It’s probably a sign that I care way too much about the NFL that waking up on Draft Day feels more exciting than Christmas. Since I was 13 years old I’ve loved watching teams make or break their rosters. By this time anyone who has paid attention probably has an opinion on the picks, and most of them will be wrong. It’s awesome.
So here’s how I think things are about to go down.
In the last couple of weeks the national media has gotten to dialing up trade scenarios for this pick because they needed something to draw eyeballs, nothing else. I’m not entirely convinced the Bengals would sell the chance to draft Joe Burrow for anything and they shouldn’t. Not only did he just accomplish the greatest season in college football history, but he’s from Ohio. It often leads to cringey decisions, but things like marketing most certainly impact the NFL Draft.
We’ve reached this point where we’re arguing Burrow vs X because “upside.” It’s gotten ridiculous, because if Burrow’s NFL ceiling is what he did at LSU he’ll be on a Hall of Fame track. I don’t know if I’m ready to believe that’s inevitable, but he has as good a chance at it as any prospect in this QB crop.
The pick will be Joe Burrow, QB, LSU.
If (when) Joe Burrow goes first overall next Thursday night, he'll join Cam Newton as the only players in the NFL's common era to win the Heisman Trophy, a National Championship and be selected first overall in the same year.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) April 14, 2020
I’m an avid Madden player. If you’ve played franchise mode for any length of time, you’ll know how you get to this point where CPU teams will draft a 1st round quarterback into perpetuity. Back in the day when EA let you, I’d switch user teams to try and fix rosters once I got the Broncos to the point where it was boring (99 across the board, can’t lose a game if I wanted to kind of thing). One year I took over the Titans and they had just drafted a first round QB for three straight years. It seemed ridiculous.
What’s wild is that the Kyler Murray - Josh Rosen swap last year and the generally accepted wisdom that quarterbacks are so valuable is starting to lead to this point where segments of the media are willing to dump a first round QB after one year. I didn’t love Dwayne Haskins, and I do love Tua Tagovailoa, so I should probably be in that camp this year, but I can’t do it.
If I’m Washington I would try and ransom the pick if at all possible, but I don’t think they will. Ron Rivera is a defensive guy, and he’ll want a defensive cornerstone because if Haskins can’t beat out Kyle Allen, at least he can tell Dan Snyder he got the D fixed.
The pick will be Chase Young, Edge, OSU.
I went through and cut up all of Chase Young's pressures at Ohio State last year (may have missed one or two along the way). Here's the first of three videos for your enjoyment #Redskins fans pic.twitter.com/aT25FwEWuL— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) April 20, 2020
T3. Miami Dolphins (from Lions)
Right before team visits were shutdown, the Dolphins were desperately trying to get Tua in to get an eye on him.
Every single thing that has happened since hasn’t been enough to make me overlook that. The leaked 13 on the Wonderlic that turned into a 19, the reported interest in Justin Herbert and Jordan Love, everything.
There were a ton of rumors in the middle of the Dolphins tank that failed how they were locked onto the Alabama passer. Maybe I’m underrating their ability to screw this up, but there is a chasm between Tagovailoa and the third best quarterback in this class, even when you account for his durability questions.
The pick will be Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama.
Nick Saban breaking down this play on Tua Tagovailoa— Alabama DieHards (@AlabamaDieHards) April 13, 2020
"A lot of guys can't do this." - Nick Saban pic.twitter.com/B1a5sB7wS9
For the first time since Dave Gettleman took over we don’t have a clear picture who he’ll take in the first round. There’s been plenty of speculation that it could be Isaiah Simmons. I thought as much in last week’s Vote Mock. I’ve changed my mind since.
Dave Gettleman’s on a hotter seat than you’d expect given that his pick of Daniel Jones has yet to blow up in his face. That doesn’t mean he’s a guaranteed success though. Jones has a rather alarming propensity for fumbles.
While I think sacks and pressures are more directly tied to the quarterback than the offensive line, that’s probably too nerdy a thought for Gettleman. Combine that with the need to maximize Saquon Barkley, and the craptastic duo of Nate Solder and Cameron Fleming, and it’s going to be a tackle here.
What’s tricky is figuring out who it will be, which speaks to the talent of this tackle crop. In the end I’m going to go with the guy I’ve seen compared to Tyron Smith. Blame Jason Garrett.
The pick will be Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa.
Something about this tackle class...— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 20, 2020
My OT1 could slide to 14. My OT4 could go at 4. There is very little separating the "big four" and they could come off the board in any order.
T5. Detroit Lions (from Dolphins)
Back in January it was considered big news to say that the NFL Draft began at three. Everyone knew who would wind up going before this, but at three the Lions had a chance to start a bidding war. In the months since we’ve seen all sorts of talk about the Dolphins and Chargers competing to get up for Tua Tagovailoa.
There’s only one problem: COVID-19 completely derailed Pro Days, which meant teams wouldn’t be able to have their own medical rechecks. A couple weeks ago Move the Stick’s Daniel Jeremiah and Stick to Football’s Matt Miller both mentioned how that’d leave many teams uneasy on prospects with medical histories. Even if they trusted the “Pro Day” Tua had or the medical information they received, it isn’t the same as their own grade. Even if it does nothing to dissuade the Dolphins or random team X, it will probably hurt his market.
While I personally believe in the QB enough to think he’ll return on this kind of investment here, I also think teams are so opposed to risk that it won’t happen. There’s a reason the Lions were trying to show interest in Justin Herbert a couple weeks ago. They can’t get the bidding war going that they hoped for. So while I think they’ll be able to get down, the return is going to leave some in Motown pretty ticked.
In the last couple of weeks there has been some smoke that Bob Quinn wants Derrick Brown or K’Lavon Chaisson. Both are pretty rich for third or even fifth overall, but it would be a typical BOB kind of move to do it here. That said, I think they stick to expectations if they can’t get back. Darius Slay didn’t fit Matt Patricia’s press man heavy scheme. While Desmond Trufant is an adequate replacement, the Lions secondary had a glaring need at the vast majority of their spots last season. Jeffrey Okudah is a hand in glove scheme fit. While I worry about the Lions ruining him, in a sane world, he makes too much sense to pass on here.
The pick will be Jeffrey Okudah, CB, OSU.
6. Los Angeles Chargers
There’s a bit of a wildcard element here because the Chargers’ Tom Telesco tends to be a pretty savvy GM when it comes to the draft. After trading Russell Okung for Trai Turner they have a pressing need at tackle unless Trey Pipkins can play, and Isaiah Simmons with Derwin James could be nightmare fuel.
I think LA bypasses all of that for an arm, and I fully expect the Chargers to chase a quarterback here even if I don’t think they like Tua. Tyrod Taylor is signed on a backup deal through the 2020 season and ownership needs to try and drum up interest. We all know the jokes about their empty stadium.
While I don’t think he’ll be good enough to close the gap between them and Kansas City, and he isn’t going to turn out fans, I do believe the Duck will fly south to California.
The pick will be Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon.
There are a few ways the Panthers could go here without really surprising me. Another receiver for Joe Brady would make sense given Curtis Samuel’s long term uncertainty and an offense that could get the most out of a Jerry Jeudy. I could also see them moving down the board for a haul in order to collect picks and to grab someone like Justin Jefferson at a better spot. Their tackle situation is also pretty iffy.
But I think they go defense here. Rhule’s background is on defense, the roster is pretty sad on that side of the ball, and if the defense looks good while Teddy Bridgewater fails into Trevor Lawrence Rhule can cool his seat in year two.
Now Marty Hurney is a lot like Dave Gettleman. Neither care about positional value and you can keep all your numbers, nerds. Combine that with something Daniel Jeremiah said about Matt Rhule’s willingness to grab athletes with the idea that his coaching staff can get the most out of them and I think we’ve found Isaiah Simmons’ floor.
The pick will be Isaiah Simmons, Hybrid, Clemson.
T8. Denver Broncos (from Cardinals)
There’s going to be one person who reads this and runs to the comments to tell me that Elway wouldn’t ever trade up this high. They’ll say how Cleveland makes more sense, and that the cost is better, etc.
I think the Broncos will come out of their talks with the Browns confident that Philadelphia has a better deal there. If Cleveland wants to move back, it’s with the idea that they want to collect a haul and get back to a reasonable spot to grab Ezra Cleveland. 15 is a bit rich for him and unless Elway coughs up the remaining ammo or Andrew Berry is confident he can move back from 15 to collect even more ammo, it’s a weird marriage.
Hence the move up. As for the player, we’ve seen for the last two weeks wild reports from every insider about who the Broncos will take. Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb are popular. Apparently the front office also loves Denzel Mims. You know who hasn’t gotten much publicity lately? The guy they’ve been linked to since Elway’s season ending press conference. That’s a bit too convenient for me.
The pick will be Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama.
I think many are overlooking how job security impacts draft decisions. Caldwell and Marrone are on the hottest seats in the NFL. The one way out of it in the middle of a rather ugly tear down is hitting at QB, only they’re quite unlikely to move up for a Tua or Burrow and none of the other options are lock upgrades in 2020. So, if they really want to see what Gardner Minshew can be in hopes that it saves their jobs, they’ll want to give him help.
That means grabbing a tackle or receiver in this draft with franchise guys at both spots.
It’s also worth noting that Dave Caldwell doesn’t tip his intentions to his wife, so they’re a bit of a mystery. I’d say there’s a decent chance they fudge it up to grab C.J. Henderson, Javon Kinlaw, or Derrick Brown. They’re a true wildcard team.
The pick will be CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma.
10. Cleveland Browns
For all of the talk about Ezra Cleveland, I do suspect the Browns tackle board goes:
1. Tristan Wirfs
2. Andrew Thomas
They’ll wait with baited breath when the Chargers, Cardinals, and Jaguars pick but wind up with a guy they love.
The pick will be Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia.
All of Andrew Thomas' meaningful pass-blocking snaps against LSU's K'Lavon Chaisson (2019)— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) April 19, 2020
T11. Philadelphia Eagles (from Jets)
One of the overlooked things that I can’t look past with New York is how Joe Douglas signed the vast majority of his free agent class with deals he can escape in 2021. He’s giving Adam Gase a chance to hang himself this year, and if things break his way to collect 2021 picks a move down will happen.
Philly will see Lamb and Ruggs go off the board and panic trade up. Lamb has been reported as the apple of their eye, but Jerry Jeudy gives them an inside/outside type of option who fits neatly into the current receiving corps and provides a future WR1 for Carson Wentz.
The pick will be Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama.
I’ve been saying it for so long I probably sound like a broken record: I don’t like the idea of moving up to grab a wide receiver in this class. One thing that’ll make it a little easier to accept is how Elway’s decision to start the run will wind up pushing Mayock to his second biggest need. A year from now we’ll debate if Mayock can’t draft first round players.
The pick will be C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida.
T13. Atlanta Falcons (from Niners)
The Niners went all in on a Super Bowl last year and came out of it with two first round picks and then nothing until the fifth round. Like just about everyone else, I don’t believe they want to stay put.
Meanwhile things have played out for Atlanta and a few other teams to swing at a chance to get some sliding talent. With a GM and coach who dodged the guillotine in 2019, I suspect they’ll do all they can to secure an impact player once again. Keep in mind that New Orleans also looms as a potential trading partner here.
The pick will be Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
Source i talked to believed they want to move to 11 or 10 for Kinlaw. https://t.co/OCfEnf9U6u— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) April 15, 2020
14. Tampa Bay Bucaneers
Everyone and their mother is slotting a tackle to the Bucs because they’re in pretty meh shape on the edges and have a very small window to compete with Tom Brady at the helm. In this scenario they get the chance at a steal. Jedrick Wills has the best 2019 tape of any tackle in this class.
The pick will be Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
T15. Arizona Cardinals (from Broncos)
Outside of Chandler Jones and Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals have one of the most barren defenses in the league. While they could theoretically afford to add talent to the receiving corps, offensive line, or just about every spot on their defense, I think it’ll be a linebacker.
Surprising no one, the Vance Joseph defense was among the worst in the league at defending tight ends last year and when you consider that the Broncos’ former head coach likes base 3-4 more than just about everyone else in the league, backer makes more sense to address this. Unfortunately, their pick looks the part better than he can actually play in coverage.
The pick will be Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
T16. New Orleans Saints (from Falcons through Niners)
One of the only teams in football with a smaller window than the Tompa Bay Buccaneers is Drew Brees and the Saints. They also have one of the best rosters in football, so it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see them sell some future picks to get up and grab who they believe is a difference maker.
Derrick Brown could make a lot of sense, especially when you consider that Sheldon Rankins season was an injury marred disaster last year. The one reason I could see them looking past it is that a picture perfect scheme fit is staring them right in the face here.
The pick will be Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
17. Dallas Cowboys
There are a couple of different ways that would make a lot of sense for the Jerry Jones draft. The roster is becoming increasingly top heavy and most of the cap is being soaked up by the offense, so a trade back to add more depth and defense would be the smart play.
Instead, I think they’ll gamble on another potential star.
The pick will be K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU
18. Miami Dolphins
One of the trendy rumors that has circulated about the Phish is that they could take Becton at 5 and wait on Jordan Love or Justin Herbert at 18. After they grab Tua and wait out Becton or Josh Jones, every draft analyst in the national media will fall all over themselves to rave about the draft.
The pick will be Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
19. Las Vegas Raiders
Mike Mayock finds himself in a position where he can chase BPA or grab a player at the roster’s biggest need. While Big Bad Derrick Brown just sounds like a Gruden Grinder, I haven’t been able to get over the Marcus Mariota deal. The two year deal has a gargantuan escalator for playing time, and Derek Carr’s contract is very movable.
The pick will be Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
20. Jacksonville Jaguars
Remember how everyone and their mom expected the Jags to grab Jawaan Taylor with their first round pick and he slid all the way to their second? This is kind of like that, minus the madres.
The pick will be Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
21. New York Jets (from Eagles)
Adam Gase will spend all the time after the trade down complaining on his burner accounts about how he’s getting no help and it ain’t his fault.
The pick will be Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia
Mike Zimmer just went through a cap cleaning and still faces heat. He’s going to need to make some chicken sandwiches out of some spare parts and hope the board goes the Vikings way, but this pick should help. If you can look past his nightmarish evening at the catch point against Ja’Marr Chase, Terrell brings plenty of appealing traits to the Zimmer scheme.
The pick will be A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
I expect Bill Belichick to aggressively pursue deals for 2021 capital as the board unwinds. I just don’t expect there to be any player here that entices someone to make a deal with the Devil.
The pick will be Patrick Queen LB, LSU
24. San Francisco 49ers (from Saints)
After all of that wheeling and dealing, John Lynch realizes he burned a hole through two of his phones. He shrugs it off and finally settles on his first pick.
The pick will be Josh Jones, OT, Houston
25. Minnesota Vikings
It wasn’t too long ago that the Vikings defensive line and especially their pass rush was among the scariest in football. Now Linval Joseph and Everson Griffin are gone. In their wake is a need for either an interor lineman or edge presence, so Rick Spielman takes a swing on a guy who can help in both areas.
The pick will be Marlon Davidson, DL/EDGE, Auburn
26. Miami Dolphins
The Phish faithful will be on the edge of their seats at this point. How can Chris Grier top such an amazing first two picks while “destroying” the Lions’ in their trade up? Many will drop a collective sigh after this one because he isn’t flashy, but makes a ton of sense in a Patriots-esque kind of way.
The pick will be Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
27. Seattle Seahawks
I spent ten minutes trying to find some third round player that the Seachickens could reach on, but this will finally be the year Mina Kimes is happy on her draft show.
The pick will be Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan
28. Baltimore Ravens
There’s a number of players who make a lot of sense for the Ravens here. A.J. Epenesa fits as a rotational player behind Derek Wolfe, and Yetur Gross-Matos could be a decent upside swing considering he’ll have a fair shot at development. I think the analytical approach they’ve begun to take impacts this draft spot though, and they’re counting on relatively unproven talent at safety, corner, and linebacker.
The pick will be Jeremy Chinn, Hybrid/S, Southern Illinois
29. Tennessee Titans
Don’t tell Mike Vrabel, but his team just vastly outperformed expectations and all but certainly bound for a crash back to reality in 2020. I don’t think he or anyone on the Titans staff realizes it just yet though, and they’re taking a shot at the Lombardi with this pick.
The pick will be J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
It’s been trendy to pick a wide receiver for this spot, and I want to be daring. They do have questions at linebacker and along the defensive line after Kenny Clark. Kevin King is also painfully inconsistent.
Then I look at that receiver room after Davante Adams and it’s hard to ignore how the board shaped up. The big question will be if they go with Jalen Reagor or Denzel Mims.
The pick will be Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
31. San Francisco 49ers
Richard Sherman is 32-years old and there’s more questions than answers after him. This doesn’t have to be more complicated than that when an ideal scheme fit for the Robert Saleh defense falls into their lap.
The pick will be Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
I suspect KC would love for Justin Herbert or Jordan Love to fall into their laps here so they have worthwhile offers to move down the board. Since they don’t, it comes down to addressing an underrated need. It’s been popular to give Andy Reid a running back here, but unless the player is putting things on the table for Patrick Mahomes instead of just taking the ball out of his hands, I don’t see it. The Chiefs have been too smart for that kind of thing lately.