A mock draft is boring, right? Well except from the ones you can find on this very website. But from here on out, all you’re going to see is Joe Burrow going at number 1, and likely many of the same picks falling in place from there. And the reality is, that’s the sensible thing to project at this time. However, repetitive sensibility gets boring. So to mix things up, I’ve implemented a nonsensical rule whereby NFL teams can only pick players who went to college in the State that the team is from (e.g. Seattle Seahawks can take players from colleges in the state of Washington).
Quick, I need to think of a logical back story behind this. A gargantuan volcanic eruption in Hawaii has sent monstrous Ash Clouds into the Sky, grounding all flights for the foreseeable future. But what about cars you may ask? Intra-State travel has been made impossible with the National Weather Service deeming the tectonic movement too dangerous for extensive vehicular travel. In spite of this, the Draft must go on.
1. Cincinnati Bengals – Chase Young, Edge, Ohio State
The Bengals don’t get to take Joe Burrow as they should, and will. But fortunately for them, the best overall player in the Draft is in state. I don’t think any rational person can reasonably refute that Chase Young is the best player in the Draft class. Young is a rare blend of Speed, Power and Bend. In preseason I said this about Young “Chase Young has a composition similar to that of Myles Garrett, that’s not to say that he’s as good as Garrett, there aren’t 5 humans on Earth who can do what Garrett does”. Now Chase Young doesn’t just resemble Garrett in his athletic profile, he also plays like him, and he hasn’t hit Mason Rudolph on the head with a helmet…that we know of. But Young provides an unmatched ability to make game impacting plays off the Edge, and is a day-1 Pro Bowl calibre player. Any team in the NFL would be lucky to have Chase Young on their team, and the Bengals get to have him here.
2. Washington Redskins – Anthony McFarland Jr., RB, Maryland
Unfortunately, the Redskins aren’t afforded the same luxury as Cincinnati in being in a State with an elite college football programme. And, I know, D.C. isn’t technically a part of Maryland, and should probably be its own State, but that’s a different story. McFarland is obviously a much less appealing pick than the projected Chase Young, but there is a very minuscule silver lining here. Washington might be in need of a RB with Adrian Peterson still somehow powering along at the ripe old age of 83, and Derrius Guice has looked great in flashes but has struggled to stay healthy. McFarland is an electric RB, with long speed that some has said led to the retirement of Urban Meyer. He is going to get buried in this RB class, but I can see him being a niche contributor to a team as a rookie.
3. Detroit Lions – Cesar Ruiz, OC, Michigan
The Lions season was both a disaster and a surprise. The early season Lions looked like a borderline playoff team, led by an MVP candidate in Matthew Stafford. Too many people have called for the Lions to take a QB here at 3, but with Stafford’s early season performance, they have to give him at least one more year. Then Stafford was sidelined for the rest of the year with a back injury and everything fell apart for them. But the solution isn’t to replace Stafford – it’s to help him. Ruiz can do exactly that.
4. New York Giants – Alton Robinson, EDGE, Syracuse
I know, the Giants and Jets play in New Jersey, but can you name me a day 1 or 2 pick from Rutgers and Princeton? No, me neither. So I’ve decided to use the State which their name implies their from – New York. Robinson is by far Syracuse’s best Draft prospect in this year’s class (Andre Cisco, I’m looking at you) and can bring some Edge help to the Giants. The Giants pass rush rotation is currently pretty deep, but jarringly average. That’s not to say Alton Robinson is a transcendent talent, but he provides speed and power to the rotation. Robinson’s first step is up there with the best in the class, he is frequently the first player off the ball and is often in the backfield before the tackle even has a chance to breathe. But he needs development, being a predominantly outside rusher, who needs to develop hand counters.
5. Miami Dolphins – CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
This travelling situation would generally be superb news for Florida teams, with Florida, Florida State, and Miami all churning out NFL players for the past decade. Oh how the State of Florida has fallen. Florida State looked to have Marvin Wilson until he opted to stay in Tallahassee for one more season. Cornerback isn’t necessarily the biggest need for Miami with Xavien Howard being one of the few bright spots on their entire roster. But CJ Henderson is significantly better than any other draft eligible player from the state of Florida. He is a long and athletic Corner who excels in man coverage.
