Way-too-early 2021 NFL Power Rankings

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.

Chiefs Logo

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.

Buccaneers logo

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.

Bills logo

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.

Packers logo

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.

Ravens logo

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Titans logo

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.

49ers Logo

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.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)

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.

Colts logo

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.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo

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.

Saints logo

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.

Cowboys logo

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.

Vikings logo

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.

Panthers logo

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.

Patriots Logo

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.

Giants Logo

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.

Bears logo

22. Chicago Bears
2020 record: 8-8
Key free agents: WR Allen Robinson, QB Mitchell Trubisky, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, 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.

Washington made up logo

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.

Raiders logo

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.

Denver_Broncos

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.

Falcons logo

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.

Eagles Logo

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?

Bengals Logo

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.

Texans logo

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.

Jaguars logo

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.

Jets logo

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.

Lions Logo

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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8 teams that should sign Colin Kaepernick

If the 2019 NFL season taught us anything, it’s that there are a lot of teams who have neglected the backup quarterback position. The teams that sufficiently addressed it (Kansas City, Tennessee) weathered the storm when their starter was ineffective or hurt. Meanwhile, teams that clearly had no real succession plan (Detroit, New York Jets) saw their seasons unravel with sudden, er, absences at the position. Does mononucleosis count as an injury?

 

colin-kaepernick
Kaepernick has been out of the NFL since 2016 after he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality in America. (Wikimedia Commons)

Finding a backup quarterback is important and there aren’t many players more qualified for the job than Colin Kaepernick. With the NFL admitting it mishandled the national anthem protests in 2016 and commissioner Roger Goodell even going as far as encouraging teams to sign Kaepernick, the door finally seems to be for the former 49ers quarterback to return to the league. Sure, he has been out of the league for a few years, but Kaepernick has the experience and talent to be a spot starter.

Don’t believe me? Let’s compare Kapernick to the league’s average backup quarterback. I compiled every backup quarterback’s stats into this Google Sheet.

On average, the NFL backup completes around 61.1 percent of his passes and averages roughly 6.95 yards per attempt. Additionally, they throw a touchdown on 3.8 percent of their throws while 2.7 percent of their attempts result in an interception. The average backup also has a career winning percentage of 46 percent in the regular season. These numbers look much worse if you remove some of the long-time former starters currently in backup roles like Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub. 

Kaepernick by comparison completed 59.8 percent of his passes for an average of 7.3 yards per attempt. He threw a touchdown on 4.3 percent of his passes and an interception on just 1.8 percent of them. His career regular season win percentage sits at 48 percent. Additionally, Kaepernick has playoff experience, including a Super Bowl appearance. Flacco and Nick Foles are the only current backup quarterbacks who have started a Super Bowl.

The biggest knock anyone could possibly have on Kaepernick is his ability to hold onto the ball. He averaged almost eight fumbles per season over his five years as a mostly full-time starter.

If you want to put a label on what Kaepernick represents to the NFL right now in terms of position value, it is a high-end backup. Those averages, which he mostly matches or beats, don’t factor in his running ability either. His mobility is a plus for any team evaluating him. 

Without a doubt, Kap could still cut it in the NFL. Let me make this clear though. I don’t think Kaepernick has what it takes to be a starter in this league anymore. He is 32 and has some mechanical flaws he is not going to fix now. However, he is still good enough to win a game if his number is called. From his workout in 2019, he clearly still has the arm strength and the zip on his throws to make plays. Kaepernick should be no team’s first option, but there are much worse plan B’s. Here are the eight teams that should consider signing Kaepernick for the 2020 season.

Denver_BroncosDenver Broncos
With Drew Lock sufficiently entrenched as the starter for the Broncos, this could be an ideal situation for Kaepernick to work his way back into the league. Denver’s current quarterback room outside of Lock includes Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien and Neal Riley. Driskel is far from a reliable backup having struggled in stints filling in for Andy Dalton and Matthew Stafford over the past two seasons. He is 1-7 as a starter and has completed under 60 percent of his passes in his career. It helps that Denver’s current running backs coach Curtis Modkins was the 49ers offensive coordinator during Kaepernick’s final season in San Francisco.

Titans logoTennessee Titans
Few teams had a better quarterback situation last year than the Titans. When Marcus Mariota proved to be ineffective as the starter, Ryan Tannehill came in and worked wonders all the way to the AFC Championship game. With Mariota now in Las Vegas, Tennessee is left with Logan Woodside and undrafted rookie Cole McDonald on the roster. Neither one of them has attempted an NFL pass. The front office made a wise move last year to find a stable backup plan. Kaepernick would give the Titans the same assurances that Tannehill provided for them last year.

Bengals LogoCincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow is undoubtedly the future in Cincinnati, but with Andy Dalton now in Dallas, the solution to a Burrow injury is unclear. Ryan Finley tanked in two appearances last season. Jake Dolegala is a fellow second year player who did attempt a pass last season. If Burrow were to go down, there is no one reliable to step in for the Bengals at quarterback. My biggest hang up with Kaepernick joining Cincinnati is I think they need someone who can start this season to ease Burrow into the NFL. I’m not sure Kaepernick quite fits the bill after so much time off.

Patriots Logo

New England Patriots
The Patriots have clearly latched their wagon to the Jarrett Stidham train. I’m not sold on him as the long term answer after only four career passes, but the rest of the quarterback situation in New England is nothing to trust either. Brian Hoyer is back for another stint, but the Pats actually cut Hoyer last season after the preseason, and he struggled in relief of Jacoby Brissett after signing with the Colts. New England’s other two options at the position are Brian Lewerke and J’Mar Smith, two undrafted free agents from the 2020 class. Rumor has it the team is interested Cam Newton, but Kaepernick could also make a ton of sense.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)

Arizona Cardinals
No one will be replacing Kyler Murray any time soon. However, when you have a mobile quarterback, particularly one with as slight of a build as Murray, there is always the risk of an injury arising. Arizona’s current backup plan is Brett Hundley. He has more interceptions than touchdowns in his career and a completion percentage south of 60. The only other options on the roster include Drew Anderson and Chris Streveler, both of whom have never attempted an NFL pass. Kaepernick has a similar play style to Murray, even if he cannot replicate the level of production. I could see him being a good fit in Kliff Kingsbury’s modified Air Raid system.

