2020 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cincinnati Bengals – QB Joe Burrow (LSU)

The Bengals may listen to offers for this pick, but I imagine they’d have to be blown away to move out of this spot. Andy Dalton is a low upside quarterback option going into the final year of his contract, so the Bengals are widely expected to take this draft’s top signal caller Joe Burrow #1 overall. In the small chance this does end up being a trade, Burrow would almost definitely be the target for any team looking to move up. 

2. Washington Redskins – DE Chase Young (Ohio State)

A trade down from #1 this year is unlikely. A trade down from #2 is still unlikely, but it would be less surprising. Reports have already started to leak from the combine that the Redskins are intrigued by Tua Tagovailoa #2 overall, who they met with at the combine on several occasions. It’s possible the Redskins are legitimately interested in him and would look to move last year’s first round quarterback Dwayne Haskins on draft day the way the Cardinals did last year with Josh Rosen after taking Kyler Murray, but new Redskins head coach Ron Rivera took this job over other offers not knowing whether or not Tua was even healthy, so he must believe in Haskins at least somewhat. 

More likely, those reports are smokescreens from the Redskins to increase trade offers for this pick from teams looking to move up for Tua. If the Redskins don’t get the offer they’re looking for, they’ll probably stay put and select the consensus top defensive player in the draft Chase Young, but it wouldn’t be a shock if this ended up being a trade. The price to move up to #2 should be significantly higher than the price to move up to #3 as passing on the chance to select Young should get the Redskins a premium. The Redskins should be happy to stay put if they don’t get an incredible offer because Young is a special talent.

3. Miami Dolphins (TRADE) – QB Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama)

While a trade down from 1 or 2 is unlikely, I would actually be shocked if the Lions didn’t move down from 3 with a team looking to move up for Tua. With Matt Stafford expected to make a full recovery from injury, the Lions are unlikely to be interested in Tua and, without a consensus top non-quarterback available, the Lions, who have needs all across the roster, would love to move down and accumulate extra picks. Reports on Tua’s recovery have been great and at this point it would be a surprise if he fell out of the top-3 picks. It’s very possible a trade is agreed to in advance of draft day, similar to when the Jets sent a trio of 2nd round picks to the Colts two years ago to move up from 6 to 3.

Teams like the Chargers (#6), Jaguars (#9), and Raiders (#12) could all have interest in moving up, but the Dolphins (#5), should be considered the favorite to move up. Not only do they have the fewest picks to jump, but they also have more draft capital than any team in the league. They have a whopping 5 first round picks in the next two drafts and, with four second round picks as well, they might not have to give up a single one of those first rounders to get this deal done. 

Similar to the trio of second rounders the Jets sent to the Colts to move from 6 to 3 two years ago, the Dolphins could package picks 39 and 56 this year with either one of their second round picks next year to get this deal done. With veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick under contract and coming off of a solid season, the Dolphins wouldn’t have to rush Tua into action as a rookie, though if recent history is any indication it’s unlikely the Dolphins would leave the 3rd overall pick on the bench his whole rookie season, assuming he’s healthy enough to play.

4. Los Angeles Chargers (TRADE) – QB Justin Herbert (Oregon)

This could also be a trade down spot, as once Tua is off the board, there could be a scramble for teams to move up to select the third ranked quarterback prospect Justin Herbert. The Chargers are known to like him as a long-term replacement for Philip Rivers and have an obvious need for him with low end starter Tyrod Taylor only under contract for one more season, but they may need to move up from 6 to prevent another team jumping them for Herbert. Meanwhile, like the Lions, the Giants would love to move down and accumulate more picks without an obvious choice for them at 4. Because Herbert is not the same caliber of prospect as Tua, the Chargers would likely only have to part with a pair of second rounders (this year’s and next year’s), as well as possibly a later pick or two, to seal the deal. 

5. Detroit Lions – CB Jeff Okudah (Ohio State)

The Lions’ trade down works to perfection as they still have the same defensive players available to them that would have been available to them at 3. Jeff Okudah, Isaiah Simmons, and Derrick Brown all have arguments for being the top defensive prospect after Chase Young and all could make sense here for the Lions. I’m giving them Okudah as a long-term replacement for the recently traded Darius Slay at cornerback, but this could just as easily be Simmons or Brown, who fill needs as well.