6. Los Angeles Chargers – Austin Jackson, OT, USC
Jackson isn’t necessarily the best college football player in the State of California, but he is the one the Chargers need the most. Philip Rivers isn’t the long term answer at QB for the Chargers, but this is not the pick where we have the option to replace Rivers. So let’s protect him. Sam Tevi and a 32 year-old Russel Okung are the bookends for the Chargers, and they are certainly not helping stem the bleeding of Rivers’ decline. Jackson isn’t a solid day 1 starter for me, he is more of a multi-year project with desirable tools. His athleticism is a very encouraging sign that could mask some of his technical issues early on. The technical issues I allude to are the timing and placement of his punches, and lunging into blocks. Jackson needs technical overhaul with regards to everything regarding his entire upper body, but if he does so, he can be a pro bowler.
7. Carolina Panthers – Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
This is one of the picks in this mock that makes some form of sense. Following the shock retirement of Luke Kuechly, Lb now seems like a much more pressing need for the Panthers than it previously did. Simmons is one of the most unique players I’ve ever scouted, I have no NFL comparison I feel comfortable with for Simmons, that’s the type of player he is. There simply isn’t another 6’3 220lbs LB who can run in the 4.4s. This type of athleticism will have defensive coordinators salivating, and it also allows him to play all over the defense. He could even play as a Safety for the Panthers like he did 166 times for the Tigers last year. He also lined up in the Slot 253 times, Outside LB 132 times, Inside LB 72 times, and Outside CB 12 times.
8. Arizona Cardinals – Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
I was left with very little choice for this pick. I considered taking Eno Benjamin and proposing trading David Johnson to get out of his overpaying contract. But I decided that was against the rules. Arizona has an abundance of WRs with the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson, Damiere Byrd and a returning Hakeem Butler. But if there’s anything we’ve learned in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, it’s that he can never have enough receivers, and he might be looking to replenish his supplies soon. With Larry Fitzgerald being 36 and out of contract and Damiere Byrd being up for contract renewal. It is feasible to suggest Steve Keim and the Arizona Cardinals will be targeting a WR in the later rounds of the Draft. Aiyuk is a good fit for the Air Raid, with him being a dynamic threat underneath. His explosiveness is frequently utilised on drag routes, a nice fit with Kliff Kingsbury. But Aiyuk is currently limited to the slot due to his incapability to defeat press coverage.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jabari Zuniga, EDGE, Florida
The Jaguars are another one of those poor Florida teams who have a miniscule field to choose from in comparison to previous years. I once again considered cam Akers, but Leonard Fournette Twitter wouldn’t be happy with me replacing him. The Jaguars seem determined to throw away the pass rush they assembled in 2017, with Dante Fowler already gone, and Yannick Ngakoue headed for free agency. 2019 1st round pick Josh Allen has predictably hit the ground running in Jacksonville, but they need someone opposite him. Enter Jabari Zuniga. Zuniga is not dissimilar to Allen, with both of their games being predicated on power. However, Allen is a much more fluid than Zuniga, who has issues in cornering and reducing his surface area. But Zuniga does have a way to win; he is a very powerful rusher who can stun tackles with his hands. He also is effective in converting speed to power, he has a surprising amount explosiveness and he knows how to use it.
10. Cleveland Browns – Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
The Browns get lucky in being from Ohio in this scenario. They took an Ohio State CB in 2018 with Denzel Ward, and they get an even better one here. Greedy Williams was a second round pick in 2019, but he had an underwhelming rookie season, and when you have a shot at Jeff Okudah, you take him. Jeff Okudah has emerged as the consensus CB1 for good reason. He has the requisite size and athleticism to be a shutdown NFL CB. Okudah’s man coverage skills are some of the best I’ve ever seen, he is physical throughout the route, and is effective in throwing off the timing of the route. He has the lightning speed and fluid movement skills as Denzel Ward, he shows this frequently in press-man where he has absolutely no issues flipping his hips and mirroring the receiver down the field. Okudah was knocked coming into the season for a lack of ball production, always an overblown metric. He has always shown the ability to disrupt the catch point with his more than optimal length, but this year he is forcing more turnovers. He is one of those players that is universally loved because he checks off so many boxes – Technique, speed, movement skills, length, willingness to tackle and now ball production.
