The last time Carmen and I joined forces for a set of NFL Draft predictions, it was a six-round Buccaneers-only effort that also included a series of "challenges" between the two of us. That was fun and resulted in two very different-looking draft hauls for Tampa Bay.
Now the draft is just a week away so the two of us are going to go back to the basics. This will be our final combined mock draft before each of us does a full round on his or her own next week. This one is straight: Just the first round with no gimmicks, though trades are allowed if they can be fashioned in a realistic way. So, no need for any more preamble; let's get straight to the picks. This time, Carmen goes first which puts me in line to call the Buccaneers' pick at number 14…or perhaps a little sooner.
(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 (Carmen Vitali)
I know there have been recent rumblings that Burrow to the Bengals isn't quite a done deal but I'm choosing not to listen to those now. We all know what happened last year with Kyler Murray.
2. Washington Redskins: EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State (Scott Smith)
I saw one mock draft last week that gave Washington CB Jeff Okudah here, noting that the Redskins' secondary is in bad shape while they have spent first-round picks on defensive linemen each of the last three years. I understand that logic but I also look at the last six drafts and see that an edge rusher is the first non-quarterback off the board in five of those years. If there's a top-notch pass-rusher available, that's what teams want.
3. Detroit Lions: CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State (CV)
That works out just fine for the Lions, who are more than happy to take Okudah for their dilapidated secondary. In 5.0, I threw around the possibility of the Chargers trading up to this or the Giants' spot to grab Tua Tagovailoa (I did it without looking it up!) before the Dolphins had a chance. However, recently, and especially in the current climate where physicals are harder to obtain, I think teams are a little more weary of Tua and therefore are hesitant to utilize any extra draft capital for the quarterback when Oregon's Justin Herbert is there, despite the positive reports of Tua's hip and rehab.
4. New York Giants: LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson (SS)
Just like the various mock drafts are now honing in almost exclusively on offensive tackles for the Buccaneers, the common wisdom for the Giants at the fourth pick seems to come down to Simmons or the first tackle off the board. Yes, I know Dave Gettleman's history, which would lead you to the big men, but the Giants need a lot of help on defense and Simmons can give them that all over the field.
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5. Miami Dolphins: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (CV)
While I think there are still enough question marks about Tagovailoa to make teams weary about trading up for him, I think if he falls into the Dolphins' lap, they're still taking him. He is a dynamic passer with a heck of an arm and comes from a big-time program, no matter the history of the Alabama quarterback in the NFL. Tagovailoa has been Miami's guy for a while and now they finally get him.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon (SS)
The Chargers are an obvious candidate to trade up a little bit for their long-term replacement for Philip Rivers, but four the fourth time in a row in our simulations they haven't needed to. Problem is, can they be sure of that when the real chips are falling?
7. Carolina Panthers: DT Derrick Brown, Auburn (CV)
I think the Panthers would jump at the chance to draft Isaiah Simmons, especially with the retirement of Luke Kuechly, but since he's gone, they also need help on their defensive front. They poured a lot of resources into getting Teddy Bridgewater in free agency, so they'll have to use their draft capital wisely to address the plethora of other needs they have. Brown is the most bang for their buck with his projection as an immediate contributor at the next level, with NFL.com rating him as a 'Pro Bowl Caliber Player' already.
8. Arizona Cardinals: T Tristan Wirfs, Iowa (SS)
If the Giants don't start the tackle run, the Cardinals will. And now begins the hand-wringing, as there are at least four teams that could reasonably be targeting offensive tackles between here and the Buccaneers. Wirfs steps right at right tackle for the Cards.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: T Jedrick Wills, Alabama (CV)
Right you are, Scott. Let the hand-wringing continue as Jacksonville takes another coveted tackle off the board. Realistically, there are any number of needs the Jags could address here but with both Brown and Simmons gone, they reasonably (I know, shocking) elect to move to address the other side of the ball to help protect the Tiger King of Florida Gardner Minshew.
10. [TRADE] Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Cleveland): T Mekhi Becton, Louisville
This is going to require a willing trade partner, but here I'm guessing Cleveland is willing to make the small move down to 14 if the Bucs pay a little extra. On the draft value chart, the difference between the 10th and 14th picks is 200 points, and the Bucs' third-round pick (#76) is worth 210. Perfect, but to sweeten the deal the Bucs also throw in next year's third-rounder. I would have been happy with either Becton or Andrew Thomas at the 14th pick but I didn't think either would make it there. If the Browns are dead-set on one of the tackles, though, this deal isn't going to happen.
