2020 NFL Mock Draft: Tua Tagovailoa Could be Top Quarterback Prospect

2020 NFL Mock Draft: Tua Tagovailoa Could be Top Quarterback Prospect

A mock draft of what each team should do in the 2020 NFL Draft based on Super Bowl odds.

Updated: Sept. 5, 2019 • 10:05 AM ET

K.J. Costello could be a first round pick in the next NFL Draft.

When it comes to the NFL, it’s never too early to look ahead.

As the new season gears up, let’s look at how teams may want to improve their rosters following the 2019-20 campaign. We know the scouting process has long since begun for each organization, but it’s mostly still guesswork at this early stage. Therefore, this mock draft will be organized as this writer’s recommendation of what each team should do in the 2020 NFL Draft, not the traditional prediction of what each team will do.

Teams are ordered by the latest Super Bowl odds (per Bovada), and this order will not necessarily reflect a correct draft order (i.e. two AFC teams picking 31 and 32). Now, take a step back and enjoy these selections as an introduction to both NFL team needs and players to watch for in college football this season.

 

 


1. Miami Dolphins (+12500): Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State

After finishing 29th in sacks in 2018 and losing leading pass rushers Robert Quinn (6.5 sacks) and Cameron Wake (6), the Dolphins’ most pressing need is apparent. Barring a breakout season from former first-round pick Charles Harris, both edge spots stand to be greatly improved.

Unstoppable when he puts his mind to it, Chase Young was a dominant force for the Buckeyes in the wake of second-overall pick Nick Bosa’s injury a season ago. There are concerns about Young taking plays off, but the right coach could unlock his All-Pro potential, which is why Miami should take the risk.

 

2. Cincinnati Bengals (+12500): Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Andy Dalton has been a good starter for the Bengals for the past eight seasons, but hasn’t been able to get Cincinnati past the first round of the playoffs (or reach them at all, recently) — Marvin Lewis isn’t all to blame. New coach Zac Taylor was instrumental to Jared Goff’s rise into a competitive signal caller for the Los Angeles Rams and should be looking for a new project to work on in Cincinnati.

Tagovailoa is far from a project, however, as he has already demonstrated the ability to deliver the football through tight windows all over the field. The only knocks on him are his lack of pro-tangibles (height/weight/speed) and a nagging insistence that he’s bolstered by the tremendous supporting cast he plays with in Tuscaloosa. Still, Tagovailoa is undeniably talented and has proven himself a cold-blooded playmaker with a varied arsenal.

 

3. Buffalo Bills (+10000): A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

The Bills are grossly underestimated and will likely find themselves in the playoffs if Josh Allen can improve upon his encouraging 2018 campaign. At this spot, however, the value just isn’t there to shore up a limited list of needs in Buffalo, namely at linebacker (assuming Lorenzo Alexander’s retirement) and finding a solid No. 2 corner behind Tre’Davious White. After taking steps to improve their offensive line, the next changes may best be made on the defensive line with Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy aging.

A.J. Epenesa is an explosive edge rusher with a big, strong frame, who recorded 10.5 sacks in a limited role for Iowa last year. Epenesa does everything well and comes without any glaring shortcomings in his game. Pairing Epenesa with last year’s early selection, Ed Oliver, could push the Bills defense to one of the league’s best with an intimidating secondary already established.

 

4. Washington Redskins (+8000): Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Wide receiver has been an area of concern for Washington the past few years, and they’ve yet to find their No. 1 guy. Former first-round pick Josh Doctson was released last week, and we’re yet to see how rookies Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon perform; odds are, the team is still at a loss for a double-me-or-else, explosive receiver.

Jeudy will likely enter the draft as the best wide receiver prospect we’ve seen in years, possibly since Julio Jones (another Alabama alum) came onto the scene in 2011. Jeudy might not have the size and contested-catch-ability that Jones possesses, but he’s as sharp of a route runner as we’ve ever seen and finds himself with yards of separation more often than not. He’s almost impossible to cover and breaks ankles after the catch, seemingly with ease. Jeudy will bolster any passing attack lucky enough to draft him.

