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 * PROJECTEDTRADE 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 * PROJECTEDTRADE 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 * PROJECTEDTRADE 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 * PROJECTEDTRADE 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 * PROJECTEDTRADE 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 * PROJECTEDTRADE 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.
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.