Brand new episode of the Aftermath’s NFL Draft Podcast is here as Chris breaks down this week’s Studs and Sleepers. Check out which players have their draft stock rising and which players are seeing their stock slide. Also make sure you stay tuned for the game to watch this week. Subscribe now on Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
It’s finally football season. This year, the Aftermath will be devoting more time to covering college football, particularly focusing on the NFL Draft. You can listen to our new podcast starting this Thursday, which will focus on all things related to the draft. Let’s kick off our college football coverage with a mock draft. On the first Monday of each month, I will have a brand new mock draft reflecting all of the developments of the college season, so keep an eye out for more of these in the future. It’s very early in the year and most of these projections are based on the needs of NFL teams at this stage rather than the true value of these players in the draft, so expect a lot of changes in future additions.
This is one of the best draft classes for skill position players we’ve had in a few years. There are also three future franchise quarterbacks, all of which I believe will go in the top 10. The Colts find their successor to Andrew Luck, the Jets finally draft a pass rusher, the Giants find their OBJ replacement and tons of Alabama players will go in Round 1 as per usual.
The draft order was dictated by the Super Bowl odds currently available on Vegas Insiders, with tiebreakers coming via strength of schedule entering the season. There were a couple of instances where teams had to be moved around because of playoff purposes (someone had to win the AFC South) and conference ordering of playoff finish (why the Bears are picking later than the Patriots). Without further ado, here is the first mock for the 2020 NFL Draft.
1. Miami Dolphins (500-1)
Pick: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
While many might expect the Dolphins to go after a quarterback here. I think they will see enough from Josh Rosen to keep him in house and opt for the best player available. Miami cleaned house when it came to pass rushers, letting Cameron Wake walk and shipping Robert Quinn to Dallas. Young becomes the latest Ohio State defensive lineman to make the jump to the NFL in the top five. He has the talent to surpass Nick Bosa, who went second overall in 2019, after racking up 10.5 sacks last season.
2. Washington (200-1)
Pick: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Trent Williams wants out of Washington. Teams around the NFL have inquired about the veteran tackle and it’s hard to see him lasting the full season in the nation’s capital. After investing in Dwayne Haskins last year, it is vital for GM Bruce Allen to build an infrastructure he can thrive in. Having a quality left tackle is crucial for any young quarterback and Andrew Thomas can become just that in Washington. Thomas is not an elite run blocker, but he does an excellent job in pass protection. He will be battle-tested after three years in the SEC, going up against NFL-caliber talent regularly.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (200-1)
Pick: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The first quarterback comes off the board. This could end up being any number of quarterbacks. Coming into the 2019 college football season though, Herbert is the best option. He has physical tools scouts tend to love. He has the chance to lead a high-profile Oregon team. Andy Dalton’s time is up in Cincy and this is the true beginning of the Bengals rebuild. It is time to tear it down and rebuild around a young quarterback.
4. New York Giants (200-1)
Pick: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
In case you were living under a rock, the Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr. this past offseason. They also drafted Daniel Jones to be the heir apparent to Eli Manning. He is going to need some weapons to throw to not named Saquon Barkley. Jeudy was a stud as a sophomore for Alabama, posting 1,300+ yards receiving and hauling in 14 touchdowns. He has great hands, the frame needed to be a number one receiver and insane route running. With the addition of Jeudy, the Giants offense suddenly looks like one of the better ones in the league just in time for Daniel Jones to take over.
5. Arizona Cardinals (200-1)
Pick: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
It is almost impossible to replace Larry Fitzgerald, a task the Cardinals will have to complete sooner rather than later. The best way to do it might just be to draft a man who spent all of 2018 catching passes from new Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. CeeDee Lamb will provide some explosiveness to an Arizona offense that lacks it on paper. He has the capacity to take the top off a defense at moment’s notice. Lamb would immediately help Murray’s growth as a passer and would give the Cardinals a young starting pairing at receiver with Christian Kirk.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (100-1)
Pick: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Tampa Bay passed on Derwin James in 2018 despite needing secondary help. Then again, a lot of teams did. This time though, the Buccaneers snag a top-tier defensive back out of the real DB U. Delpit becomes the latest plug-and-play safety and immediately helps the worst defensive backfield in the NFL. Tampa could be looking at a quarterback here if it decides to move on from Jameis Winston, but I expect them to spend one more season waiting to see if he can make it work with Bruce Arians and address their porous secondary.
7. Detroit Lions (100-1)
Pick: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Shocked to see the Lions take a quarterback? Don’t be. Detroit has an out in Stafford’s contract after 2020, meaning they can either wait for one year before turning things over to Tagovailoa or look to trade him to a team needing a veteran passer. Either way, Tagovailoa offers a bright future for the Lions alongside Kenny Golladay, Kerryon Johnson and T.J. Hockenson. Tua does not have a super strong arm, but he is extremely accurate and knowledgeable. We’ve seen as far as Stafford can take the Lions. He has never won a playoff game. It’s time to move on.
8. Buffalo Bills (100-1)
Pick: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
This might not be a name too many NFL fans are familiar with, but if you are a fan of Pac-12 football, Shenault is already a star. He topped 1,000 yards last year and led the conference with 86 receptions. He doesn’t always go up against the best defensive competition out west, but at 6’2″ 220 pounds, Shenault projects as a future No. 1 receiver at the next level. Buffalo desperately needs more talent at the skill positions. Josh Allen should not be required to rely on John Brown, Zay Jones and Cole Beasley after this year. Giving Allen a reliable target will make a huge difference in his development.
9. Denver Broncos (80-1)
Pick: Walker Little, OT, Stanford
After years of putting off fixing the offensive line, it is finally time for the Broncos to go after some top-tier offensive line help. Walker Little brings a massive 6’7″ frame and tons of potential. He might not be ready to start at left tackle from day one, but he provides a projectable starter there in the future. If Garrett Bolles continues to struggle, Little will take over on the left side when Bolles’ contract expires after the 2020 season.
10. Indianapolis Colts (60-1)
Pick: Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
With the shocking retirement of Andrew Luck, Indy now turns its attention to finding a new franchise quarterback. They won’t have to look very far if Jake Fromm is still on the board at 10. Fromm is a natural passer that checks all the boxes for a prototypical NFL quarterback. He has tons of big game experience, starting in a national championship game as a freshman. Fromm also improved his accuracy in his sophomore year. If he can take another step forward, there is a chance he could be the top quarterback off the board in April.
