NFL Draft Evaluations: Round 1

Contributions to this NFL Draft story come from Vista editor Jacob Silva, and writers Garrett Johnson and Tanner Johnson.

1. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, LSU

  • This pick has been assumed for a while now. With Joe Burrow, the Bengals get their quarterback of the future. A player with not many questions, he excelled at Louisiana State University, winning the Heisman Trophy, the National Championship and now gains the honor of the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. He’s the only player to fit those criteria in the last decade, aside from Cam Newton. The Bengals have lived in football purgatory for decades. Let’s see if Burrow can propel them out of it.

2. Washington Redskins – Chase Young, Ohio State

  • Projected to be the most talented player in the draft, Chase Young continued the trend of exceptional edge-rushing at Ohio State University after the Bosa brothers. With a rebuilding team and a new head coach in Ron Rivera, they are getting a near-guaranteed superstar defensive end with the second pick in this year’s draft. Rumors circulated about the Skins’ potential shopping the pick, but Young’s talent took away that possibility. 

3. Detroit Lions – Jeff Okudah, Ohio State

  • After Detroit traded away star cornerback Darius Slay this offseason, signs pointed to the franchise selecting a replacement when the third overall pick. Jeff Okudah proved his dominance in his time with Ohio State, along with Chase Young. Lions coach Matt Patricia has much to prove in his third season with the franchise, and hopes are that Okudah can stabilize the Lions secondary. 

4. New York Giants – Andrew Thomas, Georgia

  • A unanimous All-American Offensive Tackle at the University of Georgia last season at 6’5 & 320 pounds, the Giants made a move to support their franchise superstar Saquon Barkley. The Pro Bowl running back is coming off an injury-plagued season and a good offensive line is a necessity to ensure Barkley’s long term health and sustainability to play at a high level in this league for years to come. This move is a safe bet for newly hired head coach Joe Judge.

5. Miami Dolphins – Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

  • Once the perennial number one overall pick in this draft as late as October of this past season, a dislocated hip late in the 2018 Heisman finalist’s season at the University of Alabama dropped his draft stock from presumably number one to fifth. The former National Champion is the all-time leader in passing touchdowns at Alabama. The Dolphins look to rebuild from the ground up after trading away many of their best performing players last season and plan for the future with Tagovailoa as their franchise player. 

6. Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Herbert, Oregon

  • The 6’6 senior quarterback came back to the University of Oregon this past season to improve his draft stock and graduate, though many experts projected him to be a first-round pick last year. He showed good arm strength and decision-making capabilities, recording 95 passing touchdowns in four seasons. Although he was never tested by particularly great defenses in the PAC-12 conference, he shows the potential to develop into a quarterback that can win games at the professional level. The Chargers are in desperate need of a quarterback, with skill players and a defense capable of winning in the postseason, prompting them to take the third quarterback in the first six selections. Phillip Rivers’ spring departure, after 14 seasons under center, to Indianapolis left a lot of uncertainty in Los Angeles and General Manager Tom Telesco has bet on Herbert to be the quarterback of the future.

7. Carolina Panthers – Derrick Brown, Auburn

  • The Panthers were expected to draft someone early to improve their front seven, and they did just that. Brown’s strength is stopping the run, and he is arguably the best at his position, as shown in his time at Auburn University. At 6’5 326 pounds, he has superb athleticism. We know that he can stop the run, but the question is if he can become a high-level pass rusher. 

8. Arizona Cardinals – Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

  • Simmons was a star at outside linebacker while at Clemson University, but what position he will play in the NFL is a big question. He could play at strongside linebacker or strong safety, which is good news for the Cardinals considering they are weak at both positions. He was all over the field at Clemson, showing great pass-rushing ability, and also being able to move laterally in coverage. 

9. Jacksonville Jaguars – CJ Henderson, Florida

  • After losing A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, the Jaguars needed some big help in the secondary. This pick wasn’t surprising considering Henderson was considered by most as the best corner in this year’s class. He plays bigger than his size with great athleticism and technique and is also known to be a dangerous blitzer. He had zero interceptions in his last season at the University of Florida but did produce 11 pass break-ups, a career-high. 

10. Cleveland Browns – Jedrick Wills, Alabama

  • Baker Mayfield ran for his life for most of last season with the Browns existing offensive line. By picking up Jedrick Willis, Tua Tagovailoa’s right tackle, they aim to shore up that weakness. After Andrew Thomas had already been picked, this pick made the most sense for the Browns.

