It’s less than a week now until the NFL Draft, and more and more rumors flying around about what team may be prepared to do what, or draft who, next week when the draft begins.
But in the midst of all the smoke and mirrors, each team does have particular needs, and may have shown more interest in particular players, that may reveal their true intentions. Of course any surprise picks or trades could upend how it all plays out, but they may not impact the Vikings choice too much by the time they’re on the clock at #22.
Be that as it may, I put together something of a mock draft for the first round, based on team needs, existing player contracts, and players they’ve met for the most part, and trying to draw some inferences on first-round priorities from that. I also look at which teams may be more open to trading, if the opportunity presents itself, and what may motivate them to do so.
But before getting into the picks and analysis, a couple overall notes.
Dolphins in the Driver’s Seat
The Miami Dolphins have three picks in the first round - #5, #18, and #26. They also have 2 second-round picks and 14 in total, so they have all the ammo to do what they want in the first round. But it’s that first pick - #5 overall - that is the first real pivot point in the draft. Who they take at #5, and/or if any trades happen around that pick, could really have a big impact on what happens later on. The expectation is still that the Dolphins take Tua Tagovailoa at #5, but there are rumors that they could go in another direction because of his hip injury.
Do It for Love
While Joe Burrow is the highest ranked QB in the draft, and Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert are the next two QBs expected off the board, some team is going to make a surprise pick/deal to get Jordan Love, mostly likely in the top half of the round.
Love has had some comparisons to Patrick Mahomes, and right or wrong, some team is gonna make a move based on that. Love has had multiple meetings with several teams, including Miami, LA Chargers, Colts, and Raiders. He’s also met with the Patriots, Bucs, Cards, Eagles, Falcons, Saints and Packers.
Love could go as high as #5 or #6, to the Dolphins or Chargers, but if he’s still on the board after that, the likelihood of a team trading up for him goes up a lot. There are plenty of teams in the top 15 or so picks that would be happy to trade down, so there should be no shortage of willing partners for a team willing to trade up. But there may be more than one interested party to any deal.
My guess is that the Raiders have their eyes on Love, and Jon Gruden wants to draft his QBOTF. That means they could draft him at #12, if they sense he could go before their pick at #19. Then again, another team could trade up with the Browns at #10 to nab Love, or even the Raiders or another team trade up to #7 to get him.
Hurts So Good
Yet another surprise QB move could also happen in the first round: Jalen Hurts getting drafted late in the round. The Vikings have met with Hurts, but so have the Patriots and a few other teams. I doubt the Vikings would use a first-round pick on Hurts, but the Patriots or Saints might. Both teams need to replace future HoF QBs.
If Jordan Love’s comparison is Patrick Mahomes, then Hurts’ comparison is Lamar Jackson. Hurts is mobile and can run, and is also seen as a strong leader and a winner by many scouts, coaches and players. He’s not a perfect prospect, but all that may be enough to get his named called on Thursday night.
It’s possible, although perhaps not probable, that a team may be willing to trade up with the Vikings - ahead of the Patriots at #22 - to nab Hurts. The Saints for example.
Some prospects are likely to fall a bit farther than expected because they’re at positions the league doesn’t value as highly anymore. Linebackers like Isaiah Simmons, Kenneth Murray, and Patrick Queen aren’t likely to go as high as they once would, even though linebackers in the first round are usually pretty good picks historically. The same is true of running backs - J.K. Dobbins, D’Andre Swift. A defensive tackle like Javon Kinlaw may go a little later than expected because a defensive tackle may not be the priority for as many teams in the top half of the first round. And, because it’s such a deep class this year, many wide receivers that in other years would go in the first round, will go later as teams focus on other positions that aren’t so deep.
And with that, here we go...
#1: Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB
This is about as close to a lock as you can get. I don’t know how many first-round picks it would take to get the Bengals to trade out of this pick, but it seems a moot point in any case. The Bengals need a franchise QB, Joe Burrow is clearly that, and clearly the best QB in this draft, so just as the sun will come up tomorrow in the east, the Bengals will pick Joe Burrow with the first pick of the draft.
