2020 NFL Draft Report Cards: NFC North

Training camp is right around the bend, and before it begins, I’ll be finishing up my NFL off-season coverage and this draft report card series, continuing today with the NFC North. Check out the links below for previous articles in the series:

NFL Draft Report Cards 2020

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

Now let’s dive right in:

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2020 NFL Draft Report Cards: NFC East

Sports aren’t quite back yet, but they’re getting close. The NBA and NHL are set to start in July, and the NFL will start training camp at that point. The MLB is working on a deal to do the same. But in the meantime, I’ll be working on predictions for these returns, and continuing with NFL off-season coverage, in the form of fantasy football content (on my @bsmfantasyfootball Instagram account) and finishing this draft report card series with NFC draft reviews. Today I’ll be reviewing the NFC East, and you can check out the previous posts in the series as well:

NFL Draft Report Cards 2020

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

Dallas Cowboys: A-

The Cowboys had a very strong draft, getting several steals in the form of CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs, Neville Gallimore, and Tyler Biadasz. In addition they filled most of their big needs, as they added to the secondary and receiving corps and brought in Gallimore, a young, talented player to pair with veteran DTs Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe. They could’ve used a TE to pair with Blake Jarwin, but it appears they’ll give Jarwin a chance to shine in a 3 WR, 1 TE offense. They also could’ve used more depth at safety, but they should be fine with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Xavier Woods, and Darian Thompson there, especially after bolstering the CB depth chart by drafting two of them. This draft wasn’t perfect, but it filled most of Dallas’ needs and included multiple steals, so it’s pretty close to it.

New York Giants: B+

The Giants could’ve used some more defensive line help here, but they did add to their secondary and offensive line, two of their other big positions of need. I feel they reached on some of their picks, especially in the later rounds, and they should’ve been filling the d-line need before drafting a bunch of linebackers in those later rounds. I did like the early round picks of Andrew Thomas and Xavier McKinney, as they were good value selections that filled needs. But they could’ve finished this off better despite a strong draft overall.

Philadelphia Eagles: B-

The Eagles had three major needs coming into this draft: WR, LB, and the secondary. The team made en effort to fill all three of those needs, but there was no need to take QB Jalen Hurts in the 2nd round, and they also reached on many of the WRs and LBs they drafted when here were better options at the position on the board. The Eagles also brought in a couple of Auburn players to add to a deep offensive line, which they’ll be thankful for with Brandon Brooks getting hurt. The team did reach on several players and could’ve done better, but they will benefit from this draft class.

Washington Redskins: C+

The Redskins reached on a lot of their later selections, and they could’ve added more linebackers and drafted a tight end. They did get star edge rusher Chase Young though, and I liked the Antonio Gandy-Golden pick as it filled a need at WR and provided the team with good value. This draft class had some highlights, but overall I wasn’t that impressed with the value the Redskins received, and the team is left with holes even after the draft.

That’s all for my NFC East draft reviews. Stay tuned for more draft reviews soon.

2020 NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC West Edition

It’s been a tough time in America. Coronavirus is still widespread and systemic racism has come to light after the murder of George Floyd. Yesterday, I declined to post in honor of Blackout Tuesday, and I feel that the Black Lives Matter movement should continue to get attention. But in a time like this, sports can provide an escape and bring people together. Even though sports aren’t back, I’ll be making the most of the sports subjects I can discuss. Today, I’ll be continuing my NFL draft report card series with the AFC West. Also coming soon, I’ll have another entry in my Return to Sports column.

NFL Draft Report Cards 2020

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

undefined Los Angeles Chargers: B+

I thought the Chargers brought in a pretty good draft class, filling their major positional needs over anything else. The Chargers started off by drafting Justin Herbert, who many people thought they reached for, but I think Herbert is good value at that spot, and it fills LA’s biggest need by far. They would’ve been fine without trading up for Kenneth Murray, but the rest of their picks made sense, as they drafted a new goal line RB, a couple WRs, and a safety to add secondary depth. They could’ve used some o-line and d-line help, but they did address those positions in the 2019 draft, and hopefully their draft picks from last year up their game for 2020.

Kansas City Chiefs: B

Note: There is an error in the graphic (overall grade is B not B-)

The Chiefs started off their draft very strongly, filling many top positional needs by drafting RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, OLB Willie Gay Jr., OL Lucas Niang, and DB L’Jarius Sneed (who did fill a need despite the fact that Kansas City reached for him). But once their needs were filled, they reached on multiple occasions. I can understand using late round picks on a team’s personal favorite players, especially for a team like the Chiefs who didn’t have many needs and filled the ones they did have early. So I don’t mind this draft class.

Denver Broncos: B-

The Broncos addressed their depth problem at WR quickly, drafting Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler in early rounds and adding in Tyrie Cleveland in Round 7. They did fill most of their other needs as well. But they reached on McTelvin Agim and could have used more help for the d-line and secondary. They did what they needed to do (at least for the most part), but very few of their picks stood out and very few of the players Denver picked were the best possible option at that spot.

Las Vegas Raiders: B-

The Raiders filled their need at WR early as expected, and also addressed their need for DBs. But they reached on several occasions and in focusing too much on WR and DB, failed to address their biggest needs at linebacker. S Tanner Muse can play LB, but I don’t see him starting next to incoming free agents Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatowski. I expect a lot of 2 LB nickel formations this year, as the Raiders are seriously lacking in LB depth. In addition, there were better options on the board in Round 1 than Henry Ruggs III and Damon Arnette. The Raiders could’ve had a CeeDee Lamb-Kristian Fulton duo instead. The Raiders do leave this draft as a better, more well-rounded team, but this was not their best work.

That’s all for my AFC West draft grades, and it also concludes the AFC portion of this series. Next time, I’ll be looking at the NFC East.

2020 NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC South Edition

As I said yesterday, my NFL draft report card series will be continuing in the coming weeks along side my new column, the Return of Sports. Today, I have draft reviews for every AFC South team.

NFL Draft Report Cards 2020

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

Jacksonville Jaguars: B+

The Jaguars had a pretty good draft, filling majority of their positional needs. The early selections of C.J. Henderson and Davon Hamilton fill major needs, as Hamilton replaces Calais Campbell (traded) and Henderson adds depth to a DB corps that needs it. Jake Luton is an interesting addition to the QB room, but I find it interesting that they didn’t even consider top tier QBs in this draft. I think this will definitely be a “prove it” season for Gardner Minshew, because the Jags can tank for Trevor Lawrence if Minshew struggles. I like the K’Lavon Chaisson pick, as it provides insurance if Yannick Ngakoue holds out or leaves Jacksonville. I would have probably drafted a running back as Leonard Fournette insurance too, and I would’ve drafted a safety earlier, but overall the Jaguars did pretty well.

Tennessee Titans: B

The Titans have a pretty balanced roster, so there wasn’t much they needed out of this draft. They got very good value by taking the best player available, Kristian Fulton in Round 2, a smart move considering the Titans don’t have any glaring positional needs to fill. They filled their biggest needs, o-line and d-line, and got some good value along the day. I wasn’t a huge fan of their later round picks, and it’s hard to knock a draft out of the park when it’s unclear what the team needed out of this draft in the first place. But if I were Mike Vrabel, I’d be satisfied with this draft class.

Houston Texans: B-

Bill O’Brien made some pretty questionable moves throughout the off-season, and this draft class was far from perfect. But I do have to give O’Brien some credit for starting the draft off strong with his Day 2 selections. Blacklock and Greenard provide Houston with great value on players that will help fill two of the team’s biggest defensive needs. Even with J.J. Watt leading the way, this Texans defense is depleted, and this draft class helped improve it.

However, instead of following it up by fixing the o-line and drafting a better tight end, the Texans made some questionable choices on Day 3. I understand the Charlie Heck selection, but they want Heck to play guard, and IOL Netane Muti was still on the board. CB John Reid was far from worthy of a 4th rounder, and the Texans are fairly well off at corner. The Coulter pick was also a bit of a reach, though it’s understandable that the team wanted a good mid-range receiver to help play a part in replacing DeAndre Hopkins, something that cannot be done by a single player. These selections were okay, but there were much better options on the board, and QB Deshaun Watson is left without much extra protection headed into the season.

Indianapolis Colts: C+

The Colts made a lot of questionable decisions in this draft. Michael Pittman Jr., the team’s first pick was far from the best WR left on the board, and there were many other players the Colts reached on. I can respect the selection of QB Jacob Eason, but many of these other selections made little sense. The Colts did fill their biggest needs, but they waited on most of their need-filling until Day 3, and it wasn’t like they received amazing value out of their Day 2 selections to make up for this fact. This draft class isn’t outright terrible, but it’s definitely flawed.

That’s all for this portion of my NFL draft report cards. Stay tuned for AFC West draft grades, as well as an update on the Return of Sports in the coming days.

2020 NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC North

It’s been a little bit since I last posted; I’ve been caught up watching the Survivor finale, catching up on schoolwork, and checking to see when sports are coming back.  But today, I’ll be continuing my draft grade series with the AFC North.  I’m hoping to ramp up posting this week with the continuation of this series, but until online school is over, I can’t guarantee anything.  For now, I’ll be taking a look at this division, which includes some of the best draft classes in the league.

