With the draft less than 24 hours away, I take my best (and almost certainly futile) shot at trying to predict what will happen. One caveat: while this is what I believe to be the most likely scenario, a trade for a receiver is the second-most likely whether it’s up or down. Brian Gutekunst made it clear this week he wants to find value spots with the receivers and he’s not going to wait to get to those ranges. If guys start to go off the board, he’ll move up, if they don’t—this version turns out to be a little bit of a combination of the two—he will stay patient.
We know you’re going to scroll down to 30 first anyway (you’re welcome).
1. Cincinnati Bengals — Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
This is happening. Burrow isn’t Andrew Luck, so don’t be wooed by that narrative, but he’s an absurdly accurate thrower with confidence, poise and swagger. He’s exactly what the Bengals need and fits beautifully with how Zac Taylor wants to play.
2. Washington Redskins — Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Trading down makes the most sense here and frankly I’d take Jeffrey Okudah, Young’s teammate, but it’s hard to argue with a player who broke Pro Football Focus’ metrics last year for the Buckeyes when Young was the best defensive college player since Ndamukong Suh.
3. *TRADE* Miami Dolphins F/ Lions — Tua Tagovailoa QB Miami
This is where the chaos begins. I do not buy the “Dolphins trading up for an OT” narrative, but do buy they’d like to get a tackle to go with their franchise quarterback. Trade up for the quarterback, then take the best OT at five. The Dolphins have to give up 18, 26, and 39 to make this work. Lions pass on getting a blue chip player, but we all know Matt Patricia would have convinced them to (foolishly) take Derrick Brown anyway. This saves them from themselves.
4. New York Giants — Jedrick Wills, OT Alabama
Tristian Wirfs has reportedly been the guy for Dave Gettleman going back to early in the pre-draft process, but Wills has some late momentum thanks, in part, to Joe Judge’s history with Nick Saban. Wills is the consensus top tackle as well, making this a solid pick (surprising right?).
5. Miami Dolphins — Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Rather than dink around with one blue chip prospect and two other later firsts, the Dolphins manage to land two cornerstone prospects. They replace Laremy Tunsil with a plug-and-play left tackle at a time when that phrase is nearly impossible to use on most college offensive linemen. There would have been so much fun symmetry if they’d have been able to snag Wills here too. He’s already used to playing right tackle as Tua’s blindside protector.
6. L.A. Chargers — Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Needs: QB,OT,LB,WR,RB, iDL
For the Chargers, a big-armed QB to get the ball to Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry provides an ideal fit, and Herbert with that luscious flow just looks like an L.A. quarterback. It wouldn’t shock me if the Chargers were on of the teams who had Hebert over Tua anyway.
7. *TRADE* Atlanta Falcons F/ Panthers — Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Atlanta’s desire to trade up is the worst kept secret in the draft and with the top corner in the class dropping, they get a player even better than the one they originally hoped to draft (C.J. Henderson). Atlanta could get this done for a pick swap plus their second rounder (47) which is a song for the top pick in the draft. The Panthers need a cornerback too, but if they’re going to be the analytics team, this is the move.
8. Arizona Cardinals — Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Steve Keim made plenty of noise about wanting to draft a receiver, but wound up with a decent consolation prize: arguably the best receiver in football. Now, their sights turn to offensive line where they just extended D.J. Humphries at left tackle, making Wirfs an ideal fit at right tackle. This Cards offense would be scary if it could actually protect Kyler Murray.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Write this one in blood. A quarterback or cornerback makes more sense for what they need, but Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone run this team. Plus, they have the 20th pick as well. It’s not the move I’d make, but it’s the move I think they’ll make.
10. *Trade* Denver Broncos f/ Browns — Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
I lied, the worst kept secret in the draft is how much John Elway loves Henry Ruggs III. Pairing Drew Lock with Courtland Sutton and a speedster like Ruggs fits well on paper even if Ruggs isn’t the true WR1 in this class. Sutton and Lamb are similar prospects and Denver reportedly covets a speed receiver early. Elway can probably make this work for 15+74+118 without giving up his second rounder in the deal with Cleveland looking to move down.
11. New York Jets — CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
The decision here between tackle and receiver is no decision at all. The Jets paid George Fant this offseason and whether or not that was a wise move, it was one they believed in enough to make. Give Sam Darnold weapons. Lamb can play underneath, win in the intermediate levels and is a better deep threat than he gets credit for because he doesn’t run 4.3. He’s the best receiver in the draft and the Jets get him at 11 similar to Odell Beckham going to a New York team with the 12th pick back in 2014.
