A new wave of talent will enter the pro football ranks when the 2020 NFL Draft is held on April 23-25 in an entirely virtual format. While trades will be made, this mock draft is focused on the current order and is based on what I believe are the most pressing needs of each team. Let's get to the picks.
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Cincinnati has not had a winning record since the 2015 season, and a 2-14 record in 2019 matched their franchise-worst mark set in 2002. That dismal season gave the Bengals the first overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft, and they used it to select quarterback Carson Palmer. History will be repeated when Cincinnati selects LSU QB Joe Burrow with the first pick in the 2020 NFL draft. William Hill has Burrow as a prohibitive favorite with -2200 odds to taken first overall.
2. Washington: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
While Burrow is widely regarded as the consensus first overall pick, Chase Young is the best athlete available in the 2020 NFL draft. Young was a beast during his final season at Ohio State as he racked up a team-record 16.5 sacks.
Washington has plenty of needs, but Young would join Daron Payne, Montez Sweat, and Jonathan Allen. That allows the Redskins to build one of the best defensive lines in the league. In addition to a fantastic skillset, Young is loaded with confidence and will play close to home after staring at DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland.
3. Detroit Lions: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Detroit added CB Desmond Trufant from Atlanta and then traded disgruntled CB Darius Slay to Philadelphia. That still leaves a need for secondary help, as the Lions pass defense was one of the worst in the NFL last season. Isaiah Simmons won the 2019 Butkus Award and played 100 or more snaps at five different positions during his final season for Clemson. That versatility is an instant upgrade to the Lions' weak defense. While my colleague Frankie Taddeo has Simmons falling to the Giants, he is a good fit for defensive-minded head coach Matt Patricia in Detroit.
4. New York Giants: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
New York made significant investments on offense by drafting QB Daniel Jones and RB Saquon Barkley during the last two drafts. Adding pass protection for Jones, while finding a player that can open holes for Barkley, is a pressing need for the Giants. The 2020 NFL draft is loaded with talented offensive line prospects. That includes Louisville Cardinals OT Mekhi Becton, who excels at run blocking and can step in immediately as a blind-side protector for Jones. Becton (6’ 7”, 364) helped Lamar Jackson post spectacular numbers during his freshman season at Louisville in 2017.
5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Drafting a franchise quarterback is a top priority for Miami as 15-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is entering the final year of his contract. This is another position with a deep talent pool. Bookmakers set the O/U at 4.5 quarterbacks selected in the first round.
Tua Tagovailoa posted 7,442 passing yards with 87 TD and 11 INT over 32 games in his collegiate career. While a concern, Tagovailoa is progressing well from the hip injury he suffered during his final season at Alabama. This is a good fit as Miami can ease him into action with Fitzpatrick as a mentor.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Los Angeles is another team looking to draft a franchise quarterback after Philip Rivers signed with the Colts as a free agent. That leaves Tyrod Taylor and Easton Stick on the Chargers QB depth chart, and neither of them are long-term solutions. Justin Herbert played 43 games for Oregon and posted 10,541 pass yards, with 95 TD and just 23 INT, as a four-year starter. Herbert has the size (6’ 6”, 237) arm strength and mobility that NFL teams desire. If the Dolphins change course and take Herbert at fifth overall, I see Los Angeles selecting Tua Tagovailoa with the sixth pick.
7. Carolina Panthers: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Carolina is in the midst of a total rebuild, and the Panthers have been stocking up on offense during the free-agent frenzy. That includes acquiring QB Teddy Bridgewater and WR Robby Anderson. That leaves defense as a pressing need – especially in the wake of the sudden retirement of Luke Kuechly. Bookmakers at William Hill have Okudah’s draft position set at 4.5 with (-140) juice on the over. That points to Okudah possibly being available when Carolina picks seventh. An NFL ready prospect, Okudah will step in as an immediate upgrade on the Panthers defense.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Jedrick Wills Jr., OL, Alabama
Arizona made the biggest offseason move as they acquired DeAndre Hopkins from Houston. That should end speculation that CeeDee Lamb will be reunited with former Oklahoma teammate Kyler Murray. Wills helped elevate the play of QB Tua Tagovailoa, plus running backs Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris, and closed his career with 28 consecutive starts. As reported by Bill Huber at Packer Central, Wills allowed just one sack during his final two seasons. Wills (6’5’, 320) is a brawler in the trenches and has a mean streak that matches his size and strength.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Jacksonville is another team that needs help across the board, and I see them concentrating on defense with the ninth overall pick. The Jaguars defense gave up 139.3 rushing yards per game and was second last with 23 rushing TD allowed last season. Auburn’s DT Derrick Brown ranks second behind Chase Young as the best defensive lineman available in the draft. Brown (6’5, 320) is a solid run-stopper and racked up 12.5 sacks as a pass rusher for the Tigers. He closed a stellar four-year career at Auburn by being named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2019.
