NFL Draft 2021 – Quick update

In preparation for the upcoming 2021 Draft just wanted to drop a quick note to say I’m directing all my efforts into the excellent @NinetyNineYards #DraftTalk team – there are draft related articles on and we put a weekly Draft Talk podcast out there each week looking at the various position groups.

My recent articles have been:

Which position groups are hot or not in round one of recent drafts –

Who could trade back during round one –

Pointers to the top 10 draft picks –

In case you missed it!

Although I enjoy putting my own, sometimes random, thoughts relating to the NFL here on I also write for and I’ve concentrated recent efforts on there. Thought it would be worth linking up and providing links to my recent @99YDS work.

First up my recent preview of the NFL divisions as I see them at this point in time. I’m really excited about what the West has to offer, in both the AFC and NFC. I think their inter-divisional match ups will be among the most intriguing and exciting next season.

Part 1 – Go West! (NFC West)

Part 2 – The Wild Wild West (AFC West)

Part 3 – Best of the Rest

I’ve also been interested in how teams and coaches go about building a “Championship Culture”. I put together an article based on interviews Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks  held on their “Move The Sticks” podcast last autumn with several high profile head coaches. It was fascinating how the principles in building a football team could translate to pretty much any team situation, whether sport or in the workplace.

The article “Building a Championship Culture” can be found at

Hope you might find something interesting in amongst these as we wait for the start of the next NFL season!




The @47yards Quantum Leap Edition – 2010-2019

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s I was a fan of Quantum Leap. For those of you who don’t remember it, or it was before your time, the premise was one of time-travel where the main character, Dr Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) ‘leapt’ through time righting various wrongs with only a hologram of his friend Al (the brilliant Dean Stockwell) appearing to help him solve what he needed to do to leap again, trying to get home.

Reminded of the premise the other day I wondered about instances in the NFL over the last decade. Games are won and lost by the smallest of margins, sometimes on one decision. So, how might the last decade have looked if we make a few small changes, concentrating solely on playoff games.

February 5th 2012 – Super Bowl 46

NY Giants 21 – 17 New England Patriots (4th Qtr 0:05)

Watch this final play back. The Patriots are down by 4 after Ahmad Bradshaw had ‘fallen’ into the end zone for a Giants TD with 0:57 left on the clock. Conscious of leaving Tom Brady enough time to strike back, the New England Patriots defense had parted like the red sea to allow Bradshaw to run in from 6 yards out unchallenged.

Brady, starting on the Patriots 20 yards line, had managed somehow (in the midst of incompletions and a sack from Justin Tuck) to engineer one final hail-mary shot at a miracle finale. On the final play he evades the Giants token 3-man rush and hurls a bomb which is up for grabs in the endzone. Giants defenders deflect the initial throw but the ball then falls to the ground barely out of the finger tip grasp of Rob Gronkowski.

What if Gronk had stretched a little further or anticipated the deflection a fraction of a second earlier? The result could have been one of the most memorable final plays in Super Bowl history. BTW as a Giants fan this one hurts me to even contemplate!

New Result: NY Giants 21 – 24 New England Patriots

Let’s leap on!

January 11th 2015 – NFC Divisional Round

Dallas Cowboys 21 – 26 Green Bay Packers (4th Qtr 4:50)

It’s a catch. You know what I am talking about. The Cowboys are at the Packers 33 yard line with a 4th and 2, and they are going for it. Tony Romo, ever the gunslinger, eschews any thought of a short yardage gain for the first down. He sends a jump ball to Dez Bryant who catches it while falling to the ground with the Packers defensive back, and rolls into the endzone. Somehow it is ruled as he was not in control of the catch. I’m a Giants fan and I think it was a catch!

He could have been ruled down at about the 2-yard line but the Cowboys still punch it in, and I’m taking them to see the game out and advancing to the NFC Championship game.

New Result: Dallas Cowboys 29 – 26 Green Bay Packers

But there is more to do in 2015.

February 1st 2015 – Super Bowl 49

New England Patriots 28 – 24 Seattle Seahawks (4th Qtr 0:26)

So, sorry Cowboys fans but after beating the Packers in the divisional round I still think the Seahawks, the reigning champions after their destruction of the Denver Broncos 12 months earlier, face the Patriots.

Again, we all know where I am going here. This was a great Super Bowl. A real back-n-forth as first the Patriots led, then the Seahawks were up by 10 in the second half. The Patriots dominate the 4th quarter with 14 unanswered points to lead by 4. Finally, Seattle drive to the Patriots 2-yard line and with 2nd and goal call a pass play, a quick slant, which Malcolm Butler reads, intercepts, game over.

I have huge respect for Pete Carroll and the job he has done at Seattle but he is surely 1 playcall away from another Super Bowl ring. Let’s give the ball to Marshawn Lynch, he gets the 2 yards. The Seattle Seahawks have consecutive Super Bowl victories.

New Result: New England Patriots 28 – 31 Seattle Seahawks

Where next? Oh yes, 2017

February 5th 2017 – Super Bowl 51

New England Patriots 20 – 28 Atlanta Falcons (4th Qtr 4:40)

For three quarters the Atlanta Falcons were imperious. It wasn’t a contest. If it was a title fight the Patriots had received the standing 8 count from the referee and were one punch away from being KO’d. Then the comeback began and you could see the contender start to buckle as the more experienced champion summoned up all they had not and refused to be defeated.

However, even after 17 points were clawed back, the Falcons found themselves 1st and 10 with 4:40 left on the clock at the Patriots 22-yard line. Even if Matt Ryan had knelt down 3 times they could have kicked the field goal to go 11 points clear with possibly around 3:30 left. Instead, following a sack and a holding penalty they found themselves 3rd and 33, now out of field goal range. The Patriots sensed blood in the water, the Falcons were broken.

The 2016-17 Atlanta Falcons were an outstanding team and would have been worthy winners of Super Bowl 51. Let’s change the playcalling on that fateful drive, they kick the field goal and although the Patriots score another TD it is Atlanta lifting the trophy.

New Result: New England Patriots 28 – 31 Atlanta Falcons

Here’s where it gets fun – lots to change in 2018 so it’s a quickfire round!

January 13th and 14th – NFC Divisional Round
First of all it is sorry to Minnesota Vikings fans. The Minneapolis Miracle doesn’t happen. With 10 seconds left, on their own 39 yard line, 3rd and 10, but this time Saints Safety Marcus Williams concentrates on tackling Stefan Diggs in-bounds and time expires. The amazing Case Keenum show ends here.

January 21st – AFC Championship Round
In almost identical fashion to the previous year’s Super Bowl, the Patriots toyed with a pretender to the throne. Blake Bortles and the Jaguars largely dominated the first three quarters, which is never enough. The Jaguars ad taken part in one of the best divisional round games I’ve seen the week before as they and the Steelers had ‘duked’ out a 45-42 classic. Against the Patriots though the Jags dried up on offense as the game progressed. At the end it was a brilliantly batted down ball from Stephon Gillmore which sealed the Patriots progression. This time he doesn’t quite make it, the completion is made and the Jaguars win out.

What would this do to Super Bowl 52? Who would the Jaguars play? I’m going with the Saints as they struggles past the Falcons in the divisional round and I think the Saints would have edged them. If this was to play out I think the New Orleans Saints would walk off with Super Bowl 52.

There is one more Super Bowl I think I need to save…..on to 2019

January 13th 2019 – NFC Championship

LA Rams 20 – 20 New Orleans Saints (4th Qtr 1:48)

What did the officials see? Nothing, clearly. Everyone else did. Known as the “worst no call in NFL playoff history”. The Saints are 3rd and 10 at the Rams 13-yard line. The Rams only have 1 timeout remaining. Drew Brees finds Tommylee Lewis on the sideline or at least he would have done if Rams corner Nickell Robey-Coleman hadn’t slammed him mid-air before the ball arrived. Clearcut pass interference, at the very least. It should have been Saints 1st and goal with 1:45 left which would have given them scope to run the clock down before kicking a game winning field goal – or the opportunity to run in a TD.

