AROUND THE NFL
These Chiefs are party animals. Mollie Walker of the New York Post:
Chiefs coach Andy Reid won the Kansas City Chiefs their first Lombardi Trophy in 50 years on Sunday, winning Super Bowl 2020 over the 49ers, but it apparently wasn’t the best “trophy” of his night.
“I didn’t really sleep last night. But I didn’t spent it with the trophy — well, I did. I spent it with my trophy wife. How’s that?” the 61-year-old coach said of his wife of 38 years, Tammy, Monday morning, drawing laughter and applause.
It was an eventful night overall for Reid, who captured his first Super Bowl title as head coach Sunday. The Chiefs made a fourth-quarter comeback to stun the 49ers, 31-20, behind an incredible performance from quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes, who was crowned MVP, shared his future plans during postgame coverage, saying the famed, “I’m going to Disneyland.” And while appearing on NFL Network following the victory, Reid shared his.
“I’m going to go get the biggest cheeseburger you’ve ever seen,” Reid said as he wrapped his arm around Mahomes. “I’ll find the biggest one. It might be a double.”
Adam Schefter of ESPN says that QB DAK PRESCOTT is heading towards a game of tag.
With no long-term contract in sight, the Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott are heading straight toward a situation in which the team will have to use its franchise tag on the star quarterback, league sources told ESPN.
At this point, the franchise tag looks inevitable, according to sources, although neither side wants the tag to come into play. Dallas strongly prefers a long-term agreement, and it will continue to push to sign Prescott to an extension in the coming weeks. Prescott, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next month, also wants a long-term deal.
But the sides disagree over the two-time Pro Bowler’s value, leaving them at an impasse.
What would happen if and when Dallas uses the tag on Prescott is more uncertain. Players usually don’t welcome franchise tags, and teams such as Pittsburgh (with Le’Veon Bell) and Washington (with Kirk Cousins) have learned this too well.
The other disconcerting issue for both sides, along with Cowboys fans, is that the talks have gone on for months without coming close to a resolution.
Prescott, in a recent interview with ESPN’s Sage Steele, said he is confident that the sides will agree to a deal this offseason.
“There’s a lot of things that have to come into play when you’re talking about a contract,” Prescott told Steele. “Never just look at the money, never just look at what people see or the attention-grabber. There’s a lot of details to it. There’s people that know that handle that, so I’m leaving that up to my agent and I have all the confidence in both sides.”
Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said last month at the Senior Bowl that signing Prescott to a new deal was the franchise’s No. 1 priority this offseason.
Although the Cowboys finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs this past season, Prescott had a career year, posting career highs in passing yards (4,902) and touchdown passes (30).
The Falcons announce that they will allow DE VIC BEASLEY to move on in 2020. Cassandra Negley of YahooSports.com on the use of Twitter by the Falcons to exclusively release the news:
The Atlanta Falcons announced Monday they will not pursue negotiations with outside linebacker Vic Beasley, who will become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.
“As we continue to craft our 2020 roster, we’d like to thank Vic for five years of effort on behalf of our organization,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said.
If there’s any doubt as to the validity of the news, look no further than the Falcons re-affirming it on Twitter. Again.
Replying to @AtlantaFalcons
Literally us. The Falcons.
The new league year beings March 18. Beasley was the team’s eighth overall pick in the 2015 draft and finished the $12.8 million fifth-year option on his rookie deal this past December.
Beasley, 27, led the league in sacks with 15.5 in 2016. Atlanta made it to the Super Bowl that season. But he never came close to that total again, notching five each in 2017 and 2018 while he started 17 games combined out of 30.
In 2019, he finished with eight sacks and 6.5 of those came in the second half of the year. The Falcons had the second-fewest sacks as a team last season with 28, and all but seven of them came in the second half.
For his 60-game career, Beasley has 156 tackles, 37.5 sacks, 37 tackles, and 11 forced fumbles and two touchdowns.
Takk McKinley will hold down the defense with defensive end Adrian Clayborn and defensive tackle Jack Crawford also about to become free agents.
The Falcons, under new defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, will focus on bolstering its pass rush in free agency or in the draft next. They hold the No. 16 pick in the first round and have three picks in the first two rounds.
Presumably he will remain under contract until the start of the free agency period. Unclear if he can be tampered with.
