The 2019 NFL regular season has culminated and we are ready for the playoffs to begin. We have the same division winners in the AFC (New England, Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City) but the two wildcard teams are new. We have the surprising upstart Buffalo Bills holding down the #5 seed at 10-6 and the Tennessee Titans securing the #6 seed at 9-7, just narrowly edging out the Pittsburgh Steelers for the final spot.
In the NFC, we have only one repeat division champion (New Orleans), while the same two wildcard teams from last year made it, albeit one is now a division winner (Philadelphia). The San Francisco 49ers shocked everyone when they went 13-3 to secure the NFC West title and the #1 seed in the NFC. The Seattle Seahawks also return to the postseason for the second season in a row as the #5 seed. The Green Bay Packers had a resurgent season under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur, finishing at 12-4, atop the NFC North, and earning a first-round bye. The Minnesota Vikings return to the postseason for the second time in three years, clinching the 6th and final seed in the NFC, thanks to a fully healthy season from running back Dalvin Cook and great play by QB Kirk Cousins from October onward. The biggest shock of all may be that last year’s NFC representative in the Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Rams, failed to even qualify for the playoffs this season, finishing at 9-7. From 13-3 and a Super Bowl berth to 9-7 and on the outside looking in, what a fall from grace in one season for the Rams. Luckily for them, they’re still set up to have a very nice future and they get to move into their new LA Stadium in Englewood in August.
Other teams that you could say underperformed on expectations would be the Cleveland Browns (6-10), Dallas Cowboys (8-8), Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10), Chicago Bears (8-8), and LA Chargers (5-11). A weird season for sure but another fun one nonetheless. The draft order is set 1-20 with the final 12 spots to be determined in the next few weeks. So with that, we can officially launch the year’s first mock draft. The new crop of NFL prospects entering the league leans heavily offense in the first round, which you don’t get to say too often for draft classes. Most notably it is expected to run heavy on wide receivers as many are calling this one of the greatest draft classes for the wide receiver position. So let’s get to it, shall we?
The draft order from 25-32 is based on current records going into Divisional Round weekend.
*All team needs were researched on thedraftnetwork.com*
1.Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU – The Bengals will finally wave goodbye to the Andy Dalton era when they select their new quarterback of the future with the #1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. Dalton guided the Bengals to a few playoff appearances during his tenure but he never took that next big step to be elite and could never make it to the AFC Title game. The fact that the Bengals went 2-14 and benched Dalton during a stretch of the season tells you all you need to know about where they expected to finish and what their plans were. Burrow was the best QB in college football by a mile this season thanks to an incredible 77.6% completion rate, 55 touchdown passes, and only six interceptions. He has gone from a 5th-6th round prospect (coming into the season according to Todd McShay of ESPN) to what’s essentially an automatic lock of a #1 overall pick. Transferring from Ohio State to LSU sure worked out in Joe’s favor.
2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State – Many experts and analysts are saying Young is a better pass rusher than both of the Bosa brothers. Pretty crazy to say considering how good the Bosa’s are but if you watched the tape on Young, you’d understand why he’s held in such high regard. The thing that sticks out to me about Young compared to the Bosa’s is I believe Young is noticeably faster with his first move and additional moves to get to the quarterback. Young is easily the best edge rusher in this class and that’s exactly what the Redskins need to add to their rebuilding team.
3. Detroit Lions: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia – The Lions lost quarterback Matthew Stafford 10 weeks into the season. They could definitely use an edge rusher like Young but no one else is as worthy of being selected this high at that position. Detroit boasts a nice receiving corps with Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay, and tight end T.J. Hockenson, so protecting Stafford is a must if they want any chance to stay in games and to get Stafford closer to a Super Bowl berth before his time is up. Crazy to think that Stafford was the #1 overall pick out of Georgia 11 years ago. 11! Before it’s too late the Lions need to upgrade the offensive line and better protect their franchise QB. Thomas is the consensus best offensive lineman in this draft and can play both tackle spots.
4. New York Giants: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State – The Giants would love to grab Chase Young as well but alas he’s gone. Perhaps the Giants shouldn’t have tried so hard to win those last couple contests against the Redskins and Dolphins. Regardless, the Giants could use help all over their defense and getting a stud corner like Okudah would be a big step in rebuilding that defense. Ohio State has done a great job recently of producing big-time NFL ready corners. The other option here would be to target the offensive line with Young off the board.
5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama – This is a tough spot for the Dolphins as they can potentially get a franchise quarterback at #5, but has dealt with his fair share of injuries in his collegiate career and is currently recovering from a very bad hip injury. If not for the injury concerns, we would be talking about Tua at the top of the draft with Burrow and Young. Miami currently roles with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB but need a future stud franchise QB and if not for the injuries, wouldn’t normally have a chance to grab Tua at 5. There’s also the possibility that Miami doesn’t like the medical outlook for Tua and decide to pass on him. I feel that Tua will be recovered enough from the hip injury in time for the draft and medical advancements have come far enough where an injury like this can be put in the rearview mirror. Miami grabs their future QB and Josh Rosen loses again.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon – It looks as if it’s time to move on from the Philip Rivers era for the Chargers. The Chargers fell from 12-4 in 2018 to 5-11 in 2019 and the worst team in their division. A 7 game swing that had to do with the whole team but a lot to do with the decline of Rivers, who’s been at the helm of the Chargers since week 1 of the 2006 season and hasn’t missed a game since. After this past season and reaching the age of 38, it may be time to change eras. The Giants did it this past season by letting last years #6 overall pick Daniel Jones take over for legend Eli Manning and he balled out and has Giants fans very eager to see what’s next from him in 2020. Pittsburgh may be thinking of doing the same with Ben Roethlisberger, who endured a season-ending injury in September and had to roll with their backup and third-string quarterbacks the rest of the way. Herbert may not have the upside and ceiling of Tua or Burrow, but he was in the conversation for the #1 overall pick last year before returning to school and improving a bit this season. LA could definitely give Herbert a year to study Rivers if they decided to like Rivers did for TWO seasons behind Drew Brees in 2004 and 2005.
7. Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, IDL, Auburn – The Panthers need help across their defensive line and they get the best true lineman in the draft. The Panthers could go QB here if they feel they want to move on from Cam Newton but I’d shy away from that and try to get the team right in order for one more run with Newton at the helm, although this team may be on the verge of a rebuild.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama – The number one thing any team should do after drafting a franchise quarterback is to beef up that offensive line as much and as quick as possible to get the most out of him during his rookie contract and to make sure he can stay upright and learn the game. The Cardinals took a major chance on Kyler Murray #1 overall in 2019 after spending the #10 pick in 2018 on UCLA QB Josh Rosen (currently in Miami, may be hurt again by his team drafting a QB as I have them doing). Now in order to make that decision work, they need to protect Kyler better and give him a chance to make plays and guide Arizona back up the NFC West standings, although that may take some more time with how great that division currently is. I struggled with putting the first receiver here but think protecting Murray is more essential.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama – Jeudy is the most polished wide receiver prospect since Amari Cooper to most analysts, even Julio Jones. Do you see the common denominator amongst those three? They all went to Alabama, which continues to churn out NFL ready talent at the wide receiver position. This is also without mentioning Calvin Ridley, who had an amazing sophomore season with the Atlanta Falcons, playing alongside Jones. The Jags could use help along with their back seven on defense but I don’t see a secondary prospect leaping up to this spot and I think Jacksonville would opt for the elite wide receiver prospect over linebacker Isiah Simmons from Clemson.
