A week ago, the 2020 NFL Draft was held over the course of three days to rousing success. To the league’s credit, they successfully pulled off the first virtual draft event that took us everywhere from Roger Goodell’s basement man cave to Jerry Jones’ $250M mega yacht; from Kliff Kingsbury’s palatial bachelor pad to Mike Vrabel’s menagerie for his parade of human oddities; and even direct to the dining room table domain of Bill Belichick’s dog, Nike.
Indeed, it was a unique peek behind the curtain separating the fan and the NFL’s elite. It was also an intimate look at what will soon be considered the humble beginnings of the league’s next generation of superstars.
But, far from the limelight of the ESPN and NFL Network simulcast, it was also a crowning moment for yours truly, as my 2020 NFL Mock Draft: Final Edition emerged victorious in both The Huddle Report Mock Draft Scoring competition and The Mock Draft Database HERC Score competition.
Among an increasingly competitive community of established and self-proclaimed experts, I certainly did not expect to earn the mantle of mock draft champion.
Yet, here I am.
And as much of a curiosity it is every year as to how the most renowned names in the business can miss the mark by a considerable margin, I venture there are people who wonder how a veritable unknown like me came away with the most accurate mock draft of the season according to both The Huddle Report and The Mock Draft Database.
So, as part of my self-scouting efforts in closing the book on the 2020 NFL Draft, I thought I would provide my own peek behind the curtain, examining how my aim to compete, to increase the exposure for my brand, and to present a good accounting of myself and my work actually became an exercise in building a winning mock draft.
“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.”
This is quoted directly from the introduction to my final mock draft. And I think it’s entirely appropriate considering the outcome.
Once final mock drafts start flying in the days before the NFL Draft, it’s generally easy to find the trends and see where insider information from anonymous or protected sources is coming into play. We saw that this year with a number of high-profile analysts making late switches on early picks, such as DT Derrick Brown becoming the favorite over CB Jeff Okudah to go to the Lions at #3 and OT Tristan Wirfs becoming the popular choice to go to the Giants at #4. However, the most egregious example occurred with the Dolphins at #5, as there was a tangible swing to QB Justin Herbert over QB Tua Tagovailoa, and not only Herbert being locked in as the pick, but perhaps being the target of a trade up.
When these eleventh-hour tips start factoring into mock drafts and you have yet to complete your own, you have a choice—proceed to follow the crowd or pass in favor of forming your own opinions.
I personally don’t see anything wrong with taking the word of an analyst you trust. If you are someone like me with no contacts in the league and no connections with the NFL Draft media who do have them, that data could make the difference between the right pick or the wrong pick for a selection that has you on the fence. However, in doing so, you are also basing your work on third-party information that you cannot confirm is true and sources that you personally have no way of knowing are credible.
It’s up to you to decide whether to believe the hype and risk being duped by a smokescreen—or carve your own path and be willing to crash and burn on your own merits. That being said, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can even weigh the option pick for pick. But, ultimately, the choices you make will affect the success of your mock draft.
In the end, going with the flow is just fine if your goal is a respectable score. Just like when drafting players, there’s no shame in going the route of the high floor. But, understand, that at some point, the more established and well-connected experts will probably come out ahead. You also have to consider that the more your mock draft resembles theirs, then the less authentic your effort appears in comparison.
That’s why I would say I am firmly on the side of forming your own opinions about who you expect to go where. If anything, use the general consensus as a form of confirmation bias. If you believe in a projected pick and it lines up with the field, you have validation. If it’s contrarian, be it as a calculated gamble of going against the grain or a personal conviction in your own process, and you’re correct?
Well, there’s the secret to creating separation or making up ground in mock draft competition.
Now, taking the road less traveled does not come without risk. But, as you may have discerned, my personal approach to building my final mock draft is generally to go boom-or-bust. Not only is it more fun to write, I feel it’s more enjoyable to read. But, even more importantly, I feel like the high-risk/high-reward nature provides the best opportunity to win.
There are two frameworks for constructing a final mock draft—with trades or without. I’m not necessarily an advocate for either, as they both have their benefits. It’s really just a matter of preference and how much thought you want to put into moving pieces up and down the board in terms of teams and players.
Per my previous point, I do think incorporating trades does make the exercise more fun, both as a writer and a reader. But, I also think there is a higher probability of missing on individual picks and making of a mockery of your mock draft as a whole when trades are involved.
But, as I said… boom-or-bust.
