INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The NFL Draft is a little over two weeks away, and for those of us who are sports starved thanks to the coronavirus, it can’t come soon enough.
The draft always brings the unexpected, but with the event going “fully virtual’’ this year to abide by social distancing guidelines, we are truly entering the unknown.
Nevertheless, the goal remains the same as teams sort through hundreds of prospects to identify the select few who can ultimately bring them a championship.
In this two-round, tradeless mock draft, I attempt to predict who each team will select by weighing team needs and past history against the best player available.
1 – Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow – QB – LSU
NFL Comparison – Matt Ryan
No surprises here. The Bengals take Burrow, a quarterback with excellent accuracy, poise and pocket awareness, to be the face of their franchise.
Other Considerations – Tua Tagovailoa (QB), Chase Young (EDGE), Justin Herbert (QB)
2 – Washington Redskins: Chase Young – EDGE – Ohio State
NFL Comparison – Myles Garrett
While the temptation to select Tua and move on from Dwayne Haskins is strong, defensive-minded head coach Ron Rivera won’t be able to pass up an opportunity to add a rare pass-rush talent like Young.
Other Considerations – Tua Tagovailoa (QB), Jeffrey Okudah (CB), Isaiah Simmons (LB)
3 – Detroit Lions: Jeffrey Okudah – CB – Ohio State
NFL Comparison – Jalen Ramsey
I dare you to find a hole in Okudah’s game. Detroit amplified their needs in the secondary when they traded away Darius Slay, and cornerback prospects don’t get any better than Okudah.
Other Considerations – Isaiah Simmons (LB), Derrick Brown (DT), Jedrick Wills (OT)
4 – New York Giants: Jedrick Wills – OT – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Ronnie Stanley
After spending top-six picks on a quarterback and running back in consecutive drafts, general manager Dave Gettleman would be wise to invest in his investments. Wills is a technician in pass protection and comes pro-ready.
Other Considerations – Isaiah Simmons (LB), Mekhi Becton (OT), Tristan Wirfs (OT)
5 – Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa – QB – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Drew Brees
Without trades, Miami can stay at five and still land their man. Tua is a master distributor who gets the ball out quickly and accurately with impeccable anticipation.
Other Considerations – Justin Herbert (QB), Mekhi Becton (OT), Isaiah Simmons (LB)
6 – Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert – QB – Oregon
NFL Comparison – Josh Allen
Philip Rivers’ departure signals the beginning of a new chapter in Chargers football. Herbert is the most physically gifted quarterback in this draft and has time to develop his skills while veteran Tyrod Taylor starts in 2020.
Other Considerations – Mekhi Becton (OT), Tristan Wirfs (OT), Isaiah Simmons (LB)
7 – Carolina Panthers: Isaiah Simmons – LB – Clemson
NFL Comparison – None
Carolina is in need of a new defensive centerpiece after the surprise retirement of linebacker Luke Kuechly. Simmons is the pinnacle of versatility and can make plays as a linebacker, safety, nickel and edge rusher.
Other Considerations – Derrick Brown (DT), Tristan Wirfs (OT), Javon Kinlaw (DT)
8 – Arizona Cardinals: Tristan Wirfs – OT – Iowa
NFL Comparison – Lane Johnson
So far this offseason, Arizona has traded for receiver DeAndre Hopkins and resigned left tackle D.J. Humphries. The effort to help quarterback Kyler Murray continues as the Cardinals draft Wirfs to man the right side.
Other Considerations – Mekhi Becton (OT), Andrew Thomas (OT), Derrick Brown (DT)
9 – Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown – DT – Auburn
NFL Comparison – Ndamukong Suh
What was once a promising unit has quickly been torn down as Jacksonville rebuilds yet again. Brown is a bully on the inside and will immediately improve the Jaguars’ run defense.
