In a draft that features a wealth of offensive talent, there could be plenty of virtual pushing and shoving for improved position when the NFL kicks off its proceedings Thursday (5 p.m. PT).
There already was enough commotion when the draft gala originally scheduled for this week in Las Vegas was called off because of the coronavirus and changed to low-key affair at remote sites across the country.
Anyway, for the 15th time this century, a QB is expected to be the first selection and it’s widely believed to be Heisman trophy-winning Joe Burrow of LSU. Burrow and fellow QBs Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama, Justin Herbert of Oregon and Jordan Love of Utah State have been highly touted. But they also have generated concern.
For Burrow, it’s about his relatively small hands and that his gaudy credentials were the creation of the Tigers’ offensive scheme. As for Tagovailoa, he’s coming off hip surgery. Criticism of the 6-foot-6 Herbert centers around him not performing well facing a stiff rush. As for Love, he played mostly against MWC foes.
But even Tom Brady, the 199th overall pick in 2000, had his many doubters.
Anyway, here’s taking a stab at how the first round will play out:
No. 1 Cincinnati Bengals: With the Bengals’ attendance reeling, they need to make a splash by taking Burrow, an Ohio guy heralded for his accuracy and ability to perform under pressure.
This would mark the second time the Bengals will have grabbed a Heisman-winning QB with the first overall pick. In 2003 it was USC’s Carson Palmer.
Spoiler alert: Of the 11 previous Heisman-winning QBs taken first, none quarterbacked the team that drafted him to a title.
No. 2 Washington Redskins: Ohio State junior edge rusher Chase Young (6-5, 264) is the obvious choice for new Redskins coach Ron Rivera, an ex-LB for the 1985 Super Bears.
Young led the nation in sacks last season with 16.5 despite playing in only 12 of 14 games (NCAA rules violation).
No. 3 Detroit Lions: Cornerback Jeff Okudah, another OSU junior, is the likely choice for a Lions team that has seen their secondary ravaged the past 16 months, with veterans Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs traded and the retirement of former Pro Bowl safety Glover Quin.
There has been chatter Detroit would be agreeable to a trade. But nothing yet.
No. 4 N.Y. Giants: The Giants don’t need a QB and are probably bluffing with their reported curiosity about Herbert. They’d be better off pulling the trigger on powerful OT Tristan Wirfs (6-5, 320) of Iowa to supply better line production for QB Daniel Jones and RB Saquon Barkley.
No. 5 Miami Dolphins: Assuming Burrow is long gone, Miami should be taking a QB with the first of its three opening-round picks — provided they don’t wind up making a whopper of a deal for the Texans’ Deshaun Watson. Otherwise, the safe choice is Herbert. He’s not coming off surgery.
No. 6 L.A. Chargers: The Chargers take a gamble on Tagovailoa as they look to steal headlines in Los Angeles while moving into the new SoFi Stadium (assuming it will be completed) they will share with the Rams.
No. 7 Carolina Panthers: With the top cornerback gone, let’s go with DT Derrick Brown of Auburn (6-5, 326), the highest-rated interior defender.
No. 8 Arizona Cardinals: Alabama OT Jedrick Wills. The Cardinals can’t go wrong with this 6-4, 312-pound strongman.
No. 9 Jacksonville Jaguars: With RB Leonard Fournette on the trade block, the Jaguars will beat the Dolphins to the punch and make an early reach for Georgia RB D’Andre Swift (5-8, 212).
No. 10 Cleveland Browns: The Browns grab Louisville’s Mekhi Becton (6-4, 364), despite a blood test being flagged, to fill the spot of retired OLT Joe Thomas.
No. 11 N.Y. Jets: WR CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma is taken to replace Robby Anderson. Lamb averaged 21.4 yards last season on 62 catches.
No. 12 Las Vegas Raiders: WR Jerry Jeudy of Alabama (6-1, 193) fits in nicely with Jon Gruden’s offense. He had 24 TD receptions the past two years.
No. 13 San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis): If the 49ers don’t package their two No. 1s to move up they’ll take WR Henry Ruggs of Alabama (5-11, 188). He’s got a remarkable 42-inch vertical and could be the next Alley-Oop guy in San Francisco.
No. 14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Who’s the best OT available to help keep Tom Brady in a comfort zone? How about Georgia’s Andrew Thomas (6-5, 315).
No. 15 Denver Broncos: The Broncos’ greatest need is at wide receiver. But instead of taking the fourth WR off the board, why not take the top LB in Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons (6-4, 238).
No. 16 Atlanta Falcons: Atlanta grabs cornerback C.J. Henderson (6-1, 204) of Florida, the fastest at his position available (4.39) and one of the strongest.
No. 17 Dallas Cowboys: Penn State edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos makes sense. He totaled 17 sacks the past two seasons.
No. 18 Miami Dolphins (from Pittsburgh): It would be so tempting to take two-time Wisconsin All-American RB Jonathan Taylor to boost the league’s worst rush offense, but he’s been overworked the past two years. Instead, it’s OLB K’Lavon Chaisson, a sophomore from LSU.
No. 19 Las Vegas Raiders (from Chicago): The Raiders bolster their defense with LB Patrick Queen of LSU, who can stuff the run and be a stellar pass defender.
No. 20 Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags address a defensive need by taking the second best DT in the draft, South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw (6-5, 324).
No. 21 Philadelphia Eagles: As always, the Eagles need a deep-threat receiver. Clemson’s Tee Higgins provides a big target (6-4, 216) and has 4.5 speed.
No. 22 Minnesota Vikings (from Buffalo): Like Detroit, the Vikings’ once-stout secondary has been severely depleted. Versatile Alabama safety Xavier McKinney is the pick.
No. 23 New England Patriots: The Patriots have holes on their No. 1 defense, but a humongous hole at QB. They take a flier on the athletic Jordan Love.
No. 24 New Orleans Saints: The Saints are in position to take the best player available. How about Oklahoma LB Kenneth Murray (6-2, 241).
No. 25 Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings go for super strong DT Justin Madubuike (6-3, 293) from Texas A&M.
No. 26 Miami Dolphins (from Houston): Miami addresses its offensive line needs with center Lloyd Cushenberry (6-3, 312) of LSU.
No. 27 Seattle Seahawks: In somewhat of a reach, Seattle goes with DE A.J. Epenesa of Iowa in case vet Jadeveon Clowney lands elsewhere.
No. 28 Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens look to replace recently retired eight-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda with Fresno State’s Netane Muti (6-3, 315).
No. 29 Tennessee Titans: Edge rusher Marlon Davidson of Auburn (6-3, 303) joins offseason acquisition Vic Beasley to give the Titans a good pass-rushing combo.
No. 30 Green Bay Packers: The Packers are in big need of help at WR and go deep on the board to take ASU’s Brandon Aiyuk.
No. 31 San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers go for a DT to try to fill the gap of departed DeForest Buckner. It’s TCU’s Ross Blacklock (6-3, 290).
No. 32 Kansas City Chiefs: Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor finally gets a call.