The 2020 NFL draft is still five months down the road, but given that we are now slightly past the midway point of the ’19 NFL season, this a reasonable spot to revisit how the upcoming draft could play out.
Keep in mind that much can and will change from now until April’s draft, but here’s how the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft could unfold next April (current draft order is used):
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
The Bengals appear ready to move on from Andy Dalton, who was benched after their bye for fourth-round rookie Ryan Finley. While Dalton has one more year on his contract, there is no cap hit to release him this offseason. Assuming they hang on to the first overall pick, the team will begin a new era with either Burrow or Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.
Leading LSU to a 9-0 start including Saturday’s win in Tuscaloosa, Burrow (6' 4", 216 pounds) arguably had his Heisman-winning performance as he completed 31-of-39 pass attempts for 393 yards and three scores while adding 64 rushing yards against Alabama. Leading the nation in completion percentage (78.9%), Burrow is averaging 10.7 yards per attempt and has thrown 33 touchdowns to only four interceptions.
2. Washington Redskins: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Since 2010, there have been only seven offensive linemen selected in the top five, and Washington has the first and most recent of them during the decade—Brandon Scherff (2015) and Trent Williams (’10). Williams isn’t technically a free agent until after the 2020 season, but he says that “the bridge has definitely been burned,” and it’s difficult to envision him playing another snap for the team. Washington could end the drought of top-five offensive linemen by selecting Thomas to replace Williams.
3. New York Giants: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Despite serving a two-game suspension for accepting a loan, Young remains the top prospect on my big board as well as the vast majority of draft analyst big boards. Dave Gettleman passed on Kentucky’s Josh Allen in the 2019 draft due to his “full-blown love” for Daniel Jones, but he gets a do-over this year as Chase Young falls into his lap.
Building upon his productivity down the stretch last season with Nick Bosa sidelined, Young has been absolutely dominant this season with 13.5 sacks in just eight games. The Giants rank just 26 in team pass rush win rate and their most productive pass-rusher (Markus Golden, 6.5 sacks) is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason.
4. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
No longer “tanking for Tua,” Miami has won back-to-back games, moving down to fourth in the current draft order. Of course, players play to win despite the cards the team is dealt by the front office. (Note: As a Sixers fan, I’ve witnessed this firsthand.) Either way, the Dolphins still get their future franchise quarterback despite the slip in draft order.
Ankle injuries have now caused Tagovailoa to miss time in back-to-back seasons, which means durability could be a bit of a concern for him at the next level—especially behind Miami’s offensive line. While he got off to a slow start on Saturday, Tua’s 418 yards and four touchdowns nearly led ‘Bama back against LSU. The team’s star-studded receiving corps obviously helps inflate his numbers to a certain degree, but the junior throws with outstanding accuracy and anticipation.
5. New York Jets: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Based on the available prospects on the board, the Jets get the best available prospect here in Jeudy, last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner. Drawing comparisons to another player that had recently played his home games at MetLife Stadium, albeit for the other team, Jeudy gives Sam Darnold and the Jets a true difference-maker at receiver. Not only was Robby Anderson the subject of recent trade speculation, but both he and Demaryius Thomas will be unrestricted free agents after this season.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
The Falcons are tied for the fewest interceptions (two) in the NFL and only five teams have allowed more passing touchdowns (19) this season. In addition, none of Atlanta’s corners have graded in the top-60 at the position this season based on PFF grades. With more interceptions (three) than the Falcons (two) this season, Okudah has the size (6' 1", 200), fluidity and athleticism to develop into a true shutdown corner at the next level and would significantly boost this underperforming unit.
7. Cleveland Browns: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Despite all of the preseason hype, it’s been a highly disappointing season for the Browns. Of course, the problems are not isolated to one player or position group if the team is picking this high, but the offensive line is in dire need of upgrades. The team brought back Greg Robinson on another one-year deal to play left tackle, but Wirfs has the experience and versatility to play either tackle spot and would be a major start to bolstering the line.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Jameis Winston is in the final year of his rookie contract and he leads the NFL in interceptions thrown (72) since entering the league (2015). If the Bucs go in a different direction, the choice should come down to Herbert or Washington’s Jacob Eason. Herbert possesses prototypical quarterback size (6' 6", 237) with better-than-average athleticism and arm strength. In addition, he has protected the football well this season, throwing only two interceptions so far.
9. Denver Broncos: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Second-year receiver Courtland Sutton is having a breakout season with a current 1,230-yard pace through nine games in Denver. After trading Emmanuel Sanders to the 49ers, however, the Broncos could use another receiver to take pressure off of Sutton, and Lamb is a top-10 talent.
Making his share of highlight reel catches for the Sooners, Lamb has averaged 22.3 yards per catch this season with 14 touchdowns including one rushing. While he’s not as fast as ex-teammate Marquise Brown, Oklahoma’s top receiver has the hands, route-running abilities and elusiveness to potentially make him an even better pro prospect.
