2020 NFL Draft – First Round
Because I like hurting my brain for you people, here we go with the mock draft. First off, some ground rules. No trades. Too many factors in play to start moving around the draft order. Which is funny, because I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing some trades in the first half dozen picks or so…
1 Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow, QB LSU
There are few worse kept secrets in this year’s draft than the fact that the Bengals are going to be selecting Joe Burrow first overall. Andy Dalton has one more year left on his current deal, but it doesn’t seem like they’re in a hurry to roll with him again. Burrow was buried in the depth chart behind Dwayne Haskins at Ohio State before transferring to LSU and showing only glimpses of excellence as the starter in 2018. But 2019 was a different story altogether. The Tigers NCAA Championship season was punctuated by Burrow’s 60 passing touchdowns, 5,671 passing yards and 76.3 completion percentage against SEC defenses. Just…Wow. Burrow took home every possible award for the effort, and rightly so. Barring a major shakeup, we’ll be hearing his name first on Draft Night.
Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
As good as Burrow is, and he’s been great, there’s one draft prospect that has the potential to become an all-timer. He just isn’t a quarterback. He attacks them. Edge rusher Chase Young is the latest NFL-ready Edge prospect out of OSU, following the Bosa brothers. Those two have translated fantastically to the NFL game, and Young is better, with a higher ceiling. Despite a relatively small selection of moves, Young overpowered and outmaneuvered every blocker in his path on the way to a 16.5 sack season. His size, strength and speed will be absolutely terrifying for offensive linemen and quarterbacks alike, and once he develops more techniques to keep blockers guessing, he will be nearly unstoppable. He’s a no-doubt-can’t-miss prospect that will change whatever defense selects him.
3 Detroit Lions
Jeffrey Okudah, CB Ohio State
Back-to-back-Buckeyes early in the first round. The Lions need help in the secondary after the departure of top cornerback Darius Slay to Philadelphia and Okudah fits the bill. He has all the physical tools to be an All-Pro lockdown cornerback in the NFL. At 6’1”, 205 lbs., he won’t get dominated over the top by larger receivers and can compete with pass-catching tight ends when the need arises. He was the top cornerback prospect in his class coming out of high school, and nothing has changed now. He has excellent technique and even the top NCAA quarterbacks simply didn’t want to test him in coverage. I think Detroit would like to trade back a few spots and still get him, but the need-prospect match is too solid to ignore here.
4 New York Giants
Isiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
I have a feeling that the Giants might go offensive line here, but at the end of the day, that 30th ranked defense needs more help than the offense, which should improve organically with the additions of Cameron Fleming and Dion Lewis. The Butkus award winner is a super athletic, super versatile hybrid linebacker who is prototypical in today’s NFL. He’s freakishly fast for his 6’4”, 240 lb. frame, clocking an unofficial 4.39 forty. That’s cornerback/wide receiver speed on a dude that loves crashing into people. That’s bad news for duel threat quarterbacks in the league, as Simmons proved to be particularly adept at stifling zone read offenses.
5 Miami Dolphins
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The word on the street has always been that this is Tua’s destination, but the inability of team doctors to do their own checks on the Alabama QB’s hip and concerns about overall durability seem to be making teams skittish. I think Miami has been too bad for too long to risk blowing it on a guy that could be either transcendent or a total washout. They’ll find their QB in the big, strong Oregon product. Herbert’s size (6’6”, 236lbs.) is certainly NFL ready and his vision and progressions are well developed. He’s not afraid to run the ball when needed, and he has enough speed to evade defenders if push comes to shove. Like Daniel Jones did last season, he’ll improve in the pros where his receivers will be far better.
6 Los Angeles Chargers
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Yes, I just said that Tua would drop down the board a bit. But someone is going to take him, and with Tyrod Taylor as the only reasonable option for L.A. at quarterback, they clearly have a huge need. Add in the fact that Los Angeles needs a little bit of star power to fill seats, and it makes sense that they might take the chance on the much-ballyhooed Alabama QB. I think the durability concerns are legitimate, but if the guy turns into the next Mahomes after dropping outside the top ten, Miami and L.A. would both be kicking themselves. Taylor is a good enough backup to take a chance on one of the most bang-or-bust prospects we’ve seen in years.
7 Carolina Panthers
Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Carolina has clear and striking need for quality along the defensive line, which got bullied a lot last year, allowing over 143 yards per game on the ground, making the Panthers the fourth-worst rushing defense in the league. Brown won’t be enough to fix the whole equation, but he’s a big (6’5”, 326lbs.) powerful force that will make plays in the backfield and collapse pockets.