6. New York Giants – S Isaiah Simmons (Clemson)

Trading down doesn’t quite work out as well for the Giants as the Lions, as the Giants miss out on Okudah, but the Giants used a first round pick on cornerback DeAndre Baker last year and signed James Bradberry in free agency, so they might not view cornerback as a super pressing need anyway. Between the remaining top defensive prospects, Simmons makes more sense than Brown, who wouldn’t fill a need on the defensive line. Simmons, however, can play really any position in the back 7 and could contribute at several positions of need, including linebacker, safety, and slot cornerback.

7. Carolina Panthers – DT Derrick Brown (Auburn)

The Panthers are sitting in a good spot at 7 because they shouldn’t still be able to get one of the top defensive players, with 3 quarterbacks likely to go in the top-6. Okudah and Simmons are gone and would have filled needs, but Derrick Brown would be very useful for them as well. Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, Kyle Love, and Vernon Butler led the Panthers in snaps by an interior defensive linemen last season, but none of them are still on the roster. Brown could have an every down role as a rookie inside next to Kawaan Short, who should be healthy after an injury-ruined 2019 season.

8. Arizona Cardinals – OT Tristan Wirfs (Iowa)

With the top-7 picks likely to be the top-3 quarterbacks and the top-4 defensive players, the Cardinals seem likely to take an offensive tackle at 8. This draft has as many as 4 offensive tackles who could arguably go in the top-10 based on talent, but I’d be surprised if more than one of those tackles was off the board by the Cardinals’ pick at 8. In this scenario, all 4 remain on the board, leaving the Cardinals with their pick of bookend tackles for recently re-signed left tackle DJ Humphries. 

Which offensive tackle it’ll be is tough to predict, but Tristan Wirfs could be the favorite after his outstanding combine performance. Fellow combine star Mekhi Becton is also an option, as are Andrew Thomas and Jedrick Wills, who were considered by many to be the top-2 offensive tackles going into the combine. All four options would be obvious upgrades for a Cardinals team that got terrible play out of the right tackle spot in 2019. They also need insurance at left tackle because of Humphries’ tendency to get injured.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars – DT Javon Kinlaw (South Carolina)

The Jaguars used first round picks on defensive linemen in 2018 and 2019, taking defensive tackle Taven Bryan two years ago and defensive end Josh Allen last year, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them go back to the defensive line. With veterans Marcell Dareus and Calais Campbell let go for cap purposes this off-season, the Jaguars suddenly need more help upfront. Kinlaw can start inside next to Bryan, assuming Bryan can take a step forward in his 3rd year in the league after primarily being a reserve to start his career.

10. Cleveland Browns – OT Mekhi Becton (Louisville)

Like the Cardinals at 8, the Browns are likely to take one of the offensive tackles at 10. After combine star Tristan Wirfs went 8th, the Browns now take fellow combine star Mekhi Becton at 10. Signing right tackle Jack Conklin in free agency was a big addition, but the Browns still have a major hole at left tackle, without a capable option on the roster. It seems likely given the caliber of offensive tackles expected to be available in the 8-15 range that the Browns have this pick earmarked for a left tackle.

11. New York Jets – WR CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)

The Jets signed Breshad Perriman to replace Robby Anderson in free agency, but the Jets also need to replace free agent Demaryius Thomas in three wide receiver sets. Perriman is also only signed to a one-year deal and isn’t the long-term #1 option this team needs. The Jets could easily be the first team to dip into the wide receiver pool and take one at 11 overall. It’s between CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy to be the top wide receiver off the board.

12. Las Vegas Raiders – WR Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)

The Jets take a wide receiver one pick earlier and now the Raiders follow suit by taking Jerry Jeudy. The Raiders added Antonio Brown for a reason last off-season and, while that didn’t work out, they definitely could have used his help opposite Tyrell Williams and still have a big need at that position after only taking a flier on Nelson Agholor in free agency this off-season. The Raiders found a steal with slot receiver Hunter Renfrow in the 5th round of the draft last year. Now they find an outside receiver.

13. San Francisco 49ers – OT Jedrick Wills (Alabama)

The 49ers got this pick from the Colts for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who they were likely going to be unable to keep long-term anyway for financial reasons. Losing Buckner opens up a big hole at defensive tackle, but taking a replacement at this juncture would be a reach. Instead, the 49ers find a long-term replacement for Joe Staley, who is going into his age 36 season. Wills can start his career at right guard, where he could be an immediate starter, and would be a long-term bookend for Mike McGlinchey whenever Staley is no longer around.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – OT Andrew Thomas (Georgia)

The Buccaneers landed Tom Brady and now will have to make sure they protect the soon-to-be 43-year-old. Right tackle is still a glaring hole with long-term veteran starter Demar Dotson still unsigned ahead of his age 35 season, so the Buccaneers may be planning on filling this hole early in the draft.