Los Angeles Rams logoLos Angeles Rams
Who is currently backing up Jared Goff? John Wolford, Bryce Perkins and Josh Love are all undrafted free agents L.A. signed over the past two years. None of them have taken an NFL snap. Goff might be one of the least sacked quarterbacks in the league, but the Rams certainly need a better replacement plan if he were to get hurt. Kaepernick might not be the most seamless fit in the Rams system given his struggles as a play-action passer, but I trust Sean McVay to find some creative uses for his arm and legs. Even four years removed from football, he would provide a much more reliable solution if Goff were to suffer an injury. 

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Seattle Seahawks
Don’t even begin to argue with me that Kaepernick would not be an upgrade over Geno Smith as a backup quarterback. As a Jets fan, I watched him struggle wildly to perform on a consistent basis and regularly commit back-breaking errors in important moments. Luckily for Seattle, Russell Wilson is one of the most durable quarterbacks in the league. Still, finding a better replacement than Smith would be smart. Pete Carroll has been open in his support of Kaepernick, admitting he regrets not signing him previously. The team met with Kap prior to the 2017 season. His ability to extend plays with his legs is not on the same level as Wilson, but he could help Seattle avoid a massive fall off if Wilson were to go down injured. 

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Baltimore Ravens
This last one is less about the team’s need at the position and more about the offensive scheme. Baltimore has the league’s reigning MVP in Lamar Jackson. Though Jackson has proven to be durable and smart about avoiding unnecessary hits, they have a clear backup plan in Robert Griffin III. They even have two young, dual-threat college quarterbacks on the roster behind RGIII. Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley are definitely both project players, but this has the feel of a very sound quarterback room. However, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman was the offensive coordinator for the 49ers while Kaepernick dazzled the football world with two deep playoff runs. I’m not saying Roman would be able rekindle that kind of magic, but given what Jackson has been able to do in this system, I think Kaepernick could find some level of success in a backup role. 

2020 NFL Draft takeaways: Who crushed it and who missed out?

Draft weekend has officially come to a close. It will go down as the most memorable in history for a laundry list of reasons, starting with Roger Goodell’s ever-changing wardrobe and incredibly comfy chair. 255 players heard their names called and 50 or more so players have signed on as undrafted free agents. I think it way too early to start handing out grades on draft classes. It takes about five years to be able to begin appropriately evaluating how teams did.

That being said, I think we can start handing out some winners and losers tags. Balancing filling team needs with taking the best player available. Some teams did that really well. Others, not so much. Here are the teams that crushed the draft and the teams that could have fared better.

Winners:

Cowboys logoDallas Cowboys
Biggest impact: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma (17th overall)
Best value: Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah (179th overall)
I think it would be hard to qualify the Cowboys as anything other than the winners of this draft. They landed a top-10 talent in CeeDee Lamb at 17, then filled a major need at great value with Trevon Diggs in the second round. Dallas filled another need with Neville Gallimore, who slid into the third. Reggie Robinson is an interesting smaller school prospect to develop with decent size and speed. Tyler Biadasz has the potential to be a starter this season, which is great to find at the end of the fourth round. Travis Fredrick retired this offseason, so that was a huge hole to fill. I had a second-round grade on Bradlee Anae as well, who fell into the fifth. Taking a flier on a developmental quarterback in the seventh is never a bad idea either. Everyone other than Ben DiNucci has the potential to contribute this year. I think the Cowboys scored a really good core to develop.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)Arizona Cardinals
Biggest impact: Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson (8th overall)
Best value: Josh Jones, OT, Houston (72nd overall)
Arizona didn’t overthink things with Isaiah Simmons on the board. It definitely wasn’t their biggest need, but he is an incredible defensive playmaker. The Cardinals had no second-round pick because of the DeAndre Hopkins trade. However, all 32 teams would take Hopkins in the second round in a heartbeat. Josh Jones was one of the biggest steals of the draft. His drop to the third round was stunning. Leki Fotu and Rashad Lawrence help beef up the interior of the defensive line. Evan Weaver will contribute on special teams right away and provides solid depth at linebacker. Nabbing local kid Eno Benjamin in the seventh round was another impressive move to work into the backfield rotation. In two years, this roster has been thoroughly turned over.

Bengals LogoCincinnati Bengals
Biggest impact: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU (1st overall)
Best value: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson (33rd overall)
Sure they had it easy picking up Joe Burrow, but the Bengals filled some big needs and found solid value down the line. Tee Higgins probably should have gone in the first round and gives Burrow a huge target to grow with. Logan Wilson is quick cover linebacker and no team in the league needed help at the position more than Cincinnati. Akeem Davis-Gaither is a similar player to Wilson, but that isn’t bad thing given how much talent the group lacked. Khalid Kareem should be a rotational player up front capable of eating up plenty of defensive snaps. Hakeem Adeniji is a developmental tackle to work with and Markus Bailey is worth a flier in the seventh. He has some major history, but when healthy, he could be a starting caliber NFL player. There will be a learning curve as the Bengals continue to rebuild, but they have some solid pieces in place now.

Vikings logoMinnesota Vikings
Biggest impact: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU (31st overall)
Best value: Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State (255 overall)
Minnesota let the board come to them, traded back well and reloaded at some key positions. Having Justin Jefferson fall to them was a bit of luck, but trading back and still taking Jeff Gladney was a very skillful move. Ezra Cleveland is a tackle prospect worth developing. He might not be totally pro ready, but he is a future starter. Cameron Dantzler, D.J. Wonnum, James Lynch and Troy Dye are all high-upside players who can provide depth right away. Harrison Hand is an intriguing option on the back end as well. I thought K.J. Osborn was a reach, especially given the other receivers on the board. Kenny Willekes and Josh Metellus were very productive starters in college and well worth kicking the tires on in the later rounds. It wasn’t a very sexy draft for the Vikings, but this sets them up well for this season and beyond.

Ravens logoBaltimore Ravens
Biggest impact: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU (28th overall)
Best value: James Proche, WR, SMU (201st overall)
Very few teams draft as consistently well as the Ravens. Patrick Queen is a perfect fit in a massive position of need and J.K. Dobbins adds another dynamic player to potentially the scariest backfield in football. Devin Duvernay and James Proche are instant impact players at receivers that should work well with Lamar Jackson. Justin Mandubuike is a solid prospect to work with on the defensive line and could eventually take over for the 31-year-old Brandon Williams. Malik Harrison plays downhill and could become an extremely disruptive player in a few years. Tyree Phillips and Ben Bredeson offer offensive line depth too. Geno Stone isn’t a flashy player, but he was really good value in the seventh round. Give Eric DeCosta a lot of credit. This has the makings of a very good class that sets them up really well for the future.

