Way-Too-Early 2021 NFL Mock Draft: Five QBs go in Round 1

Welcome to the class of 2021! Yes it is definitely really early for me to be starting work on this, but this is usually just a fun way to introduce some of the best prospects heading into the upcoming college football season. The current draft order is based on Super Bowl odds from Caesar’s Sportsbook. If you don’t like where your team is picking, you can take it up with them.

This looks like it has the makings to be a special class with some great quarterbacks and another group of talented wide receivers. Let’s get started!

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1. Jacksonville Jaguars (250-1) – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
If Jacksonville is picking here next year, it’s probably because the Gardner Minshew sequel was not as good as the original. Trevor Lawrence is the clear top prospect heading into the 2021 season. He struggled in the national championship game, but that should not overshadow two years of relative dominance while leading a team to back-to-back title games, winning one of them. He could be a franchise-altering player for the Jaguars.

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2. Washington (150-1) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Much like Jacksonville, if Washington ends up picking in the top two, I don’t see Dwayne Haskins’ job being safe. He wasn’t drafted by this current regime and if you can upgrade at quarterback, you have to. Fields is a dynamic athlete with a strong arm and lots of impressive film. He will compete with Lawrence for the top spot in this draft class. He would give Ron Rivera a franchise quarterback to go with the star pass rusher he just drafted. The Columbus to D.C. pipeline is taking shape.

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3. Carolina Panthers (125-1) – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
I have to admit I am surprised to see the Panthers picking in the top three, but Vegas knows best. This would give Carolina a chance to continue building a stout defense by adding the best pass rusher in this draft. Rousseau recorded the second most sacks in the country in 2019, trailing only Chase Young. That was his first year of college ball as well after redshirting his first season. Another dominant season would lock him into the top five.

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4. Miami Dolphins (100-1) – J’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Dolphins have their franchise quarterback. Now it is time to get an elite weapon for him to work with in the passing game. DeVante Parker seems to be making strides, but J’Marr Chase was the best college receiver in America as a sophomore. It will be interesting to see how Chase does with a quarterback other than Joe Burrow. His talent alone should stand out though. Even when his number inevitably dip, he will be worthy of a top-five selection.

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5. Cincinnati Bengals (100-1) – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
There was some buzz around the Bengals looking to find an offensive tackle in the 2020 draft. With Jonah Williams set to make his debut, it probably won’t be a huge need, but if you can protect your young quarterback, that seems like a worthwhile investment. Sewell would have been the top tackle selected this year if he had been eligible. He spent the past two seasons protecting Justin Herbert’s blindside very effectively. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him going even earlier than this next April.

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6. New York Jets (100-1) – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Jets fans are excited about landing Denzel Mims in the second round of the 2020 draft. If he has a stellar rookie season, perhaps this won’t be a big need for the team, but the receivers room is still lacking talent in New York. Jaylen Waddle is an electric burner at Alabama and would be an impact player for Sam Darnold. He is dangerous in the open field and projects better to the NFL than his teammate DeVonta Smith given his size. Still, you should expect it to be another year where two Alabama receivers go in the first round.

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7. Detroit Lions (60-1) – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Give Bob Quinn some credit. He put together a solid draft class for the Lions. Detroit added some potential difference makers on defense through both the draft and free agency, but still needs a long-term solution at linebacker. Parsons and Alabama’s Dylan Moses will be vying for the top spot in these positional rankings, but I will give the edge to the Penn State star. He is a sure tackler that comes without Moses’ injury history. That Lions defense would have two really great building blocks in Parsons and Jeff Okudah.

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8. Arizona Cardinals (60-1) – Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
No question about it, this is not the biggest need for the Cardinals. They traded for former Clemson star DeAndre Hopkins and have some developing options in Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella. Larry Fitzgerald is going to retire eventually (right?) and at that point, I think Kliff Kingsberry will be looking to find another top flight receiver to pair with Hopkins. Ross made waves as a freshman for making some spectacular catches in Clemson’s rout of Alabama in the National Championship game. He plays in one of the most loaded receiving groups in the country as well. Based on his talent, this would be great value for Arizona.

