This is the time of year where the draft buzz is starting to get real. Players are beginning to announce their decisions to enter the draft or stay at school, while conference championships and bowl games offer a final chance to showcase their abilities. Some major injuries have rocked the college football world since the last time I did a mock draft, most notably Tua Tagovailoa’s season-ending hip injury. It puts his draft stock in question and opens the door for him to return to Alabama next year, which would completely change the outlook of college football in 2020.
The draft order here is determined by the current NFL standings, with the exception of the Cowboys, who would have to be in the playoffs as a division winner. Playoff teams are sorted separately from teams that miss the postseason. Anyway, if you don’t like where your team is currently picking, be mad at them, not me, for not playing well enough this season. Let’s dive in.
1. Cincinnati Bengals (1-11) – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
The rise is officially complete. It would be an upset if Joe Burrow was not the first overall pick at this point. He is the clear Heisman front runner and has played lights out against great competition. Burrow could either take over right away, or sit behind Andy Dalton during the final year of his contract. Cincinnati has to find it’s quarterback of the future in this draft, because it is definitely not Dalton or Ryan Finley.
2. New York Giants (2-10) – Chase Young, EDGE,
Things have gone downhill in New York, but this would be the king of all consolation prizes after another rough season. Chase Young is the best edge prospect since Von Miller. He is an elite pass rusher who is continuing to develop his pass rush moves and he sets the edge well against the run. He does exactly what you want and would seamlessly transition into the Giants’ 4-3 front.
3. Washington (3-9) – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
While Terry McLaurin has been a stud this season for Washington, Dwayne Haskins is going to need some more weapons to work with. Jerry Jeudy is a polished route-runner with underrated athleticism. He won’t light up the radar gun like teammate Henry Ruggs, but he is a complete receiver. Expect him to be the first receiver off the board in every mock draft you see.
4. Miami Dolphins (3-9) – Tua Tagovailoa, QB Alabama
The drop for Tua Tagovailoa is not very far. Despite the injury, I think Miami would be willing to roll the dice on the Alabama quarterback recovering in time to start the 2021 season. Tagovailoa has a ton of talent and clear poise in the pocket. The Dolphins have a veteran stopgap in Ryan Fitzpatrick that should hold them until Tua is ready to take over the starting job.
5. Atlanta Falcons (3-9) – A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
Despite a second-half resurgence from the Falcons pass rush, Atlanta could use an infusion of talent along its defensive front. A.J. Epenesa has some traits that remind you of J.J. Watt, though he definitely does not have the same motor. Epenesa played better in the second half of the year, but didn’t take the same leap many expected given his increased playing time. His size and skill set should be enough to keep him in the top-10.
6. Detroit Lions (3-8-1) – Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
As the Lions season continues to spiral out of control, Detroit is suddenly well positioned to grab the top corner in the class. Jeffrey Okudah is a beast with true lockdown corner potential. He breaks well on the ball and shows a clear understanding for route combinations. Okudah can sometimes be a bit overaggressive, but has the athleticism to usually make up for that. He would bolster a Lions secondary currently giving up the third-most pass yards per game.
7. Arizona Cardinals (3-8-1) – Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson
Arizona has one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Everyone has posted monster numbers against the Cardinals this season. The front seven is actually coming into form, but they could use some playmaking ability across the board. Isaiah Simmons is the versatile chess piece the defense needs. He can drop in coverage, thanks to his time spent as a safety, but can play closer to the line as a linebacker as well. He should matchup well with “move” tight ends and can wreak havoc in opposing backfields.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8) – Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
Jacksonville has had all sorts of problems following a 4-4 start. The defense has fallen apart in no small part due to an inability to stop the run. Derrick Brown can help plug up the middle of the field on early downs and apply pressure from the interior of the offensive line in passing situations. He is a complete defensive lineman who should have no problem sliding up and down the line for the Jaguars. This team is at its best when its defense is playing well.