11. New York Jets – Kendall Coleman, EDGE, Syracuse
Unfortunately, drafting Dino Babers or Jeff Monken isn’t an option here. The Jets are in the same bucket as the Giants with their unfortunate selection of college football players in the State of New York. The pass rush for the Jets is one of many problems that need addressing for the Jets. A true no.1 receiver is needed if Robby Anderson leaves in free agency, Sam Darnold is getting hit more than a young QB needs to develop, their CBs are dismal, they lack a true TE, and the LBs are depleted. The point I’m trying to make is that the Jets are not in a good place, they need serious overhaul, and that starts with firing Adam Gase. The fact that the Jets are picking this low is a testament to how well Gregg Williams coached down the stretch, but it’s also devastating for the Jets draft position. Coleman is a technical pass rusher, who has a relatively high floor as a niche pass rusher. It is unlikely that Coleman ever becomes a high end pass rusher due to his lack of physical talent and tools, but he can provide pass rush for a team that desperately needs it.
12. Oakland Raiders – Ashtyn Davis, S, California
The volcanic eruption had such an impact on the West Coast, the Raiders had to suspend their move to Las Vegas, a turn of events that disappoints both cities involved. In other words, the State of Nevada has no NFL Draft prospects, and it’s much easier to choose from California. Lamarcus Joyner has not had the impact that Oakland desired when the now 29 year-old signed a 4 year deal worth $42 million this past offseason. Erik Harris is currently the starting Strong Safety, and he’s a very solid player, but he’s not good enough to prevent me from picking Ashtyn Davis. Davis is one of the best athletes in this entire class, being a former 100m sprinter at the University of California, and still having more than enough size to be an effective Safety. I also mentioned both of the Raiders’ Safetys, and that’s because he has the versatility to play whatever position the Raiders need. He has the range and speed to play single-high, and he is also a good enough tackler to play in the box. This kind of versatility gives Davis a relatively high floor as a rookie, with upside on special teams, and moving around as a Swiss army knife on defense.
13. Indianapolis Colts – Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame
There are much more urgent needs for the Colts than Edge, it appears as if the Colts are looking to move on from Jacoby Brissett following a disastrous close to the season. But this is absolutely a ‘best player available’ pick. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Colts address the Edge position in later rounds with a 30 year-old Jabaal Sheard hitting the free agency market, and only mustering up 4.5 sacks last season. And Justin Houston is also 30 years-old. Okwara is a very explosive pass rusher who would provide a degree of speed that isn’t seen in the starting rotation for the Bills outside of 2019 2nd round pick Ben Banogu. Unlike Sheard and Houston, Okwara’s game is not predicated on Power which hurts him when defending the run. To me, Okwara is a lesser version of Brian Burns, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They both have length, speed and flexibility, but have slight deficiencies in strength. I think Burns is a better run defender, but that still leaves value for Okwara as a speed rusher.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
This is a pick that I can see happening in the second or third round in the real draft. Tampa are seemingly looking to move on from Jameis Winston in light of Bruce Arians’ recent comments, but I’m not taking Alex Hornibrook here. Ronald Jones has not been the player the Buccaneers hoped when they selected him 38th overall in 2018. Jones has ran for 768 yards and 7 TDs in his 2 seasons so far, but he’s struggled to stay on the field consistently. Akers is a similarly sized back to Ronald Jones, but he plays much differently. Many people were infatuated with Jones’ ability to break off big plays when he came out of USC, which is why him running a 4.48 was slightly underwhelming. Well, Akers ran a 4.41 coming out of high school at 210lbs, 5lbs heavier than Jones at the 2018 combine. Jones has broken tackles at a surprisingly high rate so far in the NFL, but Akers is better between the tackles, and has had to overcome an egregious offensive line throughout his career at Florida State.
