By MIKE HERNDON
If thousands of NFL fans boo Roger Goodell, but he’s standing in his basement and can’t hear it, does it make a sound?
We might find out this week, when the commissioner announces first round picks from his home in New York state during an appropriately socially distant, sheltered in place 2020 NFL Draft. The draft begins on Thursday with the first round (7 p.m. Central, ABC, ESPN & NFL Network) and continues Friday and Saturday.
With COVID-19 making it unsafe to allow thousands of people to gather in one place to boo whoever the Jets pick, NFL clubs will do something which only last month would’ve been unthinkable – use technology to make business decisions remotely, like practically every other industry on planet Earth.
At least the draft won’t ruin anyone’s bachelorette party this year.
It has been reasonably surmised that with an abbreviated evaluation period and the cancelation of many pro days, the draft will be more unpredictable than ever this year and, therefore, mock drafts will be even more wrong than they typically are. Which is like saying the KFC tastes greasier than usual today.
Since it’s so likely to be wrong anyway, I’ve decided to spend less of my valuable time prepping for this mock than usual. We’re on lockdown, you know; I’ve got things to do. Like watching 40-year-old boxing matches. And sipping real cocktails at virtual happy hours. And reacquainting myself with the prodigious catalogue of John Prine (rest in peace, and here’s hoping you’re up there with a vodka and ginger ale).
If I get more picks right than usual, or have fewer first-round predictions that drop into the second or later rounds, I will have at long last proven my theory that preparing for a mock draft is a fool’s errand, much like mock drafts themselves.
There are no correct mocks, only different degrees of wrong. So why do we do them? Because they’re fun to talk about, and debate, and perhaps pick apart. And when our favorite team spends its first-round pick on some offensive guard we’ve never heard of from an FCS school in Idaho, we can perhaps complain that we would’ve made a better choice. At least until that unknown guy from Idaho becomes an All-Pro.
Most of us could use that kind of harmless distraction now more than ever.
So here are this year’s semi-educated guesses. Feel free to inform me of how wrong I am, and why. When it’s all over on Saturday, we can enjoy being wrong together, from a distance of course.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
The Bengals didn’t go 2-14 last year for nothing. Joey Heisman trades his purple and gold tiger stripes for orange and black.
2. Washington Redskins – Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
There’s been some speculation that the Redskins could go QB, but the thought here is that they’ll give Haskins a full year and take the best defensive player in the draft.
3. Detroit Lions – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Detroit lost Darius Slay in free agency and can grab a plug-and-play replacement in Okudah.
4. New York Giants – Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Where is he going to play? Is 4 too high for a linebacker? Who cares? The guy is a freak athlete who makes plays all over the field. And the Giants need a guy like that.
5. Miami Dolphins – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Yes, there’s an injury risk. But there are allegedly intelligent people who now say teams might prefer Justin Herbert over Tua even before the injury concerns. And they and any QB-needy teams who pass on Tua are going to end up regretting that. He is special.
6. Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The Chargers have made a lot of noise that Tyrod Taylor is their guy. And I’m sure they’d really like you to believe that. He’s just keeping the seat warm for the next guy.
7. Carolina Panthers – Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Gerald McCoy stopped on a layover and flew on to Dallas. Luke Kuechly retired. The Panthers need to rebuild the middle of their defense and Brown is a great way to start.
8. Arizona Cardinals – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
The Cardinals can continue rebuilding their offense with a road-grader of an offensive tackle who can also protect the QB.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars – CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
The Jaguars have a lot of needs, but replacing Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye at corner should be tops on the list.
10. Cleveland Browns – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Everybody seems down on Baker Mayfield after last season, but they conveniently forget that the Browns’ offensive line was atrocious. Free agent acquisition Jack Conklin will help immensely. Wirfs would be a great bookend to pair with him.
11. New York Jets – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Here is where the run on the top three receivers is supposed to start. But this is a very deep draft at that position and the Jets also have a need for offensive linemen and one of the best in the draft falls in their lap here.
12. Las Vegas Raiders – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Darren Waller was the Raiders best pass-catcher last season. He is a tight end. Time to fix that receiver situation.
13. San Francisco 49ers – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
San Francisco has a roster of smallish, speedy receivers. The 6-3 Lamb gives them a playmaker with some size.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Step One: Sign Tom Brady. Step Two: Make sure he’s got plenty of protection. At 6-7, 364, Becton is a massive bodyguard.
15. Denver Broncos – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
The speedy Ruggs will pair nicely with the emerging Courtland Sutton for Drew Lock in Denver’s retooled passing game.
16. Atlanta Falcons – Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
The Falcons continue to need help on the defensive side and pairing this monster up front with Grady Jarrett would give them a formidable interior.
17. Dallas Cowboys – AJ Terrell, CB, Clemson
Byron Jones is gone and new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan wants to play a wider variety of coverages. The rangy, athletic Terrell gives him another piece with which to do that.
18. Miami Dolphins – K’Lavon Chaisson, DE, LSU
The Dolphins have needs all over the field but should be elated to find the second-best edge rusher in the draft still on the board here.
19. Las Vegas Raiders – Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
He’s a bit undersized, but he’s a feisty, aggressive ball hawk who should fit the Raider mentality.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars – Josh Jones, OT, Houston
If the Jaguars are going to hand the keys over to Gardner Minshew, they can do him a favor by acquiring another talented blocker up front.
21. Philadelphia Eagles – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
The Eagles’ need at WR and their lack of faith in their WR1, Alshon Jeffery, are well documented, as is Jefferson’s production.
22. Minnesota Vikings – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
The Xavier Rhodes era is over in the Minnesota secondary, and Fulton gives the Vikings the plus-size they like at the position.
23. New England Patriots – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Are we really sold on Jarrett Stidham as Tom Brady’s successor? Here’s betting the Patriots will at least get him some competition. They’ve been rumored to be considering trading up for Tua. If they stand pat, Love has all the tools and a ton of upside.
24. New Orleans Saints – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
After adding Emmanuel Sanders to the receiving corps, the Saints can afford to take a guy here who can add some speed to their defense.
25. Minnesota Vikings – Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
The Vikings continue to rebuild their offensive line with a rising prospect who impressed at the combine.
26. Miami Dolphins – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Safeties are a luxury in the first round these days, but the Dolphins have three picks and McKinney is the kind of rangy playmaker that makes a difference in both the pass game and run support.
27. Seattle Seahawks – Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
Frank Clark is gone. Jadaveon Clowney is likely following him out the door. The Seahawks continue to rebuild up front.
28. Baltimore Ravens – Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
The Ravens are a franchise accustomed to strong linebacker play. It’s time to find a long-term replacement for CJ Mosley in the middle.
29. Tennessee Titans – AJ Epenesa, DE, Iowa
The Titans are among the teams interested in Jadeveon Clowney, but probably not for what he’s asking. They have a chance here to help their pass rush without breaking the bank.
30. Green Bay Packers — Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
You can never have too many corners, and while the Packers could use help at receiver, the depth of this draft at that position allows them to find help there in later rounds.
31. San Francisco 49ers – Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
The Niners have proven to be a team that likes to build up front first. Blacklock would give them some beef to replace the departed DeForest Buckner.
32. Kansas City Chiefs – Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan
Without a ton of pressing needs, the Super Bowl champs take the top center in the draft to bolster their interior line.