Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.
The “legal tampering” period is over. Free agents are on the move and team needs are updating as fast as I can process it all.
I’m thankful for all of it, because the world has taken on a fun-house mirror quality of late. I’m currently typing this at 3 A.M. while my wife watches 72 Cutest Animals on Netflix.
We’re settling in for the long haul with my stepdaughter until the world gets a stranglehold on COVID-19. Wherever you are reading this, I hope you and yours remain safe.
My hope is that focusing on the upcoming NFL draft, however stripped down it will be, will allow us to focus on a future where we can return to some sort of normalcy, stronger and wiser for the wear.
The NFL draft has become a nice appetizer before our main course in September (cross your fingers). A mock version of said draft is meant to educate, and even entertain. At very least, it helps you pass the time.
The closer we get to draft day, the more I attempt to match what teams will actually do with their draft picks as opposed to what I believe they should do.
Last season, I was the fifth most accurate (out of 101) – most accurate in print – NFL draft prognosticator according to The Huddle Report. I’m 18th over the past five years.
Here’s an updated version of my 2020 NFL mock draft, now through four rounds:
1. Cincinnati (2-14) – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU, Sr.
The Bengals are showing Burrow they mean business by securing another season of All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green’s services with the franchise tag and adding talent to a bad defense (Defensive tackle D.J. Reader and cornerback Trae Waynes). Top needs: QB, OL, LB
2. Washington (3-13) – Chase Young, Edge, Ohio St., Jr.
The latest reports have Redskins owner Daniel Snyder being “infatuated with” Young. The former Buckeye remains the top prospect in this draft class. Top needs: OL, WR, LB
3. Detroit (3-12-1) – Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn, Sr.
Ideally, I believe GM Bob Quinn would prefer to create a Tua Sweepstakes, forcing the Dolphins and Chargers to outbid each other. He could stockpile more draft capital and still land an elite prospect in Brown, Jeffrey Okudah or Isaiah Simmons. It would be an executive-of-the-year type move. Top needs: DL, DB, WR
4. N.Y. Giants (4-12) – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa, Jr.
There’s been a lot of smoke about GM Dave Gettleman preferring to trade down (although he never has before in the first round). Wirfs is the best pass protector in this class, and talented enough to play multiple positions on the line. The Giants were fans before his historical performance in Indy. Top needs: OT, S, DL
5. Miami (5-11) – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama, Jr.
It seems the Dolphins have signed every position other than quarterback in free agency already. The former Crimson Tide quarterback aced his four-month medical check and has resumed light football-related drills in preparation for his pro day on April 9. A healthy Tagovailoa compares favorably to Russell Wilson. Top needs: QB, OL, DT
6. L.A. Chargers (5-11) – Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio St., Jr.
The consensus All-American would pair nicely with two-time All-Pro Casey Hayward. Top needs: QB, CB, OL
7. Carolina (5-11) – Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson, Jr.
Luke Kuechly’s retirement makes this scenario almost too-good-to-be-true. The only defensive position Simmons is ill-equipped to play is nose tackle. He’s an athletic unicorn who can rush the passer, patrol sideline to sideline and make an impact in coverage. Top needs: OL, DB, DL
8. Arizona (5-10-1) – Jedrick Wills, OL, Alabama, Jr.
The Cardinals fleeced the Texans for All-World wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins so they can continue to focus on upgrading Kyler Murray’s protection. Wills is a powerful player who is versatile enough to play guard and showed some serious growth at tackle his junior season. He only allowed one quarterback pressure in his last five games, according to Pro Football Focus. Top needs: OL, Edge, DB
9. Jacksonville (6-10) – Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina, Sr.
The Jaguars defensive line is currently being rebuilt with Calais Campbell, Marcell Dareus and Yannick Ngakoue all headed elsewhere. Kinlaw has the potential to be a force against the pass and run at the next level. Top needs: DT, DB, TE
10. Cleveland (6-10) – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia, Jr.
The Browns added right tackle Jack Conklin, but they need more. Thomas is a big, powerful, athletic lineman with springy footwork and quick hands who’s a dynamic closer in both the run and pass game. Top needs: OT, S, LB
11. N.Y. Jets (7-9) – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville, Jr.
The Jets have added tackle George Fant and interior lineman Connor McGovern already to a very poor offensive line, but you can’t teach Becton’s size (6-7, 369) and he’s surprisingly nimble, especially as a run blocker. Top needs: OL, WR, Edge
12. Las Vegas (7-9) – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma, Jr.
Antonio Brown’s breakdown left a sizable hole in the Raiders’ depth chart at receiver. Lamb has elite hands and ball skills (he’s special with the ball in the air). Top needs: WR, LB, CB
13. San Francisco from Indianapolis (7-9) – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama, Jr.
The NFC champs have been busy right out of the gate. GM John Lynch sent All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to Indy in a surprising blockbuster for this pick. Jeudy is the crown jewel of what is shaping up to be a special 2020 class of receivers. Top needs: WR, CB, OL
14. Tampa Bay (7-9) – A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa, Jr.
The Buccaneers did the impossible by luring Tom Brady away from New England. Now they can focus on upgrading an up-and-coming defense. Epenesa racked up 11.5 sacks and forced four fumbles despite facing persistent double-teams last season. The AP All-American is a perfect fit for Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ scheme. Top needs: OL, DL, DB