Buccaneers logoTampa Bay Buccaneers
Biggest impact: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa (13th overall)
Best value: Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota (161st overall)
When filling needs meets finding great value, you tend to have a solid draft. Tristan Wirfs is the perfect player to anchor the right side of the line for Tom Brady. Antoine Winfield Jr. is a ballhawking playmaker who should add some explosiveness to an underrated secondary. Ke’Shawn Vaughn provides another dimension to a Buccaneers backfield that has really struggled in recent years. Tyler Johnson provides great depth at receiver after a stellar career at Minnesota. This team got better at important positions and positioned themselves well to compete this year. I don’t need to explain how important that is with a 44-year-old quarterback.

Losers: 

Eagles LogoPhiladelphia Eagles
Biggest surprise: Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma (53rd overall)
Biggest reach: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU (21st overall)
Now some of this is personal preference, bordering on being a premature grade, but I was not a huge fan of the decisions the Eagles made in this draft. Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson drew a lot of scrutiny and rightfully so. That was one of the biggest surprises of the first round. Philadelphia then had the biggest surprise of round two by taking Jalen Hurts. Carson Wentz has an injury history, but this team was desperate for receivers, corners and linebackers. Finding a sub-package quarterback given the other holes on this roster is questionable at best. Davion Taylor and K’Von Wallace are solid mid-round picks. The Eagles did eventually find receiver depth in John Hightower and Quez Watkins in addition to trading for Marquise Goodwin. They might have also found a steal in Prince Tega Wanogho. Not taking a corner was a big miss though and waiting until the late third round to take a defensive player could cost Philly in the short term.

Packers logoGreen Bay Packers
Biggest surprise: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State (26th overall)
Biggest reach: A.J. Dillon, RB, Boston College (62nd overall)
No team’s draft confused me more than the Packers. Coming off an NFC championship appearance, it was clear Green Bay needed some more reliable receivers and an injection of talent at linebacker. Instead, the Packers traded up to take a project quarterback, despite having one of the best passers in the league. Then they drafted a running back in the second round despite having Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams already on the roster. Josiah Deguara and Kamal Martin finally hit on some needs and Green Bay built a lot of offensive line depth in the later rounds. The fact that the front office didn’t draft a single receiver is shocking. In what was the deepest receiver draft in at least a decade, not finding more options for Aaron Rodgers to work with borders on malpractice in football. This was a perplexing approaching by Brian Gutekunst.

Seahawks logoSeattle Seahawks
Biggest surprise: Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech (27th overall)
Biggest reach: Damien Lewis, G, LSU (69th overall)
Seattle stayed true to form, reaching in the first round before taking some high-upside prospects to develop later in the draft. Jordyn Brooks is an enticing player, but I had an early third-round grade on him. I think Darrell Taylor could be a good get for the Seahawks, but they reached on Damien Lewis in the third in an attempt to find some more protection for Russell Wilson. I like Alton Robinson in the fifth round, but Freddie Swain came from off the radar with much better prospects on the board. At least Colby Parkinson and DeeJay Dallas should be solid roll players as rookies.

Bears logoChicago Bears
Biggest surprise: Darnell Mooney, WR, Tulane (173rd overall)
Biggest reach: Mooney
It is amazing how different the league feels about the Khalil Mack trade two years later. Given the amount of cap space he takes up and draft capital it took to acquire him, Chicago probably would’ve been better off without the pass rusher. Given that the Bears were already down a first round draft pick, the team decided to take their 10th tight end. Their second pick of the round was much better in Jaylon Johnson at a big position of need. Darnell Mooney was another example of a team passing on better prospects at the position. Kindle Vildor is a really solid add in the fifth, but I can’t get behind waiting to find offensive line help until the seventh round. Chicago just does not seem like it had a great plan in place entering the draft.

Washington made up logoWashington
Biggest surprise: Antonio Gibson, RB, Memphis (66th overall)
Biggest reach: Gibson
It is hard to put Washington in this category after landing a star edge player in Chase Young. However, they didn’t have a great draft after that. With Adrian Peterson, Bryce Love, Derrius Guice and Peyton Barber on the roster, taking a third-down back is a questionable move alone. I didn’t think Antonio Gibson was worth going before the fifth round either. Josh Jones was on the board there, which would have been a great get after not getting a ton in return for Trent Williams. I don’t think Saadiq Charles will be able to fill that void in year one either. There took a couple of fliers on players from big-name programs that often got lost in the shuffle at their respective school. Ron Rivera is a great coach, but I don’t think this set him up super well for success in his first season.

Patriots LogoNew England Patriots
Biggest surprise: Dalton Keene, TE, Virginia Tech (101st overall)
Biggest impact: Justin Rohrwasser, K, Marshall (159th overall)
Dare I put them in this category??? New England is often playing chess while the rest of the league is playing checkers. This year, it felt like the Patriots were trying too hard to out think the rest of the league. Kyle Dugger is raw, but if anyone can get the most of out his skills, it will be Bill Belichick. Josh Uche should also be a solid situational rusher as well. The Pats overdrafted two tight ends and then spent a fifth-round pick on a kicker that it seemed like no one else was even thinking about drafting. Failing to select a quarterback to develop as part of this class is a little surprising as well. I never thought Belichick would be aggressive in finding a passer, but ignoring the position all together seems like a mistake. You know that Dustin Woodard will be a Pro Bowler within two years though undrafted free agent will turn into Jarrett Stidham’s equivalent of Julian Edelman making me look like a fool for ever suggesting they had a bad draft.

Final 2020 NFL Mock Draft: Three-round mock ahead of draft night!

Welcome to draft day 2020! I am beyond excited to watch the first round unfold tonight. To warp up our run of draft week content, which has included redrafting the first round of the 2015 draft, the whole Aftermath crew’s fifth annual roundtable mock draft, and my top 150 prospects and positional rankings, it is time for my final mock draft of the season.

