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A “What if the Bengals don’t draft Burrow” NFL Mock Draft

What kind of impact could that have on the Broncos?

There has been rampant speculation that the consensus number one quarterback in the NFL Draft does not want to go to the team drafting first overall. It’s gone from a non-story to a story in part because Burrow himself has done little but fuel the fire.

“I do have leverage,” the former LSU quarterback said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, during a reception in Fort Worth in which he accepted the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the nation’s top college quarterback. “[The Bengals] have their process and I have my process. We haven’t even gotten to the [NFL] combine yet. There’s a lot of things that happen leading up to the draft and a lot of information gathered.”

One thing that I’ve been wondering about for awhile now is how Burrow forcing the Bengals to go another way would impact the rest of the draft, in particular the Denver Broncos. This is an exercise in exploring that scenario, but keep in mind that I do expect Mike Brown to draft the LSU Tiger when it’s all said and done.

T1. Las Vegas Raiders - QB, Joe Burrow, LSU

If the Bengals do decide to trade Burrow, there are a select few teams that have the kind of ammo it’d probably take to make the move. Miami is the go-to because they have so much draft capital over the next couple years, but they also have a front office committed to playing the long game. Carolina is the dark-horse-that-isn’t-really-a-dark-horse because Joe Brady.

Jon Gruden is hiding in plain sight.

There have been reports that the Raiders will attempt to pry Tom Brady from New England with a $30 million per year contract. If that isn’t enough, they may need to find another splashy move as they dump Derek Carr, and Mike Mayock has some assets to play with because of the Khalil Mack trade.

2. Washington - ED, Chase Young, OSU

It’s tempting to dial this mock up to maximum chaos with another bidding war here, but let’s stick to what appears to be the stone cold lock. Young is the best pass rushing prospect since at least Myles Garrett and should be a cornerstone piece on Ron Rivera’s defense.

T3. Indianapolis Colts - QB, Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

Chris Ballard took advantage of a team’s need for quarterback to collect assets in the 2018 draft only to watch Andrew Luck abruptly retire before this past season. Frank Reich can only do so much with a Jacoby Brissett, or even a Philip Rivers, and so the Colts GM has to know securing a premier quarterback of the future is a priority. In the short term, Indy represents a best case scenario for the southpaw as he recovers from the scary injury that ended his collegiate career.

4. New York Giants - OT, Mekhi Becton, Louisville

Trading down is for nerds, and if Dave Gettleman has proven one thing as the General Manager of the G-men, it’s that he’s no nerd. In an effort to continue laughing at the haters and also boost Joe Judge’s offense, New York takes this mammoth Cardinal. He’s the kind of road grader that should help to pave the way for Saquon Barkley while also having the kind of movement skills to lead people like Daniel Jeremiah to compare him to Bryant McKinnie.

T5. Cincinnati Bengals - QB, Justin Herbert, Oregon

Herbert’s skill set would be a great fit for the Zac Taylor offense, and with Tagovailoa off the board, Miami collects more assets to help with its rebuild. ESPN begins speculating that they’re committing to a Tank for Trevor Lawrence campaign.

6. Los Angeles Chargers - QB, Jordan Love, Utah State

Tom Telesco tells reporters after the draft that he had Love as the top quarterback on his board. There’s even belief from some that he means it because, while raw, Love brings so many tools and traits to the position that it’s easy to fantasize about what he could be.

7. Carolina Panthers - CB, Jeffrey Okudah, OSU

Matt Rhule and the Panthers are shocked that this Buckeye slides and happily scoops him up. With James Bradberry potentially leaving in free agency, there’s an underrated need in the secondary and Okudah should step in as a day 1 starter.