12. Las Vegas Raiders — Isaiah Simmons LB/S Clemson
Everyone wants to put a receiver here, and with good reason, but Mike Mayock fell in love with pedigree last year, seemingly doing his draft prep from the College Football Playoff only. The Raiders signed Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski this spring, but still could use a true WILL linebacker. That’s where Simmons has Derrick Brooks upside in the NFL. Don’t think he’ll fall? Derwin James wasn’t going to fall either ... until he did. Players without obvious fits hurt the brains of many NFL teams.
13. San Francisco 49ers — Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
San Francisco would love to trade down, but without an obvious trade partner at this point they get college version of Emmanuel Sanders. Jeudy brings the ideal skillset to Kyle Shanahan’s offense, though he’ll have to establish himself more as an outside receiver to create more flexibility to play George Kittlee and Deebo Samuel in the slot. Still, his ability to win as a route runner and get deep would be deadly on the NFC favorites.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
As the Bucs retool their offense around Tom Brady, protecting that investment takes top priority. Becton isn’t as clean a prospect as the top tackles in this draft, but his athleticism and size are rare and playing for Bruce Arians, Brady and Co. will be ample motivation to keep his weight in check. Particularly if he can make the transition to right tackle (harder than many make it seem), he can be a Day 1 starter in Tampa.
15. Cleveland Browns F/ Broncos — Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
This will seem too high for plenty of fans and media, but the Browns love him. It’s not hard to understand why. The other offensive tackles with a better Relative Athlete Score to go in the top-200 of the draft the last decade are Taylor Lewan, Lane Johnson, and Kolton Miller. He’s similar to Brian O’Neill, who new Browns coach Kevin Stefanski had in Minnesota, and provides the ideal athletic profile to play outside zone. Plus Cleveland on the front and on the back.
16. Carolina Panthers — Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
Rather than sticking inside the top-10 and taking an interior defender like Brown, the Panthers trade down and still add the best interior defensive lineman in the draft. Kinlaw can play any of the interior spots for Phil Snow in their new defense and gives them an interior disruptor to get after Brady, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan in the division.
17. Dallas Cowboys — C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
Byron Jones walks and in comes Henderson, the player some believe is the best pure man cover corner in the draft. There are some ugly things on tape in zone coverage from 2019, but Mike Nolan provides one of the most experienced defensive minds in the game. Hopefully he can get Henderson in the right spot to succeed because the physical tools are outstanding.
18. Detroit Lions F/Dolphins — K’Lavon Chaisson, DE, LSU
Comparisons to Chandler Jones could woo Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn. They allocated significant resources to Trey Flowers, but he didn’t create the expected pressure on the quarterback as a top-of-market edge. Pair him with Chaisson, though, and the Lions could have a solid 1-2 push rush punch to chase around Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins.
19. Las Vegas Raiders — Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Another blue-blood program player from the College Football Playoff, and it’s not like these aren’t really good players. Jefferson played from the slot, but part of the reason was LSU could put Thaddeus Moss and Ja’Marr Chase anywhere in the formation as well and played spread most of the time. Being able to put Chase and Jefferson on the same side of the formation is pretty devastating. Jefferson can play outside or inside and fits beautifully in Jon Gruden’s West Coast hybrid offense.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Quietly, out of view from mainstream attention, the Jaguars did their research on all the top quarterbacks in this draft While the party line may be “We feel good about Gardner Minshew,” the truth may be simpler: the Bears made a crazy offer for Nick Foles and they felt compelled to take it. It works out well for the Jags, who now get a year to see what The Stache has to offer, while giving Love time to get acclimated to life in the NFL. This would be a shocker, but there’s always a surprise quarterback team.
21. Philadelphia Eagles — Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Just about everyone has a receiver penciled in here, but I’m not convinced. Linebacker is a major sore spot for the Eagles defense and adding a receiver who potentially take away opportunities for Philly to go with the 21 personnel, which is their best grouping. In a deep receiver class, they decide to take the kind of player who would be able to match up with their dangerous tight ends, only they get to deploy him against opponents.
