It’s NFL draft week, and general managers and team executives must love this time of year when they can add an exciting group of new young talent to their rosters. For today’s mock draft to kick off the week, I’ll be playing general manager for all 32 teams. So, this is not what I think will happen on Thursday night, but rather what I would consider doing for each team. However, there are no trades for this, so we’re going right from No. 1 to No. 32 and making the picks, which means some players (particularly quarterback) might drop a little more compared to where I think they should go.
1. CIN: Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
This is not meant to be controversial, and I really don’t care. To be frank, I was extremely high on Deshaun Watson, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson when people were not, so it doesn’t bother me that this selection goes squarely against groupthink. Jake Fromm has more than enough arm strength to make every throw, and his only glaring issue is that he needs to get more consistent with his footwork. Along with elite intelligence to put his offense in the right play and make smart decisions post-snap, Fromm has the poise and intangibles that make him worthy of the top pick in the draft.
2. WAS: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa should be in consideration here, but Isaiah Simmons is my top player with Fromm off the board. Chase Young is obviously an excellent option, too, and he’s easier to plug right in on the edge in Ron Rivera’s defense, but I slightly prefer the versatile chess piece Simmons, who could be used as on all three levels. Simmons can cause headaches for opposing quarterbacks in the NFC East, and he’s also built to help contain the division’s explosive running backs.
3. DET: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
Take your pick of Isaiah Simmons and Chase Young at No. 2 and No. 3; I would be thrilled to land either one as the Lions. In a make-or-break year for Detroit’s regime, an instant-impact pass rusher like Young could give Matt Patricia’s defense a considerable boost in 2020. With that said, it doesn’t make much sense to draft a quarterback with Matthew Stafford—now healthy—in place and playing at a high level.
4. NYG: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
This is a toss-up between stud defensive lineman Derrick Brown and offensive tackle Andrew Thomas. I do have Brown ranked as a better prospect, but it’s close enough that it’s not crazy to go with Thomas as a potential blindside protector for franchise quarterback Daniel Jones over the next 10-15 years. Protecting Jones is critical for his development, and Thomas would give the offensive line an immediate boost at either tackle spot to start his career.
5. MIA: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
The Dolphins would reportedly love for this to happen in real life, and I wouldn’t let Joe Burrow slip out of the top five after one of the greatest seasons in college football history. While I went with Fromm at No. 1, Burrow will be a strong pick for the Bengals (barring something unforeseen) when they turn the card in on Thursday night. Here, the Dolphins land a quarterback that puts the ball on the money and just knows how to make plays.
6. LAC: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
I think Tyrod Taylor will do well if he’s really given the opportunity to start for the Chargers this season, but Tua Tagovailoa is worth the risk at No. 6 despite the durability concerns. Nick Saban has praised Tagovailoa for how he helped elevate the program, and the smooth lefty quarterback has the upside to do the same at the next level. Los Angeles made two key additions on the right side of the offensive line this offseason, so Tua will be well protected whenever he hits the field.
7. CAR: Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
Derrick Brown is a monster defensive lineman that prides himself on getting his guys up front to play well and make goal-line stands. Matt Rhule and company would be very happy with a guy like Brown as an anchor in the Panthers defense.
8. ARI: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
There might be some concern with sub-six-foot quarterback Kyler Murray playing behind a behemoth tackle like Mekhi Becton, but it shouldn’t be a huge issue. Jonathan Taylor and one of the receivers would be the pick here, but Arizona is in good shape at both positions and should ensure Murray doesn’t get beat up in an offense that’s going to run a ton of plays this season and beyond.
9. JAX: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
This came down to Justin Herbert or Jonathan Taylor, but at this point I would go best player available and select Taylor while keeping in mind that the Jaguars might not be very good in 2020 and could get the top pick and the opportunity to select phenom quarterback Trevor Lawrence next year. I went in depth on what makes Taylor a top-tier prospect here, but this would also work out with Leonard Fournette set to leave the Jags via trade.
10. CLE: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
While the public posture has indicated otherwise, the Browns might trade Odell Beckham Jr. at some point—and that’s what I would do if I were the team’s general manager. If not, a receiving trio of Beckham, Jarvis Landry, and CeeDee Lamb would be among the league’s best, and Cleveland can look to strengthen the offensive line later in the draft. I definitely would be looking to trade back, but staying at No. 10 it could be fun to reunite Lamb with Baker Mayfield.
11. NYJ: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
I am not sure about Jeffrey Okudah’s upside as someone that will completely erase opposing No. 1 receivers, but he should be one of the safest players in the draft. Remember, Gregg Williams had a big hand in the Denzel Ward selection by the Browns a couple of years ago, and I believe Okudah is a better prospect than the fellow Buckeye.
12. LV: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Speed kills, and this would be a quintessential Raiders pick that has a real chance of happening later this week. Henry Ruggs III might end up being the fastest player in the league, and his ceiling is that of a Tyreek Hill type—Jon Gruden certainly wants his own Hill given that he must face the Chiefs twice per year. I believe Vegas is in good shape at receiver after adding Nelson Agholor in free agency, but Ruggs is too good to pass up.
13. SF (via IND): Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Jerry Juedy to the 49ers is arguably an even better fit than his Alabama teammate to the Raiders. The crafty receiver feels like he would mesh well with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and he would be an excellent fit in Kyle Shanahan’s offense paired with Deebo Samuel.
14. TB: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
The Buccaneers are suddenly in win-now mode, and they should have a number of intriguing possibilities this weekend. This is a pick where it would be a bigger benefit to be able to talk to prospects, especially in a year with no pro days and limited information due to the coronavirus pandemic. But Tristan Wirfs should be an Year 1 starter at right tackle to help keep Tom Brady upright in his first season with Tampa Bay.
