Updated: Apr 20, 2020
Ah, it's that time of year again. Every NFL team is about to get a few shiny new toys, blooming with potential and visions of what could be. I love this time of year, and the more I study and learn about the NFL, the more intrigued I become at the NFL Draft. One pick could truly change the entire landscape and it only takes one team to like a player for them to be drafted. Making sense of it is tough, but the purpose of this is to outline the first round to the best of my knowledge of what NFL GM's might be inclined to do. Will I be right? Of course not. The Draft is always full of surprises every year. Teams want to disguise their draft targets until they have the name on the card, so this mock draft is just that; a mock. Here we go.
(Edit: three changes have been made since the publish date - pick 29, 31, 32)
1) Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow, LSU
Easiest pick in the draft, and the Bengals have likely known who they're taking for awhile now. The hometown kid will be heralded before he even takes a snap for the Bengals. However, if Cincy does decide to flip the script, I wouldn't put it past them to pick Justin Herbert. Head coach Zac Taylor coached him in the senior bowl and if he liked what he saw, maybe he could convince the Cincy brass to take Herbert instead.
2) Washington Redskins: EDGE Chase Young, OSU
With a new regime taking over and the organization hitting the reset button in a sense, Washington at least has to consider trading down here. But there are certain positions, edge rusher being one of them, that are too important to pass up if you get a chance to take a premier player.
3) Los Angeles Chargers (Projected trade via Lions): QB Tua Tagovailoa, ALA
I've heard multiple teams drafting in the top-10 have failed Tua's physical, and the durability is obviously the biggest concern here. But do the Chargers, who missed out on the career of Drew Brees because of a failed physical that turned out to be wrong, want to risk making the same mistake twice? I think they like Tua a lot independent of the medical evaluation, and Tua probably wants to be drafted there, being a native from Hawaii. They have Tyrod Taylor on the roster should he need more time to mend the hip, and the fit makes sense.
4) New York Giants: OT Jedrick Wills, ALA
The Giants could go a number of different ways with the lack of talent on the roster, and trying to get inside GM Dave Gettleman's head isn't easy for me. But I think they go OL here to protect their new franchise QB Daniel Jones and try to give Saquon Barkley some holes to run through. Wills played strictly right tackle at Alabama, but that shouldn't be a problem as the Giants have Solder on the left side. He could slide right into the other bookend and make an impact from day one.
5) Miami Dolphins: QB Justin Herbert, ORE
In my opinion, under no circumstances should the Dolphins allow themselves to be jumped by another team for a QB in this draft. However, it sounds like the staff is much more in favor of Herbert than they are Tua Tagovailoa. If that's the case, there's no need for Miami to outbid themselves and trade up. Knowing the staff down there with Brian Flores, and the Patriots roots therein, it wouldn't be surprising to see them like a guy like Herbert - who checks all the boxes New England uses to evaluate QB's.
6) Detroit Lions (Projected trade via Chargers): LB Isaiah Simmons, CLEM
The consensus target for Detroit has been Jeff Okudah, but now that they've dumped Slay, I don't see how drafting Okudah makes them any better than they were in 2019 - and this is a regime that needs to win right now. The Lions luck out in this scenario and get a chance to take the ultimate defensive chess piece in Simmons. He can take away pass catchers between the numbers, and play the sub linebacker down in the box.
7) Carolina Panthers: CB Jeff Okudah, OSU
The Panthers are another team that could go in a number of directions, but all of them include defense. Here they get the draft's best corner, and my personal #1 prospect in the NFL Draft. He'll play great across from Donte Jackson, and be an upgrade from the guy they just let walk in free agency (James Bradberry). Okudah displays perfect technique and unual polish for a college prospect.
8) Arizona Cardinals: OT Mekhi Becton, UL
The Cardinals no longer need a wide out after they stole DeAndre Hopkins from the Texans. But they need to protect their new mobile franchise QB. They can get a mountain for a left tackle in Becton who stands 6'7 and weighs 368 lbs. He's also an athletic freak at that size, running a whopping 5.1 at the combine back in February. People just didn't get around him at Louisville, and he'd be a solid bodyguard for Kyler Murray's blind side.
9) Jacksonville Jaguars: DI Derrick Brown, AUB
The Jags could easily go with a tackle in this spot, and you could make the argument they should. However, they feel like a team that wants to have a defensive-minded philosophy and have dealt with a mass exodus of players on that side of the ball since that defense carried them to the AFC Championship game just a few short years ago. Brown gives them the best interior player in the draft and a good first step to rebuilding the defense.
