It's draft week!
And not a moment too soon.
For a variety of reasons, it feels like this could be the wildest draft in recent memory. (Thanks, in no small part, to the past few months being the least-public pre-draft process in recent memory.)
1) Washington MUST take the best non-QB in this class, Chase Young
Back in Super Bowl week, Joey Bosa appeared on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein On Sports," and I asked him about his fellow Ohio State product. The Pro Bowl defensive end confirmed that Young is well worth all the hype and could be the best Buckeye QB hunter yet. And actually, he was reading from the same script as his brother, Nick, who had sang Young's praises to me on SiriusXM Radio a few weeks prior. What should the NFL expect from the 6-foot-5, 264-pounder? According to Joey and Nick, basically another Bosa brother -- or better! Seeing how the Redskins' defensive line already features a trio of recently drafted first-rounders (Montez Sweat, Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen), as well as four-time Pro Bowler Ryan Kerrigan and under-the-radar stud Matt Ioannidis, Washington's front could absolutely wreck games with Young in the fold. Especially now that Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will be coaching everyone up.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday that the 'Skins have begun to receive calls from teams interested in trading up to No. 2. Draft week smoke from a team looking to create a crazy bidding war? Quite possibly. But what's the point? Don't overcomplicate this -- just make the easy, obvious, highly beneficial pick. Take the best non-quarterback in this class.
2) Detroit CAN'T take Jeff Okudah over Isaiah Simmons or Derrick Brown
Isaiah Simmons is an absolute freak and will be a star in the NFL. Derrick Brown is a devastating force up front who could've been a first-rounder last year, but he returned to Auburn and got even better. Either player should, in theory, be a huge boon to Matt Patricia, who got his gig as Lions head coach due to his purported defensive chops. (Side note: Detroit just finished 26th in scoring defense and 31st in total D.) Draft Simmons and have fun deploying him all over the field as a roving nightmare. Plug Brown into a defensive front that significantly disappointed last season. I back both potential selections at No. 3 overall. But the pick I can't support is the pick EVERY mock drafter is making ...
Originally, I thought No. 3 would be a sweet spot for a trade. And maybe it still will be. I think that'd be ideal for Detroit, to maximize the value of this pick. But the ambiguity around Tua Tagovailoa's health clouds the calculus for any QB-needy team looking to move up. So, more and more, I'm thinking Detroit could actually stick at No. 3 and make the selection. Throughout much of this draft process, Okudah has been advertised as the top cornerback in this draft class by a comfortable margin, but that's just not the case -- at least when you speak with many of the people who will actually be making the picks. A bevy of NFL executives I've polled have Okudah on the same level at corner as CJ Henderson, who hasn't been receiving any top-three buzz at all. Okudah at No. 5 after a trade-down? We can talk about it. But 3 is a reach.
Simmons is going to be a game-changer. If Detroit passes, the Giants should pounce at No. 4. Truthfully, though, Dave Gettleman will probably pick an offensive lineman. I think it will be Tristan Wirfs. The Chargers, picking at No. 6, would be a thrilling landing spot for Simmons. Can you imagine this Swiss Army knife joining hyper-versatile 23-year-old Derwin James? Could this defense, with enticing talent at all levels, become the league's best? I can't see Simmons getting past the Panthers at No. 7 -- that feels like his absolute floor.
And look, Brown is legit. Watch the game tape and stop fixating on the numbers he posted at the "Underwear Olympics." Three-cone? I'd rather talk about ice cream cones. Or David Cone. (One of my all-time favorite Yankees! But I digress.) I talked to Brown on SiriusXM Radio back in March. This guy lives for football. He'll be an amazing, high-impact pro. The Panthers (who, again, hold the No. 7 pick), Cardinals (No. 8) or Browns (No. 10) would be blessed to get him.
3) Give me Justin Herbert over Tua Tagovailoa
I love the potential of these two cats. Both can be stars. Honestly, the top three quarterbacks in this class have special talent -- I won't be the least bit surprised if Burrow, Herbert and Tagovailoa all eventually establish themselves as bona fide franchise quarterbacks.
But yes, Tua's well-documented health issues do indeed scare me. Trent Dilfer, who has been training Tagovailoa over the past few months, came on my SiriusXM Radio show last week and painted an ultra-rosy picture of the QB's present -- and future. After stating Tua would "crush a physical right now," the Super Bowl-winning quarterback said his pupil is "the finest prospect I've ever seen. He throws the football as well as I've ever seen a football thrown." Well alright then! Dilfer's right, though, in terms of assessing Tua as a very special talent. But the medical concerns are unavoidable. If I were the GM of a QB-needy team, I'd be hesitant to spend valuable draft currency on a guy who has undergone three surgical procedures in the past two years: one on the hip and one on each ankle. This is especially troubling in this draft season, with the COVID-19 pandemic significantly limiting access to prospects. How comfortable will a team feel about selecting Tua with a premium pick if its own doctors haven't been able to recently take their own look at his lower extremities?