 

5. Arizona Cardinals (+8000): Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

With left tackle D.J. Humphries and right tackle Marcus Gilbert on expiring contracts following the 2019 season, it’s safe to say that Arizona will have to re-evaluate their situation up front to keep first-overall pick Kyler Murray upright, needing as many players as possible who can also open holes for the ever-dangerous David Johnson in the backfield.

Andrew Thomas can do damage in both the passing and running games, and his footwork/power combination allows him to fit into almost any NFL scheme. The Cardinals could employ him on either side of the line, as he has experience at both tackle spots. It’s rare to find a road-grader and a blind-side protector of his caliber on a team, let alone in one player. Thomas is special and could be the missing piece for a Cardinals offense that will be ferocious, to say the least, should rookie wideouts Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler take on expanded roles and establish themselves as starters amidst Larry Fitzgerald’s imminent retirement.

 

6. New York Jets (+8000): Walker Little, OT, Stanford

Sam Darnold has a talented trio of receivers at his disposal (Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa and Jamison Crowder), but until the situation improves up front, he could be held back from reaching his full potential. The Jets only gave up 37 sacks in 2018, but every spot on their line can be upgraded. The trade with the Raiders for Kelechi Osemele was a start on the interior, but both left tackle Kelvin Beachum and right tackle Brandon Shell are on expiring contracts and likely won’t be re-signed.

Walker Little is a raw prospect and former five-star recruit who has started at left tackle since day one for the Cardinal. While his feet don’t always show up on tape, he’s strong at the point of attack and plays through the whistle. His infectious work ethic points toward a strong 2019 season at Stanford, and a high first-round selection seems very likely at this stage. The NFL is hard-pressed for consistent production at the left tackle position, and that’s exactly what Little provides. If he can loosen up his footwork and tighten up against outside pass rushers, he could easily pass Andrew Thomas as the top tackle.

 

7. Detroit Lions (+8000): Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

Derrick Brown should have declared in 2019, but a strong senior showing will cement his early first-round stock. He’s got top-five talent and reminds of Ndamukong Suh — that’s high praise, but Brown has the chops to validate that comparison. He explodes out of his stance and at times, lines up over center standing straight up, which is uncommon and unpreferred for interior defensive linemen, but his rare combination of frame and athleticism allow him to usually make it work (definitely an area of concern). If Brown can work on his pad level and get better leverage, he won’t have to rely on his strength and punch to consistently win in the trenches. Should he improve his overall technique, his quick first step and good hand usage point to his being one of the safer 2020 selections.

The Lions may not be able to re-sign A’Shawn Robinson and have Mike Daniels on a one-year deal, so why not pick up a bull rusher the likes of which they’ve yet to see since losing the aforementioned Suh? Damon Harrison and Derrick Brown could split reps in the one-gap, and either can lock down the 3-gap.

 

8. New York Giants (+6600): Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

Wirfs is far and away the best right tackle in this draft class, and with Nate Solder tied with the Giants to the tune of $62 million through the 2022 season, right tackle is an area of concern in New York. While protecting the blind side is most teams’ primary concern, having a push-the-pile, sturdy right tackle is now just as important, especially for a team that’ll be banking mostly on its running game to generate offense.

Any team that drafts Wirfs will be doing so for his run blocking, as he’s proven to be one of the best (if not the best) in the country. Following a likely more-than-respectable season for star sophomore Saquon Barkley, the Giants would be wise to invest in opening up lanes and allowing their superstar to reach new heights. Wirfs is as safe of a pick as they come, as long as whichever team that picks him up plays to his strengths. He isn’t the best pass blocker, but he gets the job done and can hold his own up front, which could aid in setting up signal caller Daniel Jones for future success.