We keep hearing that TE GREG OLSEN is heading to the FOX broadcast booth, but apparently he didn’t get the message. Released by the Panthers, he is visiting teams with the apparent intent of signing a contract. Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:
Greg Olsen is officially a free agent.
The Carolina Panthers released the veteran tight end on Monday, per the transaction wire. The move came four days after Olsen and the Panthers announced they would mutually part ways ahead of the 2020 season.
Olsen, 34, had one year left on his deal, which would have cost $11.6 million in 2020, but is now free to sign with another entity — in football or in television.
While the tight end indicated in his statement that he still has “love of football” and could sign with a competitive organization in the coming weeks, Olsen has explored a second career in football broadcasting, most recently playing pregame studio analyst for Fox Sports.
Before he makes a decision one way or the other, Olsen will do his due diligence. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Olsen is set to visit the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins this week. Both clubs are led by former Panthers — Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane in Buffalo and Ron Rivera in D.C.
For his career, Olsen has 718 catches for 8,444 yards and 59 touchdowns — 524 of those catches, 6,463 of those yards and 39 of those touchdowns came as a Panther.
Carolina will move forward at the tight end position with Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz and Temarrick Hemingway. Expect the Panthers to fill out that part of the depth chart this offseason.
A thought about QB PATRICK MAHOMES from Trey Wingo:
Again.. it bears repeating. This season alone Mahomes was 5-0 when trailing by double digits. In his HOF career Kurt Warner was 2-44 when his team trailed by double digits. Understand what you’re seeing.
And this from Peter Schrager:
Patrick Mahomes went 16-21 as a starter at Texas Tech.
Credit to the @Chiefs for trusting the way they graded the player on film, getting to know him as a person pre-Draft, and believing and trusting everyone who raved about his leadership skills.
As the Bears shift and turn in their attempts at sleep, Jason Leiser in the Chicago Sun-Times on the vision of the Chiefs:
The Bears will spend the rest of quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ career wondering what they missed when they chose Mitch Trubisky ahead of him in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid, fresh off teaming with Mahomes to win Super Bowl LIV on Sunday, was happy to fill everyone in on what his staff saw.
A day after Mahomes wiped out a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and was voted Super Bowl MVP in the Chiefs’ 31-20 victory against the 49ers, Reid recalled the onset of general manager Brett Veach’s infatuation when Mahomes played at Texas Tech. Veach called him ‘‘the greatest player I’ve ever seen’’ and badgered Reid nonstop to watch his film.
‘‘That’s a pretty bold statement,’’ Reid told Veach. ‘‘I’ve seen some guys.’’
When Reid finally watched it, he blurted out exactly what Veach had said: ‘‘This is, like, the greatest player I’ve ever seen.’’
From then on, the Chiefs had to have Mahomes.
‘‘He was making throws like he did [Sunday],’’ Reid said. ‘‘Then you go: ‘Well, let’s see how he does this in the NFL. He can’t do all that stuff.’ Then he came to us and started doing all that stuff — the no-looks — and it just kind of came naturally to him.
‘‘He really works on it, but there’s a part that’s just easy for him. He sees the field, which I appreciate. You could see that on his college tape.’’
It wasn’t that obvious to everybody.
As the Chiefs swooned over Mahomes, Bears GM Ryan Pace fixated on Trubisky. Seemingly bidding against himself, Pace traded two third-round picks and a fourth-rounder to the 49ers to move up from third to second and make sure no one snatched up his prized prospect.
The next seven teams didn’t take a quarterback, and the Chiefs made their move in a trade from 27th to 10th. The Texans ‘‘settled’’ for Deshaun Watson, who already has been a two-time Pro Bowler, two picks later.
In two seasons as the Chiefs’ full-time starter, Mahomes has 86 touchdown passes in 36 starts (counting the playoffs). He is the youngest player to win a regular-season MVP and a Super Bowl. Trubisky, meanwhile, just finished a season in which he ranked 28th among the 32 starting quarterbacks in passer rating.
Nobody knows firsthand the difference between the two better than Bears coach Matt Nagy, who was the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator when they decided to go all-in on Mahomes and coached him in his rookie season.
With contracts pre-slotted for first-round picks, the Bears could’ve had Mahomes for the same money they’re paying Trubisky. In other words, everything else about their team — including their championship-caliber defense — would be intact. And they could have kept some draft picks.
Mahomes eventually might cost something close to $40 million per year when he signs an extension, but most teams wish they had that problem. The Chiefs will be more than happy to let him name his price after what they’ve seen.
