As all sports are in hiatus, there isn't anything that is set in stone to look forward to. However, we do have one thing: the NFL Draft. As it's now only a few weeks away, and the major part of free agency is over, we now have a clearer picture of what teams are building towards, and what needs they have. In this article, we are not fully doing a mock draft, but are saying who teams should select based on what positional needs our model based team rankings show. Without further adieu, here it is.
Notes: Our ratings are based on a scale where 100 is the average. Higher is better on offense, and lower is better on defense. A full list of all of our NFL Stats can be found in our NFL Stats Plan.
1. Cincinnati: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
This one is pretty obvious. The bengals franchised tagged AJ Green which along with Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and some good backs in Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard will form a talented supporting cast for any QB. Last season, the Bengals passing efficiency ranked 18th in the NFL. Adding the top QB prospect in the draft with championship pedigree at a young age will definitely increase the efficiency of the passing offense, and the offense as a whole next season and for years to come. It may not happen right away in year 1, but grabbing the quarterback of your future is the best way to build a good NFL offense.
2. Washington: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
Washington has many holes to fill, and defensive line is certainly one of them. Last season, they ranked below average in pass rush rating (110), and defensive line rush defense rating (113). Picking the top defensive end prospect will go a long way in improving these ratings next season and for years to come.
3. Detroit: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Last season, Detroit finished 18% below the league average in pass defense (118), and that was WITH Darius Slay. If they don't pick up a top corner prospect, it will be a long season for Detroit. The secondary is the most important position group on the defense, so the Lions must focus on cornerback at #3, and select Jeffrey Okudah who is a perfect fit in Matt Patricias heavy man coverage defense.
4. NY Giants: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
The Giants defense last season was ranked 29th in the NFL. Specifically, their pass defense ranked 31st ahead of only Miami. They picked up James Bradberry which will help, but they still need another solid starterTheir rush defense was actually above average with a rating of 93, so the giants should be leaning towards secondary in the draft. Now that Jeffrey Okudah is already off the board, the Giants should target cornerback CJ Henderson out of Florida, who is the next best cover corner in the draft. It may be a reach at #4, so they could trade back a few spots and collect more draft capital, while also getting the player they need.
5. Miami: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Miami finished last year strong, and made nice additions in the offseason. Believe it or not, Miami could be pretty competitive next season. However, they still do not have the QB of the future. Their passing offense finished well below average last season with a rating of 88, and grabbing a highly talented dual threat in Tua Tagalovailoa will definitely create improvements in that area whether it's next season, or in 2021.
6. L.A. Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The chargers could use this pick in a few different ways, but QB is the highest priority since they currently have no future plans at the position. Justin Herbert has all the tools to become a top NFL quarterback, and will definitely improve the chargers offense going forward if he pans out.
7. Carolina: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Carolinas run defense last season was abysmal, ranking dead last in the NFL last season with a 127 rush defense rating. Selecting the top defensive tackle in the draft will go a long way towards fixing the problem they have on the defensive side of the ball.
8. Arizona: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Arizona's pass block rating was a little bit above average last season (106 rating), but their run block rating was below average at 97. Grabbing the top offensive lineman in the class to protect and build around Kyler Murray seems like the best choice at this spot for Arizona.
9. Jacksonville: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Jacksonville's offense ranked 25th in the NFL last season, and finished almost 10% below the league average in Passing Efficiency (91.34). This receiver class is loaded with superstar potential talent, so they really can't go wrong picking any of the top prospects. With this pick however, we have Jerry Jeudy heading to Jacksonville to be Gardner Minshew's #1 receiver.
10. Cleveland: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama
Although they didn't meet up to high expectations last season, Cleveland still has a talented roster. With this pick, we have them taking Jedrick Willis Jr. out of Alabama, who looks to the be the next stud tackle playing for Cleveland after Joe Thomas's retirement before last season. Cleveland's offensive line was slightly above average last season with a 107 pass block and run block rating, but can definitely bring up that number next season. For Baker Mayfield to progress, he needs a strong offensive line in front of him, and this pick will hope to do just that.
11. NY Jets: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
The jets had the 32nd ranked pass block rating last season (66), and the 31st worst run block rating (90). If they ever want Sam Darnold to be the franchise quarterback they drafted him to be, the offensive line needs to be their top focus. With the 3rd straight pick, a tackle will come off the board in Andrew Thomas out of georgia.
12. Las Vegas: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
The raiders pass defense ranked 30th in the NFL last season with a 121 rating. They need secondary help badly, and especially at corner. With the top corner already off the board, the raiders can settle on the talented Kristian Fulton from LSU to boost their secondary going forward.
13. San Francisco (via Indianapolis): CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
San Francisco had a good passing offense last season with a 113 efficiency rating. However, they lost their top target in Emmanuel Sanders leaving a hole in their offense. Without a top receiver, they are due for regression in 2020. At #13, their is no way they can pass on the outstanding wide receiver prospects that are still on the board. CeeDee Lamb out of Oklahoma will be the perfect target to step into an already great offense and take it to new heights.
14. Tampa Bay: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Tampa Bay got their QB in Tom Brady, and now they need to bolster their offensive line that was below average last season. Their run block rating was 91, and their pass block rating was dead average at 100. Grabbing Mekhi Becton will give Brady the protection he needs to add to an extremely talented offense in Tampa.
