Mike's NFL Mock Draft 1.0
Alas, mock draft season is upon us. If your team is a perennial cellar dweller like mine, this sadly is the most exciting time of the year. Experts everywhere are beginning to piece together every team's possible direction, trying to find the best ratio of value versus need.
The best part about writing your own mock? You don't have to be right. In fact, you won't be. Even the most prominent experts and scouts will miss more than half of their projections. But it's not their fault. It's impossible to read the minds of NFL decision makers, which is exactly what they want. The next few months will be filled with everybody doing their research, trying not to tip their hands.
So these mocks are meant more to be about fun and giving you a rough idea of how the top picks may shake out. Also, maybe about bragging rights going to the guy who's the least wrong. Let's get to it.
1.) Joe Burrow, QB, LSU - Cincinnati Bengals
Well, 1-for-1 so far. This one seems to be a lock, and for good reason. Burrow has had one of the most spectacular seasons for a quarterback in recent memory. The mix of aggressiveness and precision is off the charts. And there's a clear need here for the Bengals. Sometimes, it's time to move on. This season wasn’t Andy Dalton's fault. And he’s a fine player. But he's never shown the ability to uplift those around him, leaving an offense reeling when a few key injuries take place. The Ohio kid is coming home. Write this one in ink.
2.) Chase Young, DE, Ohio State - Washington
All right, we’re 2-for-2. Barring a trade, which could happen if a team a few picks down the board is absolutely enamored with a quarterback and mortgages their future. However, I think when generational talent is sitting in your lap, you hand in the card and don't look back. Washington has talent deficiencies all over the roster, except quarterback. Chase young is the best player on the board, playing at a premium position. We might as well start calling OSU pass rusher University, having the Bosa brothers consecutive years be drafted top five, and now Young. Who I believe will be the best of the bunch. Washington may be headed in the right direction, already landing the bell of the ball in the coaching world. Now, give him an athletic freak who can roam the line of scrimmage and deal out double digit sacks for the next ten years.
3.) Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State - Detroit Lions
This one is far from a lock. Detroit has a pile of needs as well. They most likely would have been a nine win team if Stafford stayed healthy. But other options here could have been defensive tackle Derrick Brown out of Auburn, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy out of Alabama, or maybe edge rusher A.J. Espenesa. But with needs everywhere, I think they go Okudah here to create a top five CB duo, pairing him with Darius Slay. The Lions are also in a prime spot to trade down to a QB thirsty team, and stack some later picks to fill more than just one need.
4.) Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia - New York Giants
The Giants are in need of serious defensive help, but with the cap space they have, I think they pick up a few plug and play free agents to fill that side of the ball. Priority should be protecting the young signal caller. Daniel Jones had 17 fumbles this season (11 lost) and I think anchoring his blind side with the best tackle available is the smart move. Give him more time, parceled with an assumption he holds the ball a little less as the game slows down for him in year two, should help boost an offense on the rise. Nate Solder had been a bit of a disappointing signing for them, so let's add the 320 lbs OT with a mean streak next to Will Hernandez, another guy who plays angry. It's time for these Giants to find their identity.
5.) Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama - Miami Dolphins
Love this pick, and the only way I see it not happening is if teams leapfrog Miami to snag Tua earlier. Miami played with inspired effort the second half of the 2019 season. Nobody saw these guys getting to five wins. Depleted of true stars on both sides of the ball, they won based on pure heart. Clearly not a team that quit on the season, or their coach. In my mind, Brian Flores should have been in the running for coach of the year, simply due to getting this team to believe they can complete, even after trading away three of their best players and seeing another top guy go to IR mid-season. The Offensive line needs some work to sustain a rookie signal caller, so that needs to be addressed with their insane amount of draft capital or via free agency, or they should stick with Fitzmagic and let the kid sit and learn.
6.) Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama - L.A. Chargers
A lot of people are expecting the Chargers to pick Phillip Rivers’ successor here, which could happen. However, I think it's more likely they trade up for Tua, which would cost a king's ransom, than it would be to take Justin Herbert this high. Rivers may have lost a little zip in his arm lately, causing him to throw 20 interceptions this season. Very reasonable to think the Chargers may look to move on from this, but with a defense built to win now, I think they make one final stand with Rivers. Elite defenses provide a short window for success, and by the time Herbert developed, that defense most likely won’t be what it is now. Adding Jeudy leaves this offense stacked. Keenan Allen and Jeudy on the outside, Mike Williams as a great jump ball/red zone threat, above average tight end and running game. This is the best way to avoid a total rebuild and present a win now contender.