8 Arizona Cardinals
Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Arizona needs help in the secondary and their O-line is shaky as well. With Jeffrey Okudah off the board, Arizona will look to shore up protection for Kyler Murray, who was the fifth-most sacked QB in the league. I’m not sure Arizona did enough work on the defense in free agency, but the addition of DeAndre Hopkins and drafting an elite offensive lineman could help the Cardinals get into the top half of the league on offense. Wirfs is a textbook big man who lives to run block. He can become an anchor on the left side but has the versatility and athleticism to play the opposite side as well. Protecting Murray is a huge priority here, so I love the fit.
9 Jacksonville Jaguars
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
This is a bit of a reboot year for Jacksonville, starting fresh with a load of new faces on defense and Gardner Minshew as the confirmed starter at QB. What better way to help their young gunslinger than going out and getting a true number one threat on the outside. Jerry Jeudy isn’t a powerhouse at 6’1”, 193 lbs., but he’s a great route runner and his 4.45 speed is fast enough to move the needle. If you were thinking that WR wasn’t a pressing need in Jacksonville, you should know that they just released Marqise Lee outright. There might be other needs in Jacksonville, but they also have the 20th overall pick, and I expect they’ll want to nail down an elite pass catching threat with this selection.
10 Cleveland Browns
Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
After last year’s high expectations were shattered, Cleveland will be looking to go back to basics here. Conventional wisdom holds that you win football games at the line of scrimmage, and that’s how the Browns should look to improve. I think that Cleveland would love to improve on defense here, but with Isiah Simmons and Derrick Brown off the board, protecting Baker Mayfield might make more sense with this high pick. Jedrick Wills is one of the top OT’s in this draft, a true road-grader who will improve protection no matter what type of play is called. As I mentioned in my team report, Cleveland needs to avoid getting blinded by bling at a skill position here, even if the best player regardless of need is a WR. Offensive or defensive line. That’s it.
11 New York Jets
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Here we have another team with a variety of needs that must not overthink this. Yes, the Jets would likely be better with an upgrade at OT and Mekhi Becton is still on the board, but he’s a little bit of a rough talent in pass protection. The move here is to draft an elite wideout to pair with Sam Darnold’s strong arm and stretch the field to make room for Le’Veon Bell to work. Lamb is arguably the best WR in the group, a little bit longer and stronger that Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy. I like this pick to help turn the Jets into contenders in the suddenly muddled AFC East.
12 Las Vegas Raiders
Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Some folks will be a little surprised to see both Lamb and Jeudy off the board here, but Las Vegas won’t flinch. The Raiders are well known to prize speed all over the field, and they’ll get their speedster here in Ruggs. He isn’t big (5’11”, 188 lbs.) but his separation speed can be game breaking, 4.27??? That’s full on track star speed. He averaged over 18 yards per catch for the Tide. Imagine what he could have done if he wasn’t playing on the same team with Devonta Smith and Jerry Jeudy…
13 San Francisco 49ers (IND)
Mehki Becton, OT, Louisville
I mean, what do you get for the girl who has everything? San Francisco lost in the Super Bowl, but they don’t exactly have a ton of weaknesses. So, what will John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan do with the 13th overall pick, when their area of biggest concern is probably wide receiver? With the top trio of WRs already off the board, they’re going to pick the best available player, and it fits nicely with a secondary need, offensive line. The Niners take big (6’7”, 364 lbs.) OT Mehki Becton from Louisville to pave the way for that robust running game and give Jimmy G all the time he needs to turn into Tom Brady in the pocket. What about WR? Don’t worry. This pick is from a trade with Indy, San Francisco has another pick left in the first round. Lookout NFC.
14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
So, the Buccaneers landed TB12. What now? Now you need to keep a forty-something year old quarterback upright and out of pressure. Enter Andrew Thomas, the best offensive lineman left on the board. A run-blocking artist, Thomas will need to keep his feet moving and beat pass rushers with his athleticism at the next level, but given Georgia’s run-centric offense, he could well be better than anticipated as he gets into form on passing plays.
15 Denver Broncos
C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
There would be some wisdom to grabbing a pass catcher here. A field stretching homerun hitter like Tee Higgins from Clemson might catch John Elway’s eye. But with this pick, I see Denver surprising folks by improving a secondary that was barely outside of the top ten in the league. The rationale is simple. If Denver’s front has more time to work because receivers are blanketed, Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and the boys can get to work terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. It’s a change that could elevate Denver’s defense into a fearsome top-ten unit again. Henderson is big enough to cover taller, more physical wideouts, and he won’t be bullied at the catch point. It’s a good fit for a team that needs to improve on both sides of the ball.
