Well, I’m locked in my house, having just started the first couple of days of a 3 week quarantine. Bad news is that I’m slowly losing my sanity. Good news is that I finally have more time to put together articles on some of the research I’ve been doing.
Today I was going to publish a piece on how the first 13 picks of the 2020 NFL Draft were going to unravel. Just as I was putting in my finishing touches, I get a notification from ESPN: “DeForest Buckner going to Indy in exchange for the Colts 2020 first round pick”. Being a bay area resident, I can tell you that Buckner is the real deal. However, I wish somebody broke the news earlier because now my article was obsolete.
Or so I thought.
I realized that instead of mocking the first 13 picks, I could do the entire first round. At the time of this writing the Indianapolis Colts had just signed Philip Rivers to a 1-year $25 million deal. With that in mind, let me show you what my plan would be as the Colts GM.
Close out Free Agency
I’m not going to bother you with some of the smaller name free agents Ballard will undoubtedly add to create competition within the roster. Barring any drastic changes, I highly doubt that the Colts will sign another big-name, marquee free agent (that goes for the Jadeveon Clowney fan club).
A player who I think deserves a closer look is former Bears first round pick Leonard Floyd. A physical specimen who struggled to put it all together, Floyd could find a home in Indy as a developmental pass-rusher. There seems to be a decently sized market for Floyd’s skills, however, and if the asking price gets too high I’d have no problem with the Colts walking away.
Extending Ryan Kelly could also be something that interests the Colts. The 2016 first round pick made his first Pro Bowl this season and played 94.52% of all snaps last season. His 5th year clause becomes guaranteed this Friday, and Ballard is one to pay deserving players a year before they hit free agency. Kelly is most certainly a deserving player.
My goal here was simple. I’m not a big fan of those draft engines, so I wanted to make a realistic first round mock draft and prove to Colts fans everywhere how we could land Jordan Love even after trading away the 13th overall pick. With each pick I’ll try and add a line or two of analysis to explain the selection.
Without further ado, let’s start.
1. Bengals - Joe Burrow, QB LSU
2. Redskins - Chase Young, Edge Ohio State
Look at the explanation for the first pick
3. Lions - Jeffrey Okudah, CB Ohio State
I seriously considered taking Isaiah Simmons here. However, an Okudah and Darius Slay cornerback pairing, in an NFC North that houses two very good opposing QBs, makes too much sense.
4. Giants - Isaiah Simmons, LB Clemson
The Giants signed Blake Martinez to improve their run defense. They draft Simmons to improve their defense in general.
5. Dolphins - Tua Tagovailoa, QB Alabama
#TankForTua is a success. The former Alabama QB seems to be ahead of schedule when it comes to his rehab. However, I still think they sit him for, at minimum, half the season so he can watch and learn from none other than the Harvard man himself, Ryan Fitzpatrick.
6. Chargers - Justin Herbert, QB Oregon
It’s a toss up between Jordan Love and Justin Herbert, but I think the Oregon product wins out. Love at 6th is a little too rich. If the Chargers wanted to take him, watch for Lynn and Co. to trade back. For now, Herbert it is.
7. Panthers - Derrick Brown, DT Auburn
Matt Rhule seems to want to blow up the Panthers and start from scratch. He’s got himself a new franchise QB along with an abundance of offensive weapons. He goes BPA here and takes the best interior defensive linemen in the class.
8. Cardinals - Tristan Wirfs, OT Iowa
Welp, the Cardinals have all the weapons they could possibly want along with their franchise QB, now they just have to give Murray time in the pocket to throw. Into the picture enters Wirfs, who, after destroying the Combine, seems to be the de facto OT1.
9. Jaguars - CeeDee Lamb, WR Oklahoma
Was “Minshew Mania” a flash-in-the-pan type of ordeal or do the Jaguars really have their QB of the future? Before they’re set to pay him the big bucks, the Jaguars front office has to see what the “Mustache Menace” (made that one up, feel free to use it) can do with a shiny new WR1.
10. Browns - Mekhi Becton, OT Louisville
Here’s one of my NFL Draft sweethearts. A behemoth of a man who can move around with the nimbleness of a cat and has the strength of a sumo wrestler. He’s not a finished product but he’s got the tools to be a Pro Bowl caliber left tackle. Take into account that Greg Robinson might serve up to 20 years in federal prison and you’ve got yourself a no-brainer.