While some might be determined to predict how the draft will actually happen, I know I am not going to come anywhere close to that. There are too many trades and personal preferences for teams for me to ever manage to accurately predict the draft. So instead, this is what I think SHOULD happen on Thursday and Friday. I poured hours into my final, three-round mock for the 2020 class. There are sure to be some surprises and I know some fans will be furious their favorite team opted to select one player when that other, clearly much better, prospect was still on the board. Much like NFL teams, I have my own preferences on the players in this draft class, which is what makes mock drafts so unique.

If you want to hear me rambling about all of this draft stuff on a podcast, check out For the Love of Sports with Michael Rasile. (Warning: it is really long!) I joined his show for a draft special, which was a ton of fun. I talked through each pick in the first round with him and discussed some larger themes of this draft as well. It’s a very deep dive into the draft, so if you want even more content than just this mock draft, check out that link.

With all of that being said, this is one of the most bizarre times in human history, not to mention the sports calendar. This is the closest thing we have to live sports right now, so just sit back and enjoy it for the next few days, because it might be a really long time before we see anything that resembles live sports for quite a while afterwards.

Bengals Logo1. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Seriously, do I really need to explain this one? I have actually stopped considering quarterback a need for the Bengals because I just assume this pick will be Joe Burrow.

Washington made up logo2. Washington – Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
There is some late rumblings that Atlanta and a few other teams are interesting in trading up to grab Chase Young. Assuming Washington stays at number two, this should be the pick. Young has the ability to completely change a defense. Think Nick Bosa-type impact, but even better.

Lions Logo3. Detroit Lions – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Even before Detroit traded away Darius Slay, corner was a need for them. It also helps that Jeff Okudah is the best player left on my board. He has the tools to be a true shutdown defender. Expect them to make this pick at five or six though after someone trades up for a quarterback.

Giants Logo4. New York Giants – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Isaiah Simmons is certainly a possibility here. However, after investing an early pick in a quarterback, the Giants have a duty to protect him. Tristan Wirfs is pro ready, can play anywhere but center and has great potential. He is powerful and moves well for a man his size.

Dolphins logo5. Miami Dolphins – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Injuries are the main concern with Tua Tagovailoa, who has struggled to stay healthy in his two years as Alabama’s starter. All signs point to him checking out medically though and I think his potential is through the roof. He has incredible touch and gives Miami their franchise quarterback to build around.

Chargers logo6. Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
I know there is a lot of hate directed toward Justin Herbert. He is my 16th ranked prospect in this draft. Physically, he checks every box. However, Herbert had some frustrating decision making and bad habits that he developed during his senior season. If Los Angeles passes, he could end up sliding for a bit. I think the Chargers need to figure out their future at quarterback though, and Herbert is by far the best option here.

Panthers logo7. Carolina Panthers – Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson
Out goes Luke Keuchley and in comes Isaiah Simmons. It’s not a perfect swap in terms of play style, but from an impact point of view, this is a home run for Carolina. Simmons can step in as a leader of the defense right away and his ability to line up just about anywhere only increases his value.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)8. Arizona Cardinals – Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
Arizona could head in a lot of directions here. Adding DeAndre Hopkins and locking up D.J. Humphries I think lets the Cardinals focus on the defense. Javon Kinlaw has load of potential as an interior pass rusher. He would provide a massive injection of talent to that Arizona defensive line.

Jaguars logo9. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Jacksonville seems set to give the Gardner Minshew experience another year. To maximize the evaluation process, finding him an elite receiver to work with is going to be key. Jerry Jeudy is an incredible route runner with the athletic ability to be a top-end receiver in the NFL. Jacksonville can definitely go defense with its second pick of the first round. Don’t rule out a trade down here.

Browns logo10. Cleveland Browns – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Cleveland needs a pro-ready tackle who can start at left tackle. Enter Andrew Thomas. He is a great run blocker and fares well in pass protection as well. Having a more mobile quarterback than Jake Fromm should actually help him as well. He and Jack Conklin should completely reshape the Cleveland offensive line.

Jets logo11. New York Jets – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Receiver would certainly be tempting here. Sam Darnold has not had the best supporting cast through his first two seasons. However, he spent a lot of time running for his life in 2019 and that has to stop in 2020. Jedrick Wills spent most of his time in college at right tackle, but he was blocking Tua Tagovailoa’s blindside. I believe he can slot in on either side and help bring some stability to this unit.

Raiders logo12. Las Vegas Raiders – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Derek Carr has not had a true number one receiver since Amari Cooper left town. Tyrell Williams is injury prone and Hunter Renfrow is great in the slot, but they need an outside threat. CeeDee Lamb is a bit raw as a route runner, but he is physically dominant. He will make a lot of plays after the catch and add some playmaking as the franchise moves to Las Vegas.

49ers Logo13. San Francisco 49ers via Indianapolis Colts – Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
Emmanuel Sanders made a massive difference for this San Francisco offense upon arriving at the trade deadline. Now he is in New Orleans. Jimmy Garappolo needs someone other than Deebo Samuel to work with in this passing game. This run game is incredible as it is. Adding in a field stretching speed demon like Henry Ruggs would only open things up further. He is more complete than just being a deep threat. He would be fun to watch in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

Buccaneers logo14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Tom Brady, meet your new body guard. Mekhi Becton is about as imposing a figure as you could possibly find in this draft class. He has limitless potential given his blend of size and athleticism. However, he is a bit raw and will need some development before he is a reliable starting option. Starting him on the right side is an option as he learns the system and gets up to speed.

Denver_Broncos15. Denver Broncos – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Drew Lock could have a really fun supporting cast following the draft. Courtland Sutton, Justin Jefferson and DaeSean Hamilton would make a promising young group. Add in Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay and Noah Fant and this looks like a complete offense. Jefferson can play outside, but he was incredible in out of the slot last year.

Falcons logo16. Atlanta Falcons – Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
This is later than most expect Derrick Brown to go. I don’t think he has the pass rushing potential to justify going in the top 10. I think he fits well in this Falcons system as a run stuffer and space eater. He is not quite the size of a nose tackle, but he would pair really well with Grady Jarrett. Good luck running inside against that pair.

Cowboys logo17. Dallas Cowboys – K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
Robert Quinn had fantastic production in 2019, but quickly left for Chicago. Dallas needs someone to play across from DeMarcus Lawrence. I think he has a lot of room for development as a run defender and tackler. He brings impressive physical traits though and really excels at creating pressure. That is worth the pick.