22. Minnesota Vikings — Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
With two picks in the 20’s, the Vikings hope to get some combination of a receiver, tackle, and cornerback. They have two other teams potentially eyeing receivers between them and their next pick, which makes waiting on a player they love too risky. Minnesota’s perfect draft would have been Cleveland and Mims, but they’ll have to settle just for Mims who immediately becomes WR2 for the Vikes.
23. New England Patriots — A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
This just makes too much sense not to happen. There are receivers here who I think could be in play. New England low-key looked into a lot of these top receivers and if they’re going to let Jarrett Stidham do the thing, getting him some weapons would be a great way to go. On the other hand, they didn’t care much about that with the last guy, so
24. New Orleans Saints — Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Love falling would be the goal, but with the surprise move coming from Jacksonville, the Saints bolster their linebacker spot next to Demario Davis and Kiko Alonso. Murray would come in able to play the strong side early, fly around and make plays, then come off the field on third downs while he learns how to play in coverage. His 4.5 speed plus the thunder he brings in those shoulder pads, would produce some punishing results to ball carriers.
25. Minnesota Vikings — Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
It’s easy to imagine Fulton being Mike Zimmer’s guy. Against Tee Higgins, Henry Ruggs, and Jerry Jeudy, Fulton allowed a mere 3 catches for 39 yards. He can play man against the best in the SEC, he has a chance to do it in the NFL. Finding a tackle could be a move here as well, particularly with Josh Jones on the board and such a good fit, but cornerback is a more dire need and they can be OK at tackle in 2020.
26. Detroit Lions F/Dolphins — Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Missing out on Okudah will be tough, but the Lions did extensive work on cornerbacks in the pre-draft process, not just Okudah. Was it presaging a trade down? Regardless, snagging Chaisson and Diggs, plus a likely additional pick from Miami makes it worth it. Diggs could end up being the best in this class with his athleticism and playmaking ability. He can play zone or man, which opens up the possibilities for Patricia who wants to be multiple.
27. Seattle Seahawks — Yetur Gross-Matos EDGE Penn State
Why pay the elite edge rusher you had last year when you could draft a significantly less player who almost certainly won’t be as good? While the Seahawks could go with someone like Jones at tackle here, they seem resolute to take a top, young, cheap edge rusher and Gross-Matos fits the build of the type of guy Pete Carroll wants. There’s some major Chris Clemons shades here and while Seattle hopes to contend in 2020, Gross-Matos likely won’t be ready to do much this season. This is a longer-term view pick.
28. Baltimore Ravens — Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
McKinney plugs one of the few holes on the Ravens roster, giving them a versatile box player who can also cover deep as well as in the slot. Off-ball hybrids like Zack Baun and Josh Uche could draw consideration here, but Baltimore loves an Alabama guy and McKinney’s malleability drops into the mindset of Wink Martindale’s defense.
29. Tennessee Titans — Josh Jones, OT, Houston
With Jack Conklin in Cleveland, the Titans could use a influx of talent opposite Taylor Lewan and Jones profiles as a future NFL stud as a pass protector. He’s not the power blocker for Tennessee run-heavy offense, but he’s big, strong, and has quick feet to get in position. Jones improved as a run blocker while in college and already has the talent to pass protect. One of the best matches of value and fit in the first round if he falls.
30. Green Bay Packers — Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
I’m always dubious when a name is a little too connected with the Packers. When it comes to Green Bay’s selections, the trendy name rarely hits. For that reason, I’m tempted to go Jalen Reagor just because I think there’s a good chance they like him too. Still, Aiyuk fits their physical profile better, and while he’s a bit raw, the former Sun Devil has the playmaking skills to be an instant impact player as a run-after-catch threat who can also win deep.
31. San Francisco 49ers — A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
John Lynch made it clear he’s open for business, but unless someone desperately wants to come up for someone Jalen Hurts or one of these late first-round receivers, it’s hard to envision a trade partner. In the absence of a deal, they look for a true CB2 to pair opposite Richard Sherman. Terrell had an up-and-down career at Clemson but has the size, speed, and demeanor to hang in this San Francisco defense.
32. Kansas City Chiefs — Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
Whispers in the last week point to a speedster receiver including interesting Ruggs and Reagor. It was tempting to go with Gladney’s TCU teammate here but cooler heads prevailed in a draft deep with receiver talent. Gladney could be an immediate starter in a secondary looking for talent at cornerback. The Chiefs already benefit from a playmaking undersized DB who plays with swagger and heart. Why not another?