10) Las Vegas Raiders (Projected trade via Browns): WR CeeDee Lamb, OU
The Raiders will certainly get a shot at one of the top-flight wide outs if they stay put, but they may be willing to trade ahead of the Jets to get their choice of the three. Lamb is probably the easiest to project as a number one receiver at the next level, and he'd instantly become the Raiders' best pass catcher. If the pick is indeed a receiver, it'd be hard to envision the Raiders taking Jeudy over Lamb, given the fact Jeudy embodies a similar skill set to Amari Cooper, who they recently traded away.
11) New York Jets: WR Jerry Jeudy, ALA
The Jets are lacking offensive weapons anyways, and with the departure of Robby Anderson, that need has become even more glaring. Jeudy would make Darnold's life much easier with the separation he's able to create in his routes and give the Jets a true number one receiver for the first time in awhile. New GM Joe Douglas needs his first pick to hit, and Jeudy represents about as high-floor an option as ever.
12) Cleveland Browns (Projected trade via Raiders): OT Andrew Thomas, UGA
Safe to say Greg Robinson won't be playing tackle for the Browns this fall after his recent arrest in which he was caught with 157 lbs of marijuana. They signed Jack Conklin to play right tackle in free agency but they still need another and could double dip. Cleveland can get a premium player at a premium position drafting Thomas, all while moving back a few picks and accumulating some capital. Thomas played left tackle at Georgia and would give the Browns a pair of bookends on the line they didn't have last year - which could go a long way in turning around Baker Mayfield's disastrous 2019.
13) San Francisco 49ers (via Colts): WR Henry Ruggs III, ALA
Everybody wants to see this, except their opponents. Ruggs has been a popular mock choice to the bay and while I think they'll take a LONG look at Kinlaw in this spot, the temptation may be too much for Shanahan and Lynch. Couple Ruggs' skill set with the fact his pro comp is Tyreek Hill (the guy that essentially beat the Niners in the Super Bowl), and I believe more and more by the day if he's there, San Fran is going to snag him.
14) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Tristan Wirfs, IOWA
The priority for Tampa here has to be protecting their newly acquired FA quarterback Tom Brady, who's in his forties. Wirfs could slip a little bit due to some questions about whether he'll be a tackle or a guard in the long-run, but that versatility is perfect for the Bucs. He can initially slide in at guard, where I think he has all-pro potential, while also being a long-term solution at tackle as players move on. I think Wirfs could be the best lineman in the whole draft, and Tampa would have to pull the trigger here if given the chance.
15) Denver Broncos: CB C.J. Henderson, UF
The Broncos could take Kinlaw, but I'm not so sure Henderson isn't the pick. Corner is a more valuable position than the defensive interior, and Henderson is far and away the second-best corner in the class. He runs sub-4.4 and would combine nicely with new free agent signee A.J. Bouye. It would give Fangio an excellent back end to go with his elite pass rush. They could and maybe should take a receiver here, but all three of the top wide outs are gone in this scenario, and Denver should still be able to find a quality pass-catcher later on in the draft.
16) Atlanta Falcons: DI Javon Kinlaw, SC
The Falcons keep swinging and missing at pass rushers, and while that's been a popular mocked position to them, I feel the public sees the edge as a bigger need than the franchise does. They picked up Dante Fowler in the off-season, and yes, Tak McKinley has been disappointing, but he'll still be on the roster in 2020. Here they get good value on a player many think will be gone by the time they pick. Kinlaw combined with Grady Jarrett will give the Falcons a force up the middle defensively and allow their star linebacker Deion Jones some clear sight lines against the run.
17) Dallas Cowboys: EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU
The last time the 'Boys drafted an edge rusher in the first round, it was a tremendous flop. They reached for Taco Charlton, and he was never able to live up to expectations. Because of that, I think Dallas probably likes the pure athleticism and upside of Chaisson over the steady hand of Epenesa, who plays a lot like Charlton in terms of style. Drafting the flashier player has always been a theme for the Cowboys, and after being rewarded by other athletic freaks like DeMarcus Lawrence and Jaylon Smith, I think they'll go back to the barrel.
18) Miami Dolphins (via Steelers): OT Austin Jackson, USC
A lot would consider this too early for Jackson, but there's a lot to like. Miami needs a tackle with one of the three selections, and if they wait - Jackson might be gone. He's only 20 years old and wasn't even fully healthy at the start of last year after donating bone marrow. He'd be a good fit moving from one coastal city to another, and enables the Dolphins to pair likely a new franchise QB with his blindside tackle for the next decade plus.
19) New England Patriots (Projected trade via Raiders (via Bears)): EDGE A.J. Epenesa, IOWA
The Pats will be interesting to watch this year, because they actually aren't picking in the thirties for once. One thing we know about New England is they love getting value, and they rarely stay put. Watching Epenesa, I wouldn't be surprised if Belichick loves him - so much so to pull the trigger on a trade to get him once the value is there.
