In my latest edition of the NFL Mock Draft, I will tackle picks 11-20. The NFL Draft picks 11-20 will be a talent bonanza. I should know; I’ve been hooked on the NFL draft since at least 1992. As a child of the 90’s I wasn’t much a Pokemon fan nor did I care about the Power Rangers. What I am, my friends, is a certified NFL draftnik.
Back in the early ’90s, the draft was an afterthought. The first draft was in 1936 but the NFL draft didn’t hit the airwaves until a little-known network out of Connecticut was allowed to air the draft in 1980. By the time I began watching Draft Day, ESPN had the draft down. Mel Kiper Jr. led the show and he was awesome; a perfect haired, fast-micro-machine-talking guy that seemingly knew every single player that was about to be drafted. I was hooked.
It’s weird being a draft-day freak. My dad, who has loved football since the early 1950s and who was a Chicago Bears season ticket holder since 1970, didn’t even really understand the excitement his youngest son had for the NFL draft. I remember telling him all about the players I wanted the Bears to draft and asking “do you want to watch the draft with me tomorrow?” And he was like, “sorry son, I have to work. I’ll just read about who they drafted in the paper tomorrow.” Work on Saturdays and a newspaper? The ’90s were wild.
Ever since then I’ve been obsessed with projection. I actually have skipped over the joy of watching college football players for most of my life because every time I watch I am projecting. I merely see great college players as a manifestation of how well they will do on Sundays. For most of my life, the Bears have been bad. This is the genesis of my fascination with the draft. I always watched college football to see who could help the Bears win a bowl. Well, it hasn’t happened in my lifetime, but if I were GM it would have. HA! Follow your dreams, kids.
If your team is drafting in the middle of round 1, don’t fret. There are some very potent names that have been chosen between picks 11-20 in the NFL Draft. JJ Watt leads the list; he was pick #11 in 2011. Deshaun Watson was pick #12 in 2017, OBJ was pick #12 in 2014, Aaron Donald was #13 in 2014 and as recent as last year, CeeDee Lamb was pick #17.
I see two hall-of-Famers in Watt and Donald, and Watson is on a hall of fame trajectory. OBJ made a top-3 most memorable play in NFL history and CeeDee Lamb is set to take over the fantasy world. Great players can be chosen in picks 11-20 so don’t sleep in the middle of round 1! Alright, LFG!
Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Penn State
Micah Parsons is a top-five talent. With so many teams in need of a QB, this is when great players fall. Parsons also has had some off-the-field incidents that could be red flags for teams but his talent is unquestioned. At 6’2 and 245 pounds, he is a dude that can wreak havoc on NFC East foes for years to come. His coverage skills improved in his last year at Penn State and if so desired, Parsons can also do damage rushing the passer.
The Giants have a very sound defense. Ok, I understand they have one of the worst offenses in the NFL and they need to upgrade the O. But with Barkley coming back, much wide receiver talent being available in free agency, and the draft, this offense will only go as far as Daniel Jones takes them. I think the Giants continue to load up on defense and get my highest-graded defender with the 11th pick of the draft. This pick will continue to build on the Giant’s strengths and will truly be “the best player available” pick for the G-men.
DeVonta Smith, Wide Receiver, Alabama
The forty-niners are a team with a high pick without many true “needs”. In this scenario, having a talent like DeVonta Smith fall to them would be a dream come true. Going back to back with first-round wide receiver picks may not be the best strategy and the Niners could go offensive line or secondary here if the pick is based on “need” more than greed. But the skillset that Smith brings to the table could open up a whole new element for a Niners team that needs more explosion from the passing game.
With Jimmy Garopolo likely coming back, the 49ers could boast one of the scariest offenses in the NFL to go along with their very formidable defense. People forget how dominant the 49ers were in 2019. They played scary defense, ran the ball well, and used play-action to open things up for Jimmy G. Having Brandon Aiuyk, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and adding Devonta Smith would help make the 49ers become well-defended all over the field. I understand the argument that teams should wait on receivers and running backs, but sometimes too much talent falls into your lap and forces your hand. Not a bad hand to walk away with if I’m John Lynch or Kyle Shanahan and I think they would run to the zoom podium to take the Slim Reaper if he is there.
Rashawn Slater, Offensive Tackle, Northwestern
The LA Chargers have a QB problem. As in they have a franchise QB and all decisions need to be made around that fact. The first issue: addressing their woeful offensive line. The Chargers ranked dead last in PFF’s rating of offensive line play and it shows on tape why. Although Herbert flashes immediate star potential, he also took more heat than a rookie should. Although Herbert will get better at getting the ball out of his hand, which in turn will help his pass blockers, another way to help the pass blocking is to acquire talent early and often in the NFL draft.