11. New York Jets – Mekhi Becton, Louisville

  • At 6’7” and 360lbs, he ran a 5.10 40 yard dash, which is unheard of for his position. University of Louisville’s Sam Darnold should feel much better about his protection from now on, and the Jet’s run game will be improved with such a complementary left tackle.

12. Las Vegas Raiders – Henry Ruggs III, Alabama 

  • In a historically good wide receiver draft, Henry Ruggs is the first off of the board. John Gruden wanted a weapon to utilize in his third-year offense, and he got a potential superstar with the 12th pick. Ruggs may need some time to adapt to an NFL offense, as he was the second and sometimes third option in Alabama’s receiving core. 

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

  • The Buccaneers traded picks with San Francisco to grab the 2019 Big Ten Conference Offensive Linemen of the Year. With a 6’5, 320-pound frame combined with freakish athleticism at the tackle position, Tampa Bay showed their commitment to protecting an aging Tom Brady. Along with the acquisition of newly unretired Rob Gronkowski this week, the Buccaneers are appearing to be all-in on supporting Tom Brady’s quest for a seventh Super Bowl victory.

14. San Francisco 49ers – Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

  • Kinlaw stands at 6’6, 324 pounds and dominated the line of scrimmage in the SEC, arguably, the best conference of offensive linemen in the country. Recording six sacks in his senior season, the 49ers likely view him as someone who will play from day-one in an effort to replace the defensive production from two-time All-Pro defensive end DeForest Buckner who was traded to Indianapolis in the offseason. After last season’s Super Bowl loss, San Francisco is looking to maintain their elite defensive level that propelled them to become the reigning NFC Champions.

15. Denver Broncos – Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

  • The highly-touted Jerry Jeudy becomes the second receiver off the board later than most experts predicted. A polished route-runner, Jeudy will join 2019 Pro Bowl Wide Receiver Courtland Sutton in providing second-year quarterback Drew Lock with downfield threats. With a 4.4 second 40 yard dash time, he will be able to stretch the defense out and free up Sutton on the other side of the field as well as open up running lanes for Pro Bowl running back Phillip Lindsay. The Broncos’ success will depend on the development and improvement of their young offense to compliment future NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Von Miller and the defense. Jeudy will instantly improve their offense after finishing 28th in passing yards per game last season.  

16. Atlanta Falcons – A.J. Terrell, Clemson

  • The Falcons needed a cornerback after releasing Desmond Trufant. Terrell fits Dan Quinn’s Cover 3 scheme. He has a tendency to be overaggressive at times, but he thrives in press coverage and is known to be great at denying the ball on contested catches. Their biggest need was a pass rusher, but with not many pass rushers on the board, they decided to draft their next biggest need. 

17. Dallas Cowboys – CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

  • Lamb was not expected to fall this far. After finishing as a semi-finalist for the Biletnikoff Award last season, many mock drafts had him as the first or second wide receiver off the board, but he was the third. Dallas didn’t have a huge need at wide receiver, but Lamb was too good to pass up. He will give Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore a lot of options this season, and will take some pressure off Amari Cooper. 

18. Miami Dolphins – Austin Jackson, USC

  • The Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa with their first pick in this draft, so it’s not surprising that they drafted someone to protect him with their next pick. Jackson has a lot of potential at the next level, and is an impressive athlete for his size, but many experts believe that his lack of agility could make him a liability at left tackle. 

19. Las Vegas Raiders – Damon Arnette, Ohio State

  • Another dynamite defensive player from Ohio State is off of the board. Gruden picked up a high profile receiver earlier in the night, and now picks up a solid zone defender in Arnette. Ohio State has shown their star power in the first round of this draft.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars – K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU

  • The Jaguars just a few short years ago had the best defense in the NFL and were just a few plays away from an appearance in the Super Bowl. Since then, they’ve done nothing but tumble downward. This pick grabs a solid edge rusher and looks to get the team back on the right track after one disappointing season after another. 

21. Philadelphia Eagles – Jalen Reagor, TCU 

  • With mesmerizing speed, the standout wide receiver will serve as a much needed downfield threat to quarterback Carson Wentz. The Eagles 2019 season was plagued by injuries at the receiver position, bringing many players off of their practice squad to start in late-season games, with a playoff berth within reach. Reagor will likely have a role on special teams as well as snaps in the backfield at running back. The two time All-Big 12 selection will provide an instant spark to Philadelphia offensively in an increasingly competitive NFC East. 

