The first mock draft of the year is always special: which guys did you have the right feel for early on? Which guys were you completely wrong about? Even though you’ve been seeing mock drafts from a rotating cast of staff writers here at Whole Nine Sports, this is my first one of the season. Feel free to hold me accountable, now or in April, on Twitter @alexkatson. With that, let’s get into it. Draft order is from Tankathon and is accurate through the 4pm EST games of Week 11. A note before we begin: no Tua Tagovailoa in this mock after his hip fracture, as we at WNS are of the opinion that he’ll return for his senior season after the injury. You can read more about how Tua’s injury affects this draft and beyond here.
(Note from the founder: Before we get into the mock, thank you for reading! If you have any feedback or are interested in writing for Whole Nine Sports email [email protected] or contact us on Twitter @WholeNineSports or @WNS_Brandon. We have positions open for fantasy football, gambling, college football, the NFL Draft, and the NFL. No experience required!)
1.1 Cincinnati Bengals
The pick: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
The major consequence of the Tua injury as it pertains to 2020 is that Burrow is now the undisputed QB1 in many circles. After his performance against Alabama, I think many people were ready to anoint Burrow anyway, but with the next best healthy QB being Justin Herbert, his place at the top of the draft is all but cemented. Burrow is currently one of the most well-rounded prospects available, as there’s nothing major that I can say that he’ll need to improve. Critics wonder if his lack of an elite trait will limit him in the NFL, but in a Bengals, system run by Sean McVay disciple Zac Taylor, that may not be a concern. This pick would immediately bring the Bengals back into relevance assuming their other key players stay healthy.
1.2 Washington Redskins
The pick: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Some people may be thinking Chase Young here, but I like Montez Sweat’s potential and Ryan Kerrigan hasn’t shown enough signs of decline for me to weigh the need over tackle, where Trent Williams is all but gone. As a result, the Redskins need someone else to protect presumed QB of the future Dwayne Haskins’ blind side. Enter Thomas, who I think is far and away the best tackle in this class and should step in as a Day 1 starter on whichever team picks him up. I’m personally of the belief that the Redskins offense isn’t that far from being a good-to-great unit, assuming Haskins develops into the player many thought he could be and adding Thomas to that equation brings them that much closer.
1.3 New York Giants
The pick: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Let’s not think too hard about this one. Chase Young is the best player in college football and one of the best pass-rushing prospects in recent memory. After trading Olivier Vernon over the off-season, the Giants pass rush has struggled, with Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter the listed starters plus rookie Oshane Ximines. The Giants run a 3-4, but scheme is sometimes not as important as talent, and Young’s is undeniable. He’s a good fit on any team, and the Giants should be ecstatic that he’s even available at 3.
1.4 Miami Dolphins
The pick: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
With Tua out of the picture, I don’t think there’s any QBs worthy of selection with this pick, so the Dolphins instead go best player available and grab Jeudy. While Preston Williams looked like a legit NFL receiver before tearing his ACL, there isn’t a ton I like about this group. Plus, the Dolphins are so talent-poor that any pick here would be a good one. Jeudy would immediately step in as WR1 in Miami and give whoever is quarterbacking the Dolphins a true bail-out option down the field. With a tandem of Jeudy and a hopefully healthy Williams, plus speedster Jakeem Grant in the slot, the Dolphins could move up-and-down DeVante Parker to a more niche role and potentially save $9.5 million by cutting Albert Wilson.
1.5 New York Jets
The pick: Jeffery Okudah, CB, Ohio State
The Jets starting corners are currently Nate Hairston and Darryl Roberts. Need I say more? The Trumaine Johnson signing was a disaster and New York will likely cut bait as soon as the season ends. I don’t think there’s been a good corner on this roster since Darrelle Revis. Okudah would change all that, as a true man-to-man corner the Jets could immediately have follow the other team’s best receiver. He’s a little bit rawer in zone, but the Jets could do what the Jaguars did with Jalen Ramsey and allow Okudah to run man while the rest of the defense plays zone while those skills develop.
1.6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The pick: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Donovan Smith has been alright at left tackle for the Bucs, but certainly nothing to write home about. Same goes for Demar Dotson, the right tackle who’s a free agent at year’s end. Wirfs would provide an immediate upgrade over either player, either at his usual right tackle spot or on the left side, where he filled in admirably for an injured Alaric Jackson earlier this year. In the interest of continuity, I’d probably slot Wirfs into the RT spot if Dotson walks as a free agent and wait and see if the 26-year-old Smith still has room to improve.
