Henry Ruggs scorched a 40-yard stripe into the Lucas Oil Stadium turf, Jonathan Taylor showed off natural hands to go with his size and speed and Isaiah Simmons won the decathlon. Meanwhile, A.J. Epenesa failed to crack five seconds in the 40, Laviska Shenault suffered a core injury that will require surgery and Mitchell Wilcox took a pigskin to the eyeball.
All of these things, good and bad, happened at last week's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Each year, the Combine is pretty much equidistant from the end of the previous regular season and the start of the next year's draft, and it's the single biggest event when it comes to shaking up draft boards around the league.
For instance, you will hear that Ruggs, the Alabama receiver, probably secured his spot in the top half of the first round with his blazing 4.27-second 40 in Indy. And that Taylor, the prolific Wisconsin runner, may have leaped over D'Andre Swift to the top of the RB rankings by running a great 40 and excelling in pass-catching drills. And that Simmons…well, he was probably already a top-10 pick but his sweep of all the running and leaping drills may have clinched a top-five selection.
Meanwhile, Iowa's Epenesa could slip due to an unimpressive workout, Shenault will be out up to two months and Wilcox…well, the inadvertent pass to the face shouldn't affect his draft stock but his 4.88 40 and 31-inch vertical leap might.
Of course, when we write about "draft stock" we're writing about the public perception of how these players are valued by NFL teams. There Combine doesn't necessarily cause massive shifts on the 32 meaningful draft boards around the league, as NFL scouts have already spent countless hours evaluating every player who came to Indy. What will change dramatically after the Combine is the collective mass of mock drafts, with players like Taylor rising and Epenesa falling in those predictions.
And, of course, this is a mock draft, our first post-Combine version. Once again, Staff Writer Carmen Vitali and I will alternate picks, but for the first time we're going to allow trades. And we're sure to see some changes after our time in Indianapolis. So let's do this!
We switch the order of selections again, so I'm going first, which means Carmen will be executing the Bucs' pick at number 14, barring a trade.
(The usual caveat: Though you are reading this on Buccaneers.com, none of this is meant to reflect the strategy or thinking of Jason Licht, Bruce Arians or any others involved in the Buccaneers' actual draft decision-making. These are Carmen and Scott's predictions.)
1. Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow, LSU (Scott Smith)
I gave real thought to trying to swing a deal here. I know Burrow said at the Combine that he would play for the Bengals if they select him, but I still think it's possible there is pressure being applied behind the scene to convince Cincinnati to make a trade. There's not quite enough smoke at this point for a fire, so for now I'll stay put and make the obvious pick.
2. Washington Redskins: EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State (Carmen Vitali)
I know we're allowing trades, but I'm not getting cute with this. Chase Young watches LeBron's games with Denzel Washington – this kid is already an NFL player.
3. [TRADE] Miami Dolphins (from Detroit): QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (SS)
Well, I'm feeling cute (must be this new shirt). This just makes too much sense not to happen, unless Washington beats the Lions to it. Tua's excellent medicals from the Combine have him back near the top of the draft. As for the trade, it's easy because the Dolphins have two more picks in the first round, #18 and #26. I don't think they even need to give up the first of those because both trade value charts (Jimmie Johnson and Chase Stuart versions) have #5 plus #26 being worth more than #3. When the Jets traded up from #6 to #3 two years ago for Sam Darnold, they actually gave up three second-rounders, which was a gross overpay on both charts (especially the Stuart chart). So maybe the Dolphins give in and give up the #18 just to make sure they get their man, overpay or not. We'll do it that way. (Carmen gave the green light on the second pick, since that one belongs to her in this version.)
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah breaks down this year's draft.
4. New York Giants: OT Jedrick Wills, Alabama (CV)
I think a Dolphins trade is a high possibility. With that many first-round picks, I just don't think they stay pat – especially when they need a quarterback and those tend to rise. The Giants, however, don't need a quarterback, but they could use another guy to protect the one they picked last year. From the Bucs' perspective, I'm nervous that the run on offensive tackles is starting this early, but unfortunately – after they all did well this week in Indianapolis – it feels inevitable.
