All prospects have been evaluated, the rankings have been put out and we are just three days away from the draft. Now it’s time to have some fun!
I have been gathering information in the background and thinking about how Thursday could look like, but this is my one and only mock draft for 2020. To make myself clear – this is what I think will happen, not what I would do.
For every pick, I give a quick analysis on why I think it will happen and how I would grade them, in comparison to my big board.
Here we go:
1. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
This pick has been locked in pretty much since the start of November when LSU defeated their arch-rival Alabama to put themselves on track for an SEC championship. All their quarterback did in that postseason run was throw 16 touchdowns and no picks, en route to a national title. The Bengals need that kind of winner in their program with the fearless attitude to battle the physical AFC North teams. Burrow has the poise, pocket presence, field vision and ball-placement to immediately give them an upgrade at quarterback and someone to build the team around, with some nice pieces on offense around him already.
2. Washington Redskins – Chase Young, Edge, Ohio State
The Redskins may listen to some calls for trading a couple of spots down if somebody wants to come up for a quarterback, but in the end Ron Rivera will not pass on a dominant edge rusher like he was playing around back in the day. Young has the elite physical skill-set in terms of burst, bend and reactionary athleticism to continue that tremendous success he had for the Buckeyes. Washington now adds him to the three other defensive linemen they have selected in the first rounds of the last three years already to form a ferocious front-four, with Young having the potential to play at an All-Pro level for several years.
3. Los Angeles Chargers (via Detroit Lions) – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama (for picks 6, 37 and 112)
We have our first trade! The Chargers have been very vocal about Tyrod Taylor being their starter under center this year and with the selection of the Alabama quarterback, they can still go with that plan initially, while adding a long-term star potentially. Tua is such a natural passer with the ability to work through progressions like a machine and make pin-point passes all over the field. The injury history is definitely a concern and giving up a second- and fourth-round pick to go with this investment makes this a high-risk selection, but the Bolts have a lot of young players to pay soon, and having the QB on a rookie deal may help as well.
4. New York Giants – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
A lot has been made about Isaiah Simmons being the at four because Dave Gettleman loves athletic freaks, but he gets another one here with Wirfs, while also adding much-needed help to the O-line. Contrary to popular belief, the GM has actually never selected one of his “hog mollies” in the first round, but that changes this year. Wirfs will immediately boost the rushing attack with his explosiveness and power to open holes for Saquon Barkley, while having all the tools to improve technically as a pass-protector. He could also move inside to guard, offering positional flexibility across the front.
5. Miami Dolphins – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
While Miami certainly has the draft capital to move up for the quarterback of the future, they can stay put at five and still get the guy they have been high on for a while now, according to multiple reports. That allows them to still make three two other picks in the first round to upgrade their roster in a broader way. If you have read my breakdown of Herbert and seen that he is “only” number 37 on my big board, you know that I have question marks about the way he sees the field and can work through multiple reads, but the arm talent and athleticism are certainly there. I would just prefer them to allow the young man to sit early on.
6. Detroit Lions (via Los Angeles Chargers) – Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
This is close to a perfect scenario for Detroit. They trade back three spots and pick up a couple of picks in the process, while still getting the guy they have had their eyes on all along. Okudah is the premiere corner in this class, with the length, speed and loose hips to go with pretty advanced technique when you consider he really was only a one-year starter for that talented Ohio State secondary. The Lions traded away Darius Slay to get a younger and cheaper option as their CB1. Okudah fits perfectly in this man-heavy scheme under Matt Patricia and they should be able to trust him from week one.
7. Carolina Panthers – Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Similarly, the Panthers just lost Luke Kuechly, even though they obviously didn’t decide to get rid of him. Simmons may not be your prototypical MIKE linebacker, but his range and explosiveness are absurb for anybody at the second level. With Matt Rhule coming over from Baylor and taking his defensive coordinator with him, they will make the full-time switch to a 3-4, where they will cover up bodies and allow Simmons to roam around freely. His ability to scrape and shut down anything to the edges could be what makes this system go, plus he gives you the versatility to move into the slot or rush off the edge on third downs.
8. Arizona Cardinals – Derrick Brown, IDL, Auburn
This was the one pick that really had me going back and forth. The Cardinals obviously could use some help on the offensive line and three of the top four tackles are still available, but there aren’t many truly dominant defensive players on the board in this range and they just re-signed D.J. Humphries to a three-year deal, with the option to still address the O-line on day two. Arizona has already signed Jordan Phillips coming off a career-year, but he is not close to the all-around player Brown is. The Auburn DT would be a great fit at nose tackle right in the middle of Vance Joseph’s 3-4 scheme, holding his ground in the run game and pushing the pocket up the middle.