1.7 Denver Broncos
The pick: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Alexander Johnson has played well for a very injured Broncos team this year, but the other linebacker spot has been one of the major weaknesses in Denver. Simmons gives the Broncos added flexibility with his safety/linebacker hybrid style of play that I’d love to see in this Vic Fangio defense. With Kareem Jackson splitting time between corner and strong safety, adding Simmons would give the Broncos the ability to show a variety of looks that would absolutely confound opposing QBs. Simmons is like if Derwin James was bigger and better in every way except zone coverage, which is a terrifying proposition.
1.8 Atlanta Falcons
The pick: AJ Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
The Falcons have 18 sacks in 10 games. 5 of those sacks came on Sunday against Carolina. Their sack leader is defensive tackle Grady Jarrett with 5.5, followed by two free agents to be in Vic Beasley and Adrian Clayborn. Takk McKinley has been somewhat underwhelming. This defense needs help on the edge, and badly. Enter Epenesa, who’s been electric for the Hawkeyes this year with 7 sacks in 10 games. I’m not sure the Falcons will bring back Beasley and/or Clayborn, which would leave them with McKinley and Epenesa battling tackles while Jarrett does his thing on the inside. Lining up Epenesa on the edge also means teams can’t double Jarrett, freeing up more space for the both of them and hopefully bringing this defense back to relevance.
1.9 Arizona Cardinals
The pick: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
The Cardinals have to address the offensive line this offseason one way or another if they want Kyler Murray to live for the duration of his rookie contract. The best way to do that at this juncture is by taking Leatherwood, who can play tackle or guard for the Cardinals and would immediately enter the conversation for the best lineman on the team. If Kliff Kingsbury’s offense is going to work in the NFL, his line is going to have to play better, and one of the best ways to get a unit to play better is by acquiring better talent. The only problem is that Leatherwood can only play one spot at a time, so you’ve still got 4 liabilities.
1.10 Detroit Lions
The pick: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Cornerback was a need for the Lions last year, but reports were that they didn’t like any of the top corners available. If they don’t like Fulton this year, someone needs to get fired. He’s been arguably the third-best secondary player on his own team (safety Grant Delpit and freshman corner Derek Stingley Jr), but don’t let that fool you. Fulton is a beast in press man, with near-flawless footwork that leads to him rarely getting beat in college. In the NFL, that might be a different story, but he’s tall (6’1”) and athletic enough that he should be able to recover and make plays on throws down the field if he can just refine his timing just a bit. With Fulton and Darius Slay on the outside and Justin Coleman in the slot, it would be near-impossible to throw on the Lions in 2020.
1.11 Jacksonville Jaguars
The pick: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
DJ Chark has been electric this season, but a lot of people (including myself) think he still fits best as a WR2. In fact, all of the Jaguars receivers are WR2s: Chark, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, the spirit of Marquise Lee, all of ‘em! Lamb immediately would step in as the WR1 and allow Chark to work on the other side while Westbrook continues his slot duties and Conley rotates in. Lamb, on the other hand, might be my favorite player in the entire class dating back to before the start of the season. The most common pro comparison for Lamb has been Deandre Hopkins, but Lamb is better after the catch than Nuk was coming out of Clemson, making him a scary prospect that would have a good chance to put up gaudy numbers with 6 games against weak AFC South secondaries.
1.12 Cleveland Browns
The pick: Tyler Biadasz, IOL, Wisconsin
With 3 tackles already off the board, the Browns are forced into the next best thing in Biadasz, who can play guard or center. This Browns offensive line has been a disaster this season, which has led to some regression from Baker Mayfield, who struggles while under pressure. Biadasz would bring stability back to the interior of this offensive line that we haven’t seen since Alex Mack left town. While Biadasz can play center or guard, he’s probably best suited at center in Cleveland, as he has trouble pulling for blocks or making plays on the outside. At center, he’d be able to open up holes for Nick Chubb the same size of the holes he’s given Jonathan Taylor at Wisconsin, while also helping keep Mayfield clean enough to develop some real chemistry with Odell Beckham Jr.
1.13 Los Angeles Chargers
The pick: Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
Before you click out of this article and flambé me for not giving the Chargers an offensive lineman, let me explain. Matt Miller said it very well on Twitter earlier this week: you can only draft what’s there. With 4 offensive linemen off the board in the first 12 picks, I just don’t see a guy I like enough to put him in Los Angeles at 13. I’d rather the Chargers go best player available and take Brown, who can play the 1-tech in the 4-3 and replace Brandon Mebane seamlessly. A defensive line of Melvin Ingram, Jerry Tillery, Brown, and Joey Bosa sounds absolutely terrifying, to the point that you wonder if they’d ever have to blitz. With only one extra offensive lineman, any double-team choice you make would probably end up being wrong, with one of the other three getting free to your ball carrier.