5. [TRADE] Detroit Lions (from Miami): CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State (SS)
This is an absolute home run of a deal for the Lions, who have largely been linked to Okudah at the three-spot, and they get him here anyway. I think they're also tempted by Isaiah Simmons and Derrick Brown, but one way or another they get the top non-Chase-Young defender on their board and pick up an extra first. Okudah had a great Combine, galvanizing his draft stock.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon (CV)
The Chargers are out of a quarterback and Herbert's stock has only risen this offseason. He was the MVP of the Senior Bowl and followed it up with a great Combine performance. Helped by the fact that neither Joe Burrow nor Tua Tagovailoa participated in workouts, Herbert shined as a consensus QB1 and given the aforementioned tendency for quarterbacks to rise in the draft, Herbert is off the board in the Top 10, easily.
7. Carolina Panthers: S/LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson (SS)
I'll be hopping mad if Simmons actually falls to the Panthers, but I don't see anything crazy with the picks above this one. The Panthers get to follow the Luke Kuechly era immediately with the Isaiah Simmons era, like the Packers going straight from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers. Matt Rhule can play Simmons all over the field and build a fast and aggressive defense around him.
8. Arizona Cardinals: DL Derrick Brown, Auburn (CV)
Arizona needs more weapons for Kyler Murray so I thought about taking a receiver here – but this is an extremely deep class at wideout, so I think they can still get a quality player later on. I have them now going Brown, despite his lackluster Combine performance. I really don't think he performed so terribly that he needs to be taken out of consideration as the top defensive tackle and the tape will tell you he's a great player. The Cardinals don't overthink it and get someone who can anchor the interior.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB C.J. Henderson, Florida (SS)
The Jaguars took Brown and Simmons in our first two mock drafts but this time both are already off the board. This might seem a bit high for Henderson to some, but I don't think so. He had a fantastic Combine and seems to have separated himself as the second-best cornerback option. The Jaguars already needed help at the position before reportedly agreeing to trade A.J. Bouye to the Broncos.
10. Cleveland Browns: OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa (CV)
If you think Wirfs should have been the first tackle off the board – I won't argue with you. His Combine performance was insane and the best offensive line performances we've seen in recent years. A 4.85 40-yard dash and 36.5-inch vertical (an OL Combine record) at 320 pounds? You've gotta be kidding me. There is still some question on whether he translates to a guard or tackle at the next level – but hey, Cleveland needs both.
11. New York Jets: T Mekhi Becton, Louisville (SS)
We are now in the "guys who shouldn't be able to move as fast as they do" section of the mock draft. The Jets may look to shore up their line in free agency, but if they target a tackle in the draft they can focus on the interior line in the veteran market.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama (CV)
I was a little tempted to shake things up and take Jordan Love here, just for fun. While, I don't think the Raiders (read: Gruden) are satisfied with Carr under center, if they do bring in someone else, I kind of think they do something crazy in free agency. The draft will then subsequently be dedicated to getting more weapons for said mystery quarterback and they get perhaps the best one in this draft class in Jeudy (jewelry choices aside).
13. Indianapolis Colts: QB Jordan Love, Utah State (SS)
Love was another big winner at the Combine, and he might even be off the board before this pick in the real draft. But since he's sitting there for me and the Colts, I'll grab him and then pair him with a free agent quarterback so that there is time to let him develop. And with that, four quarterbacks go in the top 13 and the Bucs have an interesting decision to make here. No pressure, Carmen.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia (CV)
Nah, this one is a no-brainer for me. One of the 'Big Four' offensive tackles is still on the board and the Bucs are more than happy to nab Thomas. I know he didn't have quite the Combine that Wirfs or Becton did but come on, don't overthink a battle-tested tackle who says he can play on either side of the line and has the size and smarts to back it up. I know I'm leaving Scott's new favorite prospect K'Lavon Chaisson out there, as well as the oft-mocked to the Bucs Javon Kinlaw, but after all the time both BA and Jason Licht said they spent on the offensive line coming into Indy, I think that's where their biggest priority lies.
