I’m going to do a mock draft with a difference here. In this first round mock I will look at some dilemmas and decisions that NFL front office personnel could be faced with when they’re on the clock in April. Obviously this is only from my perspective, taking into account free agency and how depth charts currently stand within the league. With thanks for Ourlads.com (for their depth charts) and The Draft Network’s mock draft machine (for simulating the picks).
I’ve really tried to limit the amount of times I refer to a franchise having to decide on whether to trade down or not given that the majority of teams picking in the early stages of the first round could do with adding multiple difference makers.
Joe Burrow or Chase Young?
Young is regarded by many as the best prospect in the draft, coming out of Ohio State and being considered to be superior to pass rushers such as Joey and Nick Bosa, who left the Buckeyes and had an immediate impact in the NFL. Do the Bengals go with best player available, build a formidable defensive line to disrupt the explosive, and potentially explosive, offenses of the rest of the AFC North, and pick up a signal caller later on?
Burrow, though, has had a transcendent college season at LSU. We all know the importance of the position in the league. If Mike Brown and Duke Tobin go in any other reaction, expect a riot in the Queen City.
Choice: Joe Burrow (QB)
Chase Young or Tua Tagovailoa?
Could Washington ‘pull an Arizona’? The key decision maker, Bruce Allen, who reportedly selected quarterback Dwayne Haskins against the wishes of then head coach Jay Gruden last year, is gone. Haskins didn’t initially look great when he was thrust into the fray last season, though statistically there was a considerable uptick by the conclusion of Washington’s 16 game slate. Tagovailoa’s return from his hip surgery has reportedly gone well and he would have been considered the number one overall pick until Burrow broke out last year. Should Ron Rivera be banging the table to add the starter from one of the most highly rated programmes in college football?
Giving up on Haskins might be rather premature. What Arizona did in moving on from Josh Rosen after just one year in favour of Kyler Murray was really an aberration and unlikely to be part of a long term trend in the league. It’s a pretty wasteful use of resources to be honest. Instead, Washington adds a destructive force to its already formidable defensive line and to replace the pass rushing prowess of Ryan Kerrigan.
Choice: Chase Young (Edge)
Tua Tagovailoa or Jeffrey Okudah?
Long time quarterback Matt Stafford is 32 years old and his season ending injury last year helped derail the Lions’ campaign. Could the Lions see this as a prime opportunity to follow the Packers’ example and pick up an exciting first round prospect to groom behind their gunslinging starter?
It seems unlikely. GM Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia need results in the Motor City, and fast, if they want to stay in their jobs. Also, injury aside, Stafford’s play isn’t showing any sign of dropping off. This offence can be explosive if the defence can hold up its end of the bargain. That side of the ball needs quality corners to play Patricia’s man to man scheme, especially following the trade of Darius Slay to Philly.
Choice: Jeffrey Okudah (CB)
Jedrick Wills or Mekhi Becton?
The inclination might be to take a right tackle, as former Cowboys and Patriots swing tackle Cameron Fleming is currently pencilled in on that side. However, left tackle Nate Solder’s play has left a lot to be desired since he swapped the AFC East for the NFC East and the Giants would surely like to move on from his onerous contract. That wont be possible this year given cutting the former Patriots blindside blocker would cause $16 million in dead cap space. However, that drops to $6 million next year.
Whilst Wills comes from a more high profile college programme and is seen as the better overall player, there are concerns about whether his arm length allows him to play on the edge in the NFL. Meanwhile, Becton has experience manning both right and left tackle spot. He could start at RT this year, then move to LT next year, allowing the G-Men to move on from Solder.
Choice: Mekhi Becton (OT)
Tristan Wirfs or Tua Tagovailoa?
Do the Dolphins seize the opportunity to continue to upgrade the overall talent level of the roster, regardless of position by picking up an immediate starter in Wirfs who would upgrade both the pass protection around Ryan Fitzpatrick, whilst also providing considerable push in the running game?
However, Tua has to be the selection here. Short and long term he will have a bigger impact on the franchise moving forward. Miami might see themselves as having the opportunity to make waves in the division with the loss of Tom Brady and the Jets a few seasons away from competing.
Choice: Tua Tagovailoa (QB)
Justin Herbert or Isaiah Simmons?
If we look at pure talent level here, then Simmons is worthy of consideration. Does GM Tom Telesco load up on defence to help combat the Patrick Mahomes led Chiefs, especially with a Swiss army knife defender like Simmons?
At quarterback Tyrod Taylor is the presumptive starter currently. Herbert divides opinion but would certainly make fans feel the franchise is looking to the future. On paper, this is still a playoff calibre roster. Do the Chargers think Herbert gives them a better chance at the postseason than Taylor? Even so, need a prospect they think can become the starter either this season or next.
Choice: Justin Herbert (QB)
Derrick Brown or Isaiah Simmons?
The Panthers lost their defensive leader Luke Kuechly and despite the presence of two other former first round picks at linebacker in Brian Burns (edge) and Shaq Thompson (ILB), there are question marks at the position. Simmons’ ability to play safety could also be attractive given the lack of options there for Carolina.