1.14 Oakland Raiders (CHI)
The pick: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Ruggs is the textbook definition of a burner, with speed that’s been touted as being in the low 4.1s, but that’s not all he’s got going for him; Alabama also uses Ruggs as a jump-ball receiver at times because his contested catch ability is just unfair. All of this is to say that Ruggs could potentially develop into the WR1 the Raiders thought they were getting when they traded for Antonio Brown, with a floor of a quality WR2 that would still give the future Las Vegas Raiders a boost on offense.
1.15 Philadelphia Eagles
The pick: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
The Eagles secondary still needs help, as they sit 15th in pass defense DVOA. Much of that is owed to the midseason return of Jalen Mills, who’s been the best corner in Philly by far. Ronald Darby, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones, and Rasul Douglas, on the other hand, have been varying degrees of bad. Malcolm Jenkins turns 32 in December and has also not played his best season. Delpit would help mitigate at least some of the issues Philly currently faces, either as a corner or his more natural position of safety. He has all the tools to play anywhere in the secondary, but ideally would be the replacement for Jenkins at strong safety, as his best trait is his instincts that make his downhill attacks look superhuman. The one knock on Delpit is tackling, as he frequently tries to take players down with his shoulders rather than wrapping them up, but ideally the mentorship of Jenkins would help mitigate those issues.
1.16 Miami Dolphins (PIT)
The pick: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
If I’m Dolphins GM Chris Grier, I’m trying to hit singles with these three first-round picks, not home runs. What the Dolphins need most right now is safety and consistency. Herbert is one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the class. He’s arguably the most accurate passer, with good-not-great arm strength that should probably be enough to get it done in the NFL. There are some flaws, however: Herbert is a one-read, shotgun spread quarterback. If you force him to his second read, the accuracy drops off drastically, which is why he’ll tend to run with it instead. In the NFL, he’ll have to cut down on the hits he takes, as there are already some concerns about his durability also that haven’t been shut down by him taking a few too many hits for my taste this year.
1.17 Tennessee Titans
The pick: Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
Jake Fromm feels like a Titans quarterback to me. Fromm is very safe, almost to the point of the dreaded game manager label, and last time I watched his tape, it almost put me to sleep with how boring his play style is. To be clear, he’s very good at football, but in the most methodical way possible. That feels like exactly what the Titans want after the Marcus Mariota rollercoaster: they are currently playing Ryan Tannehill, after all. Fromm isn’t going to wow you with throws down the field, but he’s pinpoint accurate and gives his receivers plenty of space to work after the catch with his ball placement. In an offense with Corey Davis and AJ Brown, that seems like a pretty good way to move the ball to me. Just don’t be surprised if it doesn’t attract very many new fans to one of the NFL’s more forgotten teams.
1.18 Carolina Panthers
The pick: Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
In the lost episode of the Whole Nine Sports podcast, Brandon, Dylan, and I drafted five players we were most excited to see at the Senior Bowl in January. My first pick was Kinlaw, because he’s such an athletic freak that watching him in one-on-one drills is going to be an out-of-body experience. At first glance, defensive line isn’t a need for the Panthers, with Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, and Vernon Butler leading the charge. Two points there: 1) Butler, McCoy, Kyle Love, Wes Horton, and Efe Obada are all free agents after the season, plus it saves Carolina $10 million to cut Poe and 2) the Panthers are last in run defense DVOA by nearly seven points. Part of this problem is rectified by the return of injured Kawaan Short, and obviously at least some of the 5 free agents will return next year. However, adding Kinlaw would create some more flexibility at the position, as he can play nose or on the outside equally well despite his very tall frame. This is a position that will need to be addressed at year’s end and there are few better ways to do it than by picking up Kinlaw.
1.19 Jacksonville Jaguars (LAR)
The pick: Creed Humphrey, IOL, Oklahoma
The rotation of AJ Cann and Will Richardson at right guard this season has been a huge problem for the Jaguars, so let’s get them some help on this line. Humphrey has been one of the best linemen in college football this season and should slot in at either guard or center (should the Jags want to slide Brandon Linder to guard instead) from Day 1. Shoring up that weakness on the line might be the difference between another Nick Foles injury and a playoff berth in 2020. There’s an argument to be made for a corner here after the Jalen Ramsey trade, but I like this fit too much to pass it up.