9. Atlanta Falcons (via Jacksonville Jaguars) – Javon Kinlaw, IDL, South Carolina (for picks 16 and 47)
The second trade of my mock draft involves the Falcons, who have emerged as prime candidates to move up and select one of top defensive prospects still available, while Jacksonville seemingly wants to collect draft capital. Kinlaw is exactly what that front office always describes as an “urgent athlete”. He has freakish explosiveness and a ton of natural power. While he is kind of a one-trick pony with his bull-rush at this point, he has all the tools to become a dominant player up front for them, to pair with Grady Jarrett inside. Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson could be an option here as well, but Kinlaw’s presence would help the secondary and add size to a rather small defense.
10. Cleveland Browns – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
The Browns are reportedly in conversations with multiple teams to trade down, but they might not be able to resist this massive tackle prospect. Becton is a 365-pound mauler in the run game that would fit perfectly for what Kevin Stefanski wants to do with that heavy zone-rushing attack and bootlegs off it. There is definitely a lot of room for improvement in terms of technique – especially in pass-protection – but with Becton at left tackle this offensive line looks tremendous now. The interior already looked strong, but with free agent Jack Conklin and this first-round pick, they are set at tackle for a while now.
11. Denver Broncos (via New York Jets) – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama (for picks 15, 83 and 118)
This has been in the news over the last few days and I could absolutely see it. The Broncos are looking for somebody to pair with Courtland Sutton. To go with the big-bodied wideout, they now have the best route-runner in the draft, who can move along the formation. Combine that with last year’s first-round pick Noah Fant at tight-end in addition to an excellent duo of backs and sophomore quarterback Drew Lock has plenty of weapons around him now. If they sit back at number 15, the top three receivers are probably off the board and they have to pick somebody that is several spots behind that group, while in this scenario they still keep two third-rounders. The speed of Henry Ruggs would be an excellent complement as well.
12. Las Vegas Raiders – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
The run on wide receivers has officially started! The Raiders have their pick of the other two guys not named Jerry Jeudy and I have them going with the shiny toy in Ruggs. The Alabama standout has speed for days and he would be great weapon for Jon Gruden to utilize. With Tyrrell Williams, Zay Jones, Hunter Renfrow and now Nelson Agholor, Las Vegas could definitely use a guy like Ruggs to scare defenses. Derek Carr might not be the type of guy who will let it rip five times a game, but they can put the ball in Ruggs’ hands on jet sweeps, reverses or let him run away from everybody after catching a slant route. This is a pick Al Davis would be proud of.
13. San Francisco 49ers – Ceedee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
That leaves San Francisco, who traded DeForest Buckner for this pick, with the third guy of that trio at the top and he might be number one on their board. Lamb is an outstanding fit for that system that may lack a true X receiver. He is a physical route-runner, has that alpha mentality when the ball is in the air and is just amazing with the ball in his hands. Just imagine him and Deebo Samuel going to work, as two of the very best at gaining yards after the catch. With some of the limitations Jimmy Garoppolo showed in the Super Bowl, having weapons around him that can make life easy on him is crucial.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama
The Bucs leave day one as one of the biggest winners after my top tackle falls to them due to a combination of factors – the Cardinals going defense instead, the Browns falling in love with Becton and the Jets trading down a spot behind them. Wills shows an aggressive mindset in the run game and close to flawless technique as a pass-protector. Tampa Bay could definitely use an upgrade at right tackle over Joe Haeg to keep a soon 43-year old Tom Brady upright and they get the best one in the entire draft. So they land exactly who they need without even having to move up in this scenario.
15. New York Jets (via Denver Broncos) – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Gang Green has to be very happy with how the board falls as well. They move down four spots in exchange for a third- and fourth-round pick respectively, but can still select their future left tackle to protect Sam Darnold. Thomas is my number four tackle, but this is still right where I think he should go. He is an excellent zone run-blocker and has a proven track record of shutting down some of the premiere pass rushers in the SEC (only one sack allowed last season). Of course a true number one receiver could be the target as well, if they stick at 11, but this might yield even better results for them with the added picks.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
This kid has really been rising up draft boards and I would not be shocked if he was the pick at number nine if the Jags can’t find a trade partner. Now that they have sent away their duo of Ramsey and Bouye, cornerback has all of a sudden become a huge need. Henderson gives them another super-talented cover-guy with the attitude to survive on an island. With all the players they have and might still trade away, Jacksonville doesn’t seem to be in contention right now and this young man is someone they can groom into a different version of what they had in Ramsey.
