The coronavirus has forced us to be without sports for the last month, but the NFL Draft is finally here to entertain us.
And as we get closer and closer to commissioner Roger Goodell announcing picks from
Las Vegas his basement, most fans are devouring as many mock drafts as possible.
That being said, check out my first-round predictions below, and make sure to tune into Stadium on Thursday, April 16 at 6 p.m. EST to watch “Inside the League: NFL Draft Preview” for the best draft coverage.
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, and let me know what you think of my picks.
1. Bengals – QB Joe Burrow (LSU)
An easy selection for the QB-needy Bengals. Burrow is coming off perhaps the most prolific college season in the history of the game. He won the Heisman Trophy. He dominated the College Football Playoff. He seemingly smashed every football record in existence. And now, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor gets a playmaker that he can groom and grow with in Cincy. An added plus: Burrow returns to his home state of Ohio to begin his NFL career.
2. Redskins – EDGE Chase Young (Ohio State)
Another easy selection. Chase Young is regarded by most pundits as both the best and safest prospect in the draft. In fact, most of those same pundits regard him as a “generational” talent. Although Washington was a top-10 team in 2019 in terms of hurries, pressures and sacks, they still allowed an abysmal 27.2 PPG. New coach Ron Rivera won’t be afraid to make his defense even stronger and add another blue-chip first-round pick to the Redskins’ d-line.
3. **TRADE** Dolphins (via Lions) – QB Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama)
Equipped with THREE first-round picks and 14 total in the draft, Miami has more than enough ammo to move up two spots to ensure that they get Tua. Despite the potential medical concerns with his hip, Tagovailoa is dripping with talent. He throws a beautiful deep ball, is highly accurate throwing to all levels, and has enough athleticism to extend plays in the pocket and go off script. Consider his skill set a combo of Russell Wilson and Drew Brees. Speaking of Brees, the Dolphins are the same organization that balked at signing Brees to a free agent deal because of concerns over his shoulder after he left San Diego in 2006. The Saints rolled the dice despite the medical concern, and we all know how that paid off. Miami won’t let those same fears get in their way this time.
Trade details: Dolphins send picks #5 (1st) and #26 (1st) to Lions for pick #3 (1st)
4. Giants – OT Andrew Thomas (Georgia)
Thomas came into 2019 as the consensus top tackle prospect in the class, and his performance did nothing to change that. According to Pro Football Focus, Thomas was the best pass-blocking tackle in college football in 2019. Giants QB Daniel Jones could clearly use some help on the offensive line, and shoring up his blindside with a plug-and-play tackle is a great place to start. Thomas also brings A+, off-the-field intangibles that will appeal to a notoriously conservative franchise that once determined Odell Beckham Jr.’s talent wasn’t worth the headache.
5. **TRADE** Lions (via Dolphins) – CB Jeff Okudah (Ohio State)
After acquiring an extra first-round selection, the Lions drop just two spots and are still able to fill their most pressing need with the best prospect at his position in the class. Detroit recently traded their top CB Darius Slay to the Eagles in the offseason and signed 29-year-old Desmond Trufant away from Atlanta after their defense finished dead last in the NFL last season allowing 284.4 passing yards per game. Okudah has the pedigree, skill set and attributes to be a true All-Pro corner in the NFL.
6. Chargers – QB Justin Herbert (Oregon)
The Chargers might be a legit Super Bowl contender if they had a QB. Not to say that Herbert can immediately come in as a rookie and play at that level, but he does offer perhaps the highest upside at the position in the draft due to his prototypical size, athleticism and arm. At 6-6 and 236 pounds, Herbert still has the wheels to clock in at 4.68 seconds in the forty. There are some questions regarding if he has the necessary intangibles for the position since he is not a “fiery” or “cutthroat” leader, but the benefit of him landing with the Chargers is that he can sit behind Tyrod Taylor until he’s ready to be thrown into the fire.
7. Panthers – LB/S Isaiah Simmons (Clemson)
It’s quite conceivable that 10 years from now Simmons will be regarded as the best overall player from this draft. The man is an absolute specimen. 6-4 and 238 pounds. A 4.39 forty. He wreaked havoc on opposing offenses for Brent Venables at Clemson by playing a hybrid safety/linebacker position because he can literally do it all. He’s very capable in covering tight ends and backs, and he can slide into the slot and cover WRs. Simmons is at his best when attacking, whether it be filling his run fits or coming off the edge with his tremendous burst to pressure the quarterback. After losing Luke Kuechly as the face of the franchise on defense, the Panthers pick a local product to carry that baton into a new era.