Other Considerations – Mekhi Becton (OT), Jerry Jeudy (WR), Andrew Thomas (OT)
10 – Cleveland Browns: Mekhi Becton – OT – Louisville
NFL Comparison – Trent Brown
The Browns’ 2019 hype train was quickly derailed by their inability to protect Baker Mayfield. Though raw, Becton’s rare combination of size and athleticism gives him one of the highest ceilings in this draft.
Other Considerations – Andrew Thomas (OT), Javon Kinlaw (DT), K’Lavon Chaisson (EDGE)
11 – New York Jets: Andrew Thomas – OT – Georgia
NFL Comparison – Andrew Whitworth
The Jets have done little to help quarterback Sam Darnold after making him the third overall pick in 2018. Thomas is a day-one starter at left tackle who will allow Darnold more time to throw and create lanes for Le’Veon Bell.
Other Considerations – Jerry Jeudy (WR), CeeDee Lamb (WR), K’Lavon Chaisson (EDGE)
12 – Las Vegas Raiders: Jerry Jeudy – WR – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Odell Beckham Jr.
Head coach Jon Gruden is still searching for his number one receiver after the Antonio Brown experiment failed. Jeudy is an advanced route runner with top-end quickness and solid hands.
Other Considerations – Henry Ruggs III (WR), CeeDee Lamb (WR), Javon Kinlaw (DT)
13 – San Francisco 49ers: CeeDee Lamb – WR – Oklahoma
NFL Comparison – Anquan Boldin
With the pick they received from trading DT DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis, the 49ers give Jimmy Garoppolo another playmaker. Lamb excels at bringing down 50/50 balls and is a hellraiser after the catch.
Other Considerations – Henry Ruggs III (WR), Javon Kinlaw (DT), C.J. Henderson (CB)
14 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Jones – OT – Houston
NFL Comparison – Andre Dillard
If Tom Brady is going to bring Tampa Bay a championship at age 43, TB better protect TB. Jones’ stock has been rising since the Senior Bowl thanks to his physical traits and improved technique.
Other Considerations – Austin Jackson (OT), Javon Kinlaw (DT), C.J. Henderson (CB)
15 – Denver Broncos: Henry Ruggs III – WR – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Tyreek Hill
With the top tackles off the board, pairing Drew Lock’s strong arm with Ruggs’ 4.27 speed is a no-brainer. Ruggs is the perfect compliment to the big-bodied Courtland Sutton and will open things up underneath for Melvin Gordon and company.
Other Considerations – C.J. Henderson (CB), Javon Kinlaw (DT), Austin Jackson (OT)
16 – Atlanta Falcons: C.J. Henderson – CB – Florida
NFL Comparison – Marshon Lattimore
In a cap saving move, the Falcons released veteran Desmond Trufant, compounding their need at cornerback. Henderson is an elite athlete who gives receivers fits with his length, twitch and speed.
Other Considerations – Javon Kinlaw (DT), K’Lavon Chaisson (EDGE), Jeff Gladney (CB)
17 – Dallas Cowboys: Javon Kinlaw – DT – South Carolina
NFL Comparison – Chris Jones
With most of their funds allocated to the offense, Dallas will have to build up their defense through the draft. Kinlaw is an exciting defensive tackle prospect with the length, quickness and power to dominate.
Other Considerations – K’Lavon Chaisson (EDGE), Xavior McKinney (S), Jeff Gladney (CB)
18 – Miami Dolphins: K’Lavon Chaisson – EDGE – LSU
NFL Comparison – Josh Allen
Miami has been busy in free agency, but a premier pass-rusher remains a need. Chaisson is still putting it all together, but his explosive athleticism and ability to bend the edge will get him drafted high.
Other Considerations – Austin Jackson (OT), Xavior McKinney (S), Yetur Gross-Matos (EDGE)
19 – Las Vegas Raiders: Kenneth Murray – LB – Oklahoma
NFL Comparison – Kwon Alexander
The Raiders continue to add talent and leadership to their young defense. Murray is a three-down linebacker with sideline-to-sideline speed and top-notch character.