In watching the video back the irony is that Coleman could have waited a split second and tackled Lewis fairly and out of bounds, about 3 yards short of the first down. Sean Payton would have then had to decide whether to go for it or kick the field goal. Either way, I hated the call (or non-call) so my yellow flag is thrown to the ground.

New Result: LA Rams 20 – 23 New Orleans Saints

This would have resulted in a Saints vs Patriots Super Bowl 53, Brees vs Brady. It would have been more of a classic than the 13-3 result. Remember in my alternate universe the Saints won in 2018 so I’m giving them 2 in a row winning Super Bowl 53.

So, there we have it, a rewritten history for the last decade of NFL Playoffs. Unsurprisingly, the Patriots are the team most affected by my time travel exercise. Three titles taken away but one added. I think it shows just how ruthless they have been in playoff football, often capitalising on individual moments in games on the biggest stage. They know how to win.

Seahawks and Saints fans should be happy as I’ve created mini-dynasties for them with both achieving back-to-back victories. Again, these are two of the strongest NFC franchises of the last 10 years but it demonstrates how close you can get to a title, to within touching distance, before having victory swiped away from you. And the Falcons don’t capitulate from 28-3 up.

How would you change NFL history by a split-second here or an inch there? It could all have been so different, the beauty of competitive sport. I wonder what 2020-21 has in store for us…….

NFL Draft 2020 – Team by Team review

I’ve already posted my Top 10 takeaways on but i wanted to do a quickfire team by team grade and analysis of the 2020 NFL Draft. Let’s dive right in, division by division.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills – A
The Bills did not have a day 1 pick due to the Stefan Diggs trade, but his addition will certainly be worth the trade. They then nailed their next four picks – AJ Epenesa fell to #54 and helps build strength on strength for the Buffalo D. Zack Moss (RB) and Gabriel Davis (WR) are excellent additions to the offense, and then Jake Fromm (who is about as different a QB as you could get from Josh Allen) could develop into a really sound back up to Allen. And I love they took kicker Tyler Bass!

Miami Dolphins – B
The Dolphins had 3 picks on day 1 and, for me, 2 of those 3 were a reach (Austin Jackson & Noah Igbinoghene). They did have highlights though – offensive lineman Robert Hunt in round 2 and edge rusher Curtis Weaver dropping all the way to round 5. They are going through a roster reset and will need to hope the prospects develop how they hope.

New England Patriots – B+
Loved what the Patriots did on day 2 – the defensive trio of Kyle Dugger (S), Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings (EDGE) may help to offset the losses of Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy. They also picked up two tight ends (Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene) who have the versatility to prove themselves as starters in the now Brady-less offense.

New York Jets – A
The Jets nailed it early on to support Sam Darnold by bolstering the offensive line (Mekhi Becton) and a big, imposing receiver (Denzel Mimms). Ashtyn Davis has track athlete speed and a high football IQ – if they can hang on to Jamal Adams they will have an impressive secondary in 2020.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens – A+
Oh c’mon, give us a break… Patrick Queen falls to them in round 1 at #28, JK Dobbins adds to their all powerful run game in the second round and top defensive tackle slips to round 3. They hit home runs all the way down – both day 3 guards (Ben Bredeson and Tyre Phillips) have the ability to be starters and slot receiver James Proche will prove a very useful pickup.

Cincinnati Bengals – A
The Bengals did not fluff their lines picking first in every round of the draft. Burrow in the bag and Tee Higgins to throw to at the top of round 2. Linebacker help has arrived in Logan Wilson, Akeem Davis-Gaither and late on day 3 Markus Bailey. Hakeem Adniji was also a great pick up in round 6 to add depth on the offensive line.

Cleveland Browns – A-
Big Boy draft for the Browns this year. Every pick should give them a great return. Jedrick Wills is a great tackle (but he’ll likely need to switch to LT rather than Conklin). Grant Delpit (S), Jordan Eilliot (DT) and Jacob Phillips (LB) all improve the defense. They seem to be collecting TEs with Harrison Bryant in round 4 – is David Njoku on the way out?

Pittsburgh Steelers – B
Not too much to get excited about here as the Steelers only had 6 picks but they did make solid choices. Highlight for me would be the second rounder Chase Claypool who has the ability to fulfil a WR/TE hybrid role.

AFC South

Houston Texans – B-
Did they have any picks left? Five picks in total and they managed to do what they could with them. Ross Blacklock (DT) will be disruptive on defense and Charlie Heck in round 4 (OT) is a good prospect. Try and keep some picks in 2021 hey Bill?

Indianapolis Colts – A+
Love it. After bringing in Phillip Rivers they give him the best chance to win by drafting Michael Pittman JR at receiver (he will become their #1) and Jonahtan Taylor (RB) to help keep defenses honest. Then in round 4 they draft Rivers’ potential successor – QB Jacob Eason has a great spot here to watch and learn from Rivers and then take over in 1-2 years.

Jacksonville Jaguars – B+
Nice start on day 1 with their 2 picks as CJ Henderson (CB) and K’Lavon Chaisson (EDGE) help to rebuild the defence. Laviska Shenault JR adds yards after catch as a receiver – as long as he stays healthy. Ben Bartch (OT) is raw and new to the position but shows promise and on day 3 WR Collin Johnson adds size and presence as a pass catcher.

Tennessee Titans – C+
Titans were another team with limited picks. They did need to replace Jack Conklin at right tackle but Isaiah Wilson at #29 could be rich. Kristian Fulton (CB) fell down the boards against other defensive backs so the end of round 2 became good value. Nothing stood out with their other picks.

AFC West

Denver Broncos – A-
The Broncos went all out at wide receiver by double dipping first two rounds. Jerry Jeudy was the best route runner of the draft and KJ Hamler has great speed in the slot. Lloyd Cushenberry is good enough to start at center straightaway and Justin Strnad (LB) on day 3 was another high point.

Kansas City Chiefs – A
Like the Ravens, the Chiefs solidified and consolidated strengths. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB) is a dual weapon 3-down back (as if that offense needed help). Willie Gay JR (LB) is a ferocious downhill defender and L’Jarius Sneed a versatile defensive back which will bolster the ‘Spags’ D.

Las Vegas Raiders – B-
Ok, I get it, they are in Vegas now so it’s glitz, glamour and gambling hereon-in. That’s how it seemed in the draft. Taking Henry Ruggs before Jeudy or Lamb screamed “the need for speed”. I hope he’s not another John Ross. Damon Arnette was a huge reach at #19 when other options were there at CB. Lynn Bowden is perhaps even more exciting than Ruggs in terms of the versatility he brings (they could use him similar to how 49ers use Deebo Samuel). Amik Robertson was my favourite prospect at the nickel CB position – so tough and physical even at only 5’8”.

Los Angeles Chargers – B+
The Chargers got their QB of the future in Justin Herbert and followed up by trading up for LB Kenneth Murray. It cost them in day 2 picks but it will be worth it. Big value on day 3 with, somehow, slot receiver KJ Hill falling to them in round 7.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys – A
CeeDee Lamb at #17? How? The Cowboys struck lucky and Jerry did not blink. Followed that up by improving the secondary (Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson) and Gallimore on the defensive line is a real disruptor. Their luck continued on day 3 with Bradlee Anae (EDGE) in round 5. They should now challenge the Eagles.

New York Giants – B
Solid draft – very much focused on solving the o-line issues (3 of the first 5 picks). Xavier McKinney was the highlight, falling to them in round 2. More help came to the secondary and at linebacker but the fans would have liked to see some pass rush in there.

Philadelphia Eagles – C+
Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson? That could haunt the Eagles in years to come. Reagor was a reach at #21 and using a 2nd round pick for what will be a developmental back up QB (Jalen Hurts) may also prove rich. There were nice picks in here – round 6 LB Shaun Bradley for one, but with the Cowboys improvement they may look back and rue the early picks.

Washington Redskins – B
Maybe you get an A just for Chase Young? My concern here would be that if you knew that Trent Williams was on the way out maybe you should have picked up the tackle before Saahdiq Charles on day 3 (could have had Josh Jones round 3).

NFC North

Chicago Bears – B-
Another TE? Cole Kmet is yet another addition to those ranks in Chicago. My highlight would be Jaylon Johnson at CB who would have gone round 1 if not for a current injury he is working through. Not much else of note, with only 2 picks across first 2 days.

