April 21, 2020
By Scott Williams
CENTRAL WISCONSIN – Some people are just a glutton for punishment and public scrutiny into their mental stability.
How else can you explain why anyone would expose themselves to public ridicule by predicting how the opening round of the NFL draft will unfold pick by pick.
Yet here I am again this year trying to figure out what’s going on in the minds of 32 NFL general managers and scouting departments as they look to upgrade their rosters in the crapshoot known as the draft.
Of course, only one selection really matters, and that’s the one that belongs to the Green Bay Packers. This year it comes at No. 30 after a trip to the NFC championship game to begin the Matt LaFleur era.
As I gaze into my 2020 NFL Draft crystal ball, aka my secret weapon in prognostication, I see three possible scenarios playing out for the Packers.
First, and most probable depending how the draft shakes out, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst will trade out of the first round in order to collect more draft capital.
Then again, if no one calls with a trade proposal that is too good to refuse for the 30th pick, Gutey stays true to his board and selects his best player available at a position of need.
Among the candidates will be Houston’s Josh Jones and Ezra Cleveland (Boise State) at tackle, along with wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk (Arizona State), Jalen Reagor (TCU) or Michael Pittman Jr. (USC).
Brian Bulaga is a Charger and Rick Wagner is a stopgap at right tackle. Someone needs to help keep Aaron Rodgers upright in his twilight years. That’s why Jones will be hard for Gutekunst to pass on if he’s still available when the Green and Gold is on the clock.
Or maybe, just maybe, Gutey throws Packers Nation an Adam Wainwright level curveball and goes rogue on us by choosing a player at a perceived position of strength – say quarterback or defensive back.
Utah State quarterback Jordan Love is an intriguing option and the day is coming when the heir apparent to ARod is needed. Secondary help could also be in play with such options as Antoine Winfield Jr. (Minnesota) and Jeremy Chinn (S.Illinois) or Wisconsin chess piece Zach Baun.
A word of warning before the draft commences Thursday night. Please don’t bet your house or life’s savings on this exercise in futility because you’ll likely wind up in the poor house like me.
Without further delay, let the mocking begin.
1. Cincinnati – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU: Good-bye Andy Dalton. Hello Heisman Trophy winner and national championship winning quarterback. Bengals hope they find their next Ken Anderson or Boomer Esiason.
2. Washington – Chase Young, DE, Ohio State: ‘Skins could be tempted by a QB, but instead grab arguably the most talented player in the draft.
3. Detroit – Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State: The Lions choose a cheaper version of stud cornerback Darius Slay who was inexplicably traded to the Eagles. Or Detroit trades back for more picks.
4. N.Y. Giants – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa: Who knows what wacky GM Dave Gettleman might do. He prioritized the trenches at Carolina. An athletic freak like S/LB Isaiah Simmons from Clemson might be too tempting to pass on.
5. Miami – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama: Ryan Fitz-magic is not the answer, so the Fins take a chance on the injury-prone Tide star. Don’t be surprised if Miami moves up to make sure they get their man.
6. L.A. Chargers – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon: L.A has its Phillip Rivers replacement. Jordan Love might be a better option. What’s clear is Tyrod Taylor isn’t seen as the long-term or short-term answer.
7. Carolina – Simmons, S/LB, Clemson: All signs pointed to one of the top defensive linemen going here. But every team is looking at acquiring playmakers on both sides of the ball and Simmons is too good to pass up here.
8. Arizona – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama: Reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray isn’t the biggest guy in the world, so the Cardinals make sure they get some protection for their franchise QB.
9. Jacksonville – Javon Kinlaw, DT, S. Carolina: The Jaguars have their pick to the best DL in the draft and opt to go with the fast-rising Gamecock over the more heralded Derrick Brown.
10. Cleveland – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville: In desperate need of filling the black hole at left tackle since the retirement of former Badger legend Joe Thomas, the Browns turn to the Cardinals’ athletic man mountain.
11. N.Y. Jets – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama: Sam Darnold might as well be throwing to me with the lackluster receiving corps currently on the roster. So the J-E-T-S go with one of the big play machines for the Tide.
