By: Dominic Choroski
Most of the free-agent dominos have fallen, granted Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, and Jadeveon Clowney are still looking for new homes. While there was some speculation that due to the coronavirus the draft would be pushed back to a later date, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently announced that the draft will proceed as scheduled. That means general managers have about a month to get their boards together and make decisions on who will be the future of their franchises. Below is my first-round mock draft. Note, I will not be predicting any trades in this mock, that being said, let’s get started.
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB (LSU)
Even the Bengals can’t find a way to bungle this one, right? Burrow is coming off the single greatest season college football has ever seen. 5,000+ passing yards, 50+ passing touchdowns, Heisman winner, and a national title. He’s an Ohio native, and unless some team comes along with a ridiculous offer for the number one overall pick, Burrow is a no-brainer.
2. Washington*: Chase Young, DE (Ohio State)
Look for this to be a possible trade spot for some teams looking to nab Tua. However, if Washington does stay at number two overall, it is hard to see Ron Rivera passing on a defensive generational talent at a position of need. Young is a better prospect than both Nick and Joey Bosa were coming out of college and will a premier pass rusher from day one. There are also some rumblings that Tua could end up being the pick here and letting him and Dwayne Haskins battle it out for the starting job. I don’t see that happening, mainly because of the affinity owner Dan Snyder has for Haskins.
*Sidenote: I refrain from using the name of the Washington football team because I find it offensive.
3. Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah, CB (Ohio State)
Trading away Darius Slay leaves a huge hole in Detroit’s secondary. Okudah is head and shoulders above every other corner in this draft. He has the size to match up with bigger-bodied receivers and the speed to check deep threats. Great hands, good instincts, and production, three interceptions, nine pass breakups, and two forced fumbles last season, means the Lions take the Buckeye and don’t look back.
4. New York Giants: Mekhi Becton, OL (Louisville)
The Giants brought in three linebackers in free agency, most notably Blake Martinez. On top of bringing in James Bradberry and franchise tagging Leonard Williams. There is more work to be done on the defensive side of the ball, but young quarterback Daniel Jones needs some protection upfront. Becton blew scouts away with his 5.1-second 40-yard dash at 357 pounds. While his weight is a concern, he has the explosiveness to protect on pass blocking and will move people on run downs.
5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB (Alabama)
The only knock on Tua is health. Multiple surgeries in his college career might scare some teams, but simply looking at his talent he is the best prospect in the entire draft this year. Accuracy, check. Arm strength, check. Leadership, check. Battle-tested, check. Had the former national title winner not suffered a scary hip injury this past season, he very likely would be the number one overall pick instead of Burrow. Miami has Ryan Fitzpatrick who can keep the team afloat while you redshirt Tua and unleash him the year after.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Tristan Wirfs, OL (Iowa)
I believe that Cam Newton is headed towards to the Bolts and will fill their quarterback need. That being said, Newton hasn’t been healthy since his MVP season in 2015. That means protecting him is a priority. The Chargers traded for one of the best offensive linemen in the league, Trai Turner, and double down here in the draft. Iowa has a reputation for putting out o-line men, and Wirfs fits the bill with phenomenal upper-body strength and the ability to switch between guard and tackle.
7. Carolina Panthers: Isiah Simmons, OLB (Clemson)
The sudden retirement of defensive leader Luke Kuechly opens a spot in the linebacker corp. Simmons is one of the best athletes in this draft and is certainly the most versatile. Listing him as an outside linebacker almost seems like a disservice because of how Dabo Swinney used him at every defensive position possible. Whatever position the Panthers decide to play him at, his impact will be felt immediately.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Jedrick Wills Jr, OL (Alabama)
The recent theft of a trade with the Houston Texans gained them one of the best receivers in the league, Deandre Hopkins, without giving up the eighth overall pick in the draft. So, with the receiver position taken care of, its time to get Offensive Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray some protection. Wills has fluid hips and quick-twitch feet that will fit perfectly for Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown, DL (Auburn)
The Jaguars get what very well might be the steal of the draft. Derrick Brown is a top-5 talent and having him fall in your lap at ninth overall after an offseason where Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus departed is as lucky as you can get. Brown’s get off at the snap will cause a ton of disruption for opposing offenses. He won’t be a sack leader but he will rack up tackles for loss and stuff the run.
10. Cleveland Browns: Andrew Thomas, OL (Georgia)
Cleveland was one of the busiest teams in free agency this year. Their biggest signing may have been offensive linemen Jack Conklin but in order to make sure Baker Mayfield has time to get the ball to his wealth of weapons another asset has to go towards fortifying the line. Thomas can play either tackle position and does a great job of positioning and leveraging against defenders.
11. New York Jets: Jerry Jeudy, WR (Alabama)
They would love to get an offensive lineman here but with the top four prospects gone, its time to get Sam Darnold some weapons. Robby Anderson signed with the Panthers, which leaves a spot open for a number one receiver. Insert the best route runner in the draft. Jeudy has a tremendous sense of running pro-style routes and is a touchdown magnet, scoring 24 touchdowns in two seasons. He’s a reliable option for a young developing quarterback.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: Javon Kinlaw, DL (South Carolina)
Defensive tackle isn’t the most urgent position of need for the Raiders, however, Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have tons of draft capital to grab a receiver or corner later in the first round. In this scenario, they go with the best player available. Kinlaw has top ten potential. His high motor and physical prowess adds some grit up front that will be needed against the offenses in their division.
