The Buffalo Bills and 31 other NFL teams got up close and personal with the top draft prospects at last week’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Some prospects helped their cause during on-field workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium, while some others sent scouts back to the tape after less-than-impressive showings. With the combine in the books, here is The Buffalo News’ second shot at projecting the first round of the draft:
1. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU. Burrow was going to be the pick anyway, but the Bengals probably feel a little better after he downplayed the idea he might try to strong-arm his way to another team.
2. Washington Redskins – Chase Young, DE, Washington. Kyle Smith, the St. Francis High School graduate who was recently promoted to Washington’s vice president of player personnel, doesn’t have to sweat much over his first draft pick. Young is thought of as the draft’s best prospect.
3. Miami Dolphins (projected trade with Detroit) – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon. The Dolphins trade up for a quarterback – but not the one they’ve been linked to for more than a year. Herbert has had a strong offseason, backing up a solid Senior Bowl week with a nice showing at the combine. Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero wrote last week that the Dolphins weren’t as sold on Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa as everyone seems to believe.
4. New York Giants – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa. Some have suggested Wirfs would be a better guard, but his great showing at the combine likely means some team will believe in him as a tackle. Wirfs, 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, set a combine record for offensive tackles with a 36.5-inch vertical jump; tied the record with a 10-foot, 1-inch vertical jump; and had the best 40-yard dash of any tackle this year (4.85 seconds). His arm length of 34 inches is fine for a tackle.
5. Detroit Lions (projected trade with Miami) – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State. The Lions are in a great spot to drop down a couple of selections and still get the guy they would have taken at No. 3, anyway. Okudah has drawn comparisons to future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis, which is high praise.
6. Los Angeles Chargers – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama. Chargers GM Tom Telesco did his best to convince people he’s satisfied with Tyrod Taylor as the starting quarterback next season. I’m not buying. Tagovailoa slips out of the top five because of injury concerns, but would be just the type of big-ticket item the Chargers need to draw some attention as they move into their glitzy new stadium.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars (projected trade with Carolina) – Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn. After declining the option on former Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, the Jaguars need a replacement on the interior of the defense. Brown would be ideal.
8. Arizona Cardinals – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma. Reuniting quarterback Kyler Murray with his former Sooners teammate just makes sense, even if Arizona’s bigger need is on defense.
9. Carolina Panthers (projected trade with Jacksonville) – Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson. After the retirement of Luke Kuechly, the Panthers have a big hole in the middle of their defense. Simmons is a chess piece that can line up in several different roles. He led all linebackers with a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and wowed with a 39-inch vertical.
10. Cleveland Browns – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville. A lot of quality offensive tackles remain on the board, but with several teams behind the Browns also in need of the same position, they opt to stay put instead of entertaining trade offers. Becton is a mountain of a man at 6-foot-7, 364 pounds (the heaviest of anyone at the combine), ran a 5.10 and would provide protection for Baker Mayfield.
11. New York Jets – Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama. Another first-round quarterback from the 2018 class, the Jets’ Sam Darnold, is also in need of better protection. Wills played right tackle for the Crimson Tide, protecting Tagovailoa’s blind side, but should be able to make the switch to left tackle.
12. Oakland Raiders – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama. Ruggs’ speed was as advertised at the combine, as he blazed a 4.27-second 40-yard dash. That pushes him ahead of Alabama teammate Jerry Jeudy to be the second receiver taken.
13. Indianapolis Colts – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama. We’re working on the assumption the Colts will sign a quarterback in free agency (Philip Rivers), so they pass on a quarterback in the draft and get the new QB some help in Jeudy, who somewhat surprisingly slides out of the top 10.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina. Bucs fans – if there are any of them – will be calling for an offensive tackle here, but Kinlaw would fill a big need defensively and has the higher ceiling.
15. Denver Broncos – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU. Here’s what Broncos GM John Elway said at the combine about his cornerbacks: “That’s an area that we’re looking to hopefully get better this offseason.” Mission accomplished by drafting Fulton.
16. Atlanta Falcons – K’Lavon Chiasson, DE, LSU. Chiasson was my pick to the Bills in my first mock draft, but the more I think about it, the less likely I feel he’s going to be available at No. 22. Speed off the edge is huge for a defense, and Chiasson brings that. He’s supremely confident, as shown during his combine press conference, and would be an excellent replacement for Vic Beasley in Atlanta.
17. Dallas Cowboys – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama. The Cowboys’ needs could drastically change depending on what happens in free agency. Assuming they are able to re-sign wide receiver Amari Cooper, McKinney is a logical addition to the defense. He would fill a big need.
18. Miami Dolphins – D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia. The Dolphins’ running game was a joke last year – a league-worst 72.3 yards per game. Swift would help take some of the pressure off Herbert, assuming the rookie quarterback replaces Ryan Fitzpatrick at some point.
19. Las Vegas Raiders – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State. What better way to win over a new fan base than adding what Jon Gruden hopes will be a future franchise quarterback. The Raiders can keep Derek Carr around for one more season while Love learns the pro game.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia. It’s not that Thomas had a poor combine that he falls this far, it’s that other offensive tackles performed better. Nevertheless, the first-team All-American can point to his on-field performance as a way of showing he has first-round talent.
21. Philadelphia Eagles – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU. Jefferson helped himself at the combine by running a 4.43-second 40-yard dash. Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network’s lead draft analyst, called that the most important 40 time among receivers.
22. Buffalo Bills – A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa. Epenesa’s on-field testing did not go so great at the combine – which may not be such a bad thing for the Bills. He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.04 seconds and had a 10-yard split of 1.78 seconds, numbers that compare more to defensive tackles than elite edge rushers. So why would that be good for the Bills? Had Epenesa run blazing-fast times, he might have improved his draft stock to the point that he would not be on the board at No. 22. The reality is, the 6-foot-5, 275-pounder has great production, with 26.5 sacks and 101 tackles, including 36 for loss, in 37 career games. Over the past two seasons, he’s had 20.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles.
“We had some battles,” Wirfs said of his college teammate. “When I met with the Broncos, they said a scout was there (at an Iowa practice) and I didn’t lose to A.J. I said, ‘I’m glad you were there on that day.’ ”
Epenesa might not be a pure speed rusher, but he’s a “process” guy who will seemingly fit well in the Buffalo defense – and locker room. Epenesa being available at No. 22 is a nice match of a player's talent with a team’s need.
23. New England Patriots – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU. Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins are scheduled to become free agents, so the Patriots might need to rebuild at linebacker. Queen would be a good place to start.
24. New Orleans Saints – Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado. Shenault didn’t run particularly well (4.58 in the 40), but it was revealed afterward that he’ll undergo core muscle surgery and be sidelined for a couple of months. Teams will like his toughness that he even attempted to compete at the combine despite the injury. With quarterback Drew Brees returning, finding a running mate at receiver to go with Michael Thomas makes sense.
25. Minnesota Vikings – Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU. Blacklock is still coming back from a torn Achilles suffered in college. Like the Bills’ Ed Oliver, his best strength is interior pass rush.
26. Miami Dolphins – Grant Delpit, S, LSU. Miami traded away Minkah Fitzpatrick. Delpit, who was praised for his leadership with the Tigers, provides a replacement.
27. Seattle Seahawks – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama. The younger brother of Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs, Trevon fits the profile of bigger cornerbacks (he’s 6-1, 205 pounds) favored by Pete Carroll.
28. Baltimore Ravens – Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama. He just sounds like a Ravens player, right? Baltimore has shown an affinity for Alabama players. There is a similarity between the styles of defense played. Baltimore might lose top pass rusher Matthew Judon in free agency (unless they use the franchise tag), making Lewis a good fit.
29. Tennessee Titans – Josh Jones, OT, Houston. The Titans probably aren’t going to have the money to re-sign right tackle Jack Conklin in free agency, so Jones would have a chance to step in as a Day One starter.
30. Green Bay Packers – Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson. Higgins finished with 27 receiving touchdowns at Clemson, tying him for the program record with DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins.
31. San Francisco 49ers – C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida. The 49ers would be pleased if Henderson lasts until this pick. A more-likely scenario, however, involves a trade down. The 49ers do not own draft picks in the second, third or fourth rounds. They would like to recoup some of those selections, perhaps by dealing with a team eager to enter the first round to draft a quarterback.
32. Kansas City Chiefs – Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah. As you might expect, the Chiefs don’t have a lot of holes to fill. Johnson can play outside and in the slot.
Story topics: 2020 NFL Draft