12. Las Vegas – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma: Da Raiders still need more weapons in the passing game for Derek Carr after Amari Cooper was shipped out. Lamb has a chance to make Raider Nation forget all about Cooper.
13. San Francisco – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU: With so much depth in the wide receiver class, Niners GM John Lynch turns his attention to the secondary. Fulton has a chance to be a lockdown corner and who doesn’t need those.
14. Tampa Bay – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia: With the human statue Tom Brady scheduled to be the trigger man for the Bucs, the need for someone to protect him is paramount. The athletic mammoth left tackle fits the bill.
15. Denver – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama: When Drew Lock is your quarterback, he needs to be surrounded by talent to help him look good. So the Elways choose the burner from Alabama who could very well be the first WR taken.
16. Atlanta – Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn: Their run defense in 2019 most closely resembled Swiss cheese, so the Falcons jump at a chance to land a top 10 talent who falls into their lap at a position of need.
17. Dallas – K’Lavon Chaisson, DE/LB, LSU: With all the defensive losses in free agency, the Pokes will need to outscore every team they play. Sound familiar Mike McCarthy? Chaisson steps in to replace departed free agent Robert Quinn.
18. Miami – Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor: Now that the Dolphins have their QB of the future why not grab Tua a No. 1 wide receiver who has a rep for big plays and deep speed to develop a bond for years to come.
19. Las Vegas – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama: After Jon Gruden spends nine of his 10 allotted minutes repeatedly curses the Fins for taking their guy, Oakland switches gears and nabs a difference-maker in the secondary.
20. Jacksonville – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU: There just aren’t enough fingers and toes to plugs all the holes in the Jaguars roster in one draft. How about a linebacker who oozes potential – a good thing since the Jags are a mess right now.
21. Philadelphia – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU: When an NFL team is so desperate for bodies at receiver that I was grabbed off the street for the playoffs last season, you’re in trouble. Jefferson comes in as a polished product.
22. Minnesota – Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah: This pick is pretty simple. Lose a big physical cover corner (Xavier Rhodes) and fill that hole with a younger, cheaper version of a big physical CB who can make plays.
23. New England – Jeremy Chinn, S, S. Illinois: Every year someone no one is expecting to be selected in the first round draws gasps when his name is announced. Chinn is a player whose college tape is too hard to ignore.
24. New Orleans – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State: Despite the popular opinion among some in Packer Nation and the Big Easy, Taysom Hill is not the heir to Drew Brees. The ultra-talented Love gets to learn behind the master.
25. Minnesota – Austin Jackson, OT, USC: Somehow QB Kirk Cousins made it through the 2019 season alive with that rag tag group in front of him. The Vikings turn to the mobile and versatile Jackson to lend a helping hand.
26. Miami – Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma: Having injected some much-needed talent on the offensive side of the ball with Tua and Mims, the Dolphins find a nice young anchor piece for the defense. Murray plays fast sideline to sideline and can cover tight ends.
27. Seattle – Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State: Pete Carroll will literally beg teams to trade up with the Hawks. Without any takers, Seattle jumps at the chance to nab a rising talent to put more pressure on quarterbacks.
28. Baltimore – A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa: A modus operandi of the Ravens is taking really good “football players” no matter their measurables. Epenesa is the definition of someone who may not test well but jumps off the tape.
29. Tennessee – Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC: The Titans will need to throw the ball more than 10 times a game next season. Ryan Tannehill got a monster new contract. Now he gets a talented receiver who could be coveted by the team picking next.
30. Green Bay – Josh Jones, OT, Houston: The odds of Jones still being around when the Green and Gold is on the clock are slim to none. But Jones is allegedly the guy at the top of their wish list. An electrifying WR is a realistic alternative if the Cougar is gone.
31. San Francisco – Cesar Ruiz, OL, Michigan: The blueprint for reaching the Super Bowl last season included the ability to dominate in the trenches on both sides of the football. Ruiz is a perfect fit for any spot on the offensive line.
32. Kansas City – Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: I’m going to admit it. This pick was all about throwing Badgers fans a bone. That being said, Taylor would provide a huge upgrade in the backfield for an already dynamic offense.
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