15. Denver Broncos – Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
This pick makes a lot of sense, and is something that I think has a good chance of happening on Draft night. Drew Lock was very encouraging in his 5 starts to close out the season. Courtland Sutton has emerged as a star target for Drew Lock, and Noah Fant looked like a dynamic threat as a rookie. The Broncos roster is littered with gigantic receivers, with 8 of Drew Lock’s 9 rostered targets being over 6 feet tall and 200lbs. Shenault also fits this mould as a gigantic receiver, being 6’2 220lbs. But Shenault has the explosiveness of someone much smaller, running a 4.59 coming out of high school at 225lbs. I would expect the Broncos to select a WR with this pick, but they seem more likely to select a change of pace with Henry Ruggs. But if Shenault is the pick, it would be really hard for Denver to complain.
16. Atlanta Falcons – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
The Falcons double-dipped at Offensive Line in the 2019 Draft, and other areas require more urgent attention. But I was not a big Kaleb McGary fan, I thought he had tools but needed developing, giving up 13 sacks as a rookie reinforces my pre-draft thoughts. McGary does look like he might be able to develop into a dependable Right Tackle, and a good pairing with fellow rookie lineman Chris Lindstrom (If he stays healthy). Jake Matthews is the other Tackle for the Falcons, and he’s getting paid over $17 million next year. Matthews’ play has been exactly what the Falcons hoped when they selected him 6th overall in 2014. But when presented with the chance to take Andrew Thomas, you take him. It might mean moving him or McGary kicking inside to guard, but Matt Ryan needs help any which way. Thomas is one of the best Tackles in the class with his brute-like strength. He is a mauler in the run game and he has arguably the strongest anchor in the class. I am 100% certain Thomas doesn’t fall this far in the real draft.
17. Dallas Cowboys – Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
Byron Jones is a good CB, but it is unknown if the Cowboys retain him this season. Jourdan Lewis is entering the last year of his deal and almost never takes the ball away. This could leave a huge void at the CB position, which could be addressed in round 1. Gladney has the speed and explosiveness that was so endeering to the Cowboys when they took Byron Jones 27th overall in 2015. Gladney reportedly runs a 4.34 40 yard dash, squats over 600lbs, bench presses over 400lbs and cleans over 400lbs. He is going to absolutely blow up the combine, and it would not surprise me to see him move up into the top-20 following an absurd combine. But Gladney’s appeal goes beyond his insane athleticism. His backpedal might be the fastest I’ve ever seen, he gets out of press coverage within a blink of an eye. He isn’t the most polished of CBs, but his raw tools make him a potential pro bowler.
18. Miami Dolphins (from Pittsburgh Steelers) – Van Jefferson, WR, Florida
The Dolphins’ receiving game is the redeeming feature of their roster, which is more of an indictment on the Dolphins roster than it is on the Dolphins receivers. Mike Gesicki has shown flashes of being the player the Dolphins hoped he would be when he came out of Penn State. And against all odds, Devante Parker managed to be very productive this past season, but he and Gesicki can’t do it all by themselves. Van Jefferson isn’t the most physically imposing player, but he is a technician and a very prolific route runner. A strong Senior Bowl showing solidified Jefferson as a high floor, low ceiling WR who can make an immediate impact in the NFL.
19. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago Bears) – Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC
I’m not sure if Derek Carr is the answer at QB for the Raiders, he has looked underwhelming in his two years under Jon Gruden. But Carr certainly hasn’t been helped by the players around him. Darren Waller has emerged as a star TE for the Raiders, but Zay Jones and Tyrell Williams on the outside are not providing enough help for Carr. Michael Pittman Jr is a gigantic receiver who can be a huge target for Derek Carr. He is a fairly advanced route runner, and is exceptionally physical. Pittman also has exceedingly strong hands, and makes difficult catches in the air and in traffic.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams) – Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF
Who would’ve thought that bidding against yourselves for Nick Foles, neglecting the WR position, and drafting a RB at 4 could have possibly backfired? The roster moves the Jaguars have made in recent times resemble a throwback to a bygone era of bludgeoning football, with an anemic passing offense. It is a certainty that at the forefront of all of these archaic moves was an anachronistic dinosaur in Tom Coughlin. Now that Coughlin is out of the building in Jacksonville, they can look to construct a roster that is built to win in the 21st century. This starts with getting rid of Nick Foles, but that is not going to happen this off-season, because Jacksonville would incur over $33 million in dead cap – the highest of all time. Foles’ contract handicaps Jacksonville’s roster building and is the reason why we are seeing such an exodus of their star players. Davis can provide a sorely needed spark to a depressingly inept offense with his crisp route running and he’s a dependable catcher.
21. Philadelphia Eagles – KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State
Oh, has Philadelphia’s receiving core been depleted. There is that stat about Carson Wentz being the first QB ever to throw for over 4,000 yards without a WR going over 500 yards receiving. That stat is slightly inflated by Wentz having two exceptional TEs and a good pass catching RB. But Alshon Jeffery has struggled with injuries, and will turn 30 next season, and will count to over $16 million against the cap. JJ Arcega-Whiteside was absolutely not the player the Eagles thought they were drafting in the 2nd round of 2019. Hamler isn’t too dissimilar to what the Eagles already has in Greg Ward, he is an alarmingly undersized WR, but I can’t find a universal 40 time for Ward. At any rate, Ward’s 40 time ranges from 4.64-4.58, and Hamler is much, much faster than that. Hamler and Ward both win underneath with shiftiness, but Hamler is essentially an amplified version of Ward.
22. Buffalo Bills – Elijah Riley, CB/S, Army
Yes, Army football play their games in West Point, New York and the State of New York has no other viable options. The Bills desperately need a WR; John Brown is a good deep threat, but Josh Allen has only a rookie – Dawson Knox – to rely on underneath. Buffalo have built their secondary up very well in recent years, and that is in spite of losing Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby. But I am of the opinion that you can never have enough good players who can defend the pass, and Elijah Riley is one of those players. Tre’Davious White, Taron Johnson, and Levi Wallace are all on rookie contracts, Kevin Johnson, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde are all on soon-to-expire contracts. It is not unreasonable to suggest the Bills look to fill a future need in the later rounds of the 2020 Draft.
23. New England Patriots – Matthew Peart, OT, Connecticut
Technically the Patriots are limited to selecting only players from the state of Massachusetts, however Bill Belichick has once again found his way around the rules, and has made the just over an hour and a half trip from Gillette Stadium to the UConn campus. This season was disastrous for Patriot standards, leading many people to believe that the dynasty is dead. It is unknown what Tom Brady is going to do, and that will dictate the entirety of the Patriots draft. But whoever is under Center is going to need protection. Isaiah Wynn was dependable in his first full year as a starter, but Right Tackle Marcus Cannon is 32 years-old and will have a cap hit of almost $9 million this season. Peart is an absurdly long tackle who moves very smoothly, but could do with adding mass in his lower half.
24. New Orleans Saints – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
I don’t know what the future holds for Drew Brees. His regression is palpable and is concerning – The Saints seem to believe that Taysom Hill is their future at QB, they are hilariously mistaken. Taysom Hill is a very fun gadget, but he is not someone who is going to drop back 25-30 times a game with any sort of success. Brees might have one more year left as a quality starter and it’s up to the Saints to make one final push. But in this scenario, Joe Burrow is simply too good to pass up on. Burrow is immediately a top-15 starter in the NFL, and he would fit into Sean Payton’s offense tremendously well.
