Feb 28, 2020 at 9:57p ET
We’re less than two months away from the NFL Draft, and the NFL Combine feels like the beginning of the home stretch.
You never want to read too much into the Combine, but it’s the stuff behind-the-scenes such as interviews and medical evaluations that matter more than what you see on TV. There’s a few new names popping up in this mock draft, but we’re close to having about 22 players being first-round locks.
Cincinnati Bengals — Joe Burrow, QB, LSU (Previous pick: 1)
2019 season stats: 402-for-527 passing, 76.3% completion percentage, 5,671 passing yards, 60 TDs, 6 INTs
The whole “Joe Burrow may not want to play in Cincinnati” narrative has been put to rest, so we can finally start talking about what matters: How the Bengals are going to tailor the offense to play to Burrow’s strengths. Might want to start for asking for LSU’s playbook. Then, draft a receiver in the middle rounds (or two, if AJ Green leaves).
Washington Redskins — Chase Young, DE, Ohio State (2)
2019 season stats: 16.5 sacks, 46 total tackles, 7 forced fumbles, 3 passes defended
Guarantee: We’re going to hear “rumblings” that a mystery team wants to trade up to No. 2 and draft Tua Tagovailoa. Those rumblings will come from the Redskins (or Lions) in hopes that someone is willing to package a bundle of picks together. Won’t happen. It’s all subterfuge. For me, Young is the best player in the draft.
Detroit Lions — Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson (3)
2019 season stats: 8.0 sacks, 3 INTs, 8 passes defended, 104 total tackles
Sorry, I’m just not buying the Tua stuff. It makes for a good soundly, but here’s the reality – if Stafford is cut or traded, the Lions would eat $32 million in dead money. He carries a $21.3 million cap hit playing for the Lions next year. That, friends, is fiscal suicide. I narrowly have Simmons 3rd ahead of OSU CB Jeff Okudah.
New York Giants — Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State (4)
2019 season stats: 3 interceptions, 9 passes defended, 34 total tackles, 1 forced fumble
The Giants have needs on the offensive line, but is there a franchise tackle to be had here? Daniel Jones sure needs protection.
There is also a massive need in the secondary, given New York was 31st vs. the pass, according to Football Outsiders. And this week the Giants released two linebackers. They’d love to have Simmons fall here, but defensively, Okudah is the next best option.
Miami Dolphins — Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon (6)
2019 season stats: 286-for-428 passing, 66.8% completion percentage, 3,471 passing yards, 32 TDs, 6 INTs
Herbert remains a divisive figure in this draft, and the lazy comparisons to Josh Allen just aren’t accurate. He rarely took over a huge game in his career using his arm, but is that because of what the Ducks wanted to do on offense? I think his ceiling is Ben Roethlisberger.
Los Angeles Chargers — Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia (10)
With Philip Rivers officially gone, everyone has the Chargers going QB. I’m going another direction. The durability Rivers possessed flies in the face of the oft-injured Tagovailoa. Coach Anthony Lynn must have a winning season, and the guess here is the Chargers land a big free agent and draft a QB in another round.
Carolina Panthers — Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn (7)
2019 season stats: 4.0 sacks, 54 total tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 4 passes defended
One week, Cam Newton is certainly going to be traded; the next week, it looks like he’s staying. Either way, I don’t see the Panthers going QB here. I still believe the smart move for the Panthers is to move on and start the rebuild. Best case? They’re 2-14 and land Trevor Lawrence. In the long run, that’s best for Matt Rhule. For now? Rebuild that once-great defensive line with the 6-foot-4, 325-pound Brown.
Arizona Cardinals — Jedrick Wills, OT Alabama (11)
Kyler Murray’s in a win-win situation: He’s either going to ask for the receiver he knows best — former Oklahoma teammate CeeDee Lamb — or get an offensive lineman to protect him (as he wassacked an NFL-high 48 times in 2019).
Jacksonville Jaguars — Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina (9)
2019 season stats: 6.0 sacks, 35 total tackeles, 2 fumbles recovered, 2 passes defended
I might be the only one who has had Kinlaw in the Top 20 for a few months now, but in a mediocre defensive tackle draft, Kinlaw is going to be a high-impact player for a franchise very quickly.
