AROUND THE NFL
QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY was critical of something after Sunday’s loss at Lambeau, but he says it wasn’t Coach Matt Nagy.
First, this from Eric Edholm of YahooSports.com in the aftermath:
After the game, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was asked about the Packers’ pass rush affecting him. Trubisky answered by praising the Packers’ rush … while perhaps subtly suggesting that his coach, Matt Nagy, could have done more with the offensive design to help him.
“I feel like they were pretty good,” Trubisky said of the Packers. “They had a really good front. I felt like our O-line played really well. I thought we could have taken more pressure off them [by] moving the pocket a little more and me getting out.”
That in and of itself isn’t too bad. But Trubisky doubled down.
“… We’ve just got to continue to find ways to take pressure off our O-line. With a good pass rush like that, [we need to] continue to mix it up, whether it’s with screens, running it, draws — all that kind of stuff helps,” he said.
Now Trubisky is venturing into rough waters, specifically calling out the play calls of Nagy. Asked if that’s what he meant, Trubisky made it clear what he was getting at.
“Could’ve done a lot of stuff, yeah.”
But this on Monday, from Ryan Young, also at YahooSports.com:
While the 25-year-old’s comments were widely seen as a clear shot at head coach Matt Nagy and his play calling, Nagy insisted on Monday that all is still well between the two.
[Watch NFL games on your phone for FREE with the Yahoo Sports app]
“You guys are always catching us right after the game,” Nagy said, via ESPN. “And so there’s a lot of emotions that go through. Here we are losing a game like that and knowing we could’ve played better. So I don’t know exactly what the question was that was asked, but I’m saying if you sensed a frustration, I think I know Mitch better than anybody in this building except maybe [quarterbacks coach] Dave Ragone.”
Trubisky went 29-of-53 for 334 yards while throwing one touchdown on Sunday. He also threw two interceptions and was sacked three times. The Bears struggled to run the ball, too, picking up just 96 yards on 27 carries.
Trubisky was asked about the Packers pass rush after the game, and suggested that Nagy could have done a lot more to help his offensive line.
“I feel like they were pretty good,” Trubisky said. “They had a really good front. I felt like our O-line played really well. I thought we could have taken more pressure off them [by] moving the pocket a little more and me getting out … We’ve just got to continue to find ways to take pressure off our O-line. With a good pass rush like that, [we need to] continue to mix it up, whether it’s with screens, running it, draws — all that kind of stuff helps.”
He was then asked to clarify his comments and if he was talking about Nagy’s play-calling specifically.
“[We] could’ve done a lot of stuff, yeah,” Trubisky said.
The loss on Sunday officially knocked the Bears out of the playoffs, which likely added to the frustration in their locker room after the game. But after a frustrating year where Trubisky has struggled time and again while dealing with injuries, it’d be easy to see how a rift between him and his head coach could grow in Chicago.
In the grand scheme of things, however, Nagy insists he is still in a good place with Trubisky. He understands where his quarterback is coming from with his criticism, too.
“I know the effect or what he means by any of that,” Nagy said, via ESPN. “I think probably, if I’m going back and watching that, it’s probably very general and big picture, but it’s also right after the game so I take nothing by that and we have a great relationship.”
This just in from the Motor City – Martha Firestone Ford will stay the course with Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
Lions head coach Matt Patricia believes the team has built the foundation for a competitive team while going 9-20-1 over his first 30 games in Detroit and he’ll have a chance to work with that foundation in 2020.
Lions owner Martha Ford told reporters on Tuesday that Patricia and General Manager Bob Quinn will both return to the team for the 2020 season. It will be Patricia’s third year as head coach and Quinn’s fifth season in Detroit. Both men are under contract through 2022.
Vice chair Sheila Ford Hamp said that firing Patricia and/or Quinn might have been “the popular choice,” but that the organization feels this is the more prudent decision. Ford also shared what she wants to see from the team next year.
“We expect to be a playoff contender and those are our expectations, which we’ve expressed to both Bob and to Matt,” Ford said, via Chris Burke of TheAthletic.com.
It remains to be seen if other changes could be made to the coaching staff. One spot to look at may be defensive coordinator as the team has struggled on that side of the ball with Paul Pasqualoni in that position this season.
