As the NFL combine has come and gone, we are officially a month away from these college players' lives forever changing and NFL organizations looking for the next best piece to their team. Catering to what each team needs or desires, I am going to give my expert take on what each organization should pursue come April 23. Stay tuned about a month from now, as I will be readdressing this draft after free agency and pro days.
1. Cincinnati Bengals (2-14) — Joe Burrow, LSU, QB
I feel like this pick is self-explanatory. As Burrow was playing out of his mind, the Bengals brass started the post-Andy Dalton era after he was benched following an 0-8 start last season (on his birthday no less!). Throwing for over 5,600 yards and for 60 TDs according to ESPN.com, Burrow’s stock rose with the injury of Tua Tagovailoa and the struggles that Justin Herbert faced. Walking out of college football with a Heisman Trophy and a national championship under his belt, Burrow has exactly what the Bengals are in need of.
2. Washington Redskins(3-13) — Chase Young, Ohio State, EDGE
With Ron Rivera newly at the helm, he has his work cut out for him. Needs are on both sides of the ball, so I feel that it would only be right to draft the top ranked talent of the entire draft. As the Bengals are covering a huge need, this leaves Ohio State defensive end Chase Young up for the taking. In his junior year, Young managed to get over 16 and a half sacks with six forced fumbles. He is going to be a humongous headache for offensive linemen for years to come.
3. Detroit Lions (3-12-1) — Jeff Okudah, Ohio State, CB
According to ProFootballReference.com, the Detroit Lions defense allowed 49 touchdowns this past season. So for need, head coach Matt Patricia has to take the best option in the secondary, which leads to Okudah. After a strong showing in the game against Nebraska this past season, Okudah had arguably the best showing of any cornerback in college football, with 29 solo tackles, 3 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions his junior season. Though he didn’t have the most ideal Combine, I believe he would be a match made in lockdown defense heaven to pair him with Darius Slay in that backfield. (Due to need I can see either Miami or the Chargers trade up to get their next QB, and Okudah is still available by as late as the sixth pick.)
4. New York Giants (4-12) — Mekhi Becton, Louisville, OL
Standing at 6 foot 7 inches tall, Becton tends to tower most of the people that are put in front of him, and after what he displayed at the Combine this guy is fast. He fulfills two different needs immediately as he can pair on the opposite side of Nate Solder (who the Giants currently have signed under contract until 2022) where they will protect Daniel Jones who was sacked 38 times in just 13 games. I think watching him block for a talent like a Saquon Barkley would be entertaining. Some can’t put their thumb on this talent, but I am pretty high on the guy.
5. Miami Dolphins (5-11) — Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama, QB
For more than a decade, the Miami Dolphins have always placed quarterbacks with similar qualities and still haven’t found their solution as Ryan Tannehill went to Tennessee this past season, and even though they traded for Josh Rosen, they continuously gave the ball to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Tua is a proven winner in the collegiate level, with over 80 passing touchdowns and always leading his team in the conversation for the National Title game. His biggest critique would be his durability, as his last game for the Crimson Tide resulted in a dislocated hip. He recently was given positive reports from teams that met with him at the Combine, and his pro day will make things more clear on how ready he will be.
6. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11) — Justin Herbert, Oregon, QB.
The Phillip Rivers era for the Bolts is over. Though the Chargers brass is high on Tyrod Taylor, the Chargers are given an opportunity to grab Herbert, which gives them a chance to mold him as their quarterback of the future. Herbert had a successful career for the Ducks, as he finished his career with a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. He managed to be one of the bright spots at the Combine, as he was able to post numbers pleasing to those that were watching. Though Tua had more appeal to the Dolphins at pick five, I do feel like we will see Herbert on the field quicker than Tua will be.
7. Carolina Panthers (5-11) — Isaiah Simmons, Clemson, LB
The retirement of Luke Kuechly came as a shock to everyone, leaving a gaping need for the Panthers as they prepared for the off-season. While the Ron Rivera regime is a thing in the past, and uncertainty of Cam Newton’s future, the Panthers need to focus on building around their star Christian McCaffrey. Though he can be picked as early as number 3 with the Lions, Simmons is the top ranked linebacker in this draft class and someone the Panthers will be salivating for on draft night. In his junior year Simmons managed more than 100 tackles, showing how explosive he is and can be effective in different scenarios all over the field.