‘‘After a bit, you go, ‘This guy’s unbelievable,’ ’’ Reid said. ‘‘He can take it all in. He challenges you as a coach to give him more. His aptitude is ridiculous. You love that. You’re able to feed him new plays, and he gobbles those things up and makes them look even better than they did on paper.
‘‘And then he’s a great leader, so he’s got this innate ability to make everybody around him better. You saw that [in the Super Bowl].’’
– – –
Some of DL DERRICK NNANDI’s playoff money has gone to the dogs. Adam Teicher of ESPN.com:
Ninety-one dogs from a Kansas City animal shelter will soon have new homes courtesy of Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Derrick Nnadi.
In response to the Chiefs’ 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, Nnadi will pay the adoption fees for the dogs who were in the shelter as of Sunday for as long as it takes for those dogs to be adopted. Adoption fees at the Kansas City Pet Project normally run about $150.
A spokesperson for the KC Pet Project said 20 dogs had been adopted through the program as of early Monday afternoon. Ten dogs are typically adopted on an average workday.
Nnadi sponsored a program during the regular season in which he paid the adoption fee for one hard-to-adopt dog after each Chiefs victory. All of the dogs in that program found homes.
Nnadi was in on four tackles, one for a loss, in Super Bowl LIV.
RB MARLON MACK is being extended according to Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Colts want to extend Marlon Mack, and he wants to be extended.
According to Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star, the Colts have started talking about doing a new contract for their workhorse running back.
The 23-year-old Mack has certainly earned such consideration, coming off a 1,091-yard season at the same time he enters the final year of his rookie contract.
“Part of our offseason evaluation [is] — we know, we’re going to try to take care of our own — so who are guys that we want to extend?” General Manager Chris Ballard said after the season, mentioning center Ryan Kelly and Mack. “Marlon, look, he easily could have missed more games [with a broken hand], but he didn’t. He fought to get back in because he wanted to play.”
Given the short shelf lives for running backs, Mack is also aware of the importance of cashing in when he can.
“In this league, as a running back, you gotta strike fast,” Mack said last season. “You don’t strike fast, that’s it for you. You’re too old at. . . . Running backs, man, running backs don’t always get treated well. Running back is an important position. I hope people can learn that one day. I don’t know when it fell off [for us], but I need it to go back up. Hopefully it happens one of these days.”
The 2017 fourth-rounder is the kind of player the Colts want to hang onto, an ascending one in addition to being one of their own.
A tall, blonde woman was inspecting elite schools in Nashville – and so the rumor starts that QB TOM BRADY is headed to the Titans. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
A rumor has been making the rounds, with some fairly high-level people participating in the mongering of it, that Gisele Bundchen, wife of Patriots (for now) quarterback Tom Brady, has been checking out schools in the Nashville area. The rumor fueled a potential connection between Brady and the Titans, whose head coach (Mike Vrabel) is a former teammate and current friend of the six-time Super Bowl champion.
Via Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com, the rumor isn’t true.
A Nashville attorney named Blair Dunham claims that the rumor started because the wife of former Titans offensive lineman Steve Hutchinson was touring the Montgomery Bell Academy. Dunham said Monday on WNSR-AM 560 that his son, who attends Montgomery Bell Academy, was told that a student was informed that the school’s admissions director was “meeting with a Hall of Famer.” The student saw Hutchinson’s wife, a tall blonde, and the student mistakenly assumed that Hutchinson’s wife was Bundchen.
The story, which is at best based on second-hand information, is goofy enough to be plausible. But the rumor had gotten fairly rampant, and it may be too late for the truth (if that is the truth) to get its foot into the top of a pants leg.
Brady remains on track to be a free agent in March, allowing him to sign with the Titans or any other team — unless he re-signs with the Patriots before hitting the market.
UPDATE 11:23 p.m. ET: Titans reporters Paul Kuharsky, who is clearly irritated by this story and wants people to quit talking about it, claims that Hutchinson’s wife was not at the school. Which, whether Kuharsky realizes it or not, puts the Gisele rumor back in play.
THIS AND THAT
Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com on the interesting entourage assembling around QB JOE BURROW:
Presumptive top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft Joe Burrow has assembled quite a team of trainers with Bengals ties.
And one of them insists they won’t be disparaging the team which earned the top pick in the draft.