Slater sat out 2020 but his 2019 tape is excellent. He very well could be the best offensive lineman in this draft. A smart, versatile, and athletic tackle, Slater’s film footage of him handling Chase Young would make any GM want to have him on his roster. Slater should be a plug-and-play starter more than likely on Herbert’s backside. He could also start the year at guard or play right tackle. In this scenario, the Chargers take their left tackle of the future and ensure that the Justin Herbert problem will be for other teams and not their own problem having to block for the face of the franchise.
Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan
This pick would be too obvious. I was shocked last year watching a Mike Zimmer defense get absolutely embarrassed for the first month of the season, and also on Christmas day—whew. But his secondary was young and inexperienced and Danielle Hunter missed the entire year. The Vikings were a mess on the defensive side for most of the year but that young secondary gained tremendous experience and I believe this is a pick that perfectly aligns with what Minnesota wants to do.
With Hunter expected back next year at his all-pro level, the best way to help a struggling secondary is to rush the passer. Pairing Paye and Hunter could be a fearsome duo coming off the edge for the next 3 years. Kwity Paye, shows explosion, power, and the ability to get to the quarterback. I believe Paye will be a perfect fit to help Zimmer’s defense return to Zimmer-type expectations. This pick makes too much sense for the Bearded Ones up North.
Mac Jones, Quarterback, Alabama
Bill Belicek suffers no fools. He knows he’s under the gun. Not by his team’s owner, but by himself. He was given a gift from God when Tom Brady landed in his lap and with Tom, Belicek was allowed to be Belicek. But all that is gone now. Brady bounced and got another ring and you damn well know that’s gnawing at trader Bill. He understands his roster is lacking and Tom covered up a lot of holes in the last decade or so.
Mac Jones makes the most sense here. Jones is more of a finesse type of thrower that would fit perfectly in a Josh McDaniels (Belicek) type of offense. Jones understands getting the ball out early to his playmakers and lets them do the rest. The Patriot’s pass offense was horrible last year but I think that was because the Patriots built a one-year offense around Cam’s ability to run. This time, they can have their type of QB come and play in the offense they want to run; lots of tight end-use, use the running backs, get the ball out quick and then run the football to set up play-action.
The Alabama to New England connection is real. Belicek and Saban have history. I think this will be a perfect marriage that may take some time, but by next year I believe Belicek will have his team ready to compete at a high level again. Belicek would have loved Mathew Stafford or another talented vet, but they will remain patient and get the most pro-ready QB in this year’s draft. Tre Law’s talent will make him pro-ready; he can move and he has a huge arm. But I think Mac Jones is the best QB at going through his progressions, finding his playmakers, stepping up in the pocket, and getting the ball out. Jones seems like a New England type of player and the Pats will step up and bring him aboard.
Best of the Rest
Jaycee Horn, Cornerback, South Carolina
The Cardinals are close. They really are. At time of writing, they have now signed JJ Watt and this defense could be scary. With the addition of a big, tough corner, the Cards will give fits to Stafford, Russ, and Jimmy G. Patrick Peterson is on his way out of town and with Kyler Murray’s ascension, the Cardinals don’t have to be a top 5 defense but with the addition of Watt, Jones coming back, and Horn in the 1st round, this defense will handle their side of the ball.
Horn (Joe Horn’s son, damn I’m old) has a similar build to the two corners I have going ahead of him, but he is a game-cocky (get it) corner that has no fear and a goldfish memory. Let’s thank Ted Lasso for that one. Horn forgets bad plays and attacks after he gets burned. He has a solid build and should fill in nicely as Patrick Peterson’s inevitable replacement. Pat P will be leaving the building and Jaycee Horn will be an exciting option. He is a playmaker and he will bring swagger to a defense that is middling right now. I like Horn a lot and he would make a great deal of sense for the Desert Birds.
Christian Barmore, Defensive Line, Alabama
The Raiders need help on defense. The Raider’s offense isn’t perfect but their problems remain mostly on defense. With the top 3 corners off the board, the Raiders need to address their defensive line and staying at pick 17, they land the best interior defensive lineman in this year’s draft.
Balmore is a load. At 6’5 and 310 pounds, he is still learning how to best leverage his massive frame. There are times when he is unable to use his skill set to get through blockers, and as a taller interior lineman he can get pushed back a little due to his high pads but there is no doubt of his abilities. He can be a dominant defensive lineman within two years of his draft date. When he builds even more mass, learns NFL-level techniques, and learns how to consistently be the low man he will give offensive lines fits for the next half-decade.
