It's officially mock draft season! That final whistle you heard ending an entertaining Super Bowl LIV means all 32 teams are now looking forward to the 2020 campaign.
Here's my first look at some of the player-team fits that would make sense on the first two days of the draft. Constructing a three-round mock draft before the NFL Scouting Combine (Feb. 27 to March 1 on NFL Network) is akin to playing the role of the game show contestant who hits the buzzer before the host has finished reading the question. You can look smart for anticipating the results -- or not.
Based on career production and performance in the postseason all-star game circuit, these players have made the argument they deserve to be selected early on draft weekend.
NOTE: The third-round compensatory selections in this mock (Picks 97-104) are based on my projections. The NFL usually awards comp picks in late February.
Now that the season is over, you'll hear a lot of nitpicking about Burrow's game, including his lack of elite arm strength. The Bengals saw what he did against elite college competition, however, and will shut out the noise.
Young's the top defender in the class. This is an easy pick.
Okudah's speed, size and length offer a rare combination at the position. The Lions allowed a league-worst 284.4 pass yards a game in 2019 and tied for the fewest interceptions in the league (seven).
GM Dave Gettleman could go with an offensive tackle here, but Lamb may be too valuable a weapon to pass on with last year's sixth overall pick, quarterback Daniel Jones, entering Year 2.
Herbert's a strong pocket passer with mobility that he had not really unleashed until the Rose Bowl. His Senior Bowl performance secured a landing spot in the top five.
Injury concerns may push Tua down the board a bit, but he has a very good arm and is an accurate thrower to all areas of the field.
I could see new Carolina head coach Matt Rhule taking a quarterback here, but if the Panthers hold off on addressing that position, Brown's elite talent seems like a perfect fit. The team could lose multiple free agents on the defensive line.
Cardinals OTs D.J. Humphries and Marcus Gilbert are pending unrestricted free agents, so it won't be a surprise to see the team use two early-round picks on the position. Wills made great strides in pass protection while maintaining his bullish attitude as a run blocker in his junior season, becoming a likely longtime NFL starter.
The Browns struggled to stop the run in 2019, ranking 30th in the league while giving up five yards a carry. Bringing in Kinlaw would give the team a strong rotation up front to fix the issue.
Chaisson has nice bend and length off the edge, something the Jets really need. He's no wallflower against the run, either, having gained significant strength over the past couple of seasons.
The Colts find their future starter. Eason's arm strength will look great to teams in his pre-draft workouts. A quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator will believe they can work on the rest of his game.
While it is unclear who will be playing quarterback for Bruce Arians' Bucs in 2020, he should find a starting-caliber tackle at this point in the round. Becton's massive frame and nasty attitude should make him a favorite among NFL offensive line coaches.
Epenesa can overpower tackles, hustle for sacks and hold the line of scrimmage. The Falcons tied for the second-fewest sacks among all NFL squads in 2019 (28).
McKinney's ability to serve as a ballhawk and attack plays downhill could be a boon to Dallas' secondary, which intercepted seven passes in all of 2019 (tied for the fewest in the league).
Rebuilding the offensive line must be a priority for the Dolphins in this draft, as they tied for the league lead with 58 sacks allowed in 2019. Thomas' thick frame and length give him a chance to succeed at LT or RT.
Carson Wentz is in need of more reliable targets. Aiyuk's speed and quickness will make him a playmaker in the NFL.
Sean Payton likes to make big trades in the first round, and it would not shock me if the Saints gave up future picks to move up for a quarterback this year. Love might be a target for Payton, as the young passer's skills could be honed behind Drew Brees for a year if the NFL's all-time leading passer returns.
The Vikings' secondary is due for a reboot this spring. Diggs gets to take on his brother, Stefon, in practice on a daily basis, which will be good prep for taking on the rest of the league's top wideouts.
Jones has the strength and mean streak to replace Jack Conklin at right tackle, if the veteran leaves in free agency.
The potential departure of pending free agent inside linebacker Blake Martinez could open the door for Murray in Green Bay.
Delpit was inconsistent with his open-field tackling in 2019, but his overall skill set is too good for the Niners to pass up if he's still on the board -- the San Francisco secondary could have used his talents in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV.
Protecting the league's top player should play into the Chiefs' draft plans every year. Ruiz possesses the strength and athleticism to play multiple positions up front.