Via Geoff Hobson of the team’s official website, former Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh will be part of the group helping to prepare Burrow for the draft.
He’s also working with former quarterback Jordan Palmer, whose brother Carson has dragged the Bengals for not being serious about winning. Burrow also raised some eyebrows by saying he wanted to play for a team that was “committed to winning Super Bowls,” creating a natural suspicion if the Palmer influence was shining through.
But Houshmandzadeh said that’s not the case.
“We’ve talked about it. We’re not going to say anything negative to Joe about the Bengals. Why would we?” Houshmandzadeh said. “Teams are bad because their players aren’t good enough. If they get that player that’s good enough, guess what happens? Your team isn’t so bad anymore. I’m sure that’s what they’re thinking. I’m sure that’s what Joe thinks. Negative? Not at all.”
But if Team Burrow wanted to put out fires, Houshmandzadeh isn’t exactly helping.
He said if the choice was his, he’d make the LSU quarterback the top pick. And yet, . . .
“Do I want to draft him if I’m the Bengals? Yeah,” Houshmandzadeh said. “But if the Dolphins are going to offer me three first-rounders, or if some team is going to offer me two first-rounders this year and a first-rounder next year, I have to strongly consider it for the good of the team.”
Time could render all this dot-connecting moot. since it’s the second day after the Super Bowl. But the reality is, what seemed like a cut-and-dried decision to draft the best quarterback with the top pick keeps getting clouded, by the people adjacent to Burrow.
– – –
With the Super Bowl behind us, Todd McShay produces a Mock Draft (for the second straight year, he expects K. Murray from Oklahoma will go in the first round):
As we officially close the door on the 2019 NFL season with the Kansas City Chiefs’ impressive comeback Super Bowl win, the door to the offseason — and the 2020 NFL draft — swings wide open.
A lot has changed since my December mock, and the pre-draft process continues to roll along. Strong finishes to the college season upped some prospects’ stock, and we learned a good deal about a few upperclassmen during January’s Senior Bowl week. Still, there is much to study on this class, and there’s a long way to go before team needs and preferences are finalized, with free agency right around the corner. And you’d better believe the combine and pro days will impact player rankings leading into April.
But for now, at the onset of the NFL offseason, here are my predictions for all 32 first-round picks of the 2020 draft, beginning with the two-win Bengals and culminating with the champs.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
This shouldn’t surprise you, and in case you haven’t been paying attention, consider this: 60 touchdown passes, a ridiculous 76.3% completion percentage, an undefeated season, a national title and a Heisman Trophy. There isn’t much more Burrow can do to solidify himself as the top quarterback of the draft class, and the Bengals should absolutely take one with the first pick — especially because veteran Andy Dalton can be cut without a dead cap hit. Burrow’s elite accuracy and fantastic pocket presence are undeniable, but can Cincinnati put him in a position to succeed with a better supporting cast? That will be something to watch during free agency.
2. Washington Redskins
Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
This could be the easiest pick on the board, and considering the Redskins were 10th in the league with 46 sacks, it doesn’t have much to do with a particular need. No, this instead has everything to do with the special talent of Young, who has one of the highest grades I’ve given a player in two decades of scouting. Last year’s No. 2 pick and former Buckeyes teammate Nick Bosa was a difference-maker in Year 1, but the scary truth is that Young is an even better prospect. He can line up opposite Matt Ioannidis at defensive end or drop back into a 3-4 outside linebacker role. It doesn’t matter — Young will be in the face of opposing quarterbacks every Sunday. He led the nation with 16.5 sacks in 2019, and he missed two games.
3. Detroit Lions
Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
The Lions had the NFL’s worst pass defense, allowing 284.4 yards through the air per game, and tied for a league-worst seven interceptions. Darius Slay is 29 years old, Justin Coleman fits better in a nickel role and Rashaan Melvin is a free agent, so Detroit might look to address cornerback with a first-round pick for the first time since 1998 (Terry Fair). Okudah has the size, versatility, quickness and athleticism to be a No. 1 corner in the NFL. Detroit has to fix its porous defense, and getting a high-end defensive back like Okudah here is certainly a good place to start.
