Whole Nine Sports

Alex Katson’s 2020 Mock Draft v3.0

Denzel Mims
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Alex Katson
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The 2020 NFL Combine has wrapped up, which means that the next major event is the draft! We still have a month and a half of pro days, speculation, free agency, and more speculation, so don’t worry if you don’t feel prepared quite yet. I’m going to kick off the speculation with my latest mock draft in the meantime, though.

For this one, I’m trying to blend a predictive mock with some new scenarios. As such, it’s going to get a little weird. Bear with me, though, because we’re going 3 rounds deep and including trades, so there will be a lot more for you to yell at me about on Twitter @alexkatson. For each trade, I’ll include my thoughts on why each team would do it. A final note: any picks marked with a ^ are ones whose position hasn’t been finalized. That’s because the NFL has yet to release compensatory picks.

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1.1 Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Burrow
Image created by Cory Skloff, Whole Nine Sports

The pick: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

What else is there to say at this point? Even if Burrow decides to pull a 2004 Eli Manning and say he won’t play for the Bengals (and that’s a big if), I still think owner Mike Brown would draft him out of spite. If that means he’d sit out the year and re-enter the draft, so be it. Brown is much too stubborn to let this pick pass him by.

1.2 Washington Redskins

Chase Young
Photo by Joe Maiorana, USA TODAY Sports

The pick: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State

This is only slightly interesting because there have been rumors of Washington trading out of this spot. Even so, I think they’ll stay put and take the best player in the draft in Young. There’s virtually no weaknesses in his game, and he’ll be a standout for years to come. I can’t see a reason why this sort of talent should fall below #2.

TRADE: DET trades pick 1.3 for MIA picks 1.5, 1.26, and 5.144^

1.3 Miami Dolphins (via DET)

Tua Tagovailoa
Photo by Butch Dill, USA TODAY Sports

The pick: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Why the Dolphins do it: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Dolphins need a new QB. Why not make sure you’re getting the one you’ve been linked to for the entire season? While losing out on one of the extra first-rounders hurts, they do so knowing that no other team can top that offer.

Why the Lions do it: Someone will want this pick to grab a quarterback, whether that’s Tua or Justin Herbert. The only question is how much value the Lions can squeeze out of their position. While other teams have future assets that might be appealing, I’m of the opinion that both GM Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia are fighting for their jobs in 2020. Picking up an extra first-rounder to add another immediate impact player boosts their chances of reaching the playoffs and ensuring they’re drafting for Detroit in 2021.

As for Tua, I still have him solidly as QB2 even after Herbert’s strong combine. The medicals look good, by all accounts, and we’ll get to see him work out at a pro day in early April. While left-handed quarterbacks haven’t found much success in the NFL, save Michael Vick, Tua has all the tools to become a high-level QB in the NFL. I’m not scared by reports that his first meeting with the Dolphins at the combine went poorly, either. Remember that coach Brian Flores is a Belichick disciple, and that the Patriots are famous for holding weird meetings.

1.4 New York Giants

Jedrick Wills Jr.
Photo by University of Alabama Athletics

The pick: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama

I thought about going for Tristan Wirfs here after the monster combine he had, but I still believe Wills is the most complete tackle in this class. While he played right tackle at Alabama, he was still the blindside protector for Tua Tagovailoa, so I’m not overly concerned about his ability to move to left tackle in the pros. Wills’ pass sets are a thing of beauty, which the Giants will desperately need to protect Daniel Jones. Don’t sleep on his run blocking, though: his power at the point of attack is well above average. With a young backfield of Jones and Saquon Barkley that both need some offensive line help to spring good seasons, I can’t imagine a better fit than Wills.

Also: hog molly.

1.5 Detroit Lions (via MIA)

Jeffrey Okudah
Photo by Mark J. Terrill, AP Photo

The pick: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State

While the Lions could most certainly trade out of this spot again for the next QB-hungry team, I think it makes too much sense for them to stand pat and take Okudah. Isaiah Simmons is intriguing here because he’s actually an alien, but he’d be playing primarily safety in the Lions scheme, which I don’t love for him. Instead, Okudah can come in and lock down one side of the field from day 1. It remains to be seen what the Lions’ plans are regarding Darius Slay, but a trio of Okudah, Slay, and nickelback Justin Coleman would terrorize opposing offenses. If Detroit instead lets Slay walk, Okudah takes over his role for a much lower price. That’d give the Lions some flexibility to fill other needs in free agency.