 

9. Oakland Raiders (+6600): Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia

The Raiders will be looking to make a splash in the 2020 draft before moving to Las Vegas, but quarterback shouldn’t be on the table yet for Oakland. Derek Carr is serviceable at worst, and like it or not, he’s signed for $125 million through 2023. Mike Mayock made some big moves on the offensive side of the ball in the offseason, most notably trading for Antonio Brown and signing wideout Tyrell Williams and massive tackle Trent Brown. Looking at the defense, shoring up the secondary should be priority No. 1 for Oakland after making improvements to the front seven (Clelin Ferrell, Vontaze Burfict, Brandon Marshall), addressing one of the league’s worst rush defenses.

LaMarcus Joyner and Johnathan Abram will be an exciting safety tandem for years to come, but the situation at cornerback is a different story. Starters Daryl Worley and Nevin Lawson are only on one-year deals, so there’s still a need even if last year’s second-round pick, Trayvon Mullen, excels in his rookie season.

Bryce Hall is the best cornerback in this draft class. He has started since his true freshman season for the Cavaliers and is arguably the best in man and zone coverage of anyone this year. He wasn’t tested in press coverage, due to Virginia’s defensive scheme, but his length and playmaking ability make him an enticing selection. He could go even higher in the draft based on his cover skills alone. Today’s corner prospects must be able to hold their own against the run, and while Hall isn’t one to wrap up and stuff plays close to the line, he doesn’t let just anyone slip by him in the open field.

 

10. Denver Broncos (+6600): Raekwon Davis, DT/DE, Alabama

The Broncos’ front seven has been comparably formidable to the Seahawks’ now-defunct secondary in recent years, although the former has managed departures (most recently Shaquil Barrett) by drafting to their strengths (selecting Bradley Chubb fifth overall in 2018). That trend should continue in next year’s draft, as all of their interior defensive linemen are on expiring contracts: Derek Wolfe, Adam Gotsis and Shelby Harris.

Raekwon Davis can play each gap from nose tackle to defensive end in a 3-4, and maybe even a 4-3. He has a similar frame to Jaguars’ standout Calais Campbell, but likely won’t come off the edge as Campbell does. His versatility makes him an attractive option for any team, and Denver could have a great need at the position. Davis’ anchor is unparalleled, and you can’t teach the traits he already possesses.

 

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6000): Grant Delpit, S, Louisiana State

While a quarterback might seem like the logical choice here, I don’t believe Jameis Winston’s time is up in Tampa Bay. He has shown flashes of greatness throughout his career, but he hasn’t been great. Buccaneers’ coach Bruce Arians got the best out of Carson Palmer long after the league had dismissed him, and Winston will be a lot cheaper to retain than most teams’ quarterbacks as the asking price for franchise passers continues to rise league-wide.

Meanwhile, Grant Delpit fills a major need at safety, likely slotting next to new signee Darian Stewart and possibly in 3-high sets with Justin Evans, should the latter bounce back from his injury in good form. Delpit’s versatility is shown by his coverage skills in the slot, ability to play in the box and stuff the run, and ball skills when playing in deep zone packages. He’s the most refined safety prospect in recent memory, already drawing comparisons to young standout Derwin James. He would gift Tampa Bay a playmaker at a position of need while being the best player available at the same time.

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12. Tennessee Titans (+5000): Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Justin Herbert was in contention for the first overall selection a year ago, but chose to return to Oregon for his senior season; his size and athleticism will push him into that same conversation in 2020. Herbert is accurate but inconsistent, looking at times like an All-Pro and at others being held back by sloppy footwork and a tendency to put too much air under the football. Still, it’s better to overthrow receivers on missed passes, and his arm strength often leads to that outcome.

Herbert might not be the safest pick in this draft, but the game he plays is safe (not meaning he doesn’t take shots down the field, but that he rarely forces plays). Marcus Mariota has been unable to produce in Nashville, and Herbert might actually benefit from sitting behind Ryan Tannehill for a year as the former will likely find himself on a new team in 2020. For a team with few needs on paper yet caught on the playoff bubble in recent years, a new field general could be the spark that gets the Titans deep into the playoffs where Tennessee feels they belong.