Detroit Lions – B
Lots of holes on D to fill and Jeff Okudah (CB) and Julian Okwara (EDGE) go some way to doing that but I would like to have seen more creativity across those first 2 days to get another starting defender.

Green Bay Packers – B-
I can see it. This is a changing of the guard in the way the Packers move the ball. Less reliance on Rodgers and that may not go down well at first or even for a season or two. Love is the future in Green Bay. AJ Dillon is a bull of a running back – let’s hope Rodgers doesn’t mind handing off to him 15 times a game! Really interested to see how Packers play offense in 2020.

Minnesota Vikings – A+
Everything about this should make the Vikings favourites for the division. Justin Jefferson replaces Stefon Diggs. Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler replenish the secondary. Ezra Cleveland will be a great offensive tackle and loved James Lynch (DE from Baylor in round 4). Also watch for EDGE Kenny Willekes from round 7 – no one will work harder to make the team.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons – B+
Only six picks but nailed the first 3 – AJ Terrell is a ball-hawk of a cornerback and Marlon Davidson was somewhat in the shadow of Derrick Brown at Auburn but has great rushing instinct. Matt Hennessy was one of the top centers in the draft so pick #78 was great value.

Carolina Panthers – B
All defensive picks? What, all 7 of them? Your offense is fine then, right? Great picks on one side of the ball – loved the opening trio of Derrick Brown, Yetur Gross-Matos and Jeremy Chinn but you could have used one guy on offense, surely?

New Orleans Saints – B
Only 2 days work for the Saints with no day 3 picks. Given they are a Super Bowl contender they could perhaps have used their first round pick on Patrick Queen (LB) but instead they renewed the offensive line with Cesar Ruiz. They did go linebacker in round 3 but I would have flipped those two positional picks. Adam Trautman could be the best TE in the class.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – A
You cannot doubt the Bucs are all in. They sought to back up TB12 with a tackle in round 1 (Tristan Wirfs), a running back in round 3 (Ke’Shawn Vaughn) and another receiver to that talented group in round 5 (Tyler Johnson). There were a couple of defensive picks too in there somewhere – Antoine Winfield JR joins at safety.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals – A+
Another group where I loved everything – Isaiah Simmons at #8 then somehow Josh Jones in round 3. Round 4 added to the D-line (Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence) and running back Eno Benjamin falling to round 7 was a mystery but great fortune for the Cardinals. They will compete in a tough division next season.

Los Angeles Rams – B
The Rams lost their way last year, a sort of Super Bowl loss hangover. The draft sought to reaffirm their identity. Cam Akers (RB) helps to fill the gap left by Todd Gurley and Van Jefferson (WR) is as smooth a route runner as you can find. They’ll hope EDGE Terrell Lewis can stay fit on defense.

San Francisco 49ers – B+
John Lynch works magic. He somehow convinced the Bucs to swap places in round one and they still got Javon Kinlaw (their replacement for DeForest Buckner). The Brandon Aiyuk pick later that round show provide the Kyle Shanahan offense with another exciting piece but trading up to #25 may be a reach.

Seattle Seahawks – B-
Seattle continued to pick future Seahawks. The first 2 picks were classic Seattle – raw athletic talent that they feel they can coach on technique. Jordyn Brooks (LB) ahead of Patrick Queen will be contentious if Brooks does not work out. Damien Lewis was a nice grab in round 3 at guard and I love the potential of DeeJay Dallas (RB round 4) and Alton Robinson (EDGE round 5) but they need the early picks to work out.

That’s it – my quick assessment of everyone’s 2020 draft haul. Time will tell!

47 Yards – 2020 NFL Draft (Mock 2.0)

Following on from the 4-part Mock Draft 1.0 I decided to revisit my thoughts with a little over a week to go to the, now virtual, draft.

Once again I used the ProFootball Network Mock Simulator which is particularly useful when it comes to working out whether your trade ideas have a remote chance of happening for real.

For this version I also tried to play out a notably different set of circumstances from the first mock to see how early trade impact on the selections later on in round one.

We start with the Miami Dolphins making a major move up from 5th to 1st (via Detroit at 3) which completely shakes up the top 10 picks. This is based on a scenario where Joe Burrow does not want to end up in Cincinnati and the Bengals have to make the best of the situation. They still come out with their next franchise QB and an additional first round pick, so not all is lost.
1. Miami Dolphins – Joe Burrow QB, LSU
(previous picks in the brackets – for the Dolphins this was Tua)
It is pretty much nailed on, for me at least, that the Dolphins are going to take a quarterback with their first pick. The consensus has been that, with Ryan Fitzpatrick a very capable starter for 2020, they can pick someone who sits for a year (hence the link to Tua). However, they are also the team with the draft capital (including additional 2021 picks) to go all the way to the first pick to take Burrow. The deal went down as follows.

The Bengals are only content if they fall to #3 so the Dolphins have to deal with the Lions first and then Cincinnati.

MIA #5 & #39 for DET #3

MIA #3, #18, #56 #154, #173 (plus a 2021 1st and 2nd round pick)
2. Washington Redskins – Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
(1.0 – Tristan Wirfs)
In the last draft it was Washington dealing with Miami but for this second mock the Redskins are content to sit second and take potentially the best prospect in this year’s draft.

3. Cincinnati Bengals – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
(1.0 – Joe Burrow)
So the Bengals miss out on Burrow but they are able to secure Justin Herbert. In this scenario I think Herbert is a good fit in Cincinnati. He could learn from (and push) Andy Dalton and this may be viewed as a safer pick than Tua or Love (potentially lower ceiling but higher floor). A controversial pick but could be making the best of things if played out this way.

4. New York Giants TRADE
In this scenario the Chargers watch as the first 2 QBs are off the board inside three picks. This may stir them into action and it would not necessarily take much to deal with the Giants and move up 2 spots, just to be sure. Tua slots in nicely behind Tyrod Taylor (to start the season at least) and is a great draw for the now LA-based Chargers franchise.

LA Chargers – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama LAC #6 & #37 for NYG #4
(1.0 Justin Herbert)

5. Detroit Lions – Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
(1.0 – Chase Young)
First time around Chase Young fell into the Lions lap at #3 but here we see them drop to #5, Young is gone but they are still able to select a player who is consistently mocked to them, making up for the loss of Darius Slay – plus watch out for them then trading back into round 1 later….

6. NY Giants – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
(1.0 – Isaiah Simmons)
Dave Gettlemen seems to have a straight choice and whichever way he goes (top tackle or Simmons is the consensus) he probably upsets half the Giants fan base. This time I have gone with what feels more like a Gettlemen pick, and the need at RT is apparent.

7. Carolina Panthers – Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson
(1.0 – Jeffrey Okudah)
Carolina still pick up a new key defensive piece and Simmons feels like a Panthers (and Matt Rhule) type player, fast and aggressive. It’s a nice fit.

8. Arizona Cardinals – Tristan Wirfs, T/G, Iowa
(1.0 – Mekhi Becton)
Staying on the O-line for the Cardinals with a slight switch to Wirfs, solely because of this versatility and the ability to kick-inside to guard if necessary.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars – Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
(1.0 – Derrick Brown)
No change for the Jaguars – staying with Brown, a great way to start rebuilding this defense with a Calais Campbell type replacement.

10. Cleveland Browns – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
(1.0 – Andrew Thomas)
Another O-line pick but as Becton is still available this time around the Browns take him over Andrew Thomas. Size over technique take here.

11. New York Jets – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
(1.0 – CeeDee Lamb)

12. Las Vegas Raiders – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
(1.0 – Jerry Jeudy)

13. 49ers – Javon Kinlaw, DT, S. Carolina
(1.0 – Javon Kinlaw)

With picks 11 through 13 I see no reason for any changes. I see Lamb and Jeudy as the first two receivers off the board (with Henry Ruggs II close behind), and Kinlaw is a great replacement for DeForest Buckner using the pick they got from the Colts in the trade.

14. Tampa Bay Buccanneers – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
(1.0 – Jedrick Wills)
This completes the re-ordering of the four top offensive tackles and the Bucs get probably the best technician of the four to help protect Tom Brady.

