It would be stunning if Joe Burrow is not the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, yet it’s fair to question if he’s the best quarterback in the class. When a player comes out of thin air, only an airhead would not have questions.
Is he a one-year wonder? Was his production the result of the right system? What are his weaknesses?
Burrow spent two years at Louisiana State, but his first was easy to forget. The transfer from Ohio State totaled only 16 touchdown passes and flew way under the Heisman Trophy radar. Burrow passed for 60 touchdowns and posted a 15-0 record last season, the best season in history for a college quarterback. Players develop and improve, but what else changed?
LSU’s offensive system shifted dramatically. It started with the hiring of Joe Brady, who was an assistant for the New Orleans Saints. Brady took over as the Tigers’ passing game coordinator and turned a dull offense into a sophisticated Saints-like passing attack.
Burrow mastered the offense and operated with the precision of a surgeon. He displayed the accuracy of Drew Brees. He also showed many of the pocket-passing mechanics and mannerisms of Tom Brady. Those are lofty comparisons, but what I see in Burrow is the real deal. He does not have a huge arm, but he’s got a good arm and more mobility than Brady and Brees.
Burrow is worthy of the top pick and would become a bust only if Cincinnati’s system fails. The Bengals, who tend to bungle most things, need to avoid the temptation to trade the pick. Burrow grew up in Ohio, so he’s a marketing dream. He’s the right quarterback at the right time.
Still, more than two weeks out from the April 23-25 draft, the rumors are flying. We hear the Miami Dolphins covet Burrow and are pondering a Godfather offer. The Dolphins could deal four first-round picks or three first-rounders and a second-round pick to move up four spots from No. 5. We hear the New England Patriots are pondering a blockbuster deal to move up for a quarterback, though Bill Belichick’s track record is to trade down, not up.
“These rumors are just ridiculous and they get out of control,” said Michael Lombardi, a VSiN analyst and former NFL executive who worked for Belichick.
Trades are nearly impossible to predict and are the bane of a mock drafter’s existence. A trade can blow up the order of the top 10 picks. When working on mock drafts, I rarely project more than one trade, if any. It’s wise to ignore the trade rumors, most of which are media creations or team-made smoke screens.
For those who are betting on the draft, I recommend doing your own mock. It helps set expectations for how the first round might unfold. I did my first mock draft March 17 and made a few wagers. I have added some bets before this second mock and will make two more mocks and more bets in the next two weeks.
My most recent bets:
— Wide receivers drafted in the first round: Over 5.5
I played this at -130 before the line ballooned, and it’s currently -200 at William Hill. My first mock had seven first-round receivers, which could be too many, but I’m very confident in five (CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Justin Jefferson, Tee Higgins) and have three more graded as possible picks (Brandon Aiyuk, Chase Claypool, Denzel Mims). One or two of those receivers will probably drop to the second round. “I don’t think six is a lock,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. There are no locks, so Bogdanovich’s statement is correct, but I think six is a strong bet.
— Jeff Okudah draft position: Over 3.5
The Ohio State cornerback has only one potential spot to go in the top five, and that’s to Detroit at No. 3. But the Lions could trade down, and they might not go with Okudah anyway. After I bet this at -130, the William Hill line has moved to 4.5 (Over -140). As with all props, shop around for the best line and lowest price.
— Jalen Hurts drafted in Rounds 4-7: + 250
The former Oklahoma quarterback is no surefire NFL prospect, and some teams likely view him more as a versatile athlete than a true quarterback. I expect him to go in the third round, but he could slip, and this is an attractive plus price at Caesars. I am considering betting Over his draft position of 59.5 (-112) at FanDuel.
— Henry Ruggs first wide receiver drafted: + 500
Ruggs is commonly rated below Oklahoma’s Lamb and his former Alabama teammate, Jeudy, and I don’t expect him to be the first receiver off the board. However, the 5/1 odds offered by Caesars are the best in the market. Ruggs ran the 40 in 4.27 seconds at the scouting combine and is compared to Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill, so teams find that type of speed tough to resist.
— A.J. Epenesa draft position: Under 31.5
Ohio State’s Chase Young is the top defensive end. Iowa’s Epenesa rates No. 2 and no worse than No. 3 among edge rushers, and I expect him to go in the top 20. It would be a big surprise if he slips out of the first round.
My bets listed in the March 17 column:
— Quarterbacks drafted in the first round: Over 4
The Caesars price on this prop opened at -150. The current William Hill line is 4.5 (Under -450/Over + 350). Initially, I considered betting Over four a free shot because at worst the wager should push. Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jordan Love are almost consensus picks to go in the first, though Love’s stock seems to be falling. A fifth QB now appears highly unlikely, so it’s probably not worth any risk. This looks like a push and not worth a bet.
— Tagovailoa to be the No. 2 overall pick: + 200
Young is the -400 favorite at William Hill. I took 2/1 odds on Tagovailoa with the hope Washington would trade out of the second spot and the Dolphins or Chargers would trade up for the Alabama quarterback. It looks less likely, and Tagovailoa’s price is now + 250. “I think Herbert is going to go before Tua,” Lombardi said. “I haven’t got that confirmed yet, but I’ve been hearing that a lot in talking to people.”
— Mekhi Becton first offensive lineman drafted: + 300
There are three strong candidates to go first — Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs and Louisville’s Becton, who was getting 3/1 odds at DraftKings. William Hill’s current price on Becton is + 160. If there were three sides to a coin, this would be a toss-up prop. Becton is my favorite, and several scouts fell in love after he ran the 40 in 5.11 at the combine.
— D’Andre Swift first running back drafted: + 115
The price on the former Georgia star is up to -175 at William Hill and I still like it. You hate to be late to the party as a bettor — and the DraftKings opening price was a steal — but it’s better than missing the party. Swift is the best pass-catching back in the class and should go in the first round. Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor is the second choice at + 160 and should go early in the second round.
Brady's decision to sign with Tampa Bay and other free-agency moves have forced some changes in my second mock draft for 2020:
1) Cincinnati: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
In 2014, Burrow was voted the top high school player in Ohio and signed with Ohio State. He played in 10 games as a backup and went to LSU as a graduate transfer. He adaptly quickly to a pro-style passing scheme last season. This is an obvious pick for Bengals coach Zac Taylor, who needs a new start after the end of the Andy Dalton era.
2) Washington: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
The Redskins will listen to offers if the Dolphins or Chargers want to trade up for a quarterback. New coach Ron Rivera has several holes to fill and could use more picks. The chances of a trade are probably close to 50/50, but Young is the logical choice here for now.
3) x-Miami: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Nothing indicates the Chargers are ready to make a bold move at quarterback. The Dolphins can take no chances and must get a QB. There are plenty of concerns about Tagovailoa’s durability and recovery from ankle and hip injuries, but Miami is making this pick with the franchise’s next five to 10 years in mind. It would be easy to trade the fifth and 18th picks to Detroit to move up two spots.
4) N.Y. Giants: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
This will be a tough call for Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, who needs a stud offensive tackle and lots of defensive help. Simmons is incredibly versatile and could be the most talented defender in the draft. It might make sense for the Giants to trade down and still get a top offensive lineman. If that’s the case, how far could Simmons fall?
5) x-Detroit: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Lions coach Matt Patricia can stay at No. 3 and take Okudah, the shutdown corner he needs, or
trade down two or three spots and still get him. For the right offer, he should trade down.
6) L.A. Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The Chargers have been searching for Philip Rivers’ successor for a few years. Tyrod Taylor is their current starter, not the long-term future. Herbert had a disappointing senior year, but that was an indictment of the Ducks’ offensive system. Herbert is 6-6, 240 pounds and has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback.
7) Carolina: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
It’s a good bet this pick will be a defensive player. Brown is an elite run stuffer who fills a need up front. If the Giants go offensive line and Simmons slips, the Clemson linebacker could go in this spot.
8) Arizona: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
My first mock had Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb going here, and that still could happen. The Cardinals used more four-wideout sets than any other team in the league, and Larry Fitzgerald is running into the sunset. Lamb played with quarterback Kyler Murray in college, so the fit is perfect. But when Arizona stole DeAndre Hopkins in a trade with Houston, the Cardinals’ biggest need became an offensive tackle. Becton (6-7, 360) is a great athlete and plays with a bad attitude. He does not just block guys, he buries them.
9) Jacksonville: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
After trading Jalen Ramsey, the Jaguars need a cornerback, so they will hope Okudah falls to this spot. That’s unlikely. Lamb is a physical playmaker, similar to Odell Beckham Jr. Jacksonville needs a big-time wideout to help Gardner Minshew or another quarterback they might opt to sign or draft.
10) Cleveland: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Believe it or not, the Browns do not have a lot of needs. But they could use an offensive tackle to protect Baker Mayfield and pave the way for the running attack.
11) N.Y. Jets: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
12) Las Vegas: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
13) San Francisco: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
14) Tampa Bay: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
15) Denver: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
16) Atlanta: K’Lavon Chaisson, LB, LSU
17) Dallas: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
18) x-Detroit: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
19) Las Vegas: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
20) Jacksonville: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
21) Philadelphia: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
22) Minnesota: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
23) New England: Josh Jones, OT, Houston
24) New Orleans: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
25) Minnesota: Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota
26) Miami: D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
27) Seattle: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
28) Baltimore: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
29) Tennessee: Austin Jackson, OT, USC
30) Green Bay: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
31) San Francisco: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
32) Kansas City: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
x — projected trade