It’s finally football season. This year, the Aftermath will be devoting more time to covering college football, particularly focusing on the NFL Draft. You can listen to our new podcast starting this Thursday, which will focus on all things related to the draft. Let’s kick off our college football coverage with a mock draft. On the first Monday of each month, I will have a brand new mock draft reflecting all of the developments of the college season, so keep an eye out for more of these in the future. It’s very early in the year and most of these projections are based on the needs of NFL teams at this stage rather than the true value of these players in the draft, so expect a lot of changes in future additions.
This is one of the best draft classes for skill position players we’ve had in a few years. There are also three future franchise quarterbacks, all of which I believe will go in the top 10. The Colts find their successor to Andrew Luck, the Jets finally draft a pass rusher, the Giants find their OBJ replacement and tons of Alabama players will go in Round 1 as per usual.
The draft order was dictated by the Super Bowl odds currently available on Vegas Insiders, with tiebreakers coming via strength of schedule entering the season. There were a couple of instances where teams had to be moved around because of playoff purposes (someone had to win the AFC South) and conference ordering of playoff finish (why the Bears are picking later than the Patriots). Without further ado, here is the first mock for the 2020 NFL Draft.
1. Miami Dolphins (500-1)
Pick: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
While many might expect the Dolphins to go after a quarterback here. I think they will see enough from Josh Rosen to keep him in house and opt for the best player available. Miami cleaned house when it came to pass rushers, letting Cameron Wake walk and shipping Robert Quinn to Dallas. Young becomes the latest Ohio State defensive lineman to make the jump to the NFL in the top five. He has the talent to surpass Nick Bosa, who went second overall in 2019, after racking up 10.5 sacks last season.
2. Washington (200-1)
Pick: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Trent Williams wants out of Washington. Teams around the NFL have inquired about the veteran tackle and it’s hard to see him lasting the full season in the nation’s capital. After investing in Dwayne Haskins last year, it is vital for GM Bruce Allen to build an infrastructure he can thrive in. Having a quality left tackle is crucial for any young quarterback and Andrew Thomas can become just that in Washington. Thomas is not an elite run blocker, but he does an excellent job in pass protection. He will be battle-tested after three years in the SEC, going up against NFL-caliber talent regularly.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (200-1)
Pick: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The first quarterback comes off the board. This could end up being any number of quarterbacks. Coming into the 2019 college football season though, Herbert is the best option. He has physical tools scouts tend to love. He has the chance to lead a high-profile Oregon team. Andy Dalton’s time is up in Cincy and this is the true beginning of the Bengals rebuild. It is time to tear it down and rebuild around a young quarterback.
4. New York Giants (200-1)
Pick: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
In case you were living under a rock, the Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr. this past offseason. They also drafted Daniel Jones to be the heir apparent to Eli Manning. He is going to need some weapons to throw to not named Saquon Barkley. Jeudy was a stud as a sophomore for Alabama, posting 1,300+ yards receiving and hauling in 14 touchdowns. He has great hands, the frame needed to be a number one receiver and insane route running. With the addition of Jeudy, the Giants offense suddenly looks like one of the better ones in the league just in time for Daniel Jones to take over.
5. Arizona Cardinals (200-1)
Pick: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
It is almost impossible to replace Larry Fitzgerald, a task the Cardinals will have to complete sooner rather than later. The best way to do it might just be to draft a man who spent all of 2018 catching passes from new Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. CeeDee Lamb will provide some explosiveness to an Arizona offense that lacks it on paper. He has the capacity to take the top off a defense at moment’s notice. Lamb would immediately help Murray’s growth as a passer and would give the Cardinals a young starting pairing at receiver with Christian Kirk.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (100-1)
Pick: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Tampa Bay passed on Derwin James in 2018 despite needing secondary help. Then again, a lot of teams did. This time though, the Buccaneers snag a top-tier defensive back out of the real DB U. Delpit becomes the latest plug-and-play safety and immediately helps the worst defensive backfield in the NFL. Tampa could be looking at a quarterback here if it decides to move on from Jameis Winston, but I expect them to spend one more season waiting to see if he can make it work with Bruce Arians and address their porous secondary.
7. Detroit Lions (100-1)
Pick: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Shocked to see the Lions take a quarterback? Don’t be. Detroit has an out in Stafford’s contract after 2020, meaning they can either wait for one year before turning things over to Tagovailoa or look to trade him to a team needing a veteran passer. Either way, Tagovailoa offers a bright future for the Lions alongside Kenny Golladay, Kerryon Johnson and T.J. Hockenson. Tua does not have a super strong arm, but he is extremely accurate and knowledgeable. We’ve seen as far as Stafford can take the Lions. He has never won a playoff game. It’s time to move on.