15. Denver Broncos – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
(1.0 – CJ Henderson)
Mulled this one over after the first mock draft and it just did not excite me for Denver. I’ve swapped their picks this time around (WR first then CB) and look what they get – now this is exciting!

16. Atlanta Falcons – K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
(1.0 – K’Lavon Chaisson)
Same again here for the Falcons. defense will be the focus and Chaisson is a great start in improving that side of the roster.

17. Dallas Cowboys – CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
(1.0 – Xavier McKinney)
Another situation where I was not 100% comfortable with the pick last time. Stayed in the secondary but as CJ Henderson is available this time around I’ll take him over McKinney. Helps to make up for missing Byron Jones.

18. Cincinnati Bengals (pick gained from Miami) – AJ Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
This is the additional pick the Bengals have picked up from the earlier trade and they use it to upgrade at another key position. First pick they got their QB so with this pick they get some help to get after everyone else’s.

19. Las Vegas Raiders – AJ Terrell, CB, Clemson
(1.0 Jordan Love)
Last time around the Raiders used their second pick to go for Jordan Love. This time they pass on Love and go after another Clemson CB to partner with Travyon Mullen. Vegas could be a no-fly zone….

20. Jacksonville Jaguars – Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
(1.0 – Kenneth Murray)

21. Philadelphia Eagles Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
(1.0 – Justin Jefferson)

For the next two picks it is ‘as you were’ with the Jags and Eagles more than happy to have Murray and Jefferson fall into their respective laps.

22. Minnesota Vikings – Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
(1.0 – Henry Ruggs III)
In version 1.0 the Vikings hopped up 3 spots to take Henry Ruggs, this time he is long gone so the Vikings focus on the secondary and wait for their receiver (more later on that). I think Johnson is going to gatecrash round one above some of the other highly rated CBs (and I doubt they take another Diggs….)

23. New England Patriots – TRADE to Detroit Lions – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
We get to the Patriots and they have to deal. They don’t have much by way of early picks and the Detroit Lions (with ex-defensive coordinator Matt Patricia) have an offer which gives the Patriots an additional high 3rd rounder and the cost is only to slip into the top of round 2.

With the additional pick the Lions take a player with a really high ceiling but little experience (which is why I think the Patriots are happy to trade back).

24. New Orleans Saints – Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
(1.0 Jeff Gladney)
No change for the Saints as they pick up a real physical cornerback which will be an upgrade on Eli Apple.

25. Minnesota Vikings – Denzel Mimms, WR, Baylor
(1.0 – Jaylon Johnson)
As mentioned earlier, in this scenario I’ve switched the positions the Vikings target and go for cornerback first (so they still get Johnson) and then they can get one over on NFC North divisional rivals Green Bay. The Packers will also be after a wide receiver and by taking Mimms the Vikings steal a potential target away.

26. Miami Dolphins – Austin Jackson OT, USC
(1.0 – D’Andrew Swift)
The Dolphins have secured Joe Burrow in this mock so the next step is to provide some additional protection in the form of Jackson. A running back could still have been a possibility but they could pick one up day 2.

27. Seattle Seahawks TRADE
In recent days it has been mentioned that in amongst all the possible unknowns of this year’s draft the one (near) certainty is that Seattle will trade down. It happens a lot. The Seahawks like to increase their number of picks and find gold on days 2 and 3. Here they trade with the Colts who jump up to take their QB of the future to sit behind Philip Rivers.

IND #34 & #75 for SEA #27

The Indianapolis Colts select – Jordan Love, QB, Utah

28. Baltimore Ravens – Zack Baun, EDGE, Wisconsin
(1.0 – Patrick Queen)
In the first mock Patrick Queen was available but he is long gone this time around. Zack Baun is a more than useful back up plan here to add to the Ravens pass rush.

29. Tennessee Titans – Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia
(1.0 – Ezra Cleveland)
Same position but a change in name. Wilson is a name shooting up various boards and looking back this is a better fit (I think) for Wilson to plug in at RT, replacing Jack Conklin.

30. Green Bay Packers – Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
(1.0 – Denzel Mimms)
The Vikings have taken Denzel Mimms away this time around but I still focus on wide receiver for the Packers. Reagor is still a top quality receiver and would make a great target for Aaron Rodgers.

31. San Francisco 49ers TRADE
As with my first mock I expect the 49ers to trade down and I still feel the Broncos are prime candidates to be the trade partner.

DEN #46, #77 & #118 for SF #31

For the Broncos (similar to the Vikings) I’ve switched which position they address first. Henry Ruggs is already onboard so it is at cornerback they focus with the second pick, particularly as there could be a run on that position late in round 1. Denver take the next best CB.

Denver Broncos select Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

32. Kansas City Chiefs – Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
(1.0 – AJ Terrell)
Swings and roundabout for the Chiefs here. Their previous selection, AJ Terrell, is off the board but this means they can focus on shoring up that run defense, in which case Blacklock will do nicely.

Running through this mock and playing out those early trades in the top 6 picks has a ripple effect further down round one. There are only about half a dozen instances where teams choose the same player in both mocks, proving you better have, at least, a plan B for your first round pick. Also there are five new names late on (Blacklock, Fulton, Reagor, Wilson and Jackson) at the expense of Shenault JR, Cleveland, Ruiz, Swift and McKinney.

That’s me done for mock drafts for this year. Just going to sit back, watch and enjoy now! Hope your team gets your guy!

NFL Mock Draft 2020 Round 1 – part 4 (picks 25-32)

The end is in sight! Part 4 of my look at round 1 of the NFL Draft and we are into the final 8 picks. Some teams have already picked twice, some not at all. The top 4 wide receivers have all gone from the board but I think there is at least a 5th in these last few picks. Plus a few of last year’s top teams look for those elusive pieces which will help them challenge again next season.

Throughout this mock draft I’ve used the PFN Mock Draft Simulator to help work out potential trades and scenarios –

25. Minnesota Vikings “Free hit”

This is the Vikings second pick after they traded up to #19 to secure Henry Ruggs. With their second pick of the round they are free to take a defensive player to try and offset the losses in free agency. I think they will look to the secondary and another cornerback will come off the board – the question is which one? Three possibilities here I think – AJ Terrell, Kristian Fulton or Jaylon Johnson and I’m going with the latter as the best shutdown corner available here.

With the 25th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Minnesota Vikings select, Jaylon Johnson, cornerback, Utah.
26. Miami Dolphins “Build that offense”

The Dolphins are dipping in for the 2nd time here after moving up for Tua and dealing away pick 18 to the Redskins. Remember that trade also dealt away pick 39 so they will have to sit and wait after this until the bottom of the 2nd round. They might be open for business here with a team like the Texans or Bears – both of whom have 2x 2nd rounders but nothing in the first.

However, I think they should just go and get their running back to compliment Tua as and when he is starting. It is becoming less fashionable to take a running back in round 1 but it is a need for Miami even with Jordan Howard coming in from Philly in free agency.

So, with the 26th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Miami Dolphins select, D’Andre Swift, running back, Georgia.
27 Seattle Seahawks “What does Russ need?”

Picks (7) – 27, 59, 64, 101, 133, 144, 214

Seattle are set up quite nicely in terms of picks with two second rounders to follow this pick so I don’t see them trading – unlike last year where John Schneider, Seahawks GM, went trade happy to somehow turn 4 picks into 11. However, their later picks will probably put them out of range of the next level of offensive tackles or the premier interior linemen.

I’m going to pair them up with taking the first center off the board although they could quite easily go for the tackle spot.

With the 27th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Seattle Seahawks select, Cesar Ruiz, center, Michigan.
28 Baltimore Ravens “Use the window”

Picks (8) – 28, 55, 60, 92, 129, 134, 170, 225

The Ravens are in good shape but they cannot afford to rest on their laurels. Lamar Jackson is still in his rookie contract for now and they had an offense few teams could answer during the 2019 season. Defensively though they have had to use the franchise tag on Matthew Judon, so with some uncertainty there it provides the opportunity to go for a linebacker in round 1. And it just so happens there is a great one available at #28.

With the 28th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Baltimore Ravens select, Patrick Queen, linebacker, LSU.
29 Tennessee Titans “Trade away into 2nd?”

