It is hard to believe that one year after Baker Mayfield led the Browns to their first playoff win since 1994 he will now be searching for a new home. Tom Pelissero reported Thursday that Mayfield has requested a trade following Cleveland’s pursuit of Deshaun Watson.
An injury-riddled, disappointing 2021 season soured the relationship between the team and the former No. 1 pick. Cleveland had already opted against offering Mayfield an extension, instead allowing him to play out the final year of his rookie contract.
Mayfield posted a goodbye to Browns fans on social media earlier this week following the team’s interest in Texans quarterback Watson. The writing was on the wall then, but it is still a shocking development considering the Browns entered the season with legitimate title aspirations.
So what happens now for Mayfield? There is no shortage of suitors for the 26-year-old quarterback this offseason. Carolina, Atlanta and New Orleans are all in on landing Watson, but two of those teams will still need a long-term answer at quarterback after a deal goes down. Beyond those three, the Colts, Giants and Seahawks are all kicking the tires on prospective quarterbacks. New York did just sign Tyrod Taylor to backup Daniel Jones, but if there is interest in Mayfield, I don’t think that will stop them from making a move. What makes this complicated is that the Browns do not seem inclined to trade Mayfield. Jake Trotter tweeted shortly after the news broke that Cleveland denied his request.
The teams that stand out to me are Indianapolis, Carolina and Seattle. The latter two allow the Browns to move Mayfield out of the conference and both teams have major question marks at quarterback with hopes of being much more competitive in 2022. However, Cleveland might receive the best offer from Indy. After trading away Carson Wentz and without a first-round pick in 2022, it is hard to figure out who the Colts will start at quarterback this season. Let’s go team by team.
The Panthers have several starting quarterback options, which is to say they have no idea who will start for them this season. Sam Darnold, who was selected two picks after Mayfield in 2018, is still under contract for 2022. He had an up-and-down year that ended prematurely due to an injury. Then there is Cam Newton. Super Cam arrived halfway through the 2021 season and immediately breathed some new life into the Panthers offense. The spark was short-lived though as Carolina went 0-5 in games Newton started. The former MVP also threw just four touchdowns and five interceptions in eight appearances. There is no question the Panthers need a long-term solution at quarterback.
Should they make the call?: Absolutely not. What is the point in adding a second quarterback from the 2018 draft coming off an injury. Mayfield would be an upgrade over both Darnold and Newton, but this does not provide the stability the Panthers need.
Now that Russell Wilson is donning Broncos orange, Seattle desperately needs to find its next quarterback. The combination of Drew Lock and Geno Smith does not inspire much confidence for long-term success. Lock is heading into his fourth season, but has struggled with consistency and health. Smith is a career backup who can step in for an injured starter. Neither is going to be the starting quarterback by the time 2023 rolls around. In fact, both could not be on the roster by that point. The question is not if Seattle needs help, it is if this is the right move.
Should they make the call?: I personally would love to see Colin Kaepernick get a second chance by landing with the Seahawks. Pete Carroll revealed this week that he has been in touch with the former 49ers quarterback. Kap is also working out with Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett after he posted a video lamenting his lack of throwing partners. That being said, Mayfield is a much safer bet than Kaepernick, who has not taken a snap in the NFL since 2016. If Cleveland is willing to move Mayfield for a Day 2 and a Day 3 pick, I would strongly consider it.
Once again, the Colts find themselves in desperate need of a quarterback. Last year, that led Indianapolis acquiring Carson Wentz from the Eagles. Colts general manager Chris Ballard already flipped Wentz to Washington for pennies on the dollar, so this team is short on draft capital and high on needing a solution. With the right quarterback, this team has the talent to make a real run at winning the AFC South and maybe winning a playoff game or two. Sam Ehlinger and James Morgan are the only quarterbacks on the Colts roster at the moment. Maybe Indy will give Ehlinger a chance to compete for the job, but it also needs to find a veteran to be in the mix.
Should they make the call?: I don’t think so. To be honest, I think the Colts have missed their Super Bowl window. They have holes at wide receiver, left tackle, left guard, cornerback and safety. They have big contracts on board already for players like DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard, Braden Smith and now Yannick Ngakoue. They still need to pay Quenton Nelson as well. I just think Indianapolis has too many holes and not enough resources to fill them all and become a true contender with this current roster. This core could still win a title, but it looks like it will be a year or two before they are ready to compete. If I’m Ballard, I pass on Mayfield and go sign Jameis Winston while I retool the rest of my roster.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints are clearly banking on landing Watson. After rolling with the combination of Winston, Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian and Ian Book in 2022, the Texans quarterback could offer some much needed stability. You know, as soon as he is done serving the suspension that is likely coming for his off-the-field behavior. Still, if Watson winds up in Carolina or Atlanta, New Orleans will still need a quarterback. Winston and Siemian are free agents, Hill is a gadget player and Book looks like an overmatched backup quarterback. With Michael Thomas hopefully coming back from injury and Alvin Kamara facing legal trouble himself, there are still a lot of question marks surrounding this Saints offense.
Should they make the call?: Assuming they don’t land Watson, I say yes. Contingent on the asking price of course. If the Saints can land Mayfield for a mid-round selection and a future Day 3 pick, I think that is worth doing in this case. Mayfield is still 26 and has shown the potential to be a solid starter in the NFL. He won’t be a superstar, but the Saints can work to build more around him. They already have some great playmakers and a solid offensive line in place. That sounds like a recipe for success for Mayfield.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
How about a wild card to throw into the mix? Tom Brady is returning for another season, but his contract is up following 2022. Not to mention that he could always retire again. Rumors put Brady in San Francisco for 2023 with a chance to finish his career in his hometown. Speculation about Brady aside, it feels like Tampa has one more year with the seven-time Super Bowl champion. What remains behind Brady is far from reassuring as Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask will compete to be his backup.
Should they make the call?: I say yes. I just don’t think Cleveland would do the deal. Tampa could probably offer some more draft capital if the Browns would be willing to eat at least part of Mayfield’s cap hit for 2022. It would give Bruce Arians a year to evaluate Mayfield and let him learn from the greatest to ever play the position. Mayfield will certainly have opportunities to start elsewhere, but that does not mean he should take them right away. If he has another tumultuous year, it is hard to envision him landing a starting job anywhere beyond 2022. He has to pick his next destination carefully.
In an NFL offseason that has already produced plenty of fireworks, more are on the way as free agency looms large. Teams are working hard to create cap space after COVID-19 impacted league revenue streams and led to a sizable drop in the salary cap for the 2021 season. While the general buzz around the NFL is that top players will still see big-money deals, it is the next tier of players likely to get squeezed by the financial shortcomings for each franchise.
With the league’s legal tampering window opening Monday and free agency officially kicking off Wednesday, I decided to rank the top 25 free agents and work out a logical landing spot for each of them. Players who received the franchise tag were not included and this list is updated through Sunday night. There is still a possibility teams could announce a deal to bring back a player before they ever hit the open market, much like the Packers recently did with Aaron Jones.
Keep in mind, these are not necessarily predictions for where each player will land, rather a look at good fits for team and athlete to find success. I took into account each team’s cap space and the financial figures I reference throughout are pulled from Spotrac and updated through Sunday night. Without further ado, here are my top 25 free agents for the 2021 NFL offseason.