1.6 Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert
Photo by Chris Pietsch, AP Photo

The pick: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Two things here: one, I did consider the Chargers trading up to make this pick, but that’s not really GM Tom Telesco’s style. He got the nickname Coupon Tom for a reason, after all. If another team (say, Carolina or Indianapolis) jumps LA to grab Herbert, I fully believe that Telesco would take an offensive lineman and look for a QB in the second round. Both Telesco and coach Anthony Lynn have expressed faith in veteran Tyrod Taylor as a starting quarterback, which I don’t necessarily not believe. That’d give the Chargers the ability to wait until the second for a franchise QB if the board dictates that they do so.

Two, if you know me, you know I hate this fit as a Chargers fan. Part of it is just me being contrarian; it’s been the pick in nearly every mock for the last three months. Part of it likely is my bias as a University of Washington student, considering Herbert is a Duck. Part of it is just that I don’t love Herbert’s film.I’m coming around on it, though. The former Oregon QB lit the combine on fire, with arguably the best all-around athletic profile at the position. I still worry about his ability to handle pressure, which is a huge concern behind the current Chargers offensive line. Even so, Herbert looks like he should be a successful NFL QB. If he lands in LA, I’ll root for him to reach that potential, even if he did go to Oregon.

1.7 Carolina Panthers

Derrick Brown
Photo by Douglas DeFelice, USA TODAY Sports

The pick: Derrick Brown, IDL, Auburn

Let’s get this straight: Cam Newton is coming back next year. Most of the Panthers defensive line corps are hitting free agency. Yes, quarterback is a higher value position, but defensive line is a bigger need at this stage. Plus, the value of Derrick Brown is much greater than the value of Jordan Love here.

Brown is a behemoth in the middle who excelled as a run-stuffing tackle during his time at Auburn. Don’t let that fool you, though, because he’s also got a lot in the toolbox as far as pass rush moves go. He reminds me a bit of Ndamukong Suh as far as play style, but athletically is closer to an Akiem Hicks. That’s no knock on Brown or Hicks, considering Suh is one of the most athletically gifted linemen we’ve ever seen. I’d like to see his conditioning get a touch better, as I saw him start to fade late in games this season, but that’s really my only criticism of him. He’ll likely be one of the few defensive linemen that make a true impact in their first season as a pro.

1.8 Arizona Cardinals

Isaiah Simmons
Photo by Jeremy Brevard, USA TODAY Sports

The pick: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

Time to get weird! Yes, the Cardinals probably have more pressing needs. They could take CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Tristan Wirfs, even Javon Kinlaw if they really wanted to. They could trade out to a team that wants Simmons more!

I like this fit too much, though. Steve Keim was the GM of the Cardinals when they took Deone Bucannon in the first round in 2014. While that never really worked out as intended, Simmons is like if Bucannon was from Mars. At 6’3 1/2”, 238 lbs, this man ran a 4.39 in the 40 at the combine. You know the drill at this point if you’ve been following the draft: he can play linebacker, safety, nickelback, outside corner, 3-4 edge rusher, etc., etc. For an Arizona team listed on ESPN as starting Jordan Hicks and Joe Walker at linebacker going into 2020, I love the idea of putting Simmons in the middle of the field and just letting him roam.

1.9 Jacksonville Jaguars

Tristan Wirfs
Photo by David Banks, AP Photo

The pick: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

Mock drafts at this point of the process are about trying new things and seeing how it plays out. This is most certainly a new thing, but not just for the sake of having a new thing. Jacksonville is in a weird spot with their offensive line. 2018 second rounder Jawaan Taylor is a franchise right tackle and center Brandon Linder is one of the better ones in the league. Beyond that, it gets murky. Left tackle Cam Robinson hasn’t been stellar, leading to rumors that the team might move him inside to guard. Guard Andrew Norwell is getting paid a lot of money to play poorly, and could theoretically be cut for $9 million dead cap if Jacksonville can find the room. AJ Cann and Will Richardson are, to put it politely, not great.

That leads us to Wirfs, the athletic freak with a stellar NFL Combine under his belt. If Jacksonville decides to move Robinson to guard, presumably to replace the Cann/Richardson tandem, Wirfs can start right away at left tackle. (He only played right tackle at Iowa because Alaric Jackson didn’t have the ability to play on the right side. Don’t come at me about this.) However, Jacksonville could also just move Wirfs to right guard, where many have suggested he could be an All-Pro a la Brandon Scherff. Either way, Wirfs presents an upgrade over what the Jaguars currently have, which could pave the way for a bounceback season, regardless of who’s the starting QB.

TRADE: CLE trades picks 1.3 for PHI picks 1.21, 2.53, and 5.150^

1.10 Philadelphia Eagles (via CLE)

CeeDee Lamb
Photo by Matthew Pearce, Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The pick: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

Why the Eagles do it: All the receivers are still on the board! Yes, it costs a pretty penny, but how far away are the Eagles from recouping that Super Bowl magic from 2017? I’d argue not that far, so moving up to grab an elite wide receiver to stretch the field makes sense.