Picks (6) – 29, 61, 93, 174, 224, 243

The Titans are not blessed with many picks this year so they may well be open for business and trade down into the top of the second round. I like the idea of them trading with Detroit – a team I highlighted in part 1 as being under pressure to nail the draft. On PFN this could happen with the Lions offering up #35 and #67 (top of round 3) in order to secure the Titans #29.

However, the Titans will feel the loss of starting right tackle, Jack Conklin, and I think they may simply do the obvious in order to keep those running lanes open for Derrick Henry and to continue the renaissance of Ryan Tannehill. Looking at who has gone from the tackle class I think one player has been climbing boards of late and may just sneak into round 1.

With the 29th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Tennessee Titans select, Ezra Cleveland, offensive tackle, Boise State.
30 Green Bay Packers “Make Aaron happy”

Picks (10) – 30, 62, 94, 136, 175, 192, 208, 209, 236, 242

As we progress through round one it is not always easy to see which direction a team might go in as there are so many variables at play. Then there comes a team where you, at least, think it is obvious what they need to do. The Packers wide receiver corps is thin, and it needs a stud. I think the Packers can sit tight in round 1 and then right at the end here a 5th wide receiver gets his name called out. This is another player whose stock has rocketed in recent months and this is a pick which will make Aaron Rodgers very happy indeed – for a while at least.

With the 30th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Green Bay Packers select, Denzel Mimms, wide receiver, Baylor.
31 San Francisco 49ers “Open for business second time round”

Remember that the 49ers have already selected courtesy of the 13th pick from the DeForest Buckner trade. John Lynch and his team should be very happy with the result (Javon Kinlaw as a like for like replacement). They can now sit and wait for the phone to ring from a team looking to get up into the back end of round one.

Again I think there will be a few suitors for the pick including the Texans and Lions but actually the team that I think has capital it could use here is the Denver Broncos. Imagine the two John’s (Lynch and Elway) get on the phone and hammer out the following deal.

TRADE! – SF #31 for DEN #46, #77, #118 (verified by PFN mock simulator)

What could the Broncos do with the extra pick? Back when I mocked their original pick (CJ Henderson) I was aware that wide receiver was another position of need. With all the picks at their disposal they could wait until the second or third round but what if they wanted to make sure they got a quality wideout with the first 5 having already gone. Here we go then with the sixth wide receiver off the board in round one and it is a hometown pick for the Broncos!

With the 31st pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Denver Broncos select, Laviska Shenault JR, wide receiver, Colorado.

I know his stock has fallen of late when he was injured during the combine which impacted his stats but he is a tough physical receiver with plenty of ability in yards after catch. The Broncos met with him at the combine and I think his versatility and competitiveness will appeal to Elway and co.
32 Kansas City Chiefs “Champions next move?”

Picks (5) – 32, 63, 96, 138, 177

The Chiefs are in a similar position to the 49ers one place above them. They may find some value in trading down into the second round in order to gain additional picks. If this were to happen then, unlike the 49ers, I doubt it would be with divisional rivals the Broncos.

For now, I’m going to leave the Chiefs here at #32 and I think they will look to the defense and it could either be for a cornerback (to offset the loss of Kendall Fuller in free agency) or it could be to shore up the run defense which was ranked 29th by DVOA last year. Looking at who is left on the board it was a toss up between Kristian Fulton (who I’d acknowledge has slipped down this mock scenario – I like him as a solid corner but not a 1st rounder) AJ Terrell (who I think is on the rise on some boards due to his toughness and aggressive play) or on the defensive line – Neville Gallimore, Ross Blacklock or Marlon Davison (I think the latter two fit Kansas 4-3 scheme better).

Ultimately I think Kansas can dip back in at #63 to find a player to help the run defense but you should take your cornerback soon as you can and Terrell’s versatility and toughness tip the balance for me.

So, with the 32nd and final pick of the 1st round of the 2020 NFL Draft the Kansas City Chiefs select, AJ Terrell, cornerback,

And that’s it – all done, 32 picks made. Players who can dramatically change the fortunes of their new team. It has been a lot of fun working through my thoughts on each team – now I doubt that a lot of what I’ve put may end up happening but hopefully I’ve been able to articulate why I have made those choices. Can’t wait for draft night!

NFL Mock Draft 2020 Round 1 – part 3 (picks 17-24)

In part 3 of this look at my mock of round 1 of the NFL Draft we delve into what happens when the 4 best offensive tackles have flown off the board and the run on the top quality wide receivers has begun. In picks 17-24 I think we see at least another trade and a situation where divisional rivalry is also in play for the NFC East.

Throughout this mock draft I’ve used the PFN Mock Draft Simulator to help work out potential trades and scenarios –

17. Dallas Cowboys “Play the hand you’re dealt”

Picks (7) – 17, 51, 82, 123, 164, 179, 231

The predicted Dallas Cowboys free agency drama did not materialise. They look as though they will get the deal done with Dak Prescott, although the price goes up the longer it takes. That will eat into cap space later down the line but for now they have got that plus the Amari Cooper deals sorted. They don’t have a ton of draft capital and I expect them to just play the board how it lies and take what they need to supplement a solid roster. The secondary is likely to be the first port of call, particularly in light of losing Byron Jones to the Dolphins and Jeff Heath to the Raiders.

I had a tough time here deciding whether they went for a cornerback or safety so i settled on who, at this point, I think is the better overall player.

So with the 17th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft the Dallas Cowboys select, Xavier McKinney, safety, Alabama.
18. Washington Redskins “A little spite store?”

Remember from part 1 the Redskins acquired this pick from the Dolphins in the trade which took Miami up from #5 to #2 in order to get Tua.

If this did happen they could now use the additional first round pick to spite a divisional rival, the Eagles. The Redskins know that Philly needs wide receiver help but how about Washington take another star wideout off the board before their rival is anywhere near on the clock. However, with so many other needs on the roster and a deep wide receiver class which could be revisited later, I think they go with another need, on the EDGE.

So, with the 18th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins select, AJ Epenesa, edge rusher, Iowa.
19. Las Vegas Raiders “Time to trade?”

We are on the Raiders second pick after they took Jerry Jeudy in trading up from #12 to #10. They could now do with acquiring some draft capital back and they may feel able to drift down a few spots in order to pick up a second rounder where traditional, certainly as a commentator, Mike Mayock has always thought there was good value picks to be had.

Step forward the Minnesota Vikings. They have an additional first round pick courtesy of the Buffalo Bills trade for Stefon Diggs. The Vikings can offer the Raiders a suitable second rounder and leapfrog the Eagles (another team in need of a star wideout) to get their guy.

TRADE – LV #19 for MIN #22 and #58 (verified by PFN mock simulator)

When they do get round to pick #22 the question there will be for Gruden and Mayock will be: how much to the love Jordan Love? This is around the time in the draft I think Love might go – either late in the 1st or early 2nd round. Having mulled this over quite a lot I reckon it will be the Raiders, ever the gamblers, who take Love. After all, in a season or two who doesn’t want to see Mahomes versus Love a couple of times a year?

With the 22nd pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders select, Jordan Love, Quarterback, Utah.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars “A nice spot to be in”

Another team on its second pick and the Jags have plenty of later round pick to simply sit here and take who they like most. I think it will be linebacker and it could be a toss up between Kenneth Murray and Patrick Queen. I’m going with the more proven performer, Murray.

So, with the 20th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select, Kenneth Murray, linebacker, Oklahoma.
21. Philadelphia Eagles “Sat waiting”

Picks (8) – 21, 53, 103, 127, 145, 146, 166, 190

The Eagles are a very settled unit at the moment and a very well run organisation. They made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear last year when players were trooping on a weekly basis into the injury tent. In free agency they have made a nice job of rebuilding in the secondary which was a weak spot last season. However, they remain thin at the wide receiver position and this is one they should address in the draft. The problem will be who is left once we get to pick #21? The Eagles have little to offer in terms of a trade unless they start to offer high 2021 picks into the bargain (which is a possibility). However, in this mock they do still have a day 1 value receiver on the board they can be pleased with securing.