9. New York Jets (4-8) – Andrew Thomas, OT Georgia
The Jets offense has been inconsistent this season and Sam Darnold has been consistently running for his life. New York has also really struggled to run the ball effectively this season. It is time for this franchise to address the left tackle position, which has been a revolving door since D’Brickashaw Ferguson retired. Andrew Thomas is a rock solid prospect. He will make his 51st start on Saturday in the SEC championship game. He should offer some stability at a crucial position.
10. Los Angeles Chargers (4-8) – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
What is the succession plan to Philip Rivers in Los Angeles? Tyrod Taylor and Easton Stick are the other two quarterbacks on the roster. Neither one of them has done anything to indicate they are the future at the position. Rivers has struggled a lot this year and has to be thinking about retirement soon. He will turn 38 over the weekend and his play is clearly slipping. Justin Herbert has certainly had his struggles this season, but he has the physical tools to develop into a future starter. This might be a bit early for him, but LA has to be aggressive in finding its next quarterback.
11. Denver Broncos (4-8) – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Courtland Sutton has been playing lights out in recent weeks. Looking down the rest of the depth chart, there is not really much for Drew Lock to work with. Adding CeeDee Lamb, whose play style reminds me of DeAndre Hopkins, would provide a massive boost to the Denver offense. He is a dynamic playmaker with the potential to take it to the house whenever he touches the ball. Lamb has great hands and the type of athleticism to become an instant contributor for any team at the next level.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (5-7) – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
While the secondary is a clear need, Philadelphia needs some more reliable options at receiver. As the year has rolled on, the Eagles have tried filling holes by bringing back veterans the team had previously parted ways with. Given that DeSean Jackson is already on the roster, this might seem redundant, but relying on the oft-injured 32-year-old speedster is not a great plan. Henry Ruggs is the fastest player in college football right now and would provide a much-needed spark to this offense. He should open up tons of things underneath for Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffrey given his route running and big-play tendencies.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7) – Grant Delpit, S, LSU
While Tampa Bay has succeeded in stuffing the run this season, the secondary is still a mess. The Buccaneers cut Vernon Hargreaves, whom they spent a first-round pick on in 2016. Grant Delpit hasn’t been quite as polished as I expected entering the year, but he is still a solid cover man with good instincts. He comes from a program that prepares defensive backs very well for the next level. Expect him to be a high-level starter within a few years for the Bucs.
14. Cleveland Browns (5-7) – Alex Leatherwood, OL, Alabama
Cleveland needs offensive line help. Just ask Baker Mayfield, who has been sacked 32 times in 2019. With the Browns potentially needing an upgrade at three of their five starting line spots, Alex Leatherwood is a good fit. He has played extremely well at left tackle for Alabama this year after starting at right guard all of last year. He has the versatility to slot where Cleveland thinks it needs the most help.
15. Carolina Panthers (5-7) – Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
It is hard to know exactly which direction Carolina will head right now after firing Ron Rivera. Overall, the Panthers need some run defense help. They did give up almost 250 yards on the ground to Washington in Week 13. Javon Kinlaw is a disruptive defensive playmaker in the middle of the line. He eats up double teams at South Carolina and still finds a way to make his impact felt. Kinlaw moves well given his massive frame (6’6″, 310 pounds) and should help get Carolina’s defense back on track quickly.
16. Oakland Raiders via Chicago Bears (6-6) – Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
It is no secret Mike Mayock likes Clemson players. He drafted three last year in Clelin Ferrel, Trayvon Mullens and Hunter Renfrow. He would do well to take another one in Tee Higgins given the lack of talent Oakland has at receiver. Higgins is a huge body at 6’4″ and presents a huge catch radius. He needs to improve his route running, but his athleticism makes up for the occasional lack of separation. Higgins could give Derek Carr a reliable possession receiver who is a huge asset in the red zone. Don’t underestimate his ability to stretch the field either.