1. Shaquil Barrett, EDGE, TB – Broncos Shaq Barrett proved he was much more than a one-season wonder. He did not come anywhere close to replicating his outrageous 19.5-sack 2019 season, but he racked up eight sacks in the regular season and four more in the playoffs. While the Buccaneers seem determined to keep him, a return to Denver could be in the cards. With Von Miller in flux and the Broncos needing a pass rusher to play across from Bradley Chubb, Barrett could be a logical fit. He fits the prototypical build of a 3-4 outside linebacker for Vic Fangio. With an estimated $32.6 in projected cap space, the Broncos will be able to make Barrett one of the top-paid edge players in the league. Editor’s note: Barrett has re-signed with the Buccaneers.
2. Trent Williams, OT, SF – Colts I expect San Francisco to make a big push to re-sign Trent Williams, but the Colts have $48 million in cap space after acquiring Carson Wentz and a major hole at left tackle with Anthony Costanzo’s retirement. Williams turns 33 in July, so he is not willing to wait around for a team to grow into a championship window. Indianapolis wants to run the ball and Williams is still one of the better run blocking tackles in the league. This would allow Chris Ballard to target an edge rusher or receiver in the draft while locking up a premier player at a huge position of need.
3. Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, BAL – Bills There was plenty of buzz about Buffalo being a logical landing spot for J.J. Watt, but with the former Texan headed for the desert, the Bills should be in play for another top edge defender. While Buffalo does not have a ton of cap space, it can move on from John Brown and Mario Addison to free up some space. After a run to the AFC Championship game, I expect Brandon Beane to be active in looking for ways to improve the roster. Yannick Ngakoue is still one of the best defensive ends in football. He could play across from Jerry Hughes and eventually A.J. Epenesa. He has had at least eight sacks in each of his five seasons so far. This would be a slam dunk move for Buffalo.
4. Bud Dupree, EDGE, PIT – Falcons It took him a few years, but Bud Dupree is now the pass rusher the Steelers envisioned when they drafted him in the first round back in 2015. He has 19.5 sacks over his past 27 games, including eight in just 11 games in 2020. He was on pace for a monster season before suffering a season-ending ACL injury. Atlanta has been looking for an answer at pass rusher for years now. They have to resolve some cap issues, but Dupree could transform this defense. The Falcons also have the No. 4 pick to find a potential pass rusher to play across from him. New defensive coordinator Dean Pees is known for his ability to scheme pressure, which would only bode well for Dupree’s future success.
5. Kenny Golladay, WR, DET – Patriots With Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson both receiving the franchise tag, the top of the wide receiver market took a major hit. Golladay is clearly the best option available now. His 2020 season was cut short by injury, but he showed in 2019 that he can be a team’s top target. He had nearly 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns in a Pro Bowl season. There is no team in the league that has a greater need at receiver than the New England Patriots. It just so happens, the Pats have roughly $65 million in cap space. Spending a chunk of that to grab a reliable outside receiver for Cam Newton, and whoever the quarterback of the future is, would be a great move to rejuvenate the offense.
6. Joe Thuney, G, NE – Jets Whether Sam Darnold is the quarterback in 2021 or not, the Jets need to improve the offensive line. New York finished in the top 10 in sacks allowed in 2020 and both of their starting guards, Alex Lewis and Greg Van Roten, can be released with little cap implications. It would actually open up more space for a franchise already projected to have just shy of $70 million in signing power. Targeting Joe Thuney would make a ton of sense to help bolster the interior of the line. He played the 2020 season on the franchise tag and Joe Douglas seems willing to spend money to build an offensive line. If Thuney is looking for a lucrative long-term deal, the Jets could be more than willing to give it to him.
7. Corey Linsley, C, GB – Ravens The Packers would love to bring back Corey Linsley, but Green Bay lacks a ton of cap space and could have more pressing needs. Elgton Jenkins played center in college and spent some time there this season when injuries cropped up. As a result, I could see Linsley finding his way to Baltimore to protect Lamar Jackson. The Ravens had issues at center all season long and Linsley would bring some much needed stability to the position. It does not solve all of Baltimore’s problems, but it would be a smart move to bolster their interior offensive line.
8. Mitchell Schwartz, OT, KC – Seahawks While there are certainly injury concerns here to monitor, Mitchell Schwartz is one of the best right tackles in football. He made All-Pro in 2018 and has been a large part of why the Chiefs have been so successful offensively in recent seasons. Just go back and rewatch the Super Bowl to understand the impact of not having him on the field. Meanwhile, in Seattle, Russell Wilson went public with his concerns over Seattle’s offensive line. With $21 million in cap space, and Schwartz possibly coming at a discount due to the injury, this could be a great move for the front office to show Wilson it is listening to him. Schwartz would be a massive upgrade over Brandon Shell.
9. Will Fuller, WR, HOU – Chargers Justin Herbert had a stunning rookie season and the Chargers seem poised for a jump in 2020. In order to see Herbert’s success continue, L.A. needs to surround him with talent at receiver. Will Fuller had a phenomenal year in his own right, but did get tagged with a PED suspension, which carries over to Week 1 in 2021. With Deshaun Watson intent on forcing his way out of Houston, Fuller should consider linking up with another young quarterback. Herbert has a strong arm and Fuller would give him a consistent deep threat that the offense lacked for much of the year. Herbert’s average depth of target was 24th in the league among qualified passers. Fuller would be a perfect complement across from Keenan Allen.
10. Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, TEN – Cowboys Dallas’ defense was one of the worst in the NFL this past season. The Cowboys surrendered five yards per carry in 2020, the third-worst mark in the league. Tyrone Crawford is headed for free agency and the front office needs to devote some resources to reshaping the defense. A great move would be landing Jadeveon Clowney. He is not the elite pass rusher many hoped he would develop into, but the former No. 1 pick is an elite run defender. Playing across from DeMarcus Lawrence likely wouldn’t hurt either. Tennessee signed him to a one-year, $13 million deal in 2020. Another short-term, “prove it” deal could be in play for Clowney, especially after an injury-derailed season.
11. Carl Lawson, EDGE, CIN – Bengals On the surface, Carl Lawson’s numbers might not jump off the page. He had 5.5 sacks in 2020, his most since his rookie season in 2017. Dive a little deeper and you will see that Lawson had 44 pressures this past season, which was the fourth most in the NFL. One fewer than Aaron Donald and Joey Bosa. That grabs your attention. How about him leading the league in quarterback knockdowns with 27? Lawson is clearly a top-tier pass rusher, even if his sack numbers don’t show it yet. With a solid amount of cap space, the Bengals would be wise to bring him back. If he does hit the open market, expect the Jets, Patriots, Titans and Raiders to all be interested in securing his services.
12. Dalvin Tomlinson, DL, NYG – Jaguars I think the Giants will make a strong push to keep him, but without much cap space and other needs on the defense, there is a good chance they won’t be able to afford bringing Dalvin Tomlinson back. The former Alabama defensive tackle is the best interior run stopper in this free agent class. He has 15 tackles for loss over the past two seasons. Tomlinson chips in as a pass rusher as well, with 3.5 sacks in 2019 and 2020. Jacksonville’s run defense was horrendous this past season, allowing the third-most yards per game and sixth most yards per carry. Adding Tomlinson to plug up the middle would only increase the effectiveness of Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson on the outside.