15. Denver Broncos: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma (SS)
For the record, I would also pick Thomas from those three options, but it's interesting that all three are there. I would just have to suppress my draft-crush on Chaisson. As for the Broncos, we both gave them Henry Ruggs in versions 1.0 and 2.0, and I think that's still tempting here, but Lamb wasn't still on the board either of those times. Lamb has been compared to DeAndre Hopkins, and that's hard to pass up.
16. Atlanta Falcons: EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU (CV)
I'm really not happy about the Falcons upgrading their pass rush in this way but least you'll get to see your draft crush twice a year now, Scott. Atlanta decided they were moving on from Vic Beasley, which makes me think they want a young replacement on the edge and though Chaisson's tape is limited (he came out as a RS Sophomore and played just two seasons in Death Valley), he is just a super impressive kid both on the field and off. He proved that this past week in Indianapolis and his ceiling is absolutely through the roof. Don't you love draft-isms?
17. Dallas Cowboys: DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina (SS)
Carolina gets Simmons and Atlanta gets Chaisson. Geez. Let's start over. The Cowboys have a number of defensive needs and might have taken Henderson if he was available. Xavier McKinney is a thought but Kinlaw can replace the likely-to-depart Maliek Collins and probably have a bigger overall impact on that defense than would a safety.
18. [TRADE] Detroit Lions (from Pittsburgh via Miami): LB Patrick Queen, LSU (CV)
Ok, I REALLY want the Lions to take Trevon Diggs so that he can join his brother Stefon in the NFC North and we can get a sibling rivalry for the ages but alas, Scott already has the Lions taking Okudah (which is admittedly, the right choice). Detroit goes linebacker instead, because they need it.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (from Miami): LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma (SS)
The trade I executed earlier between Miami and Detroit comes back to haunt me because I had Queen queued up for the Raiders and now the Lions swoop in. And, in fact, Carmen and I had paired Queen and the Raiders in each of our first two mock drafts. The good news is that Murray is also sitting there and he seemed like a good match for Queen at the Combine, right down to their 40 times (4.51 for Queen, 4.52 for Murray) and their pulled hamstrings in Indy. Okay, that last part isn't a selling point but it isn't serious, either. Murray is also two inches taller than Queen. Maybe I'm talking myself into this consolation pick a little bit, but the current linebacker situation in Las Vegas is, shall we say, dicey.
20. [TRADE] Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams via Jacksonville): OL Josh Jones, Houston (CV)
Despite the Titans initially being Scott's pick down at No. 29, Jacksonville was looking for a partner to trade down with and Tennessee REALLY needs an offensive lineman to protect whoever their quarterback ends up being. So Scott and I have agreed to keep our pick numbers the same and I will now pick for the Titans while he picks for the Jags again later on. The Titans sent their third-round pick this year and next, which works with the value chart we promise, to land Jones before anyone else can.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Henry Ruggs, Alabama (SS)
The receivers seem to be dropping in this draft relative to our first two, which is weird since most of them did quite well at the Combine and Ruggs in particular ran a 4.27 40. The Eagles aren't complaining and they get an heir apparent to DeSean Jackson, who struggled with injuries last year.
22. Buffalo Bills: WR Justin Jefferson, LSU (CV)
Well, the run starts now I suppose because the Bills also need more weapons and Jefferson's 4.43 40-yard dash solidifies him as first-round worthy.
23. New England Patriots: EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State (SS)
The Patriots top two quarterback sack producers in 2019, Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy, are pending free agents and given how New England operates it's hard to see them re-signing both. Mekhi Becton slid to this spot in Version 1.0 and I couldn't let him pass, but those days of Becton in the 20s are long gone. Now I'm copying what Carmen did here in Version 2.0.