#2: Washington Redskins: Chase Young, DE
I suspect the Redskins would like to trade down from this pick, either a little or a lot, if the compensation was there, but it seems fairly unlikely it will be. There isn’t much motivation for a team a half dozen or so picks back to make a move, considering the players likely available to them without trading. And even a small move in that range is expensive. For a team further down in the first round, it would really mean giving up a lot of draft capital, which only a few teams have this year, and for most of those trading up for Chase Young isn’t a priority. Only a couple teams have even met with Young as they feel he’s another virtual lock to go to the Redskins. So the Redskins, who are moving to a 4-3 under new head coach Ron Riviera, will go with what appears to be a generational talent in Chase Young to aid in that transformation.
#3: Detroit Lions: Jeffrey Okudah, CB
If Burrow at #1 is a 99% chance, and Young at #2 is a 95% chance, Okudah at #3 may be around an 85% chance. Despite adding Desmond Truffant at CB, the Lions still need another starter. The Lions have also said they’re willing to trade down, but once again I’m not sure the motivation is there for anybody in the top 10 or so to make an expensive move. Okudah is the only player likely to go this high that the Lions have reportedly met with, so that would seem to add to the likelihood Okudah is their pick.
However, there is a case to be made that perhaps Derrick Brown or Isiah Simmons could be the Lions pick at #3. The Lions have also met twice with CB Cameron Dantzler, who could be there for them near the top of the second round, so going with the top DT or LB at #3, rather than the top CB, and drafting a CB with their 2nd round pick. On the other hand, they’ve also met with Ross Blacklock, who could possibly be there early in the 2nd round, and who could fill their need at DT/3-4 DE. Given that CB is probably the highest value position of the three, and the potential drop-off if Dantzler isn’t there at #35, it makes sense for the Lions to go with Okudah at #3 and look to fill other needs later on.
#4: New York Giants: Tristian Wirfs, OT
The Giants are frequently connected with an offensive tackle here, typically Jedrick Wills or Tristian Wirfs, partly because of a need and partly because Giants’ GM Dave Gettleman likes drafting linemen. Fair enough. The Giants have LT Nate Soldier under a hefty contract through 2021, but under-performing his $20 million/year cap hit, I expect they’ll be happy to move on from him after this year when his dead cap is reasonable. The Giants have Cameron Fleming at RT, and a promising backup in Nick Gates. But I expect the plan would be to insert a draft pick at RT this year, and move him to LT next year to replace Solder. The Giants are a run-heavy team, so any OT they take needs to be a good run blocker, as well as play left tackle. The Giants are also said to be moving from more of a zone run blocking scheme to a power/gap scheme. Wirfs checks all those boxes, probably better than the other top tackle prospects, so he seems the most likely pick for the Giants here.
There has also been some speculation that the Giants could go with LB Isaiah Simmons here, and that could be a consideration, as they need help there. They picked up Blake Martinez in free agency, however, and that may take some of the priority out of drafting a LB in the first round. The Giants have also been looking at interior linemen, center in particular, which they could draft with their 2nd round pick.
The Giants are also a willing candidate to trade down, particularly with a QB needy team a couple spots back, as they don’t have their normal 3rd round pick (they do have a compensatory 3rd rounder). They could still get their hog molly a few spots back, and pick up a missing 3rd rounder or more for their trouble. The easiest candidate for a trade would be the Chargers, who’d only have to move up two spots to leapfrog QB-needy Miami for a QBOTF, but they’ve said they’re not that interested in trading up. Another candidate is Jacksonville, who could trade up from #9 for a QB. But again, considering other needs and available players for possible trade partners, concluding a deal seems unlikely.
#5: Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB
There’s been a fair amount of speculation about whether the Dolphins have cooled toward Tagovailoa after his hip injury, particularly not being able to have their own medical staff examine him and test him, and whether they may go with Justin Herbert instead. Or maybe even wait until later in the first round to draft a QB (they have 3 first-round picks). There is also talk that GMs this year will be more conservative in their picks, not having the normal evaluation process this year.
But waiting to take a QB later on risks QB-needy teams like the Raiders and Jaguars, who have position and draft capital, to take their picks ahead of the Dolphins could leave them with less than they’d hoped for. The Dolphins haven’t had a decent quarterback since Dan Marino, and passed on Drew Brees because of injury concerns (only to acquire Daunte Culpepper), and so on balance it seems more likely that they take their chances with Tagovailoa’s hip injury, as he offers the best chance of getting it right at QB otherwise. He’s a good scheme fit as well. The Dolphins have Fitzmagic, not to mention the ill-fated Josh Rosen, so they can take their time getting Tua up to speed.
#6: Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB
The Chargers need a new franchise QB after parting ways with Philip Rivers. I suspect they’d be happy with either Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert, but expect Herbert to be the one that falls to them. Herbert has the biggest arm in this year’s QB draft class, and with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams as wide receivers, and Hunter Henry at TE, the Chargers would be happy to draft Herbert and start playing some long ball reminiscent of their Air Coryell legacy. Herbert could compete for the starting job with Tyrod Taylor, but if he needs more time that’s okay too for the Chargers.
#7: Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown Jr., DT
The Panthers are rebuilding, and have a lot of holes to fill on defense. For that reason, they’re a candidate to trade down too. But the problem once again is finding a willing partner to trade up. Not much reason to trade up here, and the Panthers would be happy to fill a big hole in the middle of their defense with Derrick Brown, the highest ranked DT in this year’s draft. He fits well with their scheme too. The Panthers need CBs badly too, but will likely draft those later on. They could also use help on the offensive line, but have addressed that some in free agency, signing Russell Okung on a one-year deal, but still need help at guard, which they could address with their 2nd round pick.
#8: Arizona Cardinals: Jedrick Wills, RT
Pretty strong indication the Cards will go with an offensive tackle here. They’ve met all of the top tackles, and although they’re contractually committed to DJ Humphries at LT for the next two years, they need at help at right tackle. And that’s where Wills played at Alabama. They’ve just got Marcus Gilbert, coming back from IR after missing 2019, at right tackle now. Giving Kyler Murray time to throw to DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald is a priority for the Cards, as Murray was sacked 48 times last year.
Arizona would be another team most likely willing to trade down, particularly as they don’t have a 2nd round pick, and have more needs than draft capital, but once again, probably difficult to find a trade partner at this stage of the draft.
#9: Jacksonville Jaguars: Andrew Thomas, OT
The Jaguars are a bit harder to figure, as there aren’t many reports of first-round prospect meetings, but Andrew Thomas is one of them. They have a need at LT, with the disappointing Cam Robinson on the last year of his contract. Thomas is good in both run and pass blocking, and grades higher in a zone scheme new Jaguars OC Jay Gruden is likely to employ. The Jaguars also have another pick in the first round (#20), and they may address another offensive need with that pick too.
Jacksonville could be tempted by Javon Kinlaw here, or a CB, as those are positions of need, but they may put that need off until the second round, unless perhaps Kinlaw fell to them at #20. Thomas is probably the best value to them here, however.
#10: Cleveland Browns: Isaiah Simmons, LB
The Browns have often been connected with an offensive tackle here, but they’ve also met with a couple second round options, including Ezra Cleveland three times. Linebacker is also probably their weakest position group on either side of the ball. Seeing Simmons slip to them at #10 is too much to pass up, and they fill a significant hole on defense with the top ranked LB in the draft.
The Browns, like about every other team in the top 10, could be a trade down candidate as well, but also with the same problem - lack of a trade partner. If it turns out Simmons is gone, the Browns may be more willing to consider any offer, but with Simmons there it works out pretty well for them here.
#11: New York Jets: Mekhi Becton, OT
The Jets also have a need for a tackle, and have met all the top prospects. They signed George Fant on effectively a one-year deal, and if they draft Becton they could kick him inside to left guard, or over to right tackle, where 3rd round pick Chuma Edoga struggled. Either way, the Jets are weak at both tackle spots, so taking one here is likely their highest priority. They’ve met Becton twice, so there would seem to be interest.
CB and 3-4 EDGE rusher are needs as well, and the Jets could be tempted by K’Lavon Chaisson here, but it seems more likely by their other visits that they will address those needs later.
The Jets have also met with a couple of the top WRs, which is a bit of a need, so it’s possible they go WR here, but given the depth at that position this year, OT seems more likely.
#12: Las Vegas Raiders: Jordan Love, QB
Jon Gruden wants his guy at QB, having had to sit with Derek Carr for two years, and Jordan Love is his guy. Being from nearby Utah State will doubtless help with ticket sales in Vegas, and Gruden will have time to develop him for a season behind Carr and Mariota. Love is a QB in the mold of a Patrick Mahomes, mobile and thrives in off-script plays, but still needs work in a lot of areas.
Love has met with the Raiders a couple times, and has drawn a lot of interest from several teams, including a few teams with picks not far behind the Raiders. The Colts were also rumored to be willing to trade both their 2nd round picks to move into the first round for Love.
Some team is gonna go for the Love - Mahomes comparison, and decide he’s worth a top 20 pick. The Raiders head off those efforts by taking Love at #12.
#13: San Francisco 49ers: CeeDee Lamb, WR
The run on wide receivers begins, as the 49ers, while also a trade down candidate, draft a top receiver to replace Emmanuel Sanders. The 49ers had a virtual meeting with Lamb in early April.
The 49ers also have needs along the offensive line, but I doubt an OL will be highest on their board here. Defensive tackle and safety are also potential needs, and they could be tempted by Javon Kinlaw here, but wide receiver is likely the higher priority at this pick, especially with Lamb still available.
#14: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Jones, OT
The Bucs just acquired 43 year-old Tom Brady, and they need to shore-up their offensive line or it could be a short gig. While the Bucs have some other needs, I highly doubt any other position is a consideration here. Definitely a top priority.
#15: Denver Broncos: Jerry Jeudy, WR
Another top WR off the board, as the Broncos address a top need with a top talent. There are some other needs, but nothing worthy of a #15 pick over a top wide receiver in Jeudy.
#16: Atlanta Falcons: C.J. Henderson, CB
The Falcons have needs at CB, S, G and DT, and with Javon Kinlaw still there, they could be tempted to go that route. But CB is just too big a need for the Falcons, and they can’t pass up C.J. Henderson here. He’s most frequently ranked the 2nd CB in the draft after Okudah, despite a lot of business decisions as a tackler, because he’s very good in coverage.
And so the Falcons are happy to address a big need with a top CB still on the board.
#17: Dallas Cowboys: Javon Kinlaw, DT
The Cowboys have a need at CB and DL, but with Kinlaw still available here, he’s the highest man on their board. He has some position versatility that should fit well with the Cowboys’ need along their defensive line. The Cowboys met with Kinlaw in a formal interview at the Combine.
#18: Miami Dolphins: Xavier McKinney, S
Miami would have loved to addressed their need for a tackle here, and had one of their preferred tackles been available at #10, they may have made a trade up. But McKinney is a needed and versatile defensive back upgrade for the Dolphins, whose defense gave up the most passing TDs, and yards per attempt last season. McKinney can play deep, slot, and blitz - all needs for the Dolphins defense.
#19: Las Vegas Raiders: Henry Ruggs III, WR
The Raiders are forced to make their WR selection with their 2nd first round pick, fearful of losing Love if they waited past #12, but it works out fine as they still find Ruggs available at 19. The Raiders met with Ruggs at the Combine.
Ruggs fills a primary need for the Raiders at WR, and they haven’t really even met with any other comparable first-round options here.
#20: Jacksonville Jaguars: D’Andre Swift, RB
The Jaguars are more difficult to predict, as I mentioned above. However, there are reports they are shopping RB Leonard Fournette, and new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden will likely go with more of a zone scheme, and must be looking for a new RB that better suits his scheme. That RB is D’Andre Swift, who is compared to Dalvin Cook. The Jags have another pick at #42, but Swift will likely be gone by then. They’ve met with Clyde Edwards-Hilaire, but I don’t see them passing up Swift if they’re looking for a new feature back.
Some of the Jags apparent needs on defense they addressed in free agency, but there are also some mediocre performers they’re committed to contractually (Miles Jack), or are recent relatively high draft picks they probably won’t abandon just yet. And with a new OC coming in, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them address offensive needs first.
#21: Philadelphia Eagles: Patrick Queen, LB
The Eagles could be tempted to go WR here, and have met with Denzel Mims as a possible pick here. But the Eagles don’t have a LB that can cover, and having addressed CB in free agency, Queen looks like a perfect fit for their biggest need defensively here.
The Eagles have Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson at WR, so they’ll just hope they can stay healthy and perhaps pick a backup WR later in the draft. They also have a need at safety, but looking at the safeties they’ve met, it looks like that need will be addressed later as well.
#22: Minnesota Vikings: Kristian Fulton, CB
The Vikings need CBs, and I don’t see them passing on this position with one of their first round picks. Fulton fits the bill, and his being available here makes this a pretty easy selection for the Vikings. The only consideration in this scenario is whether the Vikings, who also need a WR, want to make that pick here, rather than at #25. Neither the Patriots or Saints are in a big need for a CB, so barring them trading down, the Vikings could still get Fulton at #25. The Patriots could take a WR at #23, and have met with a couple WRs the Vikings have met with as well.
I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if the Vikings ended up trading down here with either the Patriots or the Saints, adding a 5th or a 4th round pick respectively, for their trouble. Both teams may potentially value Jalen Hurts enough to trade up a bit for him here. The Patriots would move up to head off the Saints.
#23: New England Patriots: Jalen Hurts, QB
The Patriots don’t have another pick until late in the 3rd round (#87), and I don’t see them waiting that long to draft a QB, and don’t have the cap space to get a free agent. Hurts spent his early college years at Alabama, which runs a similar scheme as the Patriots. As much as Belichick says he’s ready to roll with Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer at QB, I don’t see him passing on Hurts here.
#24: New Orleans Saints: Justin Jefferson, WR
The Saints addressed the WR position with Emmanuel Sanders, but he’s likely just a one-year guy at this point. Picking up LSU star Jefferson will undoubtedly draw praise in New Orleans, but he also fits their needs well opposite Michael Thomas.
I imagine the Saints would rather go with Hurts here, but assuming New England wins that battle, Jefferson could help the Saints win now.
#25: Minnesota Vikings: Jalen Reagor, WR
This is a difficult pick to predict. The Vikings have needs along the offensive line, but there isn’t one that represents good value here, and they may trade for Trent Williams to address that need. They could also use a wide receiver to replace Diggs, but could potentially get one later on too. And, despite having just picked a CB, picking another CB could still be a good value for the Vikings here.
But with a soon-to-be 30 year-old Adam Thielen the only proven receiver on the roster, although they have some decent prospects in Tajae Sharpe and Bisi Johnson, I think the Vikings go with wide receiver here, as there are a few top prospects on the board.
The next question is which one. According to PFF, Denzel Mims- the only first-round prospect the Vikings have met- is the best in the class in jump ball ability. Laviska Shenault Jr. is the best YAC receiver in the class. And Jalen Reagor is the best deep threat in the class.
But since meeting with Mims, the Vikings added Tajae Sharpe, who is a similar type of receiver as Mims, more advanced with his route running, but not as fast as Mims. Shenault had core muscle surgery which, although he’s been cleared for all football activities, creates a bit of question mark. Shenault is more of a Percy Harvin type receiver- tough runner, lots of YAC, used all over the formation, jet sweeps, etc., impressive physical traits, but not quite as developed as a route runner because he wasn’t used as much as a pure wide receiver.
And then there’s Jalen Reagor. He’s probably the most comparable to Diggs in the type of receiver he is. Reagor is both fast and explosive. He ran a disappointing 4.47” 40 at the Combine, which doesn’t match his play speed, but on a couple other occasions including his pro day, ran around a 4.3” 40, (4.32”, 4.22”, 4.27”) which is what you see on the field. He can also accelerate to top speed quickly. Reagor, while only 5’11”, has a 42” vertical jump, and you see this put to good use in the red zone, where he often simply out-jumps defenders for the ball.