11. New York Jets (60-1)
Pick: AJ Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
For years, the Jets have needed to find an edge rusher. Leonard Williams has not developed into a consistent sack artist. Henry Anderson is good in spurts. This team hoped to solve the problem after drafting Jachai Polite this year in the third round, but he didn’t even make the final roster. To fix this, New York finally adds the bonafide pass rusher they haven’t had since Sean Ellis left. Epenesa goes up against plenty of NFL caliber linemen in the BIG 10 and has the production to back it up. With 10.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles a year ago, he would be a welcome addition to Greg Williams’ defense.
12. Tennessee Titans (50-1)
Pick: DeAndre Swift, RB, Georgia
But what about Derrick Henry? The former Alabama running back is in the final year of his rookie deal and has been way too inconsistent to warrant a big pay day. Heading into his 238-yard explosion last season, Henry had eclipsed 50 yards rushing just twice. He also offers very little value as a receiver. Instead, the Titans will add the latest star to command the Georgia Bulldogs’ backfield. Swift is explosive, versatile and ready to start right away. What sets him apart from the other top backs in this class is his ability as a pass catcher, with 45 receptions over the past two years. Tennessee might be looking for a new quarterback at this point as well, but no will be worth taking with the top three already off the board.
13. Carolina Panthers (50-1)
Pick: Triston Wirfs, OT, Iowa
There are some schools that just produce quality offensive linemen. Iowa is definitely one of them. Wirfs is the latest tackle to catch the eye of NFL talent evaluators. There is no question Carolina could use some upgrades along the line. They did nab Greg Little in the second round this year, but finding ways to keep Cam Newton upright has to be a priority. Those two would create great bookends on the offensive line. With a talented front seven on defense, a veteran quarterback and some solid playmakers around him, it’s time to bolster the pass protection.
14. Oakland Raiders (40-1)
Pick: Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
Khalil Mack is gone. The Raiders already made some effort to replace him in drafting Clelin Ferrell, but one pass rusher is not enough in the NFL theses days. Brown is a space eater at 6’5″, 315 pounds. He racked up 4.5 sacks last year and 10.5 tackles for loss. There seems to be a trend for teams looking to generate pressure on the interior. Brown can help do that and plug up the middle against the run. Oakland should just continue to amass young defensive talent as it continues its rebuild.
15. San Francisco 49ers (40-1)
Pick: Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
This team desperately needs an infusion of youth at corner. Richard Sherman is still holding it down on one side, but he is 31. Outside of Sherman, the cupboard is pretty bare. Adding Bryce Hall gives San Francisco a projectable starter alongside Sherman in his final few years, before turning things over to Hall as the No. 1 corner. After investing heavily along the defensive line in recent drafts and retooling the offense in free agency, this seems like the most logical move.
16. Baltimore Ravens (40-1)
Pick: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
The Ravens landed their explosive, game-breaking wideout in Marquise Brown in the 2019 draft. Giving him a big-bodied red zone threat to play across from would make this Baltimore offense tons of fun to watch. Surrounding Lamar Jackson with talent has to be the priority right now. Higgins fits the bill, coming off a season where he had 12 receiving touchdowns at Clemson. Oh and he is 6’4″. He has the potential to have a Mike Williams-type impact on an offense.
17. Seattle Seahawks (40-1)
Pick: Yeuter Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
Even after trading for Jadeveon Clowney, pass rusher is still a huge need for the Seahawks. Clowney projects as just a one-year rental right now and Seattle shipped out Michael Bennett and Frank Clark in successive offseasons without finding a clear long-term replacement. Gross-Matos would be a good one with plenty of speed. He had eight sacks last season in his first full year as a starter. If he can do that again against some good competition on Penn State’s schedule, he will lock up his stock as a first round pick and provide a nice boost to Seahawks defense.
18. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (30-1)
Pick: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
Chaisson, coming off an ACL tear, flashed plenty of pass rushing potential during his freshman season. This draft spot is all about the ceiling he has right now. He is on As just a redshirt sophomore, there is no question he will need a little bit of seasoning. Given that the Dolphins are definitely more than just one piece away from Super Bowl contention, that is something they can live with. Miami is desperately in need of talent on both sides of the ball. They did add Christian Wilkins last and have Charles Harris on the outside. This would help turn the defensive line into a strength for the Fins as they continue to rebuild.
19. Atlanta Falcons (30-1)
Pick: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
After patching up the offensive line, finding some help in the secondary is a crucial for the Falcons. With Desmond Trufant under contract through 2022, they need to pair him with a capable counterpart. Henderson seems up to the task, as he already has six career interceptions for the Gators. He has decent size for an NFL corner, but doesn’t seem like a typical run and bump type. If can show some ability to jam receivers at the line, he could rise up some draft boards.
20. Minnesota Vikings (20-1)
Pick: Lucas Niang, OT, TCU
Minnesota grabbed Garrett Bradberry in 2019 and will continue to build its offensive line with a massive tackle from TCU. Lucas Niang stands 6’7″ and weighs 328 pounds. He has spent most of his time at right tackle in college, but that seems to be a spot the Vikings could address. With Riley Reiff holding down the left side, 2018 draft pick Brian O’Neill projects as the starter on the right. If he struggles this year, Niang could slot in to anchor the right side and turn this offensive line into a strength for Minnesota.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars (25-1)
Pick: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
This feels like a no-brainer for Jacksonville, who is desperately in need of some playmaking. With Marquise Lee battling through injuries, Dede Westbrook has been the only reliable receiver for the Jaguars. Adding in Ruggs, who has already arrived on the college stage at Alabama, would certainly make things much easier for Nick Foles. The Jags invested a lot of money into Foles. Putting talent around him to make it easier for him to succeed is a major responsibility for the front office.
22. Green Bay Packers (20-1)
Pick: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Clay Matthews hit the road this offseason and Green Bay could use some help in their linebacking core. Simmons is not the pass rusher Matthews was, but he has the speed to make plays from sideline to sideline. He is a converted safety, offering plenty of versatility. He could be a player comparable to either Mark Barron or Keanu Neal, stepping in as a box safety, while also covering receiving tight ends. Don’t sleep on his run stopping ability either; he had 9.5 tackles for loss last year. The Packers could opt for a receiver here if no one else breaks through this season, but given the depth of this receiver class, they go defense instead.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers (20-1)
Pick: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
The Steelers would be ecstatic if Fulton fell to them here. They signed Steven Nelson this offseason, but corner is still a major position of need. Joe Hayden is not going to be able to play forever and Mike Hilton has struggled a lot in his Pittsburgh tenure. Fulton has the physical traits to become a true lockdown corner in the future. LSU also breeds defensive backs, producing Tyrann Mathieu, Tre’Davious White, Eric Reid, Jamaal Adams and Greedy Williams in the past six years. If Fulton can come anywhere close to those guys, Pittsburgh will have a starting-caliber player for years to come.