8. Arizona Cardinals (5-10-1) — Tristen Wirfs, Iowa, OL
After the Giants make the risky move taking Becton at four, the Cardinals are going to protect their reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year in Kyler Murray and go with the safer pick in Wirfs. The Iowa offensive lineman had a very productive combine, even posting a 4.85 40-yard dash which is impressive for these big guys, and showed off his impressive frame during his time as a Hawkeye. Though the Cardinals can take care of a handful of needs with this pick, what they need to worry about is making sure they can protect their young quarterback for the immediate future.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10) — Derrick Brown, Auburn, DL
It is crazy to think about how elite the Jaguars defense was just a few seasons ago. After Jalen Ramsey headed to the Rams, this defense is in need of being remolded. Their run defense was incredibly weak this past season even with their addition of Josh Allen on the line. To lock down the run game, adding Derrick Brown makes complete sense. Brown wreaked havoc on the line for the Tigers, as he was able to compile over 160 total tackles in his career. He has a lot more upside than downside, but with his ability to disrupt the flow of offensive lineman, this addition can make their front line very scary.
10. Cleveland Browns (6-10) — Jedrick Wills, Alabama, OL
As Browns fans are hoping to see an evolution in quarterback Baker Mayfield, what should be their focus will be to provide better protection for their former first pick and Wills is the next offensive lineman on the board that makes the most sense. Mayfield’s sack total increased from 25 to 40 in his first two seasons according to ESPN.com. If you add Wills on that line, it will improve their line tremendously. At six feet, five inches and 320 pounds, Wills provides the proper athletic frame to bulldoze defenders.
11. New York Jets (7-9) — Andrew Thomas, Georgia, OL
Our fourth offensive linemen off the board! However, it makes sense. Productivity was lacking on the offensive side of the ball. Le’Veon Bell was an absolute monster in his times with the Steelers, but his numbers dropped significantly after a year away from the game. Thomas was highly touted going into the season, the three guys drafted before him began to show more promise. Don’t second guess his productivity, however, as he can play either tackle position on the line, filling any need almost immediately. The man has this massive power with a great ability to finish the play. (I can see Tampa Bay reaching out to the Jets to trade up to draft a quarterback, as the Raiders have flirted with moving on from Derek Carr and I am not entirely sure if the Colts are sold on Brissett, Thomas would still be available at the 14th pick.)
12. Las Vegas Raiders (7-9) — Jerry Jeudy, Alabama, WR
Now in a new home, the Raiders are in need of complementing the rising star on offense in running back Josh Jacobs. In the air however, they are in dire need of being more explosive. Jeudy’s ability to route run posed a threat to defenses throughout his college career. He is able to be down field as a deep threat, red zone, and can change his speed in a moments notice. This would be an upgrade for quarterback Derek Carr, who really hasn’t had an innovative wide receiver since Amari Cooper.
13. Indianapolis Colts (7-9) — CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma, WR
It is evident that upcoming free agent quarterback Phillip Rivers has interest in possibly extending his career at Lucas Oil Stadium, so I see this pick as not only beneficial for their need to get better talent offensively, but a way to make their organization a tempting place to play. Lamb amassed over 1,300 yards this past season, with an average of over 21 yards per catch. Though he lacks a strong build, he is able to look more appealing with his speed, and great awareness.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) — Jordan Love, Utah State, QB
As the fourth quarterback taken off the board, I believe Love has what it takes for this organization to move on from former first round pick Jameis Winston. Strong in the pocket, and outside of it, Love can give the Bucs something different than what they have been used to these past few seasons. According to ESPN.com, he left college football with over 7,000 yards passing and 400 rushing yards. Though he has had his interceptions steadily increase each year, he has a good arm and decent speed. He is worth grabbing here to be groomed as their next guy under center.
15. Denver Broncos (7-9) — Henry Ruggs III, Alabama, WR
As we witnessed a solid performance by Broncos quarterback Drew Lock towards the end of the season, nabbing a wide receiver with this pick makes sense after they traded Emmanuel Sanders to the San Francisco 49ers mid season. Ruggs III made a lot of noise at the Combine when he posted a time of 4.27 in the 40-yard dash. Along with his speed, he has some of the best hands in the wide receiver draft class. If he is available, Lock would have a reliable target to throw to in the Mile High City for years to come.