10. Cleveland Browns: Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa
Cleveland will also be looking to add pass protection and run blocking help along the offensive line. Baker Mayfield was sacked 41 times and faced a lot of pressure last season. Wirfs has excellent size (6'5", 320) and was impressive during the NFL Combine. He clocked a 4.85 40-yard dash, and that was the fastest time recorded by any offensive lineman at the combine this year. Wirfs was a true freshman starter and played three seasons for the Hawkeyes. Wirfs was the Big Ten OL of the Year in 2019.
11. New York Jets: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Heading into the free-agent period, New York had pressing needs along the offensive line. Trying to address the issue, Jets GM Joe Douglas signed several linemen, including George Fant, who helped protect Russell Wilson during three seasons in Seattle. That will allow New York to focus on a wide receiver to replace Robby Anderson, now in Carolina. Jerry Jeudy fills the void as he hauled in 145 passes for 2,478 yards and 24 touchdowns over 28 games during his final two seasons in Alabama. SI Gambling expert Corey Parson ranks Jeudy as the top receiver in the draft.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Few teams are in more dire need of a number one wide receiver than Las Vegas. That is evident by the fact that TE Darren Waller was the Raiders leading pass catcher with 1,145 yards last season. After posting 3,292 yards and 32 touchdowns, during three years in Oklahoma, CeeDee Lamb will be a fantastic weapon for Derek Carr. Lamb ranks 11th on the SI Top 100 Big Board and often draws comparison to DeAndre Hopkins. He is a physical receiver, who fights defenders for the ball, and his solid stiff-arm technique will help Lamb gain a lot of yards after the catch.
13. San Francisco 49ers: Andrew Thomas, OL, Georgia
San Francisco owns the No. 13 pick after trading defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis. Veteran LT Joe Staley is returning for his 14th season with the 49ers and is in the final year of his contract. Looking to the future, Andrew Thomas (6’ 5” 320) would be a great addition to open holes in the run game and serve as a blindside protector for Jimmy Garoppolo. Thomas played 41 games over three seasons with the Bulldogs and is ranked 15th on the SI Big Board. Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, and D'Andre Swift posted great numbers with Thomas as a lead blocker.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
Following the signing Tom Brady, and putting the franchise tag on stud pass-rusher Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay filled two pressing offseason needs. That helps the Buccaneers focus on pass defense after they allowed 270 YPG and 30 touchdowns last season. CJ Henderson has the speed defensive coordinators crave, and he grades well in man coverage. Both traits are essential for a cornerback at the NFL level. Injuries slowed Henderson during his junior year, but he was the second-fastest cornerback with a 4.39 time in the 40-yard dash during the NFL Combine in February.
15. Denver Broncos: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
After sending Emmanuel Sanders to San Francisco, in the mid-season trade last year, Denver needs help at wide receiver. Courtland Sutton had a solid sophomore season (1,112 yards and 6 TD), but won’t repeat those numbers without some help on the other side of the field. During three years at Alabama, Henry Ruggs was a No. 2 receiver yet still managed to haul in 24 touchdowns on just 98 receptions. I have Ruggs as the third-best receiver in the draft. Ruggs clocked a 4.27 40-yard dash, which was the fastest of any prospect at the NFL Combine.
16. Atlanta Falcons: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
As outlined at Falcon Report, Atlanta was very busy during the free-agent period. Running back Todd Gurley and tight end Hayden Hurst are notable adds on offense. Linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. joins the defense after posting 11.5 sacks for the Rams last season. The Falcons recorded just 28 sacks in 2019, so adding edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos makes sense. Gross-Matos recorded 17 total sacks as a pass rusher, plus 94 tackles as run-stopper, during his final two seasons at Penn State. With great size (6’ 5”, 246) and decent speed, Gross-Matos has a skillset to be a Day 1 NFL starter.
