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NFL mock draft 1.0; Daily sports columnists’ picks

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With the combine and the bulk of free agency in the rearview mirror, NFL evaluators are gearing up for the league’s first-ever online draft later this month. In a class with top-end quarterback talent and depth at wide receiver and offensive tackle, teams have the opportunity to load up on offense or pick their signal callers of the future. With the first overall pick all but certain, the spotlight falls on the Washington Redskins at No. 2 and the Detroit Lions at No. 3. Will the Redskins hang tight with Dwayne Haskins or seek his replacement after half a season with him at the helm? Will the Lions stay put or embrace a trade-up from quarterback-needy teams in the Los Angeles Chargers or Miami Dolphins? 

This mock draft is our first of the offseason and outlines what we would do as general managers of each team. We’re not aiming for the most accurately predictive mock, but rather to improve each team as much as possible by the end of the draft’s first round.

1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

Pick No. 1 in the upcoming draft seems to be a lock. After having one of the most prolific seasons in college football history, the Heisman-winning Ohio native is the most likely and the most sensible pick to go to Cincinnati. After years of watching mediocre quarterback play by Andy Dalton, Bengals fans everywhere will rejoice in welcoming Burrow to The Jungle. 

2. Washington Redskins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama 

With a return to full health expected following a hip injury, Tua is a prospect that simply should not be passed on. Although Dwayne Haskins remains young in his career and with some degree of promise, Ron Rivera has the opportunity to start his coaching career in the nation’s capital with a top-flight talent. At full health, Tua simply has an accuracy, release and talent that very few quarterback prospects in recent years have had. The Redskins return to promise should begin with the drafting of Tua Tagovailoa, who certainly has the potential to be one of the league’s top passers.

3. Detroit Lions: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State

The Lions fill their biggest need here by picking arguably the best player in this year’s draft class. Chase Young is a rare defensive prospect, a perfect fit to rush the passer and stop the run in Detroit defensive coordinator Matt Patricia’s 3-4/4-3 multiple system. He’s powerful, technically polished and generationally athletic, and Young tore up every single offensive line he played against this season. Young is the kind of prospect that would be a plug-and-play starter for any NFL team and has the upside to be a perennial All-Pro, terrorizing quarterbacks for years to come.

4. New York Giants: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

The Giants have a glaring need at right tackle and need to protect their young quarterback. Though Wirfs may not be the most polished of the top offensive linemen of this class, he is indisputably the most athletic and absolutely dominated the combine last month — showing remarkable foot quickness and a compact and powerful punch. He was the first true freshman to ever start at offensive tackle for the Hawkeyes’ head coach Kirk Ferentz, who has coached up a number of first-rounders on the offensive line during his tenure in Iowa City. 

5. Miami Dolphins: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

The Dolphins are certainly in the market for a quarterback, and if Tua is off the board prior to the 5th pick (assuming that the Dolphins don’t trade up), Miami will be left in a position where they will likely be wanting to take the best quarterback available. After Burrow and Tagovailoa, Herbert looks to show the next most promise out of this class of quarterbacks. With a 6’6″ frame and one of the strongest arms in the draft class, Herbert will have an opportunity to develop with the NFL’s youngest roster.

6. Los Angeles Chargers: Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson

With the draft’s three top quarterbacks gone, the Chargers will likely stand pat with Tyrod Taylor at the helm and look to add dynamism and versatility on defense. The Chargers linebacking corps has been a liability for years now; Simmons is a rare defensive chess piece and has the ability to run and hit as well as cover tight ends and even slot receivers, and he can do so at a high level. Imagine trying to scheme up your offensive attack with Derwin James and Isaiah Simmons on the same field lined up against you. 

7. Carolina Panthers: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

Okudah is not only the (mostly) consensus best cornerback in this draft class, but he would fill a critical need in the Panthers defense. Okudah is a physically ideal cornerback coming off of a prolific career for one of the nation’s consistently elite programs. Charlotte will be happy to see the Ohio State All-American fall to pick seven. 