Other Considerations – Patrick Queen (LB), Jeff Gladney (CB), Zach Baun (LB)
20 – Jacksonville Jaguars: Jeff Gladney – CB – TCU
NFL Comparison – Chris Harris Jr.
Jacksonville needs reinforcements at cornerback after trading away Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Gladney is a fiesty corner who is always in good position thanks to his quickness and anticipation.
Other Considerations – Jaylon Johnson (CB), Austin Jackson (OT), Justin Jefferson (WR)
21 – Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson – WR – LSU
NFL Comparison – Keenan Allen
By the season’s end, Philadelphia was plucking bodies off the street for Carson Wentz to throw to. Jefferson’s polished route running and contested catch ability will allow him to make an immediate impact.
Other Considerations – Patrick Queen (LB), Tee Higgins (WR), Xavier McKinney (S)
22 – Minnesota Vikings: A.J. Epenesa – DE – Iowa
NFL Comparison – Trey Flowers
The Vikings have a lot to replace on defense, including mainstay Everson Griffen. Epenesa is a technically skilled pass-rusher whose size and strength will compliment Danielle Hunter’s speed.
Other Considerations – Jaylon Johnson (CB), A.J. Terrell (CB), Yetur Gross-Matos (EDGE)
23 – New England Patriots: Jordan Love – QB– Utah State
NFL Comparison – Patrick Mahomes
Calm down. I’m not saying Love is the next Mahomes, but his size, mobility and arm strength are comparable. With no trades, Love falls to New England, who is looking to move on after the Tom Brady divorce.
Other Considerations – Yetur Gross-Matos (EDGE), Xavier McKinney (S), Marlon Davidson (DL)
24 – New Orleans Saints: Jaylon Johnson – CB – Utah
NFL Comparison – Xavier Rhodes
With Drew Brees returning, the Saints gear up for another Super Bowl run by adding talent to their secondary. Johnson is an ascending prospect with an enticing combination of size and athleticism.
Other Considerations – A.J. Terrell (CB), Patrick Queen (LB), Xavier McKinney (S)
25 – Minnesota Vikings: A.J. Terrell – CB – Clemson
NFL Comparison – Sean Smith
The loss of starting corners Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes leaves Minnesota with holes in the secondary. Terrell fills one of those holes with above average athleticism and the length to deflect 50/50 balls.
Other Considerations – Cesar Ruiz (IOL), Kristian Fulton (CB), Trevon Diggs (CB)
26 – Miami Dolphins: Austin Jackson – OT – USC
NFL Comparison – Duane Brown
After drafting a quarterback and pass-rusher, the Dolphins continue to address premiere positions in the first round. Jackson has the physical gifts to develop into the franchise tackle Miami needs to protect Tua.
Other Considerations – Xavier McKinney (S), Antoine Winfield Jr. (S), D’Andre Swift (RB)(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
27 – Seattle Seahawks: Yetur Gross-Matos – EDGE – Penn State
NFL Comparison – Brian Burns
Jadaveon Clowney remains a free agent and 2019 first round pick L.J. Collier’s rookie season was not promising. Gross-Matos has the length and athleticism to develop into a double-digit sack artist.
Other Considerations – Ross Blacklock (DT), Cesar Ruiz (IOL), Isaiah Wilson (OT)(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
28 – Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen – LB – LSU
NFL Comparison – Darius Leonard
The Ravens have yet to fill the crater linebacker C.J. Mosley left when he signed elsewhere last offseason. Queen is an elite athlete with the skillset to impact all three downs.
Other Considerations – Cesar Ruiz (IOL), Zack Baun (LB), Marlon Davidson (DL)(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
29 – Tennessee Titans: Zack Baun – LB – Wisconsin
NFL Comparison – Kyle Van Noy
It’s easy to envision head coach Mike Vrabel falling in love with Bauns’ game. Though slightly undersized, Baun is an explosive athlete who can rush off the edge, play the run and hold up in coverage.