15. Denver Broncos – WR Henry Ruggs (Alabama)

This draft class lacks an elite wide receiver prospect as it’s unlikely any wide receivers go in the top-10, but there could be as many as 7 wide receivers that go in the first round in total. The Broncos could easily be one of the teams that takes a wide receiver, as they don’t have much at the wide receiver spot behind Courtland Sutton after trading away Emmanuel Sanders mid-season and not addressing this position in free agency.

16. Atlanta Falcons – DE K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU)

In my last mock draft, I thought this pick being a defensive end was close to a lock, because of the Falcons desperate need at the position and their inability to address the position in free agency with limited cap space. Instead, the Falcons made cornerback Desmond Trufant a somewhat surprising cap casualty, even though he was still their top cornerback last season, and signed free agent Dante Fowler to upgrade their pass rush. A cornerback to replace Trufant is definitely an option at this point, but I definitely wouldn’t rule out a defensive end, especially if K’Lavon Chaisson, who fits what they look for at the position like a glove, falls to them at 16. They still need at least one more edge rusher to go with Fowler and Takkarist McKinley.

17. Dallas Cowboys – DE AJ Epenesa (Iowa)

With Robert Quinn signing with the Bears this off-season, the Cowboys have a big hole at defensive end opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. They could address that need early in the draft. Epenesa falls a little because of his underwhelming 40 at the combine, but he was a top-15 prospect before the combine and his game was never based on speed, so I think he’s still a good fit for teams that want a traditional “hand on the ground” 4-3 defensive end.

18. Miami Dolphins – S Xavier McKinney (Alabama)

The Dolphins got this pick from the Steelers for Minkah Fitzpatrick, a trade the Dolphins never really wanted to have to make, and a trade the Dolphins seemed to regret after Fitzpatrick broke out with the Steelers. Without Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins lack an impact making safety, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they used one of their later two first round picks on the position.

19. Las Vegas Raiders – CB CJ Henderson (Florida)

The Raiders have added some nice young pieces on defense in the past couple drafts, but need to keep building their defense, especially the back seven. The Raiders are very thin at cornerback, so a highly drafted rookie can start for them from week 1. Their first pick at 12 is probably too high for a cornerback unless Okudah somehow falls, but cornerback is a strong possibility at 19.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars – CB Trevon Diggs (Alabama)

It’s hard to believe the Jaguars made the AFC Championship in 2017. With the Jaguars moving on from AJ Bouye, Calais Campbell, and Marcell Dareus this off-season, they have just 3 of their top-14 in terms of snaps played remaining from their dominant 2017 defense. They acquired this pick from the Rams for Jalen Ramsey, who was shipped off mid-season, so it makes sense that the Jaguars would use this pick on his replacement, especially with fellow starting cornerback AJ Bouye also sent packing and needing to be replaced.

21. Philadelphia Eagles – WR Justin Jefferson (LSU)

Wide receiver was a major problem for the Eagles in 2019. They should get more from 2019 2nd round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson should hopefully be healthier next season, but they still need to address this position through the draft. Jeffery and Jackson are both injury prone and will be in their 30s next year with big salaries, so their days with the team may be numbered and they need insurance for them in the short-term.

22. Minnesota Vikings – DE Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State)

The Vikings got this pick from the Bills for Stefon Diggs. It’s a trade that makes sense for both sides. The Bills are in win now mode and need a legitimate #1 receiver like Diggs, while the Vikings are tight on cap space and are a run heavy team that doesn’t need to commit significant money to their quarterback and top-2 wide receivers. The move leaves the Vikings thin at wide receiver, but this is a deep wide receiver class and the Vikings have three picks in the first 2 rounds, so they don’t need to find a replacement for Diggs right away. Instead, they use this pick to replace Everson Griffen and fill a big need at defensive end.

23. New England Patriots – MLB Kenneth Murray (Oklahoma)

This could be a spot for a quarterback, but the Patriots seem to at least somewhat like Jarrett Stidham as a developmental prospect, so it makes more sense that the Patriots would add a veteran stopgap in free agency rather than using a high draft pick on a quarterback. Lost in the story of Brady’s departure from New England is the story of all of the Patriots losses at linebacker, with Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts signing elsewhere this off-season. The linebacker position should be a priority on draft day.