16 Atlanta Falcons
Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
The Falcons need defense. Only the Dolphins sacked opposing quarterbacks less than Atlanta. Enter sturdy DT Javon Kinlaw. The 6’5”, 325 Lb. run-stopper also recorded a half dozen sacks for the Gamecocks in only twelve games. Kinlaw’s presence will be enough to stifle runs up the middle and create internal pressure. In pass rush situations, his size will require some double teams, creating opportunities for his teammates at the edges.
17 Dallas Cowboys
Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
I see a ton of mock drafts that slot in an Edge rusher here for the Cowboys, but I feel like the secondary is where Dallas can use the most help. Versatility is the key to improving a team that should have won more games than it did and selecting an Edge rusher with only one skill set seems like a stumble. McKinney was deployed in more ways than a Swiss Army knife in Alabama’s complex defensive scheme and was up to the task. He returned an interception for to the house in each of the past two years and is a sure tackler in the open field with above average athleticism for the position. He can be rotated to the corners when needed or hang back as an insurance policy against big plays.
18 Miami Dolphins (PIT)
K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE/LB, LSU
Nobody allowed more points than the Dolphins last season, and nobody sacked opposing QBs less than Miami. It’s going to be tempting to bring in more offense here, but the Dolphins need to improve on both sides of the ball. They upgraded in the secondary and linebacker, so now it’s time to get a versatile guy who can get after the quarterback. LSU’s Chaisson isn’t a polished rusher, yet. He’s a raw prospect who’s been able to succeed at LSU with scary athleticism and a range of techniques that lives in the backfield, tackling anything that looks like it might be holding a football. With coaching, he could develop into a tremendously versatile all-purpose defender that can be deployed in a variety of schemes.
19 Las Vegas Raiders (CHI)
Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
With their second pick in the first round, Oakland will look to modernize a defense that looked stagnant and lifeless last year. When Khalil Mack was sent to Chicago, the spark in the Raider defense went with him. Now they need to get rolling again in their first season is Sin City. The National champs had a lot of great players on defense, and Patrick Queen was the engine, roaming sideline to sideline, excelling in coverage and stopping the run. He’s a prototypical new linebacker for today’s NFL that rewards versatility and athleticism. He’ll rack up the tackles all season long for the silver and black.
20 Jacksonville Jaguars (LAR)
DeAndre Swift, RB, Georgia
Rumors have swirled in recent days that Jacksonville is actively shopping Leonard Fournette, a move that will turn running back into an area of tremendous need. The Georgia product is the perfect multi tool hybrid back, excelling up the middle, on the edges, and in the passing game. He was exceedingly effective as the focal point of the Bulldog offense, and there’s no reason he can’t carry the same weight in Jacksonville.
21 Philadelphia Eagles
Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
I’m not sure why Jefferson isn’t higher on some team’s boards, but he just isn’t getting the buzz that CeeDee Lamb and the Alabama receivers are getting. That’s weird, too, given that Jefferson was a favored target of Joe Burrow all season long, amassing 1540 yards and 18 touchdowns, more than all but sophomore Ja’Marr Chase. The Eagles woes at wide receiver are well documented, and this should give Carson Wentz a solid outside target to depend on. At 6’3”, 192 lbs., the former Tiger has the size, speed and hands to make catches along the sidelines and in the red zone.
22 Minnesota Vikings (BUF)
Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
It’s too poetic, isn’t it? The Vikings get this pick from Buffalo for big brother Stefon and bring in little brother Trevon with it. But honestly, the Vikings need cornerbacks, and I have Trevon as one of the two best left on the board, along with Clemson’s A.J. Terrell. Diggs the younger had a great senior year, hauling in 3 interceptions, 37 tackles and two fumble recoveries, including a scoop and score touchdown for the Crimson Tide. He’ll be a good fit for a Vikings defense that relied on its defensive front to cover up a very beatable secondary.
23 New England Patriots
Kenneth Murray, ILB, Oklahoma
With the departures of Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts, the cupboard is nearly bare at linebacker for the Pats. Murray is the type of athlete that Bill Belichick can mold into a bedrock defender. He was deployed in a wide range of formations and flew all over the field for the Sooners, tackling everything he saw. He racked up over 100 tackles in both his sophomore and junior seasons, and was incredibly disruptive last year, accounting for 17 tackles for loss, four sacks and four pass breakups. With his size (6’2”, 241 lbs.) and speed (4.52 forty-yard dash), he’ll shine in New England’s complex and varied defense.
