” more than a “truck” only time will tell if this was the right decision. They lost Jack Conklin in Free Agency but seem to have confidence in swing tackle Dennis Kelly that he can fill the void here or the Titans may be a trade back candidate with interest in Lucas Niang in the top of the 2nd round. They need help at Edge having brought in Vic Beasley to add depth alongside Kamalei Correa who is also like Beasley more a speed rusher. Harold Landry had an excellent rookie season but fell off in Year 2 and Tennessee will be hoping he can come back to form and progress to be the leading pass rusher the team needs. However at cornerback outside of Malcolm Butler and the flashy Adoree Jackson they don’t have much depth or an option at nickel. I can see Jeff Gladney being a selection here. Gladney is aggressive and has that cornerback swagger and is constantly in receiver’s faces. He plays taller than his 5’10 and is extremely sticky downfield with flashing speed allowing him to mirror receivers in downfield plays. He saw 78 targets downfield and only allowed 19 to be caught with 26 intercepted or forced to incompletion. He can play inside straight away and has the lateral movement to cover the slot and potentially win the starting job outside.
30 – Green Bay Packers – Justin Jefferson – Wide Receiver – LSU
The Packers 13-3 record and appearance in the Championship was a surprise and credit must go to first year head coach Matt Lafleur. Getting the most out of Aaron Rodgers and allowing him to play within himself but producing moments of magic when needed seemed to be the best way to a winning strategy. The Packers so often a team building through the draft rather than Free Agency bucked that trend last year bringing in Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith as outside Linebackers to rush the passer and the former being one of the Free Agency deals of the season as they combined for 25 sacks. Some of the fan base remain frustrated with Rodgers reluctance to force passes as he once did which accounts for his impressive interception ratio, but the reality is his weapons are few and far between. He had a run game in Aaron Jones for the first time since Eddy Lacy put up numbers. Jones ran for over a 1000 yards and had 16 touchdowns. However their Passing statistics and Total yards remain middle of the pack and they have a need at receiver that can do something different for them from what they already have. This strategy of big body receivers who can’t get open seems to be a trend as they brought in Devin Funchess who offers nothing different from their existing receiver room. The almost like for like replacements of Christian Kirksey for Blake Martinez and Ricky Wagner for Bryan Bulaga means they won’t miss much of a beat in these Free Agency losses. Jimmy Graham also was not offered a contract and it feels a value Tight End on Day 2 could also be in play for Green Bay. As mentioned among their existing receivers only Devante Adams stands out with big play threat and I think the only receiver Rodgers feels 100% comfortable in throwing too. In this mock Justin Jefferson falls. Whilst primarily used as a slot receiver in college he is a route technician and wins with receiver smarts he should develop a good chemistry with Rodgers who had a bond with Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings on account of those receivers winning with their technique rather than large frame and contested catch ability.
31 – San Francisco 49ers – Xavier McKinney – Safety – Alabama
The 49ers secondary needs more depth with an aging Richard Sherman finally showing signs of regression. He looked off the pace last season at times despite his proclamations otherwise. The team added Jason Verrett in Free Agency and whilst an excellent player when fit, his knee and ankle injuries means he’s only played in 65 regular season snaps since Week 5 of the 2016 season. Akhello Witherspoon plays opposite Sherman and is a long corner who struggles with locating the ball and can get beat on double moves. Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are starting safeties but with Xavier McKinney still on the board here, the value is too good to ignore. McKinney may not be the most explosive athlete but he can do it all, tackle, cover and good ball skills. McKinney has played over 450 snaps in the box, slot and free safety over the past 2 years. McKinney has 5 interceptions over the past 2 years as a starter, 6 sacks and 6 Forced Fumbles. This type of production could be a steal at the end of the 1st round.
32 –Kansas City Chiefs – Bryce Hall – Cornerback – Virgina
The Kansas City Chiefs look to usher in a new reign of dominance in the AFC, The King is Dead…well retiring in Tampa, Long live the King. Pat Mahomes has taken the NFL by storm and is a hugely exciting prospect to watch. The Chiefs seemingly dead and buried twice in the Play offs rallied back both times on the back of their star QB. So, what other areas of need do Kansas have being Superbowl champs? Well their Defense whilst it improved as players like Chris Jones returned was at times carried by their offense. The outstanding Tyrann Mathieu was a true team leader and could be seen visibly vocally frustrated on the sidelines often when the Defense were relying on the big play offense. They lost Kendall Fuller and Morris Claiborne in Free Agency and only have Bashaud Breeland as a starter from last year. They surprisingly resigned Damien Williams despite the obvious Running Back talent available in the draft but it’s corner where I have them going here. Bryce Hall would’ve been a higher grade if injury hadn’t killed his 2020 draft stock. His 6’1 frame with long levers of 32inch arms works well in press coverage. Before getting hurt he had the best forced incompletion percentage of 28.2% in all college football. He should thrive in a press zonal scheme for the Champs.