7.) Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon - Carolina Panthers
We've all learned by now, quarterbacks get pushed up the board. Not that this kid isn't deserving, he has high character, prototypical size, and an above average arm to start in this league. A small concern is I don't think he's a great system fit for what Carolina's offense has been lately. However, this is a totally new regime implementing their system. Which would be built specifically around what Herbert does well if that is indeed the pick. However having Christian McCaffrey on the roster would be a rookie quarterbacks’ best friend. Not knowing who is going to be making this selection makes this prediction almost impossible, since we won't have any feel for how the new regime will feel about Cam Newton. Look for them to seek out secondary help if Newton remains in town.
8.) CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma - Arizona Cardinals
Arizona could honestly use a pass rusher, an offensive tackle, or secondary help here as well. I think the remaining top tackle and secondary prospects are a little bit of a reach here. So this pick really comes down to Lamb versus Espenesa. I'm going to lean toward Lamb, because Fitzgerald isn't getting any younger, and there's not another elite playmaker on this roster. Enjoy pairing the two for as long as Fitz plays, and who better for a young star to learn from? Not only about how to be an elite player in this league, but how to be a true professional. You can't ask for a better mentor, if Fitz does indeed embrace that role. But with this addition, this team could have some real fire power sooner rather than later.
9.) Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson - Jacksonville Jaguars
Being a Jags fan, this is a tough pick to project, because I believe the entire organization and fans alike are torn between the future of the quarterback position. Has Minshew shown enough? Does Foles get another shot based on his cap number? For the sake of this, and the fact that the top three signal callers are already gone, we will assume Minshew is the starter going into the offseason. Winning Week 17 also dropped them from the fifth pick and in line to grab Tua, down to here. Now, Isaiah Simmons is a perfect fit for today's linebacker. A fierce tackler with a ton of size that excels in coverage and has the ability to crowd the line and improve the league's worst rush defense. Plug this guy as a day one starter, and hopefully he can turn into a tone setter for this defense that desperately needs one.
10.) Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa - Cleveland Browns
What a difficult season for a team with aspirations of turning the corner. The offense just didn't gel, and the defense shows most of their fight after the whistle. Shots fired. I still believe Baker Mayfield has the moxy and makeup to make this work. But he can't make it work while he's constantly staring down the barrel of a loaded gun like he's in a Shinedown music video. Get this guy some help in the trenches, give him time to settle his feet, get OBJ healthy, and pretend last season didn't happen. I'm sure that's what Freddie Kitchens will try to do as well.
11.) A.J. Epenesa, EDGE - New York Jets
I really like this pick. Not sure Epenesa makes it this far down the board, but.if he does I think the Jets make this pick easily. They also need receiver help, but if Lamb and Jeudy are both gone here, this WR class is deep enough to find an instant contributor in later rounds. Few premium offensive linemen are available here, so they should look to fill those holes in free agency or in later rounds. Epenesa is a solid edge guy that has the ability to play multiple spots along the defensive line. Primarily known as a pass rusher, he can also stand his ground against the run, making him an instant three down starter.
12.) Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma - Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders are in desperate need of help at the second level of that defense. Murray might be a slight reach here as I originally had him pegged as a late-teens/early 20s selection, but he just fits so perfectly with what this team needs. Murray is a sub 4.6 linebacker, which is serious speed at that position. He has the ability to go sideline to sideline, and I could see him challenging star safety Johnathan Abram for leading this team in tackles.
13.) Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU - Indianapolis Colts
Indy could also go with Fulton’s teammate Grant Delpit here, as they need help all along the secondary, but I think they lean this way due to positional importance. They also need a wide receiver, so Shenault was an option here, but I felt he had too similar of a skill set to TY Hilton. Indy needs guys that can at least limit Hopkins and the other up and coming wide outs within the division to get back in the AFC South race next year.