Why the Browns do it: Wills and Wirfs are gone. Mekhi Becton profiles as more of a run blocker, when the Browns need someone to protect Baker Mayfield. Andrew Thomas is an intriguing option, but is likely a reach at 10 based on what NFL teams have been putting out there. With no great options at tackle, the Browns stick with the analytics approach of previous regimes and accumulate picks.

I have Lamb as my WR1, albeit by a very slight margin, which is why I went with him over Jerry Jeudy here. His explosiveness after the catch is what really entices me; it’d also give the Eagles an excitement factor in the passing game they sorely lacked in 2019. With some big-bodied jump ball artists already on the roster, Lamb can play on the opposite side of the field or in the slot for Philly and win from either. He’s the prototypical “get the ball in his hands and let him work” prospect, and a great fit for this Eagles offense.

1.11 New York Jets

Mekhi Becton
Photo by Timothy D. Easley, AP Photo

The pick: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Of course, we all know about the Sam Darnold “seeing ghosts” clip from Monday Night Football this season. But Alex, you just said Becton is more of a run blocker! Why would the Jets take him if the Browns wouldn’t?

Well, for starters, the Jets were 31st in rush yards per game in 2019, even with Le’Veon Bell in the backfield. Of course, some of that was chalked up to Bell perhaps not being in great shape after skipping 2018, yada yada yada, but part of it is certainly on the offensive line. Tracing this back to Darnold: if you’re the opposing defense, and you know you can stop the run, why wouldn’t you sell out on the pass? Blitz the inexperienced Darnold and see what he can cook up under pressure.

With Becton in the fold to replace likely free agent departure Kelvin Beachum, the Jets will be able to run the ball again (probably). That in turn forces the defense to stay honest, which opens things up a bit more for Darnold. Also, just because Becton profiles as a hyper-powerful mauler type doesn’t mean he’s a liability in pass pro. His technique just needs to get a bit cleaner in that area and he’ll be good to go for 10+ years at left tackle.

1.12 Las Vegas Raiders

Jerry Jeudy
Photo by Roy K. Miller, Icon Sportswire

The pick: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

What a time to be alive if you’re a Raiders fan. Yeah, the team is moving to Vegas, but I’m of the opinion that Vegas is cooler than Oakland anyway. Mike Mayock seems like he’s a good GM so far, Jon Gruden is a chaotic force the league still hasn’t found a way to handle, and the team overperformed in 2019. Now they can get the best route runner since Julio Jones, too?

Jeudy is much more than a technician on routes, though. Just because his RAC ability isn’t as good as CeeDee Lamb’s doesn’t mean it’s not scintillating; just because he’s not as fast as Henry Ruggs III doesn’t mean he won’t burn you to a crisp. Much like Lamb, he’s alignment versatile, which is great news for a Raiders team with a ton of supplemental talent to burn. Think like Michael Thomas and his supporting cast in New Orleans. The Bama product struggles with physicality at times because he’s built so slender, but if his future team can scheme him into open space from the jump, he’ll be a favorite to win Rookie of the Year.

1.13 Indianapolis Colts

Jordan Love
Photo by Grant Halverson, Getty Images

The pick: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

This is another common fit, because the Colts brass has made it clear they very much enjoy Jordan Love. While I don’t think Love should go this high, I think he most certainly will, whether it’s Indianapolis or someone else in the top 15. There’s a lot to like with this fit, however. Love wouldn’t have to start right away thanks to the presence of Jacoby Brissett (and/or a free agent signee), he has a very good offensive line in front of him, and Frank Reich is one of the better QB developers in the league.

There’s no questioning Love’s measurables (6’4”, 224 lbs, 10 ½” hands), but his decision-making is what will make or break his NFL career. He likes taking chances, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but eliminating some of the more high-risk ones will be the focal point for his future team. Getting him to utilize his arm talent on out-breaking routes so that he doesn’t float them for easy picks will be a good first step. With Reich in the building, I like his chances as a pro.

1.14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Javon Kinlaw
Photo by Butch Dill, AP Photo

The pick: Javon Kinlaw, IDL, South Carolina

If the board falls this way, I’d imagine this pick will have a robust trade market. Teams in need of a receiver will be looking to jump the Broncos at 15, but ultimately, I don’t think any of those offers provide enough value for the Bucs to miss out on Kinlaw. Look at it this way: if the Bucs trade out, that team takes Henry Ruggs III, right? So then the Broncos either reach for a receiver like Jalen Reagor, or they take a corner, but they’re likely not taking Kinlaw. That leaves the door wide open for Tampa’s division rival Atlanta to scoop up Kinlaw and ride into the sunset. If I’m a Bucs fan, I’m saying no thanks.

