2020 NFL Mock Draft: WRs dominate first three rounds

The NFL regular season is officially in the books. That means the offseason starts now for 20 NFL clubs with four more set to join them by this time next week. If you have been paying attention to draft buzz throughout the season, you will know there are a few slam dunk quarterbacks, an incredible class of skill position players and one franchise-altering edge rusher. I have been following the draft closely for the better part of five years now and this feels like one of the deepest draft classes we have had in a while. In honor of that, this is my first three-round mock of the year.

For this mock draft, there were no trades allowed and the order is based upon the current NFL standings and playoff seeding, according to Tankathon. When picking for each team, I tried to take into account overall talent, team need, positional value and scheme fit, roughly in that order. As the draft gets closer and I get a chance to watch more prospects, I will be able to mock players better for scheme fits. On top of that, teams will begin to address needs in free agency and schemes will change as coaching regimes change. I expect this to look nothing like how the actual draft will unfold, but for now, this is how I see it. Let’s get going.

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1. Cincinnati Bengals (2-14) – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Did you watch LSU play Oklahoma? Then you know why Joe Burrow is the top pick in the draft. The Heisman winner accounted for eight touchdowns and punched the Tigers’ ticket to the national championship game. He projects to be Cincinnati’s future franchise quarterback.

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2. Washington (3-13) – Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Washington fans have to be ecstatic to earn the second spot because it means their team can select Chase Young. He had a dominant junior season, leading the nation with 16.5 sacks, despite missing a game for a questionable NCAA suspension. Expect him to be an elite pass rusher right away.

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3. Detroit Lions (3-12-1) – Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
While the Lions miss out on Chase Young, they get a really good consolation prize in his teammate Jeff Okudah. Okudah has the making of a lockdown corner with his size, athleticism and incredible hand usage. Detroit gave up the most passing yards per game this season. Adding the top defensive back seems like a good place to start.

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4. New York Giants (4-12) – A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa
New York finally started to show some signs of life offensive and while the offensive line still needs some work, edge rusher is a huge need. No one has had a better second half of the year than A.J. Epenesa. He has the size and skills to terrorize an opposing quarterback. Considering the Giants face Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott four times a year, an elite pass rusher is a must-have.

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5. Miami Dolphins (5-11) – Tua Tagovailoa, QB Alabama
All of this will depend on Tua Tagovailoa’s medical, but assuming he is cleared to play within the next calendar year, I expect the Dolphins will have no problem selecting him here. They have tons of draft capital to build around him and a veteran quarterback to help him transition. This feels like the perfect fit.

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6. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11) – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Los Angeles could try to leapfrog the Dolphins in order to grab Tua Tagovailoa, but Justin Herbert has the physical tools to develop into a great quarterback in his own right. He has to work on his downfield accuracy, but with no succession plan to Philip Rivers, Herbert would be a logical choice.

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7. Carolina Panthers (5-11) – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Two teams in the NFL gave up 58 sacks this season. Carolina was one of them. With Andrew Thomas still on the board, this seems like a good way to get the Panthers offense back on track, regardless of who is playing quarterback. Thomas is pro ready and should hold down the left side of Carolina’s line for the next decade.

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8. Arizona Cardinals (5-10-1) – Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson
No one is quite sure how to explain what Isaiah Simmons does. In simplest terms, he is special defensive playmaker. He can line up at safety, slot corner or linebacker and play at a high level in all three spots. With a ton of holes to fill on defense, picking up a do-it-all talent like Simmons is a great move.

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9. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10) – Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
Guess who had the fifth worst run defense in the NFL this season? While fans might be hoping for a receiver or a corner to replace Jalen Ramsey, Derrick Brown has the potential to be an immediate difference maker. He is the best run stuff in this class and can cause problems as a pass rusher as well. Regardless of what scheme the Jaguars run next year, Brown will improve this pathetic run defense.

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10. Cleveland Browns (6-10) – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
With Freddie Kitchens gone and a mess of offensive talent, the Browns need to rebuild their offensive line. Jedrick Wills has the highest ceiling of any lineman in this draft. He is battle tested coming from Alabama and should immediately improve the protection of Baker Mayfield’s blindside. Maybe then the former Oklahoma quarterback can starting hitting his Pro Bowl receivers.

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11. New York Jets (7-9) – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
It was a strange season for the Jets and while the defense was a pleasant surprise, the offense was a disaster. New York finished dead last in yards per game and second to last in points per game. While pretty much outside of quarterback and running should be on the table here, fixing the offensive line has to be the priority. Tristan Wrifs can be a day one starter at either tackle or guard spot. He should help keep Sam Darnold cleaner and open more holes for Le’Veon Bell.

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12. Las Vegas Raiders (7-9) – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Mike Mayock might actually sprint to the podium if this happens. Oakland is in desperate need of a receiver and while a good one is bound to be there at 12, Jerry Jeudy falling here is the best-case scenario. After a less-impressive junior year, Jeudy should still be the first wideout off the board and immediately become Derek Carr’s favorite target.

