INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — As the Chiefs parade through Kansas City to celebrate their first Super Bowl win since 1969, 31 other teams are devising a plan to hoist a Lombardi Trophy of their own.
Though free agency is great for adding the finishing pieces that can get a franchise over the hump, longterm success is built through the draft. Acquiring young stars on cost-effective rookie contracts while filling in the gaps with free agent veterans has become the blueprint for winning in the NFL. With the 2019 season officially behind us, let’s look ahead to April’s draft.
In this first round mock draft, I don’t suggest what I would do, but rather put forward my best estimate of what pick each team will make based on their roster needs and overall philosophy.
1 – Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow – QB – LSU
NFL Comparison – Matt Ryan
Bengals fans can go ahead and order their Burrow jerseys now. Between a national championship, Heisman Trophy and a heap of records — including a FBS record 60 touchdown passes — Burrow’s 2019 season was the greatest we’ve ever seen from a college quarterback. The 23-year-old’s unwavering poise, accuracy and pocket awareness will allow Burrow to carry his success over to the next level.
Other Considerations – Chase Young (EDGE), Tua Tagovailoa (QB), Derrick Brown (DT)
2 – Washington Redskins: Chase Young – EDGE – Ohio State
NFL Comparison – Myles Garrett
Quarterback trumps all else, which is why the draft’s best player slides to Washington at two. If you were to build a defensive end in a lab, it would look like Young. The unanimous All-American combined has natural gifts with the excellent tutelage at Ohio State to rack up 16.5 sacks in 2019 and 10.5 the year before. Young can’t legally have a beer until April 14, just in time to celebrate becoming the number-two overall pick in the 2020 draft.
Other Considerations – Jeffrey Okudah (CB), Tua Tagovailoa (QB), Isaiah Simmons (LB)
3 – Detroit Lions: Jeffrey Okudah – CB – Ohio State
NFL Comparison – Jalen Ramsey
Now that the two no-brainers are out of the way, the draft begins here. The debate between Okudah and Derrick Brown will be a fascinating one, but I believe the value of a lockdown corner will be too much to pass up. Okudah is the best cornerback prospect to come out in several years, and his length, quickness, competitiveness and ability to excel in both press and off coverage will immediately upgrade the league’s bottom ranked pass defense.
Other Considerations – Derrick Brown (DT), Isaiah Simmons (LB), Jerry Jeudy (WR)
4 – New York Giants: Jedrick Wills – OT – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Jason Peters
After spending the second and sixth-overall picks on a running back and quarterback in subsequent years, the Giants would be wise to protect their investments. Wills played on the right side at Alabama with left-handed Tua Tagovailoa but has the traits to switch to left tackle in the NFL. The 20-year-old is outstanding in pass protection and will give second-year quarterback Daniel Jones more time to operate in 2020.
Other Considerations – Mekhi Becton (OT), Tristan Wirfs (OL), Isaiah Simmons (LB)
5 – Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa – QB – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Russell Wilson
If Tua were healthy, there would be a raging debate between him and Burrow for QB1. Medicals will be huge for Tua, who suffered a major hip injury in November. If teams are comfortable with what their doctors have to say about his recovery and longterm durability, Mr. Tagovailoa is a lock to go in the top five. Tua is accurate, mobile, smart, gets through his progressions quickly and has a crisp release.
Other Considerations – Justin Herbert (QB), Derrick Brown (DT), Mekhi Becton (OT)
6 – Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert – QB – Oregon
NFL Comparison – Josh Allen
As the Philip Rivers era appears to be coming to an end after 16 season with the Chargers, L.A. will look to usher in a new franchise quarterback. Between his size, athleticism and arm strength, Herbert is the most physically gifted quarterback in this draft. However, he’s been criticized for not getting through his reads quick enough, inconsistencies in ball-placement and playing too conservative at times. With veteran Tyrod Taylor under contract for another year, Herbert won’t have to start right away.
Other Considerations – Isaiah Simmons (LB), Mekhi Becton (OT), Derrick Brown (DT)
7 – Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown – DT – Auburn
NFL Comparison – Ndamukong Suh
Rather than reach for a quarterback, Carolina should be ecstatic to land Brown, who has a chance to go as high as three. Brown uses his immense power, quickness and violent hands to wreck havoc against both the run and the pass. With several players along the Panthers’ defensive line set to hit free agency, Brown is not only the best player available but also fills a need.
Other Considerations – Isaiah Simmons (LB), Mekhi Becton (OT), Javon Kinlaw (DT)
8 – Arizona Cardinals: Jerry Jeudy – WR – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Odell Beckham Jr.
