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Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
Draft season is in full swing, meaning mock draft season is in full swing as well. Here is my first stab at a mock of what I believe could happen in April. In this pre-combine, pre-free agency edition, I'm going to skip the trades, although I will be sure to note places where trades could happen based on how the board is falling for certain teams.
1. Cincinnati Bengals - Joe Burrow, Quarterback, LSU
This might not be as written in pen as we would have thought a month ago. Burrow's camp has made it seem like he might pull an Eli Manning and demand a trade if selected by the Bengals. Who knows if that is just posturing, or if it's something to take seriously, but I'll pencil him here for now.
2. Washington Redskins - Chase Young, Defensive End, Ohio State
People say the draft gets interesting at number 3, but I think it could get interesting at number 2. Chase Young is the number-one player on my overall board, but quarterbacks are the top desire. There have been rumors about Detroit wanting Tua Tagovailoa with the third pick. If that is the case, Washington could get a hefty collection of assets from a team like Miami to trade up. Will it be enough to pass on Chase Young? Who knows? But if Washington stays put, Chase Young is the pick.
3. Detroit Lions - Jeffrey Okudah, Cornerback, Ohio State
I don't doubt that Detroit might be looking for a future replacement for Matthew Stafford. I do doubt whether they are willing to spend a high draft pick right now on a player when they feel they might have a few years left in Stafford. I think it is more likely that they trade into the back end of the first round, potentially with San Francisco, to take Jacob Eason. If Tua is not their target, they take Okudah to replace the new addition to the trade block in Darius Slay.
4. New York Giants - A.J. Epenesa, Defensive End, Iowa
I am staking my claim to Epenesa Island now. He was a top-five player before the season, and there was nothing on his tape to show me he isn't still a top-five player. Epenesa will rise up boards when they see games where he was triple-teamed, games where he consistently beat double teams, and the game against USC where he crushed Austin Jackson's first-round hopes when they left the two of them in a one-on-one matchup most of the game. He will also rise up boards when he performs better than expected at the Combine. Book it.
5. Miami Dolphins - Tua Tagovailoa, Quarterback, Alabama
I think Miami is the most likely destination for Tua, whether it is here or a trade up. Tua is my personal top quarterback in this draft, and Brian Flores is licking his chops.
6. Los Angeles Chargers - Isaiah Simmons, Linebacker/Safety, Clemson
This is the beginning of Justin Herbert territory, especially with the departure of Philip Rivers this offseason. However, LA has shown to like dynamic defensive players, and I think that the addition of Simmons to players like Desmond King, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and some guy by the name of Derwin James will give Anthony Lynn the most dynamic defense in the AFC. The Chargers jump on this opportunity and opt for a quarterback later, such as Jordan Love.
7. Carolina Panthers - Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle, Auburn
Carolina is another team that may be interested in Herbert, but I'm not a fan of the next Jared Goff. In that case, I send Derrick Brown to Carolina, fixing a horrendous run defense that only gets worse with the early retirement of Luke Kuechly.
8. Arizona Cardinals - CeeDee Lamb, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma
There are two players who could be a Cardinal with this pick, in my opinion. One is Lamb, and the other is Jedrick Wills. Kyler Murray has enough scrambling ability to make offensive line not quite as important as on some other teams, so I am giving Murray his new favorite receiving weapon. Lamb might be the biggest playmaker at the position, and Arizona needs one of those badly.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars - Javon Kinlaw, Defensive Tackle, South Carolina
Jacksonville wishes Derrick Brown was still on the board, but might get the better overall player in Kinlaw. In addition to being relatively stout against the run, Kinlaw is a disruptor in the passing game. Kinlaw immediately replaces Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngokue as the best player on the once-formidable Jacksonville defense.
10. Cleveland Browns - Jedrick Wills, Tackle, Alabama
Cleveland's best tackle was just arrested carrying 157 pounds of marijuana in Texas. Cleveland's biggest need just became even bigger. Cleveland runs to the podium with this pick, taking the tackle who has the great combination of having a high ceiling and a high floor at one of the most important positions.