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13. Indianapolis Colts (7-9) – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
With no quarterbacks worth taking here, Indy gets some help for whoever may be under center next season. CeeDee Lamb is explosive and can often times make a huge play out of very little. He would be a great complement to T.Y. Hilton and boost the Colts’ offensive potential exponentially.

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14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) – Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Tampa Bay could be shopping for a quarterback as well, but I am not buying the hype on Jordan Love or Jacob Eason. Instead, the Buccaneers continue to add difference makers to Todd Bowles’ defense. Grant Delpit should immediately improve the backend for Tampa and give Bowles another player he can blitz.

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15. Denver Broncos (7-9) – Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
Denver seems to have its number one receiver in Courtland Sutton, but after that has a bit of a void for explosive playmakers. I write this in every mock draft, but Henry Ruggs is the fastest player in college football. He would give the Broncos their equivalent of Tyreek Hill and make life a lot easier for Drew Lock.

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16. Atlanta Falcons (7-9) – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Atlanta’s second-half resurgence knocks them out of range for the top edge rushers, but corner is still a major need. Kristian Fulton has the field sense and speed to play across from Desmond Trufant right away. He would continue the Falcons transformation on defense.

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17. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) – Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
After missing out on the playoffs, Dallas is likely to move on from Jason Garrett. Without a ton of disruptive plays this year defensively, the Cowboys would be wise to add the best interior pass rusher in this class in Javon Kinlaw. He is adept at working through double teams, regularly drawing them at South Carolina. He would make a fun pairing with DeMarcus Lawrence along that defensive line.

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18. Miami Dolphins via Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
With the franchise quarterback already on board, Miami needs to ensure he will stay upright. Alex Leatherwood is no stranger to playing alongside Tua Tagovailoa. He started the previous two seasons at right guard and left tackle respectively. Leatherwood figures to be someone who can grow into a role along the line.

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19. Las Vegas Raiders via Chicago Bears (8-8) – CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
Even with the emergence of Trayvon Mullens down the stretch, Las Vegas (that’s weird to type) could still use some help in the secondary. The Raiders did jettison Gareon Conley midseason after all. Henderson has the physical tools to become a starting corner at the next level. He might take a year to truly reach that threshold, but he offers the team a projectable starter.

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20. Jacksonville Jaguars via Los Angeles Rams (9-7) – Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
Gardner Minshew worked his magic often this year to power the Jaguars offense. With a couple of playmakers already in place, Jacksonville needs a downfield threat. Tee Higgins brings incredible size, body control and focus to the table, consistently winning jump balls in traffic. He would provide Minshew with a great red zone option as well.

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21. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) – Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
I know Eagles fans want a receiver here, but there are a lot on the board and have you watched your secondary play? Paulson Adebo is a ballhawking corner with eight career interceptions to his name. He has great size and is not afraid to get physical. Philadelphia could use a bit of his fire on defense.

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22. Tennessee Titans (9-7) – Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
Lost in the miraculous Ryan Tannehill comeback is the issues plaguing the Titans offensive line. Tennessee has been better at protecting Tannehill of late, but needs to address the interior of the line. Tyler Biadasz is the best offensive line prospect still on the board and would be a day one starter. He is no stranger to power run either coming from Wisconsin.

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23. Buffalo Bills (10-6) – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Happen to watch Joe Burrow torching Oklahoma’s defense? Then you definitely heard this guy’s name a lot. Justin Jefferson has been one of the top receivers in college football this year and took that too a new level with four touchdowns in the semifinal. He would step in as the Bills top receiver and form a solid trio with John Brown and Cole Beasley.

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24. Minnesota Vikings (10-6) – A.J. Terrill, CB, Clemson
I expect the hype around A.J. Terrill to grow following a stellar performance facing Ohio State. He held up well in coverage and showed a good ability to break on the ball. At 6’1″, he would be a great addition to a Minnesota secondary desperately needing another outside corner.

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25. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (11-5) – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
After spending two picks on offense, the Dolphins find someone to play opposite Xavien Howard. Trevon Diggs has shown flashes of lockdown corner potential. His size and athleticism alone will entice a team to spend a first round selection on him.

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26. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) – Curtis Weaver, EDGE, Boise State
Seattle needs a pass rusher in the worst way. Enter Curtis Weaver. He had at least 9.5 sacks in each of his three season at Boise State. At 6’3″, 265 pounds, he would project well as an end in Seattle’s 4-3 system. He should have an immediate impact for a team that needs help right away.

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27. New England Patriots (12-4) – Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
After missing the entire season with a torn ACL, Dylan Moses’ draft buzz has quieted significantly. It is easy to forget he was one of the best linebackers in the country in 2018. With Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins set to hit free agency and Dont’a Hightower approaching 30, Moses would help fill the void and become a leader in the future.