11. Jets - Jedrick Wills, OT Alabama
There’s going to be a run on tackles at some point in the first round, and it will be sooner rather than later. The Jets have invested in their offensive line during free agency, with what ends up being nothing more than a few embellished 1 year deals with team options ensuing afterwards. Wills can start off at right tackle and move to the other side of the line if the George Fant experiment fails.
12. Broncos - Henry Ruggs, WR Alabama
TRADE: Broncos give the 15th and 77th pick for the 12th overall pick.
Amongst coaching and front office circles it has become abundantly clear that the Broncos have fallen head over heals for Ruggs and his blazing speed. With a wide receiver already off the board and two teams ahead of them who could possibly go WR (49ers and Raiders), the Broncos decide to leap ahead and get their guy.
13. 49ers - Jerry Jeudy, WR Alabama
The 49ers are going to be a problem next year. With no pressing needs, they can afford to select the best player available. That’s Jeudy, the route running connoisseur who is regarded as the best wide receiver in the draft by some. Javon Kinlaw was considered here, but his lack of sack production and schematic fit lead Lynch and Co. to select the better overall talent, Jeudy.
14. Bucs - Andrew Thomas, OT Georgia
What a time to be a Bucs fan. The Todd Bowles defense was top 5 in the league last year. The run defense was far and away one of the teams strengths. The secondary needs some work, but I like the teams two young corners. The offense is littered with weapons and with the GOAT at the helm, this team seems to be destined for success. Arians could use a bell cow running back, but I think he decides to protect his new quarterback in the first round and address the other need in the second.
15. Jaguars - C.J. Henderson, CB Florida
TRADE: Jaguars give 20th and 73rd pick for the 15th overall pick
The Jaguars desperately need cornerback help after losing both Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye to trades. Henderson has a skinny frame, but he’s a great man cover DB. After a good combine he seems to have solidified himself as the leader of the pack behind Okudah. Furthermore, the Jags also know that the Cowboys need some secondary help, so they leapfrog them to get their guy.
16. Falcons - K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge Louisiana State
This is a pure schematic fit. Chaisson is similar to Mckinley, an edge rusher who the Falcons drafted out of UCLA in the first round a few years back (think the young man that went up with a picture of his grandma). Chaisson is a bit raw, but he’s got the athleticism, burst and bend to be an elite pass-rusher in the Falcons 3-4 scheme.
17. Cowboys - Kristian Fulton, CB Louisiana State
This is a pure need selection. The Cowboys where waiting out for Henderson and got beat by the Jaguars trading up. While Fulton is not the cover corner that Henderson is, the former can tackle in the open field much better than the latter. A good pick that helps fill the void left by Jones’ departure.
18. Dolphins - Javon Kinlaw, DT South Carolina
In a weak defensive tackle class, one would assume that Kinlaw would be long gone by the time the Dolphin’s second first round pick came up. Unfortunately for the South Carolina product, it wasn’t his night. Kinlaw goes down to Miami to pair up with Colts fans darling, and National Championship backflip master, Christian Wilkins where the duo will form a formidable interior defensive line for years to come.
19. Raiders - Kenneth Murray, LB Oklahoma
The Raiders badly needed linebacker help. What’d they do about it? They signed Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski, and in this simulation they also take a physically gifted linebacker out of Oklahoma.
20. Raiders - Justin Jefferson, WR Louisiana State
The Raiders traded down not once, but twice in the first round. They moved down a mere 8 spots and in the process acquired the 73rd and 77th overall picks. In Jefferson they get a skillful slot wide receiver and CFB’s 3rd leading receiver this past season.
21. Eagles - Trevon Diggs, CB Alabama
Just as the Raiders pick was announced, the Eagles front office became devastated. Jefferson was going to be their guy. In the first round they have to either address the WR or CB room, and with the value not being there for receivers, the Eagles select Stefon Diggs’ little brother.
22. Vikings - Josh Jones, OT Houston
The Vikings need to protect Kirk Cousins after extending him and open running lanes for their star running back. Jones has the measurements and he shined during the Senior Bowl, but he has some polishing to do at the next level, especially when it comes to his consistency. There are also some questions about how the level of play might impact him in the NFL.