With the 21st pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select, Justin Jefferson, wide receiver, LSU.
22. Minnesota Vikings “Replacing Diggs”

Picks (12) – 22, 25, 58, 89, 105, 132, 155, 201, 205, 239, 249, 253, (WR, CB, EDGE)

As explained above, the Vikings have both the draft capital available and the need (to replace Stefon Diggs) so I am simply joining the dots here. Yes, there are other needs on the defensive side of the ball but pick #25 is ready and waiting to start addressing that. The ability to jump a couple of spots and steal a march on sides in need is very appealing.

So (remembering they have jumped up to 19) with the #19 pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings select, Henry Ruggs III, wide receiver, Alabama.
23. New England Patriots “Life after Tom”

Picks (13) – 23, 87, 98, 100, 125, 172, 195, 204, 212, 213, 230, 235, 241

The Patriots are awash with draft picks, as a result of their oft quoted strategy of allowing high price veterans to leave, usually when they are just starting to dip in terms of performance. The same has been true of this free agency period with the likes of Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and, of course, Tom Brady exiting the building.

It will be incredibly intriguing to see how the Patriots map their way through the draft and further down the line I would expect to see a number of the later round picks bundled up in order to gain some additional picks across rounds 2-4. However, I expect them to stay put in round 1 and start to rebuild to offset the losses on defense.

With the 23rd pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the New England Patriots select, Zack Baun, edge rusher, Wisconsin.
24. New Orleans Saints “For now or later?”

Picks (5) – 24, 88, 130, 169, 203

The Saints remain one of the powerhouses of the NFC and with the return of Drew Brees for one last crack at another Super Bowl title with Head Coach Sean Payton they are most definitely in ‘win now’ mode. There could be scope for trading down whereas they do not own much by way of picks and there could be a scenario where they trade with a team which has no first rounders but two 2nd rounders such as the Houston Texans or Chicago Bears. That scenario would not surprise me come draft day.

However, taking into account the need to push for a championship let’s leave them at pick 24 and try to secure one of the final pieces in their roster puzzle. Let’s hand them a real physical cornerback.

With the 24th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the New Orleans Saints select, Jeff Gladney, cornerback, TCU.

So that’s 24 down and 8 picks left to go. Now we are getting to the teams who will be hoping to return to the playoffs next year and probably have one major need – will the right players still be there for them to take with their all-important 1st round pick.

NFL Mock Draft 2020 Round 1 – part 2 (picks 9-16)

In part 2 of this look at my mock of round 1 of the NFL Draft we have a situation where three QBs have gone (Burrow, Tua and Herbert) but none of the talented wide receiver class have been selected. This is about to change with picks 9-16….

Throughout this mock draft I’ve used the PFN Mock Draft Simulator to help work out potential trades and scenarios –

9. Jacksonville Jaguars “Capital to play with”

Picks (12) – 9, 20, 42, 73, 116, 137, 140, 157, 165, 189, 206, 223,

Another team in reboot and with a Head Coach / GM combination (Doug Marrone / David Caldwell) under significant pressure to improve on the 2019 season (4th place 6-10). In free agency they’ve been forced to swallow dead money to move on from Nick Foles which has proved an expensive mis-step. They seem united on offense behind Gardner Minshew but the once vaunted defense has crumbled into the dust with a chain of recent departures. Only Joe Schubert, linebacker from the Browns, has come the other way in terms of a high profile capture.

Lots to do in the draft and they do have a dozen picks to work with. I think they will sit at #9 and see who falls into their lap before probably bundling up some late picks to possibly get another 2nd or 3rd rounder. This is where I think it is dependent on who the Panthers take at #7 ahead of them. In this scenario the Panther took Okudah which leaves the Jaguars with Derrick Brown, which is a good result and a definite need. It could very easily go the other way round which would leave Jags with Okudah.

So, with the 9th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Jacksonville Jaguars select, Derrick Brown, defensive tackle, Auburn.

10. Cleveland Browns “The Prove it year”

Picks (7) – 10, 41, 74, 97, 115, 187, 244

Oh how it all fell apart last year. After the offseason fanfare the Browns began 2019 being talked up into a playoff spot and a run at a championship. Then we all watched as discord broke out on an almost weekly basis. Baker Mayfield’s production dropped. OBJ didn’t look happy, neither did Jarvis Landry at times. Freddie Kitchens could not keep this talented group of individuals together as a team. The result – 6-10, and Kitchens was gone. Kevin Stefanski is in and the Browns doubled-down in free agency with big money signings such as Jack Conklin and Austin Hooper. Much is expected, again.

Now I think there is room in amongst picks 10-12 for movement. The Browns are set at wide receiver, and have other pressing needs. However, the two teams behind them, the Jets and Raiders could both have eyes on getting their first choice wide receiver. The Raiders, ever bold in the Manock / Gruden era are going to deal and the Browns can probably afford to fall a couple of spots and still get their player, plus additional pick(s).

Back to ProFootball Network for the trade details to be verified.
TRADE – CLE #10 for LV #12 #80 and a 2021 5th rounder

When the Browns do get on the clock at pick #12 it turns out they can further support their offensive line with possibly the most pro-ready left tackle of the class, Andrew Thomas.

With the 12th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Cleveland Browns select, Andrew Thomas, offensive tackle, Georgia.

11. New York Jets “All set to improve”

Picks (7) – 11, 48, 68, 79, 120, 158, 191

The Jets have been active in free agency, particularly with a view to adding greater protection for Sam Darnold. The acquisitions of George Fant and Connor McGovern may mean that the Jets can focus elsewhere with their first round draft pick. The loss of Robby Anderson is not offset by picking up Breshad Perriman from the Bucs and I think the Jets will focus on taking the best receiver on offer with pick #11.

With the 11th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the New York Jets select, CeeDee Lamb, wide receiver, Oklahoma.

12. Las Vegas Raiders “Always the wildcard”

Picks (8) – 12, 19, 80, 81, 91, 121, 159, 226

As mentioned above I think the Raiders will look to leapfrog the Jets in order to take their pick of the wide receivers on offer. Their free agency signings were very much focused on adding depth to their defense which leaves them free to go after key offense positions early in the draft.

With the 10th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Las Vegas Raiders select, Jerry Jeudy, wide receiver, Alabama.

13 San Francisco 49ers “Like for like”

Picks (7) – 3, 31, 156, 176, 210, 217, 245

This is the pick the 49ers gained in trading DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts. This was a move which made sense for both teams but for the 49ers in particular it gives them the opportunity to draft a like for like replacement to their defensive line at a fraction of the cost. Excellent roster building strategy from GM John Lynch. It will be interesting to see if their guy is not still there at #13 – if not then expect them to trade back as they have precious few early picks.

With the 13th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the San Francisco 49ers select, Javon Kinlaw, defensive tackle, South Carolina.

14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers “What does Tom need?”

Picks (7) – 14, 45, 76, 117, 139, 161, 194

For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the equation is simple. They have signed Tom Brady for the next 2 years. Their defense is a top-10 unit, particularly in run defense. On offense they have options for TB12 to find – they just need to keep him upright and provide a complementary run game. This is Bruce Arians swan song and he is all out for a championship. If round 1 pans out like this then it is a simple call, take a top-rated tackle to keep Tom on his feet, then come back for the running back in either round 2 or 3.

With the 14th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select, Jedrick Wills, offensive tackle, Alabama.

15 Denver Broncos “Lots to play with”

Picks (10) 15, 46, 77, 83, 95, 118, 178, 237, 251, 254,

The Denver Broncos are now looking to kick on with Drew Lock at the helm as their starting QB. They have plenty of draft capital to play with this year with 5 picks in the top 100. It will be interesting to see how they use that value but, for now, I think they stay at #15 and have the opportunity to replace veteran CB Chris Harris (lost to divisional rivals LA Chargers) with a top prospect at the same position.

With the 15th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Denver Broncos select, CJ Henderson, cornerback, Florida.

16 Atlanta Falcons “Defense the priority”

Picks (7) – 16, 47, 78, 119, 143, 228, 230

The Atlanta Falcons are in a position where they can field an offense entirely of 1st round draft picks next year – that is astonishing. Now, they have all found their way to Atlanta by a variety of routes and career ups and downs but it does mean they can look to revamp their defense in the draft. Everyone could run on them last year and that needs fixing, starting with their first round pick.

