I took a different path to get this point than in previous years. You could say the same thing about the 2020 NFL Draft.
By now, I’m usually getting ready to drop my third mock draft of the season, but alas, this is only my first. I took the long, slow road to rolling out this year’s content, partly by circumstance, partly by choice. Meanwhile, the rapidly developing global healthcare crisis of COVID-19 has impacted our communities, our nations, and our ways of life dramatically. The draft process and indeed the NFL Draft itself is among the figurative collateral damage incurred in the wake of governmental and organizational efforts to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.
It’s safe to say we’ve not seen a draft season like this before. We were fortunate to power through bowl season, the all-star game circuit, and the NFL Scouting Combine more or less like normal before the process came to a screeching halt prior to most college pro days. And to that end, you can best believe that the 32-team machine that is annually operating on all cylinders isn’t quite humming in the way we’re all used to come April—and we should expect the lingering effects of that anomaly to continue right on through the presentation of the selection meeting in three weeks’ time.
But, even with sea of change that’s currently washing over society, the mocks roll on in advance of draft day.
With that being said, I am pleased to present my 2020 NFL Mock Draft 1.0. These first-round projections are based on the current draft order and my impression of team needs as of April 3, and do not reflect any potential trade scenarios.
1 | Cincinnati Bengals — Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
After capping off perhaps the greatest single-season performance of any college quarterback ever by earning the Heisman Trophy and winning the College Football Playoff National Championship, the trendily anointed ‘Tiger King’ takes yet another top spot—the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
2 | Washington Redskins — Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
If not for the intersection of need and value between the Bengals and Burrow, Young would be the first player of any position drafted—easy. But, the board falls in the favor of the Redskins, who have the rare opportunity to draft a generational talent beyond the first pick.
3 | Detroit Lions — Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
The Lions could be a candidate to bail if the right offer comes in from the field for the chance to draft Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. But, since I’m not mocking trades in this edition, they address their deficient secondary with the selection of Okudah.
4 | New York Giants — Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
The prospect of choosing their pick of the top-tier offensive tackles has to be tempting for the Giants. But, the do-everything ability of Simmons would be hard to pass up for franchise that lacks an impact player on defense.
5 | Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The alleged “Tanking for Tua” plan didn’t work to perfection for either the Dolphins or the former Crimson Tide signal caller. But, his medicals have checked out and it looks like this seemingly destined match could end up just waiting until pick #5—unless Miami has intentions of moving up for their prospective prime target.
6 | Los Angeles Chargers — Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
A quarterback, either Oregon’s Justin Herbert or Utah State’s Jordan Love, is a strong possibility at #6, but I personally think that’s a little rich and maybe a little reckless for an offense that wouldn’t provide much help. Instead, they roll with Tyrod Taylor as a bridge for a year and start building a better foundation for the next QB with the mountainous Mekhi Becton.
7 | Carolina Panthers — C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
With a new coach, a new quarterback, and a lot of familiar faces departing from their defense, the Panthers are currently about as close as you can get to a clean slate. In this scenario, they tap talented coverman C.J. Henderson as their new cornerstone outside to help combat a division chock full of top receivers.
8 | Arizona Cardinals — Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
An improved Cardinals team with Kyler Murray behind center was expected to covet a receiver at #8 until they fleeced the Texans for DeAndre Hopkins. So, now they turn their attention to the offensive line, where adding the highly athletic Wirfs would be an immediate upgrade.
9 | Jacksonville Jaguars — Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
The Jaguars as they stand hardly resemble the team that seemed to be on the verge of joining the AFC’s elite just two seasons ago. But, they might start earning a reputation as a good drafting team if their good fortune of getting a great player to fall right into their lap continues with Brown.
10 | Cleveland Browns — Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Stocks were booming for the Browns heading into the season, but they came back down to earth by the end of the campaign. It’s sort of a similar story for Thomas, a talented blocker who was highly thought of throughout the year, then slid down the board really through no fault of his own. He gets the nod over fellow SEC stud Jedrick Wills Jr. here for being a left tackle by trade.
11 | New York Jets — CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
The Jets are lacking elite talent in multiple areas, but without a top-flight weapon opposing defenses have to account for in the passing game, they’ll continue to struggle scoring points. Lamb is instant offense for a team that desperately needs it.
12 | Las Vegas Raiders — Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
The Antonio Brown experiment was a bust in Oakland, leaving the Raiders wanting for a WR1 in their final season by the Bay. Now residing in Sin City, the NFL’s resident bad boys hope to hit the jackpot with Alabama ace Jerry Jeudy.
13 | San Francisco 49ers (via IND) — Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
The 49ers forged an incredible single-season turnaround thanks to a stifling defense, a hard-charging ground game, and a potent short passing attack. Adding the blazing-fast Ruggs to stretch the field could be the piece to put them over the top.
14 | Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama
With TB12 taking his talents to Tampa for what expects to be the twilight of his career, the first order of business for the Buccaneers should be fortifying the offensive line. Wills is an enforcer on the offensive edge.