10. Cleveland Browns: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa – The Browns need help all over but no more than on the offensive line. Cleveland endured a disastrous season after making headline moves during the offseason. An offense that includes #1 overall pick quarterback Baker Mayfield, running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and tight end David Njoku, should not have sputtered all season, save for Njoku (who was hurt a majority of the year), Chubb (who more than carried his end of the load), and Hunt (who provided somewhat of a spark after his activation from the suspended listín the second half of the season). It all starts upfront with the offensive line that failed to protect Mayfield and didn’t allow the offense to click the way it should have. There’s no guards or centers worth taking this high but there’s Wirfs out of Iowa, who can play tackle and be a key future blocker for Mayfield.
11. New York Jets: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma – The Jets need help mostly at receiver, offensive line, edge rusher, and corner. There’s no corner or offensive lineman worth taking this high, leaving edge rusher A.J. Epenesa from Iowa, linebacker Isiah Simmons out of Clemson, who at this point would be considered having fell in the draft and would be somewhat of an ancillary pick for the Jets, or the run of wideouts behind Jeudy that includes his teammate Henry Ruggs III, Lamb from Oklahoma, and Tee Higgins from Clemson. Entering year three of the Sam Darnold era, the Jets need to give him all the help they can now and with no offensive lineman to take here, they need to get Darnold a future #1 receiver to help run the offense. Lamb is 6’2, 190 lbs, but doesn’t possess burner speed. Either way, Lamb profiles to be a #1 option regardless and that’s what the Jets need to give Darnold, especially if Robby Anderson leaves in free agency, which I suspect he will.
12. Oakland Raiders: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson – The Raiders’ biggest needs are linebacker and wideout. The way this mock draft has shaken out, they land in a great position to grab one of the top receivers left or grab the sliding top linebacker in the draft in Simmons. I would’ve normally gone Simmons here thanks to his slide but with the Raiders moving to Las Vegas next season and starting a new era, I feel the organization may want to make a “flashier” move heading into their new city and building, thus taking a skill position player like Higgins. This also fits the motto of the Raiders, most specifically former owner Al Davis. This move makes more sense as well if the Raiders commit to Derek Carr and want to give him help and any hope at succeeding.
13. Indianapolis Colts: A,J, Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa – The Colts could go a few different directions here but grab the second edge rusher of the draft to bolster their defense and fill a need. I believe the Colts are comfortable enough with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, so they won’t reach for one here. They could definitely use receiver help but I believe they’ll fill that in free agency/later rounds of the draft. Getting the second-best edge rusher at #13 is a nice coup, even if it’s a decent drop off from Chase Young.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Javon Kinlaw, IDL, South Carolina – The Bucs could use help across their offensive line and maybe even quarterback if they decide to move on from Jameis Winston, which I don’t believe they will. That leaves the interior of their defensive line to address and running back. I like this year running back class but not enough to put someone up at #14. That gives me Javon Kinlaw for the pick, an interior lineman who’s shot up draft boards and would certainly help that Bucs defense that got its offense into quite a few shootouts in 2019.
15. Denver Broncos: Isiah Simmons, LB, Clemson – Denver has five primary needs (wide receiver, offensive tackle, cornerback, safety, and linebacker). This is a very tough choice between Simmons and LSU safety Grant Delpit. I went with Simmons considering the slide he’s had and the fact that most analysts have him as a top-five player. Getting a top-five player at #15 is a steal and Denver is a good organization that will get what they expect out of Simmons. It also helps that Denver is expected to have amongst the most cap room of any team in free agency and can fill their other needs through there.
16. Atlanta Falcons: Grant Delpit, S, LSU – The best safety in the draft and someone I think is a just slightly lesser version of Jamal Adams, falls to 16 and helps try to revamp this ATL defense.
17. Dallas Cowboys: C,J, Henderson, CB, Florida – The Cowboys add some much needed defensive help, although it isn’t a front seven guy. Henderson is the second-best corner in a draft relatively weak with corner help in my opinion. Henderson will be a welcome addition to a defense that could use help all over.
