The Pitt News NFL Mock Draft 1.0

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Matthew Emmons, USA TODAY Sports | TNS

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow runs away from Clemson defensive end Justin Foster during the College Football Playoff final.

By Adin Link, Staff Writer

With both the NFL and college football finishing up their seasons, the next taste of football fans await is the NFL draft in April. In this mock draft, I’ll try to predict how the first round of the draft will shake out, including some trades that could take place on draft night. 

1. Cincinnati Bengals — Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

With the first pick in my mock draft, the Bengals grab their franchise quarterback in former LSU Tiger, Ohio State Buckeye and national champion Joe Burrow. The 2019 Heisman winner, once Mr. Football in the state of Ohio, now becomes the cornerstone of Cincinnati’s new regime under head coach Zac Taylor, who hopes Burrow’s prolific senior season was no anomaly.

2. Washington Redskins — Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State

With the second pick, the Redskins select the person many view as the undisputed best defensive player available. Young will round out a group of young disruptive linemen on Washington’s roster, joining the likes of Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne and Montez Sweat. He figures to be a significant contributor from day one, which Washington desperately needs at the position of defensive end. 

3. Detroit Lions — Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

With contract extension talks with Darius Slay looking murky, the Lions look to add a gamechanger for their secondary. There have been rumblings that Detroit may take a quarterback at this spot, but with Matthew Stafford returning from an injury-riddled season, it makes more sense to give him another shot while adding a strong defensive piece for the future.

4. Los Angeles Chargers (via trade with NYG) — Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

In my first mock trade, the Chargers pull off a deal with the Giants in order to lock down their quarterback of the future. With Philip Rivers’ Los Angeles tenure seemingly over, the Chargers have nothing to lose by investing picks to trade up and secure the quarterback they believe can be the face of their franchise.

5. Miami Dolphins — Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

The Dolphins are another candidate to trade up, but I believe they’ll stand pat at this spot because they want Tagovailoa over the Chargers’ quarterback of choice, Herbert. Though he suffered a scary hip injury last season, Tagovailoa has the talent to be a sound building block for Miami’s franchise rebuild.

6. New York Giants (via mock trade with LAC) — Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

After moving down two spots in the mock trade with the Chargers, New York opts to bring in some protection for young quarterback Daniel Jones. The Giants have a lot of holes on their roster, so trading down to accumulate picks to fill those gaps would serve them well — especially when teams like the Chargers or Dolphins will be willing to overpay to secure their choice of quarterback.

7. Carolina Panthers — Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

This projection may come as a surprise to some, but after a solid showing at the Senior Bowl, Utah State’s Love could be the beneficiary of a major stock increase as the draft process moves along. He has intriguing but raw traits that remind some of Patrick Mahomes from his days at Texas Tech. Perhaps this comparison alone is enough to slot Love into the top 10. Considering the Panthers’ non-committal stance on Cam Newton, this could be their intention.

8. Arizona Cardinals — Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

The Cardinals would be wise to use this top-10 pick on the top left tackle in this year’s draft. Thomas can step in right away to provide protection for last year’s No. 1 pick, Kyler Murray, and stabilize the Cardinals’ new offense under head coach Kliff Kingsbury. 

9. Jacksonville Jaguars — Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

Simmons lined up as an off-ball linebacker, pass rusher and high safety among other spots in Clemson’s defense, showing off the versatility he can also bring to the league. If the Jaguars can pair Simmons with Myles Jack and retain Yannick Ngakoue in free-agency, this defense could return to its dominant form from the 2017-18 season.

10. Miami Dolphins (via mock trade with CLE) — Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

The Dolphins execute my second mock trade to acquire the 10th pick, giving their 18th and 26th selections to the Cleveland Browns. Miami would be wise to acquire some big protection for its new quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, who it selected earlier with the fifth overall pick. 

11. New York Jets — Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

Similarly to the strategy of the Giants, Cardinals and Dolphins earlier, the Jets opt to use their first-round selection on the best remaining offensive tackle to protect their young quarterback, Sam Darnold. Wirfs comes from the University of Iowa and figures to be yet another productive offensive lineman to hail from the Hawkeye State. 

12. Las Vegas Raiders — Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Since none of the top quarterbacks fell this far, head coach Jon Gruden and company decide to give Derek Carr an explosive weapon for next year. A former Biletnikoff winner, Jeudy is widely considered the top player at his position, and his stock may even rise after he displays his elite athleticism at the NFL Combine.

13. Indianapolis Colts — Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn

The Colts are a strong candidate to trade up from this spot, since they may search for their franchise quarterback. But I have them going with the disruptive interior defensive lineman from Auburn. Indianapolis lucks out here, as Brown has the talent and tape of a top-10 pick, and may very well end up being one come April. 

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina

Tampa Bay is in a similar position to the Colts in terms of having a gray area at quarterback. But unless one of the aforementioned quarterbacks somehow falls to this spot, the Bucs will look to improve their roster elsewhere. Kinlaw has been a hot name recently as draft analyst Todd McShay had high praise for him after the Senior Bowl. 

15. Philadelphia Eagles (via mock trade with DEN) — Ceedee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

This third mock trade is orchestrated by the Eagles to acquire Oklahoma’s Lamb. Philadelphia’s receiver situation late in the year was an absolute mess, so the Eagles will be anxious to add a dominant force to their pass-catching corps. 

16. Atlanta Falcons — K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU

After making it clear they don’t plan on bringing back veteran defensive end Vic Beasley, the Falcons need to bring a new pass rusher in this offseason. Chaisson was the heart of last year’s LSU pass rush and could instantly fill the void left by Beasley.

17. Dallas Cowboys — CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

The Cowboys take the second cornerback in the draft with this pick. Henderson figures to be an instant contributor for a weak Dallas secondary, especially if cornerback Byron Jones decides to depart in free agency. 

18. Cleveland Browns (via mock trade with MIA) — Josh Jones, OT, Houston

After a mock trade with the Dolphins, Cleveland drafts Josh Jones to bolster an offensive line that struggled mightily last season. Jones has made a lot of noise this offseason, particularly after the Senior Bowl where he had a very strong showing. 

19. Las Vegas Raiders (via CHI) — Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

After adding an impact player on offense with their first pick, the Raiders use this later pick to address the defensive side of the ball. Queen was named the defensive MVP of the National Championship game last month, showcasing his speed and power — traits that Las Vegas would love to have in the heart of its defense.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR) — Xavier McKinney, DB, Alabama

The Jaguars seek to add a playmaker in their defensive backfield with the pick they acquired by trading Jalen Ramsey. With four forced fumbles and three interceptions in 2019, McKinney fits the profile of a splash playmaker.

21. Denver Broncos (via mock trade with PHI) — Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

The Broncos end up using this pick for a receiver after moving down the board in a mock trade with the Eagles. Ruggs fits the Broncos’ offense much better than Lamb, who they would’ve taken at No. 15, considering the size Denver already has on the outside with Courtland Sutton. 

22. Buffalo Bills — Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado

After a pleasantly surprising season, the Bills look to add weapons to their offense to complement the development of Josh Allen. Shenault may not have the national notoriety of his fellow receivers Jeudy or Lamb, but he has the talent to be just as productive.

23. New England Patriots — Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame

It became evident late last season that New England needs to add some more dynamic pieces to its offense. Kmet has a chance to become special right away, given the type of involvement he could warrant in a Patriots’ offense that gave rise to Rob Gronkowski.

24. New York Giants (via mock trade with NO) — AJ Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

In this mock trade, the Giants are trading up instead of down. New York uses some of the assets acquired in trading down earlier to move back up for arguably the best player available. Epenesa would provide immediate pass rush to a defense that desperately needs it. 

25. Minnesota Vikings — Trevon Diggs, CB, Auburn

The Vikings need to add elite pieces to their secondary, especially with Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander and Anthony Harris all facing free agency. Diggs will be counted on to provide instant success to Minnesota’s secondary, a unit that could lose three starters. 

26. Cleveland Browns (via mock trade with MIA) — Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

The Browns may need to address their linebacker depth as one of last year’s starters, Joe Schobert, is an impending free agent. They could look for another offensive lineman here, though I believe they’ll take a chance on the speedy and athletic Murray to possibly replace Schobert. 

27. Seattle Seahawks — Grant Delpit, DB, LSU

Delpit was receiving top-10 buzz before injuries derailed his last college football season. The Seahawks won’t be upset over a slight drop in Delpit’s stock if they can add his skill to their defense.

28. Baltimore Ravens — Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

The Ravens could use some size in their receiving core, so adding the 6-foot-4 Higgins would certainly take care of that. He would provide another element to the Ravens’ dynamic offense built around MVP Lamar Jackson.

29. Arizona Cardinals (via mock trade with TEN) — J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

The last mock trade of this edition has the Cardinals moving back into the first round to select Dobbins. Current running back David Johnson’s future in Arizona is not looking bright at the moment, so the Cardinals hope pairing Dobbins with Kyler Murray in Kingsbury’s offense will be a hit. 

30. Green Bay Packers — Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

With Aaron Rodgers playing quarterback, many were shocked to see the Packers’ defense shine so often this season. Given the productivity on that side of the ball, Green Bay can be confident in adding another weapon to Rodgers’ arsenal. 

31. San Francisco 49ers — Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

As strong as the 49ers’ defense was last year, one area where they can actually improve is cornerback. Fulton is undoubtedly the best corner available at this point in the draft, so San Francisco pulls the trigger quickly with its 31st pick. 

32. Kansas City Chiefs — Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

The thought of adding this year’s Doak Walker Award winner to an already loaded Chiefs’ offense seems crazy, but it could very well end up happening. Taylor would give the Chiefs a whole new level of rushing production that could open the door for a Super Bowl repeat. 

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