Tampa Bay could give its new quarterback another weapon to throw to with the Buccaneers' first pick
The world has changed significantly in the last few weeks as the coronavirus has ground daily life — and especially sports — to a screeching halt. While there was some semblance of normalcy in the NFL with free agency going relatively unabated, the landscape in America's most popular sport is still in a much different place than it was not long ago when teams were rolling through the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
That includes some franchise-altering decisions made with an eye toward the 2020 campaign. Tom Brady is in Tampa Bay, not New England. Phillip Rivers is set to sling it around in Indianapolis and not opening up Los Angeles' massive new stadium. DeAndre Hopkins will be catching passes from Kyler Murray and not Deshaun Watson this fall.
With those trades and free-agent decisions in mind, how could the first round of the draft — in whatever form it takes on — play out next month? Here's a look at who could go where when it comes time to turn in the card down for the 2020 NFL Draft:
1. Cincinnati Bengals — Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
With Pro Days and visits canceled, the Bengals didn't really have the opportunity to put Burrow through the full paces like they normally would with a top-flight quarterback. That won't matter either way as all signs continue to point to him being the first name called by the commissioner.
2. Washington Redskins — Chase Young, DL, Ohio State
Ron Rivera's remaking of the Washington defense will continue with the addition of Young, who adds to an impressive collection of front seven names in the nation’s capital.
3. Detroit Lions — Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
After shipping Darius Slay out of town, there remains zero doubt what direction the franchise will go if they don't get a trade offer that blows them away to move down the board.
4. New York Giants — Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Offensive line remains a pressing area of concern for the G-Men even after a cost-effective pickup of Cameron Fleming in free agency. The massive Becton is still a tad raw in some areas but has All-Pro potential keeping Daniel Jones upright.
5. Miami Dolphins — Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The team has been zeroed in on getting a new signal-caller with this pick for some time, but which direction they go remains to be seen. The Herbert-Tua question has been closer than many on the outside realize, and without the ability to do a full medical workup on the Alabama QB, the lanky Oregon prospect should get the nod.
6. Los Angeles Chargers — Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
After missing out on Tom Brady, QB remains an option for a faceless franchise. As much as it's possible that could mean Tua Tagovailoa, adding an athlete like Simmons to an already incredible group might be the best way to combat an increasingly tough division to defend against.
7. Carolina Panthers — Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
This is a team that is primed to move down on the draft board as they collect additional assets for Matt Rhule's long-term rebuild. If the Panthers stay pat at No. 7 however, grabbing the best player available in Brown fits with the vision and culture their new coach wants to have.
8. Arizona Cardinals — Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama
Landing DeAndre Hopkins via trade will all be for naught if Kyler Murray doesn't have time to throw to him. Enter Wills, who can play either tackle spot and would be a great fit as a top-flight pass protector in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars — Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The trade of Nick Foles to Chicago was viewed by many as a sign this team is Gardner Minshew's to lose. As much as the font office enjoys the mustachioed leader in Duval, though, they also know their chances of enjoying sustained success improve by taking a chance on the higher upside of Tagovailoa.
10. Cleveland Browns — Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Signing Jack Conklin takes care of one tackle spot, and now the team can address the other with Wirfs, who should be a good fit in head coach Kevin Stefanski’s new system. An already talented offense continues to get that much better, so it will certainly be on Baker Mayfield to get the most out of his improved protection in 2020.
11. New York Jets — CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
It would not be shocking if the Jets make a play to move up the draft to land one of the elite tackle prospects (looking at you Carolina). With those guys off the board though, new general manager Joe Douglas won't pass up the opportunity to add a true No. 1 receiver to the arsenal in Lamb. Defensive needs may also be pressing, but maximizing Sam Darnold right now is paramount.
12. Las Vegas Raiders — Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
GM Mike Mayock's affinity for players from Tuscaloosa has been mentioned before, but landing the speedster to open that brand-new stadium makes tons of sense as Jon Gruden gets an exciting new toy to play with.
13. San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis) — Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
The team saved a bunch of money over the long-term by trading away DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis but can land his (cheaper) replacement quite easily in the draft. Kinlaw may not be as polished as his predecessor in the middle of the defense, but he’s got just as much upside.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
With Tom Brady in the fold, this is another team that could move up to land a top tackle prospect. Though the all-time great quarterback does need additional reinforcements upfront, getting such a precise route runner like Jeudy to team up with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin is the kind of thing that will keep defensive coordinators up at night.
15. Denver Broncos — Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
The Broncos did some of their best work shoring up the roster via trade, but there are still opportunities to add to some impact players. Jefferson was one of the stars of the combine by answering questions about his speed with a fast 40, and his tape from the past year should help convince John Elway he has a new best friend for Drew Lock in this selection.