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28. New Orleans Saints (13-3) – Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
This is one of my favorite pairings of prospect and team. New Orleans desperately needs receiver help. Michael Thomas is a beast, but there is a significant drop off after that. Surrounding Drew Brees with as much talent as possible in his final years seems to be the priority, so adding Jalen Reagor fits the bill. He has great top-end speed, but also attacks the ball well and plays with a chip on his shoulder. He would be fun to watch in Sean Payton’s offense.

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29. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) – Creed Humphrey, G, Oklahoma
Kansas City has one mission: protect Patrick Mahomes so he can lead them to a Super Bowl. Beefing up the interior of the offensive line is a good way to do just that. Creed Humphrey is just a redshirt sophomore, but he is also a two-year starter on one of the most prolific offenses in the country. He moves well and can step into the starting lineup right away.

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30. Green Bay Packers (13-3) – Laviska Shenault Jr., WR Colorado
Give Aaron Rodgers more weapons! Davante Adams is great, but Green Bay needs some other reliable contributors. Laviska Shenault has the versatility to take this offense to the next level. Colorado used him as a wildcat quarterback just to get the ball in his hands more. He is the type of player who Rodgers can trust to make a play when he needs him to the most.

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31. San Francisco 49ers (13-3) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Deebo Samuel has come along well, but Emmanuel Sanders is a free agent at the end of the year. San Francisco needs some more options for Jimmy Garoppolo to throw to. DeVonta Smith has had a great year at Alabama and consistently blows past opposing defensive backs. I am a little concerned about his durability at the next level, as he only ways 175 pounds. If he can bulk up a little without compromising his speed, he could be a difference maker.

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32. Baltimore Ravens (14-2) – Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State
Baltimore rounds out round one by continuing to build depth along the defense. Yetur Gross-Matos is a high-motor, high-character player with solid production coming out of Penn State. He should be a situational rusher right away with the potential to earn more snaps as he develops his coverage skills and technique.

33. Cincinnati Bengals (2-14) – Kenneth Murray, LB
Cincinnati needs more speed on defense after giving up the most rushing yards per game. Kenneth Murray has plenty of speed to go with good instincts and good production at Oklahoma.

34. Indianapolis Colts via Washington (3-13) – Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
Quarterback number four falls to the second round. I don’t think the Colts’ front office is sold on Jacoby Brissett after the season. Jacob Eason has a ways to go, but certainly has the arm talent to eventually start in the NFL.

35. Detroit Lions (3-12-1) – Terrell Lewis, Edge, Alabama
The Lions continue to rebuild their defense, this time adding a pass rusher. Terrell Lewis registered 11.5 sacks returning from an injury that cost him all of 2018. If he can improve his functional strength, he could be a steal here.

36. New York Giants (4-12) – Austin Jackson, OT, USC
Austin Jackson is definitely a bit raw. We saw that when A.J. Epenesa schooled him in the Holiday Bowl. Still, his massive frame makes him good left tackle prospect. He could grow into being Daniel Jones’ blindside protector.

37. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11) – J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
Los Angeles grabs the first running back of the draft. J.K. Dobbins showed against Clemson why he is a special runner. With Melvin Gordon’s future unknown, Dobbins teams up with Austin Ekeler.

38. Carolina Panthers (5-11) – Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State
NFL games are won in the trenches, so after bolstering the offensive line, Carolina can turn to the other side of the ball. The Panthers were awful against the run this year. Marvin Wilson needs a bit of technical refining, but can be disruptive force in the middle of any defense.

39. Miami Dolphins (5-11) – K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU
Miami continues to address needs and find high ceiling players. K’Lavon Chaisson flies around the field. The athleticism jumps off the page and if he can add to his 6’4″ frame, he could be an elite NFL pass rusher.

40. Arizona Cardinals (5-10-1) – Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn
Arizona needs to keep Kyler Murray healthy. Prince Tega Wanogho has the size of a prototypical tackle who is comfortable moving and blocking in space. He fits well with a mobile quarterback like Murray.

41. Cleveland Browns (6-10) – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Cleveland add another Alabama prospect, this time to bolster the secondary. Xavier McKinney has huge playmaking ability with some versatility. He should step in as a starter right away.

42. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10) – Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
Primarily a nickel corner in college, Shaun Wade has picked up a lot of momentum in recent weeks. He is physical and comfortable playing press coverage. I would love to have seen him play outside more, but he can learn at the next level.

43. Chicago Bears via Oakland Raiders (7-9) – Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC
While everyone seems ready to move on from Mitchell Trubisky, it is important to note his supporting cast isn’t very good. Chicago should retool the offense around him first before giving up. Michael Pittman has big play ability and the size to translate to the NFL.

44. Indianapolis Colts (7-9) – Julian Okwara, Edge, Notre Dame
With some pending free agents, Indy can restock its defense by adding a proven pass rusher. Julian Okwara is still developing his pass rush moves and needs to improve his strength, but he could develop into a starter.

45. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Tampa Bay needs to replace the right side of its line after a rough season. Mekhi Becton is a bit of a project, but possesses incredible size. Tampa can let him learn on the right or even start him at guard.

46. Denver Broncos (7-9) – Josh Jones, OT, Houston
Josh Jones bring a lot of raw skill as a prospect. He definitely needs some refining, but at 6’7″, Denver can take him knowing that size won’t be an issue. He could replace Garrett Bolles in 2021.

47. Atlanta Falcons (7-9) – D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
With Devonta Freeman coming off an injury-plagued season and looking like a cap casualty, Atlanta will need another option in the backfield. D’Andre Swift put together another impressive season. He could take over as the lead back right away.

48. New York Jets (7-9) – Ben Bredeson, G, Michigan
New York desperately needs to continue rebuilding its offensive line. If Sam Darnold is going to be the future at quarterback, he needs time to throw. Ben Bredeson is a big body with improving technique. He looks good at the point of attack, but needs work at the next level.

49. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) – Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue
After letting Jesse James walk, Pittsburgh was hurting for options over the middle. Brycen Hopkins is a great route runner who needs some fine-tuning elsewhere in his game. He would offer the Steelers a matchup advantage in the passing game.

50. Chicago Bears (8-8) – Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington
Chicago has had basically zero production from the tight end position all year. Hunter Bryant is typical move tight end with good open-field ability. He would be another weapon for Mitchell Trubisky to grow with.

51. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) – Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
One of the best corners in the country before he got hurt, Bryce Hall could be a future number one corner. He has good size for the position and fills a clear need for Dallas. Would be a great pairing with Byron Jones.

52. Los Angeles Rams (9-7) – Walker Little, OT, Stanford
Missed the whole season after tearing his ACL in the season-opener, but Walker Little looks the part of an NFL left tackle. He needs to work on his hand placement and film study to improve his anticipation. Little could take over if Andrew Whitworth ever decides to retire.

53. Tennessee Titans (9-7) – Zack Baun, Edge, Wisconsin
Despite being a redshirt senior, Zack Baun would probably need a bit of time to acclimate to the NFL. He has tremendous burst, giving him the potential of being an every down pass rusher. He will need to add to his frame and tighten up his technique to be consistently effective.

54. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) – Brandon Ayiuk, WR, Arizona State
Now Philly add its wide receiver. Brandon Ayiuk is a deep ball threat who excels at creating separation downfield. He needs to work on beating the press, but looks like an immediate impact player.

55. Minnesota Vikings (10-6) – Neville Gallimore, DL, Oklahoma
Neville Gallimore likes to play downhill and cause havoc. He has great strength to force his way into opposing backfields. Minnesota should get some value out of him as a rotational right away who can work his way into an every down player.

56. Buffalo Bills (10-6) – Jabari Zuniga, Edge, Florida
Despite a great season from Buffalo’s defense, it still needs more pass rushers. Jabari Zuniga has the size and speed to fit as a 4-3 end for the Bills. Expect him to be a situational player as he adds to his long frame.

57. Houston Texans (11-5) – Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
Even after trading for Gareon Conley midseason, Houston needs help in the secondary. Jaylon Johnson is an aggressive corner who plays with a lot of intensity. If he can clean up his hand usage, he could be an impact starter.

58. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) – Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
Jeff Gladney shows up on film as a solid tackler and does a nice job sticking with receivers in bump and run coverage. He could be a riser during the predraft process. Seattle would be happy to add him to a secondary that needs a boost.

59. Atlanta Falcons via New England Patriots (12-4) – Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
With Grady Jarrett under contract for the foreseeable future, the Falcons need someone to play alongside him on the interior. Raekwon Davis has not been as disruptive this season, but looks the part of an NFL interior lineman with good power.

60. Kansas City Chiefs via San Francisco 49ers (13-3) – Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State
Malik Harrison has been flying all over the field this year for Ohio State. He plays downhill and has a nose for the football. He is not forced to make a ton of reads, often times just attacking the offense. Harrison would help that Chiefs defense get faster.

61. Seattle Seahawks via Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) – Lucas Niang, OT, TCU
While Seattle has run out of running backs this year due to injury, it is at its best as a power run team. Lucas Niang has all the size and power needed to fit that scheme. He is bulldozing run blocker who can survive as a pass blocker on the right side.

62. Green Bay Packers (13-3) – Troy Dye, LB, Oregon
Troy Dye is a gritty playmaker with solid coverage skills and athleticism. He is definitely undersized for the position, but he should be able to add the weight necessary to be a middle linebacker. He would fill a huge need for the Packers.

63. Miami Dolphins via New Orleans Saints (13-3) – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Miami’s backfield has been a revolving door this year, resulting in Ryan Fitzpatrick being the team’s leading rusher. Travis Etienne is a home run hitter with lot of elusiveness. He needs to improve his ability to find the hole, but when he does, he is extremely dangerous.