8. Arizona Cardinals - WR, Henry Ruggs, Alabama

After Ruggs runs a 4.2 40-yard dash, more than a couple national media members try to be hip and move him up to WR1. Thing is, everyone in the league knows he’s fast. What makes him special is that he combines ludicrous speed with a complete game, which makes him a rare commodity. Kliff Kingsbury spends the rest of his summer drawing up ways for Kyler Murray to take advantage of it, and the early MVP hype begins in earnest.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars - DL, Derrick Brown, Auburn

The Jags don’t have a pressing need along the defensive line, but they’re prone to following trends, and in case you missed it, the San Francisco 49ers rode a dominant front to the Super Bowl last year. Brown gives them an easy replacement for Marcel Dareus and should help to keep Myles Jack clean.

10. Cleveland Browns - OT, Jedrick Wills, Alabama

Patience pays off for that other team in Ohio. More than a few people have Wills as OT1 in this class. Even before their former left tackle Greg Robinson was arrested with 157 lbs of marijuana, the blindside was a pressing need.

11. New York Jets - WR, Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

The Jets social media team spent the weekend touting the signing of Philip Dorset. They have a rather large need at receiver and Jeudy is arguably the best in this class. He’ll give Sam Darnold the closest thing he’s had to a complete pass catcher since he was drafted in 2018.

T12. Miami Dolphins - X, Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

Simmons’ mini slide ends as he lands with the kind of defense renowned for maximizing players’ versatility. Is he a linebacker? Is he a safety? Is he a nickel?


T13. Detroit Lions - ED, K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU

Even if the Lions do trade Darius Slay in the coming months, it wouldn’t be outlandish to argue that Matt Patricia’s biggest issue on defense is his edge rotation. Asking corners to jam and run in a man-heavy scheme without the personnel to create pressure is setting them up for failure. It would have been a reach to take the athletic Tiger at 3. However, with the move down, they collect more ways to add depth to the overall roster and still provide some teeth to the pass rush.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - OL, Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

Bruce Arians and Jason Licht locked up Donovan Smith last year, but there remains huge issues along the offensive line. Fortunately Wirfs can step in at right tackle, guard, or even left tackle to help solidify the unit.

T15. Philadelphia Eagles - WR, CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

John Elway surprises Broncos Country and passes on both Lamb, Andrew Thomas, and Javon Kinlaw to instead move down with the Eagles in order to pick up future draft picks. Howie Roseman is all too happy to take advantage by nabbing the star sooner.

16. Atlanta Falcons - S, Grant Delpit, LSU

For a team that uses as much 3 deep coverages as Dan Quinn does, Delpit would be a noticeable upgrade on Ricardo Allen. The hope is that his range and ball skills make him the kind of investment in the back end that transforms the whole D.

17. Dallas Cowboys - S, Xavier McKinney, Alabama

After trying to pry Jamal Adams from the Jets last season, Jerry Jones is over the moon to add a versatile chess piece like McKinney. His biggest question marks are negated by the fact that Dallas already employs a promising free safety. Within ten minutes of the selection, there are jokes about the Cowboy’s “Xaviers.”

T18. Miami Dolphins - CB, C.J. Henderson, Florida

Henderson doesn’t have to travel very far to his new home. With Xavien Howard returning from I.R. the phish have the early makings of a promising defense. Henderson is a polarizing prospect because of questions about his tackling, but when is the last time you heard complaints about an NFL corner’s ability to tackle?

T19. Cincinnati Bengals - WR, Jalen Reagor, TCU

A.J. Green looks like he’s about to hit the market and Tyler Boyd is a bit stretched as a primary receiving weapon. Enter Reagor, who should be able to add the kind of explosiveness Zac Taylor’s offense needs.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars - LB, Patrick Queen, LSU

Myles Jack was at his best when he had Tevon Smith as a running mate, and so the desire to go out and add another speedy 3-down backer is strong. With the Jaguars’ decision-makers on rather warm seats, taking a player who can make an early splash is prioritized.

21. Denver Broncos - DL, Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

After baited breath, Elway gets his guy and extra draft capital.