8. Arizona Cardinals: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

Wills would solidify the right side of an offensive line protecting a young franchise quarterback in Kyler Murray who just had his receiving corps retooled this offseason with the addition of Deandre Hopkins. A two-year starter for the Alabama Crimson Tide, Wills has absurd foot quickness and the hands of a boxer, playing with loose hips and the nasty streak offensive line coaches love. He’s a plug-and-play starter that offers the versatility to move inside to guard as well. Best of all, he is further along from a technical standpoint than any offensive line prospect in years.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

After trading Calais Campbell to Baltimore and declining Marcell Dareus’ option, the Jaguars will be looking to bolster the interior of their defensive line. While Derrick Brown might be a popular pick to be slotted here, Kinlaw provides incredibly high upside and one of the highest levels of raw talent for any prospect in this draft class. Kinlaw will provide the Jaguars with a multi-talented interior lineman to strengthen what was one of the top positional units in the league a few years ago.

10. Cleveland Browns: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Becton is a mountain of a man. But his enormous frame is complemented by surprisingly quick feet and functional athleticism that allowed him to redirect his 364-pound body to bury pass rushers and linebackers in the ACC this past season. Baker Mayfield was inconsistent last season; Becton has the highest ceiling of any offensive line prospect in this class and would shore up the other tackle spot for a Browns team that desperately needs to protect its starting quarterback. Andrew Berry has the opportunity to pick a potential stud with his first-ever pick as the Brown’s newly minted general manager.

11. New York Jets: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

With Robby Anderson off to the Carolina Panthers, the New York Jets are left with one of the most depleted receiving corps in the league. Jerry Jeudy is the best wide receiver in the draft and will give Sam Darnold a much-needed threat on the outside of the Jets offense. A physical freak and a technician, Jeudy will provide the Jets with a spark on offense that they desperately need.

12. Las Vegas Raiders: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

Lamb will provide the dynamic playmaker that Las Vegas’ new team will be thrilled to see. John Gruden will seek another high profile WR, following last year’s failed experiment with Antonio Brown, to provide Derek Carr outside weapons. The First Team All-American and Biletnikoff Award Finalist has the potential to be one of the most solid receiving threats for years to come in the NFL.

13. San Francisco 49ers: Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn

After trading away All-Pro Deforest Buckner for the Colts’ first-round pick here this offseason, the 49ers get an absolute steal in Derrick Brown, a dominant defensive tackle who would likely have been a first-rounder if he had entered the draft as a junior last season. Brown is a complete interior defensive line prospect: a dynamic, scheme-versatile force with incredible first-step quickness as well as the upside potential to develop into a double-digit pass rusher at the next level. This pick allows the 49ers to swap Buckner for a player in Brown that could ultimately prove to be an upgrade, all while avoiding the massive cap hit of resigning Buckner to a massive deal (He signed a four-year, $84-million extension with the Colts in March). 

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

Thomas is arguably the safest and most pro-ready tackle in this class; he played both right and left tackle during his three seasons with the Bulldogs and excelled at both. Boasting the longest arms of any of the top tackles in the class, he has powerful hands and a mean streak in the run game. General managers will fall in love with his tools and competitiveness; this pick will shore up an offensive line to protect Tom Brady and pave lanes in the running game. 

15. Denver Broncos: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Drew Lock is a promising young quarterback for the Broncos, and John Elway will look to get him a young and electric receiver to grow with. Ruggs III’s 4.27 speed will provide Denver with a formidable playmaking presence to compliment Courtland Sutton and bring a more explosive presence to the Broncos offense. Ruggs speed and ability should open up an offense that will play host to the developing Drew Lock and the newly acquired Melvin Gordon in the backfield.

16. Atlanta Falcons: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

Atlanta has made some moves this offseason to strengthen its running game with the addition of Todd Gurley and to strengthen its front with the addition of Dante Fowler Jr., but the secondary remains a substantial weakness. CJ Henderson gives the Falcons a cornerback with a solid blend of size and athleticism, and should be able to have an instant impact in strengthening a fairly weak position unit on one of the league’s weaker defenses.