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9. Atlanta Falcons (60-1) – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
It was maybe the worst-kept secret around this draft that the Falcons wanted help at corner. They might have reached a bit on A.J. Terrell in the first round. Even if he turns out to be a solid starter, the team could definitely use more help at the position. Patrick Surtain II’s name is familiar because his father was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Dolphins during the early 2000s. The younger Surtain is the latest Alabama corner to catch scouts’ attention. He has the prototypical size and speed to excel in the NFL and faces top competition regularly for the Tide.

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10. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (55-1) – Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
Miami loaded up on offensive line help and grabbed a high-upside corner after selecting Tua Tagovailoa in the 2020 draft. Now it is time to add more talent to the front seven. As I mentioned earlier, Moses has some injury questions he will have to answer after missing the entire 2019 season with at torn ACL. However, if you go back to his sophomore year, you will see a leader on the Alabama defense capable of making plays at the line and holding his own in coverage. The Dolphins loaded up on ex-Patriots linebackers in free agency, but they could use a young prospect to rebuild that position group around.

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11. New York Giants (50-1) – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
The Giants will be disappointed to see both Parsons and Moses off the board already. They could use some help at linebacker. However, this is shaping up to be another great receiving class and New York should take advantage. While Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton are both productive receivers, this group seems to lack a go-to playmaker. Moore tore up the Big Ten as a freshman in 2018. He seemed set to do it again in 2019 before injuries derailed his season. He is definitely a bit undersized at just 5’9″, but he is a game-changing player. That is something the Giants need to find for Daniel Jones to reach his full potential.

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12. Chicago Bears (50-1) – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Given his struggles in his third season, the Bears seem reluctant to commit to Mitch Trubisky. They traded for Nick Foles to provide some immediate competition, but it feels like the Bears are ready to find a new prospect to develop. Lance comes from the same school that produced Carson Wentz and he dominated the FCS last year. He became the first freshman to win the Walter Payton Award and he also won the Jerry Rice Award. He throws a really nice deep ball and has good zip on his throws. He is also incredibly mobile. Lance definitely needs to work on his pocket presence and footwork, but from an arm talent perspective, it’s all there.

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13. Denver Broncos (50-1) – Walker Little, OT, Stanford
Garrett Bolles has really struggled in Denver. He picks up way too many penalties for the Broncos to feel comfortable paying him when his contract is up. After neglecting the position all together in the 2020 draft, this should be a priority. Little had a strong 2018 season but missed almost the entire 2019 season with a knee injury. With him returning to school for his senior year, he will get the chance to remind everyone why there was buzz about him being a first round pick before he got hurt. He moves well and plays with enough power to anchor down the left side of the line. He would be an upgrade for John Elway and company.

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14. Los Angeles Chargers (45-1) – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
L.A. tabbed Justin Herbert as it’s quarterback of the future. Now it needs to invest in protecting him. They traded away Russell Okung and did not grab a tackle in the 2020 draft, so this feels like the biggest need remaining for the team. Alex Leatherwood was Alabama’s starting left tackle in 2019, but wasn’t protecting Tua Tagovailoa’s blindside because he was a lefty. He played at guard prior to last season, so another year at tackle will be really good for him. By the end of next year’s draft, he could be a plug-and-play option for the Chargers.

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15. Cleveland Browns (35-1) – Xavier Thomas, DL, Clemson
Cleveland put together a strong draft class ready to contribute right away while also building some depth for the future. Without a ton of obvious needs, the Browns can opt for the best player available, which at this point would be Xavier Thomas. Thomas is the latest Clemson defensive lineman capable of being a difference maker at the next level. He is a bit of a tweener, lacking elite speed but also not being big enough to kick inside at 6’2″, 265 pounds. He is really solid against the run though and has shown flashes of being able to generate pressure as a pass rusher. Thomas likely projects best as a 4-3 defensive end and could take over for the aging Olivier Vernon.

