Where’d the Love Go? The Ultimate Quarantine NFL Mock Draft

10 NFL megafans. 32 first round selections. 10 trades. 60 minutes. Zero Jordan Love. Unlimited fun.

In the barren landscape of professional sports, the NFL Draft, which starts this Thursday on ESPN, is a tantalizing oasis. But even though the draft goes on, it will be a draft like no other. 

To prepare for the NFL’s upcoming remote draft, I had the help of a couple of friends to play the roles of general managers for each of the teams with first round draft picks. Each person took the reigns of either two or three NFL teams (one being their favorite squad), with the objective of improving their teams as much as possible through picks or through trade offers (proposed over texts and DMs). In addition to taking on the Dolphins and Cowboys, I replaced Roger Goodell as the commissioner, broadcasting each pick via Zoom with the NFL draft sound effect and a formal draft announcement. The result — 32 picks of craziness, controversy and fun.

General Managers

Drew Schott, Daily Northwestern reporter, drafting from St. George, Utah– Cincinnati Bengals, Las Vegas Raiders (2)

Joe Pohoryles, creator of The WilDCard Sports Blog, drafting from Rockville, MD – Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers (2)

Davis Johnson, SportsNite anchor, drafting from Gainesville, FL – Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers

Nate Riker, Ravens fan, drafting from North Potomac, MD – New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens

John Riker, creator of Riker’s Block, drafting from a couch on the other side of the room from Nate in North Potomac, MD – Miami Dolphins (3), Dallas Cowboys

John Volk, editor-in-chief of WNUR, drafting from Seattle, WA – Los Angeles Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks

Christian Clark, writer for Christian Clark Journalism, drafting from Midlothian, VA – Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans

Harrison Larner, creator of Slice of Sports, drafting from Gwinnett, GA – Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings (2)

Daniel Olinger, creator of Back to the Basket, drafting from Glenside, PA – Jacksonville Jaguars (2), Philadelphia Eagles

Patrick Andres, Daily Northwestern reporter, drafting from Toledo, OH – Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs

For each pick, each general manager will give their reasoning behind their selection, and then assess their whole team’s performance over the course of the draft. But, of course, time will be the best judge of each GM’s aptitude.

The Cincinnati Bengals, no, Miami Dolphins (!!!) are on the clock!

2020 NFL Quarantine Mock Draft

1. Miami Dolphins (Projected Trade with Cincinnati Bengals) – Joe Burrow, Quarterback, LSU

Trade: MIA receives 1, 33 picks, Andy Dalton

            CIN receives 5, 18, 56, 3rd rounder, 2 2021 first-rounders, Ryan Fitzpatrick

John R’s Take: Surefire franchise quarterbacks don’t come around often and when they do, they are worth every penny. Burrow is coming off one of the best college seasons ever, and the Fins use their wealth of early picks to pick the man who they believe will be the next Dan Marino.

2. Washington Redskins – Chase Young, Defensive End, Ohio State

Joe’s Take: “The best player on the board. He’s a generational talent that will not only bolster an already strong defensive line, but hopefully make things easier on the secondary. With defensive-minded Ron Rivera running the show, this pick is a no-brainer as the first pick of the new era.”

3. Cincinnati Bengals (Projected Trade with Lions) – Justin Herbert, Quarterback, Oregon

Trade: CIN receives 3, 5th rounder

           DET receives 5, 56, 2021 3rd rounder

Drew’s Take: “Obviously, trading away the #1 pick came as a shock to many. But I felt like Justin Herbert could be a great solution at quarterback for the Bengals. He has a great arm, is a dual-threat player and knows how to get control of a locker room.”

4. New York Giants – Isaiah Simmons, Linebacker, Clemson

Nate’s Take: “I had the fourth pick and the Giants basically need everything. I tried to trade back to satisfy more needs but I couldn’t. Isaiah Simmons was the most talented player on the board.”

5. Detroit Lions (Above Projected Trade with Bengals) – Jeffrey Okudah, Cornerback, Ohio State

Davis’s Take: “I picked Okudah because the Lions are terrible on defense and need to replace Darius Slay. Okudah is the most NFL-ready and technically sound defensive back in the draft.”

6. Los Angeles Chargers – Tua Tagovailoa, Quarterback, Alabama

John V’s Take: “This was an easy pick, I was shocked to see Tua drop to me here. Chargers need an exciting young QB both to fill the role of Phillip Rivers and to generate fan interest in LA. Tua has the raw arm talent and playmaking abilities with his legs to make him a potential superstar in the NFL as long as he can stay healthy.”

