We are 20 weeks away from the 2020 NFL draft, which means it’s closing in on our favorite time of year. Sure, we still have conference championship games, bowl games, the Senior Bowl, NFL scouting combine, free agency and pro days to change the draft landscape dramatically between now and then. But we’re close enough to hit the board with some of these dart throws for a first-round mock draft.
This is how the picks fell, based on need, fit and talent drop-offs at certain positions. The order is based on how the draft would go if the season ended prior to Week 14.
LSU QB Joe Burrow
Andy Dalton having one good game in the Bengals’ first victory of the season won’t veer us away from Burrow here, even though the allure of Chase Young is real. The Bengals can walk away from Dalton and save nearly $18 million, replacing him with the unflappable, Ohio-born Burrow to kick off a new era.
Ohio State EDGE Chase Young
Adding Young to a strong defensive interior trio of Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill would be something — really the missing ingredient to boost a pass rush that has been missing. In Young and Saquon Barkley, the Giants would have freakish, game-changing talents on each side of the ball. Young could be a superstar pass rusher in New York, on the level of Michael Strahan or perhaps Lawrence Taylor.
Iowa OT Tristan Wirfs
Some will want Georgia’s Andrew Thomas here, and that could work, too. Really, everything is on the table for the Redskins, who might move on from personnel honcho Bruce Allen. They tabbed Brandon Scherff from the same Hawkeyes program, however, and could do so again at tackle, which is a major need. Wirfs is a high-floor prospect who has excelled on the left and right sides.
Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa
Approximately zero people on Earth know how Tagovailoa’s hip will test in the coming months, so we’ve got another total guess here. He could go top five … or fall out of the first round … or not even declare for this draft cycle. If the medical reports are clean, it would make sense for the Dolphins to grab their potential franchise QB now and fill other needs with two more first-round picks on deck. Still, they have to be sweating this, even with big plans in free agency and with their war chest of draft capital.
5. Atlanta Falcons
Auburn DT Derrick Brown
This is another franchise mired in confusion, but whoever is making the picks might want to continue upgrading this defense. Brown and Grady Jarrett could be a great 1-2 punch, and the Falcons can upgrade in a big way over the likes of Allen Bailey, Jack Crawford and Tyeler Davison. Brown, a native of Sugar Hill, Georgia, would be coming home in this scenario.
Iowa EDGE A.J. Epenesa
This might feel a skosh early to some, but Epenesa has been on fire of late and is starting to resemble the game-wrecking defender many thought he would be at the start of the season. And besides, doesn’t he look like a Lions defender? That is, of course, if GM Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia are afforded a third year together in Detroit. A top wide receiver also could be an option here.
Georgia OT Andrew Thomas
The D.J. Humphries experiment might be on fumes, so landing Thomas here appears to be the perfect marriage of best talent available and high-level need. Kliff Kingsbury needs athletic blockers with stamina, and that’s exactly what Thomas brings. There are times you watch him glide on the field and think he’s an oversized tight end.
Ohio State CB Jeffrey Okudah
I thought long and hard about a receiver here, but Okudah is too damned good — the best man-cover corner in the draft, period — to still be on the board. He had a brilliant regular season and would be a big upgrade over Tre Herndon. Trading Jalen Ramsey left a big hole in a secondary that has only one elite player remaining in A.J. Bouye.
9. New York Jets
Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy
The Jets have decisions to make on a lot of things. Wide receiver is a spot with many questions. Robby Anderson and Demaryius Thomas are pending free agents. Jamison Crowder ($10 million) and Quincy Enunwa ($7.8M) have big 2020 salary-cap numbers. So it would not be stunning to see GM Joe Douglas’ first draft pick be Jeudy, even with pressing OL and pass rush needs. Jeudy can still be this draft’s WR1 despite a less-than-dominant 2019 campaign.
10. Los Angeles Chargers
Oregon QB Justin Herbert
The Chargers have a rare opportunity here following a poor season, with a talented roster and no designs on picking this high again in the coming years. If Philip Rivers is on the 18th fairway of his Chargers career, they could take Herbert and let Tyrod Taylor handle the reins until the talented Ducks passer is ready.
11. Denver Broncos
Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons
Denver could use a corner and offensive line help for sure. But let’s pair Vic Fangio and Simmons in what could be a perfect marriage. The Broncos were set on taking Michigan’s Devin Bush before the Steelers traded up to get him in April. Simmons is bigger and more athletic, and could be tasked with being the antidote for the AFC West’s talented tight ends — Travis Kelce, Hunter Henry and Darren Waller.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
Alabama WR Henry Ruggs III
Picking Ruggs over Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb might cause an uproar, and we get it. But if the Eagles are bent on adding speed at the position, Ruggs — who could be the 40-yard-dash champ in Indy — would be a reasonable choice. Ruggs’ second-most endearing trait might be his competitiveness. This is no soft track star we’re talking about. Scouts rave about Ruggs’ work ethic and football temperament in addition to his ability to take the tops off defenses.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Alabama OT Jedrick Wills Jr.