64. Baltimore Ravens (14-2) – Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Nobody ran the ball more than the Ravens in 2019. With Mark Ingram set to turn 30 and Gus Edwards headed for free agency, adding Jonathan Taylor sets up Baltimore well for the future. Taylor is one of the most accomplished backs in college football history. His hard-nosed running style fits exactly what this team is looking for.

65. Cincinnati Bengals (2-14) – Nick Harris, C, Washington
The Bengals have holes everywhere, but their offensive line was particularly bad this year. Nick Harris filling the middle plus the return of 2018 first round pick Jonah Williams should help a lot.

66. Washington (3-13) – Trey Adams, OT, Washington
If Dwayne Haskins is going to be the franchise quarterback, Washington needs to protect him. Trey Adams is massive and could eventually take over at left tackle.

67. Detroit Lions (3-12-1) – Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
Matt Stafford had a great season, but finding him more weapons is never a bad idea. With Danny Amendola set for free agency, Donovan Peoples-Jones can step in as the new number three receiver.

68. New York Jets via New York Giants (4-12) – Darrell Taylor, Edge, Tennessee
New York has needed an elite pass rusher for over a decade. Darrell Taylor likely isn’t the answer to the Jets’ prayers, but he should be a solid contributor early on.

69. Carolina Panthers (5-11) – Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State
Carolina has all kinds of question marks at corner. With great size, Cameron Dantzler could develop into a starting option.

70. Miami Dolphins (5-11) – Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, Florida State
After trading away Minkah Fitzpatrick, Miami has a void at safety. Hamsah Nasirildeen is unlikely to be as impactful in the short term, but projects as a long-term solution.

71. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11) – Darryl Williams, G, Mississippi State
It was a rough season for the Chargers offensive line. Darryl Williams should raise the level of play after a solid career in the SEC.

72. Arizona Cardinals (5-10-1) – K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State
Larry Fitzgerald is going to retire eventually. K.J. Hamler likely won’t have the same kind of success, but he can help Arizona stretch the field right away.

73. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10) – Ashtyn Davis, S, Cal
Jacksonville is getting by with Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson, but Ashtyn Davis offers more potential long term.

74. Cleveland Browns (6-10) – Netane Futi, G, Fresno State
Cleveland continues to rebuild its offensive line with a pro ready option in Netane Futi. He will just need to get acclimated to the NFL speed after playing in the Mountain West.

75. Indianapolis Colts (7-9) – Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State
Damon Arnette has put together some very good film, but gets overshadowed by his teammates. If he stands out at the Senior Bowl, he could rise well out of the Colts range.

76. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
The quarterback drought ends as Tampa Bay takes on a project in Jordan Love. It is unclear what the Buccaneers will do at the position next year, but Love could be a future starter.

77. Denver Broncos (7-9) – Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
Denver will likely be actively looking for cornerback help in free agency, but it can double down in the draft as well. Eric Stokes has blazing speed, but needs some refining in coverage.

78. Atlanta Falcons (7-9) – Alton Robinson, Edge, Syracuse
Alton Robinson took an interesting path to the NFL and has some boom/bust potential. Desperate for pass rush help, Atlanta is willing to take a flier on him.

79. New York Jets (7-9) – Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest
Sage Surratt made a name for himself by torching defensive backs this season. If he can stay healthy, he should be a solid contributor for the Jets.

80. Las Vegas Raiders (7-9) – Monty Rice, LB, Georgia
I really thought Jon Gruden would have drafted Roquan Smith if he had been on the board in 2018. The Raiders still need linebacker help and tab a different Georgia player this time in Monty Rice.

81. Las Vegas Raiders via Chicago Bears (8-8) – Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
Back-to-back picks for Vegas sees them double up on receivers. Tylan Wallace is an excellent jump ball option who needs to improve his route tree.

82. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) – K’Von Wallace, S, Clemson
Dallas adds another young player to its secondary. K’Von Wallace shows good recognition skills and works well as a blitzer from the second level.

83. Denver Broncos via Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) – Trey Smith, G, Tennessee
Denver has two solid running backs, but needs to improve the offensive line to maximize the value. The best friend of any young quarterback is a ground game and Trey Smith should help establish that.

84. Los Angeles Rams (9-7) – Kenny Willekes, Edge, Michigan State
Los Angeles is constantly looking to add edge rushers. Willekes should be able to contribute from day one, but seems like a finished product.

85. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) – Brandon Jones, S, Texas
Brandon Jones is coming out of the wide open Big 12, but brings a hard-hitting presence to the defense. There are some concerns about his ability to hold up in coverage.

86. Tennessee Titans (9-7) – Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
Even with Ryan Tannehill in town, the Titans need a long-term plan. If Tannehill can sustain this, Fromm could be trade bait down the line, but he could also be a future starter if surrounded with the right talent.

87. Buffalo Bills (10-6) – Alaric Jackson, OT, Iowa
The offensive line play in Buffalo improved dramatically this season, but the Bills can still solidify to make it a strength. Alaric Jackson has a lot of experience at left tackle playing in the Big Ten.