Have you seen the F9 trailer? There’s a part where Tyrese Gibson is driving a Pontiac with a rocket engine attached to it. That’s my pro comp for Javon Kinlaw. His explosiveness off the snap is downright unfair, but he pairs that so well with his overwhelming power to get into the backfield that it’s a wonder anyone was able to stop him. I will say that when you do stop Kinlaw’s power, you’ve likely taken him out of the play, because his pad level gets really high, really fast. However, I like the counter moves he showed at times on tape; I wish he’d use them more often.

1.15 Denver Broncos

Henry Ruggs III
Photo by Stuart McNair, 247Sports

The pick: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Thanks to the Bucs’ eyes for Kinlaw, GM John Elway gets to laugh all the way to the bank. Ruggs adds a vertical dimension to this Broncos offense that could lead to Drew Lock actually throwing the ball over them mountains. That’s not his only value, though. His acceleration is of a similar tier as his speed, which allows him to release on short routes so effectively that he can be used in that area of the field from day 1. His surprisingly large catch radius and excellent hands also allow him to make catches down the field without needing a ton of space.

With Courtland Sutton already in the fold, Ruggs would be free to zip around the field while Sutton out-muscles defenders at the point of attack. Add in Noah Fant with another season of development, and Denver might have an offense to rival the Super Bowl champion Chiefs.

1.16 Atlanta Falcons

K'Lavon Chaisson
Image created by Cory Skloff, Whole Nine Sports

The pick: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU

Too easy. I’ve compared Chaisson to former Falcon and pending free agent Vic Beasley in the past, but others liken him more to Brian Burns. The 20 year old phenom ended up making the right decision to not work out at the combine, considering the high number of hamstring pulls this year thanks to the new schedule. AJ Epenesa, who did work out, didn’t look great either. That leaves Chaisson to take the EDGE2 spot solely by attrition.

The redshirt sophomore is a much more complete player than expected upon first glance. His run defense ability is underrated, his technique is better than people give him credit for, and obviously he’s a high-tier pass rusher. While his production doesn’t pop off the page, the athletic profile and fact that he’s only 20 years old will be enticing to many a team. It just so happens that the Falcons have a need at the position, making this pick one of my favorites.

1.17 Dallas Cowboys

Kristian Fulton
Photo by Derick E. Hingle, USA TODAY Sports

The pick: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

This is a hill I’ll likely end up dying on. Fulton is, was, and will likely always be my CB2 behind Jeffrey Okudah. He’s scheme versatile, experienced playing press, and has excellent short-burst athleticism to close gaps with the ball in the air. I understand he’s not the best tackler, nor was he the best, or maybe even second-best, DB on his own team. But CJ Henderson, who many people have mocked to Dallas at this spot, isn’t a great tackler, either.

Byron Jones is likely going to be the casualty of the Cowboys’ spending spree to keep their guys in house, which leaves them with Chidobie Awuzie as their CB1. Fulton could step directly into that hole and provide the same level of play at a much lower cost than Jones. If he does, Dallas could find themselves in charge of the NFC East under new coach Mike McCarthy.

1.18 Miami Dolphins (via PIT)

Andrew Thomas
Photo by Jason Getz, USA TODAY Sports

The pick: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

After trading away Laremy Tunsil before the 2019 season, it might be a good idea for the Dolphins to invest in a new franchise left tackle. Yes, in this situation their new QB is left-handed, but the NFL has changed enough that the play style differences between left and right tackle have lessened. That said, I think Thomas could easily move to the right side if it’s something you’re dead-set on.

I’ve continued to struggle with what the NFL’s rumored problem with Thomas is. I think he’s a complete tackle, with plus traits as both a pass and run blocker. He’ll need to improve his footwork to deal with speed rushes a bit better, but his hand technique is rather polished in my opinion. As far as the footwork issue goes, I don’t foresee it being a huge issue for the Dolphins, who in this scenario would likely be running a ton of West Coast concepts to fit what Tua Tagovailoa does well. If this were a mock draft based on what I would do, Thomas wouldn’t be available at 18.

1.19 Las Vegas Raiders (via CHI)

Kenneth Murray
Photo by Ian Maule, Tulsa World

The Pick: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

I’ve been making this pick for what seems like an eternity. While the Raiders need a corner, I can’t emphasize enough how much I love the value of Murray at this pick. He’s a tremendous athlete: his 4.52 in the 40 got overshadowed by Isaiah Simmons exposing himself as an alien. Murray is one of the better tacklers in this linebacker class, which is a great look considering his sideline-to-sideline range. He did need a lot of space to make a huge impact at Oklahoma, as he struggles to disengage from blocks at times. Pair that with his continued questioning of his own instincts on the field, and it’s clear Murray isn’t the perfect prospect.