24. Dallas Cowboys (18-1)
Pick: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Part of this projection is just for the fan of addressing the ongoing contract stalemate between Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys. Assuming Zeke does hold out and Dallas is looking for a new feature back, Travis Etienne feels like very obvious fit here. He does not have a ton receiving experience, but he an elusive runner with very good vision. Clemson has leaned on him heavily, even with Trevor Lawrence taking over as quarterback last year. If he has another great season and shows some improvement as a receiver (read as more than 12 catches in 2019), he could be going much higher in this draft.
25. Cleveland Browns (18-1)
Pick: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Cleveland shipped out Jabrill Peppers and turns to Tramon Williams and Damarious Randall as its two starting safeties. Williams is 36 and the Browns probably don’t have his replacement on their current roster. Xavier McKinney is a proven tackler that is already a pretty polished prospect. He has the ability to start as early as next season if Williams retires. Cleveland is building a Super Bowl contending roster, with needs along the offensive line best suited to be filled later in the draft, McKinney makes a lot of sense.
26. Los Angeles Chargers (18-1)
Pick: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
The Chargers have made it very clear to Melvin Gordon that they are not willing to overpay to keep a running back. LA even allowed Gordon to begin seeking potential trade partners. That means there is going to be an opening at starting running back in SoCal next year. Jonathan Taylor should fill that void very well coming off a prolific career at Wisconsin. No player has ever rushed for more yards in their first two seasons than Taylor, and he is even beginning to show improvements as a receiver. He projects as a complete back that would pair really well with Austin Ekeler.
27. New Orleans Saints (12-1)
Pick: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
I strongly debated going with a quarterback like K.J. Costello from Stanford, because I still don’t buy Teddy Bridgewater or Taysom Hill as Drew Brees’ successor. Instead, the Saints will continue to load up for these final years of Brees’ career by landing the explosive Jalen Reagor. He compliments Michael Thomas very well as a slightly undersized field-stretching receiver. The Saints have tried to bring that with Ted Ginn Jr. in recent years. Reagor caught 72 passes last season for the Horned Frogs and he could bring a new element to a New Orleans offense that lagged a bit down the stretch.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (12-1)
Pick: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
The Alabama dominance continues as the Eagles nab Dylan Moses. Philly has built a decent amount of depth in the secondary and has a stellar defensive line. Now Nigel Bradham is still on the roster, but if the Eagles designate him as a post June 1 cut, they can save $8 million in cap space. Moses could immediately fill in for Bradham. Bradham has been a serviceable middle linebacker, but he will turn 30 on September 4. Moses did just tear his ACL, but that should not hurt his draft stock to the point where he drops out of the first round. With not a ton of holes to fill, Philadelphia can look to get younger at a key position and save some money in the process.
29. Los Angeles Rams (12-1)
Pick: Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
In a relatively surprising move this offseason, the Rams cut ties with veteran center John Sullivan. That means Brian Allen is stepping into the starting spot, who played all of 37 snaps last season. Jared Goff is going to get a major extension in the next year, so Los Angeles would be smart to protect their investment by beefing up that offensive line. Biadasz would help them do just that. He moves well by all accounts and looks solid in pass protection. He should have the power needed to play at the next level as well. The last three centers drafted in the first round were Ryan Kelly (Colts), Travis Frederick (Cowboys) and Garrett Bradberry (Vikings) for whatever that’s worth.
30. New England Patriots (6-1)
Pick: Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State
This feels like such a Patriots pick. Weaver is a 6’3″, 265-pound edge rusher with a decent amount of power. That build is very similar to Trey Flowers, who turned a great season last year with New England into a payday in Detroit. He could be a bit of project for Bill Belichick, who likes to take players with production and potential along the defensive line. He came up just short of double-digit sacks last season and is already off to a good start to his 2019 campaign.
31. Oakland Raiders via Chicago Bears (12-1)
Pick: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
This is another pick from the Khalil Mack trade, which the Raiders will use on another Alabama player. Terrell Lewis is coming off a torn ACL in 2018, but he flashed tons of potential in 2017. He has a big frame at 6’5″, 250 pounds. If he shows he is healthy and takes the next step in his development, he could be long gone by now. Regardless, some NFL team is going to gamble on his potential at the end of the first round or early on Day 2. That Oakland defensive front seven is starting to look stacked with Ferrell, Brown and now Lewis.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (6-1)
Pick: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
There is no question Kansas City needs help in the secondary. That was what held the Chiefs back from a Super Bowl appearance last year. Paulson Adebo is poised for a big season at Stanford. He has good for an NFL DB at 6’1″ 190 and has shown he can make big plays. Adebo came up with four interceptions last year. Another good season could move him out of the Chiefs’ range, but for now he projects well as a future starter in Andy Reid’s secondary.
All images from Wikimedia Commons
In honor of the NFL draft, which is all about finding value in the later rounds, I decided it is time to put together the team of non-power 5 players currently in the NFL. So that means any player who played college football outside the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12.
More often than not, these are the players that make the differences at the pro level for teams. It is easier to hit on players that went to big schools. The best franchises find those late-round gems to build out the roster and win championships on their contributions. So don’t despair if your favorite team drafted a player form a small school you have never heard of. This team would almost certainly win a Super Bowl if all these players were on the same roster. Here is the NFL All-Non-Power-Five:
Quarterback – Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
A proud alum of Miami Ohio, Roethlisberger is Hall of Fame bound. He’s still got it to after leading the league with an absurd 5,129 passing yards. He is a bit interception prone, but with the other notable options being the oft-injured Carson Wentz and inconsistent Joe Flacco, Roethlisberger is an obvious choice.
Running back – Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
He didn’t lead the league in rushing or anything, but the former UTEP running back had a healthy 5.5 yards per carry and is criminally underused in Green Bay. Jones is a bruising runner who picked up just under 1,000 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns in only 12 games this season. At only 24, Jones has a ton of upside and will on get better with more touches.
Wide receiver – Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
Forget small school, Thielen didn’t even play Division I college ball at Minnesota State. Yet, he caught 204 passes for 2,649 yards and 13 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Thielen is in the prime of his career at age 28 and as long as he continues to play at a Pro Bowl level, he will be on this list.
Wide receiver – Central Michigan, Oakland Raiders
It was tempting to go with Davante Adams here because Antonio Brown had a down year. However, a down year for Brown was still 100-plus catches, 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is one of best receivers in NFL history and one of the best draft finds ever as a 6th round pick out of Central Michigan.
Tight end – Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
It conveniently works out that the best tight end in the league went to Cincinnati. Travis Kelce dominated the league finishing top 10 in receiving yards and to go with 10 double-digit touchdowns. He is a solid blocker and an incredible receiver.