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16. Las Vegas Raiders (30-1) – Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina
I really liked what the Raiders did in the later rounds of the draft. Unfortunately, I think they reached big time at a position of need with Damon Arnette. In the end, it does not feel like Las Vegas solved it’s lockdown corner problem. Israel Mukuamu reminds me a bit of Noah Iginoghene given his size and speed. Put on his tape against Georgia and you will see the potential for him to become a ballhawking corner capable of shutting down one half of the field. He is massive at 6’4″ and possesses good speed given that size. If he puts together a strong season, he could be the first corner off the board given his intangibles.

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17. Jacksonville Jaguars via Los Angeles Rams (30-1) – Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State
The direction of the Jaguars as a franchise would take a major U-turn with the addition of Trevor Lawrence. They have a few intriguing pieces to work with, but why stop adding to this defense? Wilson is a local kid who generated some first round buzz before deciding to return to school. He had 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks during his junior campaign. He also only appeared in nine games after a hand injury cut his season short. If he can stay healthy through all 12 games this year, he should put up even better numbers and be in a position to be vying for the top interior lineman off the board.

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18. Tennessee Titans (30-1) – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Full disclosure, I spent a good deal of 2019 mocking running backs to the Titans as well. I know this seems ludicrous given the presence of Derrick Henry, but remember that he is playing on the franchise tag for 2020. Without a deal in place for him to stay in Tennessee, it would not shock me to see the team opt for a young option to anchor their backfield. Replacing one former Alabama back with another seems like a good idea. Harris has not had heavy usage for the Tide given the depth of options they have at the position, but he is easily the most effective and versatile. He caught 27 passes and seven touchdowns in 2019. He has the potential to be a three-down back that would fit well into the Titans’ run-first scheme.

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19. Minnesota Vikings (28-1) – Jay Tufele, DL, USC
Minnesota had one of the best drafts of any team in the league, finding great value and getting some help at much needed positions. That does not leave a ton of weak spots on this roster that I can identify at the moment, so let’s say the Vikings look to upgrade their defensive line. Jay Tufele is built in a similar mold to Derrick Brown. He is big at 305 pounds, but moves well and is capable of generating some pressure. He has 10 tackles for loss through his first two seasons with USC and could be in line for a big year.

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20. Pittsburgh Steelers (28-1) – Jamie Newman, QB, Wake Forest
It is time for the Steelers to start creating a succession plan to Ben Roethlisberger. Newman played really well in his first full season as a starter at Wake Forest. He has desirable size and arm strength to play the position. He will get a chance to really elevate his status playing in the SEC as a transfer. Having Newman here is mostly assuming that he will take the next step in his development while playing at a big name school to raise his profile. I think his arm talent is enough for Pittsburgh to be interested.

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21. New England Patriots (25-1) – Chase Garbers, QB, California
If it turns out the Patriots do in fact need to draft a quarterback in the first round next season, I have a feeling they will be drafting much earlier than this. I might be a bit higher than most on Garbers, but from what I have seen, I think he can be an NFL quarterback. He uses his legs well both to extend plays and pick up extra yardage when the play breaks down. He doesn’t have the strongest arm in the world, but he throws a decent deep ball and has really good touch on sideline throws. Cal was ranked and undefeated before Garbers went down with an injury last year. In fact, the Golden Bears were actually undefeated in games Garbers started and finished last season. Given his play style, injuries could be a major issue for him. If he can stay healthy and put together another good season, I think he will earn this first round hype.

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22. Indianapolis Colts (25-1) – Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami
You might not be too familiar with Quincy Roche, especially when you see Miami next to his name. He is a transfer from Temple, where he dominated the AAC. He finished fifth in the nation last year in sacks. Coming into a Miami defense that might already boast the best returning pass rusher in the country, Roche could be in for a monster season. The Colts will eventually have to replace Justin Houston and this might be the best chance they get to do that.