Even so, I think Murray is a 10+ year starter at middle linebacker. His flaws are probably easy fixes: an NFL strength and conditioning program will get him to where he needs to be play strength-wise and he’ll learn to trust his instincts with time. Some people don’t like him in zone coverage, but I thought he looked good early in the season, before Oklahoma played some of the more complex offensive schemes on their slate. The Raiders need someone to roam the middle of the field after addressing the edge rusher and safety position last year, and Murray is about as good as you can get to do it.

1.20 Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR)

Jeff Gladney
Photo by TCU Athletics

The pick: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

I went with Gladney over CJ Henderson here mostly because of scheme fit. The Jaguars run a lot of zone coverage, as you might remember from when Jalen Ramsey demanded to be traded. With Ramsey on the roster, Jacksonville would sometimes run what I likened to the box-and-one defense in basketball. Ramsey would play press man on the outside against the opponent’s #1 WR, but the rest of the defense would be in zone. While they could plug Henderson into a similar situation, the reason it worked with Ramsey was because he was such an elite cover corner immediately upon entering the league. I don’t see Henderson the same way.

Gladney, on the other hand, is best suited for a zone scheme, at least to start out. His feet are overly active in press man, which can throw him off-balance and cause him to get grabby and draw pass interference calls. In zone, though, he’d be given the freedom to use his instincts to attack the ball in the air without having to stick with a particular receiver. This is especially true because he’s much more comfortable attacking downhill with the ball in the air, rather than having to find it behind him and make a play. Plugging him into the Jaguars system would give them the ability to run as much zone as they want, though they may need to pick up a free safety to cover for his early mistakes in man looks.

1.21 Cleveland Browns (via PHI)

Josh Jones

The pick: Josh Jones, OT, Houston

Okay, so now all of the top 4 tackles are off the board in this scenario. Cleveland could maybe trade down again, but I’m comfortable with slotting Jones into the first round. People have been toying with this idea since early January, with many proclaiming that Jones’ Senior Bowl week had cemented his status among the top 32. The combine lined up with what we saw in Mobile, so here we are with Jones in the first round.

Jones is weirdly raw for someone who was a four-year starter at Houston. He’s very athletically gifted – strong build, moves fluidly, good length – but his technique will need work for him to stick in the NFL. However, that fluidity and length will serve him well as a pass protector if a coach can coax some technique out of him. With Bill Callahan taking over as offensive line coach in Cleveland, I feel good about Jones’ development in northeastern Ohio.

1.22 Buffalo Bills

AJ Epenesa
Photo by Keith Gillett, Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The pick: AJ Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

Epenesa didn’t have the best combine performance by any means, but I can’t believe some people are suggesting he’s no longer a first rounder. I didn’t expect him to test particularly well anyway, considering he’s more of a power player. Stout in the run game and proficient in traffic as a rusher, Epenesa certainly has a role at the next level.

The Bills might be the best fit for him, as they have veteran players at the position that can mentor the former Hawkeye without putting stress on him to perform immediately. They also have the position versatile Ed Oliver, which would give Buffalo a nice 1-2 punch who could both play as 4-3 ends or on the interior on any given play. To become a force to reckon with in the NFL, though, he’ll need to work on keeping his pad level low through the course of the play.

1.23 New England Patriots

Xavier McKinney
Photo by Steve Mitchell, USA TODAY Sports

The pick: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

Does anyone really know what the Patriots are going to do come April? For all I know, they could take yet another RB just out of spite for the league. Quarterback is an interesting premise, but I’ll be of the belief that Tom Brady is coming back until the day he signs with another team. Instead, let’s address a different position the Patriots are aging at: free safety.

The McCourty twins will turn 33 this August. With the way Bill Belichick operates, that might as well be 65. McKinney would give New England a contingency plan for Devin, while 2018 second rounder Joejuan Williams may be Jason’s eventual replacement on the outside. McKinney has great instincts for the position but lacks elite range, so who better to mentor him than McCourty, one of the most instinctually gifted safeties in the league? I’d fully expect McKinney to develop into an absolute killer if this is what happens, but perhaps not right away. His rookie year would likely involve him playing as New England’s third safety or as a spot starter should McCourty or Patrick Chung get injured. After that, though, all bets are off.

1.24 New Orleans Saints

Justin Jefferson
Photo by Jason Getz, USA TODAY Sports

The pick: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

Michael Thomas might as well be the only receiver on the roster for the Saints right now. Ted Ginn Jr. is a free agent who won’t be returning. Tre’Quan Smith is a god in Madden, but hasn’t done a ton on the field. Deonte Harris is a wide receiver in the same way Devin Hester was a wide receiver. Lil’Jordan Humphrey is Lil’Jordan Humphrey. You get the picture.