17. Dallas Cowboys: K'Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
Dallas was able to keep Dak Prescott (franchise tag) and Amari Cooper (new contract) during the free-agent frenzy but took a hit on defense. Cornerback Bryon Jones, plus defensive linemen Robert Quinn and Maliek Collins, departed as free agents. LSU edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson played well as a freshman but tore his ACL one game into the 2018 season. Chaisson returned in 2019 and finished the season strong during the Tigers’ 2002 National Championship run. Along with DeMarcus Lawrence, Chaisson gives the Cowboys formidable pass rushers on both ends of the line.
18. Miami Dolphins: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Miami is back on the clock, with the second of three first-round picks, and need help in the defensive secondary. The Dolphins allowed 39 touchdown passes last season, which as the most of any team in the league. Well trained, at the NFL factory in Alabama, Xavier McKinney played 28 games for the Crimson Tide during his final two seasons. Gifted with speed, size, and athleticism, McKinney will slot in between cornerbacks Byron Jones and Xavien Howard. I agree with SI draft expert Kevin Hanson who views McKinney as an excellent fit to help strengthen the Dolphins secondary.
19. Las Vegas Raiders: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Las Vegas gets a second kick at the can with the No. 19 pick acquired from Chicago in the Khalil Mack trade. Pass defense was a significant weakness for the Raiders as they allowed 33 touchdowns and posted just nine interceptions last season. Trevon Diggs is a versatile prospect as he played offense, defense and special teams as a true freshman for the Crimson Tide. Like his older brother Stefon, Diggs was star wide receiver in high school, and that helped him become a savvy cornerback for Alabama. The Saints News Network is hoping Diggs falls to New Orleans with the 24th pick.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: Josh Jones, OL, Houston
Jacksonville makes their second first-round selection with the pick they received in the Jalen Ramsey trade with the LA Rams. After posting 18 rushing touchdowns in 2017, the Jaguars scored seven in 2018 and just three during the 2019 season. That translates to offensive line help being the Jags focus here. With the O-line talent getting thin, Cougars OT Josh Jones is the best remaining prospect. Jones is a work in progress, but he showed improvement during four seasons at Houston. As detailed at Inside The Vikings, Jones boosted his draft stock with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Philadelphia focused on defense during the free-agent period, which leaves wide receiver as a top priority. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert led the Eagles in receiving yards and accounted for 11 of 27 touchdown passes last season. Justin Jefferson didn't play much as a freshman but flashed signs of emerging talent as a sophomore. That came to fruition during his junior year has Jefferson tied for first in the nation 111 receptions, finished second with 18 touchdowns, and was third with 1,540 receiving yards. Jefferson is an ideal possession receiver for Carson Wentz.
22. Minnesota Vikings: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Minnesota acquired the No. 22 overall pick in the trade that sent Stefon Diggs to Buffalo. After cutting Xavier Rhodes, plus losing free agents Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, Minnesota needs help in the secondary. Well schooled at LSU, Kristian Fulton has good size, decent speed, and is at his best in press-man coverage. An athletic and aggressive corner, Fulton was credited with 14 pass breakups during his senior season. William Hill set Fulton's O/U draft position at 24.5, and SI Gambling guru Frankie Taddeo suggests UNDER as the best bet on that NFL draft prop.
23. New England Patriots: Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame
For the first time in decades, question marks abound in New England as the Patriots begin life without Tom Brady. Feeling they will still address the QB situation with a free agent, possibly Cam Newton or Jameis Winston, the Patriots have a glaring hole at the tight end position. Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet is a top prospect in a 2020 draft class that’s not very deep. After flying under the radar for two years, Kmet posted 515 receiving yards and six touchdowns during his final season. The Patriots coaching staff needs to polish his blocking skills, but Kmet will be drafted as a pass-catcher.