16. Atlanta Falcons (7-9) — Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina, DL
Ever since their Super Bowl appearance, the Falcons have been struggling tremendously on defense. According to profootballreference.com, the Falcons allowed 45 touchdowns, and only had two guys go over 100 total tackles (linebackers Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campell) . So the focus goes on the line, where interior is a need, and Kinlaw can immediately make an impact. He is capable of filling in that gap left open for running backs with his explosiveness. He has scary potential.
17. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) — C.J. Henderson, Florida, CB
Leaving the 2019 season with a level of uncertainty, as longtime coach Jason Garrett was fired and now Mike McCarthy at the helm presents a changing of the guard. Offensively they are pretty set with one of the most talented offensive lines in the league, Ezekiel Elliot wreaking havoc in the run game, a reliable wide receiving core and Dak Prescott waiting for a contract extension. Defensively, though, they are in need of help in their secondary, and C.J. could be that guy. He has blazing speed, and he showed it at the combine with a 4.39 40-yard dash. Standing at over six feet tall, he has the proper build to work against some of the best widerceivers in the league.
18. Miami Dolphins (Pick acquired in the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade to the Pittsburgh Steelers) — K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU,LB
Choosing not to partake in the NFL Combine, Chaisson really is an anomaly to me. Highly touted, he had a career year his senior year after tearing his ACL his junior year. He has shown great character at LSU, and works great with his speed. However, his pro day will really prove more to the needs of organizations like the Dolphins, and if he is available at 18, the Dolphins would happily take him.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (Pick acquired in the Khali Mack trade to the Chicago Bears) — Xavier McKinney, Alabama, S
After trading their 2017 first round pick Gareon Conley to the Texans last season, and Karl Joseph now able to test free agency, there is a gaping need in the secondary for the Raiders. McKinney has an incredible football IQ, the ability to be versatile and cover the best wide receivers in the game. What makes him drop lower than guys like Okudah and Henderson is he lacks a big enough number in interceptions, and struggles in tackling from time to time. If they can bring back Joseph, and bring in McKinney to match with Trayvon Mullen, we would be talking some potential.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (Pick acquired in the Jalen Ramsey trade to the Los Angeles Rams) — A.J. Terrell, Clemson, CB
Trading Jalen and now A.J. Bouye from their secondary, they are really overhauling their defense from two years ago. Terrell was the fifth fastest cornerback at the combine, and after a successful career at Clemson, he could make an immediate impact for the Jags. He managed to have 89 total tackles and 6 interceptions in the last two seasons. In that matter of a couple of seasons, Terrell can work his way into becoming their top cornerback.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) — Justin Jefferson, LSU, WR
When one star rises (Burrow), the draft stock of the talent around him rises as well. He doesn’t provide a skill on the outside wide receiver, but Jefferson can give the Eagles something to add to their arsenal; a slot receiver. He knows how to get himself past any linebacker, and has a pair of quick hands. He is struggling at his route running, but with the right practice, he is worth the risk to gain another weapon for Carson Wentz come next fall.
22. Buffalo Bills (10-6) — Tee Higgins, Clemson, WR
The Bills have come a long way in recent years as they now have become a perennial playoff spot contender. Higgins can be that next guy Josh Allen can lean on. Versatile in every wide receiving position, he uses his height to challenge the secondary, and utilizes his catching space well. To have him line up with guys like John Brown and Cole Beasley, Allen really can become even more threatening to the secondaries in the AFC East.
23. New England Patriots (12-4) — A.J. Espesa, Iowa, EDGE
Lets face it, Coach Bill Belichick is great at finding talent that slips through the cracks in the draft. Espesa is another diamond in the rough for the Patriots, and not because of talent. It is because of need! Once seen as someone that could be taken early, Espesa has dropped down after his numbers at the NFL combine weren’t too impressive, but he did have some great numbers in Iowa. He lacks qualities like speed and technique. However, with the proper training and guidance, he is the ideal long-term project.