Jefferson is another alignment versatile weapon at 6’1”, 202 lbs who, when paired with Thomas, would give the Saints two matchup nightmares. Playing a team with strong outside corners? Put one of them in the slot and let them feast. Corners stay on a side of the field? One in the slot, one on the weaker boundary corner. Easy money. Repeat ad infinitum. Jefferson is insanely dangerous as a short and intermediate receiver, which would serve him well in a Saints offense helmed once again in 2020 by Drew Brees. He might find a lot more work in the slot to begin his career, depending on how his team feels about his release ability, but I have confidence he’ll find reps on the outside fairly early on.

1.25 Minnesota Vikings

CJ Henderson
Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack, AP Photo

The pick: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

Mike Zimmer and a first round corner. Again. Until the heat death of the universe. Memes aside, the Vikings actually need a corner this time. Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are free agents, Xavier Rhodes is going to join them on the open market unless the Vikings value the Pro Bowl, and Mike Hughes can only cover one side of the field at a time. Even if you assume they’ll bring back one of Waynes or Alexander, that leaves a hole on the opposite boundary or in the slot. It’s unlikely they retain both, considering what they’ll likely fetch in free agency and the Vikings cap situation.

Enter Henderson, who’s built like he’s cosplaying Plastic Man. The former Gator isn’t the best tackler, but that’s really the only major flaw in his game as a press corner at this stage. He has the instincts, ball skills, and fluidity of an elite NFL corner. His first year might look a bit ugly to start, as I expect him to get called for pass interference fairly frequently due to his aggressive play style until he adjusts to the NFL game. Zimmer loves long, athletic corners he can coach up, though, which makes this pick a pretty solid fit.

1.26 Detroit Lions (via MIA via HOU)

Patrick Queen
Photo by Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images

The pick: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

I’d say this trade has worked out pretty well for the Lions so far: not only do they still get Jeffrey Okudah, but they also get Queen to man the middle as a bonus. Queen is LB2 according to many, but we’ve already established I’m a Kenneth Murray man. Even so, I can see the argument: Queen has the range and instincts Murray has, but some people prefer the Tiger’s coverage skills. Plugging him in at MLB for Detroit gives them an immediate starter for the foreseeable future at a position they’ve made clear they’re looking to make improvements.

The Lions’ linebacker depth chart confuses me a little bit, but only because they’ve invested so much into it already. Devon Kennard is a bit of a hybrid who rushes the passer more often than anything else, but I like what he brings to the table in that role. Jarrad Davis hasn’t performed to expectations, but he’s only 25. Detroit just took Jahlani Tavai in the second round of last year’s draft. With Queen added to the mix, I’d assume it’d mean a benching or departure for Davis while moving Tavai to SAM. That’d leave them with a starting group of Kennard, Queen, and Tavai, with Davis and Christian Jones the odd men out. That’s a group I’m comfortable with.

TRADE: SEA trades pick 1.27 for CAR picks 2.38 and 4.103^

1.27 Carolina Panthers (via SEA)

Jacob Eason
Photo by Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports

The pick: Jacob Eason, QB, Washington

Why the Panthers do it: New owner David Tepper has made it publicly known that he’s going to be aggressive. With Cam Newton’s future with the team in question beyond 2020, the Panthers might need a new QB. We saw in 2019 that the successor probably isn’t on the roster, as neither Will Grier nor Kyle Allen looked particularly impressive. Getting the fifth year option here is invaluable.

Why the Seahawks do it: They’re legally not allowed to pick in the first round unless they take someone who’s bad at football. For real, though, Seattle operates on a very value-based approach to draft picks, and nobody has been able to crack their evaluation process. It’s incredibly likely that their target at 27 would still be there at 38 for those reasons, plus they add another pick in the middle rounds, where GM John Schneider has traditionally done most of his damage.

YEET. Did I make this trade specifically to get Eason into the first round? Maybe. You’ll never know. While it’s likely Eason would still be there at 38, two factors inform this trade up into the first to snag him. One, fifth year options on QBs are very valuable. We see teams trade into the end of the first just to get that fifth year option all the time. Two, the Buccaneers would also likely be angling for a trade up for Eason, especially because I think there’s a fairly substantial drop to the next tier of QBs in this draft.

Ultimately, I wanted to explore the Panthers scenario more, because I’ve seen the Bucs one before. Newton is going to start in 2020, which is great news for Eason, who needs a year to sit and learn an NFL offense before he’s put on the field. Assume Newton then leaves after that season. That leaves the door open for Eason to take over and lead the Panthers to glory on a cost-controlled deal. In turn, that allows Tepper to go after any free agent that tickles his fancy.