8. Buffalo Bills (100-1)
Pick: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
This might not be a name too many NFL fans are familiar with, but if you are a fan of Pac-12 football, Shenault is already a star. He topped 1,000 yards last year and led the conference with 86 receptions. He doesn’t always go up against the best defensive competition out west, but at 6’2″ 220 pounds, Shenault projects as a future No. 1 receiver at the next level. Buffalo desperately needs more talent at the skill positions. Josh Allen should not be required to rely on John Brown, Zay Jones and Cole Beasley after this year. Giving Allen a reliable target will make a huge difference in his development.
9. Denver Broncos (80-1)
Pick: Walker Little, OT, Stanford
After years of putting off fixing the offensive line, it is finally time for the Broncos to go after some top-tier offensive line help. Walker Little brings a massive 6’7″ frame and tons of potential. He might not be ready to start at left tackle from day one, but he provides a projectable starter there in the future. If Garrett Bolles continues to struggle, Little will take over on the left side when Bolles’ contract expires after the 2020 season.
10. Indianapolis Colts (60-1)
Pick: Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
With the shocking retirement of Andrew Luck, Indy now turns its attention to finding a new franchise quarterback. They won’t have to look very far if Jake Fromm is still on the board at 10. Fromm is a natural passer that checks all the boxes for a prototypical NFL quarterback. He has tons of big game experience, starting in a national championship game as a freshman. Fromm also improved his accuracy in his sophomore year. If he can take another step forward, there is a chance he could be the top quarterback off the board in April.
11. New York Jets (60-1)
Pick: AJ Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
For years, the Jets have needed to find an edge rusher. Leonard Williams has not developed into a consistent sack artist. Henry Anderson is good in spurts. This team hoped to solve the problem after drafting Jachai Polite this year in the third round, but he didn’t even make the final roster. To fix this, New York finally adds the bonafide pass rusher they haven’t had since Sean Ellis left. Epenesa goes up against plenty of NFL caliber linemen in the BIG 10 and has the production to back it up. With 10.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles a year ago, he would be a welcome addition to Greg Williams’ defense.
12. Tennessee Titans (50-1)
Pick: DeAndre Swift, RB, Georgia
But what about Derrick Henry? The former Alabama running back is in the final year of his rookie deal and has been way too inconsistent to warrant a big pay day. Heading into his 238-yard explosion last season, Henry had eclipsed 50 yards rushing just twice. He also offers very little value as a receiver. Instead, the Titans will add the latest star to command the Georgia Bulldogs’ backfield. Swift is explosive, versatile and ready to start right away. What sets him apart from the other top backs in this class is his ability as a pass catcher, with 45 receptions over the past two years. Tennessee might be looking for a new quarterback at this point as well, but no will be worth taking with the top three already off the board.
13. Carolina Panthers (50-1)
Pick: Triston Wirfs, OT, Iowa
There are some schools that just produce quality offensive linemen. Iowa is definitely one of them. Wirfs is the latest tackle to catch the eye of NFL talent evaluators. There is no question Carolina could use some upgrades along the line. They did nab Greg Little in the second round this year, but finding ways to keep Cam Newton upright has to be a priority. Those two would create great bookends on the offensive line. With a talented front seven on defense, a veteran quarterback and some solid playmakers around him, it’s time to bolster the pass protection.
14. Oakland Raiders (40-1)
Pick: Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
Khalil Mack is gone. The Raiders already made some effort to replace him in drafting Clelin Ferrell, but one pass rusher is not enough in the NFL theses days. Brown is a space eater at 6’5″, 315 pounds. He racked up 4.5 sacks last year and 10.5 tackles for loss. There seems to be a trend for teams looking to generate pressure on the interior. Brown can help do that and plug up the middle against the run. Oakland should just continue to amass young defensive talent as it continues its rebuild.
15. San Francisco 49ers (40-1)
Pick: Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
This team desperately needs an infusion of youth at corner. Richard Sherman is still holding it down on one side, but he is 31. Outside of Sherman, the cupboard is pretty bare. Adding Bryce Hall gives San Francisco a projectable starter alongside Sherman in his final few years, before turning things over to Hall as the No. 1 corner. After investing heavily along the defensive line in recent drafts and retooling the offense in free agency, this seems like the most logical move.