17. Dallas Cowboys: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU

At 6’3″ and 254 pounds with the fluidity and agility to dip and bend around the edge, Chaisson could develop into an impact pass-rusher and stout run defender at the next level. He was dominant in spurts this past season and showed off a rare burst in the college football playoff, bringing down Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts twice in the semifinals. Though there’s still a lot of work to do from a technical standpoint, Chaisson would fit well as a hand-in-the-dirt edge in Rod Marinelli’s 4-3 scheme in Dallas, providing a high-ceiling upgrade over veteran Tyrone Crawford opposite Demarcus Lawrence.

18. Miami Dolphins: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

The Georgia native and All-SEC Safety from Alabama will be a plug-and-go fit for the Dolphins secondary. With a blend of size and athleticism, McKinney is ready to make an instant impact in any NFL secondary. A versatile defender, McKinney will make the Dolphins defense better from the moment that they draft him and help to continue their rebuild.

19.   Las Vegas Raiders: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

It’s not a flashy pick, but Fulton has great size and solid athleticism for the position. His best deployment is in press, and for a Raiders team currently starting Trayvon Mullen and Nevin Lawson, Fulton will be an immediate upgrade and allow Lawson to remain at his natural position covering the slot. He offers great reactionary quickness and has shown willingness to tackle, but he’s had some character issues in the past that may drive him down draft boards.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars: Grant Delpit, S, LSU

The Jaguars have fallen further and more quickly over the past few years than any team in the NFL. The vaunted Sacksonville of 2017 has lost nearly every one of its key players: Calais Campbell, Telvin Smith, Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, Malik Jackson and Paul Posluszny are now gone. Even Yannick Ngakoue seems to be on his way out. The Jags defense is lacking juice from top to bottom and could use upgrades at every secondary position. Grant Delpit was once considered a top-five player in this class and has a higher ceiling than any safety in the draft this year. If he can clean up his tackling, he has the potential to be an elite defender for years to come.

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

One of the most glaring weaknesses of the current Eagles roster is their linebacker group. The opportunity to add one of this draft class’ linebackers in the latter half of the first round is an opportunity that can make an immediate impact and help to strengthen the foundation of their defense for years to come. A combination of size, speed and pure athleticism, Murray can provide an instant presence to help the Eagles defense continue to contend in the NFC East.

22. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

The Vikings receiving and cornerback groups are their most glaring weaknesses at the moment (Heard of Olabisi Johnson or Chad Beebe, aka Minnesota’s wide receivers two and three?). With no top-flight talents left on the board at corner, the wide receiver becomes the clear pick. From a team that was one of the league’s most talented and dominant a couple of seasons ago, the loss of Stefon Diggs and the front office’s inability to add depth in the receiver room makes picking a pass-catcher an imperative for the Vikings in this draft. Adding a reliable and incredibly productive weapon for Kirk Cousins by way of National Champion Justin Jefferson from LSU makes the most sense at this pick.

23. New England Patriots: AJ Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

A few months ago, you couldn’t find a mock draft that had Epenesa outside of the top five. After a strong junior season in which he racked up 49 tackles, 14.5 for loss, 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in just 13 games, Epenesa showed he has the power and technical prowess as a pass rusher to be a dominant and productive force; however, he flopped at the combine, running a 5.04 40-yard dash, while only putting up 17 reps on the bench press. He’s not particularly bursty or bendy but features exceptional size at 6’6″ and 280 pounds and plays with overwhelming power. He’s scheme versatile — a Belichick requisite — and can line up inside over the guard’s outside shoulder and as a base 4-3 edge. In typical Patriots fashion, they get an undervalued, high-ceiling, scheme-versatile defender in the later half of the first round.