8. Cardinals – OT Tristan Wirfs (Iowa)
Wirfs feels like a perfect fit for the Cardinals and Kliff Kingsbury. He’s one of the most athletic tackle prospects to enter the league in the past decade (he ran a 4.85 forty, jumped 36.5 inches, and had a 10’1″ broad jump), so he should easily be able to handle the tempo that Kingsbury and dynamic QB Kyler Murray want to push. Wirfs is also best suited at right tackle, and that’s the spot the Cardinals currently need to upgrade the most on their o-line.
9. Jaguars – DL Derrick Brown (Auburn)
Brown could be a top-five pick in this draft, but he falls a bit due to the run on QBs. With Calais Campbell gone to the Ravens and uncertainty surrounding Yannick Ngakoue’s future, the Jags desperately need help along a defensive line that was partly to blame for allowing 139.3 rushing yards per game in 2019. The 2019 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and Lott IMPACT Trophy winner also brings tremendous intangibles and work ethic to Jacksonville.
10. **TRADE** Raiders (via Browns) – WR Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)
Jerry Jeudy is the first wideout to come off the board in what is being regarded as maybe the deepest class of wide receiver prospects in the history of the NFL Draft. All you have to do to understand why Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock felt the need to move two spots for Jeudy is put on the tape. He does it all — route running, hands, speed, electric after the catch. The Raiders finally find a long-term replacement for Amari Cooper, and ironically, it’s the next great Bama receiver.
Trade details: Raiders send picks #12 (1st) and #81 (3rd) to Browns for pick #10 (1st)
11. Jets – OT Mekhi Becton (Louisville)
Becton is an absolute unit. Standing 6-7 and tipping the scales at 368 pounds, his size is awe-inspiring. But he’s not just a refrigerator, with scouts calling him a “dancing bear” because of his nimble feet and agility. He’s also got a nasty streak that coaches love to see from offensive linemen eager to bury their defender into the turf. Clearly, Jets QB Sam Darnold could use some help all over the offense, but with the depth in this draft at WR, the Jets are wise to spend their first-rounder on the o-line and find some value later with a pass-catcher.
12. **TRADE** Browns (via Raiders) – OT Jedrick Wills Jr. (Alabama)
After dropping a couple spots in the draft and adding a third-rounder, the Browns attack the biggest weakness on their offense a season ago: the offensive line. After signing RT Jack Conklin away from the Titans, Cleveland desperately needs an upgrade at LT, and Wills provides just that. Wills played right tackle in college at Alabama, but was technically protecting Tua Tagovailoa’s blindside since he’s a lefty. It will be an adjustment getting used to the left side, but with good coaching, Wills has the athleticism and feet required to pull it off in the NFL.
13. 49ers (via Colts) – DT Javon Kinlaw (South Carolina)
The 49ers acquired this pick from the Colts after sending former first-rounder DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis in a trade. With Kinlaw, who is an absolute monster, they get an immediate replacement at a fraction of the cost. The 49ers built a Super Bowl caliber team by investing heavily in the defensive line through the draft, so don’t expect them to deviate from what has worked. San Francisco could use a WR here, but this draft is so deep at that position, and they have another first-round selection later that they can use to address that need.
14. Buccaneers – OT Josh Jones (Houston)
Obviously, the biggest — and most surprising — addition for any team this offseason was Tampa Bay landing QB Tom Brady. Brady immediately gets to work with one of the best WR tandems in the NFL in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. And the Bucs would be wise to draft Jones, who would instantly allow Tampa Tom enough time to get the ball to his playmakers. Jones might be technically raw, but he made 45 starts at Houston, and in 2019, he earned the highest pass-blocking grade ever given to a Group of Five player (93.4) by Pro Football Focus. In fact, Jones allowed just TWO pressures on 325 pass-block reps in 2019.
15. Broncos – WR CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)
If CeeDee Lamb is still sitting there at their pick, GM John Elway should waste all of three seconds phoning in his selection to Roger Goodell. As great as Jerry Jeudy is, it’s fair to argue that Lamb is the best WR in this ultra-talented class. For his career, he averaged 19.0 YPC, caught 32 TDs, and amassed nearly 3,300 receiving yards. Courtland Sutton blossomed into a star a season ago for Denver, and adding Lamb to the other side would go a long way in making the Broncos’ offense explosive again.