11. New York Jets: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia (CV)
Good thing the Bucs saw it worth it, because the last of the four goes off the board here. The Jets have a few offensive needs, most notably wide receiver, but it's a deep class at that position and they also need offensive line reinforcements. They get a guy to help protect Sam Darnold (from everything but mono) and can still get a viable wideout target in later rounds.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma (SS)
The offensive tackles are falling differently in each of our mock draft versions but it pretty much always works out to the Raiders getting the first receiver off the board, which in this case is Oklahoma's Lamb, who's been described as the next DeAndre Hopkins.
13. San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis): WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama (CV)
The 49ers follow suit and take a receiver, this time from Alabama… but maybe not the one you think. Ruggs had to split catches with Jerry Jeudy in college but his 4.27 40-yard dash time should allow him to break out all on his own at the next level. He's been rising up media pundit draft boards since Indy.
14. [TRADE] Cleveland Browns (from Tampa Bay): DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina (SS)
The Browns probably have a bigger need at safety but there's a very good chance they can get a good one in the second round. This seems a bit high for Xavier McKinney, Grant Delpit or Antoine Winfield, Jr. Carmen gave Kinlaw to the Browns at the 10th pick in Version 5.0, noting that the one-year deal for free agent Andrew Billings probably doesn't satisfy the need along the defensive front, particularly in the long term. That's sound logic, and if we agree then the Browns trading down and still getting Kinlaw was a good deal after all.
15. Denver Broncos: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama (CV)
The Broncos somehow seem to be all-in on Drew Lock so if they aren't going to get another quarterback… get him some weapons, I guess? Jeudy is still there after I had the Niners take Ruggs instead so the Broncos jump on him.
16. Atlanta Falcons: EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU (SS)
I'll admit that Florida CB C.J. Henderson, who Carmen mocked to the Falcons in 5.0, is very tempting here. That said, even with the addition of Dante Fowler, whose had exactly one double-digit sack season in the NFL, and the presence of Takk McKinley, whose had none, the Falcons still need help pressuring the quarterback. In the mock draft on the Falcons' own team site last week, Digital Managing Editor Matt Tabeek wrote that Dan Quinn told him he "wanted to add another pass rusher." Smokescreen? Maybe, but for now I'm buying it.
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17. Dallas Cowboys: EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos (CV)
And you're giving Chaisson to a division rival… AGAIN. When the Cowboys could have totally used him in all the way in the NFC East. Instead, the Cowboys go Gross-Matos, who is probably the next-best pass rusher and the Cowboys need it. They'll pair Gross-Matos with former Buccaneer Gerald McCoy, who Dallas now has on the interior of the defensive line after acquiring him in free agency on a two-year deal.
18. Miami Dolphins: T Josh Jones, Houston (SS)
The Dolphins could use a running back and it wouldn't hurt to grab one of the top receivers to pair with DeVante Parker, but they still have picks at 26 and 39 coming up. Before those luxuries, let's continue rebuilding an offensive line that was pretty bad last year.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (from Chicago): LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma (CV)
The Raiders already grabbed a receiver so now they go on to address another need they have in linebacker. Murray is probably the best off-ball backer in the draft and Las Vegas takes a gamble on him with their second pick in the first round.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from L.A. Rams): CB C.J. Henderson, Florida (SS)
Death, taxes, coronavirus baby boom jokes and me giving Henderson to the Jaguars. Some things you just can't avoid. I'm pleasantly surprised (as a surrogate Jaguar GM) to see Henderson make it this far, because I badly need some new talent at the position.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Tee Higgins, Clemson (CV)
…and the Philadelphia Eagles also needing a receiver. Add that to things you just can't avoid.
22. Minnesota Vikings (from Buffalo): WR Justin Jefferson, LSU (SS)
As do the Vikings after shipping Stefon Diggs to Buffalo…for this pick, in fact, along with a couple others. Now, if the Vikings end up trading for Odell Beckham in the next week, I'd probably change this pick to a cornerback.
23. New England Patriots: QB Jordan Love, Utah State (CV)
Is it a little out of character for the Pats to take a quarterback in the first round? For about as far back as I can remember, they've had Tom Brady and haven't had to prioritize the position, so I'd say so. But 2020 is the upside down and nothing makes sense so the Pats get some QB competition for Jared Stidham.
24. New Orleans Saints: LB Patrick Queen, LSU (SS)
Demario Davis emerged as a star in the middle level of the Saints' defense last year but he needs a running mate and I'm not sold on Kiko Alonso or Alex Anzalone. Queen diagnosis plays quickly, plays fast and could turn out to be an excellent coverage linebacker and occasional blitzer.
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