24. New Orleans Saints: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

Following the departure of Teddy Bridgewater, the Saints are left with a 41-year-old Drew Brees and gadget-player Taysom Hill in the quarterback room. Sean Peyton will likely be looking for a young prospect to come in and learn behind Brees before his (likely soon) retirement. Love would give New Orleans a talented passer, who has all of the physical tools necessary to develop into a prominent threat under the guidance of one of the NFL’s best current coaches and one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

25. Minnesota Vikings: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

After trading Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills, the Vikings are left with this pick at the end of the first round, which they could use to bolster their secondary with the addition of Stefon’s brother Trevon Diggs. Diggs is a defensive back that presents a wide array of impressive physical traits and balanced abilities that will give him the opportunity to develop and become a playmaker in Minnesota’s secondary. 

26. Miami Dolphins: Cesar Ruiz, IOL, Michigan

The Dolphins’ offensive line is arguably the worst single positional group in the NFL. They need to protect their newly minted signal caller, and they do so here by picking the draft’s best interior offensive lineman in the Wolverines’ Cesar Ruiz, who has all the makings of a future mainstay at center or offensive guard. A former five-star recruit, he was stout as a three-year starter and has the right combination of athleticism, tenaciousness and technique to bring a significant upgrade to the Dolphins interior offensive line.

27. Seattle Seahawks: Lloyd Cushenberry III, IOL, LSU

Seattle has been held back by its offensive line over the past few years, and establishing a solid presence at center with Cushenberry III is one of the best steps that can be taken to start fixing this issue. Cushenberry III has the size, power and ability to make an instant impact on one of the weaker positional units in the league and provide Russell Wilson with a reliable player in the middle of his offensive line for years to come.

28. Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

The Ravens get a steal here at the end of the first round in LSU’s Queen, the latest of a dynasty of star inside linebackers from the Tigers. Queen follows in the footsteps of Devin White, Kwon Alexander and Deion Jones, and possesses their same three-down ability to run, hunt and cover sideline to sideline. He doesn’t have the size usually sought after in a middle linebacker, but he’s the prototype for where the position is moving; he’s a day-one starter with a high ceiling for a group that lost both of their starters in CJ Mosley and Patrick Onwuasor to the Jets over the past two years.

29. Tennessee Titans: Neville Gallimore, IDL, Oklahoma

Gallimore, the Canadian-born defensive line prospect from the University of Oklahoma, can provide a significant interior presence for the Titans defensive front. Elite speed, quickness and power help to make Gallimore a promising threat for a Titans defense that is already fairly solid. The addition of Oklahoma’s star interior lineman could definitely help to solidify the Titans defense and continue their prominence as a threat in the AFC South.

30. Green Bay Packers: Ross Blacklock, IDL, TCU

The Packers shore up their defensive line with this pick, adding to a stout front seven that missed Mike Daniels this past season in the run game. Blacklock has optimal size for the position in Green Bay’s 3-4 front and can bring his experience two-gapping for the Horned Frogs to free up the Packers’ Kenny Clark and recently extended Dean Lowry on the defensive line. Though Blacklock lacks technical polish, he has all the tools to become a disruptive presence in the interior. 

31. San Francisco 49ers: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

Mims can help to fill the void left by Emmanuel Sanders’ departure to New Orleans and give Deebo Samuel an outside complement. Mims will be able to give Shanahan a sizable and very athletic outside presence on the outside of the offense, while giving Jimmy Garoppolo a consistent threat downfield. The 49ers have one of the strongest current rosters from top to bottom, but wideout is certainly a spot that could be improved. Adding the Baylor star will help the reigning NFC Champions to do just that.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

Gladney has the size and athleticism to play outside or on the slot receiver for the Chiefs, and the Chiefs need depth in both areas; they lost Kendall Fuller in the offseason and need to shore up the secondary. Gladney is extremely competitive and has strong instincts for the position, showing off good route anticipation and route combination recognition this season for the Horned Frogs. Kansas City may be tempted to take its pick of a handful of fringe first-round wideouts at this pick, but the team would do well to shore up its secondary now and dip back into skill position picks later in the draft. 

Contact Nick Sligh at nick1019 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Shan Reddy at rsreddy ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Shan Reddy '22 is The Daily's Financial Officer, Business Team Director and a desk editor for the sports section covering Stanford football and tennis. Contact him at [email protected]