Bottom line, Reagor is a legit deep threat that the Vikings need to complement the other receivers on their roster, and can draw DB attention away from Thielen. He’s also a dangerous punt/kick returner, and would likely compete for those duties as well.
#26: Miami Dolphins: J.K. Dobbins, RB
The Dolphins have a need at RB, and have met with several in the pre-draft process, indicating their interest in drafting a top RB. They acquired Jordan Howard on effectively a one-year deal, but are looking for a bit more help for their new QB. The Dolphins don’t have much in their RB stable beyond Howard either, so picking up one of the top backs in the draft makes sense as they re-build their offense.
#27: Seattle Seahawks: Ross Blacklock, DT
The Seahawks have traded out of the first round every year like clockwork, and it would almost be surprising if they didn’t again this year too. But assuming they don’t this year, they have needs at both OL and DL they need to fill. Blacklock is probably highest on their board here, over any OL prospect. They’ve met with Blacklock twice, so there seems to be interest, and assuming they come to a deal with Jadeveon Clowney, Blacklock could complement him on the interior defensive line at 3T. The Seahawks don’t have a good pass rushing DT, so Blacklock makes sense for the Seahawks here.
#28: Baltimore Ravens: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE
The Ravens have a clear need at edge rusher, and they are pleased to find Chaisson still available at #28. The Ravens have a need at LB too, and have met a couple times with Kenneth Murray, so they may be tempted to take him here too.
But Chaisson slipping this far is too much for the Ravens to pass up, and they take him off the board here.
#29: Tennessee Titans: Jeff Gladney, CB
The Titans have several needs, but CB probably tops the list. They have an under-performing, 30 year-old Malcom Butler at CB, with a big contract they could shed next year, and also a need at slot corner. They’ve met with a number of top CBs, including Gladney, who’s the only one left on the board here. So they take him as the best value. Damon Arnette is also a possibility here for the Titans.
#30: Green Bay Packers: Kenneth Murray, LB
The Packers have a need at WR, but they also lost their starting LBs this off-season and really have a hole at LB. Murray is a top prospect to fill it, and they can’t pass him up here for a WR, as much as Aaron Rodgers may want them to. From the players they’ve met with, it seems they have some contingencies to draft a WR later, although Laviska Shenault could tempt them here. They also have OL needs, but LB is really the deepest hole on the roster, so they go with Murray to fill it.
#31: San Francisco 49ers: Lloyd Cushenberry III, C/G
The 49ers got their WR earlier in the round, and now look to fill the other biggest hole in their roster - interior offensive line. The 49ers met Cushenberry at the Combine, and he is said to project better at guard than center, where he played at LSU. Currently, the 49ers have Tom Compton as their starting RG, so upgrading that spot is a priority, and Cushenberry makes sense for the 49ers here.
#32: Kansas City Chiefs: A.J. Terrell, CB
The Chiefs have significant needs in their defensive secondary, which are clearly a priority. This pick will likely come down to Terrell and Antoine Winfield Jr., both of whom they’ve met with. Difficult to say which is higher on their board, but CB being a bit more higher valued position than safety, the Chiefs may go with Terrell over Winfield here.
A Couple Other Notes
There have been some rumors that, because of the remote nature of this year’s draft, trades may be a bit more difficult to execute, and GMs may be a little more skittish about trying to make one on the clock. Some GMs are wanting to do more ahead of time to get any conditional trades prepped before the draft begins, so they’ll go smoother when it comes time to execute them.
Another observation, which could lead to some surprise picks, is that with the remote draft, and no centralized war-rooms with all the people and big-board together, there could be less “group-think” when it comes to making a pick, and so that could lead to a few surprises. We’ll see.
Lastly, there is also some talk that because teams have not had the ability to meet with prospects in person, conduct face-to-face interviews, workouts and medical tests, teams may tend to be more conservative with their picks - preferring prospects with less injury or character concerns for example. They may also be more conservative with prospects with questions marks about technique or physical skill-sets they aren’t able to evaluate in person.