Offensive tackle – Terron Armstead, New Orleans Saints
Over the past few years, Armstead has turned into an elite pass blocker on one of the top offenses in the league. Pro Football Focus rated him the top offensive lineman in 2018. Teams pay a premier to find a true left tackle and Armstead fits the bill.
Offensive guard – Ali Marpet, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Over looked as a college prospect because of the competition he faced at Hobart, Marpet has become a top-tier offensive lineman. He is one of the cleanest blockers there is, committing just two penalties during the 2018 season. Marpet has versatility as well, having played at both guard positions and center in his four-year career.
Center – Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles
Turns out that one Kelce brother was not enough. The elder Kelce is arguably the best center in the NFL. He is just a year removed from a Super Bowl title in Philly protecting the former mayor of Philadelphia Nick Foles and a two-time All-Pro. Pro Football Focus rated him the best center in the league in his eighth season out of Cincinnati.
Offensive guard – Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns
Bitonio is one of the best guards in the league in his fifth year out of Nevada. He is an excellent blocker coming off a Pro Bowl season. Bitonio has started all 32 games over the past two seasons and committed just three penalties in that span.
Offensive tackle – Eric Fisher, Kansas City Chiefs
The former No. 1 overall pick has not lived up to the expectations that come with being the top pick. Fisher struggled as a left tackle when he first arrived out of Central Michigan. Six years into his career, he is finally hitting his stride as a quality right tackle. Fisher was a Pro Bowl selection in 2018 and finally seems to fulfilling his potential.
Defensive end – Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears
Mack is the poster child for small school players working out in the NFL. He has dominated the league since arriving from Buffalo in 2014. He has racked up double-digit sacks each of the last four seasons. Mack is a three-time All-Pro and possibly the best defensive player in the league.
Defensive tackle – Akiem Hicks, Chicago Bears
We have our first member of this team from Canada. Hicks went to school at Regina College north of the border and has turned into one of the most versatile defensive tackles in the league. He is a talented pass rusher, with 16 sacks over the past two seasons, rushing from the interior. Hicks has also proven himself as a run stopper as well.
Defensive end – Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys
You’ve probably been hearing about Demarcus Lawrence over the past few months. He finally landed himself a big-time contract extension. Rightfully so as the Boise State product has racked up 25 sacks and 29 tackles of loss over the past two season. Assuming Lawrence continues to produce even after being paid, he is capable of being one of the best defensive linemen in the league.
Outside linebacker – Marcus Davenport, New Orleans Saints
While Davenport is not technically an outside linebacker, he is an edge rusher. After just one season in the league as a raw defensive talent, the former UTSA standout should have a bright future. With 4.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hits as just a situational rusher in 2018. While far from proven, it is difficult to find a ton of defensive talent coming from smaller schools.
Inside linebacker – Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts
The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year and 1st team All-Pro is a no-brainer on this list. Hailing from South Carolina State, Leonard took the league by storm in 2018, finishing as the NFL’s leading tackler. He is still improving in coverage, but his nose for finding the football makes him invaluable.
Inside linebacker – Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks
Wagner is the best all-around linebacker in the NFL (except for maybe Luke Keuchley). The former Utah State standout racked up the fourth most tackles in 2018 while also adding 11 pass breakups, second most by a linebacker. He is reliable and possesses a lot of the intangibles teams look for in a middle linebacker.
Outside linebacker – Matt Judon, Baltimore Ravens
This might not be a name casual fans are overly familiar with. Judon is a product of Grand Valley State and a situational rusher for the Ravens. He has piled up 15 sacks and 39 quarterback hits over the past two seasons and could be in line for increased playing time with some of Baltimore’s offseason departures.
Cornerback – Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys
Jones took some time to figure out his best role in the NFL, but after putting up insane combine numbers, it was just a matter of time before technique caught up to athleticism. The former UConn star is a lockdown corner in Dallas. He length and speed make him a great cover corner.
Safety – Damontae Kazee, Atlanta Falcons
Kazee came out of nowhere to lead the league in interceptions this year with 7. Thrown into the fray because of injuries, the former San Diego State standout thrived with more playing time. He has shown some versatility as well at nickle corner.
Safety – Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans
Byard often flies under the radar, but he a stud in Tennessee. One of the better tackling safeties in the league, he has transformed himself into a top safety in the NFL. At just 25 years old, the Middle Tennessee State product has a lot of football left in him.
Cornerback – Bryce Callahan, Denver Broncos
Yet another Bears defensive player joins this team. Bryce Callahan was in a contract year and played like a true shutdown corner in the process. He turned that into a nice contract with the Broncos. Coming from Rice, Callahan had to forge his path into the league and seems to be entering the prime of his career.
Kicker – Aldrick Rosas, New York Giants
Named a Pro Bowler and second team All-Pro, Rosas burst onto the scene in 2018. The former Southern Oregon kicker was probably the most reliable player on the Giants this season not named Saquon Barkley. He made all but one extra point attempt and Rosas made 32 of 33 field goals on the season.
Punter – Brett Kern, Tennessee Titans
Kern just missed out on making it on an All-Pro team this season. He has been a consistent punter since arriving in the league in 2012 from Toledo. Kern’s accuracy is a useful tool for Mike Vrabel’s defense.
Kick returner – Andre Roberts, Buffalo Bills
Roberts earned his way to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team in 2018 with the Jets. He led the league in punt return average and brought back two kicks for scores. The veteran out of The Citadel showed his explosiveness and aided Sam Darnold with improved field position during his rookie year.
Welcome back to draft season. This is always one of the busiest times of year for The Aftermath. This year, it was so busy, we actually had to conduct our mock draft in our group chat rather than via video chat. I will acknowledge that I took the longest to make a pick, waiting nearly 24 hours to make a pick for the Broncos.
Some things that need to be said right now, this is what we would do if we were drafting for these teams, not what we think will happen. Sometimes those things overlap, but being right is not the ultimate goal. On top of that, we do not allow trades. It creates way too much chaos in these mock drafts. We will discuss places we see teams likely trading though to help you predict all the draft night madness.
1. Arizona Cardinals – Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
The Cardinals seem intent on drafting a quarterback and Kyler Murray here is the most NFL ready in this draft, plus there are rumors of him being their favorite choice. Part of me thinks the rumors are a smokescreen, but the pick makes too much sense not to make it with new head coach Kliff Kingsbury in town.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama
While many might expect Nick Bosa here, I’m staking my claim in a player with more upside an no injury history. Quinnen Williams dominated during his time at Alabama and as just a redshirt sophomore, he still has not reached his full potential. San Francisco finds the new anchor for the interior of its defensive line.