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23. Buffalo Bills (25-1) – Creed Humphrey, OL, Oklahoma
Buffalo seems poised to take over in the AFC East with Tom Brady now in Tampa. To do so, they will need to continue building in the trenches. They landed A.J. Epenesa in the second round of the 2020 draft. Finding someone to bolster the interior of their offensive line is the next step. Humphrey is about as solid as they come for interior offensive linemen. He was voted second-team All-American in 2019 and did not allow a sack while starting every game for the Sooners. Given Mitch Morse’s injury history, this is a smart pick. Worst case scenario, the Bills can start Humphrey off at guard.

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24. Philadelphia Eagles (20-1) – Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
It was an interesting draft for the Eagles, who waited a long time to address their secondary. While I really like their pick of Tanner Muse, I think they need another safety to pair with him. Cisco reminds me a bit of a bigger Antoine Winfield Jr. He is a ballhawking safety with a staggering 12 interceptions over the past two seasons. He has a nose for the football as one of Syracuse’s leading tacklers, despite only featuring in nine games last season. He would be a welcome addition to this Eagles secondary.

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25. Green Bay Packers (16-1) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
I still don’t understand how the Packers completely ignored their need for receivers. They have a bunch of bodies, but not too many reliable targets capable of making plays. Bateman is an all-around playmaker. He is capable of making post up plays in the red zone and high-pointing the ball down the sideline. Bateman has really impressive run after the catch ability as well. He isn’t an elite route runner, but he understands how to get separation. Even if he can’t, he is more than capable of dunk on smaller corners. I think this would be the type of target Aaron Rodgers can get the most out of.

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26. Seattle Seahawks (15-1) – Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
With Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette moving on to the NFL, it will now be Shaun Wade’s job to lead the Ohio State backfield. He could have potentially come out this season and gone in the first two rounds. A return to school with a chance to be the top dog for a program that regularly churns out NFL caliber defensive backs will probably be a great move. The Seahawks do not have much proven depth at corner and might honestly be looking for a starter across from Shaquill Griffin by this time next year. Wade has the size to work in that Seattle system.

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27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-1) – Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
It has been a really long time since we have seen the Buccaneers picking this late in the first round. While Tristan Wirfs seems set to start at right tackle this season with the potential to move to the left side later in his career, Tampa Bay could use some help on the interior of this line. For Tom Brady, and honestly for whoever comes after him, protection is essential. Davis is an athletic road grader who is more than comfortable blocking out in space as well. He would provide a huge boost for this run game and help give Brady all the time he needs to pick defenses apart.

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28. New Orleans Saints (14-1) – Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
The Saints have been rotating through former Giants corners trying to find someone to start across from Marshon Lattimore. With only four selections in the 2020 draft, there was no chance to find a young corner to develop either. New Orleans needs an infusion of young talent at the position. Paulson Adebo is a big, physical corner that most teams in the Pac-12 don’t even bother throwing at any more. Part of that is because they are afraid of Adebo and the other part is because the rest of Stanford’s secondary was brutal in 2019. Had it not been for an injury, I think Adebo would have come out this year and likely gone in the second round. He would give the Saints a much more reliable number two corner.

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29. Dallas Cowboys (13-1) – Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami
Dallas crushed the 2020 draft, probably producing the best class on paper in the league. This team is set up well to compete into the future, but there are still some areas for improvement. Blake Jarwin is a solid tight end, but far from an elite option. Brevin Jordan is an athletic player who can make plays in space. He isn’t used too much as a blocker, but regularly chips pass rushers. When he is used as a blocker, it is usually just for him to eventually release out into the flat on a delayed route. I think he would give the Cowboys a playmaker across the middle of the field.