16. Falcons – CB C.J. Henderson (Florida)
The Falcons’ defense was an absolute wreck last season, although some of that was due to injury. They added Dante Fowler in free agency to bolster the pass rush, and after watching Desmond Trufant depart via free agency to Detroit, the Falcons would be wise to invest in Henderson — the consensus No. 2 CB in this draft. Henderson has prototypical size and speed (4.39 forty). It probably doesn’t hurt that he’s a Gator, as Falcons coach Dan Quinn was the DC in Gainesville from 2011-12.
17. Cowboys – WR Henry Ruggs III (Alabama)
There might be more pressing needs for the Cowboys than wideout, but Jerry Jones is feeling a little frisky after 2019’s wildly disappointing season. Ruggs is the fastest and most electric receiver in the class. His 4.27 speed is functional on the football field, proving that he’s an actual wide receiver who just so happens to have world-class speed. QB Dak Prescott getting another weapon to play with could also be a part of the ongoing negotiations to keep Dak in Dallas long-term. This team definitely needs help in the secondary, but Ruggs is just too enticing to pass up.
18. Dolphins (via Steelers) – S Grant Delpit (LSU)
The Dolphins acquired this pick in last year’s Minkah Fitzpatrick deal. Fitzpatrick became a star with the Steelers, and the Dolphins hope Delpit can be his long-term replacement. Delpit was dynamic in 2018, where his film looked like that of a top-10 pick. But despite LSU’s dominant season in 2019, many scouts think Delpit kind of leveled off. The Dolphins are woefully thin at the safety position, and Delpit is more likely than not to be the next in the long line of recent DBs from LSU who have turned into great pros.
19. Raiders (via Bears) – CB Kristian Fulton (LSU)
Mike Mayock loves players who performed at a high level for blue-chip programs, and Fulton certainly fits that bill. He was part of the best corner duo in the nation, helping lead LSU to an undefeated season and national championship. Fulton has some red flags from his past (a failed PED test in which he was caught trying to pass someone else’s urine as his own), but he’s a prototypical cover corner that fills a tremendous need for the Raiders. Las Vegas had a free agent deal in place for Eli Apple, but that fell through, making them need a corner even more.
20. Jaguars (via Rams) – DE A.J. Epenesa (Iowa)
Jacksonville uses the first of two first-round picks coming their way from LA in the Jalen Ramsey deal on a perfect replacement for Calais Campbell. Epenesa wins with power and technique just like Campbell, and the Jags’ defense could use all the help they can get on the defensive line after allowing 139.3 rushing yards per game (28th in the NFL). Pairing Epenesa with the earlier first-round pick of Derrick Brown is a heck of a haul for the Jags.
21. Eagles – WR Tee Higgins (Clemson)
Tee Higgins is not the most dynamic athlete at this deep position, but he consistently came through on the field, producing first downs and touchdowns for the prolific Clemson offense. 20 percent of his career catches were touchdowns, while 81 percent of his career catches were first downs. At 6-4, Higgins has long arms and the body control to offer his QB a catching radius the size of an airplane hangar’s garage door. The Eagles are desperate for help at wideout, and Higgins is the most prolific WR to come out of a school that has sent the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Martavis Bryant to the NFL in recent years.
22. Vikings (via Bills) – WR Jalen Reagor (TCU)
The Vikings shipped disgruntled, but dynamic, WR Stefon Diggs for this pick during the offseason, so why not replace him with an almost carbon copy? Reagor had an electric 2018 season, but took a step back in terms of production in 2019. Most scouts attribute that to an inconsistent carousel of QBs that he had to catch passes from throughout the season. Despite just average size, Reagor is tremendous at attacking the ball in the air and has serious speed after the catch with the ball in his hands.
23. Patriots – LB Kenneth Murray (Oklahoma)
It wouldn’t be shocking to see Bill Belichick trade down in the draft — OR trade up to find a QB to battle Jarrett Stidham (that is if they don’t sign Cam Newton, which seemingly makes too much sense). That being said, linebacker is a glaring need right now for the Pats’ defense. Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins are both gone, and Murray would be a great fit to replace them. Athletic enough to move sideline to sideline (4.52 speed), Murray can be a three-down ‘backer and long-term fixture for the Patriots’ defense.
