Pick: Joe Burrow, quarterback, LSU. The Bengals have to take Burrow. He has the potential to lead them for the next 15 years and to finally get Cincinnati that playoff win Andy Dalton failed to provide. Burrow excelled in his final year at LSU leading the Tigers to an undefeated college championship. Burrow completed 76.3% of his passes for 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns and six interceptions. Free agency showed a new era may be dawning in Cincinnati and Burrow is the man to make it concrete.
Pick: Chase Young, edge rusher, Ohio State. Washington have a no-brainer of their own in Young. Ron Rivera can build a strong defensive identity with a player following in the footsteps of premium Ohio State edge defenders, Joey and Nick Bosa. A 6ft 5in wrecking-ball whose tremendous speed off the line allowed him to rack up 16.5 sacks, 21.5 tackles for a loss and seven forced fumbles across 12 games in 2019. Tua Tagovailoa could be an upgrade on Dwayne Haskins but the inability to assess the quarterback’s fitness up close makes Young the sensible pick.
Pick: Jeffrey Okudah, cornerback, Ohio State. The Lions need a replacement for Darius Slay after trading him to Philadelphia. Okudah can slip straight into Slay’s role as Detroit’s leader in the backfield and make an impact as the best shutdown corner entering the league.
Pick: Jedrick Wills, offensive tackle, Alabama. Offensive line is a must-upgrade for the Giants. Wills, Mekhi Becton and Tristan Wirfs all would do exactly that for head coach, Joe Judge, but Wills makes sense as Judge was once Nick Saban’s assistant in Alabama. Familiarity tips the scales in Wills’s favour without the ability to meet with prospects this year owing to lockdown.
Pick: Justin Herbert, quarterback, Oregon. The Dolphins can pick from the best of the rest with Burrow off the board. Herbert gets the nod over Tagovailoa due to the latter’s fitness problems. His 6ft 6in frame and huge arm pass the eye test. Three rushing touchdowns against Wisconsin in Oregon’s Rose Bowl victory showed he can shift when needed too.
Pick: Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback, Alabama. The Chargers need some pop on their offense and Alabama’s QB offers just that. The talent is there – Tagovailoa was on course for a monster season before a dislocated hip cut it to nine games. And Tyrod Taylor can start the season if Tagovailoa requires extra time to prepare. The Chargers’ intimidating defense needs an offense to match.
Pick: Isaiah Simmons, linebacker, Clemson. Matt Rhule’s first pick as Carolina head coach is made easy by the highly versatile Simmons’ availability. Rhule has emphasised his preference for speed so Simmons is perfect. The Panthers are handily just a short trip into North Carolina from Clemson.
Pick: Derrick Brown, defensive tackle, Auburn. Wide receiver was the problem area for Kliff Kingsbury before the Houston head coach, Bill O’Brien, gifted DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals. Brown would tie in well with general manager Steve Keim’s additions of linebacker Devon Kennard and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. Brown is a great player with immense power behind his 326lb frame to disrupt an offense.
Pick: Javon Kinlaw, defensive tackle, South Carolina. Jacksonville’s once-great defense is in tatters across the board but tackle is a glaring hole that needs filling. Kinlaw is the next man up from Brown. His combination of imposing size, raw power and quickness make him an immediate starter for the Jaguars.
10) Cleveland Browns
Pick: Tristan Wirfs, offensive tackle, Iowa. Wirfs is a good fit for the Browns coach, Kevin Stefanski, whose zone-blocking scheme matches with Iowa’s system. Wirfs is a superb athlete who blew the field away at the combine with an OT record 36.5in vertical jump, a 10ft 1in broad jump that tied the record and a class-topping 40 time of 4.85sec.
11) New York Jets
Pick: Mekhi Becton, offensive tackle, Louisville. Sam Darnold needs protection and Becton can make an instant impact for both the passing game and by creating running room for Le’Veon Bell. He tips the scales at 364lb but has quickness despite his gigantic 6ft 7in frame.
12) Las Vegas Raiders
Pick: CeeDee Lamb, wide receiver, Oklahoma. The cream of a highly-talented crop of receivers. Lamb has drawn comparisons to DeAndre Hopkins due to his ability to make contested catches. His impressive speed and strength after the catch shows he has a path to becoming a better player than Hopkins.
13) San Francisco 49ers
Pick: Henry Ruggs, wide receiver, Alabama. Ruggs could provide another dimension to Kyle Shanahan’s offense in 2020. A blistering 40 time of 4.27sec, the third best ever at the Combine, could be the perfect complement to Deebo Samuel’s versatility. Hands you can trust with five passes dropped in three seasons at Alabama.
14) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick: Andrew Thomas, offensive tackle, Georgia. Tom Brady will be 43 when the season (hopefully) starts in September. The Bucs must keep him standing at all costs. Thomas is the best available lineman to let Brady remind Bill Belichick what he’s missing.