If your goal is to build a winning mock draft, I think you have to make an earnest run at predicting the unpredictable and not be afraid of having it all fall apart. You don’t have to go wild, but if you think a team will want to move up or down the board, or if you can only reconcile a particular player-team fit from a different draft position—then go for it. Incorporating trades is also a way to squeeze in a player who you think will go off the board in the first round, but who doesn’t have a natural home with the draft order as it stands.
Now, you could just as easily slot the player to the team that you expect to trade out, but in doing so, you’re also likely conceding points if you’re correct. So, if you are committed to making the pick, you might as well swap out the teams and shoot for the higher score, right?
Whether you choose to work in trades or go without, being a little bolder with your player selection is also advisable if you are aiming for peak accuracy with your mock draft. I wouldn’t expect anyone who has ever topped the annual leaderboard to have played it safe with every pick. You have to be willing to yield to BPA (Best Player Available) when applicable and step outside of the comfortable box of projecting players to teams solely on need and personal rankings. Because you have a league of 32 teams who are all competing with each other for talent and who all have different philosophies for team building, projecting picks is simply not matching your top player at a position on the board to the next team with that need. Their evaluations are different, their boards are different, and their draft tendencies are different. Fits are fine, but the nuance of value is what really determines the way the board falls in your mock draft.
Per The Huddle Report scoring system, a perfect score would be a 96. Per The Mock Draft Database scoring system, a perfect HERC score would 100.
While an admirable goal, a perfect mock draft is effectively a unicorn. With my mock draft, I tied for the highest mock draft score of the past 10 years per The Huddle Report with a 53 and I set the new HERC score record as calculated by The Mock Draft Database with a 58.13.
So, if you think that I think that I have the secret to building a perfect mock draft, I don’t. But, I think it would be interesting to look at the thought process I outlined above in execution and show you how effective it was in practical application by reviewing my winning mock draft.
Here’s the breakdown:
1. BENGALS — Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
2. REDSKINS — Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Hit & Hit. These were locks. Nothing to see here.
3. LIONS — Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Hit. As much as the Lions reportedly liked DT Derrick Brown, an elite CB like Okudah is by far more difficult to come by. And I did not see Detroit’s defensive line as being as deficient as their secondary. Apparently, neither did they—they didn’t draft at DT until Round 6.
4. GIANTS — Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama
Semi-Hit. The Giants selected OT Andrew Thomas. OT Tristan Wirfs was a popular pick in most final mock drafts, but I projected Wills, who actually went #10 to the Browns. Between Wills and Wirfs, I think most expected New York to draft a right tackle by trade. But, Thomas was also an All-American at right tackle his freshman season at Georgia. I personally did not take that into consideration, instead seeing Thomas as the safe, plug-and-play left tackle option who would probably go second, third, or fourth among the tier-one tackles.
5. DOLPHINS — Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
6. CHARGERS — Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Hit & Hit. The Tank for Tua campaign came to fruition in a roundabout way despite late-breaking reports that the Dolphins were all in on drafting QB Justin Herbert, perhaps even exploring a trade up to #3. I’m not sure exactly where the information initially came from, but what proved to be a bit of a bait-and-switch did appear to throw off a lot of media mocks. For the record, I started out projecting the Dolphins trading up to #3, but it was going to be for Tua. When the Herbert reports broke, I thought about revising the stretch of picks between #3 and #6, because it seemed like there was high level of confidence that it was going to happen. But, in the end, I couldn’t bring myself to buy into it and just decided to stick with my original picks—only wiping out the projected trade. I did get it right, but I thought that if I was wrong, at least it wouldn’t throw off my mock as much if I just played the order straight. As for slotting Herbert to the Chargers, I came to the conclusion that the Chargers would try to inject some energy into their franchise by taking the QB that Miami didn’t, rather than attempt to build around journeyman veteran Tyrod Taylor.
7. PANTHERS — Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
8. CARDINALS — Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Semi-Hit & Semi-Hit. I had these picks in reverse of how they went, as Brown ended up going to Carolina and Simmons to Arizona. Brown was certainly a consideration at #7 for me, but I thought Simmons might be a more natural fit and a better value as a Swiss Army knife defender. Now, even if I had slotted Brown to the Panthers, I never really considered Simmons as the pick for the Cardinals. I would have had them pick an OT there, probably Tristan Wirfs. To that end, I think this swap actually worked in my favor.