Cleveland Browns — Austin Jackson, OL, USC (NR)
The Browns are going to be fascinating to watch in free agency, because that could shape their draft decisions. Breaking up their highly-paid receivers and improving the offensive line could put them in line to do something few expect on draft day. The new, analytic-based front office will certainly be relying on numbers more than John Dorsey did. We’ll see how the offseason goes, but Jackson may be the most impressive of the linemen. ©Icon Sportswire (A Division of XML Team Solutions) All Rights Reserved Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
New York Jets — Mekhi Becton, OL, Louisville (26)
If you’re looking for a fast-rising name based on the NFL combine, the mountain of a tackle who starred for the Cardinals is a good place to start. He checked in at 6-foot-7, 364 pounds with the fourth longest arm length of any tackle. How he performs in the drills could push him higher up the draft.
Las Vegas Raiders — Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama (5)
2019 season stats: 180-for-252 passing, 71.4% completion percentage, 2,840 passing yards, 33 TDs, 3 INTs
Sam Bradford. Josh Rosen. Carson Wentz. If you go back a decade, QBs who were injured in college more than once have historically gotten injured in the NFL. The talent is undeniably there; the injury concerns are real. But a coach with a 10-year contract has nothing to lose.
Indianapolis Colts — Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama (8)
2019 season stats: 77 receptions, 1,163 receiving yards, 10 receiving TDs
The Jeudy/Lamb debate will rage until both are off the board, but I give a slight lean to Jeudy. Falling to the Colts to pair him with TY Hilton would be formidable in the AFC. Of course, they need to figure out their QB situation in free agency …
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — C.J. Henderson, DB, Florida (14)
2019 season stats: 11 passes defended, 1.0 sack, 33 total tackles
We will do a few more mock drafts before the draft, but I can promise you this: Somebody’s going to have to move Heaven and Earth to get me off a secondary player to the Bucs.
Denver Broncos — Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama (21)
2019 season stats: 40 receptions, 746 receiving yards, 7 receiving TDs
Had him in the 20-25 range for over a month, but yes, I’ve fallen in lust with his speed. What a pair he’d make with Courtland Sutton for young QB Drew Lock.
Atlanta Falcons — A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa (13)
2019 season stats: 11.5 sacks, 4 fumbles forced, 49 total tackles, 3 passes defended
I’ve got Epenesa as the second best edge rusher in the draft after Chase Young, but there seems to be some sentiment for LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson. The Falcons are beyond desperate for someone to case the QB.
Dalla Cowboys — Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama (27)
2019 season stats: 3 INTs, 5 passes defended, 4 fumbles forced, 1 fumble recovered, 95 total tackles
The McKinney vs Grant Delpit debate hasn’t really materialized. Delpit was tremendous in 2019, and perhaps the success and Top 5 aspirations went to his head because he wasn’t the same player in 2020. The Cowboys could always trade this pick (and more) to the Jets if they want Jamal Adams …
Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh Steelers) — Josh Jones, OT, Houston (18)
Love the idea of the Dolphins going with the franchise QB early, and then the best offensive lineman on the board here.
Las Vegas Raiders (via Chicago Bears) — CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma (12)
2019 season stats: 62 receptions, 1,327 receiving yards, 14 receiving TDs
If a great and talented player falls this far, he’s a massive steal. Lamb has top 10 talent, and likely will be a team’s No. 1 WR in a few years. Recent history shows you can find highly-productive star receivers in the second, third and fourth rounds.
Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams) — Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma (28)
2019 season stats: 4.0 sacks, 4 passes defended, 102 total tackles
The Jaguars defense hasn’t been the same since Telvin Smith’s stunning retirement. Murray is the tackling machine this defense needs.
Philadelphia Eagles — Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado (15)
2019 season stats: 56 receptions, 764 receiving yards, 4 receiving TDs; 23 rushes, 161 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
In a draft absolutely loaded at receiver, it feels very likely that the Eagles will take one here. They’ll probably have to beef up at the position in free agency, too.