15. DEN: Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
Javon Kinlaw is not the top player on the board for me, but I feel like Broncos head coach Vic Fangio would love to have him on his defensive line. The disruptive interior presence at No. 15 would be a good positional fit for Denver, and it would not be a reach.
16. ATL: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
I would think the Falcons will go defense in real life, and you can make a case for any position on that side of the ball at No. 16. Kenneth Murray is difficult to pass up, but K’Lavon Chaisson will help give the pass rush more juice after already adding Dante Fowler during free agency.
17. DAL: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
The floor might be a little lower than the top three guys, but Denzel Mims arguably has the most upside as any receiver in this year’s stacked draft class. New Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy has no trouble moving around receivers in his offense, and all of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Mims could move around the formation and play inside for Dallas.
18. MIA (via PIT): Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
The Dolphins added a defensive captain type of player last year with defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, and selecting Kenneth Murray here would give them another one. The Oklahoma linebacker’s character is said to be off the charts, and he can help lead Brian Flores’ defense for the next decade.
19. LV (via CHI): Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
The cornerbacks behind Jeffrey Okudah are very difficult to rank this year, but I like Trevon Diggs’ size and ball skills for the Raiders. Diggs can work in tandem with Trayvon Mullen as a long, rangy cornerback duo versus the talented offenses in the AFC West.
20. JAX (via LAR): Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Aside from Jacksonville earlier, Tampa Bay as an heir to Brady, or Cleveland as someone to push Baker Mayfield, there simply wasn’t a spot for Justin Herbert until now since the top six. If we were doing trades for this exercise, a team like New England would have traded up by now. However, Herbert landing here is not indicative as his rank as a prospect for me, as he’s a four-year starter with great size and natural talent—also, the Oregon product was essentially a perfect student in college and is said to possess plus football intelligence. Gardner Minshew showed promise last season, but I wouldn’t pass up Herbert if I were the Jags here with their second first-rounder, even with Trevor Lawrence looming in 2021.
21. PHI: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Wide receiver is obviously an option here for the Eagles, but Patrick Queen gets the slight edge as the top player on the board. This is a prime spot for a trade down to accumulate more selections, but Queen could slide in at linebacker and clean up behind a stout defensive line in Philadelphia’s defense.
22. MIN (via BUF): Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota
The Vikings might also be in the mix for a receiver with one of their two first-round picks, but I would opt for a defensive playmaker in Antoine Winfield Jr., who happens to be the son of longtime Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield. Minnesota is currently set at safety, but the junior Winfield can play some nickel and move around the defense as a rookie.
23. NE: Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
Cole Kmet was one of the toughest players to leave out of the first round for this, and a bunch of the teams in the bottom half of the round are potential fits. However, I am high on Jalen Hurts, and a lot of NFL teams probably are too given the former Alabama and Oklahoma quarterback’s leadership and attitude. Ultimately, I think the Patriots would prefer Jake Fromm (who might be here at No. 23), but perhaps Bill Belichick would be intrigued by the possibility of a quarterback that can run and make plays the way Hurts can.
24. NO: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Some Saints fans might not be happy with any receiver not named Justin Jefferson, but I would go with Jalen Reagor here. The TCU speedster could be next in line among a long list of deep threats for Drew Brees and Sean Payton over the years, and he would be a major beneficiary of playing with the ultra-accurate Brees to begin his NFL career.
25. MIN: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
Tee Higgins and K.J. Hamler would both be nice fits with Kirk Cousins, but Yetur Gross-Matos offers tantalizing upside opposite freakish defensive end Danielle Hunter for the Vikings. Gross-Matos would help set the edge, and he’d likely get prime opportunities one-on-one against offensive tackles.
26. MIA (via HOU): Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Especially in an uncertain offseason in terms of on-field work, it’s not a bad idea to pair Justin Jefferson with his college quarterback, as the two already have an excellent built-in chemistry. Joe Burrow would think the pick is awesome, and Jefferson can play inside or outside in an offense that already has DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki among its playmakers.
27. SEA: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
The Seahawks have committed a lot to the secondary in recent years, but Xavier McKinney is a versatile player that would be fun for Pete Carroll and the Seattle coaching staff to use. The Alabama safety can deliver big hits and plays well in man-to-man coverage.
28. BAL: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
Miles Boykin could be ready to step up for the Ravens in his second NFL season, but I would like to add another big target to the receiving corps for Lamar Jackson. Tee Higgins would go up and get 50/50 balls while also presenting a big target for Jackson over the middle on in-breaking routes. A first-round receiver in consecutive years doesn’t feel like a Ravens move, but Baltimore can afford to keep making picks at that position given the overall strength of their roster.
29. TEN: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Dennis Kelly should do a fine job at right tackle if he starts there this season, but Jedrick Wills is a value at No. 29. Wills can take over for Jack Conklin, who left for the Browns during free agency, but the presence of Kelly will provide superb depth for Tennessee.
30. GB: K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State
K.J. Hamler is arguably a better prospect than Reagor, Jefferson, and Higgins, but I felt like the other three were better fits for the previous three teams. Hamler would be a very good addition to Green Bay’s offense, giving Aaron Rodgers a dynamic deep threat that can also do damage with the ball in his hands. Matt LaFleur would find ways to get the ball to Hamler on sweeps and short passes when he’s not taking the top off the defense.
31. SF: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
The final game was not his best, but A.J. Terrell had a fantastic college career while playing for a powerhouse program in Clemson. Terrell’s length and big-game experience is a perfect fit in San Francisco, and he could be an immediate contributor on a defense that went to the Super Bowl last season.
32. KC: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Kristian Fulton is a talented cover corner, but his drug tampering case at LSU is enough to put him slightly behind Trevon Diggs and A.J. Terrell considering how close they all are as prospects.