24. New Orleans Saints: WR Denzel Mims, Baylor (CV)
Ruggs wasn't the only receiver whose stock went way up at the Combine. Mims did the same and will now get to face his former college coach in Matt Rhule twice a year playing in the same division. The bad news? The Bucs have to play them too and Brees with Michael Thomas and the addition of a speedster like Mims? Ouch.
25. Minnesota Vikings: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama (SS)
Instead of an NFC North sibling rivalry we get brotherly love in the Twin Cities, which might cut in half the number of times Stefon lobbies for a trade. That's a nice side benefit, but the younger Diggs is also a great cover corner who looked very smooth in his Combine drills.
26. Miami Dolphins (from Houston): EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa (CV)
The Dolphins have been doing some wheeling and dealing in the first round but they went up and got their man in Tua. Now, they turn to the other side of the ball to try and address a host of needs they have. Most of those lie most crucially on offense, but shore up the defense with a guy who has perhaps slipped a bit due to a poor Combine showing. I'm not sure how much stock you place in that when on tape, Epenesa would fit right in with the defensive-minded Brian Flores in Miami.
27. Seattle Seahawks: DT Ross Blacklock, TCU (SS)
Shoot. Seattle had its eye on Epenesa, who after his Combine 40 is being compared (by optimists) to Michael Bennett, who tested similarly in 2009 and later became a star for the Seahawks. But Seattle looks like it's going to need multiple reinforcements up front, so Blacklock fits as well, especially after he turned in a great all-around workout in Indianapolis.
28. Baltimore Ravens: DL Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M (CV)
This is a guy who absolutely helped himself at the Combine, not only testing well but moving really well in on-field drills in Indianapolis, too. The 4.83 40-yard dash at nearly 300 pounds didn't hurt, either. He did well in the podium sessions in Indy too and seems like he could be a force from that 3-4 end position up front.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Tennessee): S Xavier McKinney, Alabama (SS)
The Jaguars continue their defensive rebuild, which is not something I anticipated I'd be writing just a couple years ago. Still, it's a pretty great deal to move down nine spots and still get the top player in the draft at a certain position, as McKinney appears to have overtaken Grant Delpit in the safety rankings.
30. Green Bay Packers: WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan (CV)
After an excellent Combine outing, I think Peoples-Jones has popped up on more people's radar. Ha. Besides, Green Bay ALWAYS needs a receiver. Even if they miss, they were most likely going to take another one the next year, anyway. But I think Peoples-Jones used his 44.5-inch vertical to leap into the first round over maybe some other wide receiver prospects from a deep class to land one state over in Wisconsin.
31. [TRADE] Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from San Francisco): RB Jonathan Taylor (SS)
It's 2012 all over again! In that draft, the Buccaneers traded up from the 36th pick to number 31 to land RB Doug Martin before the Giants could. All that cost the Bucs was a swap of fourth-round picks with Denver, giving up number 101 for number 126. This is a bit of a bigger jump, from the 45th overall pick in the second round, so it's going to cost the Bucs their third-round pick straight up, but Taylor could be special. He proved at the Combine that he's more than just a Wisconsin power back, with speed and great hands to go along with his rugged running. Former Buccaneer great John Lynch is willing to deal with his first NFL team because previous trades have the 49ers entering this draft with no picks in Rounds 2-4. Am I doing a bit of fan service with this pick? Maybe. But it's fun, right! And with a fourth-round compensatory pick probably on the way, the Bucs have two picks in that round and can still address wide receiver or safety or something.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: DL Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma (CV)
Scott, you just couldn't bear not picking for the Bucs this round, could you? You're not slick. But that works out for the Bucs so I'm not mad. It also makes a ton of sense for the Niners. As for the Chiefs – they don't really have a ton of needs but pairing and athletic interior guy like Gallimore with the franchise-tagged Chris Jones will serve Kansas City's defense well up front.