 

13. Carolina Panthers (+5000): Isaiah Simmons, S/LB, Clemson

The Panthers are transitioning to a 3-4 defense, and while their roster is filled out nicely, they have a lot of expiring contracts to replace following this season — Mario Addison, Shaq Thompson and Vernon Butler, to name a few. Gerald McCoy and Bruce Irvin are on one-year contracts, so only Dontari Poe and Luke Kuechly are guaranteed to lead Carolina’s front seven in 2020.

Isaiah Simmons has actually drawn comparisons to Shaq Thompson, but is definitely a safety first, although he can hold his own in the box. The uber-athletic Simmons might follow a path similar to long-time Panther Thomas Davis, entering the league as a safety and becoming a standout weakside linebacker. The Clemson product is an opportunist in coverage and a wrap-up tackler; and while many scouts croon over the big hitters at safety, what Simmons offers in versatility and athleticism makes him one of the safer hybrids in recent drafts. The Panthers will likely have needs at linebacker and safety with Tre Boston also on a one-year deal, so why not kill two birds with one stone here?

 

14. Indianapolis Colts (+5000): Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

The Colts have a lot of adequate players at the defensive tackle position: Denico Autry, Tyquan Lewis, Margus Hunt and more. However, and especially for a 4-3 defense, it’d be nice to have one stud in the middle up front.

Javon Kinlaw is a physical specimen at 6-foot-6 and 302 pounds, and he’s surprisingly quick too. Let’s focus on the negatives first, because this is a raw prospect in the truest form of the term. Kinlaw can be slow out of his stance at times, often gets his pad level wrong and can find himself on the ground from time to time. However, he’s an unstoppable force when he gets off the line quickly, an ability he flashes in spurts. His functional strength and power rush make him unblockable at times; and while he won’t be a star on day one, the right coaching (adding some complementary moves to his pass rush and solidifying his jump) can turn him into one quickly. The potential is off the charts with this guy.

 

15. Baltimore Ravens (+3500): Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama

After losing long-time defensive star C.J. Mosley in free agency, finding his replacement is paramount to the Ravens’ defensive success. With starting inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor also on a one-year deal, there really isn’t any question about where Baltimore needs to go with this pick. Luckily, the top prospect at the position is still available at this junction — Dylan Moses out of Alabama.

Moses is one of the best athletes in this draft class, regardless of position. His change of direction skills and closing speed are elite, to say the least, and he’s dominant against the run. His play in coverage stands to be improved, but we know that athleticism is the most coveted trait for linebackers in today’s game, and he’s the best in that regard. Hopefully, he can fully recover from his season-ending ACL tear.

 

16. San Francisco 49ers (+3300): Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin

The 49ers need an upgrade at center. Current starter Ben Garland is only signed through the 2019 season, and San Francisco will be looking to improve their offensive line to protect their pricy investment in Jimmy Garoppolo, for whom they’ve already drafted and signed a number of receivers: Jordan Matthews, Dante Pettis, Jalen Hurd and Deebo Samuel, to name a few. Expectations are high for a team that has a playoff-caliber roster, but the offensive line is one thing holding them back, allowing a staggering 48 sacks in 2018.

Biadasz is the best interior offensive lineman in this draft class, comparable to the Colts’ Quenton Nelson in what he brings to a unit in enthusiasm and leadership. His play isn’t quite on that level, however, as he can get off-balance from time to time, finding himself on the ground. Yet, he’s a strong blocker, especially against the run, and a gritty finisher, always playing through the whistle. The positives outweigh the negatives, and Biadasz could be a Pro Bowl center sooner than later.

 

17. Atlanta Falcons (+3000): C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

You can never have too many defensive backs on an NFL roster, and the Falcons would be wise to go with the best player available here while the value isn’t as high at positions of greater need, namely the one at edge rusher with Vic Beasley’s contract set to expire in 2020.