I know this defense needs a ton of work, but the Bucs also need an upgrade on the offensive line, and Wills is the type of hard-nosed blocker with strong movement skills that fits in perfectly as a replacement for right tackle Demar Dotson, who turns 35 next season. Wills is nasty and powerful and is developing nicely as a pass protector.
14. Carolina Panthers
LSU S Grant Delpit
I’ve highlighted Delpit’s tackling issues this season as a reason not to take him in the top 10, but it’s likely something that’s fixable, and he likely won’t fall too far in this draft. Delpit’s impressive range, skill and smarts are not teachable traits. Tre Boston is a solid player on the back end, but the Panthers could upgrade their secondary with an LSU safety duo of Delpit and Eric Reid (assuming the Panthers want to take on his $8 million cap hit).
15. Cleveland Browns
USC OT Austin Jackson
The Browns have depth issues all over the place, but offensive tackle must be upgraded somehow this offseason. Jackson is a fast riser who could be considered a reach here now, but his upside is undeniable. Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood is another option who could make sense here if they are bent on snagging a different blocker in Round 1.
16. Oakland Raiders
Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb
This might be highway robbery. Lamb has very good length and downfield ability, which is something that is sorely missing in Jon Gruden’s offense. You could do worse than having Lamb and Tyrell Williams on the outside with Hunter Renfrow in the slot, giving Derek Carr three good targets at wideout, along with TEs Darren Waller and Foster Moreau.
17. Indianapolis Colts
Utah State QB Jordan Love
We’ve detailed Love’s struggles this season thoroughly, and there even have been whispers that he could return to school or go elsewhere as a grad transfer. There’s still buzz in the scouting community over his tools, so he could end up a first-rounder. And a place like Indy, where Jacoby Brissett has leveled off lately, might be a good landing spot. GM Chris Ballard has yet to take a QB in his three drafts in Indy.
18. Raiders (from Chicago Bears)
Alabama LB Dylan Moses
Tua Tagovailoa isn’t the only Bama prospect with a murky injury projection. Moses suffered a torn ACL in August and has a decision to make: come out and hope an NFL team can live with his rehab schedule or come back and try to be a top-10 pick in 2021. The Raiders certainly could use an upgrade at the position. Moses could be a star in time.
19. Tennessee Titans
Washington QB Jacob Eason
Even if you’re a believer in Ryan Tannehill, who is 5-1 as a starter, it would be a good idea for the Titans to groom a future starter. Eason has terrific skills but has been all over the map this season for the Huskies. He’s in his fourth year of school and will turn 23 next season, so coming out is realistic, especially with the Huskies’ recent coaching change. Eason’s ceiling could be Matthew Stafford, but he’s not going to be ready Week 1 next fall.
20. Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams)
Clemson WR Tee Higgins
After taking a corner up high, they can circle back with another major need at receiver. Higgins had a fantastic regular season and is starting to rival the body of work produced by the nation’s top receivers. Imagine a future 1-2 punch of D.J. Chark and Higgins to go along with Dede Westbrook in the slot. Then they’d just need a tight end for Gardner Minshew.
21. Dallas Cowboys
South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw
This would be a great fit. The Cowboys badly need an interior presence to pair with Maliek Collins, and Kinlaw should be going higher than this. He was one of eight seniors coming into the season who received first-round grades from National Football Scouting, and Kinlaw has raised the bar — despite having offseason hip surgery. Does he have a bust quotient? Yes, but Kinlaw would be worth it here.
22. Dolphins (from Pittsburgh Steelers)
LSU EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson
He’s not yet a finished product, but Chaisson is one of the best “traits” prospects in 2020. Turn on the Florida or Alabama games and you see a player who is starting to figure it out after recommitting to football less than five years ago. The Dolphins need more active defenders, and Chaisson can be Brian Flores’ version of Jamie Collins.
23. Minnesota Vikings
Alabama CB Trevon Diggs
GM Rick Spielman cracked a joke back in April that his wife wouldn’t let him come come if the Vikings drafted another cornerback in Round 1. Welp ... we hope she can reconsider next spring. The Vikings likely need a corner with Trae Waynes slotted for free agency and Xavier Rhodes taking a step back. Diggs is a long, well-built cover man with ideal athleticism and — yep — is the little brother of Vikings WR Stefon Diggs. Wouldn’t that be a fun reunion?
24. Kansas City Chiefs
LSU CB Kristian Fulton
The Chiefs could go basically any direction on defense, but Fulton (or Ohio State’s Shaun Wade) makes a lot of sense. Fulton is fearless in man coverage, and though it can come back to bite him at times, he’s a really good size-speed option at this point. Charvarius Ward has exceeded all expectations in Kansas City, and Rashad Fenton looks like he has a home in the slot. But the secondary still needs a talent upgrade.