13. John Johnson, S, LAR – Raiders Safety has been a sore spot for the Raiders in recent years. Johnathan Abrams and Erik Harris struggled as starters in 2020 and Las Vegas does not have much in the way of proven depth behind them. John Johnson could be a reliable long-term answer. Outside of an injury-shortened 2019 season, Johnson has been a fixture for the Rams. He is a willing tackler and can more than hold his own in coverage. He is not the flashiest player available, but there is no question he would be a major upgrade over what the Raiders have been working with in previous seasons. Los Angeles will be sad to see him go, but is currently a projected $32 million over the cap.
14. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, PIT – Giants Is Daniel Jones a franchise quarterback? For now, the Giants are acting under the assumption that he is. In order to truly evaluate Jones, he needs more consistent talent around him. Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Evan Engram have all struggled with injuries over the past few seasons. Finding Jones a reliable target like JuJu Smith-Schuster could make a world of difference. While he has been able to repeat his incredible 2018 season, Smith-Schuster has become one of the best possession receivers in the NFL. Ben Roethlisberger actually had a slightly better passer rating this past season when targeting JuJu than he did in 2018. Finding a security blanket for Jones is a huge priority. Signing Smith-Schuster will be expensive, but probably not at the top of the receiver market.
15. Matt Judon, EDGE, BAL – Buccaneers If Shaquil Barrett leaves in free agency, bringing in Matt Judon would be a really solid consolation prize. He excelled in Baltimore’s blitz-happy defensive scheme, which should translate well to Todd Bowles’ blitz-happy scheme in Tampa. Judon would give the Buccaneers another productive pass rusher to lineup across from Jason Pierre-Paul and will probably cost a little bit less to sign than Barrett. He might not be quite as prolific, but with at least six sacks in each of his past four seasons, he would be a great chess piece for Bowles to unleash.
16. Trey Hendrickson, EDGE, NO – Lions Much like Leonard Floyd, Trey Hendrickson had a breakout 2020 season and had a position coach with his team take a head-coaching job elsewhere. Not only does Hendrickson have familiarity with Dan Campbell, he would fill a position of need for the Lions defense. Detroit has been desperately searching for an edge rusher for years. I don’t know that Hendrickson will be the answer to all their prayers, but he would represent a nice start to rebuilding Detroit’s defense.
17. Hunter Henry, TE, LAC – Chargers This move would mostly be about keeping some continuity around Justin Herbert. It is clear the reigning Rookie of the Year has talent, but with a new head coach and new system being installed, finding some familiarity for him to fall back on is important. Plus, Henry has quietly been a very productive tight end over the past two seasons. He still struggles with injuries, but he has mostly been available, posting back-to-back 600-yard seasons. He is not as sexy or talented as Travis Kelce or Darren Waller, but Henry gets the job done. With $51 million in cap space, the Chargers should have the room necessary to bring him back on a reasonable deal. Something in line with Austin Hooper’s four-year, $42 million deal from last season feels like a good template.
18. Romeo Okwara, EDGE, DET – Browns Cleveland desperately needs an edge rusher across from Myles Garrett. Romeo Okwara is coming off a 10-sack season and feels like a clean fit in the Browns’ 4-3 scheme. He would benefit from not being the center of attention as well, as he often had little help rushing the passer in Detroit. It is not as big a move as landing J.J. Watt or Shaquil Barrett, but Okwara would be a solid starter. This move would also free the front office up to target some help in the secondary or at linebacker in the NFL Draft.
19. Jonnu Smith, TE, TEN – Jaguars The Jaguars have not had good production at the tight end position since Marcedes Lewis left town, and that was in 2018. The presumption is Trevor Lawrence will be the new quarterback in Jacksonville and the Titans need to build out his supporting cast. With plenty of money to spend, Jonnu Smith would be a logical target. The Jags are plenty familiar with him having played against him for the past four years. He is a dominant presence in the red zone. He and Collin Johnson could be a problem for opposing defenses close to the goal line.
20. William Jackson, CB, CIN – Bengals Flying under the radar a bit, William Jackson is coming off a career year where he finally seemed to live up to his first-round pick status. He has steadily improved in coverage and should be one of the top corners available on the market. Quality cornerbacks are hard to come by as well. Cincinnati would be smart to bring him back before anyone else gets a chance to poach him. With over $44 million in cap space, the Bengals should have no problem finding the money to make a deal.
21. Anthony Harris, S, MIN – Browns With the offense mostly set in Cleveland, the Browns feel very close to being a win-now team. With a couple of savvy free agent additions to the defense, this team should be well-positioned to build off its 2020 success. Safety was a weak spot for the Browns this past year. Andrew Sendejo failed miserably while Ronnie Harrison felt like a band-aid solution. Grant Delpit also missed the whole year due to injury. Anthony Harris would help stabilize things. He did not have quite as strong of a season as he did in 2019, but he is still difficult to beat in coverage and has a nose for the football. With experience at both safety spots, he could start alongside Delpit or another draft pick and turn the position into a strength for the defense.
22. Leonard Floyd, EDGE, LAR – Chargers Sometimes, the NFL is very simple. Leonard Floyd had a breakout year in Los Angeles, racking up 10.5 sacks in his first year with the Rams. While Les Snead would undoubtedly love to bring him back, L.A. is a projected $32.1 million over the cap. So where will Floyd land? How about in the same city? His defensive coordinator just became the new head coach of the other team in town. The Chargers are in the market for someone to play across from Joey Bosa. Assuming that Brandon Staley brings his 3-4 system with him from the Rams, Floyd would be a logical fit in one of those outside linebacker spots.
23. Corey Davis, WR, TEN – Colts T.Y. Hilton is headed for free agency, as is Zach Pascal. Even so, the Colts still would need wide receiver help. Indianapolis already acquired one top-five selection this offseason, why not add another? Corey Davis broke out in a big way in 2020. He still has not lived up to his original draft slot, but posting nearly 1,000 yards receiving in 14 games is bound to earn him another contract somewhere. At 6’3″, he would give the Colts some much-needed size at the position and a potential big-play threat.
24. David Andrews, C, NE – Patriots New England seems set to let Joe Thuney walk after not franchise tagging him, but the Patriots must make some moves to keep its offensive line intact. They already brought back Trent Brown via trade on a restructured deal. After missing 2019 with blood clots in his lungs, David Andrews returned and played well in 2020. New England has plenty of other question marks on offense. Bringing back Andrews prevents one more from popping up.
25. Richard Sherman, CB, SF – Raiders While many predict Richard Sherman will follow Robert Saleh to New York, I think he could stay a little closer to home. Sherman is from Compton, went to Stanford and has spent his entire NFL career in Seattle or San Francisco. I’m not saying he couldn’t switch coasts, but I think he would be very happy to stick in the Pacific time zone. Las Vegas is also in desperate need of corner help. The Raiders have to make a few moves to open up some cap space, but signing Sherman to a modest deal should be feasible. Add in that Las Vegas’ new defensive coordinator is Gus Bradley, architect of the Legion of Boom, and I think this is a perfect fit.
Welcome to the NFL offseason. The Buccaneers put a bow on the 2020 season by steamrolling the Chiefs 31-9 in a lopsided Super Bowl. Now, all 32 teams shift their focus to 2021. After a year like none we have ever seen before, we are heading for an offseason like none before.
There are at least a dozen teams that could make a change at quarterback. The NFL combine will not be taking place as usual either due to COVID-19 restrictions. On top of all of that, the salary cap is set to decrease by close to $15 million. This sets up one of the most interesting and pivotal offseasons in recent memory.