16. Baltimore Ravens (40-1)
Pick: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
The Ravens landed their explosive, game-breaking wideout in Marquise Brown in the 2019 draft. Giving him a big-bodied red zone threat to play across from would make this Baltimore offense tons of fun to watch. Surrounding Lamar Jackson with talent has to be the priority right now. Higgins fits the bill, coming off a season where he had 12 receiving touchdowns at Clemson. Oh and he is 6’4″. He has the potential to have a Mike Williams-type impact on an offense.
17. Seattle Seahawks (40-1)
Pick: Yeuter Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
Even after trading for Jadeveon Clowney, pass rusher is still a huge need for the Seahawks. Clowney projects as just a one-year rental right now and Seattle shipped out Michael Bennett and Frank Clark in successive offseasons without finding a clear long-term replacement. Gross-Matos would be a good one with plenty of speed. He had eight sacks last season in his first full year as a starter. If he can do that again against some good competition on Penn State’s schedule, he will lock up his stock as a first round pick and provide a nice boost to Seahawks defense.
18. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (30-1)
Pick: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
Chaisson, coming off an ACL tear, flashed plenty of pass rushing potential during his freshman season. This draft spot is all about the ceiling he has right now. He is on As just a redshirt sophomore, there is no question he will need a little bit of seasoning. Given that the Dolphins are definitely more than just one piece away from Super Bowl contention, that is something they can live with. Miami is desperately in need of talent on both sides of the ball. They did add Christian Wilkins last and have Charles Harris on the outside. This would help turn the defensive line into a strength for the Fins as they continue to rebuild.
19. Atlanta Falcons (30-1)
Pick: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
After patching up the offensive line, finding some help in the secondary is a crucial for the Falcons. With Desmond Trufant under contract through 2022, they need to pair him with a capable counterpart. Henderson seems up to the task, as he already has six career interceptions for the Gators. He has decent size for an NFL corner, but doesn’t seem like a typical run and bump type. If can show some ability to jam receivers at the line, he could rise up some draft boards.
20. Minnesota Vikings (20-1)
Pick: Lucas Niang, OT, TCU
Minnesota grabbed Garrett Bradberry in 2019 and will continue to build its offensive line with a massive tackle from TCU. Lucas Niang stands 6’7″ and weighs 328 pounds. He has spent most of his time at right tackle in college, but that seems to be a spot the Vikings could address. With Riley Reiff holding down the left side, 2018 draft pick Brian O’Neill projects as the starter on the right. If he struggles this year, Niang could slot in to anchor the right side and turn this offensive line into a strength for Minnesota.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars (25-1)
Pick: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
This feels like a no-brainer for Jacksonville, who is desperately in need of some playmaking. With Marquise Lee battling through injuries, Dede Westbrook has been the only reliable receiver for the Jaguars. Adding in Ruggs, who has already arrived on the college stage at Alabama, would certainly make things much easier for Nick Foles. The Jags invested a lot of money into Foles. Putting talent around him to make it easier for him to succeed is a major responsibility for the front office.
22. Green Bay Packers (20-1)
Pick: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Clay Matthews hit the road this offseason and Green Bay could use some help in their linebacking core. Simmons is not the pass rusher Matthews was, but he has the speed to make plays from sideline to sideline. He is a converted safety, offering plenty of versatility. He could be a player comparable to either Mark Barron or Keanu Neal, stepping in as a box safety, while also covering receiving tight ends. Don’t sleep on his run stopping ability either; he had 9.5 tackles for loss last year. The Packers could opt for a receiver here if no one else breaks through this season, but given the depth of this receiver class, they go defense instead.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers (20-1)
Pick: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
The Steelers would be ecstatic if Fulton fell to them here. They signed Steven Nelson this offseason, but corner is still a major position of need. Joe Hayden is not going to be able to play forever and Mike Hilton has struggled a lot in his Pittsburgh tenure. Fulton has the physical traits to become a true lockdown corner in the future. LSU also breeds defensive backs, producing Tyrann Mathieu, Tre’Davious White, Eric Reid, Jamaal Adams and Greedy Williams in the past six years. If Fulton can come anywhere close to those guys, Pittsburgh will have a starting-caliber player for years to come.
24. Dallas Cowboys (18-1)
Pick: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Part of this projection is just for the fan of addressing the ongoing contract stalemate between Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys. Assuming Zeke does hold out and Dallas is looking for a new feature back, Travis Etienne feels like very obvious fit here. He does not have a ton receiving experience, but he an elusive runner with very good vision. Clemson has leaned on him heavily, even with Trevor Lawrence taking over as quarterback last year. If he has another great season and shows some improvement as a receiver (read as more than 12 catches in 2019), he could be going much higher in this draft.