With the 16th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Atlanta Falcons select, K’Lavon Chaisson, edge rusher, LSU.

That brings us to the halfway point of round 1. Still plenty of talent on the board as we enter picks 17-24 next time. Some teams have a second pick, some still with their first to take – and maybe others who may want to try and gate crash the first round?

NFL Mock Draft 2020 Round 1 – part 1 (picks 1-8)

With just under a month to go the 2020 NFL Draft I wanted to jot down some quick takeaways on the issues each team faces which may help map out what they will do come draft day, specifically in round one. Starting at the top with Cincinnati, let’s look through the first 8 teams who, perhaps, have the biggest decisions to make in order to revive their fortunes.

Throughout this mock draft I’ve used the PFN Mock Draft Simulator to help work out potential trades and scenarios –

1. Cincinnati Bengals “Hey Joe”

Picks (7 in total) – top pick in each round

The pick for the Bengals is obvious. Select your franchise QB for the next decade, Joe Burrow, in the hope that his College numbers at LSU translate into NFL statistics in the years to come. The Bengals have made some moves in free agency (notably shoring up the secondary with Trae Waynes and Vonn Bell and placing franchise tag on AJ Green). There is a potentially nice supporting cast on offense with Green and Tyler Boyd to target, Joe Mixon to develop the play-action system with (and keep any defense honest) and a o-line which will hopefully stay healthy in 2020.

The other factor here is that there are very few teams with the sort of draft capital which could persuade the Bengals to drop from #1. Carolina have been mooted as a possible given the Joe Brady LSU connection with Burrow but the picks to offer just are not there, with Bengals unlikely to accept ‘jam tomorrow’ in terms of 2021 picks. So I think despite the potential for drama (could Bengals take Chase Young?) Cincinnati will open the draft with the blindingly obvious.

With the first pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Cincinnati Bengals select Joe Burrow, Quarterback, LSU.

2. Washington Redskins “Open for business?”

Picks (7) – 2, 66, 108, 142, 162, 216, 229

Washington look like a team in the midst of rebuild with new Head Coach Ron Rivera looking to overhaul a good portion of the roster. When it comes to the draft they have a real issue – 7 picks with only 2 of those picks across rounds 1-3. Unless they can pick up some real later round gems they may need to trade out of the second spot in order to secure additional draft capital in those early rounds. By doing so they would have to accept missing out on the player with the unenviable label of ‘the best player in the draft’, Chase Young.

The Redskins are also going to need the chatter around QBs to hit fever pitch in order to make a team with the draft capital to offer (e.g. Miami Dolphins) anxious enough to move up. For the purposes of this mock I’m going to propose that Miami do want to move up for Tua Tagovailoa and the additional early picks are too much for Washington to ignore.

TRADE! – WAS #2 for MIA #5 #18 #39
(NB for Trades I’m plugging it into PFN mock simulator to see what is accepted)

Therefore when they get to pick #5 the Washington Redskins select Tristan Wirfs, offensive tackle, Iowa.

Now, to explain, I think in this scenario the Redskins are going to prioritise protecting Dwayne Haskins, particularly in light of their inability to work things out with Trent Williams. The Redskins were no doubt hoping for a suitable trade, probably to get back a 2nd rounder, but that has not materialised. Getting their choice of first tackle off the board is a good result for the Redskins, with the ability to come back for another first rounder on defense at #18.

3. Detroit Lions “On the block”

Picks (8) – 3, 35, 67, 85, 109, 149, 168, 182

For me, the Detroit Lions war room is the one under the most pressure. Both the Head Coach, Matt Patricia, and the General Manager, Bob Quinn, have the words “we need to be playing meaningful football in December (from owner Martha Firestone Ford) ringing in their ears. The Lions sit in an NFC North where they could make a run with both the Bears and Vikings in varying states of roster flux (Vikings retooling much of an ageing defense and now without Stefan Diggs, and the Bears seeking to recover from a disappointing 2019). However, the Lions free agency was eye-catching for the wrong reasons with the acrimonious departure of star CB Darius Slay and some high $ moves for less than stellar acquisitions.

They need to knock the draft out of the park and have decent draft capital (4 picks in top 100). In this scenario they would have the luxury of defensive stars Chase Young, Jeff Okudah, Isaiah Simmons or Derrick Brown to choose from. I ran the scenario through PFN and TDN multiple times (as I am a Giants fan and wanted to remain impartial). The result was a very nice start for the Lions.

With the 3rd pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Detroit Lions select, Chase Young, defensive end, The Ohio State University.
4. New York Giants “The dilemma”

Picks (10) – 4, 36, 99, 110, 150, 183, 218, 238, 247, 255

Two glaring needs for the G-Men, both with equal weighting. They need to find the left tackle who will help keep QB Daniel Jones upright for the next decade and to open up running lanes for star running back Saquon Barkley. However, they also need high quality defensive talent, badly. Their free agency moves have been mainly to beef up depth on the roster, there was not the one marquee signing some were expecting.

Here is where the Giants are also going to need to rely on the QB market heating up. They need to try and work in an additional day 2 pick from somewhere. The loss of the early 3rd rounder for Leonard Williams hurts the Giants and is often quoted as another of Dave Gettlemen’s questionable roster moves (alongside, I would argue, getting into a situation where Janoris Jenkins gets cut for nothing as opposed to an earlier mid-season trade for an additional pick).

In this scenario the Dolphins have already moved up and the teams below them in need of a future QB (Chargers and Panthers) may simply wait to see if Justin Herbert and Jordan Love (the likely next 2 QBs off the rank) fall to them without giving up picks. I’m expecting that no trade is forthcoming here and the Giants have to pick at #4. With that in mind I think Gettlemen may go against the ‘hog-mollie’ instincts to select a defensive icon the franchise has been crying out for since the days of Strahan, Tuck, Umenyiora and JPP.

Therefore, with the 4th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the New York Giants select, Isaiah Simmons, linebacker, Clemson.
5. Miami Dolphins “Plenty to offer”

Picks (14) – 5, 18, 26, 39, 56, 70, 141, 153, 154, 173, 185, 227, 246, 251

The Dolphins are in a full blown roster reboot and part 1 of the overhaul has seen several high profile free agents arrive, most notably on defense with Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy and Shaq Lawson.

As already noted above the Dolphins do have the draft capital to trade up to #2 in order to secure Tua Tagovailoa as their QB, with the ability to sit him behind Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2020 (a very capable placeholder for 12 months). The cost of trading up (picks 5, 18 and 39) still leave the Dolphins with enough picks across the first two days (26, 56, 70) to add potential day 1 starters to the roster. They also have a further 8 day-3 picks which they could package up to dip back into the 4th round to secure more good value rookies.

So, with the 2nd pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Miami Dolphins select, Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama.
6. LA Chargers “Stick or twist”

Picks (7) – 6, 37, 71, 112, 151, 186, 220

The LA Chargers are moving on in 2020. Moving on from Philip Rivers and moving into the new SoFi stadium in LA. They made nice moves in free agency, adding Bryan Bulaga at right tackle and Linval Joseph (DT) and Chris Harris (CB) on to the defense. Their draft capital is okay with one high pick in each round so they should be able to secure 3 or 4 very promising rookies. But where to start?

This may depend on how much they like Justin Herbert as their long-term QB. They appear to be happy to stick with Tyrod Taylor for 2020 but they will need that decision to pay off quickly with wins next season, particularly in an increasingly competitive AFC West with the Super Bowl winning Chiefs, the ever-busy and upward trending Raiders and a Denver Broncos franchise which looks like it has its act together in terms of roster-building.

I think this is a nice spot for the Chargers to take Herbert and I believe they can let the draft come to them and still pick him up without giving up any additional draft capital. The situation is well set with Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry and Austin Ekeler, giving Herbert plenty of targets as and when he steps up to lead the offense.