NFL Draft Report Cards 2020

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

cincinnati-bengals Cincinnati Bengals: A-

Most teams traded draft picks at some point.  But the Bengals were content with the 1st pick of each round, and I think it made for a pretty good draft class.  Joe Burrow was absolutely the right choice #1 overall.  I also liked some of their late round picks, as they got good value on offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji and linebacker Markus Bailey.  If the Bengals were good last year, they wouldn’t have this much draft capital.  But headed in to this year, I think they’re a better team.  This off-season, they addressed majority of their burning positional needs.  They found their new franchise QB and stocking up on linebackers in this draft.  In addition, they signed some quality defensive players in free agency like DT D.J. Reader and S Vonn Bell.

cleveland-browns-brown Cleveland Browns: A-

After they got steals in CB Greedy Williams (Round 2) and LB Mack Wilson (Round 5) last year, I gave the Browns the league’s highest draft grade.  This year, they had another solid draft and end up with one of the best grades in the league all over again.  They started the draft off by getting some protection for QB Baker Mayfield in Jedrick Wills Jr.  Wills, along with free agent signing Jack Conklin and new IOL Nick Harris, should make for a big improvement in the Browns o-line.  The Browns also got a couple more steals in S Grant Delpit (Round 2) and WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (Round 6).  Like the Bengals, they filled majority of their positional needs in this draft, and that should help the team take a significant step forward this year.  I can justify almost all of Cleveland’s draft picks; the only selection I don’t understand is the choice of TE Harrison Bryant, since the Browns already have a TE duo in Austin Hooper (free agent signing) and David Njoku.

Baltimore_Ravens_Logo Baltimore Ravens: B+

The Ravens didn’t have that many draft needs after a huge 2019 season, but they filled the ones they had.  Patrick Queen, Justin Madubuike, and Malik Harrison will be great additions to an improving Ravens front seven that already added veteran d-linemen Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe this March.  They also gave QB Lamar Jackson some more WR depth behind Marquise Brown in Devin Duvernay and James Proche.  Ben Bredeson will help fill the gap Marshal Yanda left behind.  I didn’t understand the choice of RB J.K. Dobbins, as the Ravens don’t necessarily need him.  But Dobbins was great value and has the potential to replace Mark Ingram as Baltimore’s RB1.  Overall, this draft class was great, but it’s tough to beat out the excellent draft classes Cincinnati and Cleveland put together.  I could see the AFC North becoming one of the league’s stronger divisions in 2020.  The Ravens are the divisional favorites, but they’ll have competition.

pittsburgh-steelers Pittsburgh Steelers: C

This is the one AFC North draft class that I’m not a huge fan of.  The Steelers struggled to fill their needs and reached on multiple occasions.  The Steelers did address the offensive line, but Kevin Dotson was far from the best option to do so.  They also could’ve done more to help the secondary, even though they did draft Antoine Brooks Jr.  Their Day 2 picks were both reaches in my opinion.  WR Chase Claypool received too much hype after the combine, and Alex Highsmith may struggle after weaker competition in college.  Plus, Highsmith is far from a perfect fit in Pittsburgh.  I don’t mind the selections of Brooks and RB Anthony McFarland, who could help fill in if RB James Conner gets hurt and once Conner leaves in free agency.  But Pittsburgh missed on several needs and that could take a toll on their 2020 performance.  Even with QB Ben Roethlisberger returning and the playoff field expanded, I can’t see Pittsburgh making the playoffs, and things will only go downhill from here with several players on expiring contracts.

That’s all for this portion of my draft grades.  I’ll be reviewing the AFC South next, so stay tuned for that post soon.

2020 NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC East

The NFL draft is in the books, and most of this off-season’s action has come to a close.  There’s no other sports to watch (besides the KBO, which is suddenly relevant with the MLB postponed but on way too early in the morning for most).  So to fill the gap, I’ll be writing about how each team did in the NFL draft in this eight article series, division by division.  I’ll be writing about each team’s draft performance and how it may affect their regular season performance.  Let’s start this off with the AFC East.

NFL Draft Report Cards 2020

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins: B+

The Dolphins started off the draft strong by taking Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa despite injury concerns.  After that, they may have filled a good number of their needs, addressing the o-line and the secondary as well as acquiring RB Matt Breida from the 49ers.  But they reached a bit for certain players.  The most notable reach was their selection of CB Noah Igbinoghene at #30.  Igbinoghene is a good DB who can play nickel CB for the Dolphins, but Miami had a much bigger need for a safety than a corner, and there were better options at corner like Kristian Fulton and Trevon Diggs.  Overall, this was a good draft for the Dolphins, and the team should see improvement not only in 2020 but in years to come.  But simply put, there was more room for improvement.  The Dolphins could’ve nailed this draft, and they did well, but it wasn’t anything mind blowing.

Brand New: New Logo and Uniforms for New York Jets New York Jets: B+

Let me get this straight: I can’t see the Jets doing well in this division this year. The Bills are looking better than they were last year, the Patriots still have Bill Belichick coaching and will at least be decent, and the Dolphins are gearing up for the Tua Tagovailoa era. That leaves the Jets as the odd team out in this division.

But I have a slightly more hope for the Jets after a strong draft. If he reaches full potential, Mekhi Becton will be a huge help for the o-line. Denzel Mims could easily emerge as Sam Darnold’s new favorite target. Bryce Hall might very well be the biggest steal of the draft, as he fills a huge need at corner and he’s great value for the Jets in Round 5. There weren’t any big misses here, and there were a couple really good picks. I don’t love the fit for Jabari Zuniga, as he’d be better in a 4-3 defense. But other than that, I don’t have many complaints here.

new_england_patriots New England Patriots: B

Last year, Bill Belichick tried his best to get some good value, and he did with DE Chase Winovich in the 3rd and QB Jarrett Stidham in the 4th. This year, Belichick prioritized securing his favorite players in the draft class as he often does. Sometimes, this strategy really pays off. Other times, it doesn’t, so overall this is a boom or bust draft class. But the Pats did a pretty good job filling needs, drafting front seven help and tight end help on Day 2 in the form of Joshua Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Devin Asiasi, and Dalton Keene. I like the Asiasi pick more than most, he has a lot of potential. But I still don’t understand the selection of Kyle Dugger at 37. They could’ve taken Dugger later and the secondary is not a priority. Many have criticized the rest of this draft class too. But considering Belichick’s occasional success with this strategy and considering the fact that the Pats filled their biggest needs, I think they did alright. One thing that did become clear after this draft: Bill Belichick trusts Jarrett Stidham as New England’s future QB, and I think Stidham is capable of being Brady’s successor.

Buffalo_Bills Buffalo Bills: B-

The Bills started off this draft very strong, getting a first round talent in DE A.J. Epenesa despite trading their first round pick for WR Stefon Diggs. They also found Zack Moss, a running back to pair with Devin Singletary. But I don’t understand their Day 3 draft strategy. The Bills were fine at WR with the trio of Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley, yet they drafted two WRs. They drafted a kicker in Round 6 (Stephen Hauschka is their current kicker). They took QB Jake Fromm when Josh Allen is likely locked in as Buffalo’s QB for years to come. Worst of all, they never addressed the o-line, at least not until they signed Trey Adams as a UDFA. I don’t love this draft class, but overall, the Bills did get a lot better this off-season, and they started off this draft strong, so I had to give them some credit. You could say Stefon Diggs is essentially their first round pick, and Diggs will be a big help for this offense, taking pressure off Brown and Beasley and helping Allen improve as a passer.

That’s all for Part 1 of my draft grades.  Stay tuned for more posts soon, including Part 2 of this series, when I’ll review the draft class of every AFC North team.

2020 NFL Mock Draft 2.0: My Final First Round Projection before Draft Day

The NFL Draft is right around 24 hours away, and with some extra time I’ve decided to take another crack at a mock draft.  Some people are saying this draft will be uneventful with minimal trades due to the lack of face to face communication.  Others are saying the lack of consensus about prospects will make this draft one of the craziest in recent history.  I think it will be somewhere in the middle.  There will be some predictable picks, and some big surprises.  Here’s my final projection of the draft’s first round with trades, incorporating that mix of surprise and expectation.  It also incorporates a mix of what I think should happen and what I think will happen.

1. cincinnati-bengals Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

This might very well be the only lock of this draft.  The Redskins appear to be listening to offers for the 2nd pick, and I think that’s the right move.  But there is no circumstance in which I could justify the Bengals passing on Burrow.  They have a desperate need for a QB.  I feel that Tua Tagovailoa has the highest ceiling of QBs in this draft class, but Burrow is close, and he has a much higher floor.

TRADE ALERT:

Falcons acquire: #2 overall pick

Redskins acquire: #16 overall pick, #78 overall pick, 2021 1st rounder, 2021 3rd rounder

2. atlfalcons Atlanta Falcons (via Washington)

Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

This trade makes a lot more sense than you might think.  Rumors are swirling that the Falcons will look to trade up from their 16th pick in order to draft an elite defensive player.  There’s been a lot of buzz about a trade with the Lions, Falcons, or Jaguars to take someone like DT Derrick Brown or CB C.J. Henderson.  How about Chase Young for an elite defensive player?  The Redskins would actually be smart to trade this pick if the right offer is on the table, and I don’t think it’s going to the Giants like I said in my first mock.  Young isn’t a great fit in Washington, and the Redskins should prioritize upgrading the offense around QB Dwayne Haskins in this draft.  On the contrary, Young would fit perfectly on the Falcons defense as the Falcons provide a much needed upgrade to their pass rush.  There’s already a complete offer on the table for the #2 pick, could it be an offer from Atlanta?