The Falcons have a nice young core in the secondary with Isaiah Oliver, Kendall Sheffield and Damontae Kazee, but none have stepped up to solidify the side opposite superstar cornerback Desmond Trufant — a problem similar to the one we’ve seen with Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals — a problem they may have resolved with Byron Murphy in this past year’s draft.

C.J. Henderson has prototype size and exceptional movement skills, mirroring receivers in tight coverage and making plays on every pass. He’s a factor on blitzing downs and solid in pursuit. A rounded cover corner, Henderson needs only to improve his power in press coverage, but he has the speed to recover on the off-chance he makes a mistake. He’s simply a part of every play.

 

18. Seattle Seahawks (+2800): Nick Coe, EDGE, Auburn

The Seahawks’ pass rush was ferocious in 2018, due in large part to contributions from Frank Clark (14 sacks) and Jarran Reed (10.5). However, Clark was traded to the Chiefs, and Reed is suspended for the first six games of the 2019 season, which happens to be a contract year for the Alabama product. That being said, the recent trade for Jadeveon Clowney should help matters, if he turns out to be more than a one-year rental.

Nick Coe is a true 4-3 defensive end and a perfect fit in Seattle’s defensive scheme. He uses his size (6-foot-4 and 282 pounds) and strength to his advantage, boasting a tremendous power rush and ability to control the line of scrimmage. It’s rare to find production (7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 13.5 tackles for loss) and physical traits on his level in a player outside of the top 10, but this is a very talented draft class, and some guys are going to slip. Coe is a breakout candidate for the 2019 campaign and could skyrocket into the conversation with Chase Young and A.J. Epenesa for the top edge rusher if his numbers take a jump in his junior season. If Seahawks 2019 first-round pick L.J. Collier can establish himself in his rookie year, this d-line will be among the NFL’s biggest.

 

19. Minnesota Vikings (+2800): Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia

Kirk Cousins’ contract will be up following the 2021 season, and Minnesota would be wise to start looking for his replacement. Cousins has largely disappointed for the Vikings, taking a team that went to the NFC championship to an 8-7-1 record in one season. He’s not the long-term answer for a team that has a defense and skill position players to compete right now, so let’s bring in Jake Fromm.

You’ll remember Fromm from his freshman year, when he valiantly took over the Bulldogs and led them to the championship game against Alabama. Fromm is cool under pressure with a clean throwing motion and prowess in the short and intermediate passing games. He won’t kill you down the field, but the Vikings’ best receivers, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, do damage in the middle of the field and after the catch. Fromm possesses all the intangibles you’d want out of a franchise quarterback, and the Vikings should find themselves back in the Super Bowl conversation with him at the helm. He could have a year to develop behind Cousins, and then it would be showtime for the proven contender.

 

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (+2500): Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado

The Jaguars have a young stable of competent wideouts in Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley and DJ Chark, but they lack a true No. 1 at the position. Their offensive line is underrated, and Leonard Fournette remains one of the most dangerous runners in the league when healthy. The Jags recently re-signed Myles Jack, which should keep their defense among the league’s best for years to come.

After signing Nick Foles for the foreseeable future, a true standout receiver could be all this team needs to get back to the AFC championship, and that’s exactly what Laviska Shenault is. He has a rare combination of size, speed and strength, but you can’t compare his game to anyone else’s.

Shenault plays like he’s in a game of pick-up. Separation, strong hands and the best run-after-catch ability in the country make him the player he is, and he can move the sticks out of the backfield as well. Shenault and Jeudy are two of the most explosive receivers we’ve ever seen coming out of college, and the Jaguars would be lucky to pick one of them up at this stage. Either way, Jacksonville will be looking to find a No. 1 receiver in the Colorado product, and his production up to this point makes that career outlook far from unfeasible.

 

21. Dallas Cowboys (+2200): Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri

Jason Witten is likely entering his last season with the Dallas Cowboys, so the time is right to draft his replacement. The Cowboys don’t have a lot of glaring needs, but with the enormous contracts they handed out in the offseason, cap space will be very tight and they’ll have to be smart with their draft selections. Adding another receiving option is necessary with Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb also needing to be re-signed in 2020 (possible franchise tag for Cooper), and Okwuegbunam is as impressive as any tight end in recent memory, drawing comparisons to Rob Gronkowski in the way he runs with both speed and power.