Meanwhile, the experienced, athletic, rocket-armed Herbert checks a whole lotta boxes -- without the lengthy injury history. He posted a 95:23 TD-to-INT ratio at Oregon, including a sparkling 32:6 mark this past season. And the 6-foot-6, 236-pounder is no sitting duck in the pocket, as evidenced by his 13 rushing touchdowns in college and highly respectable 4.68 40-yard dash at the combine. I think he could become a better Carson Wentz.
Long story short: If Miami comes on the board with Tua and Herbert available, the Dolphins should bet on the cleaner bill of health.
4) You can't spend a first-round pick on Jordan Love
I don't believe in Love -- as in Jordan. I wouldn't pick the Utah State quarterback in the first round. As one NFC executive recently told me, "There's just too much bad tape."
After an enticing 2018 campaign, in which Love threw 32 touchdown passes against just eight interceptions, this past season was ... rough. Love's TD passes plummeted to 20, while his picks skyrocketed to an FBS-high 17. Yes, he had to deal with significant roster and coaching turnover before this past season, but still: A true first-round pick shouldn't struggle so much in the Mountain West. Against AP Top 25 teams in his Aggies career, Love went 0-4 with a 4:7 TD-to-INT ratio. I just don't see it.
5) Any first-round running backs? Yes, I see TWO coming off the board
As the great Taylor Swift once said, "The haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate." Tay Tay's right. And these days, when it comes to the running back position, there are plenty of haters. But I like (Jonathan) Taylor and (D'Andre) Swift to come off the board in Round 1.
Taylor enjoyed an extraordinarily productive three-year run at Wisconsin, eclipsing 1,900 rushing yards each season and scoring a whopping total of 55 touchdowns. Not to mention, the 226-pounder showed off his home-run speed with a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine. Meanwhile, Swift can do it all. He's a true three-down back built for today's NFL -- one who can succeed running inside or outside, while also serving as a serious threat in the passing game. NFL Media draft guru Daniel Jeremiah has a nice comp for Swift: Josh Jacobs. Yep, that'll play.
I know plenty of folks are vehemently opposed to picking a running back in the first round. I'm not -- if it's an instant-impact fit. Picture the instant impact -- and the five-year impact -- these two guys can have on the Dolphins, Seahawks, Ravens or Chiefs, who all hold a pick in the back portion of Round 1.
6) In this deep wideout class, the truly elite receivers won't last long
This draft class features a lot of receivers who can play, but Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs III are truly rare talents. I expect them all to be off the board by the 15th pick -- at the latest. I won't be surprised if they're selected with three straight picks by the Jets (No. 11), Raiders (No. 12) and 49ers (No. 13), leaving the Broncos (No. 15) out of luck. And Denver seems to be aware of this potential scenario, with Rapoport reporting that John Elway and Co. have interest in trading up.
7) Jalen Hurts and Jacob Eason offer great Day 2 value at quarterback
Looking for a potential franchise passer who probably won't cost a first-round pick? I've got two guys with completely different skill sets!
Hurts is a dual-threat quarterback who just plain wins, as evidenced by his 38-4 record as the starting quarterback at Alabama/Oklahoma. Eason is a traditional dropback passer with ideal size (6-6, 231 pounds) and an absolute cannon of an arm. I think both of these guys can succeed at the next level, especially if they get a little time to marinate on a pro roster.
If the Chargers go with an offensive tackle or defensive stud at No. 6, how about scooping up Hurts on Day 2? Back up -- and most importantly, learn from -- dual-threat vet Tyrod Taylor? Makes complete sense. And with Eason, I think a place like Indianapolis -- where he could hold the clipboard for a bit behind the great Philip Rivers -- could work out swimmingly.
8) The NFC South offers two major trade-up candidates
Earlier this month, I talked to Buccaneers GM Jason Licht and Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff on SiriusXM Radio, and I just got that feeling. They both seemed like they could be interested in moving up from their respective first-round draft slots, with the Bucs currently sitting at No. 14 and the Falcons at No. 16. And just last week, @RapSheet reported that the Falcons do indeed appear poised to shoot up the board.
When it comes to the Bucs, they're pretty loaded on defense. I would argue that they need two things on offense to help out new quarterback Tom Brady: another tackle and another back. I won't be surprised if Licht moves up to snag one of the Big Four tackles and then goes running back early in Day 2.
9) And finally, here are two safe prospects who should be Round 1 locks
Cesar Ruiz hasn't received the most attention during the pre-draft process, but the Michigan center might just be the cleanest player in the draft. I won't bat an eye if the Cowboys scoop him up at No. 17. In the wake of Travis Frederick's retirement, this would be a perfect fit. I could also see the Ravens and Chiefs having serious interest in Ruiz if he lasts to the final stretches of Round 1.
In a draft class that's thin on difference-making edge defenders, Yetur Gross-Matos is an elite pass rusher who prides himself on stopping the run. And the Penn State product is a young man who has already overcome immense tragedy in his life, losing his father and brother in tragic circumstances nine years apart. He recently told me on SiriusXM Radio that he spent a lot of time talking to the Cowboys. Makes sense. I think Seattle would be a fantastic landing spot, as well.