25. Minnesota Vikings – Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota
At face value, the Vikings’ Safety tandem is arguably the best in the league. Anthony Harris is one of the best Defensive Backs in the entire league, and Harrison Smith is a Swiss army knife that can do whatever Mike Zimmer asks him to do. But Anthony Harris’ contract is up and Spotrac values Harris at $13.8 million per year and the Vikings are projected to be $12 million over the cap next season. It is therefore safe to assume that Anthony Harris will not be returning to Minnesota. Antoine Winfield is a physical Safety who flies to the ball and tracks the ball in the air very well. He can play both single-high Safety and in the box.
26. Miami Dolphins – Jonathan Greenard, EDGE, Florida
Van Jefferson was a solid pick at no.5 for the Dolphins given the context of this situation. There were many different avenues I could’ve gone down with this pick, but I went with the most valuable position. This is the upside of picking for the Dolphins; no matter who you give them, they desperately need them. Greenard is a powerful and quick rusher, who needs to develop more hand counters. He will be a much needed boost for a pass rush consisting of Charles Harris and Sam Eguavoen on the edge.
27. Seattle Seahawks – Nick Harris, OC, Washington
It is painful to see the Seahawks under perform with a top-3 QB in the NFL. Russell Wilson is an elite QB, but the Seahawks have struggled to surround him with talent. Yes, they made the playoffs, but that’s the minimum that is expected from a team with Russell Wilson. Nick Harris is a very solid Center who can plug in and make an impact. Ethan Pocic has not been the player the Seahawks had hoped and Harris can fill a hole there. All three of the Seahawks interior offensive linemen are up for contract renewal after this upcoming season – Ethan Pocic, DJ Fluker and Justin Britt.
28. Baltimore Ravens – Malcolm Perry, WR/RB, Navy
The Ravens’ season ended surprisingly abruptly with their loss to the Titans. But this is still a team that should be competing for the Super Bowl this season. The Ravens don’t necessarily need much more to tip their roster over the edge, but a complement to Marquise Brown would be a likely choice. Marquise Brown, Willie Snead and Miles Boykin all win vertically, and Perry could be the speedster to win underneath.
29. Tennessee Titans – Darrell Taylor, EDGE, Tennessee
The Titans were the shock of the playoffs, but it is fair to suggest that they will see a regression next season. Derrick Henry’s contract has expired and I would not be willing to let Derrick Henry back into the building, especially with Ryan Tannehill to prioritise. That’s why I considered Antonio Gibson, but his similarity to A.J. Brown makes it an infeasible plan. Darrell Taylor can slide into the rotation with Harold Landry, Cameron Wake and Kamalei Correa which would be one of the fastest pass rushing rotations in the NFL.
30. Green Bay Packers – Zack Baun, EDGE, Wisconsin
The Packers invested a lot into the pass rush last season, picking up Rashan gary in the first round, and signing Preston Smith & Za’Darius Smith. But all three of them are over 270lbs. Baun doesn’t even have to rush off the edge; he can play some off-ball, but he needs to be used as both a stand-up rusher and as an off-ball LB. Baun lacks the length to play as a true edge in the NFL, but he can work well as a niche player who fills a very specific hole. You will have to conform your defense to suit Baun’s skillset, but it is a skill-set that can be greatly useful if utilised correctly.
31. San Francisco 49ers – Darnay Holmes, CB, UCLA
We learned three main things from the 49ers Super Bowl loss to the Ravens: 1. Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t it; 2. Kyle Shannahan’s late game play calling is concerning; 3. They’re going to need help in the secondary. Darnay Holmes feels like Rober Saleh’s dream – a ferocious competitor with great burst.
32. Kansas City Chiefs – Jordan Elliot, DT, Missouri
Despite winning the Super Bowl, the Chiefs still have room for improvement. Patrick Mahomes has been able to compensate for defensive deficiencies thus far, but a solid draft can solidify the Chiefs as the favourite in the AFC. Chris Jones is an absolute star at Defensive Tackle, but it would be nice to have an athlete like Jordan Elliot next to him.
You may wonder what the point in all of this was, I’d argue that there was none and this was an objective waste of time. But what it allowed me to do was to look at needs that are being overlooked, and to watch players I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten the chance to.
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