13. San Francisco 49ers: Ceedee Lamb, WR (Oklahoma)
After trading Deforest Buckner to the Colts, the 49ers own the thirteenth overall pick in the draft. With Emmanuel Sanders signing with the Saints in free agency, the NFC champs need to get another weapon for Garoppolo. General Manager John Lynch hit big with Deebo Samuel in last year’s draft, this year he hits another home run with the dynamic Lamb. Three words to describe Lamb, yards after catch.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Deandre Swift, RB (Georgia)
The Bucs already have Ronald Jones, and finding some more protection up front for Tom Brady, man that sounds weird, is what they would like to do here, there aren’t any o-line prospects worth taking at the moment. That brings leaves Deandre Swift. A calling card of Brady led offenses have been shifty, tough running backs who can catch out of the backfield, which is a perfect description of Swift. He also is a better pass blocker than Jones.
15. Denver Broncos: Henry Ruggs III, WR (Alabama)
Drew Lock showed promise last year and earned a shot at being a starter, and John Elway did a good job bringing in more talent on both sides of the ball in free agency. Melvin Gordon joins Philip Lindsay out the backfield, Graham Glasgow upgrades the guard position. Now we get another stud receiver for Lock to sling it too. Ruggs set the combine ablaze running a 4.27 4o-yard dash. Pairing that type of speed, that can take the top off any defense, with big-bodied Courtland Sutton gives the Broncos one of the best, young receiver duos in the league.
16. Atlanta Falcons: C.J. Henderson, CB (Florida)
After releasing veteran Desmond Trufant, the dirty birds get to grab the second-best corner in the draft. Isiah Oliver has some developing to do and bringing in Henderson helps keep the pressure off him. The Florida Gator excels in reading the quarterback’s eyes and has tremendous anticipation. He also has the recovery speed needed to catch up to a receiver if he gets beat at the line. In a division where you will play Brady, Brees, and Bridgewater, you better have a secondary that can keep up.
17. Dallas Cowboys: K’Lavon Chaisson, OLB (LSU)
The ‘Boys have to be hurt seeing C.J. Henderson get selected right in front of them after losing Byron Jones to the Dolphins. However, the show must go on. Dallas was a middle of the pack team when it came to sacking the quarterback in 2019. Chaisson, even with an injury history, looks to be one of the more dominant pass rushers in the draft. He has great agility and can change direction with ease, and the fluidity to bend and get around linemen and wreak havoc in the backfield.
18. Miami Dolphins: Josh Jones, OL (Houston)
The Dolphins got their quarterback earlier now they get someone to keep him upright. Jones is still a bit raw, but there is a lot to like about his game. He has great lateral quickness, can pull to make tough to reach blocks, and can get to the second level to block linebackers. The most important thing is that throughout the season you could see the improvements he made, so a year of developing at the professional level and he will be a lock-in starter, which works for the Dolphins who don’t plan on playing Tua in his rookie year anyway.
19. Las Vegas Raiders: Tee Higgins, WR (Clemson)
Other than the Eagles, the Raiders may have the worst receivers corps in the league. Bringing in free-agent wideout Nelson Agohlor shouldn’t make them feel any better about it either. Derek Carr will immediately love Higgins, who can play at all three receiver spots. If you want to talk about production, Higgins scored a touchdown on approximately 20% of his catches at Clemson. He has big-play potential and the body to be a red-zone threat for Carr.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: Xavier Mckinney, S (Alabama)
Jalen Ramsey was traded away and A.J. Bouye is gone as well. This Jaguars defense looks very different from the one that got the to an AFC conference championship a few years ago. Its time to start rebuilding it. Alabama defenders typically come in ready to start at the pro level from the jump, Mckinney is no different. Another super versatile player that you can line up anywhere, he took snaps in the slot, at free safety, and in the box. With a high football IQ Mckinney racked up 95 tackles, four forced fumbles, three interceptions, five pass breakups, and a blocked kick last year. That is what we call a stud ladies and gents.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson, WR (LSU)
Acquiring Darius Slay helps what was an extremely porous secondary last year. That means we need to get Carson Wentz some reliable pass-catchers. There were times where it looked like I could go out and be a receiver for the Eagles last year. While that won’t happen, Jefferson, becoming Wentz’s new favorite target will. Jefferson was apart of the most prolific offense college football has ever seen. His natural hands will be a welcome sight over Agohlor who dropped way too many balls during his time in Philly. He’s also a great leaper and is acrobatic in the air to make very difficult catches.
22. Minnesota Vikings: A.J. Epenesa, DE (Iowa)
Call me crazy but I don’t have the Vikings drafting a receiver in the first round, even after trading away Stefon Diggs. The Vikings lost guys like Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Everson Griffen this offseason. That means there are holes to fill in the secondary and off the edge. It is hard to not love Epenesa’s production. As a junior, he gained 14.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles. With quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Nick Foles, and Matthew Stafford in the division, having someone who can be a disruptor is paramount.