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30. Baltimore Ravens (8-1) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Baltimore is another team that pulled in a strong draft class. They landed some great pass catchers this year, but I think the team will have a tough time passing up on another speedy playmaker. DeVonta Smith would help with that. He is small, but incredible fast. It’s not his height (6’1″) that worries about his ability to translate, it’s his frame. He only weighs 175 pounds. I wonder if he would be able to withstand the punishment handed out by some of the harder hitting defensive backs in the league. If he can add about 10 pounds while not sacrificing too much speed, I think Smith will find himself going in the top 20 come next April.

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31. San Francisco 49ers (8-1) – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
After making a Super Bowl run, the 49ers seemed primed for another deep postseason push. With some new additions to the receiving corps and Deforest Buckner’s replacement already on board, San Francisco can afford to target a game-breaking running back. Etienne has incredible speed and elusiveness. He has shown some signs of development as a receiver. If he can do that more in 2019, he will have a shot to be the first running back selected. He would pair really nicely with Raheem Mostert and after trading away Matt Breida, I think the Niners will be interesting in adding to their backfield.

Chiefs Logo32. Kansas City Chiefs (4-1) – Trey Smith, OL, Tennessee
The reigning champs seem poised to defend their title. Brett Veach added a new running back to the mix and found some much-needed help for the secondary. While the Chiefs have some depth at the tackle spots, they could use some new talent on the interior of their offensive line. They have to protect the quarterback they are going to pay after all. Trey Smith has battled through blood clots in his lungs. When he is on the field, he is an All-American caliber guard. He was actually ESPN’s top-rated recruit back in 2017. If he can stay on the field this season, he has a chance to go even earlier than this in the draft.

2020 NFL Mock Draft: Post Free-Agency Mock with Trades

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.

Projected Trades:

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

For more NFL Draft coverage, check out the Aftermath’s NFL Draft Podcast, with new episodes every Thursday.

2020 NFL Mock Draft: Post-combine mock with trades

With the combine officially over, it’s time for another mock draft. Let’s make this one a fun and chaotic one. For the first time in preparing for the 2020 draft, I am allowing trades! I am also predicting a couple of the big time free agent decisions for this offseason to help guide some of the decision making here. Before we dive into the mock itself, let’s review a couple of the biggest moves and all the trades.

Projected free agent signings:

Colts sign Jadeveon Clowney

Chargers sign Teddy Bridgewater

Patriots sign Tom Brady, Amari Cooper

Buccaneers sign Philip Rivers, Jack Conklin, tag Shaq Barrett

Projected Trades:

Dolphins send 1.5 and 1.26 to Lions for 1.3

Colts trade 1.13, 2.44 and 2021 first to Giants for 1.4 and 6.164

Buccaneers send 1.14, 3.76, 2021 first and 2021 fourth to Chargers for 1.6

Giants send 1.13, 2.44 to Cardinals for 1.8

Chargers trade 2.37 and 4.109 and 2021 fourth (from TB) to Titans for 1.29

Eagles trade 2.53, 3.85, 4.124 and 5.168 to 49ers for 1.31 and 6.210

Chiefs tag and trade Chris Jones to Seattle 2.59

Ravens tag and trade Matt Judon to Detroit for 3.67

Lions trade Darius Slay to Broncos for 3.77

Bengals tag and trade A.J. Green to Raiders for 3.91

This is obviously far from an exact science, but it helps guide the discussion a little bit and certainly makes for a very interesting mock draft. With tons of movement coming in draft stock for players following the combine, let’s get into this wild mock draft!

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1. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Don’t overthink this one, Cincinnati needs a franchise quarterback to build around. Burrow has great pocket mobility, a strong enough arm and none of the injury questions facing Tua Tagovailoa.

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2. Washington – Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
There is a bit of buzz about the potential Washington will target Tagovailoa, but Young is the safer bet. He becomes a headache opposing offenses right away. Ron Rivera would love to get that type of player.