3. New York Jets – Nick Bosa, Edge, Ohio State
The Jets would be absolutely ecstatic to see Nick Bosa available at the third pick as arguably the best player in the draft, at arguably their biggest position of need. If he’s there, New York take him in a heartbeat. If not, don’t be shocked if they trade back with a team in search of a quarterback to recoup some picks they traded last year for Sam Darnold, when they were the ones hunting a franchise signal caller.
4. Oakland Raiders – Josh Allen, Edge, Kentucky
The Raiders have set themselves up well for this draft with three draft picks in the first round. With their top four pick, they should be going with the best player available. Luckily, the best player available is a pass rusher that is the perfect replacement for Khalil Mack.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devin White, LB, LSU
Devin White can cover ground and make hard tackles for a Buccaneers defensive line which was too leaky last year. He tested really well at the combine after a great career at LSU. Expect him to fill in well for a team that lost Kwon Alexander this offseason.
6. New York Giants – Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
I’m not buying the smokescreen. The Giants desperately need a quarterback to take over for Eli Manning. Dwayne Haskins could use a season of learning under a veteran after just one season as the starter at Ohio State. He has the strong arm and pocket presence needed to succeed in New York.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Juwuan Taylor, OT, Florida
Jacksonville could go a few directions here, but Tom Coughlin won two Super Bowls with the Giants by having a solid front on both sides of the ball. Juwuan Taylor, alongside Jonah Williams, is arguably the best tackle in the draft. Look for the former Gator to stay in the Sunshine State to protect Nick Foles and his new contract.
8. Detroit Lions – Montez Sweat, Edge, Mississippi State
There is a very good chance the Lions will lose Ezekiel Ansah, so they are in need of pass rusher. Honestly, they were in need of a pass rusher even without the potential loss of Ansah. They can get a bit a steal in Montez Sweat if you look past the possible heart condition.
9. Buffalo Bills – Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
The Bills will likely have a couple of viable options at the No. 9 pick and their defensive line could use some help. I went with Rashan Gary because of his versatility; hopefully he can plug more than one hole for them when needed.
10. Denver Broncos – T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
While there will certainly be calls to take a quarterback here. reaching for Drew Lock or Daniel Jones would be a mistake. Denver needs a new offensive weapon with Demariyus Thomas gone and Emmanuel Sanders injured. T.J. Hockenson is a complete tight end capable of opening holes for Phillip Lindsay and helping Joe Flacco acclimate to the altitude.
11. Cincinnati Bengals – Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
This pick could just as easily be Devin Bush, with the Bengals desperately needing a speedy linebacker patrolling the field. But Ed Oliver has top 10 potential and could be one of the best athletes in this draft who can get after the quarterback from the inside. The Bengals have a lot of holes, so they’ll take a top talent here.
12. Green Bay Packers – Brian Burns, Edge, Florida State
The Packers need help on their defense in multiple position areas. However, with the loss of Clay Mathews, the position with the most immediate need on defense is pass rush. Thus, drafting Brian Burns will allow Green Bay to get a piece to build around for years to come.
13. Miami Dolphins – Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama
The Dolphins offensive line might as well be made of cardboard, just ask Ryan Tannehill, with needs at center, tackle, and guard. I assume they will go for the best available offensive lineman with this pick and in our mock it was Jonah Williams. He could start at right tackle or right guard this season.
14. Atlanta Falcons – Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State
The Falcons have a number of needs, mostly on defense. With the number of injuries this team suffered last season, drafting a player with a major knee injury might seem like a questionable move. The consensus on Jeffrey Simmons is that, despite a video from high school of him punching a woman in a fight and a major injury, he is a top-five talent. Simmons potential impact on the field is massive. Atlanta will not tolerate anything from him off the field, nor should they.
15. Washington – Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
There’s a lot of uncertainty in Washington at the QB position right now. Alex Smith may never play again after that gruesome knee injury that reminded many spectators of Joe Theismann. Bringing in Case Keenum may be a short-term solution, but Drew Lock is the long-term one. He at one point was considered the top passer in this draft. Plus, he could learn a lot from a guy like Keenum, who transitioned from an Air Raid-style offense in college to a respectable pro career, something Lock may need to do in a hurry to keep Washington afloat.
16. Carolina Panthers – Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma
For the past few years, the Panthers have not been able to field an adequate pass protection. The injuries have been piling up for Cam Newton, and is probably a correlation. That is why drafting Cody Ford will help the team’s franchise player in the best way possible. He blocked for a mobile quarterback in Kyler Murray in college and should be able to do it again for Newton.
17. New York Giants (via Cleveland) – Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
Assuming the Giants draft a quarterback with their No. 6 pick, I think they will kick off the run on corners with the pick they landed in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. I like Byron Murphy’s ball hawking ability. He might be able to generate some turns for a struggling secondary now without Landon Collins.
18. Minnesota Vikings – Garrett Bradberry, C, NC State
Signing Kirk Cousins didn’t push the Vikings into Super Bowl contention like they thought. That was mainly because of the poor play of the offensive line. Garrett Bradberry will immediately improve the interior of this line. If there is someone else they like better, don’t be surprised if Minnesota moves up to get him.
19. Tennessee Titans – DK Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
The Titans have a big decision coming up after the season on the future of Marcus Mariota, so they need to find him help in the first round either in the form of a protector or a target. There are some good linemen left in this draft, but D.K. Metcalf is an absolute athletic freak that you rarely see in football. A big, fast and strong matchup nightmare could be a great complement for a shifty, possession-style route-runner like Corey Davis, giving Mariota multiple options at multiple levels of the field.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
Greedy Williams has fallen a bit in this draft, which is lucky for the Steelers. Joe Haden is not getting any younger, and they have been in need of a second corner back anyway. Signing Steven Nelson to a big contract does not exactly solve their secondary issues. If Williams can improve as a tackler, he will be an absolute steal.
21. Seattle Seahawks – DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia
Remember the days of the Legion of Boom? Those linebackers were able to stop the run so easily because they had a great secondary covering the passing game. Seattle has lost that coverage in recent years. Drafting a well-rounded corner like DeAndre Baker might help them return to those days.
22. Baltimore Ravens – Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
It is pretty unlikely falls this far, but Baltimore would be ecstatic if Devin Bush is still on the board. With C.J. Mosley now in New York, the Ravens need someone to wreak havoc in the middle of their defense. Bush seems like a very good fit to do just that.