24. New Orleans Saints – QB Jordan Love (Utah State)

The Saints clearly value Taysom Hill, giving him a first round tender this off-season, but even the first round tender is only worth 4.641 million, so that’s not necessarily a sign that they view him as a quarterback of the future. His salary is more than justifiable by his role as a “gadget” player and special teamer and it’s telling that when Drew Brees was hurt last year the Saints turned to a traditional quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and actually scaled Hill’s usage down significantly. If they don’t view Hill, who is already going into his age 30 season, as a long-term quarterback option, they may add one through the draft this year. We know the Saints were interested in taking Patrick Mahomes a few years ago before the Chiefs moved up ahead of them and took him. Jordan Love has drawn some comparisons to Mahomes as a prospect. He enters the league very raw, but would benefit from sitting a year or two on the bench behind Brees.

25. Minnesota Vikings – CB Kristian Fulton (LSU)

The Vikings have had a history of taking defensive backs early, even when they don’t need to, taking Xavier Rhodes in the first round in 2013, Trae Waynes in the first round in 2015, Mackenzie Alexander in the second round in 2016, and Mike Hughes in the first round in 2018. This off-season, they need to, so it would make sense that the Vikings would take another cornerback early. Waynes and Alexander both left as free agents this off-season, while Rhodes was a cap casualty after two down seasons. Hughes is still on his rookie deal, but has had an injury plagued two years in the league thus far. Even if he pans out, they still need a long-term starter opposite him.

26. Miami Dolphins – OT Austin Jackson (USC)

The Dolphins made some much needed upgrades on the offensive line in free agency, but they’ll need to continue that in the draft. Jackson can play either tackle or guard and should be a week 1 starter for the Dolphins wherever he lines up.

27. Seattle Seahawks – DT Ross Blacklock (TCU)

The Seahawks re-signed Jarran Reed, but they lost Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods, leaving them thin at the defensive tackle position. This could be a trade down spot based on the Seahawks’ history, but if they stay put they could take a defensive tackle like Blacklock to start inside next to Reed.

28. Baltimore Ravens – MLB Patrick Queen (LSU)

The Ravens lost CJ Mosley last off-season and then Josh Bynes and Patrick Onwausor this off-season, so they’re very thin at the middle linebacker spot. There are plenty of snaps available for a rookie and the Ravens could use their first round pick on their next CJ Mosley.

29. Tennessee Titans – CB Jaylon Johnson (Utah)

The Titans could still bring back free agent Logan Ryan, but if they don’t, they could look to the draft for a third cornerback. Malcolm Butler is on a big contract and Adoree Jackson is due a big extension soon and it’s unlikely that the Titans will commit significant money to three cornerbacks, meaning either Ryan won’t be brought back on a long-term deal or Butler will likely be a cap casualty at some point unless his play turns around. Either way, investing a high pick in a cornerback makes sense.

30. Green Bay Packers – WR Tee Higgins (Clemson)

An underwhelming receiving corps was the biggest reason why Aaron Rodgers posted numbers that were less than you’d expect from him last season. The Packers need a reliable option behind Davante Adams on the depth chart and could tap into this deep wide receiver class at the end of the first round.

31. San Francisco 49ers – DT Neville Gallimore (Oklahoma)

The 49ers traded DeForest Buckner for a first round pick because they didn’t think they could afford to keep him long-term, which leaves them very thin at defensive tackle. Expect them to use one of their two first round selections on a replacement for Buckner.

32. Kansas City Chiefs – RB Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin)

Damien Williams scores a lot of touchdowns in the playoffs, but he mostly just picks up what’s blocked on probably the easiest offense in the league to run on, given how much defenses have to respect the pass. The Chiefs have lacked an explosive back since getting rid of Kareem Hunt and could target one of the top backs in this draft class at the end of the first round. Jonathan Taylor could add another dimension to an already deadly offense.

33. Cincinnati Bengals – OT Josh Jones (Houston)

Teams typically follow up the selection of a quarterback early with the selection of complementary offensive players with their next couple picks. The Bengals will want to make sure that Joe Burrow is protected long-term. Last year’s first round pick Jonah Williams is expected to start at left tackle after missing his rookie year with injury, but they need a long-term bookend. Jones could also kick inside to guard.

34. Indianapolis Colts – S Grant Delpit (LSU)

The Colts need a complement for Malik Hooker in the secondary and likely wouldn’t pass on Grant Delpit or Xavier McKinney if either fell to them in the second round. Delpit could be the top safety off the board and could get drafted as early as the top-20.