Kyler Murray quietly had an impressive rookie season. Now it’s time to get him some more explosive weapons to work with in Kliff Kingsbury’s air raid offense. It doesn’t get anymore explosive than Jeudy, whose combination of elite burst, quickness and refined route running makes him virtually uncoverable. Jeudy will be a popular name amongst fantasy circles.
Other Considerations – CeeDee Lamb (WR), Mekhi Becton (OT), Isaiah Simmons (LB)
9 – Jacksonville Jaguars: Isaiah Simmons – LB – Clemson
NFL Comparison – None
Just two years ago, the Jaguars reached the AFC Championship game on the back of an elite defense. The unit has declined since then, and an underrated reason for that is the loss of star linebackers Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith in consecutive offseasons. Simmons is an absolute freak and the ultimate defensive chess piece. He lined up at linebacker, safety and cornerback in 2019 and accumulated over 100 tackles, seven sacks and three interceptions.
Other Considerations – Mekhi Becton (OT), Javon Kinlaw (DT), Tristan Wirfs (OL)
10 – Cleveland Browns: Mekhi Becton – OT – Louisville
NFL Comparison – Cordy Glenn
Anyone who watched the Browns in 2019 could see that their offensive line was a problem. Becton is a massive tackle prospect whose stock is quickly rising. He’s surprisingly nimble for a man listed at 6’7″, 369 lbs, and he uses his length to keep pass rushers at bay. Baker Mayfield will need improved protection if he’s going to bounce back from his sophomore slump.
Other Considerations – Tristan Wirfs (OL), Andrew Thomas (OT), A.J. Epenesa (DE)
11 – New York Jets: Tristan Wirfs – OL – Iowa
NFL Comparison – Brandon Scherff
Building an offense around quarterback Sam Darnold should be the Jets’ top priority. General manager Joe Douglas’ history will tell you he values the hog mollies upfront over skill position players. Wirfs is an extremely powerful lineman with good size and was the first true freshman to start at offensive tackle for Iowa since head coach Kirk Ferentz took over in 1999. There are questions regarding if Wirfs is better suited to move inside to guard in the NFL, but regardless of position, he’d be a much-needed addition to an o-line that gave up the fourth most sacks in 2019 (52).
Other Considerations – Andrew Thomas (OT), K’Lavon Chaisson (EDGE), CeeDee Lamb (WR)
12 – Las Vegas Raiders: CeeDee Lamb – WR – Oklahoma
NFL Comparison – Anquan Boldin
The Antiono Brown experiment was over before he even played a down for the Raiders. While Tyrell Williams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow are nice complimentary pieces, the offense still lacks a go-to, number one receiver. Lamb can be just that. While he isn’t expected to blow anyone away in the 40-yard dash, Lamb’s hands, toughness and run-after-catch ability are topnotch.
Other Considerations – Henry Ruggs III (WR), Javon Kinlaw (DT), Kristian Fulton (CB)
13 – Indianapolis Colts: Jordan Love – QB – Utah State
NFL Comparison – Matthew Stafford
With this pick, the Colts hope they’ve found their next franchise quarterback. Love burst on the national scene in 2018 when he used his electric arm, mobility and knack for throwing from different platforms to post a 32-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio and seven additional scores with his legs. He came crashing back to earth in 2019 when he lost his top four receivers, four of his five starting o-linemen, running back Darwin Thompson and went through a change at offensive coordinator. Love possesses the tools to be elite but needs time to develop behind Jacoby Brissett, who is under contract for one more season.
Other Considerations – Javon Kinlaw (DT), Henry Ruggs III (WR), K’Lavon Chaisson (EDGE)
14 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Javon Kinlaw – DT – South Carolina
NFL Comparison – Chris Jones
What Tampa Bay decides to do with impending free agent Jameis Winston will be the story of their offseason. However, several player along their defensive front are also slotted to hit free agency, including Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre Paul and sack leader Shaquil Barrett. Kinlaw used his outstanding combination of size, power, length and quickness to dominate at the Senior Bowl. In terms of 2020’s interior d-line prospects, Kinlaw is 1B to Derrick Brown’s 1A.
Other Considerations – Andrew Thomas (OT), K’Lavon Chaisson (EDGE), Jacob Eason (QB)
15 – Denver Broncos: Andrew Thomas – OT – Georgia
NFL Comparison – Cam Robinson
Improving the offensive line would go a long way in helping quarterback Drew Lock take the next step in his second year. Thomas brings plenty of power to the table and plays with good awareness. While it’s debated if he possesses the foot quickness and balance to hold up at tackle in the NFL, Thomas’ skillset would allow him to dominate at guard. Either way, Denver gets an upgrade along the o-line with Thomas.