25. Dolphins (from Houston Texans)
Georgia RB D’Andre Swift
QB? Check. Pass rusher? Cross it off. Now they can come back and add another offensive playmaker in Swift, who will be RB1 on some teams’ boards in a strong year at the position. Swift would be a Day 1 difference-maker as a runner and receiver. And if it goes like this, the Dolphins would be drafting more SEC players in Round 1 of 2020 (three) than they have in all seven rounds of the past two drafts combined (two).
26. Buffalo Bills
Colorado WR Laviska Shenault Jr.
Even with their breakout season, the Bills are likely one more draft class away from being dangerous. Helping them take the next step on offense would be giving Josh Allen a big, athletic target with ball skills in Shenault. Right now, the Bills’ top two receivers — John Brown and Cole Beasley — are 5-foot-11 and 5-8, respectively. With promising TE Dawson Knox entering his second season and Shenault added to the mix, Allen could take another step.
27. Green Bay Packers
Alabama OT Alex Leatherwood
The Packers could seek help at either guard or tackle, and Leatherwood has played both. The worry: Could he play right tackle? Bryan Bulaga is a good player who can’t stay healthy. Leatherwood also wasn’t nearly as impressive in 2018 at right guard as he has been this season at left tackle. I’m still ambivalent of him as a prospect, but Leatherood has his fans among scouts. This pick would land a seventh Bama player in Round 1, breaking the all-time mark for one school, set by Miami in 2004.
28. New Orleans Saints
TCU WR Jalen Reagor
This explosive playmaker had a down season, production-wise, but scouts have not forgotten how explosive Reagor was in 2018, nor have they overlooked the Horned Frogs’ limitations in the passing game. If he tests as well as I suspect — he’s been timed sub-4.3 in the 40 at TCU — Reagor should go fairly high. The Saints haven’t had this type of player since Brandin Cooks, as Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara could use a third running mate.
29. New England Patriots
Washington TE Hunter Bryant
The lack of separators in the Patriots’ passing game has been glaring, and Bryant’s athleticism as an “F” tight end in space would be a welcome addition. Bryant’s injury history is a concern, so the medical portion of his evaluation ultimately will determine if he’s a top-50 pick. But his dynamic receiving ability would be a big upgrade over what has been the NFL’s least-productive TE group this season. Bill Belichick also could look to move down and recoup a second-rounder after trading theirs for Mohamed Sanu.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Oklahoma C Creed Humphrey
The 49ers’ interior OL trio of Mike Person, Laken Tomlinson and Weston Richburg have done a solid job, but none are irreplaceable. The team could move on from any of the three without much of a salary-cap footprint next year. Humphrey is only a redshirt sophomore, and it’s unclear if he’s declaring. He could give the 49ers a smart, tough, highly competitive center like Kyle Shanahan had in Atlanta with Alex Mack.
31. Baltimore Ravens
Penn State EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos
Matt Judon is due for a huge pay raise as he hits free agency, and the Ravens don’t yet know what they have in 2019 third-rounder Jaylon Ferguson. That’s why drafting the ascending Gross-Matos makes a ton of sense. He’s still learning the art of pass rushing, but his potential is immense. He also grew up a few hours down the road in Virginia. Alabama’s Terrell Lewis also would work here.
32. Seattle Seahawks
Ohio State CB Shaun Wade
The Seahawks are annually a trade-down candidate, and they also tend to target players who might not be as high on other teams’ boards. Wade didn’t play in last week’s romp over Michigan, but he’s been an active and versatile defender for the Buckeyes the past two seasons. He plays the nickel and the slot and is a good tackler and hitter with length. There were maturity questions early in his career, but Wade appears to have answered those. He’s been a hot name lately on the scouting circuit.
Teams without first-round selections
49. Bears — TCU OT Lucas Niang
Assuming the Bears address the QB position with a veteran addition, we could see the offensive line being a big focus in the draft. Niang was in the first-round discussion before reportedly suffering a season-ending torn hip labrum. This would be nice value here as a potential rookie starter.
51. Rams — Houston OT Josh Jones
The Rams are in win-now mode still — yet with precious little draft capital — so I project them to target the best blocker or pass catcher who lands in this spot. Jones might test well enough to go higher than this, but if not he’s a perfect candidate to replace left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who turns 38 in a few days.
54. Steelers — Utah EDGE Bradlee Anae
T.J. Watt is a DPOY candidate and Bud Dupree has looked reborn in a contract year. If they let Dupree walk, I could see Anae being an option. He’s something of a high-floor, low-ceiling player, and the middle of Round 2 might be a tad rich. Anae possesses that Steelers-grade nastiness, toughness and effort.
57. Texans — Clemson RB Travis Etienne
Etienne might end up as one of my 30 or 40 highest-graded players, but the wealth of high-end RB talent in this draft could push a few talented backs into this range. Carlos Hyde has been a find for the Texans, and they traded a third for Duke Johnson. Etienne could give them a better version of what they had with Lamar Miller.
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