15 | Denver Broncos — Josh Jones, OT, Houston
The Broncos appear to have the requisite pieces in place behind center and at the skill positions, but their offensive line still requires an overhaul. Jones is a riser in a deep tackle class and would take care of one urgent need up front.
16 | Atlanta Falcons — Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
I thought long and hard about the possibility of Atlanta drafting a successor to the aging Matt Ryan, and if they were picking deeper in the draft, I might have considered it. That said, while I don’t think they’re quite in the market for a quarterback yet, I do think they would welcome the opportunity to draft the dominating Kinlaw into their defensive front.
17 | Dallas Cowboys — K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
With their solid, if unspectacular, offseason moves, Dallas is effectively in a position to draft the best player available at #17. With the top defensive tackles and cornerbacks off the board, the high-upside Chaisson expects to be in the mix to fill a crucial role where the Cowboys are currently heavy on hope and light on options.
18 | Miami Dolphins (via PIT) — Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Back on the clock for the second time, the Dolphins add to their collection of former Badgers, bringing in versatile linebacker Zack Baun to be part playmaker, part pass rusher for a defense that could use both.
19 | Las Vegas Raiders (via CHI) — Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
With their second call into the commissioner, the Raiders will likely look at addressing their defense. After double-dipping last year with pass rushers and pass defenders, securing a second-level standout in Murray makes sense.
20 | Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR) — Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Upstart sophomore Gardner Minshew is the projected starter, but you wonder if Jacksonville is actually sold on him as the quarterback of the future—or as just a serviceable option for right now. If this scenario were to play out and they were to select Herbert, the answer would be clear.
21 | Philadelphia Eagles — Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Philadelphia is a popular landing spot for a receiver in most mocks I’ve seen, but they don’t always address first what the consensus declares the most obvious need. With that in mind, pencil in Patrick Queen at #21 as the Eagles start shoring up an alarmingly inadequate linebacker corps.
22 | Minnesota Vikings (via BUF) — Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
With the mass exodus of cornerbacks from the Minnesota secondary this offseason—Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander—the Vikings need to backfill with a pro-ready presence on the boundary. Gladney is a fierce competitor and fearless in coverage.
23 | New England Patriots — A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
With the door effectively closed on their two-decade dynasty with the departure of Tom Brady, the Patriots could begin anew with a young quarterback like Jordan Love. But, consider they ride with second-year signal caller Jarrett Stidham or opt for a late free-agent signing such as Cam Newton or Jameis Winston. Then a powerful pressure generator with position flex could be on the table for a defense short its two top sack leaders from last season.
24 | New Orleans Saints — Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Where some teams force a to reach to fill a need with their top pick, the Saints have the luxury of rounding out a depth chart with theirs—they’re pretty well stocked across the board. Diggs is the choice here, because no team ever has enough quality corners.
25 | Minnesota Vikings — Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
With their second selection in the first round, the Vikings should look fill the void created by trading receiver Stefon Diggs to the Bills. Justin Jefferson has been steadily climbing draft boards and would be a nice fit for SKOL Nation’s favorite sons.
26 | Miami Dolphins (via HOU) — Austin Jackson, OT, USC
After shipping former left tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Texans, the Dolphins might use the 2020 first-round pick acquired from Houston to draft a replacement. Austin Jackson trades SoCal for South Florida, making it six edge blockers off the board in this first-round scenario.
27 | Seattle Seahawks — Marlon Davidson, DL, Auburn
Offensive line seems like a pressing need for Seattle every year. But, looking at the names on their roster, I feel like they are going to try and patch the holes again using former starters turned spare parts. Alternatively, a disruptive inside-outside addition like Davidson could be in the cards to boost their defensive line rotation.
28 | Baltimore Ravens — Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
The Ravens have expended a considerable cache of draft capital in recent years to find their next great edge rusher. But, their latest candidate, Matt Judon, is currently on the franchise tag and might only be around for one more season. Gross-Matos could be groomed as a replacement or make for a complementary bookend if Judon sticks around.
29 | Tennessee Titans — Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU
Career Titan Jurrell Casey was traded to Denver in March, leaving a large vacancy in their defensive front line and big veteran shoes to fill. Blacklock is worthy of first-round consideration and might be viewed as a suitable successor.
30 | Green Bay Packers — Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Baylor receiver Denzel Mims has been a popular pick for the Pack after making a huge splash at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine. But, the electric Reagor would provide a different kind of skillset for an offense that is already loaded with big, athletic receivers.
31 | San Francisco 49ers — Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota
With their designated first-round pick, a defensive tackle prospect to replace the traded DeForest Buckner might be the obvious direction. But, I’ll offer the left-field selection of stud safety Antoine Winfield Jr. to push veteran Jaquiski Tartt and role player Tarvarius Moore for starting snaps.
32 | Kansas City Chiefs — Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Closing out the first round, the Super Bowl Champions pluck an accomplished pass defender from the College Football Playoff National Champions. Fulton would expect to be a day-one starter at corner as the Chiefs set out to defend their crown.