3. Detroit Lions Logos | History team and Primary emblem Detroit Lions

Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State

The Lions are another team considering a trade down, but I don’t think the Dolphins or Chargers are motivated enough to trade up for their QB, and if the Lions trade down any further than that, they risk missing out on Okudah.  CB Desmond Trufant is good, but he’s no replacement for Darius Slay.  Okudah can serve that role, and it would be foolish of Detroit to pass on him. 

4. new-york-giants-logo New York Giants

Jedrick Wills, T, Alabama

The Giants were considering ILB Isaiah Simmons with this pick, but I think their biggest need is for a right tackle to play alongside LT Nate Solder.  Wills was the right tackle for QB Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama.  He’ll fit right in with the Giants as QB Daniel Jones’ right tackle.

5. Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

The Dolphins appear to be too worried about Tua’s injury history to take him over QB Justin Herbert.  If the Chargers jump them for pick #3 and take Herbert, I could see Miami taking a chance on Tua.  But Herbert will still probably be on the board, and I see him as the safer option.  Herbert doesn’t have the potential Tua has, but I don’t think the Dolphins want to take a gamble on Tua with Herbert, another top tier QB in this draft class, still on the board.

6. Chargers make some alterations to logo for 2020 season - Los ... Los Angeles Chargers

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

The Chargers are a good landing spot for Tua.  If Herbert’s gone and Tua’s available at this pick, I can’t see the Chargers passing up.  QB Tyrod Taylor, who the Chargers have a level of confidence in, can serve as a bridge QB while Tua develops and recovers from the injuries that plagued his college career.  Then when Tua’s ready, he’ll hopefully become LA’s next star QB.  Who knows?  If he takes over midway through the season, maybe he can lead the Chargers on a playoff run.

7. carolina-panthers-logo Carolina Panthers

Isaiah Simmons, ILB, Clemson

The Dolphins and Chargers were desperate for QBs, so they had an excuse to pass on Simmons.  The Panthers could use a linebacker to replace Luke Kuechly, and Simmons falling to 7 would be a dream scenario for them.  Simmons is an elite defensive play-maker, and he’s not just a linebacker.  He has the versatility to play in a variety of defensive positions.  As Carolina rebuilds, they will be able to build their defense around Simmons.

8. az-cards Arizona Cardinals

Tristan Wirfs, T, Iowa

DT Derrick Brown could be an option here, as the Cardinals need some d-line help.  But I feel their o-line is even more of a priority now that Arizona lost veteran T Marcus Gilbert.  They need to add some more o-line depth this year to help protect QB Kyler Murray, and Wirfs would be a great start to that.

9. jacksonvile-jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars

Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

There’s more confusion surrounding this Jacksonville pick then I’ve seen around a Top 10 draft pick in a long time.  But with Brown on the board, it’s hard for the Jags to pass up.  I’ve heard rumors of a trade down.  I’ve heard things about the Jags reaching for DT Javon Kinlaw or CB C.J. Henderson.  But there’s no reason to pass up on Brown; he’ll be the best option here if he’s on the board.

TRADE ALERT:

Broncos acquire: #10 overall pick

Browns acquire: #15 overall pick, #83 overall pick, 2021 4th rounder

10. denver-broncos-logo Denver Broncos (via Cleveland)

CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

You might expect Cleveland to stick with this pick and take a top tackle like Andrew Thomas or Mekhi Becton.  But it appears they want to wait for T Ezra Cleveland, and that actually could make sense since the Browns have bigger needs.  But if the Browns aren’t taking a tackle or wide receiver here, there’s no reason to keep the pick.  I have them selling it to the Broncos, who will look to jump the Jets, Raiders, and 49ers for WR CeeDee Lamb.

11. Brand New: New Logo and Uniforms for New York Jets New York Jets

Andrew Thomas, T, Georgia

With Lamb (who the Jets reportedly want) off the board, the Jets have a few options here.  They could take one of Alabama’s star wide receivers, who are almost as good as Lamb.  They could also address their need at corner.  But I have them taking Thomas, one of this year’s elite o-linemen, to compete for a starting job with George Fant and/or Chuma Edoga.  I feel that Thomas is the most NFL ready tackle in this draft, and it’s possible he puts up a better season than both of New York’s current projected starters.

12. oakland-raiders Las Vegas Raiders

Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

The Raiders would probably also target Lamb here if he was available.  But Jeudy is also a great option to serve as QB Derek Carr’s new top target.  TE Darren Waller was Carr’s top target last year, but the Raiders could use a true #1 receiver, and guys like Lamb and Jeudy are the best options to fill that role.

13. San Francisco 49ers Logo F5 - Football & Sports Background ... San Francisco 49ers (via Indianapolis)

C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

The 49ers could opt for WR Henry Ruggs III or DT Javon Kinlaw here.  But Henderson is reportedly rising up draft boards, and it appears there’s a big drop off after Okudah and Henderson in this cornerback class.  The 49ers can worry about replacing DeForest Buckner or adding another weapon for QB Jimmy Garoppolo later.  They should take advantage of the opportunity to draft Henderson here.  Henderson and Richard Sherman could make for one of the league’s best cornerback duos if Henderson reaches his full potential.

14. tampabaybuccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mekhi Becton, T, Louisville

I originally had Tampa opting for a running back here, but they could grab a running back in Round 2 if someone like Becton is still available here.  I feel Becton is the riskiest choice of these four top tackles, explaining his fall.  But it’s hard to pass on him at 14 with Wills, Wirfs, and Thomas all gone.

15. cleveland-browns-brown Cleveland Browns (via Denver)

K’Lavon Chaisson, OLB, LSU

The Browns don’t need to reach for Ezra Cleveland with this 15th pick; they’ll have a good chance at him in Round 2.  It would be a better option here to address the front seven here, and Chaisson has the versatility to play either defensive end or outside linebacker.  The Browns desperately need help at linebacker, and they could use another edge rusher to help out Myles Garrett.

16. washingtonredskins2 Washington Redskins (via Atlanta)

Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

After trading down, the Redskins find themselves with the perfect opportunity to help out QB Dwayne Haskins.  Ruggs isn’t quite as good as Jeudy or Lamb in my opinion, but he’ll be a solid #2 WR for the Redskins, playing next to second year receiver Terry McLaurin.

17. dalcowboyslogonew Dallas Cowboys

Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

The Cowboys will probably consider a trade down here.  But the d-line is a top need, and if Kinlaw falls to 17, he’ll probably be the best player on the board.  With this pick, the Cowboys take advantage of Kinlaw’s slide and help fill a big need.  Making that kind of pick is more valuable than trading down.

18. Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh)

Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

With the top four tackles off the board, it could be smart for Miami to wait on a tackle, even though they have a big need there.  They could also use a safety with Reshad Jones and Minkah Fitzpatrick gone, and as one of the best safeties in this draft class, McKinney is the perfect replacement.  Grant Delpit appears to have more potential than McKinney, but McKinney is a safer pick here.

19. oakland-raiders Las Vegas Raiders (via Chicago)

Patrick Queen, OLB, LSU

The Raiders will probably address the offense at #12.  But with this pick, they have defensive needs to fill.  Queen was a difference maker on LSU’s defense last year, and the Raiders could use an elite player to lead their linebacker corps.  They addressed the position in free agency by signing Nick Kwiatowski and Cory Littleton, but they need more than just quality starters on defense.  They need a leader, and Queen has the potential to be that guy.

20. jacksonvile-jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars (via LA Rams)

Grant Delpit, S, LSU

Delpit has slid down some teams’ boards.  But I think he has the potential to emerge as one of the best defensive players from this draft class, and the Jaguars need some serious secondary help.  If they decide to pass on Delpit, I think they should absolutely take another corner or safety with this pick, especially after opting to focus on the d-line at #9.

21. philadelphia-eagles-logo Philadelphia Eagles

Kenneth Murray, OLB, Oklahoma

Historically, the Eagles have rarely taken linebackers Round 1.  But linebacker is by far their biggest need in this draft, and with the top three wide receivers in this draft class off the board, it would be a smarter choice to take Murray, one of the top linebackers in this class, than a second tier wide receiver like Justin Jefferson or Denzel Mims.  Jefferson’s name has gained steam, but I don’t think the Eagles should take Jefferson over a guy like Murray, and I think they will seriously consider a linebacker here.

22. Screenshot 2020-04-05 at 12.23.14 PM Minnesota Vikings

Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

The Vikings have a much bigger need at WR than Philly does.  With WR Stefon Diggs gone, Adam Thielen emerges as Minnesota’s surefire #1 receiver.  But the Vikings need a new #2 guy.  Jefferson, like Thielen is a slot receiver, and he’s not just any slot receiver.  He was LSU star QB Joe Burrow’s slot receiver.  But he’s a much better choice than any of the other receivers left on the board, and WR Bisi Johnson can serve as Minnesota’s outside receiver with Thielen and Jefferson handling the slot.