17. Philadelphia Eagles (via Dallas Cowboys) – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU (for picks 21, 103 and 145)
The Eagles are desperate for a wide receiver and while they would love to go up and grab a speed monster like Henry Ruggs, Jefferson is the clear number four guy on a lot of team’s boards. The Dolphins and Jaguars could be threats to grab Jefferson before Philly is on the clock at 21, so they move up a couple of spots in order to secure the receiver, in exchange for their third-round pick and one of their fourth-rounders. Jefferson may not quite offer the speed to open up room in-between the hashes for their tight-ends, but he would give Carson Wentz a very dependable target to replace Nelson Agholor, who was anything but that for the Birds.
18. Miami Dolphins – K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU
They Dolphins have already added three former high draft picks on the edge this offseason – Shaq Lawson, Taco Charlton and Emmanuel Ogbah – but they still need that true number one guy and Chaisson has the potential to be just that. He is such a natural, bendy pass rusher and he offers a lot of versatility in terms of his pursuit off the backside, how dangerous he is on stunts and the things he can do in coverage. Those are things Brian Flores and those former Patriot coaches value highly. Chaisson should also continue to be a team leader, having proudly worn that number 18 for the Bayou Bengals, and he is someone to build that program around.
19. Las Vegas Raiders – A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
We already saw this last year – Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden love established players from big-time programs, especially Clemson. Terrell has the length and speed to develop into an excellent corner to pair back up with his running mate Trayvon Mullen from just a couple of years ago. I certainly have my question marks with him, when you look at the issues he has at changing directions due to his lanky build and how much he struggles with his back to the ball down the field. Still, he is the type of guy the NFL seems to love and the Raiders are the ones who seem primed to reach a little for a player they are high on.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Jacksonville goes back to the well with a defensive back from the SEC – this time at safety. With LSU receiver Justin Jefferson off the board and no offensive linemen quite worth the pick, another highly productive tone-setter like McKinney makes a lot of sense. The Alabama safety offers great versatility, being able to cover deep halves, drop in the box or line up over slot receivers. He may not be the flashiest pick and the Jaguars could be looking to trade down from here again, but if they stay put, they could do a lot worse than my number one safety available, who I happen to have right at that number 20 spot on my big board as well.
21. Dallas Cowboys (via Philadelphia Eagles) – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
I think the Cowboys would love to grab C.J. Henderson or maybe even one of those top-tier receivers, but with the corner going just one spot before their original pick and all three pass-catchers off the board, they would be smart to move back a little. Dallas seems to be happy with Connor McGovern jumping in at center for Travis Frederick, so I didn’t go with a guy like Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz either. Instead I have them selecting a different corner from the reigning national champions. Fulton played as much press-man as any corner in the draft last season, but he also has the ability to click and close in zone-coverage. For some reason I can really imagine him with that blue star on his helmet, replacing the recently departed Byron Jones.
22. Minnesota Vikings – Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State
A long and explosive defensive end with all the athletic tools to become an even better player in the pros – sound familiar? That’s pretty much how I would have described Danielle Hunter just five years ago. Gross-Matos is the type of prospect that seems right in the mold of those guys Mike Zimmer brings in and turns into stars after just a couple of seasons. He is already a very physical run-stopper and has tremendous upside in the pass game. With Everson Griffen opting out of contract, they have a hole at the position and Gross-Matos already has some experience moving inside over guards in sub-packages like they used to do with Griffen.
23. New England Patriots – A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa
This just seems like such an obvious Bill Belichick move. With Epenesa he picks up a really productive player, who is already technically sound and a big body up front. He offers great versatility across the formation, stands his ground in the run game and doesn’t get taken outside his rush lanes, which is something BB covets. I know quarterback is the big topic here and I thought about how this could work that New England possibly trades down and still grabs somebody they like, but I just don’t see them selecting a quarterback that is an immature decision-maker and freelancer like Jordan Love, even though it would of course be fun to see what Josh McDaniels & company can do with him.
24. New Orleans Saints – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
When you look at this Saints roster, there really aren’t a lot of holes to fill. Before free agency began, a number two receiver to Michael Thomas seemed to be the target, but with Emmanuel Sanders being brought in, I shifted my focus to the defense. With veterans Janoris Jenkins and Malcolm Jenkins being added to the secondary already, I have them picking up a linebacker from nearby. Queen only has one full year of starting experience and still needs to work on his tackling form as well as not overrunning as many plays, but he has excellent range in coverage and while he weighs in at just under 230 pounds, he is not afraid to run into pulling linemen.
