The first round of this year’s NFL draft is scheduled for April 29th. Here are my predictions for how it will play out:
Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, Quarterback, Clemson
This is the biggest no-brainer of the draft. Lawrence is regarded as a generational quarterback prospect in the realm of Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, and John Elway. It would be foolish for Jacksonville to even think of any other player with the first pick.
New York Jets: Zach Wilson, Quarterback, Brigham Young University
Wilson has shot up draft boards in recent months as the BYU product has showcased his athletic ability. His ball placement and the level of competition he faced in college are noticeable downsides when looking at his college years, but Wilson’s arm talent gives him all the upside needed to justify taking him at the number two spot.
San Francisco 49ers: Justin Fields, Quarterback, Ohio State
Jimmy Garappollo was ultimately one of the weak links on a roster that almost won the Super Bowl in 2019. When the 49ers traded up with the Dolphins to get the third overall pick, it was fairly obvious that they were targeting the quarterback position. Justin Fields provides plenty of athleticism, arm strength, and several big performances (including in last year’s Sugar Bowl, where he went toe-to-toe with Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence).
Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, Tight End, University of Florida
Kyle Pitts is the best tight end prospect in recent memory. The Florida product has an elite blend of size and speed that allows him to line up all over the field and create plenty of mismatch opportunities. The possibility of pairing Pitts with an already stellar duo of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley is too tantalizing for Atlanta to pass up.
Cincinnati Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase, Wide Receiver, Louisiana State University
Despite pressure to use their first round pick on a tackle (after quarterback Joe Burrow went down with an ACL tear last year, which many have blamed on poor offensive line play), Burrow has reportedly asked the Bengals front office to reunite him with Ja’Marr Chase, his top receiver at LSU. After adding Riley Reiff alongside Jonah Williams, tackle isn’t as high of a priority as it may seem; yet, it is still imperative for the Bengals to target an interior offensive lineman later in the draft. After an outstanding pro day, Chase has put away any doubts of his ability following a year that he opted out of due to the pandemic.
Miami Dolphins: Penei Sewell, Offensive Tackle, University of Oregon
After trading back up to number six overall, the Dolphins most likely had the intention of going after Sewell or Slater. If Chase makes it past the Bengals he could be a target here, but after signing Will Fuller, wide receiver is less of a priority for Miami.
New England Patriots (trade up with Detroit): Trey Lance, Quarterback, North Dakota State
After an uncharacteristically aggressive offseason by Head Coach Bill Belichick, a long term solution at quarterback is the only significant remaining question for the Patriots. Lance’s arm talent and rushing ability provide him with plenty of upside in the NFL, but after missing out on this past season and playing weaker competition in general at North Dakota State, Lance is seen as more of a project quarterback. In New England, Lance will likely sit behind Cam Newton—a veteran with a similar play style—for his first season before he would be ready to assume the starting job.
Chicago Bears (trade up with Carolina): Mac Jones, Quarterback, University of Alabama
With Mitchell Trubisky officially out of town, the Bears are yet again in search of a quarterback, as their signing of an aging Andy Dalton is not the long term solution in Chicago. Mac Jones has been praised by many for his intangibles and he could benefit from a year behind Dalton.
Denver Broncos: Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Penn State
The Broncos have a hole at inside linebacker and the versatile and athletic Micah Parsons is the perfect man for that job. Denver may look to secure a quarterback in the first round, but they seem likely to give Drew Lock one more year to prove himself.
Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, Cornerback, University of Alabama
With a healthy Dak Prescott early in the 2020 season, the Cowboys offense lit up the scoreboard while the defense, especially the secondary, let opposing teams to do the same. Surtain II could be the lockdown corner desperately needed in Dallas.
New York Giants: Jaelan Phillips, Edge, University of Miami
After signing Kenny Golladay and bringing back Nate Solder, New York’s focus shifts to adding an edge defender to pair with Leonard Williams. Jaelan Phillips offers plenty of upside as a former five star recruit. Phillips had plenty of injury issues at the start of his collegiate career, but he battled through to end his junior year hot.
Philadelphia Eagles: DeVonta Smith, Wide Receiver, University of Alabama
With Alshon Jefferey and DeSean Jackson leaving, Philadelphia will look to recoup some young talent at the position, providing Jalen Hurts with more weapons than an already disappointing Jalen Reagor. Despite winning the Heisman award and putting up a monster first half in the college football championship, Smith will likely fall in the draft due to questions about his skinny build (170 pounds).
Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, Offensive Tackle, Northwestern
Minnesota Vikings: Alijah Vera-Tucker, Guard, University of Southern California
Detroit Lions (via New England): Jaylen Waddle, Wide Receiver, University of Alabama
Arizona Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, Cornerback, University of South Carolina
Las Vegas Raiders: Christian Darrisaw, Offensive Tackle, Virginia Tech
Miami Dolphins: Kwity Paye, Edge, University of Michigan
Washington Football Team: Teven Jenkins, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma State
Carolina Panthers (via Chicago): Greg Newsome II, Cornerback, Northwestern
Indianapolis Colts: Rashod Bateman, Wide Receiver, Minnesota
Tennessee Titans: Caleb Farley, Cornerback, Virginia Tech
New York Jets: Asante Samuel Jr., Cornerback, Florida State
Pittsburgh Steelers: Creed Humphrey, Center, Oklahoma
Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevon Moehrig, Safety, TCU
Cleveland Browns: Christian Barmore, Defensive Tackle, Alabama
Baltimore Ravens: Elijah Moore, Wide Receiver, Mississippi
New Orleans Saints: Jermain Owusu-Koramoah, Linebacker, Notre Dame
Green Bay Packers: Terrace Marshall Jr., Wide Receiver, LSU
Buffalo Bills: Najee Harris, Running Back, Alabama
Kansas City Chiefs: Samuel Cosmi, Offensive Tackle, Texas
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jayson Oweh, Edge, Penn State