Beating linebackers and even defensive backs consistently, Okwuegbunam is hard to catch in the open field, and that’s where you’ll usually find him due to his superb route running and ability to get separation against single coverage. He isn’t known for his blocking, but his functional strength leads me to believe that NFL coaching will polish him up in that regard. Dallas will be hard-pressed for pass catchers after this season, and Okwuegbunam is one of the best available in next year’s draft.

22. Green Bay Packers (+2000): CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

Behind Davante Adams, the Packers have a lot of young, unproven talents: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Darrius Shepherd, Allen Lazard and others round out that group. However, and especially after losing slot veteran Randall Cobb, Green Bay is lacking a No. 2 option.

CeeDee Lamb is a more rounded receiver than other Oklahoma standout Marquise Brown, who went in the first round a year ago. Lamb projects as a slot receiver in the NFL with his precise route running, ability to make contested catches and quickness. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, but he’s fast enough to get separation on his few deep routes. He has a slight frame, but still blocks aggressively in the run game and outmuscles receivers at the high point. His reliable hands in traffic make speed a non-factor, and he could be a perfect fit as Green Bay’s new No. 2 option.

 

23. Pittsburgh Steelers (+1800): Kristian Fulton, CB, Louisiana State

The Steelers have a couple of holes on their roster, including finding a right tackle in the wake of losing Marcus Gilbert and finding a new No. 2 receiver after the falling out with Antonio Brown. While there’s value at both positions at this stage, Pittsburgh has a bevy of young players at each group, and we’re yet to see if Chukwuma Okorafor or Derwin Gray can step up and start at either tackle spot, potentially moving Alejandro Villanueva back to the right side. Ryan Switzer, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson will compete with five-year veteran Donte Moncrief for the No. 2 spot opposite JuJu Smith-Schuster.

The most pressing need for Pittsburgh might actually be at corner with Mike Hilton and Artie Burns on expiring deals. Haden and Steven Nelson inked deals in the offseason, and Pittsburgh drafted Justin Layne in the third round this year, but if they lose Hilton, a starting spot could be up for grabs. Layne may assume it, but Hilton has been a fixture in the slot and Haden has experienced a revival of sorts in the Steel City and been a fixture in an underrated secondary for years.

Kristian Fulton is a bit of an unknown, missing time in 2018 due to injury and 2017 due to suspension. His one year of tape has been impressive, allowing just six first downs and touchdowns while playing alongside Greedy Williams, who slipped to the second round due to concerns against the run; Fulton is the best corner in this draft against the run, so that won’t be an issue. He comes with tremendous upside in coverage with the size and movement skills to stay with anyone in college football. The main concern with Fulton is his aggressiveness, frequently walking the line between physicality and pass interference. However, he’s an all-around stud and near-lock to go in the first round in 2020.

 

24. Houston Texans (+1800): Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

The Texans’ backfield was set for the 2019 season before Lamar Miller’s season-ending injury; but now, Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde will have to handle most of the load. Miller is on the last year of his four-year deal with Houston, so the Texans’ backfield for 2020 is in flux. Houston may not re-sign Miller, as he hasn’t lived up to expectations in his time with the team and the asking price for starting running backs continues to rise around the league. Johnson hasn’t proven himself capable of being a bell cow back and is best suited as a complementary option.

Meanwhile, Travis Etienne cemented himself as the premier running back in college football last year with 24 rushing touchdowns on only 204 carries. He doesn’t put the football on the ground often (two fumbles in two seasons) and is a threat to go the distance every time the ball touches his hands. He isn’t a skilled receiver, but that’s where Duke Johnson comes in. If the Texans can grab Etienne, then Houston would have a legitimate backfield.