24. New Orlean Saints (13-3) — Ross Blacklock, Texas Christian, DL
The Drew Brees era is closing as they have gotten so close to the Super Bowl these past two seasons. Though they have one of the best defensive lineman in the game in Cam Jordan, bringing in Blacklock can really give any offensive line some nightmares. Injury proneness makes him a risk, as he missed his entire sophomore season due to an Achilles tear. He bounced back junior year, as he was able to get over 40 total tackles. Though this will be a long-term project, it really has a high ceiling of potential here.
25. Minnesota Vikings (10-6) — Trevon Diggs, Alabama, CB
The Vikings’ secondary is in dire need of some upgrading. Diggs provides some elite size, strength and agility that will make any organization that would love to have in their backfield. However, he needs to improve in his long speed against certain matchups. He is worth the risk at the pick here, and can help this team out.
26. Miami Dolphins (Pick acquired from the Houston Texans in the Laremy Tunsil trade) — Jaylon Johnson, Utah State, CB
Though an offensive lineman might seem a higher priority, I see the Dolphins’ brass going after the most talented player and grabbing their lineman in the next round, they will fulfill a smaller need at cornerback. Johnson is a secondary bully, and likes to make things miserable for any wide receiver he’s covering.
27. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) — Cesar Ruiz, Michigan, OL
After having an incredible season, Russell Wilson needs more of an insurance policy on the field with the addition of Ruiz. As Duane Brown covers the left tackle position, Ruiz shoots past guys like Austin Jackson and Josh Jones who play that position. Ruiz made a good impression at the NFL Combine, with 27 reps on the bench press and an almost 5.0 40-yard dash. He is able to play two positions on the line (right guard and center), giving versatility and a better chance to make a quicker impact. However, if they get either Jackson or Jones to switch positions, I believe they would be taken over Ruiz but that is a HUGE if.
28. Baltimore Ravens (14-2) — Patrick Queen, LSU, LB
After seeing what was an incredible season by MVP Lamar Jackson, what could have been a season to remember was cut short in the playoffs against the Tennessee Titans. Where their biggest need lies is in their linebacker core, and I feel like Patrick Queen is a perfect fit. Queen drops due to teams having bigger holes to fill, and his track record against high profiled opponents in LSU’s championship run this past season gives him credibility. According to ESPN.com, he finished the season with 85 total tackles, and three sacks.
29. Tennessee Titans (9-7) — Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State, EDGE
The Titans were the biggest surprise in the playoffs as they were able to knock off both the Patriots and the Ravens. Though they had fallen short to the eventual Super Bowl champs, what came up in that game was the lack of pressure that was put on a guy like Patrick Mahomes. Gross-Matos has a lot of potential but there are some things he needs to work on. His sense of urgency and use of hands are in need of improvements. However, as a long-term project they can make the necessary adjustments to cause trouble for quarterbacks for years to come.
30. Green Bay Packers (13-3) — Cole Kmet, Notre Dame, TE
The Jimmy Graham project didn’t work at Lambeau. After he only managed 447 yards receiving, he is testing free agency and if I was the Packers’ brass, I would move on. Using his long wingspan to his advantage, Kmet was able to score six touchdowns in his junior year and shows potential of being able to become another tool in Aaron Rodgers’ success. What I am concerned about mostly is the other job of every tight end, blocking on occasional plays. Through fine-tuning and some practice, Green Bay can really develop a threat with this man.
31. San Francisco 49ers (13-3 — Grant Delpit, LSU, S
After losing in the Super Bowl, what seemed to be the chink in their armor was their secondary. Disregard someone like Richard Sherman, Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward (who’d they should try to resign). Outside of those three men, this secondary is missing one more piece. As someone that can cover well and is a real heavy hitter, Delpit may be able to make this defense even stronger.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) — D’Andre Swift, Georgia, RB
After winning the Super Bowl, it’s really hard to determine which need should be met for this team. Patrick Mahomes under center has really changed the fortune of this organization, as his passing ability highlighted the talent around him. However, what lacked for them was their run game, and Swift would be tempting as the top prospect at this position. Swift finished his junior season with over 1,200 yards rushing. If you do the math, it takes their three top rushers, (Dannien Williams, LeSean McCoy and Patrick Mahomes,) to even come close to those numbers. I know college play is a lot different than the pros, but he will immediately make an impact on a stacked offense.