24. Saints – QB Jordan Love (Utah State)
Doesn’t it just seem like a perfect fit for Sean Payton to take Love under his wing as the long-term successor to Drew Brees? Love was dazzling in 2018 with 32 TD passes and only 6 INT, but after a coaching change saw Matt Wells depart for Texas Tech, Love was barely above average in 2019 with 20 TD and 17 INT. Perhaps the biggest boom-or-bust prospect in the class, Payton and the Saints provide the perfect environment for Love to sit and learn the nuances of the position for a year or two before seeing if he can realize that immense potential at the NFL level.
25. Vikings – CB Jeff Gladney (TCU)
The Vikings have invested a lot of premium draft picks in their secondary in recent years, and it hasn’t necessarily worked out. Two of those picks, Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes, are no longer with the team, meaning Mike Zimmer needs to try again with a young DB. Jeff Gladney is as feisty and aggressive as any corner prospect in the draft, a trait which Zimmer will likely love. Hopefully for the Vikings, Gladney develops into a better player than those who he’s replacing.
26. **TRADE** Lions (via Dolphins) – EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU)
This was the extra first-round pick the Lions acquired in the trade with Miami, who moved up for Tua. After landing a stud CB prospect in Jeff Okudah, the Lions get a high-upside pass rusher in Chaisson to pair with him on defense. Chaisson has elite length and athletic traits for the position, but the production didn’t always match the potential at LSU. Keep in mind that he suffered a serious injury that cost him most of 2018, so he may still be returning to 100 percent. Regardless, the Lions need to help a pass-rush that registered the second-fewest sacks in the NFL last season.
27. Seahawks – CB Trevon Diggs (Alabama)
Diggs, the little brother of Bills WR Stefon, has the size that Pete Carroll covets from his corners. At 6-2 and 205 pounds, Diggs would have fit in comfortably with the group that comprised the original Legion of Boom in Seattle. Even though the Seahawks acquired Quinton Dunbar from Washington this offseason, more help in the secondary is needed because Dunbar and Shaquill Griffin are both free agents in 2021.
28. Ravens – LB Patrick Queen (LSU)
Queen was the man in the middle for LSU’s dominant National Championship-winning defense. At just 229 pounds, he looks more like a safety but that’s okay because of the way the modern NFL is evolving. Linebackers need speed and coverage skills to stay on the field all three downs, and Queen is lacking in neither department. The additions of Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe to the defensive line should help keep Queen clean to roam and make plays in Baltimore’s defense.
29. Titans – CB A.J. Terrell (Clemson)
The Titans were able to keep Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry in Nashville, which was the primary goal of the offseason. And looking at their draft needs, a corner in this spot wouldn’t hurt. Terrell has good size and cover skills and showcased those for a national championship team at Clemson in 2018. Tennessee’s talented corner, Logan Ryan, may eventually re-sign, but he’s currently a free agent.
30. Packers – WR Justin Jefferson (LSU)
The SIXTH first-round wide receiver off the board lands in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers. Jefferson was out of this world last season, especially in the College Football Playoff, racking up 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 TDs. Jefferson won’t wow you athletically, but he’s more than functional in all the important areas and can seamlessly slide into the slot for the Packers’ offense and give Rodgers another dangerous target to throw to outside of Davante Adams.
31. 49ers – CB Jaylon Johnson (Utah)
Johnson finds a good landing spot in the back end of the first round with the defending NFC champions. Johnson may have slipped a little bit because of a shoulder surgery he had in March to repair a torn labrum that he played with in most of 2019 — a season in which he earned First-Team All-Pac-12 and Second-Team AP All-America honors.
32. Chiefs – C/G Cesar Ruiz (Michigan)
The Super Bowl champions would be wise to invest in protecting their All-Everything GOAT Patrick Mahomes. Ruiz immediately got on the field as a freshman with the Wolverines and evolved into a dependable force in Ann Arbor. When looking at the Chiefs’ o-line, remember that Stefen Wisniewski, who started in the Super Bowl, signed with the Steelers, the team let Cam Erving walk, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has often been injured and underwhelming since signing a big extension. Ruiz provides versatility and insurance for Andy Reid along the interior of the line.