7. Carolina Panthers – Derrick Brown, Defensive Lineman, Auburn

Christian’s Take: “Carolina’s run defense was atrocious in 2019, surrendering an average of almost 144 yards per game. With Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kawaan Short coming off an injury, plugging the middle is a must. Also look for the Cardiac Cats to entertain a trade down.”

8. Arizona Cardinals – Tristan Wirfs, Offensive Tackle, Iowa

Harrison’s Take: The Cards have their franchise quarterback in Kyler Murray and protecting him is their number one priority. We’re pleased to pick up the top rated tackle in the draft.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars – CeeDee Lamb, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma

Daniel’s Take: “I had some good offers for the Jags’ 9 and 20 picks, but considering the current situation, I figured it was better to try to get two blue-chip contributors with our two picks. The Jags literally have nothing of value outside of Yannick Ngakoue and maybe Gardner Minshew, so I tried not to overthink it and took the best player on the board in my eyes, CeeDee Lamb.”

10. Cleveland Browns – Jedrick Wills, Offensive Tackle, Alabama

Patrick’s Take: In 2019, Baker Mayfield was sacked 40 times, the second-highest figure in the AFC. In no small part due to putrid offensive line play, Mayfield threw a conference-high 21 picks, helping to shave 14.9 points from his passer rating year-over-year. Wills can slide in nicely at the tackle position, where the Browns have also upgraded this offseason with the signing of Jack Conklin. Overall, a solid pickup for a Cleveland team in need of a reset in the trenches.

11. New England Patriots (Projected Trade with New York Jets) – Jerry Jeudy, Wide Receiver, Alabama

Trade: NE receives 11

           NYJ receives 23, 98, 100, 2021 first rounder

Davis’s Take: “I decided to move the Patriots up to 11th because I really wanted to take a receiver and knew the Jets wanted to trade down. I was targeting either Jeudy or Justin Jefferson but didn’t think they’d last until pick 23. New England obviously needs more weapons on offense post-Tom Brady and Jeudy will be a great fit.”

12. Las Vegas Raiders – Henry Ruggs III, Wide Receiver, Alabama

Drew’s Take: “Ruggs’s production was a little lower than expected at Alabama…But he’s got speed, he’s a crisp route-runner, and he knows how to make moves and extend plays. In Las Vegas, we feel like he will be a great receiver and fits into our emerging offense incredibly well.”

13. San Francisco 49ers – Javon Kinlaw, Defensive Lineman, South Carolina

Joe’s Take: “The Niners traded DeForest Buckner to get this pick, and I felt they could take his replacement. The defense was filthy last season and a big reason for their success, so adding a young, cheaper athletic marvel like Kinlaw seems like the best way to keep them in contention.”

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mekhi Bechton, Tackle, Louisville

John V’s Take: “The Bucs have one of the most deadly receiving groups in the NFL and, as much as it pains me to say it, they just added the best QB of all time. If they want to maximize the potential of this passing attack, they need to keep Brady upright and Becton is one of the premier tackles in the draft, an absolute unit at 364 pounds.”

15. Denver Broncos – C.J. Henderson, Cornerback, Florida

Nate’s Take: “Before the pick, I knew I would get a receiver or a cornerback. My top receivers were gone so I went with the top cornerback.”

16. Atlanta Falcons – Justin Jefferson, Wide Receiver, LSU

Traded to Philadelphia

17. Dallas Cowboys – K’Lavon Chaisson, Defensive End, LSU

John R’s Take: “Pretty much a dream scenario, as we take a fantastic young pass rusher to put some fear into the NFC East quarterbacks and shore up a depleted defense.”

18. Cincinnati Bengals (Above Projected Trade with Dolphins) – Andrew Thomas, Offensive Tackle, Georgia

Drew’s Take: The most important way to protect a quarterback is acquiring a top offensive line. Thomas was a great run and pass blocker at Georgia, and by playing in the SEC — with tough and big defensive lines — he has proven that he can play on the big stage. It is important that Herbert gets protected in a new offense and Thomas will help extend plays.”

19. Las Vegas Raiders – A.J. Terrell, Cornerback, Clemson

Drew’s Take: “There are numerous cornerbacks we could’ve picked, but A.J. Terrell we felt would be a great fit in Las Vegas. HE is a strong, tall secondary player who can go toe-to-toe with top NFL receivers. Pairing him with Trayvon Mullen, his college teammate at Clemson, will create a sense of familiarity in the secondary.”