23. New England Patriots: Jordan Love, QB (Utah State)
Bill Belicheck has to have a plan. Some may think it was a mistake letting go of the greatest player of all time, Tom Brady, but Belicheck doesn’t make that move without having a contingency plan. Jordan Love has gotten comparisons to Patrick Mahomes, and while that may be high billing, the kid does have serious talent. You have to ignore his 2019 tape, totally new coaching staff and losing over half the starters from 2018 had a negative impact on Love. Put him in a stable situation with a franchise that knows what they are doing and he will flourish.
24. New Orleans Saints: Justin Herbert, QB (Oregon)
Now I know what you are thinking. “Dom, have you lost your marbles?” And you are right to ask that. I’ll be honest I don’t believe this will end up being the pick. Someone is bound to trade up for Herbert if the Chargers pass up on him at sixth overall. That being said this mock does not include possible trades and the way the board falls the Saints, who have a roster ready to win a super bowl now, get the future of their franchise at pick 24. The more likely pick here will be Kenneth Murray, the linebacker from Oklahoma.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Trevon Diggs, CB (Alabama)
Well, isn’t this awkward. Drafting the brother of the guy you just traded due to his disgruntled relationship with Kirk Cousins and the organization. While the dynamic may not be ideal, the fit is. As stated earlier the Vikings lost many defensive starters this offseason, three of which were corners. Diggs is the best cornerback available and provides playmaking ability when he gets his hands on the ball, something the Vikings will definitely need in 2020.
26. Miami Dolphins: Johnathan Taylor, RB (Wisconsin)
The Dolphins triple down on offense in the first round and grab a playmaking ballcarrier to pair with Tua. Taylor is a patient runner who will allow his blockers to get out in front and has good speed, running a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine. Once, Taylor gets into the open field he will make defenses pay and is liable to take it to the house on any play. The concern with Taylor, workload. He accumulated over 1,200 touches in his three years at Wisconsin. Look for him to split carries with Jordan Howard early on before taking over the starting role.
27. Seattle Seahawks: Austin Jackson, OL (USC)
The market for edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney was not as robust as he may have thought. That leads me to believe that Clowney may be forced to come down on his asking price and resign with Seattle, which is where he wanted to be all along. Moving forward, Russel Wilson continues to pull rabbits and touchdowns out of his magic hat. Keeping him healthy and off the ground as much as possible is still the focus in Seattle. Jackson has a ton of talent but is raw and can be sloppy in his technique at times. He will take some coaching up, but Pete Carroll can turn him into a staple in the offensive line.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen, LB (LSU)
Harbaugh and company will have a tough decision to make here. Losing C.J. Mosely a year ago in free agency left a hole that has not been filled yet, however, future hall of fame guard, Marshall Yanda’s retirement leaves an opening in the offensive line. Being that Queen is one of the top rated linebackers in the draft, the Ravens go defense here. Queen has the range to cover gaps and the outside, and can drop back in coverage against tight ends and running backs.
29. Tennesse Titans: Ezra Cleveland, OL (Boise State)
Finding a replacement for Jack Conklin will be a hard task, but one the Titans have to embark on. Cleveland psoted the third-fastest time for an offensive linemen at the combine and showed he can be explosive in the agility drills. His wrestling background means he has great hand techniques. However, his playing strength is a concern. He struggles against power rushers and can get pushed back into the pocket. If he wants to be a starter he’ll need to spend a lot of time with the strength and conditioning coaches.
30. Green Bay Packers: Brandon Aiyuk, WR (Arizona State)
Davante Adams is a legitamet threat and will see a ton of double, and even triple, coverages next season. That means the Packers need to find a consistent running mate for him so Aaron Rodgers can get back to his super bowl winning ways. While, Aiyuk is not a blazer, he has a huge catch radius. A 40″ vertical and 128″ broad jump shows he is explosive and has sure hands. His game is mostly based on finesse and will need to adjust to the physicality of the NFL, but look for Aiyuk to take advantage of the one-on-one matchups he will see alongside Adams.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Grant Delpit, S (LSU)
One fourth quarter away from being champions. That is how close the 49ers came last year. If you back and watch that super bowl you will see that the play that changed the momentum was bomb on third and long to Tyrik Hill who was wide open down the field. To ensure that busted coverages like that don’t happen again, they grab Delpit. Someone who doesn’t shy away from the big moments and made big plays for the Tigers his entrie tenure there. He showed toughness playing through a high ankle sprain last year and he still totaled two sacks, two interceptions, and seven pass breakups.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: J.K. Dobbins, RB (Ohio State)
The reigning NFL Champs have some holes to fill, mainly on defense. However, who needs defense when you have an offense that can put 40 points on any given Sunday. Dobbins is workhorse type back who can be on the field for all three downs. More importantly he showed up against top opponents last year. He is a willing blocker who can help out in pass protection. Another weapon for Mahomes and Reid to terrorize the league with.