4. New York Giants
Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson
I’d love to get second-year quarterback Daniel Jones a weapon on the outside here, but wide receiver is a deep group and offers plenty of midround options. And quite frankly, defense as a whole is a more serious problem for the Giants. Let’s get them a do-it-all linebacker — their first Round 1 ‘backer since 1984 (Carl Banks) — who found his way into just about every statistical category on the Clemson stat sheet. Simmons is what every NFL team dreams of having at its disposal. He can rush the passer, he can stand up against the run and he can drop into coverage. With Markus Golden and his 10 sacks headed toward free agency, the athletic Simmons could help fill the void.
5. Miami Dolphins
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Assuming another QB-needy team doesn’t trade up with Detroit or New York to cut in line, Tagovailoa is a really good start for a Miami team looking to aggressively kick-start its rebuild through the draft. Teams are approaching the lefty’s hip injury with different levels of cautiousness, but if he’s medically cleared, the Dolphins would be getting an exceptional signal-caller. Tagovailoa has elite accuracy and anticipation, but will he recover some of that twitch that made him truly special? A little extra good news in South Beach: Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who just led the hapless Dolphins past the big, bad Patriots in Week 17 on the road, is in town for another year and would allow the team to ease Tagovailoa into action.
6. Los Angeles Chargers
Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama
I’m not ruling out Oregon’s Justin Herbert here, as my colleague Mel Kiper Jr. predicted last week. The Chargers need a quarterback, and Herbert showed why he’s capable of leading an NFL offense at the Senior Bowl, standing out from the pack. But the Chargers could also use some help along the offensive line, and considering that they are among the best in the league at evaluating draft value, they could take one of the premier prospects in the trenches. Wills can be Los Angeles’ right tackle or slide in as the right guard replacement for free agent Michael Schofield III.
7. Carolina Panthers
Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Carolina is another possible landing spot for Herbert with the current Panthers QB flux, and the offensive line will be a focal point of the offseason after the team allowed 58 sacks in 2019. But have you seen the list of pending free agents in that front seven? Gerald McCoy, Mario Addison, Bruce Irvin and Vernon Butler are all headed toward the open market, and Luke Kuechly is, of course, now retired. New coach Matt Rhule can plug in Brown, a huge 6-foot-5 versatile force on the interior, to help patch a run defense that gave up 143.5 yards per game last season (29th in the NFL).
8. Arizona Cardinals
Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
The possibility of former Sooners teammate CeeDee Lamb running routes for Kyler Murray is going to be something to watch for at No. 8, but don’t forget that teams need to protect their quarterback first. The Cardinals gave up 50 sacks this past season (fifth worst in the NFL), not something you want to see when you just invested a No. 1 overall pick on a 5-foot-10 QB. Throw in the fact that they could lose D.J. Humphries and Marcus Gilbert and the pass-protection upside of the 6-foot-5 Wirfs starts to make even more sense. Get a difference-maker in front of Murray and then worry about help out wide on Day 2, when plenty of pass-catchers will be waiting to be snatched up.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
If you don’t know about Kinlaw yet, do yourself a favor and go watch some highlights from his two days of Senior Day workouts. He is an absolute physical freak with the versatility to play on the interior or off the edge, and he has the power to walk offensive linemen back into the quarterback. The Jaguars missed on Taven Bryan when they took him in the first round in 2018, and they might not be able to keep Yannick Ngakoue in northeast Florida next season. Putting Kinlaw next to last year’s top-10 pick, Josh Allen, would help lighten the loss of Ngakoue and shore up a run defense that was the fifth worst in 2019 (139.3 yards per game).
10. Cleveland Browns
Josh Jones, OT, Houston
I hadn’t seen enough of Jones before he dominated the trenches all week at the Senior Bowl, but he is a 6-foot-7 behemoth with tons of athleticism. Greg Robinson’s one-year deal is up, and there’s an open spot on the left side of that Cleveland line. Quarterback Baker Mayfield somewhat quietly turned it around in the second half, and it’s no coincidence that it came with an improvement in pass protection for the Browns. Buy Mayfield some time and you can bet Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. will find a way to get open. Louisville’s Mekhi Becton and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas are also potential choices here, but I really like Jones’ potential.
11. New York Jets
Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
This is another clear mix of need and value. First, the Jets allowed 52 sacks in 2019, the fourth most in the NFL. Second, left tackle Kelvin Beachum is a free agent. Becton and that massive 6-foot-7 frame would not only help protect Sam Darnold’s blind side but also spark a Le’Veon Bell-led run game that never took off, finishing 31st in the league (78.6 yards per game), ahead of only the Dolphins. It makes a ton of sense, but don’t be surprised to see the Jets kick the offensive line problem down the road in favor of finding an impact pass-rusher or shutdown cornerback. The problem is finding one outside the top 10.