Did the Cowboys try to steal Sean Payton? To make overtures now would be a severe no-no, so the Jones family is in high dudgeon. Selby Lopez of the Dallas Morning News:
During his Monday appearance on the K&C Masterpiece on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM], Jones was asked about a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport saying the Cowboys were interested in hiring Saints head coach Sean Payton in the offseason before he eventually agreed to a five-year extension to stay in New Orleans. Jones vehemently denied the report.
“Just untrue. Obviously, I don’t comment on rumors like that,” Jones said. “Certainly, everybody knows what we think of Jason and I do think we’ve been criticized to a fault for what we do think of him. He just did a great job getting this team back on track yesterday and we’re focused on beating the Eagles.”
Going after Payton would have made sense for the Cowboys. He spent three seasons with the Cowboys from 2003-05 as the assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach under then-head coach Bill Parcells. In 2006, he took over as the Saints head coach. In his Saints tenure, he’s led them to a 128-77 record and a Super Bowl win.
On the other end of the spectrum, Garrett has led the Cowboys to an 84-66 record, three playoff appearances and two playoff wins since he took over as head coach in 2010.
While players in Cleveland are begging to be free, the Falcons say they want more of Dan Quinn. Nick Shook of NFL.com:
This season hasn’t been what the Falcons envisioned, and during their midseason struggles, questions arose about coach Dan Quinn’s future with the team.
Quarterback Matt Ryan and his teammates are working their hardest to preserve their coach’s job.
“He has the respect of the locker room and the guys play hard for Dan,” Ryan said during an interview on NFL NOW. “There’s no question about it. We all appreciate everything that he does for us, the style of coaching, and he’s got great relationships with all of the guys in our locker room. So we love him. We are playing hard and doing everything we can for him.”
Quinn owns a 41-37 record as head coach of the Falcons, a job he’s held since the 2015 season. That span of time also includes an 11-5 season in which the Falcons sprinted to the NFC Championship before infamously blowing a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI. But the last two seasons have left plenty to desire, with the Falcons losing at least nine games in each of the two campaigns.
At 5-9, the Falcons are flirting with their worst mark under Quinn with two games left to play. They’ll have to win out to match last season’s 7-9 finish with the hope of saving Quinn’s job.
Their play in the last two weeks gives that ambition some hope, as the Falcons put up 40 points in a dominant in over their lowly conference rival Panthers, and they drummed up enough courage to drive down the field in the final two minutes Sunday to score a huge upset win over the San Francisco 49ers.
They’ll have to keep up this pace in order to ensure they’ll get another shot with Quinn at the controls. A home game against Jacksonville presents a favorable matchup, but the defensive-minded Quinn will need his unit to stand tall in Week 17 against a Tampa Bay team that has been explosive in recent weeks, despite losing a key receiver in each of its last two games.
“I’ve been in this profession long enough to know that it’s a production based business,” Ryan said. “I hope it is because we love him and he’s a great football coach.”
As they move into 2020, the Panthers have decided they need to get a look at rookie QB WILL GRIER. KYLE ALLEN has been almost okay, but does not look like a long-term answer. David Newton of ESPN.com:
The Carolina Panthers are planning to give third-round draft pick Will Grier his first NFL start Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, a league source told ESPN.
An official announcement is expected Wednesday.
Second-year quarterback Kyle Allen has been the starter since Cam Newton was sidelined with a Lisfranc injury after a Week 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Allen won his first four starts and five of his first six to help the Panthers to a 5-3 record.
Carolina has lost its past six games to fall out of playoff contention. Allen has thrown 11 interceptions to only eight touchdowns during that stretch. He had three interceptions and one touchdown during a 30-24 home loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Interim coach Perry Fewell stood by Allen a week ago, saying he would be the starter against the Seahawks despite throwing two interceptions during a 40-20 loss at the Atlanta Falcons.
Fewell was noncommittal Monday when asked if he might start Grier over Allen, saying he was evaluating the position.
“Probably make that decision on Wednesday,” said Fewell, who replaced fired coach Ron Rivera two weeks ago. “Over the next two days we’ll evaluate and you’ll know on Wednesday.”
Fewell’s immediate assessment of Allen’s performance against Seattle didn’t bode well for the QB keeping the job.
“I do believe there were plays out there to be made, and at times he didn’t make those plays that needed to be made,” Fewell said. “That goes along with the position of being a quarterback. That’s what we’re looking at right now. Did he have enough protection? Smart decision-making? So we’ll evaluate that and see.