11. New York Jets - Jerry Jeudy, Wide Receiver, Alabama
It feels like the Jets haven't had a true weapon at the wide receiver position since they drafted Keyshawn Johnson in the 90s. They fix that here by taking the most well-rounded weapon at the position in Jerry Jeudy, a route running beast with great hands and more long speed than most give him credit for.
12. Las Vegas Raiders - Kristian Fulton, Cornerback, LSU
The first pick of the Vegas Raiders here is Fulton, my clear number-two cornerback behind Okudah. The Raiders’ secondary was a mess most of last season. Fulton immediately helps that position.
13. Indianapolis Colts - Laviska Shenault, Jr., Wide Receiver, Colorado
Little bit of a surprise here in the preferred receiver for Indianapolis. Looking at the players available, I see "Viska" as the ultimate compliment to a player like T.Y. Hilton. Jacoby Brissett isn't a terrible quarterback, and is good enough that Indianapolis doesn't have to reach for a player. Indy could probably get Viska a few picks later, so don't be surprised If a team like Las Vegas or Jacksonville trades up here to take a quarterback. Mostly because, if the board falls this way, the next pick will be…
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Justin Herbert, Quarterback, Oregon
The clear third option in this draft class, Tampa Bay absolutely needs a quarterback. While they may be in the Philip Rivers sweepstakes, I don't want to assume they are successful there. In that case, the slide of Herbert stops here in Tampa.
15. Denver Broncos - Andrew Thomas, Tackle, Georgia
Denver has to be incredibly pleased to see what once was the top tackle in the class slide to them all the way at 15. Thomas has a few things to work on, for sure, but his combination of athleticism, length, and potential makes him an easy pick here.
16. Atlanta Falcons - K'Lavon Chaisson, Defensive End, LSU
Takk McKinley is not a good professional football player. Chaisson will be a good professional football player. This is one of the easiest picks in the entire draft if he is still on the board.
17. Dallas Cowboys - Xavier McKinney, Safety, Alabama
Dallas won their division two years ago with a strong defense and an offense good enough to win games. When that defense took a step back this past year, so did Dallas. It's obvious that Jerry Jones loves him some SEC guys, so he gets one here in the hopes of plugging the holes in that secondary.
18. Miami Dolphins - Mekhi Becton, Tackle, Louisville
If you draft your quarterback of the future, you must protect him. While I personally like Tristan Wirfs more than both Becton and Thomas, I think the Dolphins want more of a sure thing to at least be solid. Becton will be just that.
19. Las Vegas Raiders - Henry Ruggs III, Wide Receiver, Alabama
The Raiders got their cornerstone cornerback earlier in the round, and now they add a player who has all of the flash required to be a star in a city like Las Vegas. Ruggs could very easily break the NFL combine record in the 40-yard dash, and has a wide array of route-running nuances at his disposal. Ruggs could very well brightest star the City of Lights.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars - Jeff Gladney, Cornerback, TCU
After getting rid of Ramsey, Jacksonville needs a lockdown cornerback. Gladney has all of the potential to be just that. This is likely the highest Gladney could go, but I'm not sure he could slide much further down the board, either.
21. Philadelphia Eagles - Jalen Reagor, Wide Receiver, TCU
The Eagles absolutely need a wide receiver. While they are probably aiming for Viska, I think Reagor is a good second option. The Eagles have a lot of large targets, but not a lot of fast targets. Reagor would fix that immediately.
22. Buffalo Bills - K.J. Hamler, Wide Receiver, Penn State
The Green Bay Packers are distraught here. Hamler is likely their option 1, 2, and 3, but in this case, Buffalo continues the string of receivers by getting a versatile weapon in Hamler. Hamler can play deep, which is a must for a quarterback like Josh Allen, but can also be a more gadgety player who catches a quick pass and is then allowed to work in space. Josh Allen needs that, too. Hamler and Allen are a perfect match.