23. Patriots - A.J. Epenesa, DE/DT Iowa
Trey Flowers left for greener pastures a few off-seasons ago. Epenesa, however, seems to be a carbon-copy of the player Flowers was. The Iowa prospect doesn’t have the burst or bend of a Chaisson, but he does have great size and hand usage to go along with the flexibility to play outside and inside. Jordan Love is an option here, but Belichick likes what he saw from Stidham last year.
24. Colts - Jordan Love, QB Utah State
TRADE: The Colts give the 44th, 122nd and a 2021 2nd rounder to the Saints for the 24th pick.
Do the Colts overpay? Kind of. This is similar to the trade Ballard made last year during draft night. He gave up the 26th pick for the 59th pick and a 2020 second rounder. This is slightly more expensive, but think about what the conversation between Ballard and Sean Payton must’ve been like.
“Hey Sean, what do you say you give me the 24th for the 44th and a 3rd in 2021”
“C’mon Ballard, don’t low-ball me. 34th and another 2nd”
“Sean, I’m not giving you a high second round pick to move up 10 spots. That’s terrible and you know it. 44th and a 2021 second for the 24th”
“I know you’re trading up for Jordan. Thing is, we like Jordan. He could even sit behind Brees for two years...”
“OK Sean, I’ll add the 122nd pick this year, but I won’t give you a penny more”
“Uh....fine, you’ve got yourself a deal”
And just like that, the Colts got their QB of the future, kept the 34th overall pick, got an All-Pro 3-Tech and a talented win-now veteran QB who can show Love the ropes.
25. Vikings - Jaylon Johnson, CB Utah
Perfect scheme fit. Kind of flying under the radar. Fits what the Vikings like to do on defense from a zone defense standpoint. Vikings lost out on Waynes as he signed a $42M deal with the Bengals. Still, Zimmer is know for drafting corners in the first round and letting his older DBs walk in FA.
26. Dolphins - Cesar Ruiz, C Michigan
This might seem like a reach to some, but Ruiz is the best interior offensive lineman in an otherwise weak class. He would help develop Flores emphasis to build upon the trenches and would help round out and amazing first round by the Dolphins.
27. Seahawks - Lucas Niang, OT Texas Christian
The Seahawks are risk takers when it comes to the first round (Rashaad Penny and L.J. Collier last two years). Niang helps address offensive line needs they’ve had since they drafted Wilson. He’s a physical specimen, who’s a bit top heavy and has skinny ankles, but he matches the athletic profile the Seahawks like to draft. Ezra Cleveland was also considered here.
28. Browns - Patrick Queen, LB Louisiana State
TRADE: Browns give 41st, 115th and 2021 third for the Ravens 28th and 143rd pick
The Browns need either a safety or a linebacker here. Delpit, Winfield, McKinney were all considered here, but after losing Schobert, the Browns need a new leader at the heart of their defense. Queen has great leadership skills, play recognition, tackling and down-field coverage.
29. Titans - Xavier McKinney, S Alabama
The Titans don’t have many immediate pressing needs. They could use some offensive interior line help, but like I stated above, the class is a bit lackluster. McKinney can do a little bit of everything in the secondary and his versatility helps fill out depth roles at multiple positions.
30. Packers - Laviska Shenault, WR Colorado
Shenault is a freak athlete who has tremendous upside. He can run a wildcat, catch it out the backfield, run jet sweeps, get 50-50 balls and break out yards after the catch like it’s nothing. His route running needs a little work. Still, I can most definitely see the Colorado prospect catching passes from Rodgers at the next level
31. 49ers - Ross Blacklock, DT Texas Christian
As all Colts’ fans know, the 49ers traded away their star defensive tackle to Indy for the 13th overall pick. They replace Buckner with the TCU star who at 6’3’’ 295 pounds is a good scheme fit for the 49ers who, like the Colts, run a 4-3 defense that emphasizes penetration.
32. Chiefs - Jonathan Taylor, RB Wisconsin
Because why not. The Chiefs had two running backs that averaged over 4.5 YPC and more than 465 yard per season. Nonetheless, they’re missing a pure bell cow back since the Hunt incident. Assuming they retain Chris Jones, their defense is mostly set. This would allow them to further construct their already godly offense. Is this a luxury pick? Yes, but I don’t care.