1.28 Baltimore Ravens

Terrell Lewis
Photo by University of Alabama Athletics

The pick: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama

Yeah, yeah, new regime and all that. The Ravens are still going to take Alabama players in my mind until the end of time, unless they purposefully don’t do it for five to ten years in a row. Plus, they need edge rusher help, run a 3-4, and Lewis is the best 3-4 edge rusher on my board at this stage. Sue me.

Regardless of the helmet, I love Lewis’ fit on this defense. For one, it just feels right to have a linebacker named Terrell and/or Lewis on the Ravens. The Ravens even put out an article about how he’s such a good fit with them. They’re not wrong, either: Lewis is quoted in that article as saying that Alabama’s scheme is similar to Baltimore’s. That’d likely go a long way towards lessening the growing pains of moving to the NFL. Of course, taking a player like Lewis in the first round requires confidence regarding his injury history, which includes a dislocated elbow and torn ACL. Even so, it just feels right.

TRADE: TEN trades pick 1.29 for IND picks 2.34 and 4.112^

1.29 Indianapolis Colts (via TEN)

Denzel Mims
Photo by Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports

The pick: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

Why the Colts do it: If you look at the teams between 29 and 34, at least 2 could take a receiver (Green Bay and Cincinnati). San Francisco or Kansas City could trade out, which could make getting the receiver of their choice much more difficult. With an extra 2nd rounder already in their pockets, it doesn’t hurt them as much to make this jump.

Why the Titans do it: All the first-round worthy edge rushers are gone and there’s no guards worth taking this high. Yes, it’s a short jump down just to take one of those positions anyway, but with the teams in between, it’s likely that player slips to 34 regardless. Adding another 4th rounder in a rather deep draft lessens the blow of helping out a division rival as well.

Welcome to my take, everybody. I’ve thought very highly of Mims for months, which is on record in my Stock Up/Stock Down pieces from the season, but I’ve been afraid to put it out there in a mock draft for fear of retribution. After blazing through the combine, though, it seems like more and more people are jumping on the “Mims is a first-rounder” train by the day. For the Colts, a pairing of Mims and T.Y. Hilton at receiver poses a threat to any defense, regardless of quarterback. If you’re struggling, just imagine the role you see Tee Higgins in. Now replace Higgins with Mims. It’s beautiful.

1.30 Green Bay Packers

Laviska Shenault Jr.

The pick: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado

Luckily for Green Bay, Shenault is largely redundant with T.Y. Hilton in Indy, so he’s still available to them at 30. Don’t let the numbers at the combine trick you into thinking Shenault isn’t a first rounder: he was working out with an inflamed pubic bone and core muscle injury that he’s having surgery for on Tuesday. On tape, you can see the versatility and athleticism he brings to an offense. He has RB-like vision once the ball is in his hands, and profiles well as a slot receiver and screen target from day 1 while he refines his route running. With jet sweep and returner upside as well, there’s a lot you can do with Shenault in a creative offensive scheme.

Matt LaFleur is marketed as a creative offensive coach, so that fit seems pretty seamless. Apart from Davante Adams, there’s a lot of youth in the Packers’ receivers room, but none of them have had a ton invested into them. Aaron Rodgers is famously cagey with young receivers, but Shenault is capable enough to earn his trust through his on-field play from the get go. Imagine if Ty Montgomery had actually panned out in that WR/RB hybrid role in Green Bay, and that’s kind of like what you’re getting in Shenault.

1.31 San Francisco 49ers

Grant Delpit
Photo by Marianna Massey, Getty Images

The pick: Grant Delpit, S, LSU

I strongly considered trading out here, but I didn’t see a lot that would entice a team to move up. Instead, why not bolster the NFC champions with the Jim Thorpe Award winner? It’s widely known Delpit has issues tackling, but some of that can probably be chalked up to shoulder pain he was playing through for the majority of the season. Delpit also said in this article that he was pressing too hard at times in 2019 in pursuit of a national championship and repeat of his stellar 2018. If he’s now healthy, there’s no reason I can see why he wouldn’t return to that form, and learning from players that have been on the NFL’s biggest stage should help him relax in those moments.

For the 49ers, adding Delpit plugs essentially the only hole in their defense. Free safety Jimmie Ward is a pending free agent, with Jaquiski Tartt’s contract up at the end of 2020. Both Tartt and Delpit have experience at both free and strong safety, so I don’t have many qualms about starting both of them. In fact, that added versatility is a weapon I’m positive Kyle Shanahan could use to his advantage. When you never know which safety has which responsibilities, what are you supposed to do? Assuming Ward walks, this could be a home run pick.