35. Detroit Lions – DE Julian Okwara (Notre Dame)

The Lions signed linebacker Jamie Collins in free agency and he should help their pass rush, but they still need to add a more traditional defensive end to play opposite Trey Flowers. Okwara is another much needed piece for this Lions defense.

36. New York Giants – OLB Zack Baun (Wisconsin)

The Giants are in the running for Jadeveon Clowney, but even if they do sign him they should add some edge rush help through the draft. Outside of free agent Markus Golden, the Giants didn’t have anyone with more than 4.5 sacks last season. Baun can help immediately.

37. New York Giants – C Cesar Ruiz (Michigan)

The Giants get this pick from the Chargers in the Justin Herbert trade. Jon Halapio made 15 starts for the Giants in 2019, but tore his achilles late in the season and was let go this off-season. They need a replacement and Ruiz is a plug and play starter who can be an upgrade as a rookie.

38. Carolina Panthers – CB Antoine Winfield (Minnesota)

The Panthers lost cornerback James Bradberry and cut safety Eric Reid this off-season, so there are snaps available for a rookie defensive back. Antoine Winfield can play both slot cornerback and safety and could have an immediate role as a rookie.

39. Detroit Lions – DT Raekwon Davis (Alabama)

The Lions lost Damon Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, and Mike Daniels this off-season, so they need reinforcements at the defensive tackle position. If they don’t take Derrick Brown in the first round, expect them to target defensive tackles on day 2. In this scenario, they use one of the picks they got from trading with the Dolphins.

40. Houston Texans – WR Laviska Shenault (Colorado)

The Texans got this pick in the DeAndre Hopkins trade, so it would make sense that they use it on his replacement, although not much the Texans do makes sense. The Texans added Randall Cobb in free agency, but he’s just a slot option. They need insurance for the injury prone Will Fuller on the outside and both Fuller and Kenny Stills are set to be free agents next off-season.

41. Cleveland Browns – WR KJ Hamler (Penn State)

The Browns have Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, but they lack depth at the wide receiver position and Landry could miss the start of the season after off-season hip surgery. In a deep wide receiver class, the Browns could look for help on day 2 of the draft.

42. Jacksonville Jaguars – RB D’Andre Swift (Georgia)

Leonard Fournette was the 4th overall pick in 2017, but he’s been injury prone and largely unimpressive, so the Jaguars declined his 5th year option for 2021, making him a free agent next off-season. The Jaguars seem very willing to move on from him, but they lack any depth behind him on the depth chart.. The Jaguars could look for depth and a new lead back of the future on day 2. If D’Andre Swift falls out of the first round, the Jaguars would make a lot of sense in the second.

43. Chicago Bears – CB Bryce Hall (Virginia)

The Bears cut Prince Amukamara for cap purposes, but he was a solid starter and the Bears don’t have a clear replacement on the roster. Former Steelers bust Artie Burns is currently penciled in as the starter opposite Kyle Fuller and he’s only on a one-year deal, so they need help through the draft.

44. Indianapolis Colts – WR Michael Pittman (USC)

The Colts need another wide receiver to go with TY Hilton and Parris Campbell. The 6-4 Pittman would be a good complement to Hilton and Campbell, who are smaller, speedier receivers.

45. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – OLB Terrell Lewis (Alabama)

The Buccaneers franchise tagged Shaq Barrett and re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul, but they lost Carl Nassib and need depth behind the starters, especially with Barrett not signed long-term and JPP going into his age 31 season. 

46. Denver Broncos – DE Marlon Davidson (Auburn)

The Broncos traded for Jurrell Casey, which is a big boost on their defensive line, but they had a lot of free agent defensive linemen, so they need to replenish depth. This is somewhere they could look on day 2 on the draft.

47. Atlanta Falcons – CB Jeff Gladney (TCU)

The Falcons cut Desmond Trufant for cap purposes, but he was still their best cornerback and they lack depth at the position. 

48. New York Jets – OLB Curtis Weaver (Boise State)

The Jets re-signed Jordan Jenkins this off-season, but they once again need edge rush help. Jenkins is a solid player, but they haven’t had an edge rusher with more than 8 sacks in a season since 2013. Weaver could have a significant role as a rookie and has the upside that the Jets currently lack at the position.

49. Pittsburgh Steelers – QB Jacob Eason (Washington)

Neither Mason Rudolph nor Devlin Hodges looked like long-term starting options in Ben Roethlisberger’s absence last season, so the Steelers need to make finding a quarterback of the future behind Big Ben a priority. Roethlisberger is not only coming off of a significant injury, but he is also going into his age 38 season, so he’s a significant question mark going forward and the Steelers don’t have a good alternative if he gets hurt again or declines significantly.