18. Miami Dolphins (From Pittsburgh: Austin Jackson, OT, USC – The Dolphins use their second first-round pick on a big offensive tackle to protect their new franchise quarterback. Jackson was a top half of the first-round prospect going into this season but slipped with an up and down season. This could be a steal for Miami.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (From Chicago): Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford – The Raiders hit their biggest need at 13 with the Higgins pick but now need to get right in their secondary and Adebo gives them much needed secondary help.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (From Los Angeles (N)): Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU – The Jags use their second first-round pick, like Vegas, to grab a corner to go with their earlier wideout selection. This is a need after trading Jalen Ramsey to Los Angeles.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama – The Eagles badly need an injection of young talent at the wide receiver position for Carson Wentz. The group Philly put out in 2019 couldn’t stay on the field and Carson Wentz was heavily using his tight ends by the end of the season. Get Wentz some help with a burner like Ruggs III.
22. Buffalo Bills: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama – The Bills could use a younger long term wide receiver for Josh Allen but I think they can get someone in round 2. Buffalo needs to work on that pass rush after a surprising season that saw them finish 10-6 and make it to the postseason.
23. New England Patriots: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State – The Patriots boasted the best defense in 2019 but that didn’t help them avoid a first-round playoff exit vs Tennessee. Although Gross-Matos is a defensive player, they could use more depth and long term pieces. I believe Bellichick will help the offense through free agency vets.
24. New Orleans Saints: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama – The Saints could use someone to roam the middle of the field, a legit #2 to Mike Thomas, an interior offensive lineman, or another corner to pair with Marshon Lattimore. I decided to go with Diggs after the way Kirk Cousins was somewhat able to throw on the New Orleans secondary in the playoff game. NOLA does a good job finding offensive linemen late.
25. Tennessee Titans: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU – The Titans are still amongst the final 8 teams playing, which is a testament to how great a job Mike Vrable has done and the amazing season that Derrick Henry had. Tennessee needs help on both of its lines and needs to rush the quarterback better and they get a guy in Chaisson who’s great value at 25.
26. Minnesota Vikings: Tyler Biadasz, G/C, Wisconsin – The Vikings grab an offensive lineman out of the offensive linemen factory known as Wisconsin. They could go for a corner here but I think the value with Biadasz at this spot works better.
27. Miami Dolphins (From Houston): J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State – Dobbins is neck-and-neck with DeAndre Swift of Georgia for the title of best running back in this class. It’s a toss-up really but I lean Dobbins and he’d fit in perfectly with the young nucleus Miami is trying to build on offense.
28. Seattle Seahawks: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado – Shenault Jr. joins the impressive wide receiver class of 2020 thanks to good route running, contested catch ability, and his 6’2, 220 lb frame. He isn’t a burner but he’ll fit in perfectly alongside Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. Another new weapon for Russ Wilson.
29. Kansas City Chiefs: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma – Murray fits KC perfectly, he can stuff the run and cover running backs and tight ends with his speed and size. At 29, Murray is a steal for the Chiefs here and he’s exactly what they need.
30. Green Bay Packers: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU – The Packers could use more depth at receiver and the next best receiver is Jefferson out of LSU. This kid can fly and make tough catches. He can be dominant as well, based off his 4 touchdown catches in the first half against Oklahoma in their CFP semifinal game. Aaron Rodgers will love this pick.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama – The second-best safety in this class falls to the Niners at 31. McKinney fits the team perfectly and will help improve this young improving defense.
32. Baltimore Ravens: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama – Yes, this is the THIRD wide receiver from Alabama being drafted in the first round. Goes to show how great Alabama is at prepping its wideouts for the NFL. Lamar Jackson needs weapons at wide receiver badly and this positional pick will be very popular for Baltimore as the draft gets near.
Questions or comments? Leave a comment or tweet me at @ScoreboardSteve