14.) D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The first back comes off the board here, a bit later than in recent years. Jones and Barber performed admirably this season at times, but it's been too long since they've had a true three down back. They need to find someone who can put up consistent production to alleviate the need to throw the ball 50 times per game. I think they need to cut Winston's attempts way down, and riding the hot hand in the backfield isn't ideal when neither back on the roster proves he can stay hot for more than one straight week.
15.) Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn - Denver Broncos
Denver should be ecstatic if Brown makes it this far. He's the best interior lineman in this class, and his play warrants a top ten pick. Sometimes players fall by no fault of their own, and he could easily go well before this, but for the sake of this mock, Brown is the biggest "faller" in round one. Denver has the guys on the edge, and they think they have the offense on which they can build for the future. So they get bigger up front, stingier against the run, and piece-by-piece start to build the same style defense that worked so well in their last Superbowl run. They've been searching for a guy to fill that Malik Jackson role for a handful of years now. Now they get their guy.
16.) Xavier McKinney, CB, Alabama - Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta might not be as far off as they thought they were a few months ago. They still have offensive weapons everywhere, although some more offensive line help wouldn't hurt (join the club.) But, it's hard to have a winning record trying to win every game 38-33. They get a guy that can match up on the opposing team's best receiver and McKinney should be able to at least slow them down a bit. He's not a shut down type, but he can hold his own consistently and has proven so against some big time SEC competition.
17.) Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado - Dallas Cowboys
This pick is assuming Dallas is unable to retain Amari Cooper. Dallas has dealt out some massive contracts recently and still have to work out how to keep Dak around. That's priority number one. Doing so may result in letting Cooper walk in free agency. Shenault is my favorite receiver in this draft. The guy has elite speed, great hands, and has also been very successful for the Buffaloes on end arounds, and kick returns. He's truly a do-it-all kind of guy. He's not the biggest guy, he won't win a bunch of jump balls or be a red zone specialist, but he can certainly take the top off the defense and force defenses to shed safety help his way on a regular basis.
18.) Grant Delpit, S, LSU - Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh)
Miami uses the pick received from the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade to find his replacement. Grant Delpit is a fantastic player, an elite ball hawk who can also creep up toward the line and help stop the run, something Miami really struggled with this year. He should step in as a day one starter, capable of being the best player on that defense sooner rather than later.
19.) Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama - Las Vegas Raiders (via Bears)
The Raiders snag Jerry Jeudys running mate with their second selection of round one. A fourth wide receiver comes off the board in the top 20 picks. Not common, but this is not a common WR crop. The Raiders have gotten solid production from Tyrell Williams, and Renfrow looks to be a reliable option in the slot. Waller is a beast at tight end, adding Ruggs to the mix gives Derek Carr no more excuses to be anything but a top 15 offense next season.
20.) Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina - Jacksonville Jaguars (via Rams)
Once again the Jags make a move to sure up the league's worst run defense. With likely cap casualty Marcel Dareus most likely headed out of town, replacing him needs to be a top priority. Kinlaw is 6'6" 310 lbs, and should certainly be able to fill that void, both metaphorically and literally.
21.) Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama - Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia desperately needs to help out their solid defensive line by finding a cover guy to give them an extra half second to get home. Diggs is a big guy, probably the most physical corner in this draft, and would immediately improve an abysmal Eagles secondary.
22.) K'Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU - Tennessee Titans
Tennessee surprised a lot of teams this year. A lot of people thought this would be a team lead by it's stingy defense, which has been solid. It's the offense however that has jump started this season. The insertion of Tannehill into the starting line up proved genius. The passing offense has been potent, which has freed up room for Henry to bully people at the line of scrimmage. You could argue Tee Higgins here would make this offense elite, but instead I opt for Chaisson, a great pass rusher that can put real pressure on QBs while the Titans enjoy playing with a lot of leads next season, allowing the defensive line to pin their ears back in obvious passing situations.