“I thought he did some solid things, and then obviously not some good things.”
Allen admitted after the loss he wasn’t doing enough to help the Panthers (5-9) win like he did during a 4-0 start, when he didn’t throw an interception.
“The only thing that is different is I’m just turning the ball over more,” Allen said when asked to compare what is happening now compared to his initial starts. “Decision-making hasn’t been as good, I guess. I just need to start putting us in a solid position to help win the game, because what I’m doing now is not helping us to win the game.”
Allen declined to comment on Monday.
The Panthers had hoped to treat this like a redshirt season for Grier, selected out of West Virginia with the 100th overall pick. That was before Newton’s injury, Allen’s struggles and Rivera’s firing.
Fewell said he felt before Sunday and even during the loss that Allen gave the Panthers the best chance to win. Allen led a rally from a 30-10 deficit to a one-score game before throwing his third interception with 2:55 remaining.
Fewell said Grier has shown improvement running the scout team the past few months. Now he’ll get his chance running the Carolina offense, something he has done on a limited basis since training camp.
The Saints are taking a flier on CB JANORIS JENKINS, banished by the lowly Giants in the wake of a social media kerfuffle. Mike Triplett of ESPN.com:
The New Orleans Saints claimed cornerback Janoris Jenkins on waivers from the New York Giants on Monday.
Jenkins was expected to join a playoff-bound team and will do so with the Saints, who enter Monday night’s game against the Colts at 10-3 and in first place in the NFC South.
The Saints are taking a bit of a risk by adding a strong personality such as Jenkins with two weeks remaining in the regular season. But they are banking on getting him at his most motivated.
Although Jenkins has battled some inconsistency, he has been a standout player for much of his eight-year career, starting 111 career games and making the Pro Bowl in 2016.
The Saints will owe Jenkins two weeks of salary at $597,000 per week — just under $1.2 million for the remainder of this season, along with a 2020 contract that is scheduled to pay him $11.25 million.
The Giants waived Jenkins Friday, two days after he made an inappropriate remark to a fan on Twitter. Jenkins called a critical fan a “retard” when taking exception to questioning about why the stats Jenkins was using to showcase his effectiveness weren’t contributing to victories.
Jenkins, 31, said Thursday that the usage of the word was “slang” that is “just part of my culture.”
Giants coach Pat Shurmur met with Jenkins on Wednesday and said in a statement Friday that Jenkins’ refusal to admit that what he did was wrong led to his release.
This is now the second straight year the Saints have added a cornerback from the Giants in the middle of the season after they traded fourth- and seventh-round picks for Eli Apple last year. And now Jenkins and Apple could wind up competing for the Saints’ No. 2 cornerback job alongside Marshon Lattimore.
Jenkins started all 13 games for the Giants before his release — primarily as an outside corner. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder did move inside to the slot last week, however, and played well in that role. So the Saints could also consider using him inside.
– – –
On the night he set the NFL record for TD passes, QB DREW BREES was nearly perfect. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com on the one that got away.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees set a new NFL record for highest completion percentage in a game on Monday night, completing 29 of his 30 passes, a completion rate of 96.7 percent. But after the game he was regretting not going 30-for-30.
“I’ll be honest with you, you always think about the one that you missed,” Brees said on ESPN. “If I just set my darn feet and throw it to the running back, it’s 30-for-30, so that one may haunt me for a little while.”
That Brees is so focused on the one pass he didn’t complete may help explain why he’s been such a great player for so many years: He holds himself to such a high standard that even after a night when he sets a single-game record for completion percentage, and breaks the all-time NFL record for career touchdown passes, he’s thinking about what he could have done better.
With the Saints at 11-3, the next big goal ahead of Brees is to see if he can earn his second Super Bowl ring.
The Colts had to know that WR MICHAEL THOMAS would be a frequent target – yet Brees and Thomas still went 12-for-12.
The NFL record for receptions in a season is 143 by Marvin Harrison in 2002. Thomas enters Week 15 with 133, needing 11 in the last 2 games or 5.5 per game to break it. He has at least 5 catches in every game this year and and 10 or more in 8 of 14.