9. JAGUARS — C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
Hit. Initially slotted in the Top-20 range, Henderson’s draft stock caught fire in the weeks leading up to the draft to the point where he was considered a lock Top-10 selection. I could have seen him being drafted as high as #7 to the Panthers. With Brown off the board in my mock draft, I thought this was an easy call because of Jacksonville’s situation at CB. Now, there was buzz that the Falcons would make a play to land Henderson, but I didn’t think it was plausible that 1) the Jaguars would pass on Henderson or 2) the Jaguars would trade away from Henderson, meaning Atlanta would likely have to pay a king’s ransom to jump up into the Top-8 to snag him. I didn’t think the Falcons would do that and they didn’t.
10. BROWNS — Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Semi-Hit. Thomas went #4 to the Giants, while Jedrick Wills Jr. went #10 to the Browns. Much like the decision at #4, where I had Wills as the plug-and-play right tackle for the Giants, I had Thomas as the plug-and-play left tackle for the Browns. But, while I did not score direct hits on these two picks, it still worked in my favor because, again, I simply had the players swapped between the same two teams. More importantly, I had the same 10 players go in the Top-10 of my mock draft that went in the Top-10 of the actual draft, which meant I still had the whole board in front of me. With that, I was not only going to be in the hunt for an accurate mock, but right on track to make a run if the picks between #10 and #20 fell in my favor.
11. JETS — Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Hit. Despite having their pick of wide receivers here, I thought the depth at the position would have the Jets leaning tackle. And my feeling was that they would prefer Becton to Wirfs, which they did.
12. BUCCANEERS — Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Hit. Now here is where I introduced my first projected trade. I did not see any course of action for Tampa Bay other than taking a tackle. My assumption was that once the third went off the board, they would make a play for the fourth, whoever it may be, provided the jump was reasonable. In my mock draft, they traded with the Raiders to jump from #14 to #12 to take Wirfs. In the actual draft, they only needed to move up one spot to #13, trading instead with the 49ers. To be fair, I could have had the Buccaneers stand pat at #14 and still had the same outcome in my mock draft, but I was correct in them being compelled to trade up.
13. BRONCOS — Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Hit. Again, another projected trade here, with the Broncos swapping their #15 pick for the 49ers pick at #13. My logic was that the Broncos were going to be targeting a receiver and that they might have to jump the Raiders to ensure they could land the one they were after. In the actual draft, they didn’t have to move to get Jerry Jeudy, but like the Buccaneers and Wirfs, I still earned maximum points for the match.
14. RAIDERS — CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Semi-Hit. The other half of the projected trade with the Buccaneers, the Raiders ended up staying put at #12 and drafting WR Henry Ruggs III, while Lamb went #17 to the Cowboys. Which again, was another player swap that still worked in my favor while being a miss on the match.
15. 49ERS — Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
Hit. The other half of the projected trade with the Broncos, the 49ers actually ended up trading one spot back from #13 with the Buccaneers and drafting Kinlaw at #14. While the 49ers were expected to strongly consider a receiver here, I thought they might seek to fill their DT need first to keep their strength strong and then pursue a receiver later, either with their pick at #31 or perhaps with a trade down scenario into the second or third round. Suffice to say, I chose wisely.
16. FALCONS — K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
Semi-Hit. I thought Atlanta’s top three options were Henderson, Kinlaw, and Chaisson. By process of elimination, the pick here was Chaisson. The Falcons ended up drafting CB A.J. Terrell, who moved into the first-round conversation late and was expected to go in the Top-20 range. I simply didn’t think Atlanta would pass on Chaisson in favor of Terrell. I was wrong, but I had the general range right for Chaisson, who went at #20 to Jacksonville.
17. COWBOYS — Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Semi-Hit. If you read my mock draft write-up, then you know I fully expected to get this pick wrong for the Cowboys. I didn’t think they would take a receiver, but I couldn’t force myself out of them picking Ruggs. Had it been Lamb or Jeudy in my mock draft who was available, the third receiver still would have been the pick. Lo and behold, CeeDee Lamb was the last of the three on the board and the pick for Dallas at #17. And fortunately for me, it was another simple swap of the picks for the Cowboys and the Raiders that kept my mock in lockstep with the actual draft in terms of who was left on the board.
18. DOLPHINS — Josh Jones, OT, Houston
19. RAIDERS — A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
Miss & Semi-Hit. I had the positions right, but not the picks. The Dolphins went with OT Austin Jackson, who I had slotted to the Jaguars at #20, and the Raiders went with CB Damon Arnette, who I don’t think was in the first round of any mock draft, let alone the Top-20. As for my picks, the league was apparently much lower on Jones, who slipped to the third round, while Terrell went at #16 to Atlanta.
