Quite a bit has changed in the NFL since our last mock draft from three weeks ago.
Free agency kickstarted a whirlwind of movement. (Tom Brady is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers!) Compensatory picks were announced. Two first-round picks were traded.
And, oh yeah, the entire draft process was altered dramatically with the eliminations of remaining pro days, top-30 visits and other in-person meetings between prospects and clubs because of the coronavirus outbreak.
So, yes, we have some changes.
And we thought it would be fun to throw in one potential curveball up high, assuming there is a pick in the top five that completely changes the landscape of this year’s draft from that point down.
What will unfold if Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa is selected No. 2 overall — either to a team trading up, or with the Washington Redskins shocking everyone by taking him themselves?
Redskins vice president of player personnel Kyle Smith will be running his first draft, and we suspect new head coach Ron Rivera took the job knowing he’d have a lot of influence over who that top pick will be. That might have been one of the concessions team owner Daniel Snyder had to make to land Rivera.
Let’s roll through all the big changes in our post-free agency mock.
LSU QB Joe Burrow
I’d put the chances of a trade here at about 5 percent right now. The only team I suspect the Bengals would listen to would be the Dolphins, who are armed to the hilt with draft capital and said to be enamored with Burrow. It’s likely going to take a motherlode to pry him loose.
2. Washington Redskins
Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa
Allow us to frame this properly ...
Count us among the folks who believe Rivera has to be a huge Tagovailoa fan. Many felt Rivera freely offering up the information on the Redskins’ scouting combine meeting with Tua was a ruse intended to drum up trade interest. Perhaps it was, and whatever team wants him might have to go even higher than Detroit to get him.
The chances are still very strong that Chase Young is the pick if Washington stays put.
Read that again, please.
But a trade down absolutely has to be on the table for the Redskins, and beyond that it wouldn’t be a total stunner if they wanted to upgrade at QB. Tagovailoa’s short but sweet workout video suggests he’s coming along nicely. Trading for Kyle Allen doesn’t prevent them from drafting Tua this high; it just gives them insurance at the position that was badly needed in the short term.
Young has been in this spot until now, and there’s a good chance we’ll revert back to that pick before April 23. But if another team offers the Redskins a huge offer for this pick, can they turn it down?
Ohio State EDGE Chase Young
This would be a windfall for the Lions, who still lack a true difference-maker on the front four other than Trey Flowers. Young could come in and be a pro-ready pass rusher the way Nick Bosa was last year for the 49ers.
If the first two picks go Burrow and Young, then Young’s teammate, CB Jeffrey Okudah, would be a fine choice. He’d fill a huge need, too.
Louisville OT Mekhi Becton
Considering the Giants just paid James Bradberry and drafted Deandre Baker in Round 1 a year ago, another corner feels like an overload. Becton could come in immediately and start at right tackle, and kick over to left tackle whenever Nate Solder is eventually let go (his dead-cap figure drops from $16 million this season to $6.5 million in 2021).
The Giants might be wise to get the Dolphins or Chargers, two QB-needy teams, to flip them a pick to move down a slot or two. If that happens it would be Dave Gettleman’s first trade down as a GM.
Oregon QB Justin Herbert
This is the draft pick whom Dolphins fans should start getting accustomed to seeing. We said as much back in January, and many Miami faithful yelled at us for it. And that’s fine! But it’s only become a more likely scenario since then if a trade up for Burrow or Tagovailoa doesn’t happen. Herbert might not be special, but he’s a better prospect than many have made him out to be.
6. Los Angeles Chargers
Alabama OT Jedrick Wills Jr.
This is a tough call here. The Chargers have made big additions on the offensive and defensive lines, as well as in the secondary, so doubling up at those positions could be viewed as too much of a luxury. However, the Chargers still are a right tackle short of having a dominant line, so adding Wills makes sense.
Could they take QB Jordan Love here? Maybe. But it would be a wiser move to trade down from this spot (or trade up from No. 37 in Round 2) to take him later on.
7. Carolina Panthers
Ohio State CB Jeffrey Okudah
The rebuilding Panthers badly need a corner to take on the insane WR talent in the NFC South, and Okudah is roundly viewed as the draft’s best cover man. A perfect addition for a team that won’t care about how many victories it has this season as much as it will in the 2021 campaign.
8. Arizona Cardinals
Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons
There are a lot of folks who believe drafting a tackle here is the move, and it’s easy to see why. Adding someone such as Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, who could start Day 1 at right tackle, would help the Kyler Murray Express run with extra steam in 2020.
But we keep mocking Simmons here, especially given the team’s insane trouble covering tight ends a year ago. The biggest question with this pick: They have taken similar talents (with far different body shapes) with Hassan Reddick and Budda Baker, and how have those worked out? It’s a fascinating debate.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
Auburn DT Derrick Brown
The Jaguars are rolling with some questions at a number of spots, especially in the secondary. But they can’t be in a mode where they’re trying to fill every immediate need. What’s the point? This team has zero chance of winning the Super Bowl this season; the goal should be to add as many top talents as possible with their three picks in the top 42 selections.
Brown might not be the popular pick with Simmons (and others) potentially still on the board, but the shedding of Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus has left the DT cupboard bare. This would be a big upgrade over Abry Jones inside.
10. Cleveland Browns
Iowa OT Tristian Wirfs
Options at the position are starting to run out, and there’s a gaping hole at left tackle, so this would be a fairly easy pick with how this mock is unfolding. Wirfs has started at both tackle spots, and the Browns’ analytics crew has to be enamored with his versatility, elite athleticism and Hawkeyes pedigree.
The solid depth of the LB class allows them to wait at that spot.
11. New York Jets
Alabama WR Henry Ruggs III
The Jets have done a lot of work on Ruggs, who offers elite speed and a hyper-competitive temperament that has to have made a strong impression on GM Joe Douglas. His first draft pick with the team will be highly scrutinized, and there are big needs elsewhere too, but we could understand why he’d go this route to land a Tyreek Hill-esque talent. If the Jets draft a receiver, it would come down to Ruggs or Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb.
12. Las Vegas Raiders
Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb
Pretty sure I’ve now mocked the Raiders three different receivers here, but who’s counting? Lamb is a high-character, high-production receiver who won’t take the top off a defense but fits the mold of what Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock like in a football player. They’ve shown interest in Lamb’s QB, Jalen Hurts, so it stands to reason they’d like Hurts’ favorite target last season. This offense needs to keep adding pieces, brick by brick.
13. San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis Colts)
Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy
Everyone assumes the 49ers, who just landed this pick in the DeForest Buckner trade, will turn around and take another 3-tech. I do not, even with Javon Kinlaw on the board. We make it three straight wideouts here because this team needs weapons following the loss of Emmanuel Sanders.
Everyone agrees Kyle Shanahan wants to work with Odell Beckham Jr., right? Well, why not land a cheaper talent with some skill overlap (and fewer headaches)?
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Georgia OT Andrew Thomas
The team signed Joe Haeg, but they can still upgrade at right tackle. Thomas grew on me the more I watched him, and I now understand why some NFL teams like him even better than a few of the three tackles that already have gone off the board.
Now all the rookie would have to do is protect Tom Brady’s front side. No big deal!
15. Denver Broncos
South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw
It’s illegal in some parts of the country to project them anything here besides a wide receiver, but we’re rolling the dice they won’t see this. With Kinlaw falling this far, the Broncos could have the makings of a terrific front seven with the ability to mix and match against the run and pass.
16. Atlanta Falcons
Florida CB C.J. Henderson
This would be about the lowest we could imagine Henderson falling. He went No. 9 in our last mock, and there still figures to be a spot above this where he could land. If Atlanta could add the second-best (or best?) cover corner in the draft, it would be fantastic value and fill a need.
17. Dallas Cowboys
LSU EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson
Would the Cowboys consider a move down in this scenario? Is this too early for Michigan C Cesar Ruiz? Maybe and maybe. Here, they land an ascending rush talent who doesn’t have the upside of a DeMarcus Ware but has a similar profile in some respects as a prospect. This is the kind of traits-y player the Cowboys have sought for many years, and they did lose Robert Quinn.
18. Miami Dolphins (from Pittsburgh Steelers)
Assuming they don’t trade this pick to move up, this could be a spot for an offensive lineman — still a glaring need. Could this be high for Cleveland? Maybe, and perhaps the Dolphins think they could grab him with their next first-rounder. But Cleveland’s stock is on fire after the combine, and he has left and right tackle potential.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (from Chicago Bears)
TCU CB Jeff Gladney
Look for them to move down if possible from here — there could be some real action on the picks in this range, if what we’re hearing is true. That might allow the Raiders to recoup the second-rounder they lost in the Khalil Mack trade and not have to reach for a corner. If they grab one, Gladney fits the mold of the feisty, take-no-prisoners defender they might seek on the back end.
20. Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams)
Utah State QB Jordan Love
I don’t think the Jaguars will take a QB here. It seems more likely they’ll give Gardner Minshew a chance to win them over again and — more likely — be ready to pounce on either Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields a year from now.
But this is prime trade real estate this year, and Love slipping to this range might make other teams pounce. Chargers? Colts? Someone else? If the Jags stay put, they could take the best player available and just stockpile talent.