Brees set the NFL season completion percentage record last year with 74.4%. After last night’s show, he’s at 75.8%.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
With their backs to the wall, the Rams have a QB with a bruised throwing hand. Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com:
The Los Angeles Rams suffered a series of injuries on Sunday in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys that could cause concern as they teeter on the verge of playoff elimination and prepare for the San Francisco 49ers on a short week.
Rams coach Sean McVay told reporters Monday that quarterback Jared Goff suffered a thumb bruise on his right throwing hand in the second quarter when he threw an interception and hit his hand on the helmet of left tackle Andrew Whitworth.
“He was able to kind of get through it,” McVay said of Goff, who passed for 284 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception, in the 44-21 loss.
On Monday, McVay said Goff’s thumb was better.
“He was feeling good. Came in, checked out today,” McVay said. “That’s a positive for him.”
The outlooks for cornerback Troy Hill and kicker Greg Zuerlein are more uncertain.
Hill, who was promoted to starter in Week 6 when Aqib Talib was placed on injured reserve then traded, fractured his right thumb in the first quarter and underwent surgery Monday.
McVay said it’s possible that Hill, who has two interceptions and eight pass deflections this season, will wear a cast to play Saturday against the 49ers.
“We’ll see how he’s feeling and what his pain tolerance looks like as the week progresses,” McVay said.
If Hill is unable to play, the Rams will turn to cornerback Darious Williams, who took over in the first quarter Sunday when Hill was sidelined and finished with four tackles.
McVay said Zuerlein suffered a “low strain quad” but he anticipates the kicker to be available Saturday.
However, contingency plans could be in place.
“We kind of have started to make sure we get our ducks in a row in case he isn’t able to go with some of the names that are out there,” McVay said. “We’ll have some updates on that later this week, but we do feel good about, hopefully, him being able to kick.”
Zuerlein has made 22 of 29 field goal attempts this season and has converted each of his 34 extra points.
The Rams have a 5% chance of making the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. They must win Saturday against the 49ers and close out the regular season with a win at home over the Arizona Cardinals, plus the Minnesota Vikings must lose at home to the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
It comes as no surprise that WR JOSH GORDON is suspended again.
Mike Florio on if WR ANTONIO BROWN could get a call.
Before the Seahawks claimed receiver Josh Gordon on waivers, they reportedly kicked the tires on the possibility of signing receiver Antonio Brown. Now that Gordon is suspended (and Brown isn’t, at least not yet), could the wideout-needy Seahawks swing back to Brown?
While it’s unclear what the Seahawks specifically learned upon performing “due diligence” regarding Brown, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the teams interested in Brown have decided not to pursue him until the NFL clears him to play. Those teams continue to believe that, if/when Brown is signed, the league instantly would place him on paid leave pending the outcome of the three-month-old Personal Conduct Policy investigation, sparked by a sexual assault lawsuit filed against Brown in September.
With only two regular-season games left, it’s looking less and less likely that Brown will receive clearance to play before the 2019 season ends. From a financial standpoint, the risk of paid leave keeps shrinking. If a playoff team were to sign him after Week 17, the cost of paid leave would be nothing at all, since his compensation would be only his playoff share.
The bigger cost could come from media and fan reaction, and from the possibility that the league office won’t be thrilled that a team forced its hand by adding Brown to the roster. But when championships are on the line, teams take risks. And the reward from having Antonio Brown could be the ultimate one that pro football can provide.
WR JARVIS LANDRY was sending messages to the other sideline on Sunday. TMZ.com:
The absolute dumpster fire of a season keeps getting worse for the Cleveland Browns. Reportedly.
It was bad enough that Cleveland got wrecked by the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday … but now SI’s Mike Silver says Browns’ superstar WR Jarvis Landry was asking his opponents to “come get me” during the bad loss.
Of course, this is on the heels of Jay Glazer’s report claiming Odell Beckham told teams the same thing earlier this season … even though OBJ has denied wanting out.
Things got tense on the sidelines between Landry and Freddie Kitchens on Sunday, with Jarvis visibly upset with his head coach during the 38-24 loss to the Cards.
#Browns Jarvis Landry voicing some…umm…frustration with Freddie Kitchens.
Fast forward to Silver, who says “multiple” sources claim Landry — and other Browns players — practically begged Arizona’s sidelines to save them from their misery.
… Which is saying A LOT, considering the Cardinals are 4-9-1 (if the report is accurate).