88. Minnesota Vikings (10-6) – Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
Tyler Johnson had a breakout year as Minnesota put together an impressive season. The Vikings can keep him close to home and build some much-needed receiver depth.

89. Cleveland Browns via Houston Texans (10-6) – Rashad Lawrence, DL, LSU
LSU’s offense is getting all the plaudits this year, but its defense is doing its part as well. With NFL size, Rashad Lawrence should add some toughness to the Browns defensive line.

90. Las Vegas Raiders via Seattle Seahawks (11-5) – Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
I can’t imagine that Jon Gruden walks away from this draft without a developmental quarterback. Derek Carr has been great at times, but I still don’t think the Raiders are sold on him. Jalen Hurts had a great college career and needs a lot of technical work, but his physical skill set makes him an intriguing prospect. He could always have a Taysom-Hill-like role.

91. New England Patriots (12-4) – Jared Pinkney, TE, Vanderbilt
Maybe Rob Gronkowski comes back and this pick is irrelevant, but until that happens, the Patriots desperately need tight end help. Jared Pickney is a chain mover with some blocking potential.

92. Green Bay Packers (13-3) – Matthew Peart, OT, UConn
Green Bay nabs a developmental tackle to stash behind Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari. Matthew Peart is raw and untested, but has a lot of intangibles to work with.

93. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) – Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
Damien Williams had an uneven year and LeSean McCoy is not a long-term answer. Chuba Hubbard has been outstanding and could be a dynamic player for Andy Reid to lean on.

94. New Orleans Saints (13-3) – Lloyd Cushenberry III, G, LSU
New Orleans addresses the interior of its offensive line. With Andrus Peat headed for free agency, Lloyd Cushenberry could be his successor.

95. Denver Broncos via San Francisco 49ers (13-3) – Leki Fotu, DL, Utah
Denver uses this pick from the Emmanuel Sanders trade to build some defensive line depth. Leki Fotu was a mainstay on an underrated Utah defense.

96. Baltimore Ravens (14-2) – Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF
While much of Baltimore’s game is predicated in running the ball, Lamar Jackson could use some more receiving options to throw to. Gabriel Davis is a crafty route-runner who should complement Marquise Brown nicely.

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

Fournette is exposing larger NCAA problem

For most college football players, the best thing for them to do to improve their draft stock is to perform at the college football level. That will usually punch their ticket to the NFL. Doing it at an SEC school is even better. That shows scouts that you can perform against college football’s best.

LSU LogoLeonard Fournette is doing everything right so far at Louisiana State University. He is dominating the NCAA field at an SEC school and drawing comparisons to some of the best in college football history. Already, we’ve heard names like “Emmitt” or “Herschal” thrown around when describing the phenom running back.

NFL scouts have already seen enough of Fournette to justify taking him when he is eligible to come join the NFL. Through five games this year, he has amassed 1022 yards on the ground on 8.6 yards per carry. Pair that with his 12 touchdowns and you have a solid season for a lot of college backs. Fournette has reached those marks in only half a season.

The issue is though, Fournette isn’t eligible to jump to the NFL until the 2017 NFL draft. He looks pro-ready today but NFL rules state that he must wait until after his junior season to apply for the draft. So now Fournette faces a very tough decision. Should he continue to play for the Tigers, or should he sit out his junior season to cement his draft status?

Fournette could probably sit out the entire 2016 college season and still go in the top half of the first round if he continues to stay in shape and performs well at the combine.

Many have called Fournette selfish for thinking that way but honestly can you blame him? NFL first round picks sign contracts worth millions of dollars. Todd Gurley, a former running back from Georgia, signed a contract this season after being drafted 10th overall that was worth up to $13.8 million over four years. The contract guaranteed $9.3 million over the four years and Gurley received a $2 million signing bonus upon signing the contract.

All of that is probably pretty comparable to what Fournette would stand to make and honestly it is probably below what he is worth. Many are viewing the LSU back as the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. He would likely go higher than 10th overall and with the increase over the next two years, his contract would probably be even a little larger.

So we are talking probably upwards of $20 million on the line here for Fournette. All he has to do is stay healthy and avoid a drop off heading into the draft. The only problem is that there is no easy way to avoid injury other than to sit out. Fournette has nothing financially from the NCAA to fall back on if he blows out his knee or develops a hernia. His draft stock would plummet and he might not even make it to the NFL.

Marcus LattimoreThinking for the future makes too much sense at this point. We see it happen to players, especially running backs all the time. A couple of years ago, Marcus Lattimore suffered a gruesome knee injury that derailed his promising college career. Lattimore was a lock for a first round pick but the October injury where he tore every ligament in his knee and dislocated it obviously set him back. He had surgery and began rehab as soon as possible. He declared for the NFL draft in December knowing that it was his best shot at going pro. He fell all the way to the fourth round to the 49ers. He signed a four-year deal worth up to $8.5 million but with only a $300,000 signing bonus. Lattimore spent two seasons on San Francisco’s reserve roster before finally retiring when he realized he would never be able to play again.