12. Las Vegas Raiders
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
No Raiders wide receiver had 50 catches in 2019, and none had more than 651 yards. Of course, GM Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden thought they had their WR1 last summer when they traded for Antonio Brown, but we all know that didn’t go to plan. Enter the top route runner in the draft class in Jeudy. He would immediately give Derek Carr — or whoever is throwing the passes in Vegas — a legitimate threat outside to pair with breakout tight end Darren Waller. The wide receiver class is deep, but Jeudy is my No. 1-ranked prospect at the position.
13. Indianapolis Colts
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The Colts get a little lucky here with Herbert still on the board, so in this scenario, they put aside other pressing needs like wide receiver (Lamb?), defensive line and defensive back to snag this 6-foot-6 senior with a rocket arm. Indy might not be completely sold that Jacoby Brissett is its guy, and Herbert has shown he can lead an offense. That Senior Bowl showing did a lot to calm consistency concerns. After using seven of their 10 picks on defense in 2019, the Colts can’t pass on this tremendous value at a premier position. One more thing to consider: Brissett is signed through the 2020 season, meaning Indianapolis wouldn’t have to throw Herbert to the wolves out of the gate.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
K’Lavon Chaisson, DE, LSU
Pass rushing was a strength for the Bucs in 2019, but they are now faced with free agency for Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, Carl Nassib and Beau Allen — and expect Barrett to get paid after his incredible season. No matter how it shakes out, Tampa Bay will likely now need help getting after the QB off the edge, and a strong late-season push from Chaisson (4.5 sacks in his final four games) has him in play in this range. He’d bring a lot of speed to the front. But don’t rule out a quarterback if GM Jason Licht decides Jameis Winston isn’t in the team’s 2020 plans. If Herbert is already off the board, Utah State’s Jordan Love, who is rising after the Senior Bowl, could be another option.
15. Denver Broncos
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
I liked what I saw out of quarterback Drew Lock at the end of last season, and Denver might want to think about getting him some help along the offensive line or at wide receiver. And wouldn’t you know it, Lamb is the best available player still on the board. He gets great separation and then creates yardage after the catch. Opposite Courtland Sutton — who continues to look like the real deal — Lamb brings another piece of the offensive puzzle to Mile High. But there’s also concern in the secondary, where Chris Harris Jr. and Justin Simmons are set to enter free agency. Florida corner CJ Henderson, LSU safety Grant Delpit and Alabama safety Xavier McKinney deserve more than a passing thought at No. 15.
16. Atlanta Falcons
A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
Vic Beasley Jr. won’t be back, Adrian Clayborn might not either and Takkarist McKinley could have only one more season in Atlanta if the Falcons decide against picking up his fifth-year option. On a defense that produced 28 sacks, tied for the second fewest in the NFL, that only magnifies edge rushing as the team’s most critical need. Epenesa had eight sacks in his final five games at Iowa and is great at getting his arms in passing lanes. The Falcons could think about a defensive back, but even though I see Epenesa as a bit of a reach here, he is their best bet in addressing a major team weakness.
17. Dallas Cowboys
Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Jerry Jones has quite an offseason ahead of him. Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Robert Quinn and Byron Jones headline a talented — and expensive — list of players headed toward free agency. If cornerback Jones is one of the odd men out, a secondary that mostly held passing offenses at bay but struggled to produce takeaways gets weaker. And the Cowboys have needed a safety since the days when Roy Williams and Darren Woodson roamed the defensive backfield. McKinney has some range as a deep safety — he pulled in three interceptions on the back end for Bama last season.
18. Miami Dolphins (from PIT)
Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Step 1: Draft a quarterback with sky-high potential but plenty of injury worries (see: Tagovailoa, No. 5 overall). Step 2? Maybe get someone to protect him. Thomas is raw, and this qualifies as a little high for him, but he has some power to his game. And after surrendering 58 sacks, tied for the most in the NFL, the Dolphins can’t really afford to ignore the line any longer. Miami has one more first-rounder (and two second-rounders) to dive in on other needs, including edge rusher, cornerback and the interior offensive line.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (from CHI)
CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
With Jeudy taking care of receiving woes, it’s time to look at the defense for the Raiders’ fifth Round 1 pick in the past two years. Trayvon Mullen showed some potential in his rookie season, but Nevin Lawson and Daryl Worley are both free agents, so Vegas — man, I’m still getting used to saying that — is going to have to get a playmaker in coverage. Henderson broke up 11 passes for Florida this past season, an ability that will be welcomed by a Raiders defense that managed only nine picks and was bottom 10 in pass defense (256.7 yards per game).