More fallout from the Jarvis Landry tirade during the Browns-Cardinals game: I’m told by two sources that before the game ended, ‘multiple’ Browns players yelled at the Arizona sideline to ‘come get me’–asking to come play for the Cardinals. Landry, I’m told, was one of them.
This season has been a disaster for the Browns … they were considered to be legit Super Bowl contenders during the off-season but have wildly underachieved.
Wondering if Baker Mayfield will chime in on this one …
Coach Mike Tomlin hopes his QB will make like a rubber duck and bounce back from disaster against the Bills. Nick Shook of NFL.com:
Ducks might fly south for the winter, but this Duck isn’t going anywhere this week.
Devlin “Duck” Hodges will start in Week 16 for the Pittsburgh Steelers, coach Mike Tomlin announced Tuesday.
Hodges threw four interceptions in Pittsburgh’s Sunday night loss to Buffalo, including two late interceptions that ultimately doomed the Steelers’ hopes of completing a comeback. That fact isn’t swaying Tomlin, though.
“I look forward to giving him the opportunity to rebound,” Tomlin said.
Hodges’ story is one of the great tales of the 2019 season, going from the practice squad to the starting quarterback of the Steelers in just a few months’ time following a season-ending injury to Ben Roethlisberger and poor play from Mason Rudolph. Hodges has seized the opportunity, coming off the bench to lead the Steelers to wins over Cincinnati, Cleveland and Arizona before falling to Buffalo. He’s posted a passing line of 80 for 118, 884 yards, five touchdowns, six interceptions and an 82.7 passer rating in six games.
It’s entirely fair to wonder if the Steelers (8-6) would still be in playoff contention had they stuck with Rudolph instead of making the timely switch to Hodges. He’ll get another chance to prove them right Sunday against the New York Jets.
THIS AND THAT
With two weeks to go, the Ravens have widened their lead in the Aikman Combined Ratings, just as they have widened the gap in most people’s minds as the pre-playoffs Super Bowl favorites.
Baltimore is also still in the hunt to rank as the first team to top 100 in a season-long Aikman Offense Rating.
The Patriots, as they have been all season, have a substantial lead in Aikman Defense. With their easy win over the Bengals, New England also slid back into 2nd in Aikman Combined.
Rank W-L Team Comb Off Def Off Def Comb
1 12-2 Ravens 173.6 99.6 74.0 2 6 8
2 11-3 Patriots 169.4 81.4 88.0 18 1 19
3 11-3 49ers 166.8 87.3 79.5 6 2 8
4 10-4 Vikings 166.3 90.9 75.4 10 14 24
5 7-7 Cowboys 163.3 93.6 69.6 1 7 8
6 10-4 Bills 159.8 82.8 77.1 22 3 25
7 11-3 Saints 159.2 90.2 69.0 9 10 19
8 10-4 Chiefs 159.0 88.8 70.3 5 18 23
9 11-3 Packers 157.7 87.1 70.6 21 23 44
10 11-3 Seahawks 157.3 88.7 68.5 4 27 31
11 8-6 Titans 155.1 86.3 68.8 15 19 34
12 7-7 Eagles 154.0 86.2 67.8 15 11 26
13 7-7 Buccaneers 154.0 83.7 70.3 3 15 18
14 6-8 Colts 150.7 84.7 66.0 24 16 40
15 9-5 Texans 149.6 90.0 59.7 7 28 35
16 8-6 Rams 149.0 81.5 67.5 12 12 24
17 7-7 Bears 148.1 75.5 72.5 28 8 36
18 8-6 Steelers 147.8 69.3 78.5 30 4 34
19 6-8 Browns 147.2 80.9 66.4 17 17 34
20 5-9 Chargers 147.0 79.0 68.0 8 5 13
21 5-9 Broncos 146.7 74.0 72.7 27 13 40
22 5-9 Falcons 145.5 83.0 62.5 11 20 31
23 3-10-1 Lions 142.2 81.2 60.9 13 31 44
24 3-11 Giants 140.9 74.5 66.4 25 25 50
25 5-9 Panthers 140.5 79.8 60.6 19 26 45
26 6-8 Raiders 140.5 82.1 58.4 14 22 36
27 4-9-1 Cardinals 140.2 81.3 59.0 23 32 55
28 5-9 Jaguars 137.7 75.5 62.2 20 24 44
29 5-9 Jets 136.5 68.4 68.1 31 9 40
30 3-11 Redskins 134.1 70.0 64.1 32 21 53
31 1-13 Bengals 131.4 67.7 63.7 26 29 55
32 3-11 Dolphins 127.3 71.3 56.0 29 30 59
NFL Average: 149.9 81.8 68.2
TODD McSHAY’S MOCK DRAFT
This from Todd McShay of ESPN.com. He has eight receivers going in his top 26.