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3. Miami Dolphins via Detroit Lions – Tua Tagovailoa, QB Alabama
First trade of the draft here. Miami needs to find its quarterback of the future and Tagovailoa should be an excellent option. He needs to answer those injury concerns, but he comes into a great situation to sit behind Ryan Fitzpatrick for a year before he takes over as starter. Sending the 26th pick in the draft ensures the Dolphins get their guy.

Colts logo4. Indianapolis Colts via New York Giants – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The Giants said they are open to trading down. That is an opening the Colts should pounce on. With lots of draft capital to work with, Indy can send a pair of first round picks and it second second rounder of the year to New York to sign its quarterback of the future. Herbert showed out at both the Senior Bowl and combine. I think he should be locked in as the third quarterback taken.

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5. Detroit Lions via Miami Dolphins – Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Okudah fills a huge need and is the best player available. His closing speed is impressive and he can fit into either a man or zone scheme. Especially with Darius Slay getting traded in this scenario, the Lions would be wise to find his potential replacement. Detroit drops two spots, lands pick 26 and still gets their guy.

Buccaneers logo6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers via Los Angeles Chargers – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Tampa Bay might have signed a veteran quarterback in Philip Rivers, but that is a short-term fix. Love could be the future at the position. He has a strong arm and Bruce Arians will be determined to bring out his 2018 form, when he had a better supporting cast. With Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Love should have plenty of talent to work with.

Panthers logo7. Carolina Panthers – Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson
Luke Keuchley retired, perhaps a bit earlier than most expected. As it turns out, Carolina has the best linebacker in the class fall into its lap. Now Simmons is not a perfect replacement for Keuchley, but he has the same nose for the football. He would be a difference maker Matt Rhule can build his defense around.

Giants Logo8. New York Giants via Arizona Cardinals – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Let’s get weird and have the Giants start wheeling and dealing. Unlikely with Dave Gettleman calling the shots, but one can pretend. Not wanting to miss out on the top tackles in the class, New York can send the second round pick it got from Indianapolis to Arizona to land their favorite of the group. I expect it will be Wills, who faced great competition and has the movement skills to be a starting left tackle.

Jaguars logo9. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Jacksonville has a lot of questions to answer this offseason. If they can hang on to their top free agents, they can target a player to help Gardner Minshew. Jeudy would complete a solid receiver core with D.J. Chark and Chris Conley. He is dynamic and about as polished as it gets when it comes to route running.

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10. Cleveland Browns – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Protecting Baker Mayfield is the top priority for this team. I think Cleveland will fall in love with the upside Mekhi Becton brings to the table. He is very raw, but his physical skills are incredible given his size. It might take him a year or so to get fully acclimated, but he has the potential to be one of the best tackles in the league with the right coaching.

Jets logo11. New York Jets – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
The run on tackles should continue with the Jets picking at 11. They have made it no secret they want to rebuild this offensive line in front of Sam Darnold. Wirfs is a powerful prospect who could start in a couple different positions. He has the size and mobility to play tackle, which makes him worth taking here. He should also also help Le’Veon Bell be a bit more effective.

Raiders logo12. Las Vegas Raiders – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
I really debated the Raiders going after Jordan Love here or getting aggressive and trading up for Isaiah Simmons. Instead, Vegas should stand pat and let the draft come to them. Nabbing CeeDee Lamb gives them a dynamic playmaker on the outside that should open up the offense a lot more for Derek Carr.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)13. Arizona Cardinals via New York Giants Indianapolis Colts – Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
Arizona pulls a savvy move here by trading down and landing a player I thought they might take at number eight. The interior of the Cardinals defensive line was awful in 2019. Javon Kinlaw has flashed incredible pass rushing ability and dominated at Senior Bowl week. I think he should make an immediate impact.

Chargers logo14. Los Angeles Chargers via Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Los Angeles adds a ton of draft capital by moving down and still manages to land one of the top tackle prospects. Thomas is a proven run blocker who struggles occassionally with speed rushers. He should be able to develop into a solid starter on the left side of the line. Thomas will be tasked with keeping Teddy Bridgewater upright.