1.32 Kansas City Chiefs

Jaylon Johnson
Photo by University of Utah Athletics

The pick: Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah

While the corner play in Kansas City wasn’t awful in 2019, only Rashad Fenton and Charvarius Ward are under contract for 2020, which isn’t exactly ideal. Teams that win the Super Bowl always suffer extreme attrition in free agency, so I wouldn’t necessarily expect Bashaud Breeland or Kendall Fuller to return for next season. That makes corner a gigantic need.

Johnson was one of my combine winners among the DBs, so of course he lands on the Chiefs here and makes them even more of a behemoth than they already are. He’s incredibly sticky as a press man corner, has great ball skills in the air, and is more than sufficient as a tackler and run support player. In zone, he struggles just a touch more because he doesn’t have the elite closing speed or acceleration of some of the other players in the class, but I think it’s something that will come with NFL experience. He’d be a day 1 starter for Kansas City, and likely a very good one at that.

Second Round

Antoine Winfield Jr.
Photo by Jesse Johnson, USA TODAY Sports

2.33 CINTee Higgins, WR, Clemson

2.34 TEN (via IND via WAS) – Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State

2.35 DET – Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota

2.36 NYG – Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame

2.37 LAC – Lloyd Cushenberry III, IOL, LSU

2.38 SEA (via CAR) – Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

2.39 MIA – D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

2.40 ARIJalen Reagor, WR, TCU

2.41 CLE – Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne

2.42 JAX – Neville Gallimore, IDL, Oklahoma

2.43 CHI (via LVR) – Cesar Ruiz, IOL, Michigan

2.44 IND – Ross Blacklock, IDL, TCU

2.45 TB – Austin Jackson, OT, USC

2.46 DEN – AJ Terrell, CB, Clemson

2.47 ATLJK Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

2.48 NYJ – Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn

2.49 PIT – Josh Uche, EDGE, Michigan

2.50 CHI – Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame

2.51 DAL – Justin Madubuike, IDL, Texas A&M

2.52 LAR – Lucas Niang, OT, TCU

2.53 CLE (via PHI) – Troy Dye, LB, Oregon

2.54 BUFJonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

2.55 ATL (via NE) – Darnay Holmes, CB, UCLA

2.56 MIA (via NO) – Curtis Weaver, EDGE, Boise State

2.57 HOU – Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State

2.58 MIN – Raekwon Davis, IDL, Alabama

2.59 SEA – Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah

TRADE: BAL trades pick 2.60 for WAS picks 3.66 and 5.130^

2.60 WAS (via BAL) – KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State

2.61 TEN – Netane Muti, IOL, Fresno State

2.62 GB – Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn

2.63 KC (via SF) – Nick Harris, IOL, Washington

2.64 SEA (via KC) – James Lynch, EDGE/IDL, Baylor

Third Round

Chase Claypool
Photo by Matt Cashore, USA TODAY Sports

3.65 CIN – Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State

3.66 BAL (via WAS) – Ben Bredeson, IOL, Michigan

3.67 DET – Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State

3.68 NYJ (via NYG) – Matt Hennessy, IOL, Temple

3.69 CAR – Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State

3.70 MIA – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

3.71 LAC – Ben Bartch, OT, St. John’s (MN)

3.72 ARI – Zack Baun, EDGE/LB, Wisconsin

3.73 JAX – Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC

3.74 CLE – Jonah Jackson, IOL, Ohio State

3.75 IND – Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia

3.76 TB – Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma

3.77 DEN – Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia

3.78 ATL – Leki Fotu, IDL, Utah

3.79 NYJ – Anfernee Jennings, EDGE, Alabama

3.80 LVR – Grayland Arnold, DB, Baylor

3.81 LVR (via CHI) – Ashtyn Davis, S, Cal

3.82 DAL – Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan

3.83 DEN (via PIT) – Jason Strowbridge, EDGE/IDL, North Carolina

3.84 LAR – Tyler Biadasz, IOL, Wisconsin

3.85 PHI – Dane Jackson, CB, Pitt

3.86 BUF – Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame

3.87 NE – Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue

3.88 NO – Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State

3.89 MIN – Robert Hunt, IOL, Louisiana-Lafayette

3.90 CLE (via HOU) – Matt Peart, OT, UConn

3.91 LVR (via SEA) – Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia

3.92 BAL – Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue

3.93 TEN – Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU

3.94 GB – David Woodward, LB, Utah State

3.95 DEN (via SF) – Logan Stenberg, IOL, Kentucky

3.96 KC – Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State

3.97 NE* – Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas

3.98 NYG* – Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech

3.99 NE* – Jonathan Greenard, EDGE, Florida

3.100 SEA* – Hakeem Adeniji, OL, Kansas

3.101 HOU* – Zack Moss, RB, Utah

3.102 PIT* – Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton

3.103 PHI* – Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois

*: projected compensatory pick

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