23. Houston Texans – Chris Lindstrom, OL, Boston College
Houston had a great run last season thanks to Deshaun Watson returning from his ACL tear in the similarly spectacular form that caught the whole league’s eye during the start of his rookie season. But if the Texans are to stay on top of the AFC South, the Swiss cheese known as their offensive line won’t cut it. Bringing in Chris Lindstrom, a big body, from a school with a long pedigree of great pro-linemen in Boston College. He could immediately help keep the Texans in contention again next season.
24. Oakland Raiders (via Chicago) – Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State
With the second of their three first round picks, the Raiders can continue to rebuild their defense. The cornerback position has been a weakness of the Raiders for almost the entire decade. By picking Justin Layne, an underrated product with tons of college production, they can end the cycle and bolster the secondary. Between Josh Allen rushing the passer and Layne helping on the back end, we should see huge improvements from Oakland’s defense.
25. Philadelphia Eagles – Andre Dillard, OL, Washington State
The Eagles really need more help on defense, but at the 25th pick Andre Dillard was a steal. Philly is an offensively minded team and their offensive line will soon be aging out, so spending a late first round pick is well worth the future investment. With Carson Wentz’s injury history, keeping him clean should be a major priority.
26. Indianapolis Colts – AJ Brown, WR, Ole Miss
His college teammate has gotten a lot of love during the pre-draft process for his performance at the combine, but AJ Brown is actually a much more pro-ready prospect. He is a savvy route runner with good hands. He would complement T.Y. Hilton well in this Colts offense and give Andrew Luck a proven playmaker. Instant impact is important for an Indy with an eye on a championship.
27. Oakland Raiders (via Dallas) – Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
With my other drafters taking the liberty of upgrading the Raiders defense with their first two picks, perhaps the Raiders can use their third to keep giving David Carr every chance to succeed. Did you know that Noah Fant, a 6’4”, 249 lbs TE, ran a 4.51 at the combine? Now, recall the Raiders recently acquired the receiving services of Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams. This might just be a quick turnaround for the Oakland offense.
28. Los Angeles Chargers – Kaleb McGary, OL, Washington
The Chargers have one of the most complete teams in the NFL. Nevertheless, Phillip Rivers is what will guide them to a Super Bowl, and keeping him upright should be Los Angeles’ number one priority. Adding Kaleb McGary can help Rivers extend his career and utilize Melvin Gordon even more effectively.
29. Seattle Seahawks (via Kansas City) – Clelin Ferrell, Edge, Clemson
The Seahawks find themselves back on the clock after trading away Frank Clark. His departure creates a need for a pass rusher, and there are plenty of those in this year’s draft. Clelin Ferrell comes from a good program and should adjust to the NFL well. Pairing him with DeAndre Baker gives Seattle a solid draft haul to bolster the defense.
30. Green Bay Packers – Marquis Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Let’s say we give the most talented passer in the league an electric, game-breaking new toy to play with. That is what would be happening here. Marquis “Hollywood” Brown is the cousin of new Raiders receiver Antonio Brown and the guy who reeled in passes from Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray the past two years. His speed is unreal. Brown has the versatility to play in the slot or outside, giving new head coach Matt LaFleur a fun chess piece to move around.
31. Los Angeles Rams – Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
An unsung factor that helped propel the Rams to a Super Bowl appearance this season was their strong depth at several positions. Tackle and linebacker are minor needs, but one of the best players in this draft slipped to the end of the first round in our draft. The Rams can use their depth to their advantage to take the best player available, so they can take a polished interior pass rusher in Wilkins to slot right alongside Aaron Donald, giving him plenty of one-on-ones. Rich keep getting richer.
32. New England Patriots – Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
If I was allowed to for this draft, I would have traded this pick like Bill Belichick probably would. Alas, trades are not allowed, so the Patriots finally land their quarterback of the future, who can replace Tom Brady whenever it is he actually decides to retire. Rumor has it Daniel Jones could go sooner, but if he sticks around, New England would be wise to grab and groom him.
They say you need five years to truly evaluate a draft class. Well here we are now five years removed from the 2014 NFL draft. This was a loaded draft class with tons of talent coming off the board in the first round. There were a couple sleepers (Telvin Smith, Charles Leno, Malcolm Butler). This might be one of the best drafts for defensive linemen and wide receivers ever.
I have wiped out all draft day trades as well because these players are no longer prospects, but proven performers. For example, there is no way the Browns trade down with the chance to add Odell Beckham Jr. at No. 4. Check out what each team would do now if they could redo the 2014 first round.
1. Houston Texans
Original pick: Jadeveon Clowney, Edge, South Carolina
New selection: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Fast forward five years and Khalil Mack might be the most dynamic defensive player in the NFL (not named Aaron Donald). While I did consider Donald here, Donald fits best in a 4-3 front and the Texans are a 3-4 team. It’s not that Mack comes without merits either. He is only player in NFL history to be named All-Pro at two different positions. Him lining up opposite J.J. Watt would be terrifying for any quarterback.
2. St. Louis Rams
Original pick: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
New selection: Aaron Donald, DL, Pittsburgh
The Rams earned the steal of this draft by taking it’s most dominant player 13th overall. That won’t happen here, but only because St. Louis (they hadn’t moved yet) adds the two-time defensive player of the year here instead. In addition to being a great run defender, Donald led the NFL with 20.5 sacks in 2018. The Rams do not reach a Super Bowl without him. While I have wiped out all draft day trades, St. Louis got the pick before the draft as part of the Robert Griffin III trade.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Original pick: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
New selection: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
Needless to say, Blake Bortles did not work out in Jacksonville. He had his moments, leading the Jaguars to the 2017 AFC Championship Game, but overall, his tenure was frustrating. Instead, the Jags front office snags one of the hottest young passers in the league by drafting the one-time heir apparent to Tom Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo only has 10 career starts at this point, but he has flashed great potential in those games.
4. Cleveland Browns (traded to Buffalo)
Original pick: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
New selection: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
It’s funny how these things work out. The Browns originally traded down here, but with Odell Beckham Jr. on the board, Cleveland cannot pass that up. OBJ is one of the most talented players in the NFL. Adding a dynamic playmaker drastically change the Browns’ fortunes. Keep in mind this team still had Josh Gordon. It doesn’t matter who is throwing the ball to him, they would look better playing with this guy.