20. Baltimore Ravens (Projected Trade with Jaguars) – Patrick Queen, Linebacker, LSU

Trade: BAL receives 20

           JAX receives 28, second rounder, third rounder

Nate’s Take: “The Ravens needed to get a middle linebacker to replace C.J. Mosley. Queen has a great chance to do that, so I traded up to get him. The Ravens have so many second and third round picks so I traded a couple to move up.”

21. Atlanta Falcons (Projected Trade with Eagles) – A.J. Epenesa, Defensive End, Iowa

Trade: ATL receives 21, third rounder

           PHI receives seventh rounder, WR Justin Jefferson

Traded to Seattle

Daniel’s Take: If my Eagles don’t draft a wide receiver this year I might just go rogue on Twitter and demand that the front office be burned. The situation was so bad last year that we relied on a former college QB, a rookie whose name we couldn’t pronounce and so many tight ends. It’s also not like we’re going to get much from the artist formerly known as Alshon Jeffery, so the hefty price for Jefferson is worth it in my eyes.”

22. Minnesota Vikings – Yetur Gross-Matos, Defensive End, Penn State

Harrison’s Take: We need a pass rusher and Gross-Matos fits the bill.”

23. Dallas Cowboys (Projected Trade with Jets) – Trevon Diggs, Cornerback, Alabama

Trade: DAL receives 20

            NYJ receives, third rounder, 2021 first

John R’s Take: After Byron Jones’s defection to Miami, we fill our biggest need by moving back into the first round to pick former Wootton Patriot receiver Trevon Diggs.

Christian’s Take: “Gang Green needs receivers and pass protectors, and fortunately for them, this draft has plenty of both. They can use their newly acquired ammo (3 picks from NE, 2 from DAL) to double up in the second round.”

24. New Orleans Saints – Kenneth Murray, Linebacker, Oklahoma

Patrick’s Take: Behind All-Pro Demario Davis, the Saints are exceedingly thin at linebacker; the team’s second-most valuable linebacker in 2019, AJ Klein, signed with the Bills on March 16. Oklahoma made the College Football Playoff every year of Murray’s career, when he was often the only bright spot on a leaky Sooner defense. The Houston area native will fit nicely on a team with very few weaknesses looking to contend for the fourth consecutive year in 2020.

25. Carolina Panthers (Projected Trade with Vikings) – Kristian Fulton, Cornerback, LSU

Trade: CAR receives 25

           MIN receives 38, WR Robby Anderson

Christian’s Take: “After losing cornerback James Bradberry to free agency, the Panthers’ cupboard is bare in the secondary. If a top cornerback, such as Fulton or Diggs falls in the draft, Carolina should pull the trigger.”

Harrison’s Take: “Anderson fits the role at receiver that the Stefon Diggs trade left, while we only have to move back around 10 spots.”

26. Miami Dolphins – Josh Jones, Offensive Tackle, Houston

John R’s Take: “After taking the quarterback of the future, we go with a protector as insurance policy in Josh Jones with the pick gleamed in the Laremy Tunsil trade.”

27. Atlanta Falcons (Projected Trade with Seahawks) – Jeff Gladney, Cornerback, TCU

Trade: ATL receives 27, second round pick

           SEA receives A.J. Epenesa

Harrison’s Take: “We desperately need defensive back help and Gladney is the high upside answer to a gaping hole in our defense. We’re thrilled to pick up an extra second/third to get a guy that we were considering at 16.”

John V’s Take: “This is where… things started to go off the rails. The Seahawks need a pass rush above everything else, especially since the o-line was mostly shored up in free agency. I was expecting either Gross-Matos or Epenesa to be available, but they’d already been taken and I didn’t love any of my other options there. I can guarantee that the Seahawks will trade back, mostly likely out of the first round, even if those guys are there in real life, but I wanted to have some fun and make some splashy moves for my team.”

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (Above Projected Trade with Ravens) – Xavier McKinney, Safety, Alabama

Daniel’s Take: Not a huge difference in the defensive talents between 20 and 28 so I’m fine with trading down, and The Ringer compared McKinney to one of my all-time faves in Malcolm Jenkins. I’m happy with the value of taking a guy that can probably be my starting safety.”

29. Cincinnati Bengals (Projected Trade with Titans) – Tee Higgins, Wide Receiver, Clemson

    Trade: CIN receives 29

                  TEN receives third rounder, RB Giovani Bernard

Drew’s Take: “It was difficult to part with Giovani Bernard, but we have confidence that Joe Mixon can handle our rushing attack. With A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd leading our receivers, it was important that we signed an athletic and tall receiver to give our new quarterback another weapon. He is a great route runner, has great field vision, and can make contested catches.”