The Broncos get a versatile player who can play as a 5 technique in their base 3-4, can two gap, and also slide inside and provide pressure when Fangio utilizes nickel personnel. There is little doubt that the Gamecock would be a spectacular fit in the defense with his length, heavy hands, and burst.

22. Buffalo Bills - WR, Laviska Shenault, CU

What do you take if your offense is among the worst in the league and your quarterback’s big arm is best at throwing 10-yard fireballs? An elite athlete and gadget player who doesn’t need to catch the ball 20-yards downfield to make a big play! This Buffalo could step in as a better version of Isaiah McKenzie so long as his medicals check out.

23. New England Patriots - WR, Brandon Aiyuk, ASU

A Sun Devil reunion! Aiyuk would give Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels an inside/outside receiver who can move around the formation and provide a more dangerous after-the-catch threat than Julian Edelman.

24. New Orleans Saints - CB, Kristian Fulton, LSU

In order to create the cap space to retain Drew Brees, Mickey Loomis is going to need to make a tough cut or two. Eli Apple looks to be headed for free agency and they may need to cut Janoris Jenkins because of finances. Losing both creates a rather large hole opposite Marshon Lattimore.

25. Minnesota Vikings - OT, Josh Jones, Houston

Gary Kubiak’s arrival last year meant a move towards a wide zone rushing attack with an emphasis on blockers who could thrive in space. Josh Jones is a work in progress as a run blocker, but has the kind of quick feet and movement skills to wind up as a cornerstone blindside protector going forward.

26. Miami Dolphins - OT, Andrew Thomas, Georgia

All the rumors circulating in the past two months have me convinced the league is going to overthink Thomas, and their mistake is a boon for the Dolphins. He isn’t as exciting as guys like Wirfs and doesn’t offer the same sort of tantalizing potential as Jones. Instead, he’s just a battle tested 3-year starter from the SEC.

27. Seattle Seahawks - DL, A.J. Epenesa, Iowa

For once, Mina Kimes is happy with her team’s first round pick as Epenesa slides due to concerns over his lack of twitch. There’s a decent chance he makes the earlier teams look silly as he has gotten some comparisons to Justin Smith of the Harbaugh era 49ers. He profiles as a power end who could also slide inside and provide a pass rush on passing downs.

28. Baltimore Ravens - DL, Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma

In recent years, the Ravens have allowed players like Z’Darius Smith and C.J. Mosely to leave without panic-picking a first round player to replace them. Gallimore isn’t necessarily a clean replacement for Michael Pierce, who is expected to leave for free agency. Instead offers Wink Martindale an athletic disruptor who can generate havoc for opposing blockers.

29. Tennessee Titans - CB, Trevon Diggs, Alabama

Logan Ryan looks like he’ll depart. Minus him, there’s a need for help in the secondary. Diggs is a player who has a lot to gain or lose this week in Indianapolis because there are some questions about his ability to run, but at the end of the day he offers tantalizing length and ball skills.

30. Green Bay Packers - WR, Denzel Mims, Baylor

If Mims does to the Combine what he did to the Senior Bowl, he’s going to be a Day 1 pick. He’d fit beautifully in Wisconsin where his route running, hands, and catch radius could give Aaron Rodgers a reliable target across from Davante Adams.

T31. Atlanta Falcons - RB, D’Andre Swift, Georgia

Desperate teams make desperate moves. So it goes for Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff who know they’re on borrowed time and need more help with Brees’ return to the Big Easy. With the Falcons’ current cap situation iffy at the very best, taking Swift provides for an easy replacement for Devontae Freeman, who could be jettisoned.

32. Kansas City Chiefs - CB, Jeff Gladney, TCU

This is my nightmare, as I believe Jeff Gladney is the second best cornerback in this draft. He’s undersized but provides the kind of coverage skills to provide Steve Spagnuolo another cornerstone as he replaces Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland.


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