5. Oakland Raiders
Original pick: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
New selection: Jadeveon Clowney, Edge, South Carolina
Jon Gruden said it best, it’s hard to find good pass rushers. Maybe the Raiders would have actually paid Jadeveon Clowney instead of shipping him out like they did Khalil Mack. Clowney is actually an elite run defender and an above average pass rusher, but his nine sacks in 2018 would have been most on Oakland, by five! At number five, Clowney is the best player available and fills a crucial need.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Original pick: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
New selection: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
If it ain’t broke. Jake Matthews has started 79 of a possible 80 games over the past five years. He was rightly rewarded with a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2018. Keeping Matt Ryan clean and giving him time to find his big downfield targets is still crucial. Matthews is easily the best tackle to come out of this draft. His consistency makes it hard for the Falcons to pass on him in a redraft.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Original pick: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
New selection: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Another repeat pick as Tampa Bay lands Mike Evans once again. Despite all the uncertainty surrounding the Buccaneers offense over the past five years, Evans has been the one constant. He has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his five seasons and has 40 career touchdowns. There is a chance he will be even more effective under new head coach Bruce Arians.
8. Minnesota Vikings (traded to Browns)
Original pick: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
New selection: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
At first glance this might look like a different selection, but Minnesota still lands the same guy. There is some debate about whether or not the Vikings properly use Anthony Barr, but his willingness to take less money to return signifies his belief in the team’s approach. He is versatile and consistent. His athleticism makes him a tough player to gameplan for. No reason to change the pick.
9. Buffalo Bills (traded to Browns then Vikings)
Original pick: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
New selection: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Buffalo did not get what it was looking for with Sammy Watkins. Instead, the Bills opt to add Fresno State standout Davante Adams. Adams is one of the most underrated receivers in the league, featuring as Aaron Rodgers’ top target for the Packers. It might take the Bills a few years to find a solution at quarterback, but a player capable of putting up 35 receiving touchdowns over the past three years would help with any young passers’ development.
10. Detroit Lions
Original pick: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
New selection: DeMarcus Lawrence, DL, Boise State
This might seem like a bit of an odd pick considering the Lions took Ezekiel Ansah the year before in the top five. However, outside of Ansah, Detroit has lacked in the defensive playmakers department for the last few years. Landing another top pass rusher would make the Lions defense a lot scarier, potentially hiding some deficiencies in the pass defense. Lawrence has racked up 25 sacks over the past two seasons. He and Ansah would create a scary tandem.
11. Tennessee Titans
Original pick: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
New selection: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Titans join the rest of the crew electing to stick with their original pick. Taylor Lewan is the epitome of the style of play Tennessee employs. He is tough and gritty. His three straight Pro Bowl appearances are a testament to how well he fits the Titans’ system. Top end offensive line can be expensive to find in free agency, so landing it in the draft is key.
12. New York Giants
Original pick: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
New selection: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
With their preferred selection off the board already, the Giants will opt to bolster their defense instead. New York has needed a true middle linebacker for a long time, constantly taking flyers on veterans or castoffs from other teams. Instead, they lock of the position for five years by taking C.J. Mosley. He would provide some much-needed stability up the middle of the Big Blue defense.
13. St. Louis Rams
Original pick: Aaron Donald, DL, Pittsburgh
New selection: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
Obviously, Aaron Donald is gone by this point. The Rams had wanted to sure up the offensive line at No. 2 originally, taking Greg Robinson. He never really panned out, so instead St. Louis grabs the best interior lineman in the draft in Zack Martin. He has been a Pro Bowler in each of his five seasons and only missed two starts in career. Not buying the Pro Bowl selections? He is also a three-time All-Pro. If guard was a more valuable position in the league, he would be a top-five pick.
14. Chicago Bears
Original pick: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
New selection: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
There was definitely some uncertainty about Kyle Fuller’s credentials as a top corner heading into 2018. Then he led the league in interceptions and pass deflections, earning his first Pro Bowl appearance and All-Pro selection in the process. The spike in interceptions is probably due to the increased pass rush (Khalil Mack) the Bears had this season. However, he actually had fewer pass breakups in 2018 than he did in 2017. He has developed into a talented shutdown corner.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Original pick: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
New pick: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
Had Ryan Shazier not suffered his horrific injury in 2017, he would likely be the pick here again. Instead, Pittsburgh opts to pair Antonio Brown with Jarvis Landry. For years, the Steelers tried to find a suitable running mate for Brown before landing on JuJu Smith Schuster. An offense featuring Brown, Landry and Le’Veon Bell could have been enough for the Steelers to reach another Super Bowl. Now, none of those players wear black and yellow. Oh what could have been.
16. Dallas Cowboys
Original pick: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
New selection: Trai Turner, OL, LSU
With Zack Martin off the board, Dallas opts for the next best interior lineman remaining in Trai Turner. While certainly less heralded than Martin, Turner is a beast in his own right. He has featured in four-straight Pro Bowls for keeping Cam Newton upright and powering the Panthers run game. Keeping Tony Romo clean was the priority at this point and that would not change when Dak Prescott came to town.
17. Baltimore Ravens
Original pick: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
New selection: Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State
While the Jaguars run to the AFC Championship in 2017 probably seemed like a fluke, it was actually due to some very savvy drafting. Telvin Smith, who was a 5th rounder taken by Jacksonville in 2014, was one of the breakout stars for that Jaguars defense. He had a less impressive 2018, but with C.J. Mosley off the board, Baltimore would need a sure tackler to provide some playmaking on the defensive side of the ball. Smith certainly fits the bill.
18. New York Jets
Original pick: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
New selection: Dee Ford, Edge, Auburn
The Jets struck out on the “Louisville Slugger.” New York traded Calvin Pryor prior to the 2017 season after just three years with the team. Instead, the Jets will finally fill a long-standing void in their defense by drafting Dee Ford. He missed extended time in 2017, but reached double-digit sacks in both 2016 and 2018. New York has had one player reach double-digit sacks since 2013 (Muhammad Wilkerson in 2015). This fills a huge need.
19. Miami Dolphins
Original pick: Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
New selection: Charles Leno, OT, Boise State
Meet the biggest riser in this redraft. Charles Leno has been a stalwart for the Bears offensive line over the past four seasons. He hasn’t missed a start in the past three years and reached the Pro Bowl in 2018. The Dolphins hoped Ju’waun James could develop into their starting left tackle, but he is now the starting right tackle in Denver. Leno would anchor the left side of the line for Miami and maybe even keep Ryan Tannehill healthy.
20. Arizona Cardinals (traded to Saints)
Original pick: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
New selection: LaMarcus Joyner, S, Florida State
Arizona traded back and eventually picked up Deone Bucannon. He never really caught on, so the Cardinals opt for a player the rival Rams eventually selected. LaMarcus Joyner displayed a decent amount of versatility for St. Louis before being traded to Oakland. He would have made a very fun running mate for Tyrann Mathieu and completed a dominant secondary in Arizona also featuring Patrick Peterson.