Dolphins logo18. Miami Dolphins via Pittsburgh Steelers – Josh Jones, OT, Houston
If the Dolphins draft Tua Tagovailoa, they will need an offensive line to protect him. Josh Jones is a bit raw despite the fact that he is already 23, but he is powerful. He slides well in pass protection. He should be a massive upgrade on this line early on with room to improve.

Raiders logo19. Las Vegas Raiders via Chicago Bears – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
With their second pick of the first round, Las Vegas continues to rebuild their secondary. Pairing Xavier McKinney with Jonathan Abram would give the Raiders a great tandem to anchor the backend of their defense. McKinney is a physical, sure tackler who can slide down into the slot on occasion. He should help a unit that really struggled against tight ends last season.

Jaguars logo20. Jacksonville Jaguars via Los Angeles Rams – Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
There is a good chance that this will be local(ish) product CJ Henderson, but I am higher on Bryce Hall’s ability to develop into a starting corner. He missed the second half of the season with an ankle injury that kept him out for the predraft process as well. When he was healthy, he was the best corner in the ACC. He has the length and ball skills to play the position at a high level. This a massive need after the Jags shipped out Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye.

Eagles Logo21. Philadelphia Eagles – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Before the city flips out, I know the Eagles need a receiver, but with the early run at the position, I just can’t see the organization picking Tee Higgins. He would bring a similar skill set to Alshon Jeffrey and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Given the depth at the position, and the need for a linebacker, Philly tabs Patrick Queen instead. He brings the speed and coverage skills defensive coordinators will love. He will help fill the void left by Nigel Bradham.

Vikings logo22. Minnesota Vikings via Buffalo Bills – Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
With the pick acquired for Stefon Diggs, Minnesota will attempt to find his replacement. Tee Higgins is nothing like Diggs. He is a jump ball receiver with an elite catch radius and great ball location skills. Diggs was a crafty and savvy route running who could get open with ease. Higgins should provide a different element for the offense and hopefully find ways to be productive while he improves at generating separation.

Patriots Logo23. New England Patriots – Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
No quarterback here for the Patriots. There is some buzz that the organization really like Jarrett Stidham. Instead, New England should look to rebuild it’s depleted linebacking corp. Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts all skipped town. Kenneth Murray is the type of downhill hammer that could excel in this defense. He has to work on reading his keys, but that is something I think Bill Belichick can definitely teach him. His speed and tackling will make him an option to see playing time right away.

Saints logo24. New Orleans Saints – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
What is the succession plan at quarterback in New Orleans? Putting a first-round tenure on Taysom Hill in restricted free agency would indicate that the Saints view him as a potential solution, but I am not buying it. This would be the perfect situation for Jordan Love, who would get a chance to learn from one of the great quarterbacks in league history in Drew Brees. He would also get to work with a brilliant offensive mind in Sean Payton. Give Love the year to learn and he could be ready to lead this offense in 2021.

Vikings logo25. Minnesota Vikings – CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
After Xavier Rhodes, and Trae Waynes, and MacKenzie Alexander all found new homes, there isn’t really anyone left to play cornerback in Minnesota. They do have 2018 first-round pick Mike Hughes, but that’s not nearly enough. The Vikings can find some to start opposite him in CJ Henderson. Henderson was not as prolific in 2019 as he had been the season before, but he has the requisite size and speed to project well on the outside. It could be a bumpy start, but I imagine he will improve the longer he is in Mike Zimmer’s system.

Dolphins logo26. Miami Dolphins – Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
I really can’t imagine Miami will use all three of their first round selections. Whether they trade up or down remains to be seen. For now, let’s assume they hang onto these picks and look to find a pass rusher to add to the mix. Yetur Gross-Matos is high-motor player who leverages himself well in pass rushing situations. He is not a physical freak, but he has the tools to become a reliable edge rusher.

Seahawks logo27. Seattle Seahawks – A.J. Epenesa, DL, Iowa
Whether Jadeveon Clowney comes back or not, Seattle needs help along the defensive line. Malik McDowell failed to have much of an impact as a rookie, but if he makes progress in year two, he and A.J. Epenesa could be a fun pairing. Epenesa became something of a sack artist at Iowa, but after testing poorly at the combine, seems more like an interior defensive lineman. He seems like the player you can slide up and down the defensive line to confuse offenses. That should be a boon for a Seahawks team that really struggled to generate pressure last season.

Ravens logo28. Baltimore Ravens – Zach Baun, LB, Wisconsin
C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Patrick Onwuasor have all left over the past two offseasons. Matt Judon could be next as he is playing on the franchise tag this year. Finding some new talent to build around at linebacker feels like a priority. Zach Baun spent most of his Wisconsin career as an edge rusher, but scouts wanted to move him to linebacker at the Senior Bowl and he excelled. That flexibility is a nice bonus for a player who is strong and gritty in the trenches.

Titans logo29. Tennessee Titans – Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
It does not seem like the Titans have any interest in re-signing Logan Ryan, so it might be wise to draft his replacement. Jeff Gladney has a similar profile to Ryan. Both a bit undersized, but do a good job locating the ball in coverage and getting into the body of the receiver. I think Gladney has the chops to be a great number two option, but might struggle to become an elite shutdown corner. There is still a lot of value in finding a reliable cover man.

Packers logo30. Green Bay Packers – Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC
With so many receivers being discussed as possibilities at the end of the first round, this is my pick of the group. Michael Pittman reminds me a lot of Jordy Nelson and I think he would be a great fit for this Packers offense. He has the body type to win downfield, but he is not afraid to grind underneath as a possession receiver. He lacks elite speed, but still manages to generate separation. I think he will be a steal in this draft given that his draft stock is lower on most other big boards.

49ers Logo31. San Francisco 49ers – Cesar Ruiz, OL, Michigan
Coming off an impressive run to the Super Bowl, the 49ers can continue to build up in the trenches. Cesar Ruiz would be the future at center for this team. San Francisco relied on Ben Garland down the stretch after Weston Richburg went down with an injury. Ruiz could spent a year at guard before taking over at center for the long term. He would help keep Jimmy Garoppolo clean and work well with this powerful run game.