Other Considerations – Henry Ruggs III (WR), C.J. Henderson (CB), Josh Jones (OT)
16 – Atlanta Falcons: A.J. Epenesa – DE – Iowa
NFL Comparison – Trey Flowers
After having swung and missed on defensive ends in years past, the Falcons take a high-floor prospect in Epenesa. The 21-year-old used his terrific size, strength, effort and arsenal of moves to produce double-digit sack seasons each of the past two years. While his lack of speed and burst may limit his upside, Epenesa should be a valuable starter along the defensive front for years to come.
Other Considerations – K’Lavon Chaisson (EDGE), C.J. Henderson (CB), Kristian Fulton (CB)
17 – Dallas Cowboys: C.J. Henderson – CB – Florida
NFL Comparison – Stephon Gilmore
With stars like Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper in need of new contracts, it seems unlikely that Dallas brings back free agent corner Byron Jones. Henderson has outstanding explosiveness, agility and makeup speed and is physical in coverage. If he can improve his tackling, Henderson has the makings of an elite NFL cornerback.
Other Considerations – K’Lavon Chaisson (EDGE), Xavior McKinney (S), Marlon Davidson (DL)
18 – Miami Dolphins: K’Lavon Chaisson – EDGE – LSU
NFL Comparison – Josh Allen
With the pick they got from Pittsburgh in the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, Miami invests in a pass-rusher. The Dolphins’ 23 sacks last season were the fewest in the league. Chaisson is an athletic outside rusher who wins with speed and burst. He wore number 18 last year, an honor at LSU awarded to the player who displays stand-out leadership on and off the field. Chaisson may be raw, but he has the tools to develop into a dominant sack artist.
Other Considerations – Josh Jones (OT), Henry Ruggs III (WR), Xavior McKinney (S)
19 – Las Vegas Raiders: Patrick Queen – LB – LSU
NFL Comparison – Myles Jack
The Raiders mades strides on defense this past season, but they have a glaring need for more speed in the middle of the field. Though undersized, Queen’s skillset fits the mold of the modern NFL linebacker. He has tremendous speed and burst, excels in coverage and is quick to make his read and explode to the ball-carrier.
Other Considerations – Kristian Fulton (CB), Kenneth Murray (LB), Marlon Davidson (DL)
20 – Jacksonville Jaguars: Kristian Fulton – CB – LSU
NFL Comparison – Tre’Davious White
The Jaguars draft Jalen’s Ramsey’s replacement with the pick they received from trading him to the Rams. Fulton has great instincts in coverage and displays excellent physicality and toughness. He played at a high level in 2019 despite being banged up. It’s clear Burrow isn’t the only reason the Tigers are champions as three straight LSU defenders have now come off the board.
Other Considerations – Cole Kmet (TE), Marlon Davidson (DL), Josh Jones (OT)
21 – Philadelphia Eagles: Henry Ruggs III – WR – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Tyreek Hill
Once DeSean Jackson went down with injury, the lack of speed at receiver was a problem for the Eagles’ offense. Ruggs III has a legitimate chance to break the 40-yard dash record at the NFL Combine (4.22), but he’s more than just a blazer. The 21-year-old made strides as a route runner this past season, has solid hands and can run through defenders, not just past them. Philly should be thrilled to land Ruggs III at 21.
Other Considerations – Laviska Shenault (WR), Tee Higgins (WR, Justin Jefferson (WR)
22 – Buffalo Bills: Tee Higgins – WR – Clemson
NFL Comparison – Kenny Golladay
Josh Allen improved as a passer in 2019, but he still has some work to do. What would help in his development is a big frame receiver with a large catch radius, something the Bills’ receiving corps currently lacks. Higgins is a long, rangy receiver who is terrific at high-pointing the football and can do damage after the catch.
Other Considerations – Justin Jefferson (WR), Laviska Shenault (WR), Yetur Gross-Matos (EDGE)
23 – New England Patriots: Cole Kmet – TE – Notre Dame
NFL Comparison – Hunter Henry
In the words of Hulu’s Super Bowl commercial, Tom Brady is “not going anywhere.” However, the loss of Rob Gronkowski was a huge detriment to the Patriots’ offense in 2019, who missed his presence both as a blocker and as a big, mismatch target in the middle of the field. Kmet is the best all-around tight end in this year’s draft and will fill a hole in New England’s offense.
Other Considerations – Xavier McKinney (S), Yetur Gross-Matos (EDGE), Marlon Davidson (DL)
24 – New Orleans Saints: Laviska Shenault – WR – Colorado
NFL Comparison – Cordarrelle Patterson
The Saints need another weapon at receiver outside of Michael Thomas. Shenault is a freakish athlete who did it all at Colorado. He lined up out wide, in the slot, at running back and even took snaps in the wildcat formation. Just get the ball in his hands and let him go to work. While he’s raw as a route runner, Sean Payton is the kind of creative offensive mind to take advantage of Shenault’s talent as he develops in that area.