Christian’s Take: Giovani Bernard would be a great backup to Derrick Henry and give Ryan Tannehill an extra weapon out of the backfield. If the Titans made this trade, expect them to trade back up in the second round to grab a high impact player.

30. Seattle Seahawks (Projected Trade with Dolphins) – Ross Blalock, Defensive Tackle, TCU

Trade: SEA receives 30

           MIA receives 2020 and 2021 second round, CB Tre Flowers, RB Rashaad Penny

John V’s Take: “The Seahawks really need help on the d-line and Blacklock is a rising star with the potential to create pressure from the inside – don’t be surprised if the Hawks take him earlier than would be expected, they love the smaller names and the college of TCU.”

John R’s Take: I moved up from 33 to 30 by sending a mid-rounder to Green Bay. This enticing offer restocks the cupboard, providing two possible starters in addition to two second rounders.

31. San Francisco 49ers – Jaylon Johnson, Cornerback, Utah

Joe’s Take: “49ers snag a talented corner to help bolster a secondary for 2020 and beyond. Richard Sherman is one of the best corners of his generation, but he won’t be around much longer, so San Francisco gets a young counterpart to play across from him. And who better to learn the game from than Richard Sherman?”

32. Kansas City Chiefs – D’Andre Swift, Running Back, Georgia

Patrick’s Take: The Chiefs, who won their first Super Bowl since 1969 last season, have few discernible weaknesses, making them a prime candidate to take a calculated risk in the advanced statistics era: drafting a running back in the first round. Kansas City allowed LeSean McCoy, half of their running back tandem, to walk while exercising Damien Williams’ $2.3 million club option. With Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value metric indicating Williams was no better than the 27th-most valuable player at his position, it makes sense for the Chiefs to gamble on Swift, twice a 1,000-yard rusher between the hedges and an adept receiver as well.

Additional Trade: Panthers trade fourth rounder to 49ers for RB Matt Breida

Team Reflections

Drew: “The Bengals addressed needs and truly strengthened our offense into possibly one of the best units in the AFC. It’s going to be a great start in Vegas, as picking A.J. adds to a young secondary that is hard-hitting and aggressive and Henry adds another dynamic weapon to our offense and Derek Carr.” 

Joe: “I think it was great for both teams. The Redskins really can’t afford to pass up on the best player available, especially when he’s the consensus top player on the board. For the 49ers, they get two potential defensive starters at positions of need, which should allow them to contend again in 2020. I know many see them taking a receiver like Lamb or Jeudy, but I’m STRONGLY opposed to drafting receivers in the first round.”

Davis: “I think the draft went well for all three teams. I think I made fair trades while satisfying glaring needs. I think the Lions won though because they traded down and still got their guy.”

Nate: “I’d give the Giants a B+. Simmons is great, but they couldn’t get several players…The Broncos get a B. A wideout would be best but Henderson also fills a hole…Baltimore gets an A-. They got their star player. They needed to give up a good amount to get him, but they got him.” 

John R: “The Fins and Cowboys made a lot of moves but look much improved, and fans and front offices would be ecstatic with these results. Miami went after offense and scored a starting quarterback, running back, and tackle, while Dallas shored up its pass rush and secondary. There were some costs involved, but the players were well worth the prices for both teams.”

John V: “The teams I was not emotionally invested in killed it. The Chargers managed to get arguably the steal of the draft at number six, which says something when you’re picking that high. I thought I’d have to settle for Justin Herbert going in and came out with a much better QB. The Bucs pick was nothing flashy, but it can turn that offense into one of the best in the league. My Hawks did not perform as well. We sent off a starting cornerback, a “solid” backup running back and our three highest picks from this year as well as a second next year to roll the dice on two late first/early second d-linemen. I think both Epenesa and Blacklock will be good pros and they help at much needed positions, but they probably weren’t worth what I shipped off.”

Christian: The Panthers were able to get two staples at positions of need. For the Jets and the Titans, it’s TBD since they traded down but it’s encouraging that they were able to acquire an abundance of draft capital. Tennessee is definitely in the best shape with only minor improvements needed whereas Carolina is in full rebuild mode and grabbing high impact players is a must. The Jets are setting up to win the AFC East with their moves and aren’t just relying on one pick to get them over the top.”

Harrison: With each team having defined needs, I decided to fill those instead of going with the best player available. Excellent night for my Falcons, who only had to move back a few spots and got an extra second- and third-rounder.

Daniel: “I think I got a pretty good haul for the Jaguars, and the Eagles solved their most glaring issue so I feel pretty good. I definitely feel better than anyone who took Justin Herbert.”

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