20) New Orleans Saints (Projected trade via Jaguars (via Rams)): LB Patrick Queen, LSU
The Saints roster is absolutely loaded, maybe the best in football. Because of that, they don't need a lot of picks, or a lot of starters in this draft. What better time to draft the heir to Drew Brees, right?! I would, but I doubt New Orleans is thinking that way. They feel likely to trade picks in this draft to get the impact players they want, and Patrick Queen would give them a sideline-to-sideline presence in the middle of their already talented defense.
21) Green Bay Packers (Projected trade via Eagles): LB Kenneth Murray, OU
Three trades in a row?! Say it ain't so! The Packers under new-ish GM Brian Gutekunst have moved around in the first round two out of three times, and the later they draft - the more likely he is to trade. I think the Packers will either move up from 30 or move out, but I doubt they stick and pick. Green Bay desperately needs athleticism at linebacker, and Murray would immediately provide them that, as well as a leader in the middle of the defense.
22) Minnesota Vikings (via Bills): EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, PSU
After the trade of Stefon Diggs, a popular mock has been WR for Minny. I'll be blunt - I highly doubt Zimmer and Spielman take a wide out in the first. They need to start replacing key cogs defensively, and after likely losing Everson Griffen, they'll need a pass rushing presence opposite Danielle Hunter. Gross-Matos provides them a long pass rusher with a lot of upside and versatility, even if he isn't the most polished.
23) Las Vegas Raiders (Projected trade via Patriots): CB A.J. Terrell, CLEM
Mike Mayock loves Clemson players, and unless the Vikings take Terrell with their first pick, I think he'll be available. Terrell gives the Raiders one of the longer corners in the draft to pair alongside last year's pick Trayvon Mullen - also from Clemson. The Raiders could wind up selecting a QB as they are lukewarm at best on Derek Carr, but their defense is awful - and has been for awhile. Terrell helps anchor a secondary that would include himself, Mullen, and first rounder Johnathan Abram.
24) Jacksonville Jaguars (Projected trade via Saints): OT Josh Jones, HOU
The Jags will be in the market to trade down with one of their two picks. In this scenario, I had them dropping down from 19. They want a tackle and none of the teams in that range are likely to take one. They're able to accumulate some picks to improve the roster, and still grab a tackle to protect the Gardner Snake. People are pretty high on Josh Jones, and as the process has gone on, it's now not a matter of if, but when in the first round he'll be selected.
25) Minnesota Vikings: CB Kristian Fulton, LSU
It seems as though Fulton's stock has been dropping, and I don't get why. Per PFF, he's forced an incompletion on 29% of targets dating back to 2017, which is the best in the country in that time-span. Maybe it's because he played across from Derek Stingley and didn't look as impressive, but at any rate - he'll provide much-needed support to a completely depleted secondary in Minnesota, that's starting over at the CB position.
26) Miami Dolphins (via Texans): WR Justin Jefferson, LSU
I'll be honest. While I think it's possible Jefferson slides to this spot - a lot of teams will have to pass for him to make it to pick 26. But he's at the top of that second tier, and I think teams that miss out on the top-three wide outs may decide to play the depth of the class and draft a receiver later, rather than spending a first rounder on a guy like Jefferson. That said, Jefferson is an outstanding football player and would be a complete steal for the Dolphins here to play across DeVante Parker. He would give Miami a clean sweep at QB, OT, WR and instantly revamp the offense.
27) Tampa Bay Bucaneers (Projected trade via Seahawks): RB Deandre Swift, UGA
The Seahawks are another team that tends to move around in the draft, and this would be a perfect time for the Bucs to swoop in and turn a good first round into a great one. They may have to move up even further than 27 to secure Swift, but he'd give Tom Brady a pass-catching threat out of the backfield. They are lacking significantly in the backfield right now and Swift is a complete back that would instantly provide Tom with a security blanket underneath.
28) Baltimore Ravens: LB Zack Baun, WISC
Baun just tested positive for a diluted sample, but I don't think it'll impact his draft status all that much, as he'll no longer receive a strike from the league under the new rules. Baun would be such a good fit with the Ravens, it almost feels like it won't actually happen. It's too good to be true. His aggressive play and versatility would play from day one with their culture, and he has the ability to play both off the ball and down on the edge on passing downs. He isn't the best in coverage, but if you're rushing him - it doesn't matter. He gives the Ravens the off-ball linebacker they need as well as a pass rushing presence opposite Matthew Judon, all in one player! It's a perfect marriage.
29) Tennessee Titans: T Isaiah Wilson, UGA
The Titans could use some help along their defensive front, but they also need a tackle after Jack Conklin left them in free agency. I think they'll consider Ross Blacklock here from TCU, but with his injury concern and the lack of tackles left at this point in the dr