With the 6th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the LA Chargers select, Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon.
7. Carolina Panthers “Rhule Revolution”

Picks (8) – 7, 38, 69, 113, 148, 152, 184, 221

Matt Rhule and company have been tearing it down in Carolina since his appointment as Head Coach. It has been like a revolving door with the Panthers – the most notable position change has been that Cam is out and Teddy Bridgewater is in as the starting QB. This may mean that the Panthers pass on selecting a QB in this draft.

It is clear this is a long haul project for Rhule (with the security of a 7-year contract) and he has a mantra of taking fast, athletic, tough young prospects in the knowledge that he backs his coaching staff to hone their skills.

Like the Chargers, the Panthers have one pick in each of the first four rounds, and I think they can sit tight at #7 in the knowledge that they will still be able to draft a very good starting piece on either side of the ball. With the way the first 6 picks have panned out they could have the choice of CB Jeff Okudah or DT Derrick Brown. Either would be great picks and I think on balance using the mantra of building back-to-front they would go for Okudah.

With the 7th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Carolina Panthers select Jeffrey Okudah, cornerback, The Ohio State University.

8. Arizona Cardinals “Upwardly mobile”

Picks (6) – 8, 72, 114, 131, 202, 222

The Arizona Cardinals are going places. This message was exemplified in their free agency capture of star wide receiver Deandre Hopkins from the Houston Texans. Kyle Murray had a very impressive rookie campaign and their 5-10-1 record suggested, at times, that Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury has the franchise headed in the right direction.

Now that Murray has numerous targets to throw to, I think the Cardinals will focus on keeping him well-protected so I’d look for them to go offensive tackle and to take the biggest guy of the lot!

With the 8th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Arizona Cardinals select Mekhi Becton, offensive tackle, Louisville.

The wrinkle here is that the Cardinals could look to trade back in order to obtain an additional day 2 pick but the most likely partner, the Las Vegas Raiders, is unlikely to be able to offer the necessary draft capital. In using the PFN simulator it took offering #12 and #19 to trade up which is probably too rich for Mayock and Gruden.

Next up – picks #9 through #16 – any more trades in the offing?

The Tannehill Titans

I have a soft spot for the Tennessee Titans. Now, I know everyone will be saying that as they head into the AFC Championship game next weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs. I wrote about the AFC South during the 2018/19 season and grew to respect and admire the 9-7 Titans – as they could legitimately change their name to since 9-7 has been their regular season record for the last 4 years. A good, solid, competitive franchise which had enjoyed relative success with GM Jon Robinson guiding the way. However, they were a team which could challenge but was never thought of as a true Super Bowl contender. Until now.

In the lead up to the NFL’s 100th season there was a big question mark over the Quarterback position in Tennessee. The team had nurtured strength in the offensive line and running game, and had a defense which was aggressive and competitive. But, in order to be a true contender then needed another trick, another wrinkle to the offense, through the air.

For 4 straight seasons Marcus Mariota had flattered to deceive, unable to consistently impose himself on games, usually coming up short when the game was on him. There was some mitigation including an inability to draft or acquire offensive weapons for Mariota to target. Then in the 2019 offseason the Titans acquired reinforcements. At the wide receiver position Adam Humphries arrived in free agency from Tampa Bay, and then in the 2019 Draft the Titans selected AJ Brown from Ole Miss. No one could have foreseen just how good a pick that would become. This season was always going to be make-or-break for Mariota with the Titans needing to make a decision whether to enter into another contract with him, or to move on from the former 1st round draft pick.

They made one more change on offense which would prove crucial, bringing Ryan Tannehill in from the Miami Dolphins. Somewhat similar to Mariota, Tannehill, himself a 1st a round draft pick, had never set the world alight with the Dolphins mired in a relatively poor run during the last decade. He would, however, provide a capable backup if needed – although this again pointed to a season of perhaps a small incremental improvement, not a run deep into the playoffs. The start to the season bore this prediction out. After week 6’s defeat to the Denver Broncos, where the Titans were scoreless, their record sat at 2-4. They were at a crossroads. If they fell behind, Mariota could not bring them back, not even close. During that week 6 defeat a decision was taken which changed their season. In the 3rd quarter Ryan Tannehill came in for Mariota. He could not alter that result but he showed enough spark to take the starting job from week 7 onwards.

Since that date, October 20th, the Tennessee Titans went 7-3. Ryan Tannehill finished the 2019 regular season with a league high QB rating of 117.5, off the back of a 70% completion rate, 22TDs and only 6 INT. By no means was the improvement in the team’s record all on him but he had become an ultra reliable cog in the machine. He quickly developed a knack of finding AJ Brown who has gone over 1,000 yards receiving and the passing game now acts as a complimentary part of the attack assisting the all powerful running game led by the juggernaut himself, Derrick Henry (over 1,500 yards rushing). There is now balance, with defenses having to at least acknowledge the threat Tannehill poses. He has been the definition of efficient and very effective as a drive-manager on the field, vastly improving the Titans efficiency in the redzone.

So the Titans now find themselves one game away from the Super Bowl with only the Chiefs standing in their way. This will be their first AFC Championship game since 2002 and they come into the game after dispensing with 2 of the pre-playoff AFC favourites: the Patriots and Ravens. In both games the plan has been broadly the same – lean on Derrick Henry, use that focus to pull out the odd trick play, and seek to capitalise on the mistakes of others (very Patriots like). Against the Ravens the Titans scored 21 points off the back of turnovers.

Can they go all the way? Of course, they can, but the AFC Championship game may present the most difficult opponents left for the Titans to play. The Titans defense has been ordinary against the pass this season (ranked 21st by DVOA). Now they must face Pat Mahomes’ Chiefs, fresh from their 50-burger against the Texans, after giving Houston a generous 24 points head start. However, the Chiefs defense ranks 29th against the run (again by DVOA), suggesting Derrick Henry will again have a field day. Both teams should be able to put points on the board – and the (albeit simplistic) task will be – stop Mahomes and stop Henry, or at least slow both of them down. In the midst of this battle don’t be surprised if at a crucial point the Titans go play-action and trust Tannehill to deliver another downfield surprise on the Chiefs.

In a way Tannehill reminds me of Nick Foles and his Super Bowl run with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017. Yes, the Eagles perhaps relied more on Foles than the Titans do on Tannehill but Philly also had a strong running game (twin-headed by LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi) and in both cases the QB now at the helm had started the season as a backup, unsure they would receive any great opportunity. And look what happened in 2017. The Titans may be the Cinderella team left in the playoffs but fairy tales do happen. What odds a ‘Tennessee special’ in this year’s Super Bowl?

Other thoughts on the divisional round

I’ve been surprised (sort of) to see the reaction to some of the losing teams from the divisional round (and from the wildcard round before that) and how quickly we lost sight that these were the 12 best teams in the NFL this year, so they must be doing something right.

There have been calls that the Vikings and Texans (and the Saints and Patriots before that) are going to need to rip it up and start again. Issues in relation to the salary cap and/or lack of draft picks have been cited, as have the futures of QBs (Brees, Brady and even Cousins – one week after he was revered for the demolition of the Saints). Whilst there is some credence to this (e.g. the Vikings and Saints are up against the cap, the Texans have frittered away their draft picks, and who knows where Brady ends up) these are well run and well coached franchises who have appeared in the playoffs time and again in recent years. I think all the 2019 playoff teams will be competitive again next year.

Championship Predictions

AFC – Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs – love what the Titans have been able to achieve this year and they have beaten two of the toughest opponents possible. But can Derrick Henry keep carrying 30 times a game in this level of intensity. And how do you live with the high octane madness of the Chiefs offense when they hit stride? Kansas just has too much for Tennessee.

Tennessee Titans 24 – 34 Kansas City Chiefs

NFC – Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers – the 49ers looked so good last weekend. The bye week had helped to rest and recuperate their key players. Their defence stopped Dalvin Cook and they can stop Aaron Jones this time around. I love the Smiths on Green Bay’s defense (Za’Darius and Preston) and I think they could seek to take the middle of the field away from Jimmy G. Then there is Aaron Rodgers. He must know he does not have too many more shots at this given the competitive nature of the league. Rodgers will be a thorn in the 49ers side but San Francisco are simply too good across the roster in the end. Could be a classic though!

Green Bay Packers 23 – 26 San Francisco 49ers

Same time next week when we will have our Super Bowl match up!