Some Notes on Teams with no 1st Round Pick
Chicago Bears – It feels the Bears are in a very sticky situation with the Mitch Trubisky wheels coming off. They’re paying the highest paid Tight End in the league for minimal production and still seem to need one confusingly landing Jimmy Graham in Free Agency. They signed Robert Quinn to a big contract opposite Khalil Mack and the roster looks in competitive shape. However, until the QB play improves they will continue to struggle in what looks to be another competitive NFC North division
Los Angeles Rams – The Rams won’t have a 1st round pick in the draft until 2022 instead opting to spend in Free Agency and trade picks for players. This gamble got them to the big game but wasn’t enough to see off the Patriots in the 2018 season. They’re tied into a multi-million-dollar multi-year contract with Jared Goff and have lost Todd Gurley who was a Team Captain and certainly a face of the franchise type player. Snead has drafted well in later rounds and has needed too with their lack of picks. They also will look to make Jalen Ramsey the highest paid cornerback in the league following the two 1st round picks given for his services. They have an obvious need at Running Back and Left Tackle after bringing back Andrew Whitworth for one more season. On the defensive side of the ball they’ll be pleased with the play from Troy Reeder but will look at linebacker also.
Houston Texans – The Texans have no General Manager and instead allow Bill O’Brien to make the decisions, the baffling trade getting rid of one of the NFL’s best receivers for limited compensation and a large Running Back contract has not shown him in the best of light. However the roster is brimming with talent starting with DeShaun Watson at Quarterback. Getting Bradley Roby in at corner was a smart move and fills an immediate need. The Interior Defensive Line could require an upgrade despite Charles Omenihu playing well as a rookie
Buffalo Bills – The Bills traded away their first round pick for Stefon Diggs. They obviously looked at their draft position and worked out what it would cost to get one of Jeudy or Lamb and instead opted to trade. It can’t be argued they didn’t get one of the game’s leading deep threats and route technicians. The questions marks will be on whether Josh Allen can connect with Diggs and form chemistry, if this doesn’t happen quickly there could be problems. The Bills have an excellent defense with Trumaine Edmunds at its core. They extended Quinton Spain for lack of better options on the interior and could look to add depth here.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Tomlin was the real coach of the year, after the catastrophic season in 2018, this season was all about putting the past behind them. Inside Week 1 Ben Roethlisburger had a season ending injury. Devin Bush had a good rookie season and Bud Dupree is back but edge remains a need for the Steelers to get the “Steel Curtain” defense back doing what it does best.
Indianapolis Colts – The Colts brought in Phil Rivers to try and go for a win now situation. The huge disappointment the franchise felt at the Andrew Luck retirement was a surprise but understandable from Luck’s standpoint after his constant battles with injury. The Colts almost managed to get to the play offs but for some late season loss of momentum. They need weapons for Rivers on the outside and protection in the middle as Rivers will not be a mobile QB.
Well that’s it, thanks for reading. Please feel free to comment on the article
For a bit of fun I’ve tried to select 2nd and 3rd round picks for Team Needs
33 – Cincinatti Bengals – Terrell Lewis – Edge – Alabama
34 – Indianapolis Colts – K.J. Hamler – Wide Receiver – Penn. State
35 – Detroit Lions – Ross Blacklock – Defensive Line – TCU
36 – New York Giants – Lucas Niang – Offensive Tackle – TCU
37 – Los Angeles Chargers – Jalen Hurts – Quarterback – Oklahoma
38 – Carolina Panthers – Marlon Davidson – Defensive Line – Auburn
39 – Miami Dolphins – D’Andre Swift – Running Back – Georgia
40 – Houston Texans – Yetur Gross-Matos – Edge – Penn. State
41 – Cleveland Browns – Antoine Winfield Jnr – Safety – Minnesota
42 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Grant Delpit – Safety – LSU
43 – Jaylon Johnson – Cornerback – Utah
44 – Indianapolis Colts – Jordan Love – Quarterback – Utah State
