The NFL offseason has moved past the NFL Combine and is just about to hit free agency. After free agency in March comes the NFL Draft in late April. What do the first 10 picks look like? Let’s spend some time with them.
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No. 1: Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
It is the most obvious pick of the top 10. The Cincinnati Bengals, who have made it clear that Andy Dalton’s run as the franchise’s starting quarterback is over, need their new quarterback and will obviously take Burrow, who won the 2019 Heisman Trophy and was clearly the best player in the entire country. Burrow completely lit up opposing defenses, throwing for over 5,600 yards with 60 touchdown passes against just six interceptions. It was one of the most dominant seasons by an individual player in college football history. Burrow, who attended Ohio State before transferring to LSU, is a beloved player in the state of Ohio.
The Bengals would be crazy to not take a popular player from Ohio who could revive a moribund franchise which has not won a playoff game in 29 years. There won’t be a trade with any other team. The Bengals are going to give second-year head coach Zac Taylor the quarterback who can make his offensive system come alive. Taylor was a position coach for Jared Goff with the Los Angeles Rams before he took the head coaching job with the Bengals. Taylor always needed a quarterback he could develop on his own. Now he is going to get that player. The Bengals should be very happy about this pick.
No. 2: Chase Young, Washington Redskins
The Redskins are sitting at No. 2 in the draft order, and they would be foolish to turn down Young, who very clearly seems to be the second-best player on the draft board. Young missed a few games due to eligibility concerns for Ohio State in 2019. Even with those suspensions, Young collected 16.5 sacks in the 2019 season. Had he been able to play in all 14 of Ohio State’s games from the past season, he probably would have registered more than 20 sacks.
Young has devastating speed. He is so quick to the outside that opposing offensive tackles have a very tough time keeping up with him. Young is able to win a one-on-one battle very early after the snap. He is polished and practiced at making a decisive first move which puts an offensive lineman on his heels. Young can then adjust his movements as needed to fend off the lineman and make the final line of pursuit toward the quarterback. The combination of lethal speed and fused power makes Young a can’t-miss edge rusher. Ohio State has been known to produce great edge rushers, Joey and Nick Bosa being prime examples of players who can change a franchise’s trajectory. The Redskins have to take Young at No. 2 after the Bengals take Burrow at No. 1.
No. 3: Jeffrey Okudah, Detroit Lions
If there is going to be a trade in the top five, it will very likely be here at No. 3, where the Detroit Lions are picking. The school of thought – which makes sense – is that Detroit could get a player it wants later in the top 10 instead of having to take that player at No. 3. The Lions would be wise to consider that kind of a trade, getting an extra pick in order to move a few slots down in the top 10.
Some people think that Detroit will trade down to No. 5 so that the Miami Dolphins can move up to No. 3 to take Tua Tagovailoa as their quarterback of the future. However, Detroit isn’t likely to take a quarterback with this pick – not with Matthew Stafford still on the roster and having a few good years left to play. The New York Giants are at No. 4, and having taken Daniel Jones, they are not likely to select a quarterback with their pick. The Dolphins can therefore stay at No. 5, not having to trade up to No. 3 to be sure that Tagovailoa will be there. Miami can wait for the fifth pick – Tua should still be on the board, fully available. This leaves Detroit with the No. 3 pick.
If we assume the Lions won’t trade this pick, they should go with Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, who is someone who would conceptually make sense for the Lions. They traded away Darius Slay in the offseason and needed cornerback help even before that. Okudah naturally becomes his replacement.
No. 4: Trisfan Wirfs, New York Giants
It is one of the time-honored practices among NFL organizations: After they draft a young quarterback, they make sure to give him an elite offensive lineman who will protect him for the next decade. The Giants, if they want to give Daniel Jones the kind of linemen he needs and deserves, will use their top-five pick on an offensive lineman. Of the options available, none seem better then Wirfs, who ran one of the fastest 40-yard dashes among offensive linemen at the NFL Combine.
Wirfs graded out really well in the various combine drills as well. He checked all the boxes as a lineman who possesses both the strength and agility needed to play the tackle position. The Giants could go with a wide receiver, but anchoring their offensive line has been a far bigger problem – and stumbling block – for the franchise over the past five years. Wirfs looks like the best choice the Giants could make.
No. 5: Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
It is known throughout the NFL that the Miami Dolphins need their quarterback of the future. Josh Rosen, the young signal-caller they grabbed from the Arizona Cardinals, has not worked out to the extent the Dolphins hoped. The Dolphins played both Rosen and veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick last season, and didn’t get great results or value from either man. Miami needs its dynamic leader under center, the player Ryan Tannehill never became when he was a Dolphin. Miami wishes that Tannehill could have played for the Dolphins with the poise he displayed for the Tennessee Titans in the just-concluded NFL Playoffs. That never did happen, however. Miami needs an elite field general, so it makes sense to turn to Tagovailoa, whose rehabilitation process in recovering from injuries suffered in the 2019 season is moving ahead of schedule. The fact that Tua is healing well will give the Dolphins the confidence needed to trust his physical condition. Other NFL teams might pass on Tagovailoa due to injury worries, but the Dolphins seem ready to take the plunge.
No. 6: Derrick Brown, Los Angeles Chargers
It is thought by some that the Chargers might take Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert here, but Herbert did not have an especially strong 2019 college football season. He threw and completed a lot of short passes but was not tested as much on longer throws. It is hard to think that Herbert merits a top-10 pick or even a pick in the top 15 of the draft. That being the case, the Chargers will take Brown, a defensive end and tackle who has top-five-pick talent. Los Angeles knows it needs to replace Philip Rivers at quarterback, but Herbert seems like a risk. The Chargers can use their No. 6 pick to further fortify a strong defense and enhance their formidable defensive line. If the 2020 Chargers have a dominant defense, their offense won’t have to do as much work and won’t have to carry as great of a burden. That strategy is perfectly reasonable. If the Chargers go through 2020 without their long-term answer at quarterback, there will be better options available in the 2021 draft.
No. 7: Jerry Jeudy, Carolina Panthers
The Panthers need to give a receiver to new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. There is clearly no better receiver in the draft than Jeudy, who has blinding speed and runs great routes. Jeudy was virtually impossible to stop at Alabama. He made Tua Tagovailoa look very good. He seems like the most sure-thing prospect among NFL receivers. Having a very fast receiver who can dominate in open space is what Bridgewater needs in order to become a quarterback who is less reliant on his own speed and can become more of a pocket passer who gets rid of the ball early and doesn’t take as many hits as he used to.
No. 8: Jedrick Wills, Arizona Cardinals
If the New York Giants need more offensive line help for Daniel Jones, the Arizona Cardinals need more offensive line help for quarterback Kyler Murray. It would be foolish to not give Murray more protection and support. Organizations need to tell their young franchise quarterbacks they prioritize their long-term health. It’s as simple as that when appreciating why the Cardinals would take Wills, from Alabama, as their new source of protection for Kyler Murray.
No. 9: Xavier McKinney, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars traded Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams. They really need help in their secondary. Enter McKinney, a safety from Alabama, who should be able to step into this defense and become a factor from Day 1 with the team.
No. 10: Mekhi Becton, Cleveland Browns
It is obvious that Baker Mayfield needs a lot more help in Cleveland under first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski. Getting Mayfield an elite offensive lineman and protector is a top priority. Becton or Georgia lineman Andrew Thomas are going to be the two best selections left on the board at this point. Becton is huge – 6-7 and 340 pounds – yet agile. He graded out extremely well at the NFL Combine. He would fit here.