1.20 Oakland Raiders
The pick: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Back to back Sooners! Please allow me to enlighten you about one of my favorite players to cover weekly as part of my Big 12 duties. Murray is the best cover linebacker in the class, partly because he’s just so patient. He projects as a true 3-down linebacker that can give you meaningful reps in run support or roam sideline to sideline in coverage and shut down big plays. He relies maybe a little too much on his athleticism to get him to the corner, as that patience I mentioned means he’s reacting instead of attacking plays. He’s also a bit hesitant to initiate contact with blocks at times, often at the expense of a few yards to avoid getting beat. Despite this, I think a trial by fire approach in Las Vegas would work wonders for his development much as it has in Norman, and there aren’t very many barriers to a starting spot in the desert.
1.21 Dallas Cowboys
The pick: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Byron Jones is a free agent at the end of the year and there’s a lot of questions about whether or not Dallas will have the money to pay him after sorting out extensions for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper. Chidobe Awuzie has been less than good on the other side. Regardless of whether Jones is coming back, I don’t think it’s a terrible idea to invest a bit more capital into this secondary. Diggs is a big, physical corner with impressive ball skills left over from his time as a two-way player at Alabama and solid tackling ability. There are a few times when his aggressiveness gets him stuck with penalties or burnt down the field, but the emergence of free safety Xavier Woods might mitigate the effects of getting beat over the top. Diggs would be the ideal corner to leave on a side to fight against players like Eagles WRs Alshon Jeffery and JJ Arcega-Whiteside or even Giants TE Evan Engram.
1.22 Indianapolis Colts
The pick: Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
The Colts are 23rd in rush defense DVOA, partly because all of their interior defensive linemen are (relatively) small. Grover Stewart is 6’4” 315 lbs., Denico Autry 6’5” 285, and Margus Hunt 6’8” 295. Raekwon Davis is 6’7” and 308 lbs., with a massive wingspan that ensures that very few runners get past him up the middle. Davis will not produce in the pass rush game, which might be a problem for Colts fans looking for more sack production out of this defense, but there’s something to be said for a guy that can bottle up physical runners like Derrick Henry or Leonard Fournette when you have to play against them all the time. The offense in Indianapolis really hasn’t slowed down all that much with Jacoby Brissett at the helm, so improving the defense might be what the Colts need to be seen as real contenders in the AFC.
1.23 Kansas City Chiefs
The pick: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
Paulson Adebo has a little Marcus Peters to his game, by which I mean he gets burnt deep a lot because he plays intermediate routes so, so aggressively. A former wide receiver on the Farm, Adebo has incredible ball skills and knowledge of route concepts that allow him to drive on breaks and make splash plays. However, because he’s looking for the receiver to break on every play, he’ll get beat down the field because he doesn’t quite have the speed to play catch up once he realizes there isn’t a break coming. I’m still not sure if the Chiefs ended up dumping Peters to the Rams because he kept getting burnt or because of his attitude, so I tentatively like this fit. Plus, the last Stanford WR-turned-CB turned out pretty well.
1.24 Minnesota Vikings
The pick: Neville Gallimore, DL, Oklahoma
Minnesota currently has Linval Joseph and Shamar Stephen starting on the interior. Joseph turned 31 last month and Stephen has been average at best, so the group could use a little juice. Even though Minnesota doesn’t usually like using high picks on the trenches, they do like athletes, and Gallimore is an athletic specimen that will put up eye-popping measurements at the combine. He’s got a wide array of block-shedding moves that allow him to make plays in both the pass and run game. One of the concerns with Gallimore is his conditioning, as he works so hard that he gets tired very quickly. That actually makes him a nice fit in Minnesota from the get-go, as he can rotate in and make some disruptive plays and then get a breather while elder statesmen Joseph and Stephen hold down the fort. In the meantime, he can continue to improve his conditioning to become a 3-down player that ideally replaces Joseph in a couple years.
1.25 Miami Dolphins (HOU)
The pick: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Wills has been one of the biggest risers of the season while playing right tackle for the Crimson Tide. He’s extraordinarily strong, shutting down all hopes of power rushes against him, and plays with a great base that puts him squarely in control of where his matchup is going to go. Having him protect earlier pick Justin Herbert’s strong side in Miami would give the former Oregon QB a little bit more time to progress through some intermediate reads and maybe have a surprisingly good offense. The one major flaw with Wills is foot speed, as he absolutely will get beat by speed rushers if he doesn’t get set in front of them from the outset. There’d still be questions about the Dolphins defense, but I think there’s a better foundation there both talent and coaching wise, which is why I gave Miami three offensive players.