22. Minnesota Vikings – Justin Jefferson, LSU

  • The Vikings lost star receiver Stefon Diggs after he became frustrated with the team. Luckily, they managed to grab a decent package of assets in the transaction. Justin Jefferson had an excellent playoff for LSU, and in a deep-receiver draft, Minnesota has to feel optimistic about the hole Jefferson could fill this season. Kirk Cousins should have a fun target to connect with.

23. Los Angeles Chargers – Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma

  • The Chargers traded up into the later part of the first round to grab the standout linebacker with a second first-round pick. Leading the University of Oklahoma in tackles the past two seasons, Murray will be joining a loaded Los Angeles defense with multiple Pro Bowl players such as safety Derwin James, defensive back Casey Heyward and defensive end Joey Bosa. Murray’s 6’2, 243-pound frame gives him the ideal stature for a professional linebacker. Murray recorded an astounding 325 total tackles in his three seasons for the Sooners with 36.5 of those coming for a loss behind the line of scrimmage. His size accompanied by his elite speed and strength should help him make an instant impact for the Chargers, stopping the run in the offensively explosive AFC West. 

24. New Orleans Saints – Cesar Ruiz, Michigan

  • Offensive line depth is vital to a team with the aging NFL all-time leader in passing yards, Drew Brees. Drafting Ruiz here is a safe bet for the Saints, who are looking to optimize what is potentially Brees’ last professional season. Standing at a massive 6’4 & 319 pounds, Ruiz only allowed eight quarterback pressures at the center position in three seasons with Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines. His incredible strength and surprising agility will instantly improve a depleted Saints offensive line that needs to keep Brees and Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara, who had an injury-plagued 2019, healthy to make a deep playoff run.

25. San Francisco 49ers – Brandon Alyuk, Arizona State 

  • Kyle Shanahan’s offense loves to run after the catch, and Brandon Alyuk from Arizona State University is excellent in that role. Another stud wide receiver off the board and another weapon lined up next to Deebo Samuel in San Francisco. Alyuk has a wingspan akin to that of a Calvin Johnson, and will certainly make use of it throughout his NFL career.

26. Green Bay Packers – Jordan Love, Utah State

  • This was a big question in this draft, will the Packers start preparing for life after Aaron Rodgers? The quarterback out of Utah State University, who has gotten many comparisons to Patrick Mahomes, will be mentored by Aaron Rodgers for the coming years, and they hope that he is the future for the franchise. He is very athletic with a big arm, but his decision making and footwork is a big question. 

27. Seattle Seahawks – Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech

  • The Seahawks had the fourth-worst rushing defense in the NFL last season. Brooks is a very athletic linebacker that is great at getting into the backfield. He can be effective in coverage, but needs a lot of improvement to be effective at the next level. Although, he will help with Seattle’s edge rushing weaknesses. 

28. Baltimore Ravens – Patrick Queen, LSU 

  • Queen has great speed and quickness, play recognition and coverage ability. He has a chance to contribute right away for the Ravens. They needed more speed to help stop the run and cover short to intermediate routes. He is relatively small but has a chance to make a major impact. 

29. Tennessee Titans – Iisiah Wilson, Georgia

  • refers to Wilson as a “mammoth OT,” and with the Titans having such a successful postseason last year by roughing up their opponents and running the ball, Wilson fits perfectly. Great value at the tail end of the first round.

30. Miami Dolphins – Noah Igbinoghene

  • Miami had a surprisingly bright year in 2019, and much of that came from solid coaching and high effort. Igbinoghene is a raw talent, but a superb athlete that will, under the same great coaching, find a spot on this Dolphins roster. Overall, a great first round for Miami.

31. Minnesota Vikings – Jeff Gladney, TCU

  •  After losing Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, Gladney might be a starter to begin the season. Gladney is quick on his feet and is great in man-coverage. According to the Sports Info Solutions Rookie Scouting Handbook, Gladney allowed a 38 percent completion rate to the receivers he covered in 2019 and a 33 percent rate in 2018. 

32. Kansas City Chiefs – Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU

  • Edwards-Helaire shows flashes of Darren Sproles. He is a dynamic, versatile weapon out of the backfield,and also in the slot, which could fit this Kansas City offense perfectly. With Damien Williams being a free agent in 2021, Edwards-Helaire will have a chance to prove himself this season and possibly take over the starting role next season. 
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