20. JAGUARS — Austin Jackson, OT, USC
Semi-Hit. Jackson went at #18 to the Dolphins, while the Jaguars landed Chaisson at #20. But, looking at the bigger picture, my mock draft was once again a closed loop here. I had no Top-20 picks who slipped later into the first round, nor any players selected between #21 and #32 who snuck in. Even the whiff on OT Josh Jones at #18 was offset by the surprise selection of CB Damon Arnette at #19.
21. EAGLES — Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Semi-Hit. I think an overwhelming majority of mock drafts had slotted WR Justin Jefferson to the Eagles at some point, even right up the very end. I was contrarian, projecting Queen to Philadelphia despite strong evidence that they simply would not take a LB. They didn’t, instead they selected WR Jalen Reagor. Meanwhile, Queen went at #28 to the Ravens.
22. VIKINGS — Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Hit. While I didn’t follow the trend at any point of mocking Jefferson to the Eagles, I didn’t see him making it past the Vikings at #22. It was the right call.
23. PATRIOTS — Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
24. RAVENS — Cesar Ruiz, OL, Michigan
Semi-Hit & Semi-Hit. This was a fascinating coincidence as I had the correct players going at #23 and #24, but I missed on the teams. First, the Patriots traded out of their pick with the Chargers, who moved up to draft Murray. Then I projected a trade between the Saints and the Ravens that saw Baltimore move up to draft Ruiz, but instead the Saints stood in and made the same pick.
25. VIKINGS — Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Miss. This was the biggest disappointment for me personally of my mock draft. I had the Vikings drafting CB Jeff Gladney in both my Mock Draft 1.0 and my seven-round Super Mock because I loved the fit. Then I shied away from Gladney in the final mock because I bit on reports of the league being higher on Fulton than the media was and thought maybe Minnesota at #25 would be where that would materialize. The Vikings ultimately picked Gladney at #31 after trading back with the 49ers and I left points on the board with the big whiff. Here’s an example of needing to trust your process.
26. DOLPHINS — Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Miss. The Dolphins traded back to #30 with the Packers and selected CB Noah Igbinoghene, who I did not project in the first round. I don’t think anyone else did either, which meant nothing was gained or lost with their pick. McKinney ended up going in the early-second to the Giants at #36.
27. SEAHAWKS — Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Miss. Shockingly, the Seahawks stood in and made a pick at #27 instead of trading out of the first round, selecting LB Jordyn Brooks. Diggs, meanwhile, went at #51 to the Cowboys. This ended up being another wash, as Brooks was a relatively uncommon name among final mock drafts.
28. SAINTS — Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Semi-Hit. Finding a place to slip Aiyuk into the first round paid off. I thought he might be a good fit with the Saints in this projected trade down with Baltimore, but he ended up going to the 49ers at #25 in their trade up with the Vikings. As for pick #28, this was where the Ravens drafted LB Patrick Queen, my pick at #21 to the Eagles.
29. TITANS — Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia
Hit. I called this pick a foregone conclusion in my write-up. It just made too much sense.
30. PACKERS — Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Semi-Hit. Reagor was another player who I wanted in the first round, but I didn’t see an obvious landing spot. I figured Green Bay would be as a good of a place as any since it seemed like they could use some juice at receiver. I was correct in projecting Reagor would come off the board early, only it was to the Eagles at #21. Meanwhile, the Packers traded up to #26 with the Dolphins to draft QB Jordan Love. I was contrarian in that I didn’t have Love in my mock draft, despite first-round buzz among the media throughout the draft process. I pegged him as more of an early-second round consideration. So, that ended up being a whiff on my part, but one I was content with because of my conviction in evaluating the player.
31. EAGLES — Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
Miss. I don’t know that Mims not going in the first round was a surprise, but I think him lasting until late in the second round was wholly unexpected. I thought he might round out the run on receivers there at the end of the night, maybe in a trade up scenario like this one I projected with the Eagles and 49ers. But, unlike Aiyuk earlier, my attempt to work Mims into the first round did not pay off.
32. CHIEFS — Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU
The Knockout Blow. Talk about boom-or-bust — initially just a fun fit to close out my final mock draft, this bold projection turned out to be the 50/50 ball that connected for the win. I don’t think I was the only person who had the Chiefs drafting a back at #32, but here was an example of not just slotting the consensus top player at the position to the team with a need. I thought another team could possibly draft RB D’Andre Swift in the #25-#32 range, which would conceivably put Clyde Edwards-Helaire in position for a first-round selection as RB2 off the board. But, I also thought because of his all-around skillset, that CEH might actually be the first RB taken. So, instead of including Swift in my final mock draft, I decided to hedge my bets on the receivers, effectively being content to miss should he go in the first round. Meanwhile, I did not move away from CEH from being the pick at #32. It was offbeat, out-of-the-box thinking based in nothing other than my own impressions of need, fit, and value, and while I could have just as easily missed, it just so happened that fortune favored the bold.