 

25. Philadelphia Eagles (+1400): Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

It’s hard to slot anyone to a team without obvious needs, so we’ll need to take a look at the Eagles’ expiring contracts. Most prominently, free safety Rodney McLeod will be a free agent in 2020, and re-signing a player of his caliber on a long-term deal will be tricky after putting pen to paper for a massive deal retaining Carson Wentz.

Xavier McKinney is the third-best safety in this draft class, but that’s only because it’s a very talented group at the position. However, McKinney is the best safety in coverage and might actually project as a slot corner for whichever team drafts him, a position the Eagles could stand to improve. His recovery speed, although usually unnecessary, coupled with his textbook footwork, makes him a safe pick.

 

26. Los Angeles Chargers (+1400): Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

With Philip Rivers and Melvin Gordon going into contract years, one nearing retirement and the other holding out, this will be a franchise-defining draft for the Chargers. It’s reasonable to believe Rivers will be back for at least another year, so Los Angeles can look to the 2021 class or later to pick up their next signal caller. The situation with Gordon, however, is a little more unclear. If he can’t be re-signed, finding a new running back has to be priority No. 1 for an offense and a team that is in win-now mode.

Jonathan Taylor has been uber-productive at Wisconsin since his freshman season, racking up more than 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns in two years. If he chooses to return for his senior season (unlikely), he could challenge a number of NCAA records.

There are two main concerns with Taylor: his usage (606 carries in two years) and his tendency to put the football on the ground (12 fumbles in that same time span). One is fixable, while the other is only a concern depending on who you ask. He has stayed healthy, so maybe high usage isn’t a problem for him.

Taylor hasn’t been able to showcase his receiving abilities in the Badgers’ offensive scheme, but he has shown to be capable when called upon to do so. He’s strong, fast, elusive, can win inside and outside, and hits holes quickly. It would be interesting to see how he transitions from playing behind an elite offensive line at Wisconsin to the situation up front in Los Angeles, which is a little more concerning at the moment.

 

27. Cleveland Browns (+1400): Trey Adams, OT, Washington

Everything in Cleveland points to a deep playoff run and their defense is filled to the brim with talent, but their offense could be held back by an average offensive line that could struggle to fill the hole left by superstar guard Kevin Zeitler. Both tackle spots stand to be improved for the Browns, and Greg Robinson is on a one-year deal anyways.

In this scenario, Trey Adams has slipped all the way down to 27th, and it’s just a no-brainer for John Dorsey, the Browns general manager. Adams is an absolute behemoth, even in offensive linemen terms at 6-foot-8 and 327 pounds. He plays up to his size with a powerful punch and good timing off the snap. He can hold his own against speed and power rushers alike; his technique is polished and consistent. The only real concern for Adams is his injury history, as he tore his ACL in 2017 and missed most of the season with a back injury in 2018. Still, his talent is undeniable, and he projects as a day one starter and long-time fixture for an o-line that hasn’t been the same since losing Joe Thomas.

 

28. Oakland Raiders via Chicago Bears (+1400): Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Pennsylvania State

Even if last year’s first-round pick, Clelin Ferrell, has an All-Pro season, the Raiders are in dire need of someone across from him. After picking up Bryce Hall ninth overall in this simulation, the back end of the defense is shored up, but work remains to be done up front. Josh Mauro is slotted as the starter opposite Ferrell, and the conversation of whether he needs to be upgraded or not is pointless because he’s on a one-year deal. It’s clear that one draft pick won’t fix a pass rush that only generated 13 sacks in 2018, so let’s go back-to-back in Oakland and possibly start a trend like the one we saw with San Francisco: going back to the well of defensive line talent until a problem group becomes an elite strength.

Yetur Gross-Matos is the best pass rusher available at this stage, so it’s an obvious selection for the Raiders. Gross-Matos had a very productive sophomore season for Penn State (8 sacks and 20 tackles for loss) and will look to build on those numbers in his junior year. He has prototype size and powerful hands, and often wins his assignments right after the snap. His pass rush arsenal is limited, however, and he doesn’t win if he can’t get off the ball quicker than his blocker. NFL coaching should make him into a star, as he has all the traits you want to build on.