Denver_Broncos15. Denver Broncos – Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
Courtland Sutton and Henry Ruggs would form a formidable duo for Drew Lock to work with. His speed in off the charts and he showed it by running a 4.27 40 at the combine, but he brings more than that to the table. He needs to develop his route running, but he should make an instant impact.

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16. Atlanta Falcons – Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
While Atlanta needs an edge rusher, I don’t think K’Lavon Chaisson fits this defense or is as well-rounded as some in the draft community. Brown could step in next to Grady Jarrett and create a huge strength on that defense. He moves really well for his size and could develop into a solid interior pass rusher.

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17. Dallas Cowboys – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Receiver, really? I think so. My guess is Dallas will franchise tag Dak Prescott and lock up Byron Jones to a big deal. That could leave Amari Cooper on the open market, where the Cowboys could get priced out. Instead, Jerry Jones can find an immediate replacement with tons of big-game experience and impressive physical tools in Jefferson.

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18. Miami Dolphins – K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
I personally think Chaisson has a long way to go as a run defender, but he has the chops to be a solid pass rusher. He is a bit undersized, but he is explosive and brings the physical tools scouts want to see. After finishing last in the league in sacks last season, this is a no-brainer for Miami.

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19. Las Vegas Raiders via Chicago Bears – Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
In the 2019 draft, the Raiders stocked up on Clemson players. I could see them doubling up on Oklahoma standouts in 2020. Murray gives Las Vegas some much needed speed along the middle of that defense. He diagnoses plays well and is an effective tackler.

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20. Jacksonville Jaguars via Los Angeles Rams – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Telvin Smith is not coming back. Queen can step in to fill that void. He has a nose for the football and should be a three-down contributor from the moment he arrives in Jacksonville. There is no denying his big-game experience either after winning a national championship. This Jaguars roster looks a lot better with him and Jeudy.

Eagles Logo

21. Philadelphia Eagles – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
While fans may be clamoring for a receiver, there are going to be a lot of talented ones available in the second round. Instead, Philly should look to patch a woeful secondary. Xavier McKinney has enough speed to be effective in coverage, but he is truly special making plays downhill. He tackles well and takes good angles to make plays in space.

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22. Buffalo Bills – Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
Everyone wanted to see Higgins run at the NFL combine. We will have to wait for Clemson’s pro day, but he is a great fit in Buffalo. With solid possession receivers in Cole Beasley and John Brown, Higgins’ big play ability and size would make him an excellent complement. Josh Allen will love working with a player that has Higgins’ catch radius.

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23. New England Patriots – Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
I expect Tom Brady back in New England. I also expect the Patriots to be aggressive in finding a receiver in free agency, landing Amari Cooper. That means New England can turn its attention to other needs. With no tight ends worth going in the first round, the Patriots tab Gross-Matos, who has a good motor and solid pass rush moves. He would immediately become a situational rusher in this defense.

Saints logo24. New Orleans Saints – Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
Laviska Shenault will have to undergo surgery, but I think his tape should keep in the first round. He is quick, athletic and reliable. Colorado did all sorts of things to get the ball in his hands. He would be able to line up across from Michael Thomas right away and hopefully give Drew Brees another dependable target.

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25. Minnesota Vikings – CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
After a tough season from its secondary, Minnesota should look to add another corner to its defensive backfield. Henderson had a great combine and should, hopefully, put injury concerns behind him. He was a bit inconsistent this year, but he has all the measurables. Give him a year with Mike Zimmer and he could be a great starting option.

Lions Logo26. Detroit Lions via Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans – A.J. Epenesa, DL, Iowa
Epenesa’s combine numbers solidified him as an interior lineman. He clearly does not have the necessary speed to play on the outside. He still has the size and strength to be a 4-3 defensive tackle or maybe even a 3-4 defensive end. He can still rush the passer, but Detroit would definitely be lining him up inside. After cutting Damon Harrison, the Lions definitely have a need there.