23. new_england_patriots New England Patriots

Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

I originally said the Patriots should pair QB Jarrett Stidham with a veteran as opposed to a young QB.  But the Patriots have their sights set on drafting a QB in the first 3 rounds.  They do need some serious linebacker help with Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins on their way out.  But with Queen and Murray gone, I think the Pats should take a chance on Love.  Love had an amazing sophomore season at Utah State, and he did throw a lot of picks his junior year, but if the Patriots coaching staff has the opportunity to groom him, he’ll have insane potential.  I think the Pats should hold an open QB battle between Stidham and Love, and if neither QB impresses in training camp, the Pats have veteran QB Brian Hoyer, who knows the system and can be a bridge QB for the two younger guys.

24. nosaints New Orleans Saints

Cesar Ruiz, IOL, Michigan

The Saints don’t have many needs to fill.  With Love gone, a Drew Brees replacement can wait.  Ruiz would be the best offensive lineman left on the board in this spot, and protecting Brees in his final years with the Saints will be very important.  The Saints already have the young Erik McCoy to play center, but they could slide Ruiz over to right guard, where he can compete for a starting job with veteran o-lineman Larry Warford.

25. Screenshot 2020-04-05 at 12.23.14 PM Minnesota Vikings (via Buffalo)

Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

After addressing their WR need at #22, the Vikings could use a young corner to replace Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, who left in free agency.  Fulton was among many star players in a championship winning LSU defense.  At LSU, Fulton and safety Grant Delpit headlined the secondary.  Here in Minnesota, he’ll have the chance to emerge as the #1 corner and lead alongside safeties Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris.

26. Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins (via Houston)

Austin Jackson, T, USC

The Dolphins have three first round picks.  They should use at least one of them on protection for their new QB.  The offensive line might very well be a bigger need for Miami than the QB position.  The top four tackles in the draft will likely be gone by this point, but I feel that Jackson is the next best, and he could end up going in the first round to an o-line needy team like Miami.

27. seattle-seahawks Seattle Seahawks

A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa

Young and Chaisson will be gone by this point, but there’s still plenty of options at #27 for the Seahawks to replace Jadeveon Clowney in the pass rush.  Epenesa led the pass rush at Iowa with 26.5 sacks over 3 seasons and can eventually do the same in Seattle.

28. Baltimore_Ravens_Logo Baltimore Ravens

Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

I originally had the Ravens taking Ruiz here to replace Marshal Yanda.  But with Ruiz gone and second tier WRs like Jalen Reagor and Denzel Mims available, the Ravens should get another weapon for QB Lamar Jackson.  Jackson plans to run less and throw more this year, and he’ll need to rely on more than just WR Marquise Brown and TE Mark Andrews to do so.  Reagor will slot in as Baltimore’s #2 or #3 wide receiver, and hopefully he’ll emerge as another top target for Jackson.

TRADE ALERT

Jets acquire: #29 overall pick

Titans acquire: #48 overall pick, #158 overall pick, 2021 3rd rounder

29. Brand New: New Logo and Uniforms for New York Jets New York Jets (via Tennessee)

A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

I think any players the Titans would want to draft here could be available in the second round, and I could see a run on CBs happening late in this first round.  The Jets are a team that will not want to miss out on that after releasing CB Trumaine Johnson in March.  Terrell’s draft stock fell after his struggles in the National Championship Game, but I still see him as a 1st round pick with the potential to be a star corner in this league.  It could be tough to adjust to playing against seasoned NFL wide receivers, but Terrell has the talent to thrive against elite receivers, he’ll just need time to get used to it.  The Jets could ease him in, starting him off as a nickel corner and hoping he develops into an elite #1 corner.

30. gbpackers2 Green Bay Packers

Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

If QB Aaron Rodgers ever wants to win a Super Bowl again, he needs another quality wide receiver to play next to Davante Adams.  Devin Funchess was brought in during free agency, but adding one more wide receiver like Mims to the mix in this draft would be a smart move for Green Bay.  The Packers defense has plenty of depth, they just need time to develop.  It’s hard to say the same about their WR corps.

TRADE ALERT

Rams acquire: #31 overall pick

49ers acquire: #52 overall pick, #126 overall pick

31. Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) | Twitter Los Angeles Rams (via San Francisco)

J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

The 49ers need to get their hands on some mid-round draft picks if they want good value on d-linemen and wide receivers.  The Rams don’t pick until the second half of Round 2, so they may be eager to jump other RB-needy teams to find a replacement for Todd Gurley.  There’s been a lot of debate as to who the best RB in the class is, but I feel J.K. Dobbins has the highest ceiling, and that’s good news for the Rams.  They had a star RB in Todd Gurley, and he got injured.  Drafting Dobbins could make up for that.

32. kansas-city-chiefs-logo Kansas City Chiefs

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

The Chiefs could also use a running back around this point in the draft, and with Dobbins gone, I have the Chiefs taking Wisconsin breakout RB Jonathan Taylor to pair with Damien Williams.  Williams was undrafted and emerged as a borderline starter for the Chiefs, but I can’t see him as a three-down back.  Darwin Thompson could serve as a third down RB for the Chiefs, but they could use more depth at the position.  Taylor was a no-name coming out of high school, and now he’s emerged as a top RB in this class.  Just like Williams, he has an underdog story of his own, and pairing these two underdogs together could make for a strong backfield to complement QB Patrick Mahomes’ pass-first offense.

That’s all for my final mock draft of the year.  Stay tuned for more content after the draft.

2020 NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Redskins, Giants Strike a Deal, OL Prospects Fall

It hasn’t been an easy time for sports fans by any means.  I’ll be sharing my experiences without sports once this whole quarantine is over.  But this April, while quarantine continues, the NFL Draft is one thing all sports fans can look forward to.  Today, I’ll be sharing my post-free agency mock draft, my first NFL mock of 2020.  This mock draft is primarily based on player rankings and my assessment of each team’s needs.  Most of the first round picks I predicted are need-filling picks.  I took rumors into account but didn’t base this mock draft entirely on rumors.

I created this mock draft on an app known as Mockout.  If you’d like to create your own mock and compare it against mine on draft day, you can join the Boston Sports Mania 2020 Mock Draft Contest on the Mockout app.

Today, I’ll be sharing the first round of this mock draft.  In addition to the first round, I wanted to give some insight about how I think Bill Belichick will be preparing for the post-Tom Brady era, and how the Bucs will be building around Brady.  So I have also included picks from Rounds 2-7 for the Patriots and Buccaneers.

Let’s kick this off with pick #1:

1. cincinnati-bengals Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

The Bengals appear to have their sights set on Burrow.  This would be a great pick for them, as they are in desperate need of a new QB with Andy Dalton falling off.  Zac Taylor helped groom QB Jared Goff in LA, so I definitely think he’s capable of preparing Burrow for NFL action.  I’ve heard rumors that the Bengals would be open to trading down, but I cannot see them letting go of the opportunity to draft Burrow.  Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert are also good QBs, but Burrow is on another level of greatness and with some  coaching from Taylor, he should be NFL ready by Week 1.

TRADE ALERT:

Giants acquire: #2 overall pick

Redskins acquire: #4 overall pick, #110 overall pick, 2021 1st rounder, 2021 3rd rounder

2. new-york-giants-logo New York Giants (via Washington)

Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

The Giants are in desperate need of front seven help, and they struck a deal with ILB Blake Martinez in free agency, but despite being linked to Jadeveon Clowney, they left the first wave of free agency without filling their need for an edge rusher.  As one of the best NFL draft prospects in years, Young would provide the Giants elite talent at the position.  Some people have even gone so far to compare Young to Giants legend Lawrence Taylor.  But the Giants would probably have to trade up to pick #2 to get their hands on Young.

The Redskins have reportedly been listening to offers for this pick, and if they don’t trade down they would likely be taking Young for themselves.  But I don’t feel that Young is a great fit for Washington, and there will be plenty of defensive talent still available at pick #4.  The trade I included above would allow the Giants to snag the defensive star they need and allow the Redskins to find a better fit for their defense at pick #4 and pick up extra draft picks in the process.  The only downside for New York: they’d have less of a chance at the top tier of offensive tackles, another position they have a need at.  As a result, these tackles will begin to fall a bit, and I could see other teams passing on these top tier tackles in order to fill bigger needs.  This could allow the Giants to pick up some good talent at tackle in later rounds, so trading up should be worth the risk for them.

3. Detroit Lions Logos | History team and Primary emblem Detroit Lions

Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State

The Lions already helped replace CB Darius Slay by signing CB Desmond Trufant.  But the Lions could still use some young talent for their secondary.  Okudah is easily the best DB prospect in this draft, and with Young and Burrow gone, he would be the best non-QB left on the board.  Okudah is definitely a good fit for the Lions and I doubt they’d pick differently in this situation.

4. washingtonredskins2 Washington Redskins (via NY Giants)

Isaiah Simmons, ILB, Clemson

Simmons is no Chase Young, but he can help fill Washington’s huge need at linebacker and would provide them with a strong defender of their own after allowing the Giants to take Young.  Simmons was a standout player on a strong Clemson defense and played both linebacker and safety, but he’s viewed by most as a linebacker headed into the draft.  He might not have the immediate impact Young will have, but with time he could become a standout on the Redskins defense too.

5. Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Tua’s season was cut short by injuries last year, and he’s dealt with a number of injuries throughout his college career.  But according to reports he is feeling 100% and passed another medical test heading into the draft.  Tua has fallen on some teams’ draft boards, but Miami is another team with a big need at QB, and I can’t see them taking Oregon QB Justin Herbert over Tua.  The Dolphins could opt for a tackle here, but that would be a better investment with their later first round picks, as Tagovailoa and Herbert will both likely be gone by Miami’s next pick.

6. Chargers make some alterations to logo for 2020 season - Los ... Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

The Chargers have said they will not be signing any free agent QBs and that they’ll be rolling with QB Tyrod Taylor.  That could change with QB Cam Newton on the open market, but it would be a better choice to take a QB with this pick, especially if Herbert is still on the board.  Herbert, ex-Oregon QB Marcus Mariota’s successor, has impressed throughout his career.  He was primed to be a top prospect in last year’s draft but opted to return to Oregon for his senior season, joining a stronger 2020 QB class.  The Chargers can use Taylor as their bridge QB, giving him a shot to prove himself while giving Herbert the chance to learn from a more experienced player.  Plus, if Taylor struggles, having Herbert ready to go will allow the Chargers the flexibility to change course during the season.

7. carolina-panthers-logo Carolina Panthers

Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

With veteran d-linemen Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy gone as well as young DT Vernon Butler, the defensive line should be Carolina’s #1 priority in this draft.  After opting to play out his senior season, Brown is one of the best d-linemen in this draft class and would be a great start in Carolina’s efforts to fill this need.  I don’t see a better option for them at #7 unless CB Jeffrey Okudah falls, which is unlikely considering the Lions will probably snag him first.

8. az-cards Arizona Cardinals

Tristan Wirfs, T, Iowa

This draft has a lot of elite o-line talent, and o-line help is arguably Arizona’s top need.  At #8, without a single offensive lineman off the board, the Cardinals will have plenty of options.  T Andrew Thomas is falling on draft boards, so Wirfs seems to be the most likely pick for Arizona if he’s still available like I think he’ll be.  Wirfs backed up a strong career at Iowa with an impressive combine, which should be enough to make the case for him as the top o-line prospect in this draft.

9. jacksonvile-jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars

Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

I’ve heard rumors that teams are looking to trade down for Kinlaw, as they would be interested in drafting him, but know he would be available later in the draft.  However, Jacksonville doesn’t have much of a need to trade down.  They already have a pair of first round picks and a good amount of picks overall.  DT is Jacksonville’s top positional need in my book, and Kinlaw appears to be the best player for them.  Even if it’s a bit of a reach, I don’t think they’ll be hesitant to take Kinlaw here.

10. cleveland-browns-brown Cleveland Browns

K’Lavon Chaisson, OLB, LSU

This is similar to Jacksonville’s pick in the fact that it is on the borderline of a reach, but fills a top team need (linebacker in this case).  Chaisson was an elite talent on the LSU defense and a key contributor and leader on this year’s NCAA championship team.  With such a big need at linebacker, it’s hard to pass on a talented linebacker like Chaisson, or even risk missing the opportunity to draft him by trading down.  There may be a lot of talent at tackle still on the board here, but Cleveland’s need at linebacker is much more significant, and the hole at tackle can be addressed in a later round.

11. Brand New: New Logo and Uniforms for New York Jets New York Jets

C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

The Jets have been eyeing top WR options with this pick.  But I think addressing New York’s defensive holes would be a better use of the pick.  Henderson didn’t have the strong season Okudah did.  But he has had a great college career overall and his elite talent should not be overlooked.  With CBs Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts gone, the Jets need some more talent at that position.  They already brought in CB Pierre Desir, but Henderson could be the star corner they need, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he outperforms Desir and stands out in the Jets secondary from the very beginning.

12. oakland-raiders Las Vegas Raiders

CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

The Raiders added WR Nelson Agholor this off-season, and QB Derek Carr utilized TE Darren Waller as a top target last season.  But the Raiders need a true WR1 if they want the chance to contend, and Lamb has the potential to be that guy.  I feel like Lamb is the most NFL-ready of the top WRs in this class, and I expect the Raiders to opt for Lamb over Alabama WRs Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III.

13. San Francisco 49ers Logo F5 - Football & Sports Background ... San Francisco 49ers (via Indianapolis)

Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

The 49ers also have a big need at WR after the departure of WR Emmanuel Sanders, and they should be able to fill it with this 1st rounder they received in the DeForest Buckner trade.  Jeudy, one of Tua Tagovailoa’s top two receivers at Alabama, would be the 49ers best option with Lamb off the board.  Jeudy would play next to second year WR Deebo Samuel, who should improve with more targets from QB Jimmy Garoppolo.  TE George Kittle is easily Garoppolo’s top target, and Samuel will be a big help for the Niners next year too.  But after struggling to find a good receiver in free agency, the 49ers need a guy like Jeudy as an additional option for Garoppolo in order to stay on top of the division and contend for the Super Bowl once again.

14. tampabaybuccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers (see rest of mock draft below)

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

The Bucs could take a top tackle prospect here.  But Tampa failed to address their backfield needs in free agency after signing QB Tom Brady.  Brady is already surrounded with some good receivers, but he’ll need a top RB in the draft and some o-line help to lead the Buccaneers back to the playoffs for the first time in a while.  There’s plenty of good o-line options in this draft class.  Elite RBs will come in smaller numbers.  I think it would be in Tampa’s best judgement to get their top RB in Taylor with this pick, waiting on offensive line help till later rounds.  Plus, there’s still plenty of offensive line options in free agency and on the trade market.  It’s hard to say the same about free agent running backs.

15. denver-broncos-logo Denver Broncos

Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Assuming Lamb and Jeudy are gone by this point, this pick makes a lot of sense.  QB Drew Lock needs another reliable receiver to pair with Courtland Sutton, and the free agent market is running low on receivers, so drafting someone like Ruggs appears to be Denver’s best option.  In addition, the Broncos have been repeatedly linked to Ruggs and rumors have pointed to Denver taking a WR here.  Ruggs was the WR2 behind Jeudy at Alabama.  He’s is a well rounded player and one of the fastest in this draft class.  Pairing him up with Sutton will set the Broncos offense up for success in years to come.

TRADE ALERT:

Titans acquire: #16 overall pick

Falcons acquire: #29 overall pick, #93 overall pick

16. tennessee-titans. Tennessee Titans (via Atlanta)

Jedrick Wills, T, Alabama

I have the Titans trading up to get in on this elite tier of tackles and the Falcons trading down to get good value on a linebacker (their top need) later in the first round.  Wills has a proven track record and is practically a lock to go in the first round, so the Titans would need to trade up to get a guy like Wills to replace T Jack Conklin.

17. dalcowboyslogonew Dallas Cowboys

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

Higgins has fallen down many draft boards after he skipped the combine due to a disappointing Pro Day.  Teams are increasingly worried about his athleticism and are suspecting his success is primarily the result of QB Trevor Lawrence.  However, Higgins was outperforming WR Hunter Renfrow at Clemson, and Renfrow has been successful on the Raiders.  Teams like the Cowboys, who would want an immediate difference maker at WR, might be intrigued.  The Cowboys have their top two WRs in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.  But they lack depth at the position, and having Higgins around can help them fix that.  The Cowboys have been linked to a number of CBs with this pick, but I think WR depth should take priority here.

18. Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh)

Andrew Thomas, T, Georgia

At one point, Thomas was much higher than this on most draft boards.  But the Dolphins are one of a few teams with a serious need for a tackle, and with the stock of Tristan Wirfs and Jedrick Wills rising, I could see Thomas slipping to this pick.  The Dolphins might need o-line help more than they need a new QB, and with Tua Tagovailoa headed to Miami, the Dolphins will need to find a good tackle to protect him.  Tagovailoa, unlike many QBs, throws the football lefty, so Thomas will have to play right tackle to protect Tua on his blind side.  It would be nice for Miami to bring in Wills, Tua’s right tackle for most of his college career, and if Wills is available here, Miami should take him.  But otherwise, Thomas will have to do, and the Dolphins still have plenty of opportunities in this draft to bring in some of Tua’s Alabama teammates.

19. oakland-raiders Las Vegas Raiders (via Chicago)

Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

With the Eli Apple signing falling through, the Raiders are left with a hole at corner.  This pick seems like a good spot to address that, especially if the Raiders go WR like I think they will with their earlier first round pick.  This pick was sent to the Raiders in the Khalil Mack trade, so it would be fitting for them to use it for defensive upgrades. Diggs, Alabama’s top corner from this season, should be a big help.  Diggs and ex-Clemson CB Trayvon Mullen will make for a talented young CB duo that will set up the Raiders secondary for success in years to come.