Najee Harris, Running Back, Alabama
I know, I know. You don’t draft running backs in the 1st round of the NFL draft. This isn’t fantasy football. Running backs are very often not selected at all until the 2nd round these days, and that philosophy makes sense, but I think Miami understands Harris’s role can do a world of wonder for their young QB in Tua Taviglioa.
Taking the best offensive lineman and the best running back for their 1st two picks would catapult an already very good team to a higher echelon. Of course, Miami’s fate will be directly tied to their QB but handing Tua a dominant left tackle and explosive running back could elevate Tua’s game to the level needed to compete in December and January for division titles.
I love how Miami has approached the last few years. They are young, they are talented, they are well-coached and they are building something special in South Beach. Najee Harris is fantastic. At 5’10 and 220 pounds, he is powerful, fast, and has great hands. He reminds me of a stockier Matt Forte. He has a similar skill set but I think he might even be a better pure runner than Forte. That could be a reward too tantalizing for the Dolphin’s Front Office to pass up. I could also see the Dolphins going the linebacker route here with Zeven Collins but if they want to help Tua excel, a dominant running game is a quarterback’s best friend. And Najee will be a force on Sundays for many years to come.
Christian Darrisaw, Offensive Tackle, Virginia Tech
The WFT has what I call a “quarterback away” problem. Many teams probably believe they have that same disease but WFT is a talented football team that is missing a dominant signal-caller to take them to the next level. One area of surprise was actually how well the offensive line played for Ron Rivera’s squad. The WFT had a surprisingly well-put-together offensive line but it needs to be injected with some youth and more talent.
The WFT now has a top 5 talent at running back in Antonio Gibson. Gibson should be a featured back in our nation’s capital for the next 3-5 years. Given the QB situation and given how talented their defense is, WFT’s best hope is to play power football, run the ball, use play action and help their dominant defense give quarterbacks fits.
Darrisaw can help with that type of operation. WFT is looking for improvement in their offensive line. Although Cornelius Lucas has been terrific filling in for Trent Williams, there is still a sense of let’s wait and see how consistent Lucas can be before declaring him the left tackle for the next 4-5 years. He is 29 and has been a journeyman throughout his career, until getting his chance to start when Guron Christian was injured. Replacing Trent Williams last year was never going to be easy but I think Darrisaw helps WFT on the right side of the line or even at left guard and waits his turn until either Lucas comes back down to Earth or there is an injury.
Either way, Darrisaw falling this far is too much talent to pass up and WFT continues to build from the inside out until they can land their franchise passer.
Jalen Mayfield, Offensive Tackle, Michigan
Oh my beloved Bears, how you hurt me so. The Bears have been a mess on offense for nearly my entire life (I’m an old man, I’m 40!) but where the Bears have made the playoffs in the last 20 years (05’, 06’, 2010, 18’, and 20’), they had a very stable offensive line play.
If you remember, Bears fans, in 2006 the defense (and Devin Hester) carried the Bears all the way to the Super Bowl but the offensive line was the quiet hero. They allowed a mediocre Rex Grossman to shine in the first month and they allowed Thomas Jones to shine the last month. The only bad thing for the Bears since that time is that they still have not figured out the QB position, although they have tried. Worse, they have been a perennial bottom barrel offensive line for the last 15 years.
Last year was no exception. If Mac Jones falls to this spot or any of the 5 top-rated QB’s, Ryan Pace has no choice but to select a new quarterback, but I don’t think the Bears will need a QB by the time they are selecting the 20th pick. I think they’ll pick up a veteran QB by the time the draft rolls around. This will allow them to address some much-needed upgrades in the draft, starting with the offensive line.
Jalen Mayfield is a stud and will be a great pro. His film is outstanding. I don’t see a lot of flaws in Mayfield’s game. He can be an immediate starter on the right side of the Bears line, allowing Charles Leno one more year on the left side before Mayfield eventually becomes the Bears’ starting left tackle for the next half-decade.
Mayfield has the talent to lock down the left side and he is a plug-and-play starting offensive lineman that the Bears would love to have as part of their starting five upfront in the immediate future. The last time the Bears drafted 20th, they selected Kyle Long out of Oregon. Howie’s youngest boy didn’t disappoint. The Bears have some good big man juju going on at number 20 and Mayfield makes a lot of sense for a franchise in desperate need of offensive stability.
Don’t sleep on the middle of round 1 NFL Draft Picks. There is so much talent for picks between 11-20. In a year that should see three or four QB’s taken in the top 10, that means a whole lot of positional talent will be available for squads that are living in football hell.
Let me know your thoughts, good people. Where are guys going to high? Too Low? What players do you see being all-pros? We know teams miss a whole lot more than they hit; such is life in the NFL, but the guys who landed in this mock are supremely talented and can provide immediate excitement for their given franchise. Draft day inches closer good people. I can not wait!