15) Denver Broncos
Pick: Jerry Jeudy, wide receiver, Alabama. Denver need a receiver to partner Courtland Sutton, so Jeudy is the pick. He’s so good at shedding coverage that “to Jeudy” has become a verb around his home of south Florida.
16) Atlanta Falcons
Pick: AJ Epenesa, edge rusher, Iowa. Atlanta have beefed up their offense, so logic dictates the Falcons going the opposite way in the draft. Epenesa is a premium edge rusher who can help solidify Dan Quinn’s frontline.
17) Dallas Cowboys
Pick: K’Lavon Chaisson, edge rusher, LSU. Chaisson can fill the void left by Robert Quinn on the edge and form a formidable pass-rushing partnership with DeMarcus Lawrence. The line as a whole starts to look a little scary with Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe in the mix.
18) Miami Dolphins
Pick: Austin Jackson, offensive tackle, USC. The Dolphins need help to protect their shiny new quarterback. Jackson, at just 20, is a long-term project who can grow with Herbert and allow the quarterback to play with more time than Ryan Fitzpatrick was allowed last season.
19) Las Vegas Raiders
Pick: CJ Henderson, cornerback, Florida. After adding a receiver earlier in the first-round, the Raiders’ thoughts should turn to the formidable passing attacks in the AFC West. Eli Apple’s deal may have gone awry but Henderson’s athleticism can be a building block to a solid secondary.
20) Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick: AJ Terrell, cornerback, Clemson. Jacksonville’s defensive rebuild continues with Terrell in the backfield. A tough, fast corner to begin the project of replacing Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye.
21) Philadelphia Eagles
Pick: Justin Jefferson, wide receiver, LSU. Alshon Jeffrey can’t stay healthy while Nelson Agholor has deserted to Las Vegas. The Eagles select Jefferson, adding a receiver with pace to burn and great hands.
22) Minnesota Vikings
Pick: Kristian Fulton, cornerback, LSU. The departure of Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander mean the Vikings have to work on their secondary. Fulton, drawing comparisons to All-Pro Tre’Davious White, should be an immediate starter.
23) New England Patriots
Pick: Kenneth Murray, linebacker, Oklahoma. The pick everyone is waiting for. Jordan Love? Nope. The Pats go after Murray and get a playmaker in the spine of their defense who is versatile, fast and a future leader for Belichick.
24) New Orleans Saints
Pick: Patrick Queen, linebacker, LSU. New Orleans have one of the strongest rosters so they can pick up the best player still on the board, Queen. A strong, imposing defender who will instantly strengthen their linebacker unit.
25) Minnesota Vikings
Pick: Tee Higgins, Clemson, wide receiver. Much like their previous pick, the Vikings need to repair holes left in free agency. Stefon Diggs is out the door and passing him on the way in is Higgins. At 6ft 4in he would be an excellent weapon for Kirk Cousins on the outside and in the redzone.
26) Miami Dolphins
Pick: Denzel Mims, wide receiver, Baylor. Miami jump on the receiver train to continue bolstering their offense and join up with DeVante Parker. Mims has an impressive highlight reel of acrobatic catches at Baylor.
27) Seattle Seahawks
Pick: Yetur Gross-Matos, edge rusher, Penn State. Jadeveon Clowney appears not be re-signing in Seattle so they need someone new who can get to the quarterback. Gross-Matos recorded 9.5 sacks in 2019 and fits with Pete Carroll’s defensive philosophy.
28) Baltimore Ravens
Pick: Cesar Ruiz, center, Michigan. Ruiz can play across the interior line positions so chimes with Baltimore’s penchant for versatile players. Ruiz might struggle to fill Marshal Yanda’s shoes but the Ravens still have to find a way to maintain their explosive offense this season.
29) Tennessee Titans
Pick: Jaylon Johnson, cornerback, Utah. Johnson can fill a void in the slot for Tennessee while providing depth to defend against the pass.
30) Green Bay Packers
Pick: Jordan Love, quarterback, Utah State. Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers to Love. Rodgers may not be finished but Green Bay have nothing in reserve, yet. Love can learn from the best until it’s time to take on the mantle.
31) San Francisco 49ers
Pick: Ross Blacklock, defensive tackle, TCU. Blacklock showed he can pass rush from the inside in college using speed from the snap to get to the quarterback. May not replace DeForest Buckner but the Niners need help on their d-line.
32) Kansas City Chiefs
Pick: Jeremy Chinn, safety, Southern Illinois. Running back is tempting for the Super Bowl champions but the smart move would be an upgrade to their defense. Chinn and Tyrann Mathieu could become an imposing tandem at safety.
Sleepers: talented players who may fall down the draft
1) Clyde Edwards-Helaire, running back, LSU. On film Edwards-Helaire looks like a raw Mark Ingram, creative at finding room and an excellent catcher out of the backfield.
2) Jacob Eason, quarterback, Washington. New England and Indianapolis are rumoured to be interested in the 6ft 6in passer.
3) Cole Kmet, tight end, Notre Dame. If a team want a giant receiver who can burst through tackles then Kmet is their guy.