50. Chicago Bears – S Kyle Dugger (Lenoir-Rhyne)

The Bears addressed the cornerback position with their earlier second round pick, taking a long-term replacement to Prince Amukamara, but they also need a safety to replace free agent departure HaHa Clinton-Dix. Dugger could push to start as a rookie.

51. Dallas Cowboys – WR Jalen Reagor (TCU)

The Cowboys have a good wide receiver duo in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, but they lack depth at the position with Randall Cobb signing with the Texans. In a deep wide receiver draft, the Cowboys could look at wide receivers on day 2.

52. Los Angeles Rams – OLB Jabari Zuniga (Florida)

The Rams lost both Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews this off-season. They signed Leonard Floyd, but he’s not much of a pass rusher and he’s only on a one-year deal. Samson Ebukam, the other projected starter, is also set to hit free agency next off-season. They desperately need a talented young edge rusher.

53. Philadelphia Eagles – OLB Akeem Davis-Gaither (Appalachian State)

The Eagles cut Nigel Bradham for cap purposes, which left them very thin at the linebacker position. There is plenty of playing time available for a high draft pick at the position.

54. Buffalo Bills – RB JK Dobbins (Ohio State)

The Bills like last year’s third round pick Devin Singletary, but I could see them taking another back early if the value makes sense. The Bills don’t have many pressing needs and Dobbins could easily be seen as the best player available. He and Singletary could make a dangerous duo, especially with quarterback Josh Allen being a threat to take off and run himself.

55. Baltimore Ravens – WR Denzel Mims (Baylor)

The Ravens aren’t a passing team and when they do pass they mostly feature tight ends, but the Ravens still need to get Lamar Jackson a reliable wide receiver option opposite Marquise Brown. Their lack of talent at wide receiver was evident in their playoff loss to the Titans.

56. Detroit Lions – G John Simpson (Clemson)

The Lions lost a pair of offensive lineman this off-season in Graham Glasgow and Rick Wagner. Wagner was replaced in free agent by Halapoulivaati Vaitai, but Glasgow’s departure has left them very thin at guard. Simpson could start at either guard spot as a rookie.

57. Houston Texans – DE Jordan Elliott (Missouri)

The Texans are pretty thin on the defensive line after losing DJ Reader in free agency. They traded away most of their draft picks and created a big need at wide receiver when they traded DeAndre Hopkins, but they still need to address the defensive line at some point.

58. Minnesota Vikings – WR Chase Claypool (Notre Dame)

The Vikings traded Stefon Diggs because they’re a running team and it didn’t make sense for them to be paying at the top of the market for a quarterback and two wide receivers, but they lacked a capable 3rd receiver at the position in 2019 and are very thin behind Adam Theilen right now. Expect them to address the position relatively early in the draft.

59. Seattle Seahawks – OT Isaiah Wilson (Georgia)

The Seahawks added Brandon Shell in free agency, but he’s a borderline starting option and could be pushed by a rookie. They also need a long-term option at left tackle, where Duane Brown is going into his age 35 season.

60. Baltimore Ravens – G Tyler Biadasz (Wisconsin)

Losing Marshal Yanda is a big loss for the Ravens’ offensive line. They’ll need to try to find a long-term replacement at right guard in the draft. Biadasz played center at Wisconsin, but has the size to play guard in the NFL.

61. Tennessee Titans – OT Ezra Cleveland (Boise State)

The Titans are promoting swing tackle Dennis Kelly to replace free agent departure Jack Conklin, but he’s going into his age 30 season with just 31 career starts, so the Titans need insurance behind him and a new swing tackle.

62. Green Bay Packers – CB Damon Arnette (Ohio State)

Long-time Packer Tramon Williams still played a big role in the Packers’ secondary last season, but he’s a free agent going into his age 37 season this off-season. This has seemingly been the case for years, but Packers could use more young cornerback depth.

63. Kansas City Chiefs – CB Cameron Dantzler (Mississippi State)

The Chiefs lost Kendall Fuller to the Redskins and Bashaud Breeland is also a free agent, so they could use some help at cornerback through the draft.

64. Seattle Seahawks – DE Jonathan Greenard (Florida)

The Seahawks might still re-sign Jadeveon Clowney, but if they don’t they’ll need help at defensive end. Even if they do bring back Clowney, it’ll likely be a short-term deal, so this pick would still make sense.