Buffalo Bills — K’Lavon Chaisson, LB/Edge, LSU (NR)
2019 season stats: 6.5 sacks, 60 total tackles, 1 forced fumble, 2 passes defended
Interesting decision by Chaisson this week to not participate in the combine, but wait instead of LSU’s Pro Day. The comparisons to another athletic LSU edge rusher will emerge — Barkevious Mingo, who went 6th overall in 2013 — but those seem unfounded. Jamie Schwaberow Getty Images
New England Patriots — Jordan Love, QB, Utah State (NR)
2019 season stats: 293-for-473 passing, 61.9 competion percentage, 3.402 passing yards, 20 TDs, 17 INTs
After a phenomenal 2019, Love lost his head coach, his offensive coordinator, and four of his five offensive linemen. His stats cratered. The talent is there. Will Tom Brady be upset that Bill Belichick passed on adding talent to instead build for the future?
New Orleans Saints — Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU (NR)
2019 season stats: 111 receptions, 1,540 receiving yards, 18 receiving TDs
Louisiana kid gets to stay home and play for the Saints alongside Michael Thomas? It’d be too perfect. Jefferson went from 0-60 very quickly with LSU, going from 0 catches and TDs in 2017 to 111 receptions and 18 TDs catching bombs from Joe Burrow in 2019.
Minnesota Vikings — Tristan Wirfs, G, Iowa (NR)
The Vikings’ primary need is on the offensive line after an up-and-down season. Kirk Cousins was sacked 3 times in six games this season. The Vikings have drafted seven offensive linemen in the past three years, and the fact it’s once again a need is troubling.
Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans) — Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah (29)
2019 season stats: 2 INTs, 11 passes defended, 36 total tackles
The Dolphins defense needs players, and pairing Johnson with Xavien Howard would be a great start. Miami could use help anywhere in the front seven.
Seattle Seahawks — Grant Delpit, S, LSU (17)
2019 season stats: 2 INTs, 7 passes defended, 65 total tackles
The tape from 2019 isn’t very good, but he was still a two-time All-American, and the talent is undeniably there. If the Seahawks can fix their offensive line and get one more big producer on defense — oh yeah, and retaining Clowney is kind of paramount — they’re a Super Bowl sleeper.
Baltimore Ravens — Patrick Queen, LB, LSU (32)
2019 season stats: 1 INT, 2 passes defended, 1 fumble recovered, 3.0 sacks, 85 total tackles
The Ravens love Oklahoma — they’ve drafted four offensive Sooners players in the last two years — and it’s time they fortify a defense that got trucked by Derrick Henry to the tune of 195 yards.
Tennessee Titans — Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU (16)
2019 season stats: 56 receptions, 764 receiving yards, 4 receiving TDs; 23 rushes, 161 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
Not sure if we’ve ever had a run of three straight picks from one school, but Fulton certainly has first round talent. He’s in the same boat as Delpit — better in 2018 than in 2019. Or was the Joe Burrow-led offense so good that everyone expected more from the defense?
Green Bay Packers — Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State (NR)
2019 season stats: 65 receptions, 1,192 receiving yards, 8 receiving TDs
The Packers haven’t drafted an offensive skill position player in the first two rounds since 2014. That player was Davante Adams. Time to get him some help on the outside. The predictable Packers were down 27-0 at halftime in the NFC Championship game because Aaron Rodgers needs weapons.
San Francisco 49ers — Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama (20)
2019 season stats: 3 INTs, 8 passes defended, 2 fumbles recovered, 37 total tackles
I’m still having nightmares of Richard Sherman getting torched in the Super Bowl and wondering just how much he’ll have next season after a terrific 2019 campaign. Diggs is known as something of a pile inspector, but in coverage, he’s fantastic.
Kansas City Chiefs — Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma (NR)
2019 season stats: 4.0 sacks, 29 total tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 pass defended
It’s gotta be somewhere on defense, right? Secondary, run defense, on the edge — the Super Bowl champs must improve defensively. Gallimore makes his debut in the mock and would be a fantastic piece next to all-world Chris Jones to help fortify the Chiefs in the middle.