24. New Orleans Saints: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
New Orleans enters the draft with the luxury of being reasonably well-stocked on both sides of the ball. That said, there is a need at linebacker after the Saints lost fee agent LB A.J. Klein to Buffalo. There are also health concerns with Kiko Alonso and Alex Anzalone, who both ended the 2019 season in injured reserve. LB Kenneth Murray enters the draft after racking up 257 tackles (140 solo) during his final two seasons with the Oklahoma Sooners. Murray is a physical defender with an excellent sideline-to-sideline range. SI Fantasy guru Dr. Roto also has the Saints selecting Murray.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
Minnesota is quickly back on the clock with its original first-round pick. After filling a void at linebacker, the Vikings need to add another weapon on offense to replace Stefon Diggs. With loads of big-game experience, Clemson WR Tee Higgins would fill that need. In 30 games over his final two seasons, Higgins posted 2,103 yards and 25 TD as a full-time starter for the Tigers. A big target, at 6'4" and 215 pounds, Higgins' leaping ability will make him a valuable red-zone weapon. He left Clemson tied with DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins with 27 touchdowns.
26. Miami Dolphins: D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
Miami is next up with their third first-round selection, and I see the first running back going off the board here. Miami ranked last overall with 72.3 rushing yards per game last season, and 37-year old QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was the Dolphins leading rusher. Playing against top-rated SEC teams, D'Andre Swift racked up 2,267 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns during his final two seasons. Swift also hauled in 73 receptions, for 666 receiving yards and five TD, while playing 43 games for the Bulldogs. I have Swift being first running back selected ahead of Jonathan Taylor and J.K. Dobbins.
27. Seattle Seahawks: A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
Acquiring an edge rusher on defense should be a priority for Seattle after they finished second last with just 28 quarterback sacks last season. The need is even greater with Jadeveon Clowney not expected to re-sign with the Seahawks. A.J. Epenesa posted 22 sacks and was credited with eight forced fumbles during his final two seasons for the Hawkeyes. While he didn’t have a great showing at the NFL Combine, Epenesa is a versatile lineman who played inside and on the edge for Iowa. A strong bull-rusher, Epenesa has a skillset that can be polished at the NFL level.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Baltimore enters the draft looking to build on its record-setting 2019 NFL season. The Ravens placed the franchise tag on 2019 sack leader OLB Mathew Judon, but linebackers Josh Bynes (Bengals) and Patrick Onwuasor (Jets) both walked as free agents. LSU linebacker Patrick Queen had a breakout season during the Tigers' 2020 National Champion run. A nice blend of speed, physicality, and range, Queen finished his career with 131 tackles (17.5 for losses) and four sacks over 29 games. Queen’s over/under draft position is posted at 23.5 on a William Hill prop.
29. Tennessee Titans: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
Following a terrific run to the 2020 AFC Championship, Tennessee enters the draft in unfamiliar territory. The Titans haven't drafted this low since 2009 when they selected WR Kenny Britt at No. 30 overall. The cornerback situation is unsettled in Tennessee as top defender Logan Ryan is still a free agent. Jeff Gladney is a versatile and experienced cornerback who played 50 games (42 starts) over four seasons at TUC. Bodog has set Gladney's draft position at 32.5, making this a close call. SI draft expert Jamie Eisner is betting UNDER on the generous +145 moneyline price.
30. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
Green Bay needs to add another weapon for Aaron Rodgers and to take some pressure off Davante Adams. The Packers acquired Colts free agent Devin Funchess, plus Reggie Begelton from the CFL Calgary Stampeders, but I doubt they can pass on Baylor star WR Denzel Mims. A big target (6’ 3”, 215) Mims racked up 2,925 receiving yards and 28 touchdowns during four seasons with the Bears. Mims boosted his draft stock with impressive performances at the Senior Bowl and during the NFL Combine. Mims leaping ability makes him an ideal red-zone target for Rodgers.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Losing free agent Emmanuel Sanders to New Orleans has created a need at wide receiver for the 49ers. Since they don't have another pick until the fifth round, they should address that need here. TCU star Jalen Reagor is a versatile speed demon with a skillset similar to Deebo Samuel. During three seasons with the Horned Frogs, Reagor hauled in 148 receptions for 2,248 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also had 324 rushing yards (2 TD) and was used as a kick returner. Poor quarterback play affected Reagor during his final season, but he is a good fit in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
Fresh off their thrilling Super Bowl 54 victory - Kansas City owns the final first-round pick. The Chiefs are in decent shape on both sides of the ball, but they are thin at cornerback. A.J. Terrell should be available here as Bodog has his over/under draft position set at 32.5 with (-110) juice on both sides. Terrell has size and was a physical defender over 38 games during three seasons at Clemson. Chiefs' defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is an excellent mentor and will help Terrell move past his poor performance against LSU during the 2020 National Championship game.
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