With tons of key players potentially switching teams, there is bound to be a lot of movement in these rankings before we get anywhere close to the start of the 2021 season. As it stands though, this is how each team stacks up following Super Bowl LV, as well as a quick look at each team’s biggest free agents.
1. Kansas City Chiefs 2020 record: 14-2 Key free agents: WR Sammy Watkins, CB Bashaud Breeland, CB Charvarius Ward, SS Daniel Sorenson, OLB Damien Wilson Even coming off a drubbing in the Super Bowl, no team is better positioned to make another run at the Super Bowl than the Chiefs. The core of the team is signed through at least 2021 and Kansas City’s front office has done well in recent years to find solid contributors in the draft. As long as Patrick Mahomes is healthy, it is going to be hard to pick against him and Andy Reid.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2020 record: 11-5 Key free agents: WR Chris Godwin, OLB Shaquille Barrett, LB Lavonte David, TE Rob Gronkowski, DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches, RB Leonard Fournette, WR Antonio Brown, K Ryan Succop Tampa Bay will not be going anywhere as long as they have Tom Brady. Yes, Brady will be 44 next season, but this team is built for success all across the roster. There are a number of critical free agents the team will need to lock up, but players like Gronk and AB are likely to stick around to keep chasing rings. There are probably a few other veterans around the league that would do the same thing. Call it the Brady effect, but this team is going to be a front runner to repeat.
3. Buffalo Bills 2020 record: 12-4 Key free agents: G Jon Feliciano, OT Darryl Williams, LB Matt Milano, CB Josh Norman, DE Trent Murphy, TE Tyler Kroft Make no mistake, the Bills are for real. Buffalo has the offensive firepower and defensive grit to be one of the best teams in the league in 2021. Without a ton of crucial free agents, the front office could get aggressive in pursuing another corner across from Tre’Davious White or a more reliable tight end. If Josh Allen can come anywhere close to repeating his performance next year, Buffalo will be back in the postseason.
4. Green Bay Packers 2020 record: 13-3 Key free agents: RB Aaron Jones, C Corey Lindsley, CB Kevin King, RB Jamaal Williams, WR Allen Lazard, TE Robert Tonyan, DE Montravius Adams Once again, the Packers found themselves on the doorstep of the Super Bowl, but could not break through. This team is still really close to putting it all together and finally getting Aaron Rodgers his second ring. Green Bay has some key offensive pieces to re-sign in Jones, Lazard, Lindsley and Tonyan, but this roster is pretty solid throughout. With the right additions at cornerback and along the offensive line, this team should be primed for another deep playoff run.
5. Baltimore Ravens 2020 record: 11-5 Key free agents: OLB Matt Judon, DE Yannick Ngakoue, OLB Tyus Bowser, C Matt Skura, RB Gus Edwards, WR Willie Snead It was a rocky start to the year, but what we saw from the Ravens in the second half of the season points to this team’s championship credentials. Baltimore has some clear holes to fill in the front seven on defense with Judon, Bowser and Ngakoue all out of a contract. The offensive line could use a boost and Baltimore is desperate for another receiver, but the foundation is still strong.
6. Cleveland Browns 2020 record: 11-5 Key free agents: OLB Olivier Vernon, SS Karl Joseph, DT Larry Ogunjobi, WR Rashad Higgins I am very bullish on the 2021 Browns. Cleveland has arguably the best offensive line in the league, a deep group of offensive playmakers and a solid front seven. The secondary should be a bit healthier this season, but the Browns also have enough cap space to make a signing or two to bolster the unit. Baker Mayfield does not need to be Superman for Cleveland to take the next step. If he can avoid turnovers, this team should be in the thick of the division title race.
7. Los Angeles Rams 2020 record: 10-6 Key free agents: C Austin Blythe, OLB Leonard Floyd, RB Malcolm Brown, CB Troy Hill, TE Gerald Everett, SS John Johnson, WR Josh Reynolds, LB Sam Ebukam Los Angeles created themselves a two-year window to go win a championship by acquiring Matthew Stafford. The Rams’ biggest obstacle to accomplishing that goal will be finding a way to supplement the roster with limited draft capital. L.A. is projected to be $25 million over the cap as of right now. They are likely going to lose a lot of their key role players. Stafford is not a mobile quarterback, so if the Rams cannot find a way to protect him, this is going to be a really ugly collapse.
8. Seattle Seahawks 2020 record: 12-4 Key free agents: LB K.J. Wright, RB Chris Carson, DE Bruce Irvin, G Mike Iupati, DT Poona Ford, LB Shaquem Griffin, CB Shaquill Griffin, G Ethan Pocic Seattle played two halves of a great season. The offensive was unstoppable in the first half while the defense looked helpless. In the second half, the offense ground to a halt while the defense found its stride. It all culminated in a disheartening first-round playoff loss. The Seahawks have some critical free agents to re-sign and a number of holes left to fill. Russell Wilson will give them a chance to be great, but the supporting cast is not ideal. Mike Iupati’s retirement is just another sign that this front office needs to invest in the offensive line. If the Texans have taught us anything, it’s that you need to keep your franchise quarterback happy.
9. Miami Dolphins 2020 record: 10-6 Key free agents: C Ted Karras, LB Elandon Roberts, DT Davon Godchaux, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick It all falls on Tua Tagovailoa now. With a solid amount of cap space, a few premium draft picks and a great coaching staff, Miami seems to have the foundation in place to be successful this year and beyond. The theme of this offseason will be finding Tagovailoa some help. Miami knows it needs to find a No. 1 receiver and to solidify the offensive line. Expect the team to be in the running back market as well. With a strong offseason, the Dolphins could definitely push themselves into the top five.
10. Tennessee Titans 2020 record: 11-5 Key free agents: WR Corey Davis, TE Jonnu Smith, DT Da’Quon Jones, OLB Jadeveon Clowney, LB Jayon Brown, K Stephen Gostkowski Tennessee could not take that next step forward after an AFC Championship run in 2019, but the Titans did well to avoid falling apart as well. It is clear the Titans have a formula that works. They just need to reinvest in the front seven on defense to get back on track. Jadeveon Clowney did not work out and you can bet the front office will be looking for some pass rushing help this offseason. Some really interesting free agent decisions exist too in Corey Davis and Jayon Brown.
11. San Francisco 49ers 2020 record: 6-10 Key free agents: OT Trent Williams, CB Richard Sherman, FB Kyle Juszczyk, DE Solomon Thomas, CB K’Waun Williams, RB Jerick McKinnon, FS Jaquiski Tartt, RB Tevin Coleman How does a 6-10 team that lost both its offensive and defensive coordinator end up 11th? Well when pretty much your entire roster is hurt and you still find ways to win football games, that inspires a lot of confidence for when you do get Nick Bosa and company back on the field. This is going to be a crucial offseason for the 49ers, who could be a player in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. Cutting Jimmy Garoppolo would get this team up to roughly $45 million in cap space, so big decisions lie ahead.
12. Arizona Cardinals 2020 record: 8-8 Key free agents: CB Patrick Peterson, WR Larry Fitzgerald, RB Kenyan Drake, G J.R. Sweezy, DT Corey Peters, OLB Markus Golden, OLB Hassan Reddick, OT Kelvin Beachum The future still seems bright in Arizona, even after a rough finish to the season. Kyler Murray is clearly the team’s franchise quarterback. The defense had some bright spots. This team is still a few key pieces away from truly contending and the front office has some tough decisions to make regarding Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald. Finding a new running back will be on the to-do list as well. This offseason is critical for the Cardinals.
13. Indianapolis Colts 2020 record: 11-5 Key free agents: DE Justin Houston, DE Denico Autry, WR T.Y. Hilton, S Malik Hooker, CB Xavier Rhodes, TE Trey Burton, RB Marlon Mack, WR Zach Pascal, QB Jacoby Brissett Not included in that list of free agents are Philip Rivers and Anthony Castonzo, both of whom retired. For the third straight year since Andrew Luck retired, the Colts do not have a plan at quarterback. Perhaps Jacob Eason is the answer, but it is hard to feel too strongly about a player who has yet to attempt an NFL pass. Meanwhile, Indy has a bunch of free agents at key positions on defense and several players close to needing extensions. Thankfully, the Colts have nearly $80 million in cap space to reshape this roster.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 record: 12-4 Key free agents: WR Juju Smith-Schuster, RB James Conner, OLB Bud Dupree, OT Alejandro Villanueva, DE Tyson Alualu, FS Sean Davis, LB Robert Spillane, CB Mike Hilton, OT Zach Banner Pittsburgh’s offensive line is in shambles and Ben Roethlisberger is mulling retirement. Big Ben will probably be back, but the Steelers are going to need to rework his contract to avoid a $41 million cap hit. This offense has a number of critical needs and the Steelers have limited cap space to work with. Maurkice Pouncey is gone as well after announcing his retirement. All eyes will be on the draft for Pittsburgh. Don’t be surprised if a couple of big-name players walk away in free agency.
15. New Orleans Saints 2020 record: 12-4 Key free agents: QB Jameis Winston, DT Sheldon Rankins, FS Marcus Williams, DE Trey Hendrickson, CB P.J. Williams, TE Jared Cook When you are $70 million over the cap and your future Hall of Fame quarterback is about to retire, you are in for a pretty steep drop. There is still plenty of talent on the roster, but New Orleans has a number of major question marks. With key players on defense headed for free agency and no cap space to re-sign them, the Saints could be headed for a rebuild. I think they will be aggressive in trying to stay competitive, but it is hard to see the path forward right now.
16. Dallas Cowboys 2020 record: 6-10 Key free agents: QB Dak Prescott, DE Tyrone Crawford, LB Sean Lee, C Joe Looney, OLB Aldon Smith, S Xavier Woods This ranking mostly stems from the belief that the Cowboys will bring back Prescott. Before his injury, Dak Prescott was putting up MVP-type numbers. Dallas’ offensive line was decimated by injuries as well and the defense crumbled. Still, with the offensive firepower at Prescott’s disposal and a number of key players returning from injury, this Cowboys team should be in the mix to win the NFC East.
17. Minnesota Vikings 2020 record: 7-9 Key free agents: FS Anthony Harris, DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, LB Eric Wilson, LB Todd Davis The Vikings have very few free agents to tend to. Anthony Harris and Ifeadi Odenigbo are quality starters, but Eric Wilson and Todd Davis were rotational players this year and could easily be allowed to walk. Minnesota’s defense needs a huge turn around in 2021 after a very disappointing 2020 season. There is room for improvement on the offensive line as well. This is a make-or-break year for Kirk Cousins and potentially Mike Zimmer.
18. Carolina Panthers 2020 record: 5-11 Key free agents: OT Russell Okung, G John Miller, RB Mike Davis, LB Tahir Whitehead, WR Curtis Samuel, OT Taylor Morton Reports have placed the Panthers in the middle of conversations for Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson. It is clear the front office feels it needs to upgrade at quarterback. With a young defense, there is a lot to like in Carolina. One major area for concern is the offensive line. Three of the team’s starting linemen are headed for free agency. Don’t be surprised if the Panthers spend some draft capital to rebuild their offensive front.
19. New England Patriots 2020 record: 7-9 Key free agents: QB Cam Newton, G Joe Thuney, CB Jason McCourty, RB James White, DT Lawrence Guy, C David Andrews, DE Adam Butler, RB Rex Burkhead, WR Damiere Byrd, CB J.C. Jackson, DE Deatrich Wise New England is primed for a makeover this season with tons of cap space, several key free agents and, potentially, a new quarterback on the way. The Patriots will have a bit more talent, specifically on defense, with several players likely to return after opting out of the 2020 season. Bill Belichick has his work cut out for him to overhaul this roster.
20. Los Angeles Chargers 2020 record: 7-9 Key free agents: OLB Melvin Ingram, TE Hunter Henry, C Mike Pouncey, LB Denzel Perryman, G Dan Feeney Los Angeles is headed in the right direction, but this team still has a long way to go before it is ready to compete for a title. The Chargers are breaking in a first-time head coach in Brandon Staley and have a patchwork offensive line. Mike Pouncey definitely won’t be back either after announcing his retirement. Justin Herbert gives this team a bright future, but there is still a ton of work ahead.
21. New York Giants 2020 record: 6-10 Key free agents: DT Leonard Williams, OT Cameron Fleming, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, WR Austin Mack, RB Dion Lewis, RB Wayne Gallman New York had some significant highs in 2020, taking the Bucs to the brink and beating the Seahawks in Seattle. Unfortunately, those were few and far between. Getting Saquon Barkley back will help this offense, but the team is still lacking playmakers. It seems like Joe Judge has reset the culture though and given the team a much brighter outlook. This defense is underrated and is capable of keeping New York in games.
22. Chicago Bears 2020 record: 8-8 Key free agents: WR Allen Robinson, QB Mitchell Trubisky, WR CordarrellePatterson, FS Tashaun Gipson, G Germain Ifedi, DE Mario Edwards Chicago has a big decision to make this offseason. Consensus seems to be that Trubisky is not the answer at quarterback, but the Bears are not well positioned to find his successor. With Robinson unlikely to return, and an uninspiring offensive line, this is not exactly a prime spot for free agents quarterbacks either. How the Bears answer their quarterback question is going to determine their outlook for 2021.
23. Washington 2020 record: 7-9 Key free agents: G Brandon Scherff, DE Ryan Kerrigan, CB Ronald Darby, QB Kyle Allen Washington’s defense is one of the best in the league. Now it needs to invest its resources in building an offense to match. Alex Smith is one of the league’s best comeback stories ever, but he is not the long-term answer at quarterback. He might not even be the short-term solution. With a sizable amount of cap space, Washington could get aggressive in finding some free agent additions, but everything hinges on the quarterback.
24. Las Vegas Raiders 2020 record: 8-8 Key free agents: DE Jonathan Hankins, DE Takkarist McKinley, WR Nelson Agholor, LB Raekwon McMillan, OLB Vic Beasley This franchise has been stuck in neutral for the past five years. Since a short-lived playoff run in 2016, the Raiders have been toiling away in obscurity and mediocrity. Derek Carr likely isn’t the answer at quarterback. Las Vegas’ defense is still one of the worst in the league. This team had it’s moment in the sun after stunning the division rival Chiefs, but it feels 8-8 is the ceiling given who the Raiders currently have on their roster.