15. Denver (7-9) – Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama, Jr.
The speedster would pair perfectly with Courtland Sutton. Ruggs is pure electricity with the football in his hands. He scored 25 total touchdowns on 100 touches in his Crimson Tide career. Top needs: OL, DB, DL
16. Atlanta (7-9) – K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU, Soph.
The Falcons recently announced they wouldn’t pursue negotiations with their own free-agent pass rusher, Vic Beasley. Chaisson features one of the highest upsides at any position in this draft class. He’s a natural speed rusher who is capable of dropping into coverage and can be an asset in defending the run. The one knock is his durability. Top needs: Edge, OG, RB
17. Dallas (8-8) – C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida, Jr.
All-Pro cornerback Byron Jones was the odd man out after the Cowboys resigned Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper. Don’t cry for Jones, Argentina. He earned himself a significant pay raise from Miami ($82.5 million over five years). Henderson would be a fine replacement. It’s nitpicking to say he is a shy tackler in the run game. Shutdown corners aren’t charged with shutting down running backs. They’re supposed to shut down wide receivers and Henderson has no problem doing that. Top needs: S, DL, TE
18. Miami from Pittsburgh (8-8) – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama, Jr.
McKinney is very similar to Minkah Fitzpatrick, the defensive back the Dolphins dealt to earn this selection. Top needs: QB, OL, DT
19. Las Vegas from Chicago (8-8) – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU, Sr.
Fulton is an elite athlete who was the top cornerback prospect coming out of high school in 2016, and has lived up to the hype (for the most part). Pairing him with Trayvon Mullen would create a talented, physical duo and go a long way in solving the Raiders issues in their secondary. Top needs: WR, LB, CB
20. Jacksonville from L.A. Rams (9-7) – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU, Jr.
There’s a potential out in Myles Jack’s contract after 2020 if he continues to struggle. Queen is a three-down, sideline-to-sideline terror with an elite football mind and would work well with new addition Joe Schobert. Top needs: DT, DB, TE
21. Philadelphia (9-7) – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU, Jr.
The Eagles’ wide receiver corps is in shambles. The inconsistent Nelson Agholor faces free agency while DeSean Jackson isn’t getting any younger (or healthier). A surprising 4.43 40-yard dash in Indy likely helped Jefferson’s draft stock. Top needs: WR, DB, LB
22. Minnesota from Buffalo (10-6) – Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU, Sr.
Trae Waynes signed with Cincy and the Vikings released Xavier Rhodes. Gladney is a press master who plays a physical game. Top needs: CB, OG, WR
23. New England (12-4) – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon, Sr.
Life after Tom Brady begins now. I’m a fan of Jarrett Stidham, but I’d be shocked if the Patriots didn’t add some competition. Herbert has all the physical attributes (prototypical size and elite arm talent) the position requires, but consistency has been his bane. This is where he should go, but he’ll likely be drafted much higher because demand ALWAYS beats quality when it comes to quarterbacks in the draft. Top needs: TE, OG, LB
24. New Orleans (13-3) – Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU, Jr.
Michael Thomas is in desperate need of a sidekick and Drew Brees is returning for his 20th season. Reagor would give Brees a dynamic deep threat to replace Ted Ginn Jr. Top needs: WR, LB, OG
25. Minnesota (10-6) – Cesar Ruiz, OL, Michigan, Jr.
Pat Elflein struggled at left guard in a major way after transitioning from center. Ruiz is an upgrade at guard and would provide depth at center. Top needs: CB, OG, WR
26. Miami from Houston (10-6) – Josh Jones, OT, Houston, Sr.
The Dolphins offensive line was one of the worst in the NFL last season. Jones’ athletic skill-set needs some polish, but he’s capable of dominance at the next level. Top needs: QB, OL, DT
27. Seattle (11-5) – Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn St., Jr.
The Seahawks need an edge rusher who can take advantage of Jadeveon Clowney’s presence, assuming he returns. Gross-Matos needs to add some strength to his frame, but he’s a gifted pass rusher with elite athleticism and a nose for the ball. Top needs: Edge, OL, TE
28. Baltimore (14-2) – Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma, Jr.
The Ravens finally find a replacement for C.J. Mosley in the middle of their defense. Murray is an explosive athlete who developed elite instincts during his three seasons in Norman. Top needs: Edge, LB, WR
29. Tennessee (9-7) – Zach Baun, OLB, Wisconsin, Sr.
Pass rusher supreme Harold Landry needs a running-mate (Vic Beasley only signed a one-year deal). Baun is a natural chasing down the quarterback and is versatile enough to be utilized all over the front seven to create match-up problems. Top needs: Edge, OT, RB
30. Green Bay (13-3) – K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn St., So.
Davante Adams was the Packers only effective wideout in 2019. Hamler is a playmaker capable of scoring from anywhere on the football field. Top needs: WR, LB, OT
31. San Francisco (13-3) – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama, Sr.
The 49ers likely will trade this pick to the highest bidder, considering they won’t be on the clock again until the fifth round. If they stand pat, Diggs (Stefon’s little brother) is still raw, but he features elite size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) and a physicality that burdens receivers. Top needs: WR, CB, OL
32. Kansas City (12-4) – A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson, Jr.
Both Beshaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller are free agents. Terrell’s performance in Indy made up for his poor performance against LSU in the title game. Top needs: CB, RB, OG.