21. Philadelphia Eagles
LSU WR Justin Jefferson
Jefferson has primarily played the slot, and he’s not a textbook deep threat, but that’s OK. The Eagles need weapons, and Jefferson was as money as almost any receiver in college football last year. Ideally, he’s your No. 2, but he’s a strong No. 2 with the ability to pluck balls out of the air and keep the chains moving regularly.
22. Minnesota Vikings (from Buffalo Bills)
Baylor WR Denzel Mims
The Vikings are said to be Mims fans, and with the Stefon Diggs trade, this is now a position they must address early, likely with this pick or the one a few slots down. He’s outstanding on jump balls and back-shoulder throws, and — don’t worry — isn’t a Laquon Treadwell-type of project.
23. New England Patriots
LSU LB Patrick Queen
Missing a second-rounder, the Patriots could look into moving down from here. But could a young playmaker such as Queen interest them in this slot? Absolutely. They’re a little thin at linebacker now with the losses of Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, and could move on from Dont’a Hightower. Queen doesn’t turn 21 until August and has star potential under the guidance of Jerod Mayo.
24. New Orleans Saints
Oklahoma LB Kenneth Murray
Another trade-down candidate maybe, but the Saints can stay here and land a Day 1 impact player in Murray. The Saints can’t count on injury-prone Kiko Alonso and Alex Anzalone, and K-9’s range would be even more impactful on the Superdome turf.
Penn State EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos
Minnesota is in a strange place now, not exactly loading up for a big run this coming season but not exactly in rebuild mode either. So filling a big need with a pass rusher still feels like a possibility here, with Gross-Matos able to make his impact felt immediately in passing situations while he develops even more as a run defender.
26. Miami Dolphins (from Houston Texans)
Alabama S Xavier McKinney
Miami has a fascinating pair of corners now with Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Now what they need is a young difference maker to bring the secondary together. McKinney would be a fascinating addition because there’s a Minkah Fitzpatrick element to his game — they played pretty much the same position at Bama — and his smart, rugged style appears to fit what Brian Flores seeks in his defenders.
27. Seattle Seahawks
Alabama EDGE Terrell Lewis
Seattle is an annual trade-back candidate, of course, but barring some other pass-rush addition. This is their biggest need. And as with the L.J. Collier pick a year ago, the Seahawks also move to the beat of their own drummer. Lewis is a scheme-specific fit, but his unique blend of length, flexibility and movement skill has us intrigued.
28. Baltimore Ravens
Michigan C Cesar Ruiz
We mocked Ruiz to Baltimore last time around, and it feels like even more of a fit now with Marshal Yanda’s retirement, along with the questionable health of starting center Matt Skura, who was passable a year ago. The Ravens also can tap into the Harbaugh connection to find out just how solid a fit Ruiz could be with his smarts and second-level athletic skill.
29. Tennessee Titans
Houston OT Josh Jones
The buzz on Jones has cooled just a little since a good Senior Bowl, but experienced tackles don’t typically last long. Ideally, the Titans could groom Jones behind Taylor Lewan and Dennis Kelly in 2020 and use him on heavy sets as a swing tackle before Jones gets a shot at starting in 2021.
30. Green Bay Packers
Auburn DL Marlon Davidson
A receiver is possible here, as is an offensive lineman, but the defensive line is also an area that figures to be addressed early in Green Bay. Davidson helped boost his stock at the Senior Bowl, even if some felt he put on too much weight — from the 280-pound range to 297 in Mobile and 303 at the combine. But as a 5-technique, he’d work well in this system.
Alabama CB Trevon Diggs
Landing a long, athletic corner here would be a nice coup, helping them in the short and long terms. They need to upgrade the spot opposite Richard Sherman while also planning for life after Sherman down the road. Diggs would be a nice fit at this spot.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
LSU CB Kristian Fulton
The Chiefs are said to be fans of Fulton, and he could help add depth and talent to an emerging secondary. When you have Patrick Mahomes, opposing teams are likely going to have to throw the ball late in games against you to keep pace. (And yes, I know they trailed by double digits in every postseason game.) Finding as many quality defensive backs as possible should be a goal.
Wisconsin LB Zack Baun
They need LB help and pass-rush help, and Baun can assist in both areas.
34. Colts (from Redskins)
TCU WR Jalen Reagor
Reagor looked a bit too bulky at the combine, but his open-field juice could give this offense a boost.
Clemson CB A.J. Terrell
If they don’t take Jeff Okudah in Round 1, this would be a quality Plan B at a huge need position.
LSU S Grant Delpit
Hard to pin down which way the Giants will go here, but I could see Joe Judge wanting a smart, rangy safety.
Georgia RB D’Andre Swift
Pairing Swift and Austin Ekeler would give the Chargers a good 1-2 punch in the backfield.
TCU DT Ross Blacklock
They’re thin in the defensive trenches. Adding Blacklock as a multi-technique defender would help.
Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins
It feels unlikely they’ll use all these picks without some kind of trade. But they sneaked in Dobbins for a late visit and could use more depth.
40. Texans (from Cardinals)
Clemson WR Tee Higgins
Want to keep Deshaun Watson happy? Draft a Clemson receiver. Not that it makes up for trading the other Clemson receiver, but Higgins is a gifted, long target with excellent ball skills that compensate for his lack of vertical speed.
Sound familiar? No, Higgins isn’t a one-for-one swap for DeAndre Hopkins, but there is a little overlap in their games. Watson needs all the help he can get, and Higgins would be about as good as the Texans could hope for at this stage.
Minnesota S Antoine Winfield Jr.
Adding a versatile safety in a division with Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow feels like a good move. Fun bonus: Winfield grew up in Ohio and has family there.
USC OT Austin Jackson
He’s not a first-rounder in my mind, but there’s enough talent to gamble on his development here.
43. Bears (from Raiders)
Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk
Not exactly how I imagined this going, with Aiyuk falling this far, but adding vertical ability is a must. Aiyuk is a jump-ball and yards-after-catch specialist and would round out the WR top three along with Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller nicely.
Matt Nagy must hit more chunk plays this season after ranking 28th last season in 25-yard plays and longer with a mere 24. Aiyuk caught at least one 25-yard pass (or longer) in eight of his 12 games last season.
Iowa EDGE A.J. Epenesa
GM Chris Ballard is nothing if not an opportunist. Landing a sliding Epenesa, who fits a need, would be savvy.
LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Giving Tom Brady a pint-sized powder keg of a back (with slot WR skills) feels like a beautiful pairing. Bring the Texas route to Tampa.
Penn State WR KJ Hamler
For you Denverites who fretted at the lack of a deep-ball receiver in Round 1, here you go. Drew Lock can’t overthrow Hamler.
Texas A&M DT Justin Madubuike
They remain thin up front, so this would be nice value here, adding a 3-technique who can rush.
TCU OT Lucas Niang
If they don’t take a tackle in Round 1, it would be smart to double back here with Niang (who grew up down the road in Connecticut).
Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor
After pegging them some receivers and edge rushers previously, it’s hard to deny that Taylor is a near-perfect fit for their offense. As Ben Roethlisberger gets closer to the twilight of his career, placing an emphasis on the run game feels more important.
And Taylor just feels like an ideal Steelers back with the pedigree, athleticism, run style and production they seek at the position. Assuming James Conner will stay healthy and Benny Snell will develop feel like risky propositions.
LSU OG Damien Lewis
They didn’t dip into the free-agency market at guard, which got pricy. Landing Lewis would add a dose of nastiness — a perfect fit for new OL coach Juan Castillo.
Virginia CB Bryce Hall
They need a long corner to help replace Byron Jones. This could be a steal if Hall is healthy.
Ohio State LB Malik Harrison
The list of needs only has grown since the start of free agency. Adding help in the secondary, on the offensive line or at edge rusher makes a lot of sense. But the loss of Cory Littleton can’t be overlooked.
The Rams could try to create a competition with Micah Kiser, Kenny Young and Travin Howard. But adding an ascending prospect such as Harrison could help them combat the strong NFC West run games while he develops in pass coverage.
Notre Dame EDGE Julian Okwara
There’s a job open here, and assuming Okwara is healthy, he’d be worth taking a shot on here.
Lenoir-Rhyne S Kyle Dugger
A versatile safety/nickel linebacker/returner to a team that has scouted Dugger extensively.
55. Ravens (from Falcons via Patriots)
Colorado WR Laviska Shenault Jr.
There’s a big injury risk here, but his versatility and YAC ability could thrive in this offense.
56. Dolphins (from Saints)
USC WR Michael Pittman Jr.
A three-level playmaker who can help the Dolphins round out their depth chart.
Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet
Houston has a pretty average lot at the position, so Kmet would be an upgrade.
Mississippi State CB Cam Dantzler
They badly need help at this spot, and Dantzler brings confidence to the job.
Louisiana-Lafayette OG Robert Hunt
They’re always on the lookout for quality blockers, and Hunt is a nasty one.
Wyoming LB Logan Wilson
Linebacker is a spot they must upgrade, and Wilson’s three-down ability makes him a great fit.
Missouri DT Jordan Elliott
They’re thinned up front, and Elliott could snag a starting spot and aid the pass rush.
Connecticut OT Matt Peart
Athletic, smart and versatile tackle (experience at left and right) makes sense here.
63. Chiefs (from 49ers)
LSU C Lloyd Cushenberry
It’s back to the Bayou for more help, this time at a thin spot on the interior.
64. Seahawks (from Chiefs)
Utah CB Jaylon Johnson
He falls just below their arm-length threshold but would be a great value this late.
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