Despite the hot and holier-than-thou takes, there’s no shame in doing a mock draft just as there’s no real right or wrong way to build one—it just depends on what you want to accomplish with it. If you want to present a scenario, put your personal rankings into practice, present what you would do if you were each team, or put whatever kind of spin you want on it, those are all valid exercises.
But, with a final mock draft, I do think the goal should be to predict the players who you expect to be picked and the teams that you expect to pick them as accurately as possible, over all else.
To that point, if your intent is not just to build an accurate mock draft, but to build a winning mock draft, I think I’ve hazily outlined a viable approach. You’re welcome to use it to support your own efforts to compete and, dare I say, even challenge for the throne. But, don’t think that I’ve shared all of my secrets… after all, I have two mock draft championships to defend in 2021!
The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft is now officially closed — but we’re just getting started!
My final first-round mock draft scored the highest in The Huddle Report’s 2020 Mock Draft Scoring competition. And now, I am pleased to present my 2020 NFL Mock Draft: Day 2 Edition. These Round 2 and Round 3 projections are based on the draft order as it currently stands and my impression of remaining team needs, and do not reflect any potential trade scenarios.
Enjoy the draft!
33. BENGALS — Josh Jones, OT, Houston
34. COLTS — Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC
35. LIONS — D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
36. GIANTS — Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
37. PATRIOTS — A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
38. PANTHERS — Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
39. DOLPHINS — Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
40. TEXANS — Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
41. BROWNS — Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota
42. JAGUARS — Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
43. BEARS — Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
44. COLTS — Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame
45. BUCCANEERS — J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
46. BRONCOS — Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
47. FALCONS — Josh Uche, EDGE, Michigan
48. JETS — Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
49. STEELERS — Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
50. BEARS — Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois
51. COWBOYS — Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
52. RAMS — Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
53. EAGLES — Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming
54. BILLS — Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
55. RAVENS — Robert Hunt, OL, Louisiana-Lafayette
56. DOLPHINS — Grant Delpit, S, LSU
57. RAMS — Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State
58. VIKINGS — John Simpson, OG, Clemson
59. SEAHAWKS — Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
60. RAVENS — Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame
61. TITANS — Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
62. PACKERS — Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State
63. CHIEFS — Marlon Davidson, DL, Auburn
64. SEAHAWKS — Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama
65. BENGALS — Willie Gay Jr., LB, Mississippi State
66. REDSKINS — Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn
67. LIONS — Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah
68. JETS — Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State
69. PANTHERS — Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
70. DOLPHINS — Lloyd Cushenberry III, OC, LSU
71. CHARGERS — Matt Peart, OT, Connecticut
72. CARDINALS — Lucas Niang, OT, TCU
73. JAGUARS — Saahdiq Charles, OT, LSU
74. BROWNS — Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
75. COLTS — Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma
76. BUCCANEERS — K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State
77. BRONCOS — Matt Hennessy, OC, Temple
78. FALCONS — Zack Moss, RB, Utah
79. JETS — Jonathan Greenard, EDGE, Florida
80. RAIDERS — Darrynton Evans, RB, Appalachian State
81. RAIDERS — Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
82. COWBOYS — Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M
83. BRONCOS — Ashtyn Davis, S, California
84. RAMS — Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame
85. LIONS — Ben Bredeson, OG, Michigan
86. BILLS — Terrell Burgess, DB, Utah
87. PATRIOTS — Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton
88. SAINTS — Antonio Gibson, RB/WR, Memphis
89. VIKINGS — Darrell Taylor, EDGE, Tennessee
90. TEXANS — Jordan Elliott, DL, Missouri
91. RAIDERS — Leki Fotu, DT, Utah
92. RAVENS — Curtis Weaver, EDGE, Boise State
93. TITANS — Davon Hamilton, DT, Ohio State
94. PACKERS — Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
95. BRONCOS — James Lynch, DL, Baylor
96. CHIEFS — Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech
97. BROWNS — Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina
98. PATRIOTS — Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
99. GIANTS — Davion Taylor, LB, Colorado
100. PATRIOTS — Van Jefferson, WR, Florida
101. SEAHAWKS — Reggie Robinson II, CB, Tulsa
102. STEELERS — Jabari Zuniga, EDGE, Florida
103. EAGLES — Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame
104. RAMS — Darnay Holmes, DB, UCLA
105. VIKINGS — Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
106. RAVENS — Lynn Bowden Jr., WR, Kentucky
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.