When it comes to recent NFL drafts, teams usually trade up to pick a quarterback. Entering the 2019 draft, 10 of the previous 11 quarterbacks selected in the first round were acquired via a trade up, including Ravens star Lamar Jackson in 2018. Last year was an anomaly, with Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins all picked by teams that stayed in their original spot.
Trades, particularly for quarterbacks, alter the landscape of the draft, pushing high-level talent further down the pecking order. With that in mind, here are The Baltimore Sun’s projections for each pick in the first round, which begins April 23 in Las Vegas:
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Entering the national title game, Burrow’s adjusted completion rate of 82.5%, which weights completions by air yards and excludes drops and throwaways, was the highest in the nine seasons recorded by ESPN Stats & Information. Not to mention, 25 of his FBS-record 60 touchdown passes this season traveled at least 18 yards in the air, the most by any QB since at least 2011.
2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Would Washington consider trading down if teams called with a package of picks? Maybe, but Young showed all the makings of a generational pass-rushing talent in college. To get a player of his caliber on a rookie contract is invaluable for a rebuilding team.
3. TRADE! Miami Dolphins (Dolphins send picks Nos. 5, 18, 56 to Detroit Lions for pick No. 3): Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The Dolphins don’t want to part with any extra picks they’ve acquired in their teardown, but they can’t risk losing Tagovailoa to another desperate team. If they really want the Alabama star, they have to trade up to get him, and they have the assets to do it.
4. New York Giants: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Unless there’s a team that falls in love with Justin Herbert or Jordan Love, the Giants might not be fielding many calls to trade down. New York needs a defensive playmaker, and though the last Buckeyes corner they took in the first round didn’t work out (Eli Apple), Okudah is a much better prospect.
5. Detroit Lions (via Dolphins): Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson
The Lions might be the biggest winner of this fake trade. Not only do they stock up on picks, but they stay in position to take a potential defensive stud in Simmons, an athletic Swiss Army knife.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama
The hunch here is that the Chargers aren’t thrilled with the tier of quarterbacks behind Burrow and Tagovailoa and decide to hand Philip Rivers or another veteran (Tom Brady, perhaps?) a short-term deal, or even turn to Tyrod Taylor, who has one year left on his contract. They can grab the best tackle in the draft while they figure out a long-term plan at QB.
7. TRADE! Las Vegas Raiders (Raiders send picks Nos. 12, 19, 80 to Carolina Panthers for pick No. 7): Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Sensing an opportunity, coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock make a move to land their quarterback of the future and find a willing trade partner in the Panthers, who are looking to stockpile talent under new coach Matt Rhule. Herbert isn’t considered a top-tier talent, but he has enticing athletic ability and a big arm and is someone Gruden can try to mold under his tutelage.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
This is an interesting spot for the Cardinals, who in this scenario would have their pick of a loaded wide receiver class. But both of their starting tackles are unrestricted free agents, which might make offensive line a more immediate position of need. The bet here is that Jeudy is simply too good to pass up.
9. TRADE! Indianapolis Colts (Colts send picks No. 13, 34 and 44 to Jacksonville Jaguars for No. 9): Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Jacoby Brissett is under contract for 2020 and carries a cap hit of roughly $21 million, but he finished the season as PFF’s 29th graded quarterback out of 32 qualifiers, ahead of only Case Keenum, Mason Rudolph and Kyle Allen. His 23.9% uncatchable pass rate trailed only Josh Allen. Love is by no means a sure thing after an up-and-down 2019 season, but he has the kind of athletic traits and raw arm talent worth trading up for.
Starting left tackle Greg Robinson is hitting free agency, and the Browns offensive line, particularly Robinson and right tackle Chris Hubbard, struggled to protect Baker Mayfield in 2019, as the unit finished 23rd in PFF’s offensive line rankings. Wirfs would be an immediate upgrade.
11. New York Jets: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
The Jets need offensive line help badly, as well as a pass rusher and cornerback. Quarterback Sam Darnold could use a big-time receiver, too, but the Jets need to make sure he’s safe in the pocket first.
In 2019, the Panthers allowed a league-worst 5.2 yards per carry and gave up 31 rushing touchdowns, eight more than the next worst team. Brown can help stop the bleeding up front.
13. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Colts): Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
Putting Kinlaw next to Calais Campbell in the middle of the Jaguars defense would not only be fun to watch, but crucial for a team that allowed six runs of 40-plus yards in 2019.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Whether quarterback Jameis Winston comes back or not, the Bucs need an upgrade on the offensive line. Becton is quick for his size (6 feet 7, 365 pounds) and could become a monster in both the running and passing games.
