This has been a crazy draft season. I went into Indianapolis for the Combine at the end of February as well-connected and informed on the projection front as I have felt in years. The pro day circuit was going to solidify what was going to be my most accurate mock draft ever.
Alas, pro days got canceled. My trips to Columbus, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Madison and some other locales, dinners and power lunches with agents and team officials, all of it quarantined away.
Now I’m feeling as in the dark about what will happen this weekend as I ever have in 16 years of covering the draft. I suspect most analysts feel the same way. But the final mock draft is a rite of spring, and I’ll offer my best guesses on all picks. Some are semi-educated, some are drunken orangutan with darts, some are insomnia-induced hallucinations of writing down player names that I’ve never heard of before.
Especially after the first 10-12 picks, the focus is much more on player/slot than team/player match. No trades are projected because it throws too many ripples that can throw the whole thing off.
Do I think there will be trades? Of course. Do I know when they will happen and who will be dealing? Nope. Hence the focus on player and slot.
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU. This is an easy one.
2. Washington: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State. Wouldn’t be what I would do, but Young is a tremendous talent. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Skins traded away one of their recent 1st-round defensive linemen to add additional picks later and create more space for Young to thrive. I do not expect any team to trade up here.
3. Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State. If Young is here he’s the pick. Okudah is the pick at 3, barring a weird change of direction. They will listen to trade offers but I don’t think they’ll get one. If they do, Derrick Brown is definitely in play too.
4. New York Giants: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama. It’s either going to be an offensive tackle or Isaiah Simmons. The flavor of the presumed OT has changed several times, but I’ll roll with Wills for his presumptive ability to play either tackle spot and his great pass protection.
5. Miami Dolphins: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon. No need to trade up, the Dolphins get their man in Herbert. If you would have told Dolphins fans one year ago they’d land Herbert in the first round in 2020 they’d have thrown a parade in your honor. I hope for his sake they remember that sentiment.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia. It could very well be Tua Tagovailoa here, but the Chargers are in far direr need at left tackle than QB. If the L.A. brass isn’t fully confident in Tua’s medicals, I expect them to go with Thomas. This is the variable pick that the rest of the first round hinges upon; if I miss this pick, it’s unlikely I get any other picks in the top 15 correct.
7. Carolina Panthers: C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida. I’m more picking Henderson to be the No. 7 pick than I am the Panthers selecting Henderson. Derrick Brown or K’Lavon Chaisson make more sense if the Panthers are picking.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn. Brown is highly regarded by every NFL person I’ve talked to. As in, nobody believes Brown will be anything less than a really good starter. I think there’s some appeal in that for the Cardinals, who have overhauled the offense in the last two years and now need to get better in middle-of-field defense.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama. Just a guess here, but the upside with Tua dwarfs what Gardner Minshew can offer. Even better for the Jaguars, they have Minshew for 2020 while the team has low expectations and can let Tua progress at his own pace. That’s my logic anyway. We’ll see…
10. Cleveland Browns: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa. Because I cover the Browns at Browns Wire for USA TODAY, I’ll go into more detail here. If Wirfs (or Andrew Thomas) are available, the Browns stand pat. If they’re gone, expect this pick to get traded. One that makes a lot of sense that has been tossed around: Miami trading 18, 39 and 70 to move up. Denver from 15 to 10 also strikes me as more than just smoke.
11. New York Jets: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama. Ruggs’ ludicrous speed and playmaking ability make him the first WR off the board. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if he’s gone by this point, at which I think the Jets would take either Jerry Jeudy or Mekhi Becton.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson. Positionless athletic freakshow with impact potential all over the defense. I think he falls a lot farther than most fans, especially college-over-NFL fans, expect precisely because of that. The Raiders can certainly use his playmaking panache to upgrade a defense that needs impact talents.
13. San Francisco 49ers: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville. It’s at this point where I remind you, dear readers, that it’s around this point in the draft where I’m more confident/concerned with matching player to slot than team to player. That I write that here with the 49ers is not a coincidence…
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU. Any of the above OTs would be the pick here, I presume. I can’t rule out Josh Jones, but my theory is they’ll opt for a higher-end pass rush prospect who can help protect leads. The precocious Chaisson could be a huge hit.
15. Denver Broncos: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama. Just above here, I wrote about marrying player to slot more than team to player. Throw that out with this pick; I think Denver takes Jeudy if it’s at 10 or 15 or 23.
16. Atlanta Falcons: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU. Hedging here with a CB. I think the Falcons are aiming upward and GM Tom Dimitroff has a way of making that happen. If they don’t, Fulton certainly fits the bill. Other teams could view Fulton this highly, too.
17. Dallas Cowboys: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma. If Henderson or Chaisson are here, they’re the pick (in that order). Lamb sliding here would make a nice value fit to help maximize Dak Prescott.
18. Miami Dolphins: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma. This is one of those projections where I’ll either look incredibly prescient or a damned fool. The Dolphins can certainly use a rangy LB in the middle of the defense, and I believe the NFL believes there is a big dropoff after Murray at the spot. I can just as easily see Murray falling into the 40s and the Dolphins taking Austin Jackson here.