21. Green Bay Packers
Original pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
New selection: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
It’s tough to know what to make of Brandin Cooks. On one hand, Cooks was a key contributor during his three seasons in New Orleans. On the other, he was traded after the 2016 season to New England. They did land a 1st round pick in that deal. The Patriots then sent Cooks to the Rams, again for a 1st rounder. Green Bay opted to add Davante Adams in the second round, so receiver was a clear position they hoped to fill. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was shipped out for a fourth round pick this season. Even if the Packers traded Cooks, they would get a better return on their investment.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (traded to Browns)
Original pick: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
New selection: Christian Kirksey, LB, Iowa
The Eagles originally drafted Marcus Smith, who never started a game for Philly before being shipped off to Seattle. Instead, Chip Kelly (yes he was the head coach at the time) selects current Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey. In his two full seasons as a starter, Kirksey racked up 281 tackles, including 17 for loss. He missed half of the 2018 season with an injury, but when healthy, he is an important cog for an underrated Browns front seven. With a talented offense already in place, bolstering the defense could have made the Kelly years a little more bearable.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
Original pick: Dee Ford, Edge, Auburn
New pick: Malcom Butler, CB, West Alabama
Say what you want about Malcom Butler, he is still a solid NFL corner. He likely won’t reach the level he played at during his short stint as a starter in New England, but the Chiefs wouldn’t need him to. The thing that prevented Kansas City from reaching the Super Bowl this season was its pass defense. Butler would slot in well as No. 2 corner for Kansas City going forward.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Original pick: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
New selection: Joel Bitonio, OL, Nevada
The Bengals have had a bit of tendency for missing on 1st round corners. With Malcolm Butler and Kyle Fuller gone, Cincy opts to bolster its offensive line, which has struggled in recent years. Joel Bitonio might not be a household name, most guards aren’t, but Pro Football Focus rated him as the No. 5 guard in the league last season. Protecting Andy Dalton and opening holes for Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard and now Joe Mixon could have pushed the Bengals further during their playoff appearances in 2014 and 2015.
25. San Diego Chargers
Original pick: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
New selection: Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
Jason Verrett is supremely talented. He was named a Pro Bowler in 2015, but injuries limited him to just 23 games in five seasons with the Chargers. He joined the 49ers this offseason. Instead, San Diego (who hadn’t relocated yet) adds Devonta Freeman to help take some pressure of Philip Rivers. Melvin Gordon didn’t get to town until two years later and the Chargers could use an upgrade over the often injured Ryan Matthews, who was off the team after 2014 anyway. Freeman missed most of the 2018 season with injury himself, but from 2015 to 2017, he racked up 3,000 yards rushing and 29 rushing touchdowns. He also caught at least 30 passes in his first four seasons, including 74 in 2016. Freeman would be a welcome addition to a high-powered San Diego offense.
26. Cleveland Browns (traded to Eagles)
Original pick: Marcus Smith, LB Louisville
New selection: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
I don’t need to go over how poorly Johnny Manziel worked out. While the Browns seem to finally have found their savior in Baker Mayfield, Cleveland desperately needed a quarterback in 2014. Derek Carr is the best one available. He has a somewhat uneven career, but he would be a massive upgrade over anyone the Browns started from 2014 to 2017. His career interception percentage (1.9) is lower than Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Cam Newton and Joe Flacco. It’s on par with Russell Wilson. Carr can take care of the ball and put up solid numbers, often times without much of a supporting cast.
27. New Orleans Saints (traded to Cardinals)
Original pick: Deone Bucannon, DB, Washington State
New selection: Brandon Linder, OL, Miami
While the Saints definitely had a clear need at receiver, trading up to draft Brandin Cooks, New Orleans also desperately needed a center. The team sent Jimmy Graham to Seattle in exchange for Max Unger as a result. Brandon Linder just so happens to be the No. 5 center in the league in 2018 according to Pro Football Focus. His addition fills an important need and allows the Saints to keep Graham. Linder also has some versatility as a guard, making him even more of a value pick for New Orleans.
28. Carolina Panthers
Original pick: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
New selection: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
This was quite a drop for Sammy Watkins from fourth overall to 28th. However, Watkins is the type of player the Panthers hoped they were getting when they took Kelvin Benjamin. He has the size and speed to stretch the field. Watkins is far from a great receiver, but considering he had over 2,000 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns during his first two seasons, he had a lot of potential. Playing with Cam Newton might have done more to keep that fast start going than playing with the all-star cast of Tyrod Taylor, EJ Manuel and Kyle Orton in Buffalo.
29. New England Patriots
Original pick: Dominique Easley, DL, Florida
New selection: Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State
Pretty much every 1st round pick feels a little bit like a luxury pick for the Patriots, but with Dan Connelly turning 32 during the 2014 season, New England looks to build its offensive line depth. Gabe Jackson has been a solid starter for the Raiders for the past five seasons. He might not be a huge need, but given that Dominique Easley never panned out, Jackson provides a lot more value for a Patriots team that seems to have offensive line turnover every year.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Original pick: Jimmie Ward, DB, NIU
New selection: Avery Williamson, LB, Kentucky
Injuries and inconsistency prevented Jimmie Ward from ever truly catching on. The 49ers have been trying to find a middle linebacker for years on top of that, Avery Williamson struggles at times in pass coverage, but he is a thumper of a tackler. Pro Football Focus ranked him as a top-20 linebacker in 2018 with the Jets. He would fill a void for the 49ers and prevent future draft mistakes such as Ramon Foster.
31. Denver Broncos
Original pick: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
New selection: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
I strongly considered picking Teddy Bridgewater here given Peyton Manning being in the twilight of his career. Denver still had a mostly unproven Brock Osweiler on the roster, whom the team had spent a second round pick on in 2012. He never turned into the starter, but I can’t see the Broncos investing a 1st round pick in a quarterback so soon after and with Manning coming off the best statistical season in NFL history. As a result, Denver sticks with Bradley Roby, who, despite his one-contract tenure, played a pivotal role in 2016’s Super Bowl run. Roby was the nickel corner for that dominant Denver defense. While he may now be in Houston, his role for those five years is something the Broncos would sign up for again.
32. Seattle Seahawks (traded to Vikings)
Original pick: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
New pick: Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
The defending champs traded out of the 1st round and allowed Minnesota to swoop in for Teddy Bridgewater. There is a chance the Seahawks would drop out again, but Ju’waun James fills a need for Seattle. They selected Justin Britt at the end of the second round to start at right tackle. James would have been a much better option and hopefully helped avoid the steady deterioration of that Seahawks line that took place over the next few seasons. Since 2014, the Seattle has ranked in the top 10 in sacks allowed every season. Some of that is based on how Russell Wilson plays, but a lot of it is a total inability to protect him. Starting James at right tackle from day one would provide some stability on that side of the line.