Other Considerations – Justin Jefferson (WR), Jeff Gladney (CB), Trevon Diggs (CB)
25 – Minnesota Vikings: Trevon Diggs – CB – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Xavier Rhodes
Minnesota’s secondary will go through a transition in 2020. Trae Waynes, Anthony Harris, Mackensie Alexander and Andrew Sendajo are all slotted to hit free agency, and Xavier Rhodes’ performance fell off a cliff in 2019. The Vikings can save over $11 million but cutting the veteran. Diggs — a former receiver — is a big, physical press corner who moves exceptionally well for his size. Still mastering the position, the sky is the limit for Diggs, who joins his brother, Stefon, in Minnesota.
Other Considerations – Jeff Gladney (CB), Xavier McKinney (S), Grant Delpit (S)
26 – Miami Dolphins: Josh Jones – OT – Houston
NFL Comparison – Andre Dillard
The Dolphins draft Laremy Tunsil’s replacement with one of the picks they received from trading the franchise tackle. Jones shot up draft boards after putting his athleticism on display at the Senior Bowl. He has the tools to be an elite pass-protector at the next level but needs to get a little stronger. Building a line around Tua should be a top priority for Miami.
Other Considerations – Xavier McKinney (S), Austin Jackson (OT), D’Andre Swift (RB)
27 – Seattle Seahawks: Yetur Gross-Matos – EDGE – Penn State
NFL Comparison – Brian Burns
Only the Dolphins recorded less sacks than the Seahawks in 2019. Even if Seattle finds a way to bring back impending free agent Jadeveon Clowney, adding more pass-rushers is a must. Gross-Matos is a long, athletic edge-rusher who used his physical gifts to accumulate 17.5 sacks for the Nittany Lions over the past two seasons.
Other Considerations – Ross Blacklock (DT), Terrell Lewis (EDGE), Jaylon Johnson (CB)
28 – Baltimore Ravens: Kenneth Murray – LB – Oklahoma
NFL Comparison – Demario Davis
The Ravens keep churning out players in their front seven and somehow find ways to continuously produce. Murray slides in to replace star linebacker C.J. Mosley, who Baltimore lost a year ago to free agency. The Sooner stud is an explosive tackler with sideline-to-sideline speed, the ability to cover running backs out of the backfield and is an effective blitzer.
Other Considerations – Terrell Lewis (EDGE), Zack Baun (LB), Marlon Davidson (DL)
29 – Tennessee Titans: Terrell Lewis – EDGE – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Danielle Hunter
Finding a pass-rusher opposite Harold Landry would take Tennessee’s defense to the next level. The team showed last year that injuries won’t necessarily scare them off when they drafted Jeffery Simmons 19th overall after he had just torn his ACL in February. Finally healthy this past season after missing the majority of 2017 and 2018, Lewis displayed the burst, speed, change of direction ability and length to develop into a dominant edge-rusher.
Other Considerations – Terrell Lewis (EDGE), Zack Baun (LB), Marlon Davidson (DL)
30 – Green Bay Packers: Justin Jefferson – WR – LSU
NFL Comparison – Keenan Allen
The lack of a receiving threat outside of Davante Adams hampered the Packers’ offense last season. Jefferson is a tall, slender pass-catcher who was extremely productive in LSU’s high-octane pass attack. He is a refined route runner, constantly makes contested catches above and around defenders and can pick up extra yards after the catch. Jefferson is a polished prospect who can produce immediately for Green Bay.
Other Considerations – Brandon Aiyuk (WR), K.J. Hamler (WR), Jeff Gladney (CB)
31 – San Francisco 49ers: Xavier McKinney – S – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Antione Bethea
As a team without any glaring needs, San Fransisco can sit back and take the best player available. In this scenario, the draft’s top safety falls right into their lap. McKinney is an instinctual, well-rounded safety with the versatility to play deep or in the box. He’s rangy, is a dependable tackler and shows good timing when used on blitzes.
Other Considerations – Grant Delpit (S), Brandon Aiyuk (WR), K.J. Hamler (WR)
32 – Kansas City Chiefs: Jeff Gladney – CB – TCU
NFL Comparison – Denzel Ward
Cornerback was already a weakness for Kansas City, but with starters Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland set to become free agents, it’s become a dire need. Gladney may not be the biggest corner, but he has plenty of fight in him and is extremely quick. He has good awareness and is sticky in coverage.
Other Considerations – Jaylon Johnson (CB), A.J. Terrell (CB), D’Andre Swift (RB)