15. Denver: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant showed promise last season as good targets for Denver, and Drew Lock played well at QB once he got his chance late last season. However, Denver still ranked 28th in the NFL in passing efficiency last season, and need to add weapons. The speedy Henry Ruggs should do just that in Denver next season, completing the young core group of offensive players that they can build around in the future.
16. Atlanta: K'Lavon Chaisson, OLB, LSU
Atlanta finished 16% below the league average in pass defense, and just narrowly below the league average in pass rush rating at 101. Grabbing a freaky athlete pass rusher now in the draft to replace Vic Beasley is the most important need for Atlanta at the moment. A team already with talent on both sides of the ball, Chaisson could play a part in Atlanta creating a post season birth next season.
17. Dallas: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Dallas lost Byron Jones to Miami in free agency, and already had a below average pass defense last season (105 rating). This creates a big need at corner, and with CJ Henderson and Kristian Fulton off the board, Diggs is the logical choice for Dallas here at #17.
18. Miami (via Pittsburgh): Josh Jones, OT, Houston
Miami's offensive line was horrific last year, ranking 31st in pass bock rating and 32nd in run block rating. Because of this, the Dolphins need to lean towards an offensive lineman in the draft. Josh Jones could be the player to be a long term option for the dolphins at the tackle position, and they can't afford to pass on him.
19. Las Vegas (via Chicago): Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
The Raiders finished slightly below average in rush defense efficiency last season (102 rating), and Patrick Queen could be a solution to fix this. There are plenty of teams that are hoping he will fall to them late in the first round, but I'm not sure how long he will last. He may be a one-year starter but just turn on his film, it's hard not to be impressed.
20. Jacksonville (via L.A. Rams): Antoine Winfield Jr., S/CB, Minnesota
Jacksonville finished 27th overall in defense last year, which is very surprising given how much talent they once had on that side of the ball. After losing their lockdown corner in Jalen Ramsey, they struggled heavy. Antoine Winfield Jr. could be a nice pickup in the secondary do help solve the issues that plagued the Jaguars last season.
21. Philadelphia: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Philadelphia ranked above average in every single category last season, besides pass offense rating. Although they were heavily affected by injuries, the talent they had was still underwhelming on the outside. Justin Jefferson could be the guy to play along Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz to lead the eagles pass game next season and improve their efficiency going forward.
22. Minnesota (via Buffalo): Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
Minnesota traded Stefon Diggs this offseason to the Bills, which leaves a giant gap at the wide receiver position. Higgins is another player who could develop into a legitimate NFL star. The Vikings parted ways with Stefon Diggs this offseason, so why not take a chance on this national champion out of Clemson?
23. New England: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
New England finished #1 in the NFL is pass defense last season, so why take someone in the secondary? Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Jason McCourty, and even stefon gilmore are getting older in that New Engaldn Secondary. McKinney can develop into a stud safety that can keep the New England secondary elite, which is the most important thing a defense can have in today's modern NFL.
24. New Orleans: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
The Saints need to make the most of whatever time Drew Brees has left, and Mark Ingram’s departure left a void in their ground game that left the offense unbalanced. They finished slightly above average in rush offense last season (105 rating), and can definitely improve that with Taylor instead of Latavious Murray next season. Taylor’s skill set is the perfect replacement, and he’s the top back in the class.
25. Minnesota: Austin Jackson, OT, USC
They filled their big need at corner with their last pick, so now they can be more open to who they pick with no immediate need. The Vikings could opt for Jackson, giving them a long-term upgrade at a key position. Jackson isn’t the most polished offensive tackle in this class, but he’s got loads of potential.
26. Miami (via Houston): D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
Miami needs help everywhere. Dandre Swift could be a good pairing with whoever Miami chooses to be the QB of the future. so pairing them up in the same draft class sounds like a great idea to build chemistry as they progress.
27. Seattle: AJ Espensa, Edge, IOWA
The Seahawks need more help on the edge as they finished 21% below the league average in pass rush rating last season. Epenesa possesses ideal size and speed to become a top pass rusher in the NFL, so that is who Seattle should go after with this pick.
28. Baltimore: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
The Baltimore rush defense struggled at times last year, finishing with a 101 rush defense rating. Kenneth Murray can help sure up some of those troubles, along with free agent pickups Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe.
29. Tennessee: AJ Terrell, CB, Tennessee
Tennessee finished 5% below the league average last season in pass defense rating (105), and the status of Logan Ryan remains in Limbo. Having good corners is essential in heavy man coverage scheme, so Tennessee needs to target the speed demon Terrell with this pick.
30. Green Bay: Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
The Packers have the talented edge rushers, so now all they need is a young talent that can hold down the middle of the field. Baun is that kind of player. Plus, he's a Wisconsin native! Their run defense last seaosn was supbar (108), so help is needed.
31. San Francisco: Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama
The 49ers gave up DeForest Buckner for a first-rounder, and they can potentially get that production back with the No. 31 overall pick. Davis is relentless along the defensive line.
32. Kansas City: Cesar Ruiz, C/G, Michigan
Kansas City has a 95 pass block rating last season, ranking in the bottom half of the NFL. Cesar Ruiz can immediately improve that as he steps in at guard to protect Patrick Mahomes at QB for years to come, in addition to improving the Cheifs average rush offense from a year ago.
And that's the optimal first round for all 32 NFL Teams. Most teams have clear needs that need to be addressed in this draft, and should focus on that to get the best results going forward.
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