16. Atlanta Falcons — CJ Henderson, DB, Florida
This team has to play six games against Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Teddy Bridgewater for at least the next two seasons. Enter corner help with the speedy Henderson, who should allow flexibility in lining up all over Dan Quinn’s defense.
17. Dallas Cowboys — Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Sean Lee returns on a one-year deal, but it’s clear the time is now to find his successor given the injury history. Enter Murray, who can be a big upgrade in terms of athleticism while giving Big D perhaps the best LB corps in the league.
18. Miami Dolphins (from Pittsburgh) — Austin Jackson, OL, USC
The Fins dropped a lot of money on Ereck Flowers, but the revamping of the offensive line will continue with the draft. Jackson is still very young, but his size and athleticism make him the potential long-term guy on the outside for a team aiming at 2021 and beyond.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (from Chicago) — Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
Much of the team's cap room was devoted to the defensive side of the ball, but there's still work to be done in the Raiders secondary. Even with Eli Apple and Jeff Heath among others in the fold, Johnson gives them a youthful option that can play both inside and outside against some of the potent offenses they face.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams) — Andrew Thomas, OL, Georgia
Thomas has good value at this point in the draft and makes sense no matter who is taking snaps now or later as the team gets younger at the tackle spot. His versatility in potentially kicking inside could help too when it comes to that power-run game.
21. Philadelphia Eagles — Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
With Darius Slay in the fold, finding secondary support is no longer the giant hole that it was slated to be coming into the draft. Attention can now turn to the second level, where the athletic Queen could slot in right away as a three-down guy.
22. Minnesota Vikings (from Buffalo) — Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Exit right Stefon Diggs, enter left Mr. Aiyuk. He has an impressive catch radius, and the folks in the Twin Cities will love his ability to go up and come down with the ball in the middle of a crowd. Perhaps the best thing for Kirk Cousins and company is that he still has room to grow at the next level too.
23. New England Patriots — A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
Fans in Boston may clamor for Jordan Love, but that doesn't fit with Bill Belichick's M.O. nor the talk of Jarrett Stidham being the guy for now under center. Epenesa is somebody who can drop right into the defense and fill a variety of roles in the front seven.
24. New Orleans Saints — K'Lavon Chaisson, LB, LSU
It's pretty clear the franchise is going all-in to win another Super Bowl, so as much as Sean Payton would be tempted to take a QB of the future (i.e. Jordan Love), dealing with a division that faces Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and old friend Teddy Bridgewater means loading up on defense. Enter Chaisson coming off the edge and playing in the building he just won a title at.
25. Minnesota Vikings — Xavier McKinney, DB, Alabama
The team franchised Anthony Harris, but the versatile McKinney is too good a value to pass up. He can play all over the secondary and might be best suited to playing up in the nickel package that is basically standard in the league nowadays.
26. Miami Dolphins (from Houston) — Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Don't be shocked if the team trades down out of this pick to a QB-needy franchise. If they stay put though, Delpit is the kind of versatile leader that can team up with splashy new signing Byron Jones to lead the secondary.
27. Seattle Seahawks — Marlon Davidson, DE, Auburn
Fans are clamoring for the Seahawks to find Russell Wilson more help, but the remaking of Pete Carroll's defense will continue going forward with Davidson, who can move all around the front and has the kind of power to make a difference at the next level.
28. Baltimore Ravens — Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU
The Ravens made offseason huge moves to bring in Michael Brockers and Calais Campbell to beef up on defense, and now comes the resulting move to get better around Lamar Jackson. Yes, the team has Mark Ingram II, but CEH adds a new dimension out of the backfield and can be deployed all over by OC Greg Roman.
29. Tennessee Titans — Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU
After trading Jurrell Casey away, the Titans can find a reinforcement upfront in Blacklock. Pairing him opposite Jeffery Simmons gives the team two impressive jumbo athletes coming at you in different ways under Mike Vrabel.
30. Green Bay Packers — Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
If the Packers thought they heard from sniping from Aaron Rodgers about their draft before, imagine what they would hear with this pick. Still, it's hard to pass up the potential for another seamless transition under center in a year or two as Love develops.
31. San Francisco 49ers — Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
The lack of additional time to work through Shenault’s medicals figures to drop him down many boards, but his size and versatility will be too hard for Kyle Shanahan to pass up. A trade down to recoup some more draft capital could still land the former Buffaloes star, but he has a chance to turn into a difference-maker alongside Deebo Samuel.
32. Kansas City Chiefs — Zach Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Chiefs fans are hoping upon hope that the team can still make upgrades on defense as that would hopefully downplay the need for Patrick Mahomes to mount incredible comebacks on a weekly basis. Baun's athleticism and pass-rush ability would be great to pair opposite Frank Clark for the defending champs.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.