 

29. Los Angeles Rams (+850): Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

The Rams are Super Bowl contenders, and as such have very limited needs on their roster. However, starting corners Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters are both entering contract years, so they’ll need to plan ahead for the departures of one or both.

Trevon Diggs is the latest corner out of Alabama to warrant first-round consideration, and it’s well-deserved in his case. Diggs has the size (6-foot-2) and athleticism, a combination of both top-end speed and excellent recovery/acceleration, to stick with anyone. His ball skills and prowess in press coverage point to his being a day one starter for any NFL team, and that’s what Los Angeles would expect from him. The only concerns with Diggs are a foot injury that now appears fully healed and a tendency, albeit rare, to stumble in transition from backpedaling to long strides. Regardless, and assuming a strong showing in 2019, Diggs should challenge Bryce Hall, C.J. Henderson and Kristian Fulton to be the top cornerback in this draft class. The Rams are re-tooling and right back at the top of the power rankings in this situation.

 

30. New Orleans Saints (+800): K.J. Costello, QB, Stanford

Let’s face it, there’s a good chance that 2019 will be the last year of Drew Brees’ illustrious career. His contract is up at the end of the season, and with backup Teddy Bridgewater in the same situation, New Orleans will have to find their quarterback of the future in the draft. While it’s possible that Brees pens an extension and returns for at least another year, a la Tom Brady, the 40-year-old will likely be gone if the Saints find themselves as champions, or if he finally grabs that elusive MVP award. The Saints don’t have any obvious needs, but if they lose their quarterback, a team that should be hoisting the Lombardi trophy will instantly find themselves on the playoff bubble at best.

K.J. Costello might be the best pro-style passer in this class, as he’s coming from an NFL-esque offense at Stanford. He’s got the frame and throwing ability to be a stud at the drop back and launch. He isn’t mobile, but the Saints are used to working with a traditional pocket passer in Brees. Costello fits that mold and then some; he’s good.

 

31. Kansas City Chiefs (+800): Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

This one might seem like a head-scratcher, but hear me out. Tyreek Hill is on an expiring contract. Say he doesn’t get re-signed and last year’s selection, Mecole Hardman, fills in as the speedster. If Hill does re-sign, they have two options at that role. Sammy Watkins has been unimpressive with the team, but remains a solid contributor. The Chiefs have another promising youngster in Demarcus Robinson, so why go with a receiver here? Drafting to your strengths is what keeps championship teams in that conversation year in and year out; just ask the Patriots.

Patrick Mahomes put up All-Pro numbers in 2018, but add another target, shift the scheme to more of an air raid and just let him do his thing in the pocket and 60-plus passing touchdowns isn’t out of the questions. Mahomes is great in the Chiefs’ offense, but imagine how good he’d be in a Mahomes-tailored offense. I’m not telling Andy Reid how to do his job, but another receiver and some more four- and five-wide sets is a step on the path to Hall of Fame level stardom for the quarterback.

Tee Higgins is a big target (6-foot-4) that Mahomes has yet to play with, and he’s a red zone threat, to say the least. His massive catch radius and insane leaping ability project him to Megatron-level dominance inside the 20-yard line (that’s his ultimate ceiling in that area), but he could be held back by his lack of speed and explosiveness. Still, he’s an effective route runner, and just imagine Hill, Hardman, Watkins, Travis Kelce and Higgins all catching balls in Kansas City. Wow.

 

32. New England Patriots (+700): Terrell Lewis, EDGE/LB, Alabama

If there are two things we know about New England, it’s that they’ll draft the best player available and they value versatility. Terrell Lewis checks both boxes, and for a team that wins with anyone, that’s all you can ask for. Lewis is a threat on the edge and as a stand-up linebacker, and having seen him play in person, he’s just explosive. He gets to the ball before you can even track which side of the field a play is going toward and finishes with power. New England’s dynasty will likely continue, like it or not, and Lewis is next in line to be a part of that.

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