Thoughts on Tom Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After quarterbacking the most dominant two decade stretch by any team in NFL history, Tom Brady will wear a uniform other than a Patriots uniform for the first time ever this season, with Brady choosing to sign with the Buccaneers as a free agent. In the NFL, it’s rare for a superstar player to finish his career with the same team he started with. After seeing Brett Favre in a Jets and Vikings uniform, Joe Montana in a Chiefs uniform, Emmitt Smith in a Cardinals uniform, Jerry Rice in a Raiders and Seahawks uniform, Ed Reed in a Texans and Jets uniform and so on, you’d think seeing Tom Brady in a Buccaneers uniform wouldn’t be so surprising, but this one feels a little weirder. In two decades in New England, Brady won 6 Super Bowls, 9 AFC Championships, 3 regular season MVPs, 4 Super Bowl MVPs, and a ridiculous 76.9% of his games, while posting a winning record in every season he was the starter, so his departure is obviously a significant event for the league.

In some ways though, this shouldn’t be that surprising, beyond all the rumors throughout the year that Brady was considering other options. As impressive as Brady’s time in New England was, it was never going to end well. The idea that he was going to win the Super Bowl and ride off into the sunset was never realistic. This is the guy who famously said (now almost 6 years ago) that he wouldn’t retire until he sucked. If he had won the Super Bowl this year, he would have wanted another one. He was always going to keep playing until he wasn’t good enough. Meanwhile, his head coach Bill Belichick is famous for moving on a year early rather than a year late. This was never going to end well. 

In some ways, this is about as well as it could have ended, with both sides parting ways amicably. We might not know the full story here for a while (or ever), but it doesn’t seem like there was a massive breakdown in Brady and Belichick’s personal relationship. Both sides, apparently mutually, agreed to move on for football reasons. The fully guaranteed 2-year, 50 million dollar deal the Buccaneers gave Brady is the kind of offer the Patriots would have matched if Belichick was confident Brady would remain a top flight quarterback for another two seasons and Brady’s decision to announce that he was leaving New England before announcing where he was going suggests that the Patriots’ offer never even made the final cut. 

The Patriots offer might not have been significantly less annually in terms of money, but this was never fully about money (Brady hardly needs it) and it’s unlikely the Patriots’ offer included the guarantees and benefits of Tampa Bay’s, which fully guarantees his salary for 2021, gives him a full no trade clause, and allows him to become a free agent again in 2022, without the Buccaneers being able to franchise tag him. In other words, this contract gives Brady total security for two seasons while giving him complete control of his football future, something the Patriots likely didn’t offer him for his age 43 and 44 seasons. If there’s any solace in this for Patriots’ fans, it’s that the decision to part ways was in part Bill Belichick’s decision. He would have taken Brady back under the right conditions, but was never going to get into a bidding war if another team gave him a more favorable long-term situation.

Another thing for Patriots fans to take solace is in the fact that the version of Tom Brady they had for two decades was likely never coming back either way. Brady was still one of the better quarterbacks in the league last season, even if issues around him on the Patriots offense caused him to have an underwhelming statistical year, but he did show signs of slowing down, especially late in the season. Including playoffs, he finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ 12th ranked quarterback. After a strong first 3 weeks of the season, Brady didn’t have a single game with a PFF grade higher than 80 the rest of the way and, from week 4 on, he was PFF’s 18th ranked quarterback, meaning he was close to being an ordinary starter for most of last season. 

For a quarterback who prior to last season had 5 straight seasons with grades over 90 on PFF, including first place finishes at his position in 2015, 2016, and 2017, that’s a pretty big drop off. As we’ve seen with Brett Favre and Peyton Manning in recent years, quarterbacks can lose it quickly when they get up there in age and, going into his age 43 season, Brady is entering truly uncharted territory. Brady has certainly defied the odds before and a twilight years Tom Brady is still the best option the Buccaneers could have hoped for this off-season, but it’s understandable why Bill Belichick and the Patriots wouldn’t want to commit to him at the same level that the Buccaneers did. Belichick, never one to get sentimental, felt his team was better off going in another direction.

Belichick has made similar decisions countless times before and has mostly been proven right. As impressive as Brady’s tenure in New England was, much of it was enabled by Bill Belichick building and coaching up the rest of the roster, in spite of salary cap restraints. Brady didn’t have a great supporting cast on offense last year, but that was mostly due to injury, while their defense was one of the best in the league. Now comes the greatest challenge of Bill Belichick’s career, needing a quarterback for the first time in two decades. Assuming the Patriots’ offer to Brady was largely uncompetitive, Belichick likely has known for at least a few weeks that there was a good chance he’d be needing an alternative, so I would expect that he’s prepared for this.