19. Las Vegas Raiders: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU. Mentally tough playmaker with excellent route-running and the ability to make the first tackler miss. Sounds exactly like someone the Raiders can use and Jon Gruden will love it.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina. I’ve heard NFL reviews all over the map about Kinlaw. Everyone loves his story and some--but not all--of his game tape and ability. He’s destined to be a fan favorite no matter where he goes, and the Jaguars can use that kind of new face of the franchise. Or someone trading up here will…
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State. This Eagles team traded for Golden Tate in 2018, seeing the appeal of a craftsman-type playmaker at wideout. Aiyuk isn’t quite as twitchy as Tate but plays much the same game, and it’s a dimension the Eagles sorely lacked in 2019. Kristian Fulton makes sense here too.
22. Minnesota Vikings: Austin Jackson, OT, USC. Dripping with largely untapped potential, Jackson has a lot to offer but also a lot to learn. The Vikings get a little leeway in having two picks in the 20s to roll the dice with Jackson.
23. New England Patriots: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State. Hard to know what direction the new-look Patriots go, but replacing Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins at OLB/EDGE figures to be a big priority. Gross-Matos has the length and attack-dog mentality Belichick likes.
24. New Orleans Saints: Marlon Davidson, DT, Auburn. Versatile late-bloomer of a playmaker who can play all over the defensive line. His name consistently came up with NFL folks when I asked about a player who the draft media underrated back in January/February.
25. Minnesota Vikings: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson. Tall corner who plays hard and can be a nightmare for bigger wideouts, though Terrell needs some technical polish. The Vikings have some holes to fill at CB and Terrell would be a good start to the shoveling.
26. Miami Dolphins: Josh Jones, OT, Houston. Offensive tackle gets overlooked in Miami’s list of needs, but snagging one in the 1st seems like it should be a priority. Jones needs some work but showed marked improvement as 2019 progressed and the arrow is pointing way up.
27. Seattle Seahawks: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama. Because Seattle always trades back from its fist pick, this projection is solely about McKinney being at No. 27. He’s worth it.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois. Ozzie Newsome isn’t the GM anymore but man does Chinn come across like an Ozzie Newsome kind of player. He’ll be the first FCS-level player drafted.
29. Tennessee Titans: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama. Stefon Diggs’ brother offers size, ball skills and the potential to become a great outside CB. Trevon only plays to that level at times now, but the talent is not in question. His size/toughness make him a nice fit for the Titans.
30. Green Bay Packers: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU. Off-ball linebacker isn’t as sexy of a need as wide receiver, but the depth at WR makes me think the Packers won’t force one here.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn. I made Igbinoghene the pick here in my “what I would do” mock draft. A friend who covers the 49ers messaged me that I just might be right on, so I’m letting that ride...
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU. This pick tends to get traded and it wouldn’t surprise me to see a team climb up to land the twitchy Gladney. Can’t rule out a running back here, or Cesar Ruiz.
33. Bengals: Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
34. Colts: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
35. Lions: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
36. Giants: Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan
37. Chargers: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
38. Panthers: Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
39. Dolphins: D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
40. Texans: A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
41. Browns: Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming
42. Jaguars: Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
43. Bears: Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
44. Colts: Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
45. Buccaneers: Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia
46. Broncos: Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota
47. Falcons: Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech
48. Jets: Matt Hennessy, C, Temple
49. Steelers: Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
50: Bears: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU
51. Cowboys: Josh Uche, LB, Michigan
52. Rams: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
53. Eagles: Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
54. Bills: Ashtyn Davis, S, Cal
55. Ravens: Lloyd Cushenberry, C/G, LSU
56. Dolphins: Jordan Elliott, DT, Missouri
57. Rams: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
58. Vikings: Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
59. Seahawks: Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn
60. Ravens: Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame
61. Titans: Willie Gay Jr., LB, Mississippi State
62. Packers: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
63. Chiefs: Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
64. Seahawks: Jonathan Greenard, EDGE, Florida
Reminder that at this point, I’m projecting player and slot much more than team/player.
65. Bengals: Jonah Jackson, G, Ohio State
66. Washington: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
67. Lions: Van Jefferson, WR, Florida
68. Jets: Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma
69. Panthers: James Lynch, DE, Baylor
70. Dolphins: Jabari Zuniga, EDGE, Florida
71. Chargers: Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State
72. Cardinals: Darrell Taylor, EDGE, Tennessee
73. Jaguars: K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State
74. Browns: Alex Highsmith, EDGE, Charlotte
75. Colts: Davon Hamilton, DT, Ohio State
76. Buccaneers: Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
77. Broncos: Robert Hunt, OL, Louisiana
78. Falcons: Lucas Niang, OT, TCU
79. Jets: Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame
80. Raiders: Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech
81. Raiders: Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
82. Cowboys: Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State
83. Broncos: Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama
84. Rams: Matt Peart, OT, UConn
85. Lions: McTelvin Agim, DT, Arkansas
86. Bills: Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina
87. Patriots: Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame
88. Saints: Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State
89. Vikings: Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State
90. Texans: John Simpson, G, Clemson
91. Raiders: Terrell Burgess, S, Utah
92. Ravens: Darnay Holmes, CB, UCLA
93. Titans: Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri
94. Packers: Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR/RS, Michigan
95. Broncos: Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF
96. Chiefs: Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State
97. Browns: Lynn Bowden, WR, Kentucky
98. Patriots: Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton
99. Giants: Josiah Scott, CB, Michigan State
100. Patriots: Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue
101. Seahawks: Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M
102. Steelers: Antonio Gibson, WR/RB, Memphis
103. Eagles: Kenny Robinson, CB, XFL
104. Rams: Ben Bartch, OT, St. Johns
105. Vikings: Kalija Lipscomb, WR, Vanderbilt
106. Ravens: Derek Tuszka, EDGE, North Dakota State