Obviously, that is an extreme example but it is not the only one. Just a week ago, Nick Chubb suffered a serious knee injury where he tore several ligaments and damaged cartilage. His ACL was not one of the ligaments torn, which gave doctors hope at first, but now reports have surfaced saying that the injury could be career ending. He will have surgery soon but the outlook is less than positive. Heading into this season, Chubb was a projected first round pick for 2017, just like Fournette.

Matt BarkleyThen there are players who avoided injury but still saw their draft stock plummet due to poor play. Matt Barkley is the perfect example of a player who was deemed NFL ready, but who decided to stay in college another year. He seemed to be a certain top 10 pick in the 2012 draft but Barkley decided to stay at USC for his senior year. Barkley muddled through an up and down season and then fell to the fourth round of the NFL draft in 2013.

It is hard to shame Fournette for considering sitting out and it will be harder still if he decides to skip his junior year. He has every right to and he would be protecting his future, which is completely uninsured by the NCAA.

Each NCAA athlete has a health insurance policy of $90,000 for medical expenses. They are willing to cover other costs such as in-home care if it is required but there is no way for students to ever recoup any of the money they might have made.

There is no sure-fire way to solve this situation and I won’t pretend to know what it is. It might be to compensate athletes. It might be to provide some sort of insurance if athletes are unable to continue to the professional level due to injuries sustained while playing in college. All I know is that it needs to change. If the NCAA can profit as much as it does from these kids, then there should be a way for the kids to get compensation for a major career-altering or ending injury.

If the NCAA refuses to pay athletes, guarantee insurance fund for those who cannot continue to the pros because of injury or some combination of the two, it will continue to see Leonard Fournettes in the future. If Fournette sits, he will set a precedent. There will be players who believe that they have shown enough talent and ability to make the jump to the league and will refuse to continue playing in college. It will hurt the college game in terms of the level of play and could begin to undermine college football as a whole.

This development would be many years down the line but it is not unrealistic if the NCAA does not find a solution. Players who have serious aspirations of playing in the pros view college as a stepping stone and if they can find a way to minimize the risk that comes with that stepping stone, you can bet they are going to take it.

Fighting to be considered Elite

And then there were 16. Must be pretty sweet to still be dancing at this point in the tournament. Each region has it’s own story. The Midwest is still Kentucky’s to lose but apparently West Virginia (who busted my bracket last week) believe that Kentucky’s perfection ends tonight when the two teams take the court. Witchita State is still alive and kicking as well. In the East, the top seeds have fallen and the remaining matchups read eight versus four and three versus seven. Upsets have riddled this side of the bracket as Virginia and Villanova fell last weekend. Out West, the bracket has avoided too many upsets, as Baylor is the sole top-four seed not to reach the Sweet 16, only to be replaced by sixth-seeded Xavier. Down South, old school powers meeting the new kids on the block. UCLA is the surprise in the regional semi-final as an eleven seed in this one. All of these storylines mean we are in for a great four days of basketball.

Midwest

#1 Kentucky vs. #5 West Virginia: West Virginia freshman Daxter Miles Jr. made it clear that he does not think much of Kentucky. He called them out for not playing hard. That sounds like something you should do after you have beaten them if you ask me. Kentucky will come into this game with even more of something to prove now than ever before. The Wildcats rank third in the country in defensive scoring and second in blocks. That will spell trouble for a Mountaineer team that already does not shoot the ball very well from the field.

#3 Notre Dame vs. #7 Witchita State: Many said that the Shockers would be a tough matchup for Kansas and that proved to be true as Witchita rolled through the Jayhawks. However, I think the run stops here for the Shockers. They will have their eyes set on a rematch with Kentucky after the Wildcats knocked them out of the tournament last year and ended their perfect season. I don’t think Witchita gets the chance though. The Irish are battled tested with victories in a couple of close games. Notre Dame has only dropped one game in past eleven, I think they will move on to the Elite Eight.

West

#1 Wisconsin vs. #4 North Carolina: This is a tough one to call. UNC has the talent and ability to beat anyone in the country, and I mean anyone, when they are firing on all cylinders. However, they aren’t playing at their best very often. This Tar Heel squad is often streaky and they are facing one of the most consistently dominant teams in America tonight. The Heels rank second in the country for rebounds and assists per game this year though. That is a pretty tough combination to top. If Marcus Paige is on, UNC marches on to the next round.

#2 Arizona vs. #6 Xavier: The Musketeers were fortunate to have made it this far if you ask me. With games against Ole Miss and Georgia State, Xavier has yet to play a team that is not a double-digit seed. That said, they might stand a chance in the Sweet 16, if they were playing a team other than Arizona. The Wildcats have won by fewer than 10 points just once since playing Utah back in February. That one game? It was against UCLA, another Sweet 16 team. Arizona advance.