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27. Seattle Seahawks – Josh Jones, OT, Houston
Seattle could head in a few directions here, but I think bolstering the offensive line in front of Russell Wilson makes the most sense. Jones has been generating buzz since showing up big time at the Senior Bowl. He is a bit unrefined despite being a redshirt senior. I could see him growing into Wilson’s blindside protector down the line.

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28. Baltimore Ravens – Zach Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Now Baun is not a pure edge rusher, at least not anymore. He worked out as an off-ball linebacker at the Senior Bowl and thrived in the role. His versatility and speed should intrigue the Ravens. With Matt Judon gone, potentially along with Patrick Onwuasor as well, Baun fills a major need.

Chargers logo29. Los Angeles Chargers via Tennessee Titans – J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
After signing Bridgewater and drafting Thomas, Los Angeles needs to retool its offense around them. With Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler both slated for free agency, getting a young running back with game-breaking speed is a must. While the league values the position less than ever, spending a first round pick on a back gives the Chargers an extra year of control. Dobbins should give LA an exciting back to rely on.

Packers logo

30. Green Bay Packers – Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
Peoples-Jones had very pedestrian numbers in college playing at Michigan. I think that can mostly be blamed on the system and the quarterbac.  (Sorry Shea Patterson fans.) However, he put up some eye-popping numbers at the combine. Peoples-Jones the best vertical of any participant by 2.5 inches and ran a 4.48 40, which matched Jerry Juedy. If anyone can capitalize on that physical ability, it will be Aaron Rodgers.

49ers Logo

31. Philadelphia Eagles via San Francisco 49ers – Michael Pittman, WR, USC
Pittman had an excellent combine that went a bit under the radar. He does not have the same blazing speed as Henry Ruggs, but he ran a 4.52 40 which is really impressive at 6’4″, 223 pounds. He also finished top four in both the three cone and 20-yard shuttle. Across the board, he posted better numbers than a former USC standout by the name of Juju Smith-Schuster. He would give Carson Wentz a huge upgrade on the outside. San Francisco is lacking draft picks and all too happy to pick up a bounty of picks to move out of the first round.

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32. Kansas City Chiefs – Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
It feels good to be on top. In order to stay there, Kansas City will need to rebuild its cornerback room. Kendall Fuller, Bashaud Breeland and Morris Claiborne are all free agents. Hall missed the second half of the season with an ankle injury, but looked the part of a shutdown corner prior to that. He has the size and speed to turn into a starter in the next few seasons.

For more NFL Draft coverage, check out the Aftermath’s NFL Draft Podcast, with new episodes every Thursday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFL Draft Podcast – NFC Free Agency Primer and Draft Implications

In this week’s episode, Chris breaks down the key free agents for every NFC team and discusses how these crucial decisions will impact the draft strategy for each franchise. Dallas dominates the NFC East conversation with its trio of high-impact free agents, but New York, Washington and Philadelphia have a couple of notable players no longer under contract. Pretty much every team other than the Falcons has questions at quarterback in the NFC South. The Saints, Panthers and Buccaneers all could have new starters in 2020. Most of the NFC West teams have a few important players that could hit the open market. Chicago has very few notable free agents, but will likely be aggressive anyway. Green Bay, Minnesota and Detroit have several players they will be focused on bringing back. Catch up on all the major pending free agents ahead of the scouting combine! Listen to the latest episode now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
https://anchor.fm/theaftermath

NFL Draft Podcast – Senior Bowl Recap

After a week off, I am back breaking down all things NFL draft. With the Senior Bowl and Super Bowl behind us, draft season is officially underway. It time to recap the week in Mobile and discuss who helped their draft stock and who could have had a better week. Plus, a little preview of some future episode topics. Listen to the latest episode now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. https://anchor.fm/theaftermath