College football finds itself in a perilous position on the eve of the 2020 season.
With the NFL season done, general managers across the league will shortly begin to navigate the arduous off-season with the intent of getting their teams to Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay next February.
With the NFL combine, pro days and the onset of free agency all set to shake up the draft order before the draft itself begins on April 23, the following mock draft should – as always – be taken with a grain of salt.
Let’s get to hypothesising what each time might do come draft night.
1. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, Quarterback, LSU
Burrow is somewhat of a bizarre story out of Louisiana State University, going from a lightly recruited high school player to an afterthought at Ohio State to orchestrating the most insane single season in college football history in 2019. There’s no need for the Bengals franchise to overthink this pick. Burrow is a homegrown talent that this team and city will rally behind from day one.
2. Washington Redskins – Chase Young, pass rusher, Ohio State
There are coaches at Ohio State and area scouts for NFL franchises who honestly believe Young is a better pure pass rusher than former Buckeyes Joey and Nick Bosa. It’s difficult to call a player a steal at just pick two, but Young is it. He is considered to be a generational prospect at the game’s second most important position.
3. Detroit Lions – Isaiah Simmons, linebacker, Clemson
My feeling is that come the night of the draft, this pick will not belong to the Lions. If they do stay put and take the ultra versatile Simmons, the Lions defence that desperately needs help on all three levels would be adding a player capable of helping on those levels. Simmons just looks and feels like a player Detroit coach Matt Patricia would love to have on his team.
4. New York Giants – Jedrick Wills, offensive tackle, Alabama
History suggests Giants general manager Dave Gettleman likes to build through the trenches. Wills, one of college football’s most improved players in 2019, would add quality support for both quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley at either left or right tackle next season.
5. Miami Dolphins – Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback, Alabama
It seems as though the Tank for Tua campaign will work out in the end. While there are serious concerns regarding the dislocated hip injury Tagovailoa suffered late in the season, the Dolphins should feel good about allowing him to recover while sitting behind Ryan Fitzpatrick during his rookie season. Make no mistake, without the concerning injury history, the left-handed Tagovailoa would have been the consensus number one passer in this draft class.
6. Los Angeles Chargers – Jordan Love, quarterback, Utah State
This would be a massive call for general manager Tom Telesco, but big calls must be made to get fans into the Chargers’ shiny new stadium in Inglewood and to get this hexed franchise back into Super Bowl contention. Love has the tool set coaches dream of, but some of his decision making this season was just awful. Love’s floor is low, but his ceiling is enormous. Truly an intriguing prospect.
7. Carolina Panthers – Jeff Okudah, cornerback, Ohio State
This is a difficult pick to predict as the Panthers are a franchise that could go in almost any direction with this selection outside of running back. Carolina are also a team with a new head coach that look ripe to be picked apart in free agency. With this pick, Carolina go with the best player available in Okudah, the latest coveted defensive back prospect out of Ohio State.
8. Arizona Cardinals – CeeDee Lamb, wide receiver, Oklahoma
The Cards must continue to surround their promising young quarterback Kyle Murray with talent. While many have Alabama receiver Jerry Jeudy pegged as their number one wideout in this draft, the front office in Arizona would love to reunite Murray with his former college teammate at Oklahoma. Lamb has the prerequisites to develop into a Pro Bowl calibre receiver early in his career.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars – Derrick Brown, defensive tackle, Auburn
Can you believe this team played in the AFC Championship game just two seasons ago? The Jags are another team that simply need help everywhere. In Brown, Jacksonville would be getting a terror on the inside of the defensive line and an enormous value pick at pick nine.
10. Cleveland Browns – Andrew Thomas, offensive tackle, Georgia
The Browns are a team that shouldn’t pull any surprises on draft night. They continue to search for legendary tackle Joe Thomas’ replacement, and while they’ll surely dip into free agency to look for help, they need not stop there. Thomas is a mauler of a lineman who has long been considered the premier left tackle in this draft class.
11. New York Jets – Jerry Jeudy, wide receiver, Alabama
The Jets have been lucky to have some nice players fall to them in recent drafts. If Jeudy were to slide to them on draft night, general manager Joe Douglas would be ecstatic. Jeudy has all the traits of a true number one receiver without the elite speed, although he is very fast. Sam Darnold would be getting a true difference maker.
12. Las Vegas Raiders – Henry Ruggs, wide receiver, Alabama
How weird does that team name look? Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have spoken about the Raiders’ desire to add star receivers to the roster (let’s just forget the whole Antonio Brown thing). Ruggs is a deep threat of epic proportions with impressive acceleration. When Ruggs finds himself with the football in space, forget about it.
13. Indianapolis Colts – Justin Herbert, quarterback, Oregon
Jacoby Brissett is a nice quarterback. But the Colts are not that far away from contention in the AFC, and a difference maker at the position could put this franchise over the top. Herbert has his flaws – namely toughness and down field ball placement – but he has his admirers around the league and looks every bit a franchise calibre guy.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Grant Delpit, safety, LSU
The Bucs are a smokey to land a quarterback in the first round. However, they continue to need help on defence, particularly in the back end. The Bucs have taken a liking to LSU defenders in recent times, and the do-it-all safety Delpit would be a plug and play guy at either safety position in Tampa.
15. Denver Broncos – Javon Kinlaw, defensive tackle, South Carolina
No player made himself more money at the Senior Bowl than Kinlaw. The Broncos need to get more dynamic up front on defence, and Kinlaw might be the best interior pass rusher in this draft.