The defensive line, though, also looks like a significant weakness. A number of prior early round picks at that position are no longer with the franchise. A penetrating defender like Brown would help maximise opportunities for Burns also, whilst reducing the time Carolina’s secondary players need to cover their assignments. That could be really important given the dearth of difference makers in the defensive backfield.
Choice: Derrick Brown (DT)
Isaiah Simmons or K’Lavon Chaisson?
Many may feel the Cardinals need to upgrade their offensive line. However, they also have a number of needs on defence, including at ILB with Haason Reddick not living up to his first round pedigree.
In the front seven, Arizona added defensive tackle Jordan Phillips in free agency from Buffalo and will be hoping he can replicate his sack production from last year. They may not want to rely on that and another edge rusher alongside Chandler Jones would add the same amount of juice to this defence that the offence has after the astounding trade for DeAndre Hopkins. There’s usually a number of surprises in the first round and this could definitely be one.
Choice: K’Lavon Chaisson (Edge)
CeeDee Lamb or C.J. Henderson?
There is a definite need at cornerback after the trade of A.J. Bouye to Denver. The lockdown CB duo of Jalen Ramsey and Bouye, which was a key ingredient in this franchise’s run to the AFC Championship game a few seasons back is now long gone.
But the Jags have consistently spent premium draft resources on the defence in previous years. Let’s not forget that they need weapons on offence alongside D.J. Chark, especially if they plan on handing the reins to Gardner Minshew. They really could do with upgrading the tight end position, but the value here points to Lamb over Henderson.
Choice: CeeDee Lamb (WR)
10) Cleveland Browns
Isaiah Simmons or Jedrick Wills?
The Browns big priority this season is upgrading the protection around Baker Mayfield. They will be hoping that’s the main reason he took a step back in his sophomore season. They added Jack Conklin to play right tackle this offseason, but really need to upgrade the left tackle spot. The problem is that many analysts see Wills primarily as a right tackle or as moving inside to guard.
Adding Simmons would improve a linebacking corps that is now a key weak spot with the dual losses of Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey in free agency. Looking at value here, indicates Simmons has to be the pick given that the right side and interior of Cleveland’s line is pretty set. In this scenario I’d be on the phone trying to trade up into the later portion of the first round or early second to select a tackle like Josh Jones.
Choice: Isaiah Simmons (LB)
11) New York Jets
Tristan Wirfs or Jerry Jeudy?
Selecting Wirfs would immediately upgrade the offensive line which has had some underwhelming additions in free agency. Nonetheless, building a stable pocket around QB Sam Darnold seems to have been a theme this year and it doesn’t matter how good your wide receivers and tight ends are if you cant keep your quarterback upright.
On the other hand, GM Joe Douglas may want to spread his resources throughout the roster. After concentrating free agency spending on the O-line, the Jets may continue to build around Darnold, but by providing him with more weapons in the passing game. This is even more imperative given the loss of Robby Anderson from a wide receivers’ room which lacks explosiveness.
Choice: Tristan Wirfs (OT)
12) Las Vegas Raiders
Jerry Jeudy or C.J. Henderson?
Even after adding Nelson Agholor and Eli Apple in free agency, wide receiver and cornerback remain positions of need for the Raiders. Nonetheless, they have two first round picks this year, so could look to address both these issues on the first day of the draft. It may come down to a calculation of which position is likely to still have high impact players available when the Raiders’ second first round pick comes around. After Henderson is there a significant drop off in talent level? Mike Mayock could choose to pick a cornerback here and address wide receiver later in due to the depth of talent at that position. Let’s not forget that the Raiders transitioned to a more run first offense last season.
However, it might be that Las Vegas want to make sure they get a receiver who isn’t just a deep threat. They already have that in Tyrell Williams. Jeudy would fill the void left by fellow Alabama alumni Amari Cooper and is a more well-rounded prospect with high level production than other receiving options at this pick.
Choice: C.J. Henderson (CB)
Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs III?
The Niners probably wouldn’t anticipate Jeudy reaching them with the 13th overall pick. The top cornerback option in Henderson is off the board, leaving Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch to choose between the two Alabama receivers.
Ruggs in Shanahan’s offense could be explosive, both in the run game as well as Jimmy Garoppolo’s deep threat. However, the franchise already has enough speed at the position. What they do lack is a true number one receiver and the value of Jeudy could simply be too much to pass up.
Choice: Jerry Jeudy (WR)
D’Andre Swift or Andrew Thomas?
With the addition of future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, the Bucs are clearly in win now mode. They already have weapons at wide receiver in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, whilst the defense made strides last year under Todd Bowles. Upgrading the protection around Brady is essential, with former Colt Joe Haeg currently the main right tackle option and blindside blocker Donovan Smith not providing the level of security #12 is used to in New England.
Running back is the other major area on the offense that needs upgrading, particularly to take the load off Brady, Godwin and Evans. This is too high for a running back really, particularly as there will be starting options available later in the draft.
Choice: Andrew Thomas (OT)