24 New Orleans Saints
A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
Epenesa is looked at as a pure Edge rusher, because that’s essentially how Iowa used him. But he was more than solid in run coverage and has the power to move blockers and speed to elude them. I can see Epenesa being deployed in a variety of looks to add depth and explosiveness to a defense that let down the league’s third best offense come playoff time. Some might say that the Saints should look for another WR to pair with Michael Thomas, but I just can’t see looking for a second fiddle receiver with a pick this high. The defense is where New Orleans needs to improve to give Drew Brees one more chance in his final season. They have enough weapons on offense.
25 Minnesota Vikings
Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
This will be the Vikings second pick in the first round, so where do they look to improve? I’d suggest that they should use this pick to replace departed WR Stefon Diggs. Tee Higgins will be a strong complement to Adam Thielen, stretching the field and essentially being a red zone matchup nightmare for DBs. Higgins is 6’4” and plays even longer. He had under sixty receptions for over 1,100 yards and 13 TDs last season for Clemson.
26 Miami Dolphins (HOU)
Josh Jones, OT, Houston
This will be Miami’s third and final selection…of the first round. Miami has their new QB, and now they need to protect him. Josh Jones just moves other large humans around for a living, and he’ll be doing it professionally for years. He’s the definition of an immovable object, coming in at 6’5”, 320 lbs. and surprisingly nimble for that frame. He might make some early mistakes against experienced pass rushers who will know how to leverage him, but as he develops his footwork and skill set, his gifts will make him a standout protector.
27 Seattle Seahawks
Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
Seattle has been better on the defensive side than expected following the disbanding of the “Legion of Boom” a few years back, and it’s been because of unheralded players creating confusion in opposing offenses. Blacklock can help with that. His 6’3”, 290 lb. frame is powerful and energetic, finding gaps and creating interior pressure. He lives in the backfield, where almost one quarter of his tackles in 2019 occurred. A bit unpolished as yet, but he’s ready to make the jump and create chaos at the next level.
28 Baltimore Ravens
A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
What the Ravens need to continue their upward trend is depth and consistency. Nothing more. There are simply no “holes” to fill here and no areas that scream for immediate improvement to keep up with the Chiefs or anyone else. An earlier version of this had them grabbing a wide receiver, but the winds have shifted ever so slightly and I like them to shore up the secondary in round one instead. A.J. Terrell is a classically built corner who won’t get torched or overpowered at the catch point. He’s versatile as well, playing in man and zone schemes successfully for the Tigers.
29 Tennessee Titans
Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
Tennessee was the surprise of the 2019 NFL season, rising from the ashes of a slow start after benching Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill and going all in on the ground game with Derrick Henry. Since the Titans chose to keep the offense’s key players in place, it only makes sense that they’ll look to improve the defense here. Gross-Matos is a player that could be gone before this point in the draft, but if he’s available, Mike Vrabel and crew will be happy to welcome him to town. The Penn State defensive star’s athleticism and versatility would be right at home in the defense of Vrabel’s mentor, Bill Belichick. Vrabel will see the value here and help improve a Titans defense that was steady but produced a modest 43 sacks last season.
30 Green Bay Packers
Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
This is the guy that cheeseheads have been waiting for. A true number one receiving threat with a big body and field-stretching speed. So why haven’t we heard more about him? Because Colorado just wasn’t that good, and his QB was well below average, so his stats suffered. Every year in the draft there’s a guy who makes people scratch their heads, Shenault is that guy this season. Jalen Reagor and Brandon Aiyuk are still on the board, but I don’t like the fit as much for Green Bay.
31 San Francisco 49ers
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Again, San Francisco isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel here. They need depth and playmakers to gain a small advantage over their NFC rivals to get back to the big game. Enter speedy gamebreaker Jalen Reagor from TCU. He’s deadly with the ball in his hands and can be deployed in any formation on offense to catch defenses off guard. Is he a primary pass catcher? No? But he’s exactly the sort of chess piece that offensive guru Kyle Shanahan will salivate over on draft night.
32 Kansas City Chiefs
Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Let’s be honest. The Super Bowl champs don’t really NEED anything…but they can always add depth to a defense that was much better than advertised, if lacking in star power. Fulton will fit right in. He’s not flashy. He’s not attention-grabbing. He just does the job. Consistently. Game in, game out. He just doesn’t get torched, like…ever. Fulton might not have the highest ceiling, but the floor is a solid NFL career preventing touchdowns.
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Image Source: AP Images