With 15 weeks of the 2019 NFL season in the rearview mirror, teams are really starting to look ahead to the 2020 NFL draft in Las Vegas. I’m joining them with my first mock of draft season for all 32 first-round picks, starting with the one-win Bengals and culminating with the powerhouse Ravens.
This is, of course, an early look at Day 1. For context, eventual 2019 No. 1 pick Kyler Murray wasn’t even a lock to enter the draft at this point last year. And though we can officially check the college football regular season off the draft-process checklist, plenty lies ahead over the next four months.
The draft order — which was projected for this exercise using ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) through Sunday’s Week 15 games — will shift as NFL teams finish the season. Underclassmen, denoted below with an asterisk, must declare for the draft by the Jan. 20 deadline. Team needs will shift through free agency and trades. And, of course, player evaluations will fluctuate throughout bowl season, pro days and the combine.
Even so, let’s project Day 1 selections for 2020. Here’s our first run at all 32 first-round picks since May’s way-too-early predictions. And tune in on Dec. 17 for the Mock Draft 1.0 SportsCenter Special (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2 and ESPN App).
1. Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Accuracy, toughness and pocket awareness — the total package. That’s what the Bengals would get with Burrow in their first No. 1 overall pick since Carson Palmer in 2003. Andy Dalton isn’t owed any guaranteed money in 2020 and could be released, and Ryan Finley didn’t look like the long-term answer in his terrible three-game stint as starter. It’s time to get Zac Taylor a quarterback to build around.
2. New York Giants
Chase Young, DE, Ohio State*
The Giants need help everywhere, especially on defense. Enter Young and his 16.5 sacks. New York hasn’t had anyone hit double-digit sacks since 2014 (Jason Pierre-Paul, 12.5), and Young is the best edge-rushing prospect I’ve seen since Von Miller entered the draft. The Heisman Trophy finalist would be a fantastic get for this rebuilding club.
3. Washington Redskins
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama*
Washington needs an offensive tackle and some cornerback help, but it also has to get more playmakers around rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. And it would be really hard to pass on adding Jeudy opposite Terry McLaurin. Jeudy is by far the best route runner in the country.
4. Miami Dolphins
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama*
Let’s start off the Dolphins’ draft — which includes three first-rounders and an assortment of picks — with a franchise quarterback. There obviously are some medical concerns, but with Ryan Fitzpatrick still under contract for 2020, Tagovailoa wouldn’t need to be immediately forced onto the field. And when he does get the call, he brings high-end accuracy and excellent anticipation.
5. Detroit Lions
Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State*
It’s time for the Lions to take their first Day 1 cornerback since Terry Fair in 1998. The big and athletic Okudah has all the tools to be a No. 1 corner in the NFL and would be the sixth Buckeyes defensive back in the past five years to go in Round 1.
6. Arizona Cardinals
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma*
The Cards got their quarterback last April, but they really need to find Kyler Murray some help in the offense, especially considering Larry Fitzgerald will be 37 years old next season and isn’t currently signed after this year. So how about Murray’s former Oklahoma teammate? Lamb can create separation and is extremely talented creating after the catch.
7. New York Jets
Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia*
When you invest an early draft pick in a franchise quarterback, as the Jets did with Sam Darnold in 2018, you have to protect him. New York hasn’t, allowing 48 sacks this season (fourth most in the NFL). Both tackle positions could be upgraded in the offseason. Thomas is athletic and powerful, and he shows natural ability in the trenches.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars
Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson*
Simmons is a perfect fit for today’s NFL and is simply too talented to pass on here. He can pass rush off the edge, and he can drop in coverage. He does it all. The defensive line is stacked, but Simmons would help the second level of the Jags’ front seven as a replacement for Telvin Smith.
9. Carolina Panthers
Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
I thought about Justin Herbert here, but the Oregon quarterback has been too inconsistent. I’d rather keep developing Kyle Allen and Will Grier right now. Instead, let’s hand Carolina a difference-maker on the interior of the defensive line, especially since Dontari Poe is likely gone after the season. Brown is a complete player with the length and quickness that NFL teams seek.
10. Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Philip Rivers is a 38-year-old pending free agent, so the Chargers absolutely have to think quarterback this year. As mentioned, Herbert still has some consistency issues, but he has great, 6-foot-6 size, good mobility and a really live arm. Tyrod Taylor has another year on his contract, and he served as a bridge to Baker Mayfield for Cleveland in the past; Taylor could do it again in L.A. with Herbert.
11. Las Vegas Raiders
Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford*
With the Raiders’ first of two Day 1 picks in their first year in Vegas, a playmaking ball hawk in the secondary could do wonders. The Raiders are tied for the ninth-fewest interceptions in the NFL (nine), and no Oakland corner has multiple picks. Meanwhile, 2017 first-rounder Gareon Conley was dealt to Houston at midseason. Adebo has eight interceptions over the past two seasons at Stanford.
12. Denver Broncos
Grant Delpit, S, LSU*
Denver could lose soon-to-be free agents Chris Harris Jr. and Justin Simmons from its secondary, and Delpit is a rangy, instinctive safety who would help fill a moderate need. The Broncos could also badly use an upgrade at offensive tackle, but there just isn’t one who fits at No. 12. And I like Drew Lock, but if the Broncos aren’t sold on the rookie QB, it’s not out of the question for them to move up for Herbert. Lots of options for Denver.
13. Atlanta Falcons
CJ Henderson, CB, Florida*
It’s too early to reach for an edge rusher — this isn’t a deep class of first-round pass-rushers — so let’s check off another box: cornerback. Henderson’s speed makes him a strong man-coverage defender, and he would be welcomed into a defense that allows 253.7 passing yards per game.
14. Cleveland Browns
Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson*
I’d love to get Baker Mayfield some protection, but there isn’t a lineman still available whom I rate high enough to take the plunge here. And considering the lack of depth behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, wide receiver is actually a sneaky need for the Browns. Higgins gives Mayfield a super-strong, 6-foot-4 target for the red zone.
15. Indianapolis Colts
Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU*
Seven of 10 Indianapolis picks in 2019 went toward the defense. One of the other three was second-rounder Parris Campbell, who has been limited by injuries to seven games this season. Coupling that with T.Y. Hilton’s own battle with the injury list, the Colts should address the wideout position. Jefferson gives Jacoby Brissett a reliable pass-catcher on the outside who excels at adjusting his routes to get open.
16. Las Vegas Raiders (from CHI)
Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado*
We went playmaking corner at No. 11 for the Raiders. Now let’s go playmaking wide receiver here. Coach Jon Gruden will love Shenault’s versatility and after-the-catch skill set. After the Antonio Brown trade didn’t work out, only two teams’ receivers have tallied fewer receiving yards this season than the Raiders’.
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
The Bucs still need to answer the “Is Jameis Winston our quarterback?” question, and that offensive line shouldn’t be ignored. But with no value available on the board at either position, we turn to the best available player: Kinlaw. Ndamukong Suh, Beau Allen and Jason Pierre-Paul are all set to hit the open market, so Tampa Bay could use Kinlaw’s versatility and twitchiness on that defensive line.
18. Philadelphia Eagles
Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama*
Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor lead the Eagles’ wide receivers in yards with 490 and 363, respectively. And both have dealt with injuries this season. Last year’s second-rounder J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has just eight catches. Plain and simple: Philly must have speed and difference-makers at the position, and while Ruggs needs some development as a route runner, you can’t coach his 4.3 speed. He just explodes off the line of scrimmage.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars (from LAR)
Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama
With little value in the way of offensive line here, let’s continue building a top-notch front seven after taking Simmons in the top 10. Davis might not be a high-end pass-rusher, but he is disruptive and a physical freak who comes with versatility. And former first-rounder Taven Bryan hasn’t worked out in the middle. The Jags’ run defense is giving up 140-plus yards on the ground per game (fourth most in the NFL).
20. Miami Dolphins (from PIT)
Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State*
It makes the most sense, considering the range, value and need, to go with an edge rusher here for Miami’s second pick. Weaver is extremely productive — 13.5 sacks this season — and one of the more underrated talents in the class. Stacking him next to 2019 top pick Christian Wilkins is certainly a good place to start in rebuilding the defensive line.