25. Denver Broncos 2020 record: 5-11 Key free agents: OLB Von Miller, FS Justin Simmons, SS Kareem Jackson, DT Shelby Harris, WR Tim Patrick, A.J. Johnson, RB Phillip Lindsay Denver’ s offseason is going to be dictated largely by the decision the franchise makes at quarterback. There is some buzz about Deshaun Watson being interested in the Broncos. Drew Lock is still developing, but if the club is going to make a move like that, it would accelerate this team’s timeline significantly. They still have some key pieces on defense to lock up and a major decision looming regarding Von Miller. There is plenty of room for upward mobility.
26. Atlanta Falcons 2020 record: 4-12 Key free agents: C Alex Mack, RB Todd Gurley, SS Keanu Neal, S Damontae Kazee, DE Charles Harris, K Younghoe Koo Where in the world is this team headed? They still have Matt Ryan under contract through 2023 with a pretty easy out after 2021. The future of the club is going to be determined with what the Falcons decide to do with the fourth overall pick. Atlanta has a ton of options. They could find a successor to Ryan, pick their favorite non-QB prospect, or trade down and restock the roster. It is a tough call for new general manager Terry Fontenot.
27. Philadelphia Eagles 2020 record: 4-11-1 Key free agents: OT Jason Peters, WR DeSean Jackson, DE Vinny Curry, S Jalen Mills, RB Corey Clement, WR Greg Ward Carson Wentz is in Indianapolis. Zach Ertz is likely to follow. The Eagles are in salary cap hell and headed for something of a rebuild. Philly has an intriguing young quarterback to work with in Jalen Hurts, but there are question marks all over this roster. Not to mention, the Eagles have a first-time head coach who is a relative unknown. This team does not have the cap space to replenish this depleted roster right away. It is going to be two years before we see the Eagles competing in the NFC East again?
28. Cincinnati Bengals 2020 record: 4-11-1 Key free agents: CB William Jackson, WR A.J. Green, WR John Ross, DE Carl Lawson, DT Mike Daniels, K Randy Bullock, P Kevin Huber The key to this offseason will be protecting Joe Burrow. After the former Heisman winner spent much of 2020 running for his life, rebuilding the offensive line is the focal point. Expect the Bengals to be aggressive in the draft and free agency looking for ways to upgrade its current unit. Cincinnati has a few key free agents as well with William Jackson and Carl Lawson. There is a good chance that one of them departs, opening up another need on that Bengals defense. Cincy will need to stay patient, finding long-term solutions instead of short-team patches.
29. Houston Texans 2020 record: 4-12 Key free agents: DE J.J. Watt, WR Will Fuller, CB Gareon Conley,CB Vernon Hargreaves, DT P.J. Hall, DE Carlos Watkins Things look bleak in Houston. Franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson wants out. J.J. Watt is gone. The roster has holes at cornerback, edge rusher, running back and wide receiver, just to name a few. Under normal circumstances, the Texans could be well-positioned to land a top prospect to accelerate this rebuild. Instead, Houston does not have a pick in the first or second round. The organization maintains that it wants to keep Watson and rebuild his trust, but it is looking like this team might be headed for a long rebuild.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars 2020 record: 1-15 Key free agents: OT Cam Robinson, CB Tre Herndon, WR Dede Westbrook, WR Keelan Cole, WR Chris Conley, CB D.J. Hayden, TE Tyler Eifert, P Dustin Colquitt A new era is coming in Jacksonville. Urban Meyer takes over as head coach and presumptive No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence will be the team’s new franchise quarterback. Things are definitely looking up, but the Jaguars have a lot of work to do still. Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson offer exciting building blocks on defense, but the cupboard is pretty bare in the defensive playmaking department. Jacksonville’s secondary was one of the worst in the league in 2020. With a number of receivers headed for free agency, there is a clear need there as well. Lucky for the Jaguars, no one has more cap space this offseason, so Meyer and new general manager Trent Baalke will have every opportunity to reshape the roster.
31. New York Jets 2020 record: 2-14 Key free agents: FS Marcus Maye, WR Breshad Perriman, CB Brian Poole, LB Jordan Jenkins, S Bradley McDougald, CB Arthur Maulet, LB Tarell Basham The Adam Gase experiment ended with a resounding thud as the Jets played their way out of contention for the No. 1 pick. New York now has a huge decision to make about Sam Darnold’s future. It is very possible he is traded this offseason to make way for a new rookie quarterback selected with the second overall pick. The Jets are also still in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, but it is seeming less and less likely they are the winners. At least the organization landed Robert Saleh to be the team’s next coach. His arrival should bring some much needed leadership to the locker room, but also means a scheme change and a likely massive roster turnover. New York is going to be busy this offseason.
32. Detroit Lions 2020 record: 5-11 Key free agents: WR Kenny Golladay, DE Romeo Okwara, WR Marvin Jones, DE Everson Griffin, WR Danny Amendola, LB Jarrad Davis, S Durron Harmon, K Matt Prater Welcome to the bottom of the pile, Detroit. With Kenny Golladay headed for free agency and Matt Stafford now in SoCal, the outlook for the Lions is not very inspiring. It is hard to get excited about anyone on this roster at the moment. Jared Goff gives new coach Dan Campbell a reclamation project, albeit an expensive one. The defense needs an overhaul after some poor roster building in recent years. With a ton of future draft capital now available, the future is a bit brighter in Detroit, but 2021 is going to be a year where this team bottoms out, sheds veteran contracts and looks to rebuild the foundation of the franchise.
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255 players were drafted into the NFL over the weekend. The draft process hardly ends there though. Dozens of players immediately sign with teams as undrafted free agents. While most fail to make a meaningful impact, there have been plenty that have gone on to be great players. Tony Romo, Priest Holmes, John Randle, Kurt Warner, Warren Moon, Wes Welker, Antonio Gates and many more went on to have great, and in some cases, Hall of Fame careers.
More recently, Austin Ekeler, Phillip Lindsay, Charvarius Ward, Corey Littleton, Taysom Hill and Matt Breida all never had their name called during the draft, but went on to carve out roles in the league. Lindsay reached the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Ward just won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs. Every year, there is someone that slipped through the cracks and goes on to wow the league. Here are some of the players best positioned to achieve that kind of success from this year’s crop of undrafted free agents.
Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU – Washington
Randy Moss’ son does not possess the same type of athletic ability as his father, but Thad Moss has the makings of a solid possession receiver. He caught 47 passes from Joe Burrow this season en route to a national title and showed his ability to make plays on the biggest stage with two touchdowns in the championship game against Clemson. He lacks elite speed, but he definitely has the chops to help out in the passing game. Given that Washington seems set to enter the season with Jeremy Sprinkle as their starting tight end, there is potential that Moss could earn playing time as early as this year.
Javelin Guidry, CB, Utah – New York Jets
The Jets did take a corner in this draft in Bryce Hall, and I love that pick. However, there isn’t a ton of depth in this group that mostly just features Colts castoffs. Guidry is a track star who ran a 4.29 40 at the combine. Reminder that Henry Ruggs ran a 4.27. I’m surprised that no one decided to take a flier on him. He is a bit undersized at 5’9″, but he has a good shot to make the roster and compete for maybe a role as their dime corner or a special teams role.
