In January, we received a glimpse of what would have been the most unique NFL Draft experience we had seen to this point as plans for the elaborate presentation to emanate from the Las Vegas Strip were revealed.
Three months later, Commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to announce selections from his basement while front office staffs operate from distributed war rooms and top picks celebrate from the comforts of home—all as part of a virtual draft event that’s equal parts ambitious and ridiculous, and comes laden with so many points of potential failure that it could have been a plot device for HBO’s now-defunct series Silicon Valley.
Suffice to say, starting Thursday night, we are indeed getting the NFL Draft like we’ve never seen it before. Just not like anyone could have possibly expected. And now, the emerging narrative surrounding the actual selection of players seems to be trending toward the unexpected as well.
But, ultimately, there are still the same, two distinct paths to complete this final exercise as there are every year for a one-man war room like me—playing for field position with the consensus until contacts and clout inevitably win out, or launching a 50/50 ball on 4th down on the off chance that chaos becomes chalk.
With that being said, my score may suffer, but in the immortal words of the legendary Roger Staubach: “Hail Mary.”
Thus, I present my final 2020 NFL Mock Draft. These first-round projections are based on the current draft order and my impression of team needs heading into the draft, with consideration given to potential trade scenarios.
Enjoy the draft!
1 | Cincinnati Bengals — Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
This has been locked in since the season’s end. The official selection Thursday night is but a mere formality.
2 | Washington Redskins — Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
I’m sure they’ve entertained the possibilities of not taking the best player in the draft, but let’s not overthink it.
3 | Detroit Lions — Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
The Lions are ideally positioned to take the second defender off the board or do business with a team chasing a quarterback. In either case, CB1 should be the pick.
4 | New York Giants — Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama
They can consider a stud defender or explore a trade back, but the Giants can’t expect Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley to be successful trotting out their offensive line in the shape it is now.
5 | Miami Dolphins — Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The Dolphins were rumored to have settled on drafting Justin Herbert to be their next quarterback—until they weren’t. So, let’s dismiss the draft week conjecture entirely and say they take Tua. They can still try tanking for Trevor Lawrence if it doesn’t work out.
6 | Los Angeles Chargers — Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The Chargers have a bridge quarterback on the books for one season, just invested heavily in their offensive line, and need a new face of the franchise. It’s rich for Herbert, in my opinion, but it makes sense by draft logic.
7 | Carolina Panthers — Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Cornerback and defensive tackle are both strong possibilities, but Simmons is a unique talent that the Panthers can (re)build around.
8 | Arizona Cardinals — Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Offensive tackle is on the table, but the Cardinals could also beef up their defensive front to compete in a division with two of the strongest rushing attacks in the game.
9 | Jacksonville Jaguars — C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
The buzz around Henderson has been growing and the Jaguars have a clear need at cornerback. Whether he stays in-state or relocates, the Florida product now projects as a Top-10 selection.
10 | Cleveland Browns — Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Thomas has gained steam late in the process for being the plug-and-play left tackle option in this class. The Browns would love to see him still on the board here.
11 | New York Jets — Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
The Jets are certainly a contender to take the first receiver off the board, but they might not get another chance at one of the top offensive tackles.
12 | Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
* PROJECTED TRADE WITH LAS VEGAS RAIDERS * If the run on offensive tackles starts and the Buccaneers are within reasonable striking distance, look for a trade up.
13 | Denver Broncos — Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
* PROJECTED TRADE WITH SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS * The Broncos are reportedly targeting a wide receiver and willing to move up. Jumping ahead of their division rival to take their pick of the top pass catchers is an added bonus.
14 | Las Vegas Raiders — CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
* PROJECTED TRADE WITH TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS * In my mind, I hear Mike Mayock gushing over Jerry Jeudy, but I now see CeeDee Lamb in the silver and black. The Broncos trading up makes the decision easy.