25. Minnesota Vikings – Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
Nobody loves drafting cornerbacks in the first round more than Mike Zimmer and with his two starters from last season gone, the Vikings actually need one this time around. I thought about offensive tackle and wide receiver here as well, but ultimately stuck with defense. Johnson has been one of the best players in college football when targeted over these last three seasons and has allowed a passer-rating in the mid-50s in all of them. The physical corner can re-route receivers as well as anybody in this class and he does not shy away from tackling. Perfect for the Vikes.
26. Miami Dolphins – Josh Jones, OT, Houston
I’m starting another little run on offensive tackles here, with Miami kicking things off. The Dolphins fielded one of the worst front-fives we have seen in recent years. Before the 2019 season even started, they let their right tackle walk and during the year they traded away their young LT Laremy Tunsil. So if they want to keep anybody alive they draft at quarterback, they better invest in the O-line. To me Jones has clearly established himself as my fifth tackle, but he doesn’t offer the freakish size or athleticism some teams are looking for at the position. Still, he creates plenty of movement in the run game and he shows good knee-bend and independent hand-usage as a protector.
27. Seattle Seahawks – Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia
The next guy is somebody I have nowhere close to the first round in my rankings, but has just been creating too much buzz for me to not acknowledge could go here. And no team better to shock us all in the first round than an organization like the Seahawks, who have blown up any mocks we have seen in recent years. I think Wilson lacks some agility to survive full-time on the edge in a true drop-back system, but with what Seattle likes to do with their run-heavy approach and play-action off it, the behemoth right tackle from Georgia could fit in well. At this point I could also see them surprise us with a Jeremy Chinn or an edge rusher they really like as well.
28. Baltimore Ravens – Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Over these last two seasons, the Ravens have lost C.J. Mosley and Patrick Onwuasor to the Jets in free agency. They re-signed L.J. Fort and play their safeties at dime linebacker quite a bit anyway, but they still need that alpha in the middle of their defense. Murray has incredible range and closing speed for the position, while those big bodies up front will allow him to stay clean from blockers. I was going to go with either him or Patrick Queen, depending on which of the two falls to them here, since that is the biggest need for them, while having the ability to select another receiver from this loaded class later on. If both of the guys I mentioned are off the board, a hybrid stand-up backer and edge rusher in Wisconsin’s Zack Baun would make a lot of sense too.
29. Tennessee Titans – Austin Jackson, OT, USC
And that makes seven offensive tackles in the first round! The Titans right now are set to go into camp (or not, depending on how this whole situation develops) with Dennis Kelly and Ty Sambrailo competing for the starting spot at right tackle. While another pass-rusher or a replacement for Logan Ryan could be options here as well, I believe with Vic Beasley coming over and some young guys moving up the depth chart in the secondary, they will continue to invest into their O-line with Jack Conklin gone. I don’t think Jackson is a very physical run-blocker and his base can vary too much, but he certainly has the athletic traits to develop.
30. Green Bay Packers – Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
The Packers need to add more pass-catchers around Aaron Rodgers. All the offensive tackles are off the board to replace Bryan Bulaga, they have invested heavily into their defense in recent years and the only that would make some sence here is TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock. Instead I went with another Big 12 standout in the freakish Denzel Mims. The former Baylor receiver has blown everybody away at the Senior Bowl and combine with his combination of size, explosiveness and physicality. I have him as my 31st overall prospect and would not be surprised if he went even earlier.
31. Indianapolis Colts (via San Francisco 49ers) – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State (for picks 44, 122 and a 2021 second-rounder)
In our final trade of this mock draft, I have the Colts moving up from the 44th pick and giving a fourth-rounder this year to go with a number two in 2021 to grab their quarterback of the future. Indy has been high on Love all along and while Philip Rivers should be the short-term solution, this only gives their young signal-caller time to reign in his reckless style of play. Love is as talented as any other quarterback in this draft, but he is coming off a year in which he led the FBS in interceptions (17) and still has a long way to go. Regardless, I can stand behind this way easier than Justin Herbert in the top six. The 49ers will be more than happy to move back, since they don’t own any picks on day two at this moment.
32. Kansas City Chiefs – Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU
As this draft process has advanced, I have had this feeling more and more. Of course the Chiefs could invest in another corner here or possibly trade back a few spots and still pick their guy, but in the end I think this just makes a lot of sense. Edwards-Helaire is “only” my number five back in this class, but he is still my 51st-ranked overall prospect and fits the KC offense really well. Not only would he give them a more physical identity as a hard-nosed runner with the contact balance to create yardage after contact, but he also led all draft-eligible RBs in receptions last season, giving Mahomes and this pass-happy offense another weapon, while being an outstanding check-down option off their vertical concepts.
D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Cesar Ruiz, IOL, Michigan
Ross Blacklock, IDL, TCU
Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota