The first wave of NFL free agency has been one of the more intently followed events in sports this year. Partly because of the names on the move but mostly due to the fact that it has captivated the American sports fan after a hiatus in which little activity was present in not just football, but all sports. However, with the increasing threat of the coronavirus delaying all professional sports, it is time to look toward the NFL draft and to make predictions for what every NFL team will do on April 23.
Pick 1- Cincinnati Bengals- QB Joe Burrow
The LSU gunslinger posted record totals on his way to a National Championship victory and Heisman trophy. The Ohio-native will most definitely be joining the Bengals, who had to endure a less than stellar performance from incumbent QB Andy Dalton. Burrow is an accurate, touchdown machine, whose subtle mobility made him one of the best playmakers in college football. I’d expect to see him on the field week one.
Pick 2- Washington Redskins- DE Chase Young
With Cincy going the Burrow route, The Redskins nab arguably the best prospect in the draft in Ohio State’s Chase Young. Young is an explosive, strong and intelligent defensive end, who recorded the most sacks in the nation, taking down the quarterback 16.5 times last season. There is speculation that the Redskins could pick a quarterback but I don’t buy it. Young’s potential is sky high and I believe that even though rookie QB Dwayne Haskins had a bit of a shaky season, he was able to string together some strong performances at the end of the season, and I wouldn’t count the former Heisman runner up out just yet.
Pick 3- Detroit Lions- CB Jeff Okudah
Another Buckeye goes in the top 3, as the Lions select Jeff Okudah at pick number 3. Okudah was the best cornerback in the nation, and his intelligence, shiftiness and lockdown ability make him hard to pass up. While it is entirely possible that the Lions go for a quarterback and start from scratch, Matt Patricia will most likely look to imitate Bill Belichick and the Patriot way (as he has in the past) by selecting his own Stephon Gilmore.
Pick 4- New York Giants- OT Mekhi Becton
This draft has an abundance of offensive tackles and Dave Gettleman takes the first one off the board: Mekhi Becton from Louisville. While Isaiah Simmons may be the pick here, the Giants signed some defensive players in free agency that could fill that void, notably Blake Martinez. The Giants have put much faith in Daniel Jones, and protecting him should be of paramount importance. Mekhi Becton fits the mold. A strong, athletic freak of nature and combine darling is exactly what Gettleman is always looking for and Becton’s ever-rising stock could make him the fourth pick this year.
Pick 5- Miami Dolphins- QB Tua Tagovailoa
The Dolphins spent the whole season tanking for Tua, and they get Tua. Tua is a mobile playmaker that the Dolphins have obviously been chasing since last spring. Injury concerns are rightfully something to worry about but I believe he is worth the gamble. He is a younger QB and should bounce back. They just need to keep him safe.
Pick 6- Los Angeles Chargers- QB Justin Herbert
With the departure of long-time QB Phil Rivers, The Chargers have been on the radar as potential suitors for the recently released Cam Newton. Until anything is confirmed, it is a safe bet that LA will pick the Oregon Duck, come late April. Herbert is presumably a safe pick with slight bust potential but I’m sure he will thrive with capable wideouts such as Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, and newly paid running back Austin Ekeler, who proved he was more than capable of being a number one running back during Melvin Gordan’s holdout.
Pick 7- Carolina Panthers- LB Isaiah Simmons
While the Panther’s front office may be enticed by the newly acquired Teddy Bridgewater, and want to get him protection up front, Simmons is probably the best player on the board. After Luke Kuechly’s retirement, and the departure of some notable defensive mainstays, I think picking a defensive player is the better fit, and there is no better defensive player on the board then Isaiah Simmons. Simmons is a defensive chess piece who can move up and down the field with ease and play every position on the field for a team that desperately needs him to.
Pick 8- Arizona Cardinals- OT Jedrick Wills
Arizona made the first big blockbuster of free agency when they fleeced the Texans to get DeAndre Hopkins to pair with Kyler Murray. Now that they’ve found Murray a primary target, it is important to protect him, and Wills is the guy to do it. Wills is an athletic tackle who has no problem playing both sides of the lines according to Alabama’s coaching staff. This is great for a Cardinals team with question marks on every part of the line.