Chiefs Logo32. Kansas City Chiefs – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Even though they are the defending champs, the Chiefs have a few holes to fill. Trevon Diggs is an aggressive corner who could add some physicality to this secondary. Chavarius Ward and Diggs would form a fun young combo to develop over the next few years while Kansas City tries to capitalize on this title window.

 

Round 2

33. Cincinnati Bengals – Austin Jackson, OT, USC

34. Indianapolis Colts via Washington – Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

35. Detroit Lions – Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU

36. New York Giants – Matt Hennessy, OL, Temple

37. Los Angeles Chargers – Lucas Niang, OT, TCU

38. Carolina Panthers – Neville Gallimore, DL, Oklahoma

39. Miami Dolphins – J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

40. Houston Texans via Arizona Cardinals – Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn
41. Cleveland Browns – Grant Delpit, S, LSU

42. Jacksonville Jaguars – Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota

43. Chicago Bears via Las Vegas Raiders – Lloyd Cushenberry, OL, LSU

44. Indianapolis Colts – Josh Uche, EDGE, Michigan

45. Tampa Buccaneers – D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

46. Denver Broncos – Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah

47. Atlanta Falcons – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

48. New York Jets – Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

49. Pittsburgh Steelers – Tyler Biadasz, OL, Wisconsin

50. Chicago Bears – Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir Rhyne

51. Dallas Cowboys – Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois

52. Los Angeles Rams – Ben Bartch, OT, St. John (Minn.)

53. Philadelphia Eagles – Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame

54. Buffalo Bills – Curtis Weaver, EDGE, Boise State

55. Baltimore Ravens via Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots – John Simpson, G, Clemson

56. Miami Dolphins via New Orleans Saints – Ashtyn Davis, S, California

57. Los Angeles Rams via Houston Texans – Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah

58. Minnesota Vikings – Marlon Davidson, DL, Auburn

59. Seattle Seahawks – Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn

60. Baltimore Ravens – Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado

61. Tennessee Titans – Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame

62. Green Bay Packers – Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame

63. Kansas City Chiefs via San Francisco 49ers – Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU

64. Seattle Seahawks via Kansas City Chiefs – Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

 

Round 3

65. Cincinnati Bengals – Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech

66. Washington – Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton

67. Detroit Lions – Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State

68. New York Jets via New York Giants – A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

69. Carolina Panthers – Troy Pride, CB, Notre Dame

70. Miami Dolphins – Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan

71. Los Angeles Chargers – Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State

72. Arizona Cardinals – Robert Hunt, OL, Lousiana

73. Jacksonville Jaguars – Justin Mandubuike, DL, Texas A&M

74. Cleveland Browns – Troy Dye, LB, Oregon

75. Indianapolis Colts – Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma

76. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas

77. Denver Broncos – Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State

78. Atlanta Falcons – Darrell Taylor, EDGE, Tennessee

79. New York Jets – Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State

80. Las Vegas Raiders – Amik Robertson, CB, Lousiana Tech

81. Las Vegas Raiders via Chicago Bears – Leki Fotu, DL, Utah

82. Dallas Cowboys – Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State

83. Denver Broncos via Pittsburgh Steelers – Larrell Murchison, DL, North Carolina State

84. Los Angeles Rams – Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming

85. Detroit Lions via Philadelphia Eagles – Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

86. Buffalo Bills – Davon Hamilton, DL, Ohio State

87. New England Patriots – K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State

88. New Orleans Saints – Van Jefferson, WR, Florida

89. Minnesota Vikings – Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama

90. Houston Texans – James Lynch, DL, Baylor

91. Las Vegas Raiders via Seattle Seahawks – Jacob Eason, QB, Washington

92. Baltimore Ravens – Terrell Burgess, S, Utah

93. Tennessee Titans – Matt Peart, OT, UConn

94. Green Bay Packers – Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia

95. Denver Broncos via San Francisco 49ers – Ben Bredeson, OL, Michigan

96. Kansas City Chiefs – Jonah Jackson, OL, Ohio State

97. Cleveland Browns – Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU

98. New England Patriots – Cam Akers, RB, Florida State

99. New York Giants – Jonathan Greenard, EDGE, Florida

100. New England Patriots – Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue

101. Seattle Seahawks – Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State

102. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jordan Elliott, DL, Missouri

103. Philadelphia Eagles – K’Von Wallace, S, Clemson

104. Los Angeles Rams – Logan Stenberg, OL, Kentucky

105. Minnesota Vikings – Solomon Kindley, G, Georgia

106. Baltimore Ravens – Trevon Hill, EDGE, Miami

2020 Aftermath NFL Mock Draft

Welcome to the annual 2020 Aftermath NFL mock draft. For the fifth year in a row, Jack Venezia, Brian Mandel and Matt Luppino joined me to run through the first round of the draft. This is always one of my favorite exercises of the year. We each take control of eight picks and then make our selections. I think this is always really interesting because we each have our own player preferences. For example, there are players that went in the first round here that I don’t have ranked on my top 100 big board. Multiple perspectives make it a bit more similar to the actual draft where different teams will have varying opinions on prospects.

For the first time though, we decided to allow some trades. There were definitely some group discussions because different people had picks for the same team. Overall though, it was a fun wrinkle to throw into the mix. These are the trades that went down. (I consulted Draft Tek’s trade value chart just to be sure these were fair.)

Miami sends 1.5, 1.26 and 2021 fourth rounder to Detroit for 1.3
Minnesota sends 1.22, 3.89 and 3.105 to Atlanta for 1.16 and 2021 5th rounder
New York sends 2.48 and 3.79 to San Francisco for 1.31
Los Angeles sends 2.37 and 4.112 to Kansas City for 1.32

Here is the result of year five of this mock draft.