21. Tennessee Titans
D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia*
Despite being right in the thick of a playoff hunt, the Titans do have a few areas of immediate need. And, of course, they’ll need to evaluate their options with quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But Derrick Henry is a pending free agent, which means Swift’s explosiveness would provide either insurance in case Tennessee loses Henry in the offseason or a potential upgrade from pass-catching scatback Dion Lewis alongside Henry in the more likely case he stays in Nashville.
22. Dallas Cowboys
Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama*
Dallas has needed a safety for years. And now with the possibility of cornerback Byron Jones leaving in the offseason, the Cowboys can’t keep waiting to address the secondary. McKinney has range and fills holes in the run game.
23. Buffalo Bills
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Yes, John Brown and Cole Beasley have been a big part of the Bills’ offense in quarterback Josh Allen’s second season, but that doesn’t mean the team doesn’t need more help on that side of the ball. Aiyuk improves Buffalo’s receiving corps with his versatility and speed. But don’t be surprised if the Bills consider an edge rusher or cornerback here.
24. Miami Dolphins (from HOU)
Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama*
Miami has allowed an NFL-high 54 sacks, and there are two games yet to be played. And if you’re going to use a top-five pick on a quarterback with an injury history, you better take a long look at your offensive line, too. Leatherwood can play tackle or guard and has good pop and quickness. This is a great value pick here to close out Miami’s eventful first round.
25. Minnesota Vikings
Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
Hall’s season was cut short by an ankle injury, but he has speed and length and is particularly strong in zone looks. Xavier Rhodes has struggled in coverage this season, and both Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander will be free agents in the spring. And coach Mike Zimmer loves his corners: Minnesota has drafted four in the first or second round since 2013.
26. Green Bay Packers
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama*
My arm is getting tired from banging the table for more help for Aaron Rodgers. The Packers chose to go defense in the first round in April, and they haven’t taken a Day 1 wide receiver since Javon Walker in 2002. Let’s end that streak with Smith, who has great hands and ability after the catch. He would join Jeudy and Ruggs as the first three wideouts from one college to be taken in the first round of the same draft in the common draft era (since 1967).
27. Seattle Seahawks
Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State*
Free agency could demolish the Seahawks’ personnel in the trenches. On defense alone, they might lose Jadeveon Clowney, Jarran Reed, Al Woods, Ezekiel Ansah and Quinton Jefferson. Wilson won’t give you high sack totals, but he is very disruptive on the interior of the line.
28. Kansas City Chiefs
Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
With the unit’s top three guys — Bashaud Breeland, Kendall Fuller and Morris Claiborne — all staring at free agency, the Chiefs once again might need to fixate on the secondary. Fulton might be a bit of a reach, but at this stage in the first round, focusing on a need isn’t a bad idea for Kansas City. He makes splash plays with his high-end ball skills, acceleration and instincts.
29. New Orleans Saints
A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa*
The Saints’ defensive line depth has been ravaged this season, and Epenesa is a powerful end with a high ceiling. The Saints also have a need at receiver, and they could keep a close eye on the quarterback class, with Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater headed to free agency. But Epenesa offers the best value at No. 29, and adding a quality edge rusher is never a bad call.
30. New England Patriots
Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa*
The obvious need here is quarterback, though New England might want more time to evaluate Jarrett Stidham as the future if Tom Brady ever calls it quits. But losing Trent Brown after the 2018 season opened a need for an offensive tackle opposite Isaiah Wynn. Wirfs is athletic and has some upside.
31. San Francisco 49ers
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State*
The Niners are No. 2 in the NFL in rushing and have used a plethora of backs to get there. But considering Matt Breida will be a free agent after San Francisco’s playoff bid, Tevin Coleman’s $0 in guaranteed money after this season and the high value Dobbins presents here, I like the idea of bringing in another versatile offensive weapon for Jimmy Garoppolo and padding a strength for this team. But don’t be surprised to see the 49ers trade out of the spot altogether with just six picks in the entire draft and only one before Day 3.
32. Baltimore Ravens
Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State*
I thought about Wisconsin center Tyler Biadasz here, but Baltimore really needs another edge rusher. The Ravens have a middle-of-the-road sack total this season (34), and Matthew Judon will hit free agency. Gross-Matos needs some development, but he is an above-average pass-rusher and closes well.