Pick 9- Jacksonville Jaguars- DL Derrick Brown
Sacksonville has fallen very far from its AFC championship days, with the departures of most of its star talent, but luckily Derrick Brown is on the board and readily available. Brown displays a level of agility and quickness that is unheard of for a player with his size. Brown is a run-stopper who can hopefully rejuvenate a defense who no longer has star players occupying the D-line
Pick 10- Cleveland Browns- OT Tristan Wirfs
The Cleveland Browns spent their off-season bolstering their offense. Making Austin Hooper the highest-paid tight end and paying Jack Conklin handsomely are just two of the signings they made to improve the team after an underwhelming 2019 campaign. Wirfs can play on both sides on the line and will provide extra protection for Baker Mayfield and more time for the star-studded offensive weaponry the Browns have in their possession.
Pick 11- New York Jets- WR CeeDee Lamb
The New York Jets actually had a fairly productive offseason, signing mediocre O-linemen, letting Robby Anderson walk and inciting some mild Le’ Veon Bell drama. What Jets fans call an improvement. The Offensive line still could use some work but with the O-line class looking deeper than ever, it could be time to get Sam Darnold some real weapons. CeeDee Lamb is an explosive, artful catcher who could be a star in this league. He has some of the best hands in the draft and knack for finding the endzone.
Pick 12- Las Vegas Raiders- WR Jerry Jeudy
We pretty much have a battle between Jeudy and Lamb for who is the top receiver in the class. Jeudy is a quick player who can attack on every part of the field. Exactly what a wide receiver needy team like the Raiders need. The Raiders defense showed much promise and a training camp battle between Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr seems imminent, so there is no better fit for this squad than a young energizing player at a position of need for the organization.
Pick 13- San Francisco 49ers- DL Javon Kinlaw
The 49ers traded D-linemen Deforest Buckner to acquire this pick from Indianapolis. I doubt they traded this pick to select another Defensive lineman who likely could be worse than the former. They could have traded up for a top tier wide receiver, but with the clear cut best wide receivers gone, I don’t see them picking Ruggs with their perfectly good arsenal. So, the Niners accidentally stumble into Javon Kinlaw.
Pick 14- Tampa Bay Buccaneers- OT Andrew Thomas
The Buccaneers made headlines with their Tom Brady acquisition, and keeping him happy is the key to success. While the Buccaneers could use guys like CJ Henderson, K’Lavon Chaisson, and AJ Epenesa, keeping the aging Tom Brady happy and safe should be their top priority and that’s what Thomas will do.
Pick 15- Denver Broncos- WR Henry Ruggs III
Broncos QB Drew Lock showed flashes of brilliance in his brief stints last season. Now would be a great time for the Broncos to build up their offense for their Quarterback of the future. The speedy Wide receiver Henry Ruggs fits the mold. Too often teams fall for mediocre offensive skill players because of an outstanding forty-yard dash time, but Ruggs has the skill to match his speed, and can actually put up big numbers apart from the 4.28 seconds from goal line to the forty measured at the combine.
Pick 16- Atlanta Falcons- CB CJ Henderson
The falcons have plummeted far from their heights in Superbowl LI. It’s safe to say the Falcons postponed their football operations long before the Coronavirus. However, I think they can get back on track. While they are very sound offensively their defense is atrocious and their cornerbacks are some of the worst in the league. CJ Henderson has excellent ball skills and instincts, and it’s safe to say that Henderson will inject some much-needed feistiness and tenacity not seen since the Falcons dirty bird era.
Pick 17- Dallas Cowboys- DL K’Lavon Chaisson
The Cowboys spent most of their offseason negotiating with QB Dak Prescott. This allowed DE Robert Quinn to walk in free agency. In order to fill this gap, and to give Demarcus Lawrence an edge-rushing partner who can also compliment their line backing duo of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys select K’Lavon Chaisson. Chaisson is shifty, has a quick burst and has the length to deflect passes.
Pick 18- Miami Dolphins- OT Josh Jones
Now that the Dolphins have picked up their Quarterback of the future it’s time to protect him. Tua’s injury-marred past is reason enough to go with Josh Jones here, and if they can’t protect their young stud Quarterback, he could be out of the organization in a few short years. While Jones is not entirely in the conversation of top offensive tackles in this year’s class, he is still a first-round caliber lineman who has superb balance and agility.
Pick 19- Las Vegas Raiders- CB Kristian Fulton
While the Raiders defense improved substantially from its lows a couple of years back, but there is still room for improvement. The Raiders allowed 256 passing yards per game last season which was tied for eight most in the league, so picking up a corner would help. The Raiders secondary is severely lacking in talent and Fulton should be able to help. Fulton is a tough, gritty cornerback that is perfect for the Raiders organization as they look to captivate their new Vegas audience.
Pick 20- Jacksonville Jaguars- S Xavier Mckinney
Jacksonville continues to build up their defense by selecting Xavier McKinney. While they do have some solid safeties on their roster, I think Xavier McKinney is the guy for this Jaguars team, and I think they are still deprived of quality members of that part of the secondary. McKinney is an agile, intelligent defensive back who can do multiple things on the field.
Pick 21- Philadelphia Eagles- WR Justin Jefferson
Philly’s lack-luster wide receiving core was one of the reasons for their unimpressive season that was capped off by a swift defeat at the hands of the Seahawks in the first round in front of thousands of demoralized Eagles fans. Getting the perpetually injured Carson Wentz a top tier wide receiver that he can rely heavily on should be a top priority for the Eagles if they want to do damage in the playoffs. At LSU, Jefferson displayed excellent route-running ability that freed him up for easy targets. This will be a great fit for an offense depraved of quality receivers.
Pick 22- Minnesota Vikings- CB Trevon Diggs
The Vikings secondary is obviously not the strongest in the league, and with Xavier Rhodes not looking like himself, the Vikings need someone else to cover some ground. Trevon Diggs is an excellent fit. Diggs has great footwork and compliments this with the length to make a play on a ball thrown his way. Diggs has the ability to knock the ball away with ease or go for the interception.
Pick 23- New England Patriots- LB Kenneth Murray
While it would be interesting to see the Patriots go for Jordan Love, I don’t see it happening. Instead, the Patriots could go for Kenneth Murray. The Patriots lost some key linebackers in Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, so Kenneth Murray is definitely a good fit. Murray can dissect offenses with his eyes and is a tackling machine who can stop players in their tracks.
Pick 24- New Orleans Saints- LB Zach Baun
The Saints were able to bolster their secondary with the acquisitions of DJ Swearinger and Malcolm Jenkins, so picking up a linebacker is probably the better fit. Zach Baun is a quick athletic corner, who rushes the quarterback with intense speed and power but also has no problem dropping back in coverage if need be.
Pick 25- Minnesota Vikings- DL AJ Epenesa
With Minnesota’s Cornerback need filled, it is time for them to focus on their defensive line which was ravaged by free agency and trades. Epenesa is just the guy to revitalized a defensive line stripped of all its talent and vigor. AJ Epenesa, one of the best defenders in the class and he luckily fell to pick 25. Epenesa is a productive and versatile defender, who can slot into the D-line in multiple positions.
Pick 26- Miami Dolphins- RB D’Andre Swift
After a free agency period spent building up the defense, the Dolphins find their franchise quarterback, a stud offensive lineman, and now the best running back in the draft with this first-round pick. Swift has blazing speed, can cut quick and slice through defenses like it’s nothing, an overall great pick.
Pick 27- Seattle Seahawks- DL Yetur Gross-Matos
Jadeveon Clowney’s return to the organization is still questionable but his return is rather unlikely, considering he is probably not getting the market he anticipated. Enter: Yetur Gross-Matos. The former Nittany Lion spent his last collegiate season tearing apart offensive lines and halting the run, and I’d expect nothing less from him in the pros.
Pick 28- Baltimore Ravens- LB Patrick Queen
While the Ravens had one of the best defenses in the league, I believe it’s safe to say their linebacking core is not the best. To combat this, the Ravens will most likely go after Patrick Queen. Queen is quick and athletic, which makes him able to not only stop the run, but to pick up tight ends and even slot receivers.
Pick 29- Tennessee Titans- CB AJ Terrell
Don’t let the AFC Wild Card Round interception fool you, the secondary is not the Titans strongest area. Which means AJ Terrell would fit in nicely here. Terrell is a physical cornerback that jam receivers up at the line of scrimmage or knock them off their routes.
Pick 30- Green Bay Packers- WR Tee Higgins
The packers have a premier wide receiver in Davante Adams but their other pass catchers, namely Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes- Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown have been underwhelming at best. Tee Higgins is an elite pass catcher with great body control. Pairing him with Aaron Rodgers is enough to make any team fear that offense.
Pick 31- San Francisco 49ers- CB Jeff Gladney
While San Fran’s defense is strong either way, selecting a corner to assist the aging Richard Sherman won’t hurt. While Gladney is a smaller player, he makes up for it with his superior technique and tackling ability, as he rarely misses tackles in the open field, and is able to play the sideline well.
Pick 32- Kansas City Chiefs- CB Damon Arnette
The Superbowl champs are not without their shortcomings either. Against talented aerial offenses the Chiefs struggle, so bringing in a cornerback with the 32nd pick is crucial. Damon Arnette is a physical corner who thrives in press coverage, every team in the league could use a guy like him on their team