15 | San Francisco 49ers (via IND) — Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
* PROJECTED TRADE WITH DENVER BRONCOS * The 49ers cut the heart out of their defensive line by shipping DeForest Buckner and his contract to the Colts. Kinlaw would fill the void.
16 | Atlanta Falcons — K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
The Falcons have been linked to Henderson, Kinlaw, and Chaisson. If they don’t rise up in a trade, the high-upside pass rusher might be the only one of those names left on the board at #16 as he is here.
17 | Dallas Cowboys — Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
This is where I came to the crossroads of my final mock draft. I fully expect the Cowboys to draft for an obvious need (CB or EDGE), a sneaky need (LB), or trade back. I don’t personally see the value here at cornerback or pass rusher. I couldn’t bring myself to mock them a linebacker. And I simply couldn’t find a logical trade partner. I don’t think Dallas would draft Ruggs because of the holes on defense—but they don’t have a third receiver, their offense has long lacked a legitimate deep threat, and they are about to pay the quarterback. I expect to be wrong here, but I couldn’t force my way out of making this pick.
18 | Miami Dolphins (via PIT) — Josh Jones, OT, Houston
Regardless of who they end up drafting at quarterback, he will need protection. Jones is generally considered the next-best edge blocker beyond the tier-one tackles.
19 | Las Vegas Raiders (via CHI) — A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
Terrell’s stock is apparently higher in league circles than it has been in the draft community. Among the rumored suitors are the Raiders, who could once again tap into the Clemson pipeline.
20 | Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR) — Austin Jackson, OT, USC
The Jaguars are among the teams in the market for an offensive tackle. Jackson would be drafting the position with an eye toward the future as he’s not necessarily ready to go right now.
21 | Philadelphia Eagles — Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Wide receiver is the sexy pick for Philadelphia at #21. Linebacker is the more glaring need and the pool isn’t nearly as deep. Queen it is.
22 | Minnesota Vikings (via BUF) — Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
The Vikings have choice needs to address, but if they take a corner first, the window between #22 and #25 might be wide enough for another team to sneak in and steal Jefferson.
23 | New England Patriots — Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
The Patriots could be interested in drafting a new quarterback—it just happens to be the one on defense.
24 | Baltimore Ravens — Cesar Ruiz, OL, Michigan
* PROJECTED TRADE WITH NEW ORLEANS SAINTS * In it to win it and with extra picks to work with, the Ravens might consider moving up to secure the top interior offensive lineman in the draft.
25 | Minnesota Vikings — Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Despite receiver being the priority, cornerback is arguably the most urgent need for the Vikings. Fulton seems to be firmly in the first-round conversation despite draft circles cooling on him during the process.
26 | Miami Dolphins (via HOU) — Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
The Dolphins were active in free agency and their defense is starting to look formidable on paper. McKinney would be another pillar.
27 | Seattle Seahawks — Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Seattle always seems to be the wildcard late in the first round. Diggs feels like an uncharacteristically sensible pick and should compete for a starting role.
28 | New Orleans Saints — Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
* PROJECTED TRADE WITH BALTIMORE RAVENS * The Saints have a loaded roster, but are light on picks. They could trade back to acquire an asset or two, and still be in range of an offensive weapon like Aiyuk or TCU’s Jalen Reagor.
29 | Tennessee Titans — Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia
At this point, the Titans taking Wilson to be their new right tackle is considered a foregone conclusion. We’ll see if it plays out that way.
30 | Green Bay Packers — Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
The Packers have a number of tall trees populating their receiver depth chart. Reagor would bring a different dimension to their offense and return game.
31 | Philadelphia Eagles — Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
* PROJECTED TRADE WITH SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS * Late in the first round expects to be a sweet spot for the second wave of receivers. If San Francisco shops their pick at #31, Mims could be in play for a team like the Eagles, who aren’t afraid to make a move up for a player they covet.
32 | Kansas City Chiefs — Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
The Chiefs have done well to fill holes this offseason and could certainly entertain offers to move back. If they hold, Edwards-Helaire has an all-around skillset that would be fun in Andy Reid’s offense.