Aaron Fuller, WR, Rhode Island – Seattle Seahawks
One of my favorite sleepers in this draft, I think Fuller could be the latest unheralded prospect to find success in Seattle. He has really impressive body control and there are some already comparing him to Doug Baldwin. There are definitely some things he will have to overcome from a traits perspective. He has smaller than average hands and slightly shorter arms. I think he could have some issues catching the ball away from his body at the next level, but he did it really well in college. If he can adjust to the game speed, I think he has a chance to make the roster and eventually become a contributor.
A.J. Green, CB, Oklahoma State – Cleveland Browns
Picture this. The Browns are facing the Bengals. Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams are both out due to injury (something that happened a few times in 2019) and Cleveland needs someone to cover Cincinnati’s top receiving threat. And that is how we get our first A.J. Green vs. A.J. Green matchup. Fun scenario’s aside, the former Oklahoma State corner is big and physical. He didn’t always win his matchup at the Senior Bowl, but he did not back down from anyone. Green regularly battled with the best receivers in this class during that practice week and I liked what I saw. He is definitely a little underdeveloped from a technique standpoint, but I think his physical traits are good enough for him to make the roster and provide some important depth at the position.
Francis Bernard, LB, Utah – Dallas Cowboys
I like my Utah defensive players. Bernard has impressive lateral quickness and is very comfortable in coverage. He is also really good at shedding blocks and has the ability to contribute as a situational blitzer. His biggest knocks are his size and his tackling, the latter being something he will need to improve upon if he wants to make the roster. He should provide some really good depth though and might even be able to work his way into the lineup for some sub-packages in obvious passing situations. Given the injuries Dallas has had at the position in recent years, Bernard could end up being valuable.
Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington – Detroit Lions
One year after drafting T.J. Hockenson in the first round and signing Jesse James in free agency, the Lions are set at the position for the time being. I still really like the move to grab a high-upside player like Bryant. He had 852 yards receiving this year at Washington and was a finalist for the Mackey Award. He is definitely a flex option rather than an inline blocker, but he gives the team some flexibility going forward. James’ contract has an out after this season if Detroit decides they want to save some money.
Stanford Samuels, CB, Florida State – Green Bay Packers
Not seeing Samuels drafted was a big surprise. I thought he would come off the board some time in round five. He doesn’t possess blazing speed, but he has good size at 6’1″ and looked very comfortable in coverage at Florida State. He was an All-ACC honorable mention his final year in school and had six interceptions over the past two seasons. I think he has a good shot to make the roster as a developmental corner.
Rodrigo Blakenship, K, Georgia – Indianapolis Colts
Yeah we can put kickers on here! One year after watching Father Time finally catch up with Adam Vinatieri, the Colts will be auditioning new kickers. Blakenship is something of a folk hero after his career at Georgia. He never missed an extra point in college and made 80 of 97 career field goal attempts during his four years as the starter. He has a powerful leg which will translate well to the next level. If he can find a way to get back to the level he was at during his sophomore year when he made 87 percent of his kicks, the Colts will have found themselves a great kicker.
James Robinson, RB, Illinois State – Jacksonville Jaguars
With rumors that Leonard Fournette is unsettled in Jacksonville and no clear succession plan in place, I think Robinson has a good chance to make the roster. He was one of the best backs in all of FCS last year. He is north-south runner who can catch the ball out of the backfield and pass block as well. Robinson tore up the East-West Shrine Bowl during the pre-draft process. Don’t be surprised if he is getting some touches this season if Fournette ends up elsewhere.
Adrian Killins, RB, UCF – Philadelphia Eagles
Another East-West Bowl participant, I think Killins fits well in what the Eagles like to do offensively. He has a very slight build, but he has good vision and the speed to bounce any play to the outside and pick up extra yardage. I can see Philly using him as a third-down back similar to what they used to do with Darren Sproles. Killins needs to improve his hands if he really wants to lock down that role, but he has the agility and instincts to thrive in it if he does.
I never thought I would see the day Tom Brady left the Patriots. I figured he would play as long as he could in New England and then retire. His decision to join the Buccaneers shakes up the entire league. Really, with Brady in Tampa, Philip Rivers in Indy and Teddy Bridgewater in Carolina, the quarterback market has shifted drastically. New England is now a major player, while the obvious candidates like Cincinnati, Miami and Los Angeles still remain.
With free agency mostly behind us, it feels like a good like to reexamine how the first round could shake out. After all, Minnesota and San Francisco now own an extra pick each in the opening round. While players like Jadeveon Clowney, Jameis Winston and Robby Anderson remain unsigned, there aren’t really any others that could influence the decision making behind a first round pick. With the dust mostly settled, here are the trades I like to go down.
Dolphins send 1.5 and 1.26 to Lions for 1.3
Buccaneers send 1.14, 2.45 to Arizona for 1.8, 4.114
Vikings send 1.22, 3.89 and 5.155 to Cowboys for 1.17
Broncos send 2.46, 3.83 to 49ers for 1.31
Trying to predict draft day trades is like trying to pick the winning lottery numbers. Fun, but nearly impossible. There will be plenty more moves I never saw coming. With just about a month until the draft gets underway, let’s dive in to this latest mock draft!
1. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Unless Cincinnati suddenly gets an offer that blows them away, this will likely be the pick. He handles pressure exceptionally well and can throw on the move. Those will be important early on given the Bengals offensive line struggles.
2. Washington – Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
The likely smokescreen for Tua Tagovailoa took a hit with the coronavirus shutdown of the pre-draft process. I think Washington was always going to take Young. He has the physical tools all coaches crave and will be a Day 1 contributor.
3. Miami Dolphins via Detroit Lions – Tua Tagovailoa, QB Alabama
I still believe Miami needs to move up to secure this deal. If not, I think the Giants will be getting a lot of calls at pick four. Tagovailoa’s medicals looked good the last time we had an update. He would come into a situation where he can fully rehab for a year behind Ryan Fitzpatrick while this team continues to rebuild.
4. New York Giants – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
I expect the Giants to listen to some trade offers here, but when it’s all settled, I think Dave Gettleman will gladly just take an offensive lineman. They have their pick of a talented bunch and I think they will land on Wills. He is solid as a pass blocker with room for some growth in the run game. Keeping Daniel Jones clean has to be a priority.
5. Detroit Lions via Miami Dolphins – Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Detroit moves down and still lands the player everyone expects them to target. Even with Desmond Trufant on the roster, this team needs so much help at corner. Okudah is dominant in man-to-man coverage, using smooth hips and good closing speed to make a lot of disruptive plays.
6. Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Los Angeles is committed to starting Tyrod Taylor in 2020. While that is a mistake for at least a dozen reasons, there is no one on this roster that looks the part of a franchise quarterback. Herbert has his knocks, but his arm strength and experience make him a solid fit for a Chargers team needing to rebuild.
7. Carolina Panthers – Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson
With Luke Keuchley gone, this feels like an obvious move. Carolina could target an offensive tackle here, but I think they trust their recent draft picks to step up. Simmons can be a game-changing player on defense and someone new coach Matt Rhule can rebuild this defense around.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers via Arizona Cardinals – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
They got the future Hall of Fame quarterback. Now Tampa needs to protect Brady. Trading up to get their pick of those remaining is important, and it’s far from a guarantee anyone will still be available at 14. Wirfs can step in and lock down the right side of the line immediately at either guard or tackle. His versatility is intriguing and his long-term potential at left tackle makes him the best option here.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars – Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
This vaunted Jaguars defense is in shambles. They spent some money on Joe Shobert, but that does not solve the underlying issues. Assuming Yannick Ngakoue stays, Kinlaw would be a great fit next to him. He can collapse the pocket and has the size to plug up the middle against the run.