20. jacksonvile-jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars (via LA Rams)

Grant Delpit, S, LSU

The Jaguars received this pick in the Jalen Ramsey trade, and heading into this draft, Jacksonville’s secondary needs a lot of help.  Drafting Delpit here could be smart, as he has the potential to emerge as Jacksonville’s next secondary star.  Delpit disappointed a bit in his final season at LSU, but overall, he’s been a stud throughout his college career, and it’s evident that he has insane potential.  Many teams have taken Delpit out of first round consideration, but I think the Jaguars should take a gamble on him, as they have two first round picks this year (the first of which they can use on a DT) and this could potentially pay off big time.

21. philadelphia-eagles-logo Philadelphia Eagles

Kenneth Murray, OLB, Oklahoma

With Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill leaving, the Eagles need an outside linebacker more than ever.  Philly has been linked to a variety of wide receivers and secondary members with this pick, as flaws at those positions prevented the Eagles from success last year.  But if they don’t address their linebacker situation adequately, it will come back to bite.  The free agent linebacker market is dwindling down, and this draft class is packed with linebackers.  Murray, a leader on the Sooners defense, can emerge as a leader of this new, younger group of Eagles linebackers.

22. Screenshot 2020-04-05 at 12.23.14 PM Minnesota Vikings

Mekhi Becton, T, Louisville

The Vikings have bigger needs in this draft, but with any kind of o-line need, it’s hard to pass up on one of the four elite tackles of this draft class this late in the game.  Becton has seen his draft stock rise, but I still can’t see him going before Wirfs, Wills, or Thomas.  Most think all four of them will be gone by this point.  But with very few teams needing o-linemen this early and even teams like the Vikings hesitant to pull the trigger on one this late in the round, Becton could realistically fall this far, or potentially even further.

23. new_england_patriots New England Patriots (see rest of mock draft below)

Patrick Queen, OLB, LSU

There’s been a lot of talk about Bill Belichick trading up or down from this pick, and he’s usually pretty active in the draft day trade market in hopes of gaining extra picks for the Patriots.  But this year, I think New England has plenty of picks already and the best decision for them would be to stick with this pick.  It’s too early for any tight end in this draft class, and if they want to pair Jarrett Stidham with another QB it should be a veteran QB.  So the best choice here would be to take a linebacker.  Queen stood out at LSU despite playing in the same LB corps as fellow top prospect K’Lavon Chaisson. He can help fill the need that LBs Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins left the Patriots with.  He’ll be able to learn a thing or two from veteran LB Dont’a Hightower and become Bill Belichick’s star linebacker of the future.

24. nosaints New Orleans Saints

Zack Baun, OLB, Wisconsin

The Saints don’t have many positional needs right now; they’re a pretty well balanced team.  I could see them opting for the best player available.  But the LB corps is one weak spot that New Orleans could address here.  With Murray and Queen off the board, I don’t have a problem with the Saints taking Baun in Round 1.  Baun projects as an early 2nd round talent, but the Saints can fill there only major positional need by taking Baun here.  I think that’s worth reaching a little bit.

25. Screenshot 2020-04-05 at 12.23.14 PM Minnesota Vikings (via Buffalo)

Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

The Vikings got this pick in the Stefon Diggs trade.  Before that trade, the Vikings had two WR1 caliber players in Diggs and Adam Thielen, and neither was reaching their full potential because they battled with each other for reps.  With Diggs gone, Thielen is the clear #1 guy for Kirk Cousins.  But the Vikings suddenly lack WR depth behind Thielen.  Bringing in Reagor gives the Vikings a young, talented #2 receiver that should be NFL ready from the very beginning.  Reagor stood out on a below average TCU squad, and he’ll stand out on a Vikings team that’s on the verge of a rebuild.

26. Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins (via Houston)

Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

The Dolphins got this pick in the Laremy Tunsil trade, so taking an o-lineman would be fitting.  But the Dolphins don’t need two o-linemen in this first round, and bringing in a teammate of Tua (something they couldn’t get for their o-line) at another position of significant need (safety) would be a good use of this pick.  McKinney is definitely one of the most NFL-ready safeties in this draft class, and the Dolphins would be able to start him with Reshad Jones and Minkah Fitzpatrick gone.  McKinney would join a talented young Dolphins secondary that also includes CBs Xavien Howard and Byron Jones.

27. seattle-seahawks Seattle Seahawks

Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

Fulton opted to stay at LSU for his senior season, and after a big year there, he looks to be one of the best corners in this draft class.  The Seahawks have had secondary problems ever since the Legion of Boom began to fall apart, and Fulton should slot in as Seattle’s #2 corner behind Shaquill Griffin.  Fulton’s no Richard Sherman, but he’s a solid corner who’s worth a first round pick and worth a chance in Seattle’s starting lineup.

28. Baltimore_Ravens_Logo Baltimore Ravens

Cesar Ruiz, IOL, Michigan

The Ravens have three top priorities in this draft: building their LB corps around Matt Judon, giving QB Lamar Jackson some better receivers, and finding a replacement for legendary guard Marshal Yanda.  The Ravens will miss Yanda regardless, and there’s nobody on the open market that can completely make up for his retirement.  But Ruiz is looking more and more like the best interior o-linemen in this draft class, and he would be considered a steal in this spot.  The Ravens could take a receiver like Justin Jefferson here, or a linebacker such as Terrell Lewis.  But it’s hard to pass on Ruiz this late into the 1st round.

29. atlfalcons Atlanta Falcons (via Tennessee)

Terrell Lewis, OLB, Alabama

Lewis is a bit of a reach in the first round.  But there’s a lot of teams that need serious help at linebacker this year, and the Falcons might have the biggest need for a linebacker in the entire league.  Lewis will absolutely be a Day 2 selection if he doesn’t come off the board in Round 1.  But it’s looking more and more like Lewis is part of the top tier of a stacked linebacker class, alongside fellow SEC linebackers K’Lavon Chaisson and Patrick Queen.

30. gbpackers2 Green Bay Packers

Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

The Packers still lack depth at WR behind Davante Adams.  They did sign Devin Funchess this off-season, and Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have shown promise.  But they could still use one more quality receiver.  Jefferson was Joe Burrow’s #2 receiver at LSU, so his big year is partially due to Burrow.  But both Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase (too young to be drafted) will likely have some success in the NFL if put into the right system.  QB Aaron Rodgers has fallen off a bit, but he’s still capable of leading offenses to dominance when he has a good surroundings.  If the Packers take Jefferson, Rodgers and Jefferson will be able to help each other perform better by working together.

31. San Francisco 49ers Logo F5 - Football & Sports Background ... San Francisco 49ers

A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

The 49ers should be able to address their WR situation with their earlier first round pick.  The 49ers never really built up the secondary around CB Richard Sherman, so they should use this pick to find another corner to start alongside Sherman.  Terrell was a bit inconsistent last year at Clemson, and he collapsed against LSU’s star receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson in the National Championship.  But he showed some insane potential, leading Clemson’s secondary by far in most metrics.  I expect some of that to carry over to the NFL, but I wouldn’t trust him as a #1 corner.  He’s still worth the late first rounder, and the 49ers have Sherman as a #1 corner, so Terrell doesn’t have the pressure on him to lead the secondary.  He just has to put up a solid season to supplement Sherman.

32. kansas-city-chiefs-logo Kansas City Chiefs

D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

Before Jonathan Taylor’s huge season, Swift was regarded as the top RB prospect in this draft class.  Swift’s season was slightly disappointing, but it shouldn’t effect his draft stock too much.  Georgia has helped many running backs on the way to NFL stardom before Swift.  In recent years they’ve had Todd Gurley, Sony Michel, and Nick Chubb, and Swift had the opportunity to learn from Michel and Chubb.  I don’t think Swift will be as talented as those three, but he can definitely bolster the Chiefs RB corps.  It’s hard to trust an inconsistent, injury prone Damien Williams with the whole backfield to himself.  Swift and Williams will make for a strong Chiefs RB duo.

new_england_patriots New England Patriots (Full Draft Class):

  • Round 1, Pick 23: Patrick Queen, OLB, LSU: See description above
  • Round 3, Pick 87: Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU: It’ll likely be Jarrett Stidham (not Brady) that has the chance to throw Randy Moss’ son, but Moss is one of the better tight ends in this draft class, he’s well worth it in Round 3, and Bill Belichick may be intrigued by another member of the Moss family.
  • Round 3, Pick 98: Anfernee Jennings, DE, Alabama: Jennings will be another asset for the Patriots pass rush, and it’s a good value pick this late into Day 2.
  • Round 3, Pick 100: Leki Fotu, DT, Utah: Fotu will help replace DT Danny Shelton and likely compete with Adam Butler for a starting gig.
  • Round 4, Pick 125: Chazz Surratt, OLB, UNC: He’s another asset for the LB corps, and could have the chance to start in 3-4 sets alongside Queen, Hightower, and Bentley.
  • Round 6, Pick 195: Charleston Rambo, WR, Oklahoma: This is a bit of a reach, but Belichick could capitalize on Rambo’s success at Oklahoma to groom him into an NFL ready receiver.
  • Round 6, wPick 204: Mohamed Barry, ILB, Nebraska: This will add depth to a shallow LB corps, and who knows, maybe Barry can replace Hightower someday.
  • Round 6, Pick 212: Demetris Robertson, WR, Georgia: Robertson looks to be a better fit for the NFL than Rambo, and the Pats need as much receiving depth as they can get their hands on.
  • Round 6, Pick 213: Justin Herron, T, Wake Forest: The Patriots offensive line looks to be in good shape this year, but with Marshall Newhouse headed out, the Patriots need more depth in case Isaiah Wynn or Marcus Cannon get hurt again.
  • Round 7, Pick 230: T.J. Brunson, ILB, South Carolina: The Patriots have a boatload of picks, so drafting a fourth guy into a linebacker corps that’s in dire need of an upgrade can’t hurt.
  • Round 7, Pick 235: Josh Metellus, S, Michigan: It could be a smart move to bring in another young safety with Devin McCourty getting older.
  • Round 7, Pick 241: Dane Jackson, CB, Pitt: The secondary isn’t really a priority in this draft, but it seems like Belichick always likes to draft a corner at some point.  Hopefully the 7th round gamble on Jackson will work out better than taking Ken Webster last year.

tampabaybuccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Full Draft Class):

  • Round 1, Pick 14: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: See description above
  • Round 2, Pick 45: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State: I have a lot of strong defensive ends, like A.J. Epenesa and Gross-Matos falling into the 2nd round.  The Bucs have a very strong front seven, but Gross-Matos is a good bargain pick this late into the draft.
  • Round 3, Pick 76: Collin Johnson, WR, Texas: Texas struggled during Johnson’s senior year, but Johnson stood out on that team and is worth a Day 2 selection.  The Bucs have two stud WRs already in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but taking Johnson adds depth after the departure of Breshad Perriman.
  • Round 4, Pick 117: Damien Lewis, IOL, LSU: If Brady’s going to succeed here, he needs some good protection.  It would be good for Tampa to draft an o-lineman in the first two days of the draft.  But taking Lewis on Day 3 can’t hurt.
  • Round 4, Pick 139: Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State: Gordon will be able to learn from Brady and potentially replace him when he leaves Tampa or retires.
  • Round 5, Pick 161: Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame: The Bucs need to add depth at corner now that Vernon Hargreaves is gone; drafting Pride is a good start.
  • Round 6, Pick 194: Christian Rector, DE, USC: Some expect Rector to go undrafted, but I think he’s worth a 6th or 7th round gamble.  Tampa’s front seven is set right now, but it isn’t young by any means.

That’s all for my post-free agency mock draft.  I’m thinking about posting one more mock closer to the draft, especially if there are any drastic changes (trades, announcements, etc) leading up to the 23rd.  For now, feel free to comment with your thoughts or make your own mock draft for my Mockout contest.

 

 

 

2020 NFL Free Agency: Predicting Brady’s decision and destinations for other top players

The coronavirus has left the sports world and and the world as a whole in shambles.  The NBA, NHL, and MLB postponed their seasons.  March Madness was outright canceled.  Even schools and workplaces are starting to close.  But there is nothing stopping the NFL off-season from continuing to play out.  With most major sports leagues on hold, the NFL will be the primary focus of the sports world in the coming weeks.

NFL free agency is right around the corner, and many top players will hit the open market.  But the biggest name of them all: Tom Brady.  Speculation of Brady’s decision in free agency has been widespread since the end of the season.  Will he stay in New England, or will he go?  If he does leave, where will he go?  Today I’ll be breaking down Brady’s decision and making some predictions about the other top free agents on the market.  I’ve broken up the free agents by position, as the market for each position can be different.

 

This year’s QB market relies on Tom Brady’s decision, so I’m going to talk about that first.  If Tom Brady ends up leaving New England, he’s going to want to be on a good team in a good city with lots of WR options. The Titans could be a good fit. They have a good group of WRs including the young A.J. Brown, almost-Patriot Adam Humphries, Corey Davis, and veteran tight end Delanie Walker.  But other than that, there are very few good options for him.  The Bears and Panthers lack the receivers.  It’s unlikely the Saints go after Brady even if QB Drew Brees leaves.  The Cowboys and Bucs are leaning towards re-signing their current QBs.  Las Vegas appears to be in the mix for Brady and they have cap space.  But I cannot see them giving up a young, promising Derek Carr for an aging Brady in the end.

It’s going to come down to the Pats and Titans, and I think Bill Belichick will be hesitant to bring back Brady at first in hopes of a cheaper option.  However, Brady’s departure would cause the Pats serious salary cap problems, and I think the options for a replacement will be slim once guys like Brees, Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott re-sign.  Plus, Nashville is a much smaller market than New England.  Even though the Titans are coached by Brady’s former teammate Mike Vrabel and ex-Patriots can be found across the roster, I think Brady is coming home.  The Pats will need to sign a new WR or TE to convince him, but they have the money.

With that, the Titans will bring back QB Ryan Tannehill.  I think the Panthers will get rid of QB Cam Newton in the end, so they’ll sign QB Teddy Bridgewater in hopes of a consistent starter.  This move will put the classic QB carousel into full effect.  Newton will be traded to the Chargers, forcing Rivers to leave.  Meanwhile, I have Rivers heading to Chicago to challenge QB Mitch Trubisky after a rough season.

I can’t see the Titans passing on Derrick Henry, but a number of top running backs will find new homes.  Now that the Chargers have Austin Ekeler as a long term solution, Melvin Gordon will move on to Houston, a team that has been inconsistent at running back in recent years.  Former Texans RB Lamar Miller will help out the Jets backfield in his recovery from a torn ACL, serving behind RB Le’Veon Bell.  Meanwhile, RB Carlos Hyde, who started in Houston with Miller hurt, will head to Tampa for a two man backfield with Ronald Jones II (Peyton Barber will leave in free agency).  The Cardinals do not have the money for both David Johnson and Kenyan Drake, so I have Drake as a younger alternative to LeSean McCoy in Kansas City.  McCoy will head to Cleveland as a veteran backup for Nick Chubb.

The Cowboys need Cooper not only to fill their need at WR but also to convince QB Dak Prescott to return to Dallas.  They have the cap space for both, so that’s not a problem.  I think Sanders will also return, as the 49ers prepare for a duo of Sanders and Deebo Samuel in the long run at WR.  Other receivers will find new homes.

I have WR Robby Anderson headed to Baltimore to play across from Marquise Brown.  He’s the right type of WR for a QB like Lamar Jackson just like Brown is.  He’s fast and he can catch deep balls.  WR A.J. Green may have injury problems, but the Raiders need a #1 receiver and a gamble on Green is worth it for them.  If the Cowboys re-sign Cooper, they won’t need Cobb, so he’ll join fellow ex-Cowboy Cole Beasley in Buffalo.  Meanwhile, Nelson Agholor will head to Miami as they add some much needed depth at WR.

The lack of experience at tight end after Rob Gronkowski’s departure did not work out for the Pats last year.  Hunter Henry is a quality starting tight end.  He’s young, but he has experience, and he’s only going to keep getting better from here.  He’s a great replacement for Gronk and will help fill New England’s desperate need for receiving weapons.  Hooper is the slightly better player, but comes with a much higher price tag.  In the end, I have Hooper back in Atlanta.  Ebron will head to Arizona, where there’s been a hole at tight end as long as I can remember.  The Colts should be fine without him since they have TE Jack Doyle too.  I have Eifert staying in Cincinnati and maintaining the TE duo of Eifert and C.J. Uzomah.  After being released by the Redskins, I have Reed headed to Houston to throw an experienced tight end in the mix with Houston’s inexperienced group of tight ends.

Bulaga has been a key part of the Packers o-line for years, so I can’t see him leaving.  Gilbert has no reason to leave Arizona either, and the Redskins and Colts need Penn and Castonzo back.  But I do have an aging Jason Peters leaving now that the Eagles have added a number of younger players at tackle.  Conklin will also leave, headed to Buffalo to start across from second year o-lineman Cody Ford.

After successful first five years to their careers, I have Scherff and Peat re-signing with their current teams.  I don’t see another team signing Incognito, but the Raiders will probably want him back.  An aging Kalil probably won’t sign elsewhere either, but I have him playing another year with the Jets.  Meanwhile, Seattle and New England have replacements ready for their free agent guards.  Iupati will head to Tennessee and Thuney will head to Houston to fill holes at the position.

The Falcons need to use the money they have on a depleted LB corps, so they may not have the money for Beasley.  I have him headed to the Giants, who need to upgrade all aspects of their defense starting with the pass rush.  I have Clowney returning to Seattle, McCoy returning to Carolina, and JPP returning to Tampa, as those three teams have the money and have the need to bring their top pass rushers back.  With Beasley in New York, Leonard Williams will head to Denver as an upgrade over DE Derek Wolfe.  After a year in Dallas, I have Quinn joining Chandler Jones in improving the Cardinals pass rush.  Brockers will head to Chicago to help fix the Bears’ biggest defensive flaw: the d-line.  With Brockers leading a strong d-line, the Bears should still have the best defense in the league.

The Colts have a lot of cap space this off-season, and they could use a big name d-lineman like Suh alongside some of their younger players.  Jernigan will return to Baltimore, where the front seven is also in desperate need of some new personnel.  The Texans will move on from Reader, instead signing ex-Steelers DT Javon Hargrave.  Reader will head to Vegas as the Raiders fill a DT need they have had for 3 years.  Meanwhile, Robinson and Collins will need to return to their former teams.  Detroit needs Robinson now that they released Damon Harrison, and Collins’ best fit is back in Dallas.