Other Considerations – Marlon Davidson (DL), Jonathan Taylor (RB), Isaiah Wilson (OT)Tee Higgins #5 of the Clemson Tigers makes a catch against Nick Grant #1 of the Virginia Cavaliers during the ACC Football Championship game at Bank of America Stadium on December 07, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
30 – Green Bay Packers: Tee Higgins – WR – Clemson
NFL Comparison – Kenny Golladay
Outside of Davante Adams, Aaron Rodgers didn’t have much to work with in 2019. Higgins is a jump-ball weapon with excellent size, body control and hands.
Other Considerations – Denzel Mims (WR), Isaiah Wilson (OT), Kristian Fulton (CB)(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
31 – San Francisco 49ers: Xavier McKinney – S – Alabama
NFL Comparison – Antoine Bethea
If they don’t trade this pick for additional draft capital, San Fransisco can sit and take what falls to them. McKinney is an intelligent, versatile defender who can play deep, in the box and cover the slot.
Other Considerations – Cesar Ruiz (IOL), Kristian Fulton (CB), Ross Blacklock (DT)(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
32 – Kansas City Chiefs: Kristian Fulton – CB – LSU
NFL Comparison – Casey Hayward
I challenge you to find a weaker group of cornerbacks than what the Chiefs currently have. Fulton battled through injury in 2019, but is a smart, competitive defender with the tools to be a solid starter.
Other Considerations – D’Andre Swift (RB), Cesar Ruiz (IOL), Trevon Diggs (CB)
33 – Cincinnati Bengals: Cesar Ruiz – C – Michigan
34 – Indianapolis Colts: Denzel Mims – WR – Baylor
35 – Detroit Lions: Ross Blacklock – DT – TCU
36 – New York Giants: Terrell Lewis – EDGE – Alabama
37 – Los Angeles Chargers: Jonathan Taylor – RB – Wisconsin
38 – Carolina Panthers: Antoine Winfield Jr. – S – Minnesota
39 – Miami Dolphins: D’Andre Swift – RB – Georgia
40 – Houston Texans: Brandon Aiyuk – WR – Arizona
41 – Cleveland Browns: Marlon Davidson – DL – Auburn
42 – Jacksonville Jaguars: Cole Kmet – TE – Notre Dame
43 – Chicago Bears: Lucas Niang – OT – TCU
44 – Indianapolis Colts: Trevon Diggs – CB – Alabama
45 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Clyde Edwards-Helaire – RB – LSU
46 – Denver Broncos: Noah Igbinoghene – CB – Auburn
47 – Atlanta Falcons: Justin Madubuike – DT – Texas A&M
48 – New York Jets: Jalen Reagor – WR – TCU
49 – Pittsburgh Steelers: Jalen Hurts – QB – Oklahoma
50 – Chicago Bears: K.J. Hamler – WR – Penn State
51 – Dallas Cowboys: Grant Delpit – S – LSU
52 – Los Angeles Rams: Loyd Cushenberry – C – LSU
53 – Philadelphia Eagles: Kyle Dugger – S – Lenoir-Rhyne
54 – Buffalo Bills: Cam Akers – RB – Florida State
55 – Baltimore Ravens: John Simpson – OG – Clemson
56 – Miami Dolphins: Isaiah Wilson – OT – Georgia
57 – Houston Texans: Julian Okwara – EDGE – Notre Dame
58 – Minnesota Vikings: Michael Pittman Jr. – WR – USC
59 – Seattle Seahawks: Laviska Shenault – WR – Colorado
60 – Baltimore Ravens: Joshua Uche – EDGE – Michigan
61 – Tennessee Titans: Raekwon Davis – DT – Alabama
62 – Green Bay Packers: Adam Trautman – TE – Dayton
63 – Kansas City Chiefs: J.K. Dobbins – RB – Ohio State
64 – Seattle Seahawks: Cameron Dantzler – CB – Mississippi State