17. Indianapolis Colts (6-6) – Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
While Indy could definitely use a receiver, this is a deep draft for them and the Colts have pressing needs elsewhere. Yetur Gross-Matos is a high upside pass rusher who uses his hands well to set up his pass rush moves. He had back-to-back eight-sack seasons at Penn State and should help out right away as a situational pass rusher. Indianapolis could save nearly $10 million in cap space if it decides to move on from Justin Houston this offseason as well. Pass rusher feels like a position the Colts should highlight.
18. Oakland Raiders (6-6) – CJ Henderson Jr. CB Florida
There is no question Oakland needs help in the secondary. The Raiders have been torched the past two weeks by the Jets and Chiefs. There is a general lack of talent at the corner position, especially after jettisoning Gareon Conley midseason. With CJ Henderson still on the board, the Mike Mayock can swoop and nab a future starter at the position. Henderson closes well on the ball and has long arms to make plays in coverage. He needs to improve his bump-and-run play, but he would help a struggling unit slow down opposing offenses.
19. Tennessee Titans (7-5) – Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa
Tennessee doesn’t seem to have a long-term solution at quarterback, but with the first three off the board, taking anyone here would be a reach. Instead, the Titans should bolster what has been a disappointing offensive line this season. Tristan Wirfs has experience across the offensive line. Many scouts see him as a tackle. I think he projects best as a guard, but he could be one of the best in the league given his size and blocking ability. I think Tennessee’s offensive line will improve organically, but adding Wirfs would help speed up that process and lean into the team’s strength of running the ball.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars via Los Angeles Rams (7-5) – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
No one is going to step in and replace Jalen Ramsey from Day 1. That is just unrealistic. However, Trevon Diggs has all the physical tools and experience to turn into a really good corner in the NFL. He is taller for the position at 6’2″, but still has the quickness to make plays on the ball. A.J. Bouye is still in town, but in the current NFL, no team is going to get by with only one starting caliber corner. Diggs should be capable of taking over the other starting spot across from Bouye right away.
21. Dallas Cowboys (6-6) – Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
Another taller corner at 6’1″, Paulson Adebo has had a great career at Stanford. He has four interceptions in each of his past two seasons and does a good job locking up opposing receivers. He is a physical defensive back who would add a bit of swagger to this Dallas secondary. With all the uncertainty around Byron Jones’ future, picking up another talented corner definitely wouldn’t hurt a Cowboys defensive backfield that hasn’t played its best this year.
22. Miami Dolphins via Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) – Jedrick Wills, OT Alabama
After taking Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins can pair him with his current right tackle (Tua is a lefty) at Alabama. Miami definitely could use some help at the tackle positions and Jedrick Wills can play either one. He fits the size profile of a prototypical NFL tackle at 6’5″, 320 pounds. Wills has made 26 straight starts for the Tide and shows good power in his game. His addition would help soften the blow of trading away Laremy Tunsil this past offseason.
23. Minnesota Vikings (8-4) – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
At the beginning of the year, Minnesota’s concerns were mostly on offense primarily regarding the wide receiver depth and offensive line play. As the year’s gone on, it has been the defense that looks like it could use some improvement. The Vikings have a need at defensive tackle, but should opt instead to find a corner capable of playing across from Xavier Rhodes. Kristian Fulton fits that mold with good hand usage and speed guiding his game. He tracks the ball well downfield and is aggressive in closing underneath. He might not be the most physical corner in the world, but he can still come up to make tackles when needed.
24. Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) – Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
It is hard to have a ton of faith in Kansas City’s current cornerback tandem of Charvarius Ward and Breshad Breeland, granted Kendall Fuller is working his way back from injury. The Chiefs’ biggest weakness for the past two seasons has been the secondary. With the addition of Juan Thornhill, the safety spots are set, but KC needs to pick up a talented corner. The best one available here is Bryce Hall. He suffered an ankle injury that ended his season in October, but he has the skill set to transition quickly to the next level. Hall tracks the ball well in flight and high points it in coverage. He is one of the best cover corners in college football.
25. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (8-4) – D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
Miami opts to keep rebuilding its offense here with the selection of D’Andre Swift. Ever since trading away Kenyan Drake, the running back position has been in flux. Swift has game-breaking ability and would be a huge plus to Dolphins’ ground game. He is an excellent runner, but also brings a lot to the table as a receiver. He has 70 catches in his career. A rookie quarterback’s best friend is always a good ground game and Swift will help Miami build that around Tua Tagovailoa.
26. Buffalo Bills (9-3) – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Josh Allen has taken a big step in his development as a passer this season with a slight upgrade in the talent around him. He still needs more weapons though, as the collection of John Brown, Cole Beasley and Dawson Knox is not going to cut it long term. Enter Justin Jefferson, who looks like the real deal in his breakout season with LSU. With over 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns this year, he is drawing a lot of attention. He has good size at 6’3″ and definitely has the speed needed to find separation in the NFL.
27. Green Bay Packers (9-3) – Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
Aaron Rodgers hasn’t really looked like Aaron Rodgers this year, save one incredible masterpiece against the Raiders. He has failed to top 250 yards seven times this year, which is incredibly unRodgers-like. While it is clear Green Bay is more committed to running the ball, it needs a boost at receiver as well. Laviska Shenault Jr. has the playmaking capability to make an immediate impact. He is dynamic with the ball in his hands and is aggressive in snatching it out of the air. He feels like the type of player Rodgers could get in sync with very quickly, giving headaches to opposing defensive coordinators across from Davante Adams.
28. San Francisco 49ers (10-2) – Tyler Biadasz, OL Wisconsin
Kyle Shannahan wants to run the ball. He wants to do it a lot and do it effectively. He has a pretty good stable of running backs, but could use some new blood opening up holes for them. Tyler Biadasz is the best interior linemen in the country right now. He is an excellent pass blocker and has the strength to open up running lanes inside. If Biadasz can clean up some of the technical side of his game, he will be a slam-dunk pick here.
29. New England Patriots (10-2) – Creed Humphrey, G, Oklahoma
Isaiah Wynn’s return has definitely helped New England’s offense, but the interior of the line is still a mess. Go back and watch Tom Brady throwing the ball away because of the interior pressure over and over again against the Texans if you don’t believe me. Creed Humphrey would help resolve those problems given his consistent play. He is young as just a redshirt sophomore, but he should be capable of stepping in and starting from Day 1.
30. Seattle Seahawks (10-2) – Curtis Weaver, EDGE, Boise State
Even with the addition of Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah, the Seahawks need more help up front. Seattle has the fourth fewest sacks in the league this year, edging only Miami, Cincinnati and Atlanta. On top of that, both Clowney and Ansah are free agents this offseason. Curtis Weaver is a hard-working pass rusher with an exciting blend of power and speed. He has the fifth-most sacks in college football this season with 14. Expect him to rise into the top 20 if he runs well at the combine.
31. Baltimore Ravens (10-2) – Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
This offense in Baltimore is built around Lamar Jackson, and he could use some more pass catchers around him. After spending a first rounder on speedster Marquise Brown last year, the Ravens could swoop in for another talented receiver in Tylan Wallace. The Oklahoma State standout is a great threat downfield thanks to his ability to rise above defenders and make plays. He needs to work on his route tree a bit coming out of a wide open system, but he offers a reliable target with athletic upside to make plays in the red zone.
32. New Orleans Saints (10-2) – Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Michael Thomas is the best receiver in the NFL right now, but the Saints don’t really have anyone to pair with him. The combination of Ted Ginn, Austin Carr, Tre’Quan Smith and Deonte Harris don’t really provide a ton to work with. Jalen Reagor is a dynamic playmaker who can stretch the field and plays with a chip on his shoulder. He will make tough catches in traffic and if he can get into the open field, few defenders can catch him. Reagor would be a lot of fun to watch in Sean Payton’s offense.
For more NFL Draft coverage, check out the Aftermath’s NFL Draft Podcast, with new episodes every Thursday.