I can’t see much movement happening here.  Dupree, Van Noy, and Collins are all needed by their former teams.  The Pats might struggle to get together the money to re-sign both KVN and Jamie Collins, but I think they’ll be able to pull it off.  If not, Ja’Whaun Bentley is absolutely capable of taking on a starting job alongside Dont’a Hightower, Elandon Roberts, and KVN or Collins.  I think the Pats need at least one of them, but having both back would be nice.  Meanwhile, Barrett and Judon will carry expensive price tags after breakout seasons.  I have Barrett headed to Detroit, who desperately needs a long term solution at linebacker.  The Falcons are in a similar situation, so Judon is a better investment than the re-signing of Beasley.

The Packers don’t necessarily need Martinez back, so I think he’ll head to Baltimore, who should be able to let go of Judon if they sign an inside linebacker like Martinez as an alternative.  Woodyard and Trevathan are needed back on their 2019 teams, and I have them both re-signing.  But Ragland and Schobert will also switch teams.  Miami needs to upgrade their defense in all areas, and they absolutely have the cap space and roster space for Schobert.

The Broncos need a solid #1 corner, and Harris returning is the perfect solution.  The Chiefs should also bring Fuller back after his strong season. But with CB Josh Norman already leaving for Buffalo after release, the Redskins will need to look elsewhere for an upgrade at corner.  I have them adding Waynes and Talib.  Carolina will sign the released Amukamara, a much-needed upgrade over pending free agent James Bradberry.  I have Trumaine Johnson, who was released by the Jets recently, signing with the Texans to fill the gap of multiple current Texans corners set to hit the open market.

The Saints may have limited money, but re-signing Bell will not be a big burden for them.  I don’t see the Pats re-signing McCourty as they have bigger needs at linebacker and on offense.  He’ll head to San Fran as a veteran presence in the secondary.  The Bears also have limited cap space this year, and I can’t see them re-signing Clinton-Dix.  The Broncos will be looking for a big upgrade at safety with Justin Simmons leaving.  There’s no superstar safeties on the market, so a strong safety duo of Clinton-Dix and Joseph will fill Denver’s need.  Berry is hoping to return to the league, and I think the Cowboys will be the team to bring him back as they look for an experienced player to be part of their secondary.  The released Jefferson will head to Detroit, another team in need of veteran help at safety.

That sums up my NFL free agency predictions.  I’ll be tracking these top free agents on social media, using the far right column to track the actual destinations of players.  Stay tuned for more free agency news.  With the rest of the sports world coming to a screeching halt, free agency is about to come into the spotlight.

2019-20 NFL Playoff Predictions: The Most Unpredictable Year in a While

The NFL playoffs begin today as Wild Card Weekend kicks off at 4:35 PM with a battle between the 4-seed Houston Texans and 5-seed Buffalo Bills.  This may be one of the most unpredictable years in NFL history.  I think there are 6 or 7 teams with a legitimate chance to win the Super Bowl.  But I gave a playoff bracket prediction my best try.  Below is my bracket:

Screenshot 2020-01-03 at 5.16.06 PM.png

I think many of these games will come down to the wire, and could go in a different direction than I predict.  For example, just because I have the Patriots losing in the Divisional Round, it doesn’t mean I’m ruling out a Pats Super Bowl run.  But today, I’ve written my explanation and score prediction for each game on the bracket.  Check it out below:

Wild Card Weekend

#4 Houston Texans over #5 Buffalo Bills 20-3

This is a battle between one of the most improved defenses in the league and one of the most experienced defenses in the league.  With DE J.J. Watt back on the field, I don’t expect much from the Bills against a Texans defense that is still elite.  The run game will face serious struggles against Watt and the front seven, and QB Josh Allen’s receivers are no match for one of the deepest DB corps in the league.  Meanwhile, the Texans offense will slow down against an improved Buffalo D.  But QB Deshaun Watson will connect with his best receivers (like WR DeAndre Hopkins) and put up more than enough points to lead Houston to victory in this defensive battle.

#3 New England Patriots over #6 Tennessee Titans 26-13

QB Tom Brady is lacking weapons against an underrated Titans D, so this won’t be the most exciting Patriots game we’ve seen.  But I expect a motivated Patriots squad to rebound from a tough Week 17 loss and find a way to victory at home against the Titans.  Against a struggling Patriots team, the Titans should put up a bit of a fight, especially with multiple ex-Patriots spread across the team’s roster and staff (including head coach Mike Vrabel).  RB Derrick Henry will have a strong game against a weakening Pats front seven.  But QB Ryan Tannehill and his receivers will be shut down as the Pats hold on for a comfortable victory.

#5 Seattle Seahawks over #4 Philadelphia Eagles 20-17

This will be closer than most expect, as Philly tries to pull a home upset against an overrated Seahawks squad.  But with QB Carson Wentz lacking healthy receivers more than ever, the Eagles will fall short.  This won’t be Seattle’s best game, but they’ll come up clutch as they have all season, with QB Russell Wilson getting the job done for Seattle and throwing TDs to his best receivers in Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf against a flawed Philly secondary.

#3 New Orleans Saints over #6 Minnesota Vikings 24-19

The Saints have been an offense-first team ever since QB Drew Brees took over.  But the defense will win them this game.  An improved Saints secondary that added CB Janoris Jenkins for the playoffs, will significantly limit WRs Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.  The Vikings will come close in this one, but the offense will fail to score when they need to the most, and they’ll fall short to the Saints in New Orleans.

Divisional Round

#1 Baltimore Ravens over #4 Houston Texans 26-24 

Last time Baltimore played Houston, they won with ease.  But with the Texans back to full health and familiar with this Ravens squad, they will make things close.  Their run game will thrive and the combo of QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins should also have success, even against a strong Ravens secondary.  However, I still expect QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens to squeeze by for a victory.  Jackson’s versatile playing style will be a bit much for the Texans D, and Jackson will lean on TEs Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst in the receiving game.

#2 Kansas City Chiefs over #3 New England Patriots 30-27

This game will be very close, and it could go either way.  Things will be difficult for the Patriots on the road.  But now that the Pats have played the Chiefs in a game that was heavily influenced by the refs, they’ll know what they’re facing and be hungry for revenge.  This game will come down to the wire, as the Pats run game helps them keep up with QB Patrick Mahomes and his receivers.  But I have the Pats falling just short as the Chiefs utilize WR Mecole Hardman with Tyreek Hill covered by CB Stephon Gilmore.

#1 San Francisco 49ers over #5 Seattle Seahawks 31-27

The first two match-ups between these divisional rivals were last minute thrillers.  In this one, I expect QB Jimmy Garoppolo and his receivers to get out to an early lead against a flawed Seattle secondary.  The Seahawks will make the game close later on, but I still expect Seattle to fall short.  They can come up clutch against most teams, but they are no match 49ers squad that has seen them twice already.

#3 New Orleans Saints over #2 Green Bay Packers 34-28 (OT)

Though RB Aaron Jones has won Green Bay multiple games this year, this will be a battle of legendary QBs Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.  Jones will have a strong game, but the Packers will have to rely on their passing game to keep pace with the Saints.  Even so, I have Brees and his Saints winning this pass-heavy offensive shootout in overtime.  However, this is another game I could see going either way.

Conference Championships

AFC Championship: #1 Baltimore Ravens over #2 Kansas City Chiefs 34-31 (OT)

Whether Baltimore plays the Chiefs or the Patriots, this will be a close game.  You never know what the Pats will be able to pull off, and the Chiefs are one of two teams to beat the Ravens this season.  However, I have Baltimore learning from their early season mistakes and just barely topping the Chiefs in overtime.  Baltimore’s run game, led by QB Lamar Jackson and RB Mark Ingram, will rebound in this one and be the primary reason for a Ravens victory.  Kansas City’s run game will try to keep up though, and QB Patrick Mahomes will have as good a day as a passer.  The AFC Championship could end up in the hands of Baltimore, Kansas City, or even New England.  But I have Jackson coming up clutch and leading the Ravens to victory at the last minute.

NFC Championship: #3 New Orleans Saints over #1 San Fransisco 49ers 21-13

This will be the game in which San Francisco is exposed as an overrated team.  The Saints are just as good if not better.  While the New Orleans defense significantly limits Garoppolo and his receivers, QB Drew Brees, RB Alvin Kamara, and WR Michael Thomas will put up enough points to take the NFC title.

Super Bowl LIV

#1 Baltimore Ravens over #3 New Orleans Saints 35-21

The Saints defense is no match for QB Lamar Jackson & co.  This will be close at first as RB Alvin Kamara dominates, but will become a one-sided game later as the Ravens continue to score points while New Orleans wears out later on.  This Super Bowl could be very different if different teams make it.  But a Ravens-Saints match-up will result in a comfortable Baltimore victory.

Baltimore might be the most deserving of the Super Bowl, and I think they have the best chance to win.  But these playoffs will be the closest we’ve had in a long time, and they could be heavily based on what head-to-head match-ups we see.  Just because the Ravens can beat the Chiefs and the Chiefs can beat the Pats, it doesn’t mean the Pats can’t beat the Ravens.  Match-ups will be everything in these unpredictable NFL playoffs.