23.) Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson - Buffalo Bills
The Billies are for real! Led by a stifling, suffocating defense, the bills are picking in the 20s for only the second time in the last 20 years. Josh Allen has played substantially better this season, especially since midseason, greatly reducing turnovers and able to find ways to win with his legs when the play breaks down. And he's doing this with virtually no tight end, no true number one wide receiver, and a rookie running back. Insert Higgins here. He's a big bodied guy that can high point the ball, a skill necessary when catching passes from a quarterback who still struggles with accuracy and takes chances into coverage. This is a perfect fit for the Clemson kid, if Higgins makes it this far.
24.) C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida - Minnesota Vikings
With Rhodes having a down year, and Waynes in the last year of his contract, Minnesota could end up really needing help at corner. Henderson is a long corner capable of locking down some of the elite receivers Minnesota has to see twice a year in a tough NFC North.
25.) Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson - Miami Dolphins (via Texans)
A perfect fit in my mind. I don't think Miami is that far off from pushing for 8-8 or 9-7 next year. They got their quarterback, they replaced Minkah, now they need a legitimate threat in the backfield. Laird just isn’t that guy. With three first round picks with the potential to make immediate impacts, this could be a much quicker turnaround than what was expected four months ago.
26.) Curtis Weaver, EDGE, Boise State - Seattle Seahawks
Even with Clowney on one side, this pick could get Seattle back to that epic level of defense we saw earlier in the decade. With two guys that can stalk the line and find their spots, Seattle will be able to create consistent pressure without having to bring extra guys.
27.) Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU - New England Patriots
New England entered the season perceived as unstoppable, with a receiving corps loaded with Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, and Demaryius Thomas. Now only Edelman remains, and he's in his mid 30s. New England did land Mohammad Sanu and N’Keal Harry in the first round, but he has been used sparingly in his rookie year. They must get deeper, and Jefferson proved against Oklahoma he can take over a game.
28.) Tyler Biadasz, OG, Wisconsin - Green Bay Packers
The best interior offensive lineman in the draft typically goes higher than 28th, but the run on wide receivers and corners in this year’s crop pushes Biadasz down the board. Green Bay faces some difficult cap decisions, one of which could involve Brian Bulaga. Even if Bulaga stays, Biadasz in my mind is BAP here. Rodgers is fantastic on the run, but no quarterback doesn't want more time in the pocket. If the Packers make an earlier playoff exit, look for them to target one of the receivers taken in the most recent projections.
29.) Julian Okwara, DL, Notre Dame - Kansas City Chiefs
It's hard to find a need on the offensive side of the ball for the Chiefs, but the defense has plenty of holes, so here's guessing they start by shoring up the middle. When playing the Chiefs, every team wants to run the ball, eat clock, and keep Pat Mahomes off the field. If this defense can shut down the run, opposing teams won't be able to control the time of possession, and therefore, Mahomes controls the game. Okwara has been solid for Notre Dame, the senior can play multiple spots along the line. He's not a true NT, as he comes in under 250 lbs., but he is still very stout against the run.
30.) Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State - New Orleans Saints
The Saints don't currently have much issue rushing the passer between Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport, but Jordan is going to be 31 next season. It may be time to start grooming his successor. If he is able to play at an elite level for a few more years, there's also no rule against having too many pass rushers. Most teams want to be able to rush the passer in waves, as the defensive line wears down much faster than an offensive line. Davenport has improved this year, but he hasn't reached his draft status expectations. Gross-Matos is as athletic as they come. At 6'5" 260, he's big and long at the point of attack, and can be a perennial ten-plus sack guy if he can refine his technique a little more.
31.) J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State - San Francisco 49ers
Although San Fran already has a loaded backfield, they don't have a true number one guy back there. Coleman has been a bit of a letdown, Breida lost his starting gig early in the season before eventually gaining it back. Mostert is more of a speed guy, but not much else. This defense needs nothing, and the offense is pretty well covered as well. With this pick, you’re really looking at depth or maybe some offensive line help. But I think the pick here is a skill guy that can take over the load out of the backfield right away. A home run hitter with absolutely no quit. His performance albeit in a losing effort against Clemson has earned him a place in Round One.
32.) Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama - Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore would have loved to see Gross-Matos continue to fall to them at this spot, as he probably ends up going mid teens before he would fall this far. But in this scenario, Baltimore takes the next best pass rusher on the board. They don't really have any glaring needs here. Maybe inside linebacker? But I think they look to pair another pass rusher along with Matthew Judon.