It’s been about forty long days since the Coronavirus stopped life as we know it and has altered our world for the foreseeable future. As sports leagues shuttered one by one, people wondered if the NFL Draft would remain on the desolate sports calendar for the dates of April 23rd-April 25th. It was eventually confirmed that it would be on as scheduled, but not without understandable controversy as the Virus has killed roughly 45,000 Americans over the last month and a half.
The NFL in America in comparison to the other sports is the unmovable giant. They are by far the most popular sport and money maker between them, the NBA, NHL and MLB. One of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s biggest regrets in his tenure was playing games the weekend that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I would argue that that weekend showed the impact that sports could have and that they could be a unifier for fans across the country. The only politics in sports are the teams you root for. Republicans and Democrats, whites and blacks rooting for the same team. One team wins and the other team loses. There’s no room for debate. That’s one of the great thing about sports. There isn’t a gray area.
It is a very surreal and unsettling feeling that one of my favorite things to do in life, going to sporting events, we simply can’t do right now for the safety of everyone and it could be that way for a while. It is very frustrating to have something you love taken away from you. I understand that many people, including me, have lost a loved one to Coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean that I cannot feel like this, or college seniors can’t be upset at the fact they’re missing the final opportunity to spend time with friends or athletes are missing their final chances to play. The fact we very likely won’t be able to attend ballgames in the middle of the summer and may not even have them is completely disheartening. As a sports fan, I’m glad we have things here and there to look forward to and this week has been a great boon with the documentary so far about Michael Jordan this past Sunday “The Last Dance” and then a 3 day sports event which many fans always love in the NFL Draft. It will be done virtually so certainly a different feel this year, but I am sure we will see a lot of twists and turns as usual. We will finally have a sense of normalcy in the sports world after a very not normal last month and a half.
NFL Draft Predictions
#1 Cincinnati Bengals-Not even the Bengals could screw this up. Joe Burrow is an Ohio kid. Appears to be an excellent leader. Takes tough shots in games and comes out unscathed. Had a remarkable 60 touchdown campaign at LSU under Ed Orgeron last year culminating in their Championship victory over Clemson.
#2 Washington Redskins-For a while there seemed to be some hesitation with the Redskins drafting Chase Young, instead opting for a Quarterback as there was rumblings that new head coach Ron Rivera didn’t necessarily need to take a liking to Dwayne Haskins as that wasn’t the quarterback he drafted, so he could’ve gone in that direction if he wanted to. I believe that Rivera is willing, especially as a first year coach to see what he has in Dwayne and it’s too early either way to evaluate his talent and simply write him off. With Chase Young, you have what should be a very solid defensive end for a decade. If they don’t want a quarterback, it’s a clear-cut decision. He’s coming off a 16.5 sack season in which he didn’t play two games.
#3 Detroit Lions-I am torn here. I think there’s a very reasonable chance that some team can trade up to draft a quarterback here. However, the best prospect on the board, Jeffrey Okudah is at a position the Lions have a glaring hole at after Quandree Diggs and Darius Slay, who I’m a fan of was traded. I think if someone moves up for the quarterback it will be the Chargers. As a Miami Dolphins fan, I cannot picture them trading a king’s ransom to move up two spots and honestly do feel like they’d be comfortable drafting either Tua or Justin Herbert, unless they’re over the moon with Tua, but I’ve heard many teams are uncomfortable about his injury issues. I think Lions won’t trade and take Jeffrey here.
#4 New York Giants-It feels like it has been a theme for a while now with them since the last couple years of Eli Manning’s career, but there offensive line leaves an awful lot to be desired. Again, as long as no trade happens here, Giants likely take Tristan Wirfs, from Iowa. He is excellent blocking in the running game. They could also take Mekhi Becton, Jedrick Wills or Isaiah Simmons, the Outside Linebacker from Clemson.
#5 Miami Dolphins-Long thought to be Miami’s guy, it could happen in a way not thought possible around this time last year. Joe Burrow absolutely surged to be the #1 draft pick while Tua Tagovailoa appeared to be destined for that last year. Miami through their first four games this year many were calling the worst NFL team of all time, then started playing far more respectably culminating in a shocking upset of the Patriots costing them a bye the last week of the season where the Dolphins all of a sudden dropped to the 5th pick. It’s either Tua or Herbert for the Dolphins and I think realistically the Chargers could move up to take Herbert even. This could be the pick that starts to turn the Dolphins fortunes around and they have a ton of draft picks this year too.