Bengals Logo1. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
I don’t think this one needs much explanation … next! – ML

Washington made up logo2. Washington – Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
There’s a reason everyone is making this pick: Chase Young had 16.5 sacks last season with Ohio State last year, is one of the best, if not the best, talent in this year’s draft, and he grew up in the literal same town where Washington’s home stadium resides (Hyattsville, Maryland). You’d be crazy not to make this pick. – JV

Dolphins logo3. Miami Dolphins via Detroit Lions – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
If I’m Miami, I am keeping my finger firmly on the pulse of trade offers for the Lions’ and Giants’ picks, and pouncing if need be. Giving up one of their three first round picks is a small price to pay to guarantee your quarterback of the future. If Tua really is healthy, he has both a higher floor AND ceiling than Herbert. Easy trade for me. – ML

Giants Logo4. New York Giants – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
It was really tempting to grab Isaiah Simmons here. The Giants defense could undoubtedly use an injection of playmaking ability. However, when you spend a top-10 pick on a quarterback, you have to invest in keeping him upright. Wills is the best pass blocker of the top four tackles and has tons of experience playing in the SEC. I think he will transition well and can start at either tackle spot. – CM

Lions Logo5. Detroit Lions via Miami Dolphins – Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Once Chase Young, unsurprisingly, did not fall to the third pick, trading back two picks to gain an extra first was the most sensible option. I, like most of the football world, think that Okudah is the best pick for the Lions outside of Young, and I knew that I would still be able draft him with the 5th pick. Even before their offseason trade of Darius Slay, the Lions were in great need of a cornerback.  Okudah has all of the tools to become one of the next great shutdown corners in the NFL. Importantly, he churns out big plays without gamboling too much. I predict that Okudah will immediately impact a rebuilding Lions’ defense. – BM

Chargers logo6. Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Phillip Rivers is gone and the Chargers have Tyrod Taylor for now. I don’t hate Taylor, but he is a temporary solution at best. I think the Chargers either trade up or take whatever quarterback available at the sixth pick. In this draft, Herbert was still available, so I took him. – JV

Panthers logo7. Carolina Panthers – Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson
I was shocked to see Simmons still on the board when it was my pick as the Panthers’ general manager. When pundits talk about the type of player that is needed on defense for a modern NFL team, Simmons is the player that they are describing. He has the versatility to be able to stop the run, seamlessly transition to coverage, and blitz. Carolina is in need of a difference maker in multiple areas of their defense. The team will be able to feel good knowing that they are walking away from this draft with a building block. – BM

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)8. Arizona Cardinals – Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
I’ve got to be honest, I have no idea what the Cardinals will do on draft day. They feel like a likely candidate to move down. Offensive line is possible as well, but they just locked up D.J. Humphries. I didn’t get a good enough offer to justify passing on Kinlaw. He has enormous potential and a decent track record as a pass rusher. If you are going to invest a top-10 pick in a defensive lineman, he better be able to get after the quarterback. – CM

Jaguars logo9. Jacksonville Jaguars – Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
To say that the Jags defense has regressed since their last playoff appearance is an understatement. There are lots of holes to plug, but the one that sticks out most here along the defensive line for a team that gave up over five yards per carry last year. The best run stopper in the draft easily fits that need, with another first round pick to come. – ML

Browns logo10. Cleveland Browns – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
This has to be the most offensive line talent an NFL draft has had in years, and so many teams are desperate for quarterback protection. The Browns had mediocre pass protection and an inconsistent running game last year. Taking one of these lineman will fix that. Thomas also provides flexibility as he can play either tackle position and might just be the most pro-ready of the bunch. – JV

Jets logo11. New York Jets – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
This was a tougher pick because there were still a lot of incredible receivers on the board, and the first tier of tackles was quickly disappearing. I decided that drafting an offensive tackle that has the opportunity to protect Sam Darnold for the foreseeable future should be given preference over a possible number one wideout, even if it is still a big need for the Jets. It would be hard for Darnold to continue his development if he still has no pass protection, and Becton should make Le’Veon Bell’s job a little easier too. Becton has the highest ceiling of any offensive tackle in this draft. However, he is extremely raw, and the Jets have their work cut out for them to develop a player with such immense physical gifts. – BM

Raiders logo12. Las Vegas Raiders – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Mike Mayock did a nice job restocking his front seven in last year’s draft. I think he is going to focus on retooling the receiving corps and secondary this year. Jeudy is the top remaining player on my draft board and fills a huge need. While there are tons of good receivers in this class, I think Jeudy is a cut above the rest and should have a major impact on the offense right away. – CM

49ers Logo13. San Francisco 49ers – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
After letting Emmanuel Sanders go, and seeing both CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs still available, this could very easily be a wide receiver here. But remember, this is a very deep receiver draft, and the Niners have another pick at 31 – so why pass up a chance at one of the four best tackles in the draft? Wirfs could be the left tackle of the future in San Francisco. Remember, Joe Staley is 35 and the only person who is undefeated against Father Time so far is Tom Brady. – ML

Buccaneers logo14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Josh Jones, OT, Houston
The Tom Brady Buccaneers need to protect their newly acquired 74-year-old (give or take 30 years) quarterback because who knows how many more sacks that septuagenarian can take before his bones become silly puddy. Josh Jones definitely isn’t their Prom Queen, but he was the best lineman available at the 14th pick. Don’t be shocked if they trade up, just to be safe. – JV

Denver_Broncos15. Denver Broncos – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Courtland Sutton is a great young receiver, but the position is still a major need for the Broncos coming into this draft. Fortunately, there is still a nice selection of prospects on the board. Although Henry Ruggs is physically more talented than CeeDee Lamb (you cannot teach speed as they say), I drafted the latter. It is not like Lamb does not have all of the physical tools be a number one option. He also has a knack for finding soft spots in coverage. A knock against him might be that the offensive environment of the Big 12 makes it hard to truly evaluate him. Overall, Lamb will come into the league as a complete wide receiver and will be a good injection of talent into the Broncos’ offense. – BM

Vikings logo16. Minnesota Vikings via Atlanta Falcons – Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
The Falcons were looking for a trade partner and with multiple late first round picks, the Vikings were willing to jump up. After Stefon Diggs left Minnesota, the Vikings grabbed Tajae Sharpe, but will likely still be looking for a top receiver. As there was a run on wide receivers, Minnesota pounced. Ruggs and Diggs have very different skill sets, but Ruggs should add a new element to the offense with tons of potential. – JV

Cowboys logo17. Dallas Cowboys – K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
The Cowboys could head in a few different directions with this pick. After Byron Jones signed that monster deal with Miami, cornerback became a glaring hole on the Dallas defense. There are plenty of solid options to patch that on day two. One position that is lacking depth in this draft, however, is edge rusher. So the Cowboys do not let one of the best of the bunch get past. – ML

Dolphins logo18. Miami Dolphins – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
At this point, the Dolphins already got their quarterback early and traded away the 26th pick to do so. Plus, all of the top offensive lineman are off the board. Therefore, the Dolphins decided to give their flimsy secondary a rock in Xavier McKinney, the best safety in this year’s draft. He, Byron Jones and Xavien Howard would make a talented, young trio for Miami to lean on. – JV