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from LAR)
Austin Jackson, OT, USC
Kinlaw cleans up the defensive front, but the offensive side of the trenches warrants a look, too. The Jaguars struck gold when they caught the sliding Jawaan Taylor early in the second round last year, and they shouldn’t be done working on the unit. The desperate need for more help there means they’d be OK with reaching for Jackson, who is my No. 46 prospect. The 6-foot-6 junior is raw, but if given some time to develop, he can contribute in pass protection for whomever Doug Marrone starts under center.
21. Philadelphia Eagles
Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Zero Eagles receivers found their way to 500 yards in 2019, Nelson Agholor is a free agent, Alshon Jeffery will be 30 in two weeks and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside had a limited 10-catch impact in his rookie campaign. Carson Wentz likes to air it out, but he didn’t have the right personnel to do so. Coach Doug Pederson thought he had an answer in the vertical game with DeSean Jackson, but an abdominal injury limited the veteran speedster to 62 snaps. Ruggs, though, is a human torch — he could run in the 4.2s at the combine — and immediately gives Wentz a weapon in the pass game outside of Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert and Miles Sanders.
22. Buffalo Bills
D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
Even with John Brown and Cole Beasley combining for 1,838 receiving yards in 2019, Buffalo could use an upgrade in the receiving corps (Clemson’s Tee Higgins could be an interesting fit). And with Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson both headed for free agency, no returning lineman had more than five sacks last season. But I just love Swift’s explosiveness, and adding a dynamic playmaker like him to a backfield that already includes Devin Singletary could really make this run-oriented offense pop in 2020. Plus, you can’t discount Swift’s pass-catching ability — he could be a great three-down back.
23. New England Patriots
Grant Delpit, S, LSU
New England is a little more accustomed to picking at No. 31 or 32, but the bright side of not playing in the Super Bowl for the first time in four years is the opportunity to add a quality prospect with an earlier selection. Some might lean toward Tom Brady’s heir — maybe Love. Some might think about shoring up the offensive line in case Joe Thuney leaves Foxborough. But I’m going with the rangy Delpit, especially with Devin McCourty not a lock to be back. Delpit didn’t have the best season at LSU, but Bill Belichick and the Patriots would get the most out of him. The Pats need to keep that defense strong.
24. New Orleans Saints
Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
Outside of Michael Thomas, Jared Cook and Alvin Kamara, what do Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense really have in the passing game? Not much. Ted Ginn Jr. was the second-most productive wide receiver behind Thomas with just 421 yards, and the next best was Tre’Quan Smith with a measly 234 yards. Whether or not it’s Brees throwing the passes in 2020 — yeah, quarterback is a position to watch here, too — the Saints have to address that lack of depth. The 6-foot-4 Higgins can make guys miss with his strength and will come down with anything thrown near him. He averaged a hair shy of 20 yards per catch this past season for the Tigers.
25. Minnesota Vikings
Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
I really like Blacklock’s tape, and he’s flying under the radar ahead of the combine later this month. Yes, Minnesota piled on 48 sacks last season and was in the top half of the league in run defense, but Everson Griffen is a free agent, and Linval Joseph isn’t getting any younger at 31. The big, athletic Blacklock can help that front remain strong. Cornerback and offensive line are also positions to keep an eye on for the Vikings, but I didn’t love the value here — though Auburn’s Noah Igbinoghene is a possibility.
26. Miami Dolphins (from HOU)
Zack Baun, OLB, Wisconsin
Miami is back for a third turn, and as promised, it checks another box here with a quick, versatile edge rusher in Baun. His game jumps off the tape, and his 12.5 sacks show what he can do when he’s turned loose on the quarterback. But Baun is no one-trick pony, displaying the ability to play in coverage, too. Find the ball and you’ll find Baun. The Dolphins sacked the quarterback a league-low 23 times in 2019, and Taco Charlton led the team with five. By taking Baun, they continue what they started in 2018 in rebuilding that defensive line (first-round pick of Christian Wilkins) while also taking one of the best players available.