#6 Los Angeles Chargers-The Chargers are in a good spot here as there are not a lot of teams who would draft up to take a quarterback in the top 5 and they would be one of them. Some mocks have them trading up to 3 to potentially take Justin Herbert, but as long as no trade happens, they should have their pick of Tua or Herbert here and if both are available, I expect the Dolphins to take Tua.
#7 Carolina Panthers-The Panthers at this point would probably want Okudah if a trade were to happen and he falls here. If he doesn’t, I think their decision will be between Isaiah Simmons, Derrick Brown and C.J. Henderson whose stock appears to be on the rise. Simmons teaming up with Shaq Thompson on defense seems appetizing. He played ball relatively local to Charlotte. He is the best linebacker of this class and I think will be a better player than C.J. Henderson.
#8 Arizona Cardinals-Another team who desperately needs help at the offensive tackle position. They will have their pick of the litter as if the Giants pass on Wirfs for some other tackle or a player at another position, they could nab him or Andrew Thomas, Mekhi Becton or Jedrick Wills. I think they take the big man from Alabama Wills, proven against big time compeition and is able to keep defenders at bay.
#9 Jacksonville Jaguars-So far, My mock has a couple of kids staying pretty local to where they played college ball at and that contunues here with C.J. Henderson going to Jacksonville. They need the most help at Cornerback and I expect to be Okudah gone by this point. They could take an offensive tackle or quarterback but I think the big 3 will be gone by this point and there is no way Jordan Love should get this high up.
#10 Cleveland Browns-About 15 years after taking another Thomas at Offensive tackle, I think the Browns get Andrew Thomas here. This seems like a very tradeable pick though and I can see that happening here with a lot of good offensive tackles who still will be available later first round.
#11 New York Jets-As I am going through my mock draft, the over for offensive tackles might be worth a look for people who bet the draft. I think this is where Mekhi Becton from Louisville goes. It appears like the end of the single digits there will start to be a run on offensive tackles and that will turn to wideouts as we reach the middle stages of the draft.
#12 Las Vegas Raiders-It felt strange writing that. Yes, the Oakland Raiders are now the Las Vegas Raiders. They were supposed to host this year’s draft before the Coronavirus outbreak. They are very likely going after a receiver here and that should be either Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb or Henry Ruggs. I think they’re taking Lamb from Oklahoma who has had 26 touchdowns in the last two seasons, the biggest player of the three. He is explosive and can break tackles.
#13 San Francisco 49ers-The one player I am still mystified is on my board is Derrick Brown who skills wise is probably a top five player in this draft. However drafts are done based on needs for the most part not best talent available and teams like the Cardinals, Browns and Jets desperately need an offensive tackle and the Jaguars desperately need a cornerback. Brown could be drafted as high as the Lions pick with 3 honestly, and I could see the Giants or Panthers taking him too. But I think they will like their other options more which will make Brown the surprise fall of this year’s draft.
#14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers-With the surprising announcement of a trade yesterday to bring Rob Gronkowski to Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers offense look like they’re in business with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Tom Brady, it’s now time to focus on the defense. Javon Kinlaw is clearly the second best Defensive Tackle on the board and that’s who I expect to go here with a lot of the good offensive tackles now gone.
#15 Denver Broncos-With my mock having CeeDee Lamb off the board, Denver likely takes one of the Alabama receivers in Henry Ruggs or Jerry Jeudy. They go with Jeudy here who is pretty undistinguishable from Lamb and either could make the argument for the best receiver of this year’s class.
#16-Atlanta Falcons-The Falcons likely take either Grant Delpit or Xavier McKinney at Safety here, but I think they will take K’Lavon Chaisson at Edge here. They certaintly would love Kinlaw or a corner, but it’s very unrealistic to think they could acquire Okudah or Henderson without trading up.
Stay tuned for the second half of my predictions tomorrow!