23. New England Patriots - Tristan Wirfs, Tackle, Iowa
The slide for Tristan Wirfs ends in Foxboro. Belichick loves him some Iowa guys, and Wirfs can immediately contribute to what was a relatively poor offensive line in New England. If Wirfs is not ready to play tackle immediately, he becomes their best interior offensive lineman. If he is ready, he becomes their best offensive tackle. Either way, this is too good a value for the Patriots to pass up.
24. New Orleans Saints - Patrick Queen, Linebacker, LSU
Patrick Queen finally got his chance this year, and he made the most of it. With Drew Brees returning for another year, and with there not being an offensive weapon of good value that fits in New Orleans, the Saints plug the biggest hole on their defense with a hometown stud.
25. Minnesota Vikings - Neville Gallimore, Defensive Tackle, Oklahoma
The Vikings need defensive linemen, and that was before they parted ways with Everson Griffen. Gallimore has been a fast riser, and would be a perfect fit next to Danielle Hunter on the interior.
26. Miami Dolphins - Jonathan Taylor, Running Back, Wisconsin
Miami has their quarterback and their left tackle. The wide receivers and the tight end are at least decent, but they do not have any running back worth anything (sorry, Patrick Laird truthers). The biggest delta for the Miami offense at this spot is to grab the best running back on the board in Jonathan Taylor. Miami's new look offense is looking good.
27. Seattle Seahawks - Nick Harris, Interior Offensive Line, Washington
Seattle always goes a bit off the wall with their first round picks. Seattle also has a bad interior offensive line in a division with very strong defensive tackles. They stay local here and select the player some might have as the best interior offensive lineman in the class.
28. Baltimore Ravens - Yetur Gross-Matos, Defensive End, Penn State
I'm a bigger fan of Gross-Matos than many, and think he deserves to get taken in the first round. With Judon's status being unsure, Baltimore continues their efficiency in cycling through players by taking a very good pass rusher in the tail end of the first.
29. Tennessee Titans - Ross Blalock, Defensive Tackle, TCU
Tennessee is a candidate for grabbing one of the second-tier quarterbacks here, but that's only if they don't commit to Ryan Tannehill long term. Assuming they do, the Titans instead opt for shoring up the interior of their defensive line with the best defensive tackle on the board in Blalock.
30. Green Bay Packers - Justin Madubuike, Defensive Tackle, Texas A&M
The Packers absolutely hate how this board has fallen. They may trade up to try to avoid this situation, or they may trade back if they are unable to do the former. If they have to stay put, Madubuike is their pick. Madubuike is a late riser, but looks to be a potentially disruptive force in the middle of the defensive line, which is the biggest hole in the Packers defense (outside of maybe linebacker).
31. San Francisco 49ers - Grant Delpit, Safety, LSU
Alright, the pick you've all been waiting for. I truly believe John Lynch will try to do everything he can to trade down. However, if the board falls this way, he will have to give a lot of thought to taking Delpit instead. Delpit was seen as a top-three talent coming into the season based on his 2017 and 2018 tape. He did not play like a top-three talent in 2019, but it's hard to live up to those expectations as a safety. He still played great, and many of his errors were in blowouts where the results were inconsequential. In big games, he had his best moments. He is an elite single-high safety with elite measurements, elite instincts, and elite athleticism. If the 49ers let Jimmie Ward walk this offseason, Delpit could be a steal for them at this point in the draft. His tackling is a little suspect, but I trust coaches like Saleh to be able to refine a player this talented. You can't teach his size, athleticism, or instincts. The vaunted 49ers defense gets even stronger.
32. Kansas City Chiefs - J.K. Dobbins, Running Back, Ohio State
If the Chiefs can't draft a meteor destroying Arrowhead, which is my preferred option (sorry, still not over it), the Chiefs bolster their offense by grabbing the speedy, explosive Dobbins to be their new lead back. This offense already isn't fair, so grabbing Dobbins just makes it even more Madden-like.
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