45 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Clyde Edwards-Helaire – Running Back – LSU
46 – Denver Broncos – Damon Arnette – Cornerback – Ohio State#
47 – Atlanta Falcons – Noah Igbinoghene – Cornerback – Aurburn
48 – New York Jets – Austin Jackson – Offensive Tackle – USC
49 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Justin Madubuike – Defensive Line – Texas A&M
50 – Chicago Bears – Ezra Cleveland – Offensive Tackle – Boise State
51 – Dallas Cowboys – Darnay Holmes – Cornerback – UCLA
52 – Los Angeles Rams – Willie Gay Jr – Linebacker – Mississippi State
53 – Philadelphia Eagles – Jordan Brooks – Linebacker – Texas Tech
54 – Buffalo Bills – Jonathan Taylor – Running Back – Wisconsin
55 – Baltimore Ravens – Jonah Jackson – Offensive Line – Ohio State
56 – Miami Dolphins – Lloyd Cushenberry III – Offensive Line – LSU
57 – Los Angeles Rams – J.K. Dobbins – Running Back – Ohio State
58 – Minnesota Vikings – Brandon Aiyuk – Wide Receiver – Arizona State
59 – Seattle Seahawks – Neville Gallimore – Defensive Line – Oklahoma
60 – Baltimore Ravens – Laviska Shenault Jr – Wide Receiver – Colorado
61 – Tennessee Titans – Davon Hamilton – Defensive Line – Ohio State
62 – Green Bay Packers – Adam Trautman – Tight End – Dayton
63 – Kansas City Chiefs – Matt Hennessey – Offensive Line – Temple
64 – Seattle Seahawks – Zack Baun – Edge – Wisconsin
65 – Cincinatti Bengals – Tee Higgins – Wide Receiver – Clemson
66 – Washington Redskins – Robert Hunt – Offensive Line – Louisiana
67 – Detroit Lions – Joshua Uche – Edge – Michigan
68 – New York Jets – Curtis Weaver – Edge – Boise State
69 – Carolina Panthers – Jeremy Chinn – Safety – Southern Illinois
70 – Miami Dolphins – Ashtyn Davis – Safety – California
71 – Los Angeles Chargers – Cameron Dantzler – Cornerback – Mississippi State
72 – Arizona Cardinals – Cole Kmet – Tight End – Notre Dame
73 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Chase Claypool – Wide Receiver – Notre Dame
74 – Cleveland Browns – Malik Harrison – Linebacker – Ohio State
75 – Indianapolis Colts – Julian Okwara – Edge – Notre Dame
76 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Donovan Peoples-Jones – Wide Receiver – Michigan
77 – Denver Broncos – Matthew Peart – Offensive Tackle – UConn
78 – Atlanta Falcons – Jake Fromm – Quarterback – Georgia
79 – New York Jets – Michael Ojemudia – Cornerback – Iowa
80 – Las Vegas Raiders – Jordan Elliott – Defensive Line – Missouri
81 – Las Vegas Raiders – Amik Robertson – Cornerback – Lousiana Tech
82 – Dallas Cowboys – Kyle Dugger – Safety – Lenoir-Rhyne
83 – Denver Broncos – Raekwon Davis – Defensive Line – Alabama
84 – Los Angeles Rams – Darrell Taylor – Edge – Tennessee
85 – Detroit Lions – Jacob Eason – Quarterback – Detroit Lions
86 – Buffalo Bills – Jonathan Greenard – Edge – Florida
87 – New England Patriots – Thadeus Moss – Tight End – LSU
88 – New Orleans Saints – Akeem Davis-Gaither – Linebacker – Appalachian State
89 – Minnesota Vikings – Netane Muti – Offensive Line – Fresno State
90 – Houston Texans – Rashard Lawrence – Defensive Line – LSU
91 – Las Vegas Raiders – Troy Dye – Linebacker – Oregon
92 – Baltimore Ravens – Cam Akers – Running Back – Florida State
93 – Tennessee Titans – Kenny Willekes – Edge – Michigan State
94 – Green Bay Packers – Larrell Murchison – North Carolina State
95 – Denver Broncos – Bradlee Anae – Edge – Utah
96 – Kansas City Chiefs – Antonio Gibson – Running Back – Memphis
97 – Cleveland Browns – Nick Harris – Offensive Line – Washington
98 – New England Patriots – Van Jefferson – Wide Receiver – Florida
99 – New York Giants – Bryan Edwards – Wide Receiver – South Carolina
100 – New England Patriots – Prince Tega Wanogho – Offensive Tackle – Auburn
101 – Seattle Seahawks – Saahdiq Charles – Offensive Tackle – LSU
102 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Damien Lewis – Offensive Line – LSU
103 – Philadelphia Eagles – Alohi Gilman – Safety – Notre Dame
104 – Los Angeles Rams – Reggie Robinson III – Cornerback – Tulsa
105 – Minnesota Vikings – Jabari Zuniga – Edge – Florida
106 – Baltimore Ravens – Anfernee Jennings – Edge – Alabama
Statistics for this Mock Draft from
….and my own busy brain. Thanks for reading. I’d welcome any feedback good and most importantly bad as long as you’re nice. Find me @kevinsayer on twitter