27. Seattle Seahawks
Terrell Lewis, OLB, Alabama
Along with Baun, Lewis helped himself a lot with a good week at the Senior Bowl. He might need some time to develop, but there’s no denying his pass-rush talent and burst coming around the corner when chasing the quarterback. He registered 16 QB hurries this past season at Alabama. And considering the lengthy list of front-seven free-agents-to-be on the Seattle roster, this pick makes all the sense in the world. Jadeveon Clowney’s one-year franchise tag is up, and Jarran Reed, Ziggy Ansah, Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods are all set to join him on the open market. When you tally all of 28 sacks (tied for second worst) and then lose pretty much your entire defensive line, you’d better be fixating on pass-rushers in April.
28. Baltimore Ravens
Kenneth Murray, ILB, Oklahoma
The focus in 2019 was on Lamar Jackson and a dynamic offense, but the defensive unit quietly did more than hold its own, finishing in the top six in both pass and run defense. A trade for Marcus Peters added a jolt to the secondary, and Matthew Judon just missed double-digit sacks. What was missing? A chase-him-down, bring-him-down linebacker in the middle of the defense. Patrick Onwuasor and Josh Bynes led the front seven with just 64 and 46 tackles, respectively, and they’re both free agents. While Murray doesn’t have ideal coverage skills, he has great speed and tackling ability, manifested in his 102 tackles this past season at Oklahoma.
29. Tennessee Titans
Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn
The Titans’ pass defense wasn’t very good in 2019, closing the year in the bottom 10 in yards allowed per game and hauling in just nine interceptions. Igbinoghene might not have had any picks of his own this past season, but he’s instinctive and fast. Logan Ryan might not re-sign, meaning there’s an opening opposite Adoree’ Jackson at cornerback, and Igbinoghene is the best player still on my board (No. 19 overall). Despite that seemingly perfect need-value match, it’s possible that Tennessee opts to draft a running back if it can’t bring back Derrick Henry (Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins, perhaps), a tight end (Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet is my highest-ranked prospect there) or an outside linebacker to ease the loss of Kamalei Correa to free agency.
30. Green Bay Packers
Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Davante Adams is a weapon, and Aaron Jones proved himself as a threat in the receiving game, but they simply can’t continue to do it alone. The last time Aaron Rodgers had multiple 1,000-yard receivers was 2014, when the quarterback was 31 and alternated spraying passes to Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and then-rookie Adams. Now Rodgers is 36 and forced to make due with the likes of Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling opposite Adams. Get the man some help! I’ve been saying it for a year now! Jefferson tied for first in college football with 111 catches as Burrow’s main target at LSU, and he excels in adjusting his routes to find windows and generating late separation. Green Bay will have multiple receivers to choose from even if Jefferson is taken earlier, so there is really no excuse to pass on a glaring weakness yet again.
31. San Francisco 49ers
Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
The Niners will be looking for a way back to the Super Bowl after a devastating blown lead against the Chiefs. A good start is adding the draft’s ultimate offensive Swiss Army knife. Coach Kyle Shanahan schemed up motion on nearly 70% of plays during the regular season, the highest rate in the NFL. As he did with rookie Deebo Samuel, he can line up Shenault anywhere, get him moving and get creative. The Colorado receiver made 56 catches and carried the ball 23 times in 2019, and his after-the-catch ability is off the charts. Toss in the fact that Emmanuel Sanders is a free agent and San Francisco has a quality addition here. But it’s worth noting that the Niners won’t pick again until Round 5, so moving out of Day 1 entirely to recover some picks might be the best option.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
Watching Damien Williams scamper for a 38-yard Super Bowl-clinching touchdown run late in the fourth quarter, you might not remember that the six-year vet led the Chiefs in rushing in 2019 … with 498 yards. Indeed, the high-octane Kansas City offense ran through the arm of Patrick Mahomes, leaving a No. 23-ranked run game averaging less than 100 yards per game in its wake. Williams flashed at times, and 2019 sixth-rounder Darwin Thompson has promise, but coach Andy Reid covets a unique playmaker like Dobbins at the position. Dobbins is tough to bring down and quick when he hits the hole, breaking 2,000 rushing yards this past season and scoring 21 times on the ground. There isn’t any cornerback value here (maybe LSU’s Kristian Fulton), so even with three key players at the position hitting free agency, I’m opting to catch the run game up with Mahomes’ unstoppable passing attack.