Raiders logo19. Las Vegas Raiders – CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
With their first pick in this draft, the Raiders drafted a great receiver for the starting quarterback of their team this year (I do not know if it will still Carr by the end of the year). Now they are able to select a player that helps alleviate their need for talent in the secondary. After Okudah, Henderson is the most complete corner in this draft, and is incredible in coverage. He might have issues with defending against the run at the professional level, and he also had a bit of down year this year after an electric 2018 season. Still, Henderson has the ability to be the number one cornerback that the Raiders are in dire need of. – BM

Jaguars logo20. Jacksonville Jaguars – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Matt opted for a defensive lineman with their first pick. I think adding a speedy linebacker with good coverage skills would be a nice way to continue rebuilding this defense. Speed on defense is an invaluable trait. Queen definitely rode LSU’s championship wave into first round consideration, but I think he will continue to develop a lot at the next level. – CM

Eagles Logo21. Philadelphia Eagles – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Patrick Queen would’ve been the only player I considered over a wideout here, so the question becomes which one? Plenty of options make sense for the Eagles, who had 40-year-old backup quarterback Josh McCown on the depth chart for receiver at one point last season, but I like the total package of Jefferson here. He has experience both in the slot and outside. – ML

Falcons logo22. Atlanta Falcons via Minnesota Vikings – Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
The Falcons slide back a few picks and land a corner that fits their system. Hall is not as highly touted as some of his peers because he went to Virginia and missed the second half of his senior year with an ankle injury. Before he got hurt though, he might have been the best corner in the ACC. He has the size, speed and ball skills to become a top-end starter. – CM

Patriots Logo23. New England Patriots – Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
The Patriots defense was incredible this year, but they lost some key contributors in free agency. Drafting Murray will be an important part in retooling the unit before the 2020 season. Murray is an explosive playmaker that is great at defending the run and getting to the quarterback. There are question marks about his coverage skill, however, and that is mostly because scouts have not seen him in coverage situations very often. He has the athleticism to develop them. Another trait of note, Murray is also known to miss tackles sometimes due to decision making. Ultimately, the Patriots will know how to use him effectively and I trust their player development personnel to develop him. – BM

Saints logo24. New Orleans Saints – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
I went back and forth on this for a long time. While the Saints putting a first-round tenure on Taysom Hill in restricted free agency would indicate they believe in him as a future starter, I don’t. I think Love has the physical tools to succeed, provided he is given the right coaching. Sean Payton has shown he get the best out of quarterbacks with both Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater. I think this is a perfect fit for Love to develop for a year or two before taking over the starting role. – CM

Vikings logo25. Minnesota Vikings – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
With the Vikings getting their Stefon Diggs replacement in Ruggs earlier, they use this pick to replace their now bare cupboard of corners. Fulton has the size, speed, and pedigree combo that I don’t think others match here – but I am not biased to the national champs, even if four of my seven picks have been Tigers. – ML (Editor’s note: He was totally bias.)

Lions Logo

26. Detroit Lions via Miami Dolphins – Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
With the pick the Lions received from trading with the Dolphins, I thought that shoring up the offensive line would be best course of action. I know I might be raising some eyebrows by drafting Cleveland so much earlier than he is projected to go, but I think if he is developed correctly, he can be a good tackle in the NFL for a long time. He is a steady blocker in pass protection, and has lots of physical gifts (a theme of mine in the draft this year). If the Lions want to continue with Matt Stafford at quarterback, then they have to make sure he is protected correctly. – BM

Seahawks logo27. Seattle Seahawks – A.J. Epenesa, DL, Iowa
The Seahawks have a clear hole along the defensive line whether or not Jadeveon Clowney is back on the team next season. Epenesa does not have the typical build or peripherals of an edge rusher, but I think he can be just as effective. His effectiveness comes from his incredible strength, which will probably see him playing more on the interior. In the end, what’s important for him is whether or not he can pressure the quarterback at the NFL level. I think Epenesa will do just that, just not in the prototypical way. – BM

Ravens logo28. Baltimore Ravens – Zach Baun, LB, Wisconsin
This Ravens linebacking corps has been depleted in recent years. C.J. Mosley, Patrick Onwausor and Terrell Suggs are all gone. Matt Judon is on the franchise tag. Baun gives Baltimore a potential starter right out of the gate with some versatility to rush the passer and play as an off-ball backer. That versatility is valuable and Wisconsin has a history of sending tough, gritty football players to the NFL. That fits really well with how the Ravens do things. – CM

Titans logo29. Tennessee Titans – Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
Like I have previously mentioned, this is a weaker draft for edge rushers, but Gross-Matos is the best left available before a fairly steep drop-off. Mike Vrabel sees a wonderful interchangeable piece with the newly signed Vic Beasley, Jr., and the consistent Harold Landry off the edge – a strong edge rush rotation. – ML

Packers logo30. Green Bay Packers – Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
With a deep receiver class, the Packers won’t have to move up in order to find Davante Adams’ partner in crime. Higgins is one of the most naturally gifted receivers in this class, but he needs to be coached up. Green Bay would be the perfect landing spot for him with Rodgers throwing him the ball and the aforementioned Adams showing him the ropes. – JV

Jets logo31. New York Jets via San Francisco 49ers – Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
The Jets will still be coming away from this draft with a new target for Darnold to throw to. New York trades back into the first round to nab a projectable, but still slightly raw, wide receiver.  Currently, their receiver group is full of possession receivers with varying degrees of talent (I am actually a big fan of Jamison Crowder). Mims is a big play option and adds a new dimension to the unit. Darnold will have a receiver that he can trust will come down with a jump ball even if Mims will have to work on his route running. – BM

Chargers logo32. Los Angeles Chargers via Kansas City Chiefs – Austin Jackson, OT, USC
With the final pick of the first round, the Chiefs move back a few spots to add to their five total draft picks. Picking up a fourth rounder is worth it here. For the Chargers, who already grabbed a potential franchise quarterback, grabbing a tackle to protect him. Jackson is definitely a bit raw, but he has the physical tools to become a great left tackle. He showed flashes of that during an uneven season at USC. Los Angeles can keep him local and build a solid offense line in front of Herbert. – CM