It’s draft week, and that means bettors must do their best to see through the copious amount of smoke emitting from the NFL. The New York Giants are really going to draft Justin Herbert after reaching for Daniel Jones last year? That report leads me to believe one thing: There are few deals to be made for the top five picks.
Think about it. If a team actually believes New York will take Herbert with the fourth pick, that means Detroit’s pick at No. 3 becomes more valuable or that a desperate team might offer the Giants a haul for their pick. New York could have leaked that hoping to swindle an unsuspecting team, or Detroit could be hoping to drum up business. Miami has largely been considered the team to move up to No. 3, but why deal assets you’ve been acquiring to get Tua Tagovailoa or Herbert when both will likely be available at No. 5?
The same could be said of reports that certain players’ stock is falling or rising in the week leading up to the draft. Former NFL general manager Randy Mueller told Michael Lombardi and me Tuesday on “The Lombardi Line” that teams should be “locked in on their board” by the time draft week rolls around. If that’s the case, how does stock rise or fall? It doesn’t. Other teams and agents put that out into the media to alter perception in hope of getting a player to fall to them or getting a client a home earlier than expected.
A ton of noise surrounds the first round. But remember that everything you hear, the bookmakers hear as well, and there is value in fighting through the smoke and finding the truth.
1. Cincinnati: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
It is almost etched in stone at this point. Cincinnati needs a quarterback it can build around, and Burrow is the guy. As stated in my previous mock draft, the Bengals could take almost any of the top prospects and come out on top, but QB is the most important of all positions.
2. Washington: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that Washington was “receiving calls” but was not intent on moving out of this slot. That has been the case from the beginning. Adding Young to the front seven gives Washington arguably the best pass-rushing front in the NFC East, a division littered with fledgling quarterbacks.
3. Detroit: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
It seems like this is the pick with the least value in the top three, but there is just no market for Detroit to move down. Sure, rumors are rampant that Herbert will be selected ahead of Tagovailoa, but is he worth moving up to the third pick if it is indeed Miami that wants him? Okudah at least fits a need for Detroit.
4. N.Y. Giants: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
The most obvious smoke screen of all smoke screens came from New York early in the week when it was reported the Giants were “doing their homework” extensively on Herbert. This means they want to move back, but it also means, to me, they want an offensive lineman. However, much as with Detroit, the market is thin for early trades, so Wirfs is the pick here.
5. Miami: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Stubbornness is usually a poor quality, but I am just that when it comes to Tagovailoa’s status among the quarterbacks in this class. The injuries no doubt are concerning, but he has always been ahead of Herbert in terms of talent and upside. Now, in the week leading up to the draft, he is suddenly slipping? Hogwash. Miami grabs the guy it has been linked to for what seems like centuries.
6. L.A. Chargers: Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson
The more I look at the Chargers, the more I think they are a playoff team, especially once you consider the extra playoff spot available this season. The offensive line is revamped, the quarterback is improved and with health the defense could be better. Add an outstanding talent like Simmons and that unit makes an even bigger jump toward being the best defense in the AFC West.
7. Carolina: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Has a single mock draft not had Brown going to Carolina here? It just fits. The Panthers finished last against the run, according to DVOA metrics, and their defensive line was 30th in adjusted line yards allowed per carry to running backs. They plugged the hole at quarterback with Teddy Bridgewater and added a dynamic receiver in Robby Anderson. This team needs a dynamic defensive player, and Brown is the guy if Simmons is gone.
8. Arizona: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Kyler Murray has reportedly been pushing Arizona’s front office to take CeeDee Lamb with this selection, but the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins has given the Cardinals the weapon Murray needs once Larry Fitzgerald hangs them up. When you have a franchise quarterback, you protect him, and that is what Arizona will do here. Wills is an athletic mauler at 6-foot-4 and 312 pounds, perfect for keeping Murray upright after he was sacked 40 times in 2019.
9. Jacksonville: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The Jaguars are prime candidates to trade this pick and move back. Their needs are offensive line, defensive line and secondary. Gardner Minshew was very solid in 12 games last season, winning six times and throwing 21 touchdowns to six interceptions. Even so, it is hard to look away from a potential franchise guy like Herbert. The former Duck will be gone within the top 10 picks, and Jacksonville is a solid fit.
10. Denver: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama*
Woody Paige of the Colorado Springs Gazette reported this week that Denver wanted to trade up to acquire Jeudy, and swapping with Cleveland makes sense. The Browns want an offensive tackle and can still get one with the 15th pick. This also vaults Denver ahead of three teams that want wide receivers. Jeudy is the perfect addition for a team that wants sophomore QB Drew Lock to evolve into a franchise quarterback.
11. N.Y. Jets: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
12. Las Vegas: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
13. San Francisco: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
14. Tampa Bay: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
15. Cleveland: Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State*
16. Atlanta: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
17. Dallas: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
18. Miami: K’Lavon Chaisson, DE, LSU
19. Philadelphia: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU*
20. Jacksonville: Josh Jones, OT, Houston
21. Las Vegas: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama*
22. Minnesota: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
23. New England: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
24. New Orleans: Kenneth Murray, ILB, Oklahoma
25. Minnesota: Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
26. Miami: Austin Jackson, OT, Southern Cal
27. Seattle: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
28. Baltimore: Patrick Queen, ILB, LSU
29. Tennessee: Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M
30. Green Bay: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
31. San Francisco: Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan
32. Indianapolis: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State*
My NFL draft bets
J. Herbert OV 6 (%plussign0)
C. Lamb OV 12.5 (-110)
D. Brown UN 8.5 (-110)
J. Herbert Patriots (%plussign00)
J. Herbert Jaguars (%plussign00)
G. Delpit 1st Round (%plussign0)
J.K. Dobbins (%plussign0) over Clyde Edwards-Helaire
QBs & RBs UN 5 (-140)