25. Cleveland Browns (18-1)
Pick: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Cleveland shipped out Jabrill Peppers and turns to Tramon Williams and Damarious Randall as its two starting safeties. Williams is 36 and the Browns probably don’t have his replacement on their current roster. Xavier McKinney is a proven tackler that is already a pretty polished prospect. He has the ability to start as early as next season if Williams retires. Cleveland is building a Super Bowl contending roster, with needs along the offensive line best suited to be filled later in the draft, McKinney makes a lot of sense.
26. Los Angeles Chargers (18-1)
Pick: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
The Chargers have made it very clear to Melvin Gordon that they are not willing to overpay to keep a running back. LA even allowed Gordon to begin seeking potential trade partners. That means there is going to be an opening at starting running back in SoCal next year. Jonathan Taylor should fill that void very well coming off a prolific career at Wisconsin. No player has ever rushed for more yards in their first two seasons than Taylor, and he is even beginning to show improvements as a receiver. He projects as a complete back that would pair really well with Austin Ekeler.
27. New Orleans Saints (12-1)
Pick: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
I strongly debated going with a quarterback like K.J. Costello from Stanford, because I still don’t buy Teddy Bridgewater or Taysom Hill as Drew Brees’ successor. Instead, the Saints will continue to load up for these final years of Brees’ career by landing the explosive Jalen Reagor. He compliments Michael Thomas very well as a slightly undersized field-stretching receiver. The Saints have tried to bring that with Ted Ginn Jr. in recent years. Reagor caught 72 passes last season for the Horned Frogs and he could bring a new element to a New Orleans offense that lagged a bit down the stretch.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (12-1)
Pick: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
The Alabama dominance continues as the Eagles nab Dylan Moses. Philly has built a decent amount of depth in the secondary and has a stellar defensive line. Now Nigel Bradham is still on the roster, but if the Eagles designate him as a post June 1 cut, they can save $8 million in cap space. Moses could immediately fill in for Bradham. Bradham has been a serviceable middle linebacker, but he will turn 30 on September 4. Moses did just tear his ACL, but that should not hurt his draft stock to the point where he drops out of the first round. With not a ton of holes to fill, Philadelphia can look to get younger at a key position and save some money in the process.
29. Los Angeles Rams (12-1)
Pick: Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
In a relatively surprising move this offseason, the Rams cut ties with veteran center John Sullivan. That means Brian Allen is stepping into the starting spot, who played all of 37 snaps last season. Jared Goff is going to get a major extension in the next year, so Los Angeles would be smart to protect their investment by beefing up that offensive line. Biadasz would help them do just that. He moves well by all accounts and looks solid in pass protection. He should have the power needed to play at the next level as well. The last three centers drafted in the first round were Ryan Kelly (Colts), Travis Frederick (Cowboys) and Garrett Bradberry (Vikings) for whatever that’s worth.
30. New England Patriots (6-1)
Pick: Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State
This feels like such a Patriots pick. Weaver is a 6’3″, 265-pound edge rusher with a decent amount of power. That build is very similar to Trey Flowers, who turned a great season last year with New England into a payday in Detroit. He could be a bit of project for Bill Belichick, who likes to take players with production and potential along the defensive line. He came up just short of double-digit sacks last season and is already off to a good start to his 2019 campaign.
31. Oakland Raiders via Chicago Bears (12-1)
Pick: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
This is another pick from the Khalil Mack trade, which the Raiders will use on another Alabama player. Terrell Lewis is coming off a torn ACL in 2018, but he flashed tons of potential in 2017. He has a big frame at 6’5″, 250 pounds. If he shows he is healthy and takes the next step in his development, he could be long gone by now. Regardless, some NFL team is going to gamble on his potential at the end of the first round or early on Day 2. That Oakland defensive front seven is starting to look stacked with Ferrell, Brown and now Lewis.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (6-1)
Pick: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
There is no question Kansas City needs help in the secondary. That was what held the Chiefs back from a Super Bowl appearance last year. Paulson Adebo is poised for a big season at Stanford. He has good for an NFL DB at 6’1″ 190 and has shown he can make big plays. Adebo came up with four interceptions last year. Another good season could move him out of the Chiefs’ range, but for now he projects well as a future starter in Andy Reid’s secondary.
All images from Wikimedia Commons