16. Atlanta Falcons – AJ Epenesa, edge rusher, Iowa
It looks set to be a defence-oriented draft for the Falcons, a team in need at almost every defensive position. Epenesa is not an elite pass-rushing prospect, though he does bring a well-rounded game that excels in setting the edge and eliminating the oppositions run game. This would be a safe bet pick for Dan Quinn and his defence.
17. Dallas Cowboys – Xavier McKinney, safety, Alabama
The Cowboys need help in the secondary, and that’s not taking into account the likely loss of impending free agent cornerback Byron Jones. McKinney has played just about everywhere in the defensive backfield for Alabama: both safety positions, cornerback and in the slot. Alabama have sent many star cornerbacks and safeties to the NFL. McKinney is next.
18. Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh) – K’Lavon Chaisson, edge rusher, LSU
While it’s likely the Dolphins go quarterback with their first pick, it will be interesting to see what they do with their two others. In Chaisson, the Dolphins would be adding a promising young pass rusher that got better and better as the season rolled on in 2019 after missing most of 2018 through injury. Another prospect with an incredibly high ceiling.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (via Chicago) – Patrick Queen, linebacker, LSU
After taking a receiver with their first pick, the Raiders go back to another position that has troubled the franchise for years: linebacker. Queen is slightly undersized for the position, but is a fast rising prospect after a standout performance in the national championship game. Expect to hear plenty more about Queen as we sort through the pre-draft process.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams) – CJ Henderson, cornerback, Florida
Trading away stud cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the LA Rams has left a gaping hole at the position for the Jags. Henderson, while not the most willing tackler, possesses a unique blend of size, speed and ball skills. Adding the local cornerback product with Derrick Brown would be the first steps to getting this defence back where it was only a few seasons ago.
21. Philadelphia Eagles – Tee Higgins, wide receiver, Clemson
The Eagles roster doesn’t want for too much, but they need to find playmakers on the perimeter for Carson Wentz to throw to. Higgins is a big-time receiver with an impressive catch radius and ability to make plays after the catch.
22. Buffalo Bills – Chase Claypool, wide receiver, Notre Dame
Claypool had a really nice week at the Senior Bowl and has the look of a player that might be a better pro than college player. Buffalo need to find big targets for Josh Allen that can win in contested situations and make plays in the red zone. Claypool can do that.
23. New England Patriots – Tristan Wirfs, offensive tackle, Iowa
It’s impossible to make mock draft predictions for New England. Nobody ever has a feel for what Bill Belichick might do, but it’s usually boring. Wirfs is boring, but in a good sense. The Patriots continue to need help up front on offence and Wirfs would be a fine addition at either guard or tackle. The temptation to mock a quarterback here is real.
24. New Orleans Saints – Laviska Shenault, wide receiver, Colorado
If the Saints are to go around again with Drew Brees, they must give him weapons to complement Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. In the right offence, Shenault could be an ultimate game breaker. He’s not your typical number one wide receiver, he’s an offensive Swiss Army knife. In Sean Payton’s offence, Shenault could be really fun.
25. Minnesota Vikings – Trevon Diggs, cornerback, Alabama
Xavier Rhodes’ production fell off a cliff this season, while both Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are free agents. Diggs, the younger brother of Vikings receiver Stefon, is another Alabama cornerback prospect to get excited about with great size (six foot two) and nous for the position.
26. Miami Dolphins (via Houston) – Mekhi Becton, offensive tackle, Louisville
The Dolphins need all the help along the offensive line they can get. Becton is a giant of a lineman at six foot seven and 369 pounds, though he has the athleticism of a player much smaller. The Dolphins would be happy to get out of the first round with Tagovailoa, an exciting pass rusher in Chaisson and a potential franchise left tackle.
27. Seattle Seahawks – Yetur Gross-Matos, edge rusher, Penn State
The Seahawks just need to get better at getting after the quarterback. Gross-Matos is dripping with potential after developing nicely at Penn State and would be a perfect system fit as a base defensive end in Seattle’s 4-3 defence.
28. Baltimore Ravens – Tyler Biadasz, centre, Wisconsin
Baltimore have quietly put together one of the league’s most complete rosters. There is still a need for an upgrade along the interior of the offensive line, however, especially if franchise veteran Marshall Yanda retires. Biadasz is the best lineman in the draft according to some scouts, and would bring experience at both guard and centre for the Ravens.
29. Tennessee Titans – D’Andre Swift, running back, Georgia
After going on a magic carpet ride all the way to the AFC Championship game, the Titans have a bunch of key decisions to make this off-season. If one of those decisions involves letting Derick Henry leave town, running back will shoot to the top of their needs. Swift is a much smaller back at five foot nine, but he is a dynamic home run hitter with excellent hands and a willingness to block.
30. Green Bay Packers – Justin Jefferson, wide receiver, LSU
The Packers have Devonta Adams, but they need more weapons for Aaron Rodgers to deal to. Jefferson had a tremendous senior season at LSU and would be a reliable slot receiver for Rodgers to target in the intermediate levels of the field.
31. San Francisco 49ers – AJ Terrell, cornerback, Clemson
The Niners may be another team in the wide receiver market place if they can’t get a deal done with mid-season trade acquisition Emmanuel Sanders. As things currently stand, this team’s biggest concern is who’s playing the cornerback position opposite Richard Sherman. While Terrell was ordinary for Clemson in the national championship game, he’s still a top-flight prospect with extraordinary length and a nose for the football.
32. Kansas City Chiefs – Kenneth Murray, linebacker, Oklahoma
There’s a few different directions the champion Chiefs could go here, but there’s no doubting their linebacker group needs a major shot in the arm. While defensive players from college football’s Big 12 conference often get a bad rap, Murray is a tough, sideline-to-sideline backer who would upgrade the front seven of the Chiefs’ defence immediately.