1.26 Buffalo Bills
The pick: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
The Bills are a lot like the Jaguars: they have a type. Both teams have been hoarding slot receiver type players and asking them to play different roles in their respective organizations, and both have experimented with a bigger target (DJ Chark, Duke Williams) to try to pretend their receivers aren’t all just speedsters. The Jags got their future #1 receiver earlier and now it’s the Bills’ turn. Higgins is a big body at 6’4”, 200 lbs., and would provide Josh Allen with a true bail-out option at receiver. Higgins will catch anything remotely near him, a godsend for a Bills team wondering if Allen will ever learn to consistently throw an accurate football. Plus, Higgins is still proficient in the long passing game, so Allen can still unleash his cannon of an arm to find Higgins down the field, too.
1.27 Green Bay Packers
The pick: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
I love the surge Allen Lazard has made this season with so many players injured, but the reality remains that none of the options opposite Davante Adams are too appealing. With Aaron Rodgers turning 36 in early December, it might be a good time to get him some weapons for a couple more runs at another Super Bowl before he rides off into the sunset. Shenault is by far the best player for Colorado, which means that they’ve force-fed him the ball as quick as possible. That has the consequence of Shenault not running a very diverse route tree, but it does allow him to show off his ability after the catch, which has been an awesome blend of power running and finesse. The one concern I have is durability – Shenault has gotten hurt at least once every year at Colorado, which has gotten him some Sammy Watkins comparisons.
1.28 Seattle Seahawks
The pick: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
Let’s try this again. The LJ Collier pick was and still is baffling, especially considering he’s been a healthy scratch for the majority of the season. There’s been little word on the chances that Jadeveon Clowney stays in Seattle beyond 2019 and Ziggy Ansah looks like he’s firmly on the decline. Adding some juice to this pass rush isn’t a bad idea by any means. Gross-Matos has shown proficiency with a variety of pass rush moves and alignments at Penn State, but just needs to speed up his processing a tiny bit to make an immediate impact in the NFL.
1.29 Baltimore Ravens
The pick: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
A seventh Crimson Tide player, and that’s without Tua! Moses only falls this far due to a torn ACL that’s kept him from playing this season, much the same way injuries to Jaylon Smith and Myles Jack once kept them out of the first round. Moses projects as the same kind of impact player those two have become, with elite range and the ability to hang with both tight ends and running backs in coverage. There’s really not much negative to say about Moses other than the fact that he has no 2019 tape, but if his medicals check out, don’t be surprised if he ends up much higher than this in the real deal. The Ravens have been struggling at linebacker since the departure of CJ Mosley this offseason, but Moses just might be the next great Raven at the position.
1.30 New Orleans Saints
The pick: Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue
Yes, the Saints have Jared Cook already. That shouldn’t stop them from grabbing Hopkins, who’s the best receiving tight end we’ve seen since Evan Engram. The two play pretty similarly, in the sense that both are thinner-framed TEs that prefer to catch the ball rather than block. For New Orleans, that means they can line Hopkins up out wide as a big receiver the way they did with Jimmy Graham back in the day while keeping Cook in a more traditional tight end role. The Saints really just need people other than Michael Thomas to catch the ball and I don’t think their offense will slow down that much if it’s Teddy Bridgewater at the controls rather than Drew Brees, so I love the fit with Hopkins here.
1.31 New England Patriots
The pick: Austin Jackson, OT, USC
With Hopkins off the board and lingering questions about whether or not Penn State Gronk-clone Pat Freiermuth is actually eligible for 2020, this feels like the most Patriots pick. Jackson has exploded onto the scene this year with great strength that prevents him from getting pushed back and excellent footwork that keeps him in front of defenders. His stance often tells a defense whether they should expect run or pass and he’s a bit raw, but a year or two with GOAT position coach Dante Scarnecchia should completely eliminate those issues. The Patriots line has struggled without Isaiah Wynn this season but adding Jackson on the other side or as a rotational lineman would give New England enough ammo up front to keep Tom Brady clean so that he can play well into his 60s.
1.32 San Francisco 49ers
The pick: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
I’ve been pounding the table for this guy all season in my coverage of the Big 12. Gladney has been incredible this year against a very strong receiving corps conference-wide and is effective in both man and zone looks. With great ball skills, Gladney is going to be good for a few turnovers a season in the NFL. Akhello Witherspoon hasn’t been getting it done in San Francisco and Richard Sherman is approaching the beginning of the end, so slotting Gladney in should immediately boost this defense. His footwork can be a bit spotty at times, but the motor he plays with tells me he has the drive to improve on those issues and become a top contributor in an NFL secondary.