10. Cleveland Browns – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Cleveland found it’s right tackle in Jack Conklin. Now it needs to find its left tackle. Thomas is a pro-ready option who can run block with the best of them. He has some raw power to work with. He is my favorite tackle in this class. I just don’t think his potential is quite as high the rest.
11. New York Jets – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Joe Douglas has sunk a lot into the offensive line, but the outlook at tackle is still a bit murky. Becton needs a lot of refining, but based on raw skill and size, he has the highest ceiling of any tackle in this class. He should be in the mix at right tackle right away with the potential to kick to the other side with a bit of seasoning.
12. Las Vegas Raiders – CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
I had been mocking receivers to the Raiders for months. While they haven’t done much to address the need, I think they will wait given the relative depth of the class. Instead, they tab the best corner on the board. I don’t rate Henderson this highly, but it is unlikely he makes it to their second selection this round. He has the athleticism and size to develop into a solid starting option.
13. San Francisco 49ers – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
The defensive line was getting too expensive to keep together, so John Lynch pulled a masterclass move to position himself to find his receiver of the future. Jeudy is the best route runner in the class and has plenty of athleticism. With Emmanuel Sanders headed to New Orleans, this fills a huge need.
14. Arizona Cardinals via Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
Arizona can recoup the second round pick it gave up in the trade for DeAndre Hopkins. This might be best case scenario as well for the Cardinals defense as they land a talented interior option. Brown shows flashes of being an elite pass rusher and should contribute against the run. He fits the build of a 3-4 end with good upside.
15. Denver Broncos – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Courtland Sutton is a great starting option. However, he needs a partner in crime. Lamb should benefit from playing with an arm like Drew Lock’s. Sutton and Lamb have the potential to develop into the best tandem in the NFL in a few years. This would be a huge step in the Broncos turning this roster around.
16. Atlanta Falcons – K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
Picking up Dante Fowler is a nice addition, but Atlanta can’t count on that being enough. Chaisson brings impressive strength for his size. I see him as being a situational rusher for the Falcons while he continues to develop other parts of his game. He has a long way to go as a run defender.
17. Minnesota Vikings via Dallas Cowboys – Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
With two first round picks and a ton of of mid round options, Minnesota can afford to be aggressive in finding its replacement for Stefon Diggs. Ruggs has dynamite speed with a bigger frame than most realize. He has a different skill set than Diggs, but should help this Vikings offense add a new dimension to the passing game.
18. Miami Dolphins – Josh Jones, OT, Houston
Miami made some questionable moves in free agency, but did not find it’s offensive tackle of the future, so taking a flier on Jones feels like a smart move. He is a bit raw despite being a little older than some of the other tackles in this class. However, he brings an impressive blend of mobility and power to the table and should be able to help the Dolphins in both the short term and long term.
19. Las Vegas Raiders via Chicago Bears – Tee Higgins, WR, Alabama
Mike Mayock loves Clemson players. Even if the Raiders GM hadn’t spent three picks on former Tigers in 2019, this would be a great landing spot for Higgins. His size and ball skills make him a matchup nightmare with tons of potential to contribute in the red zone. He didn’t run at the combine, so he might never get to answer questions about his speed for teams, but his game tape makes him worth a top-20 pick.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars via Los Angeles Rams – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Gardner Minshew is the best option Jacksonville has for 2020, but beyond that, that is up for debate. Love is an unfinished product with lots of potential. After shipping off Nick Foles, this team could use another option to build around going forward.
21. Philadelphia Eagles – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
After trading for Darius Slay and signing Jonathan Hargreave, Philly has set themselves up to target a receiver early in this draft. Jefferson is a great fit given his size and playmaking ability. Given the team’s struggles at receiver this past season, this will be a welcome addition.
22. Dallas Cowboys via Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills – Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
Dallas slides back a few spots and still lands a solid corner with some potential to contribute for next season. Hall is coming off an injury, but he was putting together a really strong senior year before going down. He tracks the ball well in coverage and has the size to be a prototypical starter. With Byron Jones now in Miami, this is a huge need.
23. New England Patriots – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
What comes next for the Patriots without Tom Brady is anyone’s guess. What feels like a Bill Belichick move is to grab a linebacker with great coverage ability and range. Queen is the perfect fit for New England’s defense with the loss of Kyle van Noy.
24. New Orleans Saints – Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Emmanuel Sanders is 32 and does not solve New Orleans’ long-term need for a receiver, but it does give them flexibility in the draft. Adding a downhill linebacker with good speed and instincts is never a bad thing. The Saints have been trying to solidify their linebacking corps for years. Murray might actually help them do it.
25. Minnesota Vikings – Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
The Vikings went bold and grabbed a top-end receiver, but they still need to patch up the secondary. Gladney is a bit undersized, but he plays the ball well and plays his man even better. He is a bit rough around the edges, but he should be capable of contributing early on in his NFL career.
26. Detroit Lions via Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans – A.J. Epenesa, DL, Iowa
Adding Danny Shelton was a good move, but it does not solve all of Detroit’s defensive line needs. Epenesa has really good play strength and some versatility as a pass rusher. He is a bit inconsistent, but when he is on, he has the talent of a top-10 player in this draft. This is not the biggest need on Detroit’s board, but he is the best player left available and they pick again early in round 2.
27. Seattle Seahawks – Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU
Rumors point to Jadeveon Clowney returning to Seattle, who at the time of writing, is still unsigned. If Clowney does come back, Blacklock could slot in well next to him and create a dynamic front four for the Seahawks. He rarely loses ground in the trenches and often drew double teams at TCU. It would be fun to see him run free because Clowney would definitely be drawing the majority of the attention.
28. Baltimore Ravens – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Baltimore made some savvy moves to restock the defense without breaking the bank, but those moves were in the front seven. To round out the defense, the Ravens can tab a rangy safety who likes to play down in the box. McKinney should help soften the blow of Tony Jefferson’s departure and give John Harbaugh another starting option in the secondary.
29. Tennessee Titans – Austin Jackson, OT, USC
Jack Conklin is now a Brown. That means the Titans desperately need help on the right side of the line. Jackson is a bit of a project. However, he has great size and measurables along with some solid moments on tape. Putting him on the right side could hide some of his deficiencies while he develops.
30. Green Bay Packers – Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC
Here is my comp for Pittman: Jordy Nelson. Nelson is 6’3″, 217 pounds and ran a 4.51 40 time. Pittman is 6’4″, 223 pounds and ran a 4.52 40 time. We know what Aaron Rodgers did with Nelson. I think Pittman could be the perfect complement to Davante Adam’s and help jumpstart this offense.
31. Denver Broncos via San Francisco 49ers – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
With a bunch of mid-round picks, Denver can get aggressive in moving up to find Chris Harris’ replacement. Yes, they traded for A.J. Bouye, but when you play in the same division as Patrick Mahomes, you need a few good corners. Fulton is aggressive and played against some great competition this year. He is a bit inconsistent, but at his best, he is a lockdown corner.
32. Kansas City Chiefs – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Given the way the board broke for the Chiefs, I could see them trading out. Instead, Kansas City should tag the lengthy Diggs to help rebuild a decimate cornerback room. His size and physicality would bring a different element to this Chiefs secondary and it should be a welcome one.