15. Denver Broncos: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Teaming Lamb with 2019 first-round pick Noah Fant and recent Pro Bowl selection Courtland Sutton gives the Broncos an enviable group of pass catchers. Whether Drew Lock, Joe Flacco or another quarterback can take advantage is the question.
16. Atlanta Falcons: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
In 2019, the Falcons defense ranked 26th in expected points allowed per pass play. Fulton can make an immediate impact with his natural play-making ability and athletic traits.
17. Dallas Cowboys: A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
While Epenesa’s measurables won’t jump off the page, he was highly productive in college and can create pressure with his strength and effort. He’d be a nice fit alongside Demarcus Lawrence, especially if Robert Quinn leaves in free agency.
18. Detroit Lions (via Dolphins, via Pittsburgh): Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
What a first round this would be for the Lions. Diggs is still a little raw, but he’s a tremendous athlete and can grow into an elite press corner. Plus, how fun would it be to see him go against his older brother, Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs, twice a season?
Future Hall of Famer Luke Keuchly’s stunning retirement leaves a huge void in the middle of the Panthers defense. Murray doesn’t have Keuchly’s vision, but he brings similar speed and coverage skills to the table.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Rams): Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
D.J. Chark was a revelation in 2019, and former second-round pick Marqise Lee returns after a knee injury. But Gardner Minshew could use another playmaker outside, and Ruggs’ reported 40-yard dash time of 4.32 seconds makes him an immediate home-run threat.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
With DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery returning from injury, the need for a wide receiver isn’t as strong as the need for help in the secondary. Delpit was hit-and-miss in 2019, but his coverage skills would be a welcome addition to a beleaguered group of defenders.
22. Buffalo Bills: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
The Bills offense took a big step forward after adding receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley last offseason, but both are under 5-10. Higgins, at 6-3, 205 pounds, gives Josh Allen a big target and an even bigger catch radius.
23. New England Patriots: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
Will the Patriots take this opportunity to draft Tom Brady’s successor? Or does New England go after a defensive player with Devin McCourty, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins hitting free agency? If Shenault is available, his combination of size, speed and elusiveness gives the offense the playmaker its been missing.
24. New Orleans Saints: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Michael Thomas can do it all, but he shouldn’t have to. Reagor has breakaway speed, separates at an elite level and can make plays after the catch. He’d be a big improvement over Ted Ginn Jr. and Tre’Quan Smith.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Jordan Elliott, DT, Missouri
The Vikings were beaten up in the trenches by the 49ers in their divisional-round loss. Elliott was scouting website Pro Football Focus’ highest graded interior defender in college football last season.
It’s a safe bet that the Dolphins use one of their first-round picks on an offensive lineman. Jackson moves extremely well for his size (6-6, 308) and can grow into a stabilizing force for a rebuilding team.
27. Seattle Seahawks: C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
The Seahawks need a playmaker or two on defense, especially if they can’t get a deal done with pending free agent Jadeveon Clowney. Seattle has always valued its secondary over its pass rush, and Henderson has the kind of skill and length the Seahawks covet.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Baun, EDGE, Wisconsin
Trying to guess what the Ravens do with this pick is tricky. They could certainly use help at linebacker and edge rusher, especially if they’re not able to to re-sign Matthew Judon. And with so many talented wide receivers available, they might be tempted to pick one. In the end, Baun offers a unique skill set as a pass rusher and coverage linebacker that would fit perfectly in the Ravens’ scheme.
The Titans generated pressure on 32% of dropbacks in 2019, per PFF, which ranked 27th in the NFL. Cameron Wake turns 38 years old this year and Harold Landry III is still developing. Lewis offers a burst of athleticism on the edge.
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30. Green Bay Packers: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Davante Adams has established himself as an elite receiver, but behind him, the Packers don’t have much talent. Aiyuk can take the top off the defense with his outstanding speed and is dynamic with the ball in his hands.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Starting safety Jimmie Ward is a free agent this offseason, and the Niners could also use another corner opposite Richard Sherman. McKinney can be a versatile weapon in the secondary, having earned high marks in run defense, as a pass-rusher and in coverage each of the past two seasons by PFF.
The Athletic’s draft expert Dane Brugler calls Gladney “a junkyard dog” for his ability to use his speed and toughness to shut down receivers. The Chiefs need to add some depth at cornerback after subpar seasons from Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland.