Finally! Live Sports! Well, kind of. The NFL Draft is upon us, with the 1st-round scheduled to take flight on Thursday.
Personally, this is one of my favourite events on the sports calendar for countless reasons, but at the top of the list is just how unpredictable it is. There have been an absurd amount of mock-drafts leading us to this point, but the truth is, that after the Top 10, and sometimes even earlier, the draft will throw us a complete curveball
In the spirit of the wackiness that is the NFL Draft, I present five crazy, but (slightly) realistic, moves that I would love to see!
Anyone But The Dolphins Trade into the Top 4
It seems like its been forever assumed that the Miami Dolphins, who hold three 1st-round picks, hold the key to this year’s draft. Much of the discussion has circled around their future at quarterback and which one in this year’s draft they covet, whether that be Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert, or even Utah State prospect Jordan Love. However, given this unusual offseason caused by COVID-19, there might only be one particular prospect Miami is comfortable with taking. Much of this is centered around Tagovailoa, an extremely productive and accurate college passer that is coming off a scary hip injury last season. If the Dolphins are scared off by Tua’s injuries, theres a good chance they aren’t the only team, which could create a race for acquiring Herbert, the presumed #3 quarterback. If a team other than the Dolphins, such as the Chargers, takes the quarterback that Miami was eyeing with their #5 selection, it may force the franchise to do one of two things. The first is, making a decision on a quarterback that they aren’t particularly thrilled with making. The second, is it may force the Dolphins to pass on a quarterback entirely at #5, throwing out many projected draft boards that scouts have been hypothesizing for months.
Georgia’s Andrew Thomas is The First Tackle Off The Board
The 2020 NFL Draft has been touted as being particularly deep at certain positions. If you have seen any mock drafts, you’ll know one of these positions is offensive tackle. I’m not quite sure what has changed between the end of the College football season and now when it comes to the draft’s consensus tackle rankings. What sticks out is that at the end of the season most projections had Thomas consistently selected in the Top 5 as the best tackle prospect in the class. Now, most mock drafts have him sliding outside the Top 10, and often the 4th tackle prospect selected. Perhaps this can be attributed to Thomas being out-shined at the NFL Scouting Combine by Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, and Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, who each stood out in the event’s various drills. Something about this rubs me the wrong way, as Thomas, a three-year starter as an SEC tackle, had clearly shown enough with his play to be ranked first on actual tape alone. To this end, it wouldn’t be too far out of the realm of possibility that one of the teams selecting in the Top 5–perhaps the Giants–surprisingly select Thomas, who might still be viewed by some as the most safe left tackle prospect. It is always nice for the viewer whenever we can get a major shakeup early in the draft.
The Raiders Double-Down at Wide-Receiver
The Raiders were a surprise to many early last season, buoyed by a strong 2019 draft class that led them out to a shocking 6-4 start. It is because of that strong rookie class that the Raiders may look to go big-game hunting in this year’s draft. For a team in the middle of a rebuild, the roster does not have as many holes as one would think. This allows Oak….I mean, Las Vegas, to have sneaky flexibility to seek improvements with their early round picks. Picking twice in the Top 20 at #12 and #19, the team will certainly consider adding a playmaker at receiver with one of their two picks. So why not both? A look at the team’s depth-chart sees the current group for next year led by last year’s draft steal Hunter Renfrow, along with veterans in Tyrell Williams and the inconsistent Nelson Agholor. They also have former 2nd-Round pick Zay Jones on the roster. At best, it is a questionable receiver group. Though I do like Renfrow and Williams to play significant roles next season, Agholor and Jones raise more questions than answers. Enter the 2020 NFL receiver class, touted as one of the best in years. Most mock-drafts have four receivers–Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, Oklahoma’s Cee-Dee Lamb, Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III, and LSU’s Justin Jefferson–worthy of being selected in the Top 20. One will surely be available at #12 for Vegas, and there might be a chance that Jefferson drops down to #19. While a radical idea for the Raiders to select two wide-receivers in the opening round, it would give the team four legitimate perimeter weapons, in addition to TE Daren Waller, for Coach Jon Gruden to mess around with next season.
49ers Select Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy at #13
Might be wishful thinking for Jeudy, who has been deemed one of the most polished receivers to enter the draft in years, to drop all the way to the Niners at #13. However, it is reasonable to think that many teams selecting in the Top 10, such as the Arizona Cardinals (#8), or Cleveland Browns (#10), will opt for reinforcements in the trenches instead of the Bama receiver. The same can be said for the New York Jets at #11. The only question are those Raiders at #12, but they might select Oklahoma’s Cee-Dee Lamb instead. In this dream scenario, Jeudy falls to San Francisco to give Coach Kyle Shanahan a true “X” target in his Niner’s offense. The NFC has not been kind to their reigning Super Bowl participants in recent memory, with only the Seattle Seahawks (2013-2014) repeating as conference champions since 2000. The 49ers had a spectacular 2019 showing, but they should take nothing for granted and keep adding difference-making improvements when possible. With the team having a void to fill at the position left by the departure of Emmanuel Sanders, getting Jeudy would be a draft-day dream.
Georgia RB D’Andre Swift Sneaks into the 1st Round
While I do love taking in mock-draft content, one of my favourite aspects of the draft process is seeing what kind of draft-day surprises throw entire projections off the rails. One common theme among mock-drafters this year is the absence of a running back selected in the 1st-round. However, as we have seen in the not-so distant past, running backs can appeal to established teams picking in the bottom third of the 1st-round. For reference, the Seattle Seahawks somewhat-surprisingly selected RB Rashad Penny 27th in the 1st-round in 2018 and the New England Patriots drafted RB Sony Michel four picks later at #31. While the Dolphins are nowhere near as established as were the Seahawks and Patriots, they do own a selection in the mid-20s (#26) and more importantly, have a gaping hole in their backfield. While veteran Jordan Howard was a smart signing this offseason, he doesn’t provide the juice and athleticism to really elevate the players around him in this Dolphin’s offense. Swift, explosive and elusive out of the SEC, has drawn comparisons to current Saints star RB Alvin Kamara. If that is true, Miami would be smart to grab the Georgia product to secure an elite backfield-mate for their young quarterback–whoever it ends up being.