When I wrote about this a month ago, I listed Teddy Bridgewater and Philip Rivers as the top options to replace him, but they’ve both gone elsewhere. Former Buccaneers’ quarterback Jameis Winston is another name thrown around, but his turnover habits won’t mix well with Belichick, so I can’t imagine him taking a flyer on Winston. Andy Dalton was third on my list and could possibly be an option if the Bengals eventually end up releasing him, but another option has emerged with the Panthers signing Teddy Bridgewater and announcing Cam Newton is available in trade.

Newton was linked to the Bears before they ended up trading for Nick Foles, but with the Bears out of the running, it’s unclear which team would be willing to trade a draft pick for a quarterback coming off of a significant injury who is owed 19.1 million dollars this year, meaning it’s likely that Newton will eventually get released. If he does, you’d have to guess the Patriots would be the favorites to sign him. Other teams like the Jaguars and Chargers may be interested if he were to be available as a free agent, but the Patriots would obviously give Newton the best chance to win and to rehab his value long-term. 

Newton would obviously be a very different kind of quarterback than the one Belichick has won with for the past two decades, but he’s never been locked in to one type of player at any position and taking a flyer on a 31-year-old former MVP that no one really seems to want after two injury plagued years would be a very Belichick move. Belichick has also expressed his admiration for Newton’s game on several occasions in the past and is 0-2 in his two matchups against Newton’s Panthers.

The Patriots also have 2019 4th round pick Jarrett Stidham and, while he may not be ready to start right away, the fact that the Patriots haven’t run out and added a quarterback already suggests that Belichick is at least somewhat confident going to Stidham if needed. Signing a higher risk, higher upside option like Newton with Stidham available in case of injuries or struggles would make more sense than a low upside option like Andy Dalton, even if Dalton’s abilities are more Brady-like than Newton’s. 

Even without a quarterback firmly in place, the odds makers still seem confident in Belichick’s ability to put together a contender. The Patriots’ over/under for wins is 9.5, which is certainly less than the 11-14 wins they were routinely at with Brady, but only the Chiefs, Ravens, Saints, and 49ers have over/unders of 10 or more right now and the Patriots are still ahead of both the Buccaneers and division rival Bills, who are both at 8.5. With the Bills acquiring Stefon Diggs right around the same time as Brady left the Patriots, many expected the Bills would finally overtake the Patriots in the division, but the Patriots are still favored with even odds over the Bills (+140) in the division. In terms of winning the Super Bowl, the Patriots fall behind the Buccaneers, who are at 15 to 1, but they still have the 9th best odds at 22 to 1.

Unless Brady completely falls off a cliff, his addition should make the Buccaneers better, given who he is replacing. I would have said the same thing had the Buccaneers ended up with Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater, or even Cam Newton instead this off-season. The Buccaneers finished last season 10th in first down rate differential at +2.22%, but went just 7-9 because of a -13 turnover margin. Jameis Winston, who was the first quarterback to throw 30 interceptions in a season since 1988, was the obvious culprit. Going from him to Tom Brady, who has just 29 interceptions in the past 4 seasons combined, will obviously go a long way towards solving their turnover problems, even if Brady’s best years are behind him.

It’s also not hard to see how this offense will finish better than the 13th they finished in first down rate in 2019 (36.92%), given that Brady will be throwing to weapons like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin at wide receiver and OJ Howard and Cameron Brate at tight end, though their running game and offensive line play are question marks. On defense, they also ranked 13th last season, with a 34.70% first down rate allowed, a huge step up from the 30th ranked defense they had in 2018. Their defense was especially good down the stretch last season, ranking 4th in first down rate allowed from week 10 on, and are possibly an up and coming young group. With head coach Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the Buccaneers are well coached on both sides of the ball. There’s a reason I thought the Buccaneers made the most sense of any non-Patriots option earlier this off-season. I just didn’t expect Brady to actually leave.

Tampa Bay is a legitimate contender if Brady can be even a top-12 quarterback this season, but they’re still behind the Saints in the division and may have a tougher time making the playoffs than the Patriots, even with as much uncertainty as the Patriots have right now, including a few key defensive departures. I’ll have a lot more on this in both team’s season previews later this off-season, as the rest of free agency and the draft shake out, but needless to say these are two of the more interesting teams to watch going into 2020.