East

#4 Louisville vs. #8 North Carolina State: Raise your hand if you picked this game to happen. I wish I could say I did. NC State really busted my bracket last week when they knocked out Villanova, whom I had in the finals. As if this game was not important enough, this is rematch between ACC teams. The Wolfpack won the first time around but with Louisville finally starting to find a bit of a rhythm offensively, the Cardinals will be the ones who get to keep dancing a little longer.

#3 Oklahoma vs. #7 Michigan State: I didn’t predict this game correctly either. I had Dayton pulling the upset of Oklahoma but the Sooners ruined my fun. However, the Spartans looked convincing in their last two wins, especially Sunday against Virginia. Travis Trice caught fire against the Cavaliers, and if he does again on Friday, that could mean lights out for Oklahoma. I’ve got Tom Izzo’s crew heading to the next round.

South

#1 Duke vs. #5 Utah: This one will be fun to watch. We get to see Jahlil Okafor and the highlight reel that is Duke’s offense pitted against a Utah squad that excels in locking down the defensive end of the floor. The Utes ranked eleventh in the country this season in points allowed per game. Moreover, Utah has seven-footer Jakob Poeltl to contend with Okafor. Watch these two freshmen battle it out in the paint should be an entertaining matchup. I still think Duke has too many offensive weapons for Utah to contain. Blue Devils slide into the Elite Eight.

#2 Gonzaga vs. #11 California Los Angeles: Talk about a surprise guest. There were not too many people who foresaw UCLA in the Sweet 16. The Bruins were a bubble team to begin with. Gonzaga has been good this season but this has every element of a trap game to it. I think the Bruins will come out with a chip on their shoulder and give the Zags a tough test early. If Gonzaga can weather that test than they will be fine. If they falter early, like I think they will, UCLA will continue their Cinderella run.

Even as we approach the Sweet 16, many college athletes can be left bitter

The NCAA tournament is in full swing at the moment as the Sweet 16 will take place at the end of this week. However, it seems the NCAA is never safe from scrutiny. President Obama cast his lot into the conversation regarding the corrupt and questionable practices of college athletics’ governing body. He made a couple of different points but the one that rung out the strongest to me was his criticism of players losing scholarships due to injury. The NCAA allows programs to revoke scholarships from players who are injured or who are cut from their respective teams.

What the NCAA continually does to college athletes is something like this. And yes I am looking at you Mark Emmert:

Let’s say that you want to learn how to cook better, so you decide to take some cooking lessons. Upon signing up for the lessons, you discover that the first four months of classes are free. This is a great deal for you, probably all of the classes you might need, and looking at the price, you probably would not be able to afford the classes otherwise. So, you begin taking classes at this local cooking shop and begin learning all sorts of new skills from a chef acting as your teacher. A week or so in, you begin to make your own dishes. The chef continually tells you that you should be researching recipes and practicing on your own time, but you have a full-time job that is meant to take your priority so this is a difficult task.

About a month into your classes, you hurt yourself during one of the sessions. You cut yourself fairly deep on your hand with a knife after you slip up chopping vegetables. An honest mistake but now you cannot go to the cooking classes for the next month due to the stitches in your hand. You take time and heal properly, just as your doctor and teacher tell you, and then return to the class.

Upon your return, someone who works higher up in the corporation that runs the cooking class approaches you. He tells you that because you missed the past month of classes, you are no longer eligible for the discount and you will need to start paying to take the cooking classes now. You complain that you were injured in one of the classes and that the injury was outside of your control. The man insists that there is no other way for you to continue attending the cooking school and you must find a way to pay.

In that story, you are fundamentally wronged and loose out an opportunity to do something you really enjoy because the school turned its back on you. Everyone recognizes that what happened is morally wrong. Yet, this happens to college athletes over and over again. And the scary thing is that there is very little that the NCAA requires colleges to provide regarding healthcare. In fact, most of the healthcare services are optional for schools to provide. So not only are they at risk of losing their scholarships due to the injury, they are not guaranteed to have any medical costs covered. Schools will occasionally cover the fees of surgeries for students but they are not required to and that they are not is what is concerning.

There are many things fundamentally wrong with the NCAA. The amount of money they make while maintaining they are a non-profit is one. The fact that they are exploiting young, college students is another. But pulling away a kid’s hopes and dreams due to an injury sustained while playing for a university under the NCAA is awful. This issue falls on both the school’s and the NCAA’s shoulders to fix, as they are both equally to blame. Schools are not required to honor scholarships; that does not meant they cannot honor them. And the NCAA, does not require schools to honor scholarships, which is sickening. People can talk all they want about how college athletes should be paid (I’m not saying they should or should not) and how the NCAA is exploiting students. Above all else, the NCAA needs to begin protecting the kids who suffer serious injuries playing collegiate athletics. That has got to be the top priority. If you want to maintain that these kids are student-athletes, with the student part coming first, then do not take away their chance to be a student because they got hurt being an athlete.