10. Arizona Cardinals: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
The next first-round cornerback from Defensive Back U, Fulton has the length and fluidity to be a lockdown corner. Patrick Peterson will be an unrestricted free agent after 2020, and although the team used a second-rounder on Byron Murphy, adding more youth and talent to the secondary makes sense for a defense that faces a league-high 67.9 plays per game. No team has surrendered more passing touchdowns (25) this season than Arizona, who has also allowed the second-most passing yards per game (286.5).
11. Detroit Lions: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
The younger brother of Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs, Trevon has the length, speed, physicality and ball skills to give Detroit an upgrade opposite Darius Slay. This selection would also provide them insurance as Slay is slated to become a free agent after the 2020 season.
12. Los Angeles Chargers: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Philip Rivers will turn 38 next month and is in the final year of his current contract. Perhaps this is the opportunity the Chargers need to draft and groom Rivers’ heir apparent. Improving their protection of Rivers is another option and Wills would be an immediate upgrade over right tackle Sam Tevi.
13. Jacksonville Jaguars: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
The Jaguars extended Myles Jack, but Telvin Smith stepped away unexpectedly before the 2019 season. Perhaps Smith will return in 2020, but Simmons ideally fits the mold of today’s three-down linebacker. In addition, the former safety has the size, athleticism and versatility to be a defensive chess piece for Todd Wash.
14. Oakland Raiders (via CHI): A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
Surprising many by selecting Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell fourth in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Raiders go back to the well here and draft Epenesa to pair with Ferrell. While his production (4.5 sacks in nine games) hasn’t matched expectations after breakout sophomore campaign (10.5 sacks), Epenesa is elite against the run and has the ability to be a productive pass-rusher.
15. Tennessee Titans: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Brown would have been a first-round pick had he declared for last year’s draft and he’s a top-10 prospect based on talent. Dominant against the run, Brown has become more disruptive against the pass, but his strength and athleticism should lead to more progress in that area going forward.
16. Philadelphia Eagles: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
The Eagles have missed the vertical element that DeSean Jackson could provide to their passing attack as he will miss virtually all of 2019, so I considered Alabama’s Henry Ruggs here (see next pick). But addressing the secondary is a more pressing need, and Delpit is a complete safety with plenty of range.
17. Oakland Raiders: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Running the 40-yard dash "in the 4.25 range" at Alabama's junior Pro Day this spring, Ruggs is a big play waiting to happen. Averaging 20.0 yards per reception this season and scoring a (receiving) touchdown on every 3.78 receptions over his collegiate career, Ruggs can stretch the field and is dangerous in space.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
Justin Houston leads the Colts in sacks (seven) in his age-30 season and Jabaal Sheard will be a free agent after this season. While the Colts have used second-round picks on edge defenders in back-to-back drafts—Kemoko Turay (2018) and Ben Banogu (’19), teams can never have too many talented edge defenders. Matos-Gross has 29.0 tackles for loss in 21 games over the past two seasons.
19. Carolina Panthers: Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
Matt Paradis, who signed a three-year deal with the Panthers, is currently PFF’s 32-graded center this season with the lowest grade of his career. Biadasz is the top center prospect in this year’s class, and could slot right into that offensive line.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR): C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
After trading Jalen Ramsey to the Rams this season, the Jags use one of the picks they received for him on another corner to pair with A.J. Bouye. Henderson missed a few games this season, but he has excellent length and speed and while he doesn’t have any picks this season, he has six total interceptions in his previous two seasons combined.
21. Dallas Cowboys: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
Disruptive as an interior pass-rusher, Kinlaw has 5.5 sacks this season and displays plenty of power and quickness for his size (6' 6", 310). If Kinlaw isn’t off the board in the first 20 picks, he’d be a great addition to the Cowboys defensive line.
22. Miami Dolphins (via PIT): Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
Starting at right guard in 2018, Leatherwood has moved to left tackle to replace Jonah Williams in ’19. As the Dolphins look for the long-term replacement for Laremy Tunsil, they reunite Tua with his collegiate left tackle.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
The Chiefs pass defense ranks eighth in the NFL (221.4 yards per game allowed), but Kendall Fuller, Bashaud Breeland, Morris Claiborne and Keith Reiser are scheduled for unrestricted free agency. The 6' 1" Adebo’s ball skills have led to four interceptions in back-to-back seasons with a total of 27 passes defended.
24. Minnesota Vikings: Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State
Wilson recently had hand surgery, which will end his college season, but the former five-star recruit has been one of the few bright spots for the disappointing Seminoles. Wilson (6' 5", 311) has led Florida State in sacks (five) and was second in tackles for loss (8.5).
25. Buffalo Bills: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
The Bills signed a pair of smaller receivers—John Brown and Cole Beasley—this offseason, but it would make sense to add a bigger target for Josh Allen either in the draft or free agency in 2020. The 6' 4" Higgins fits the bill (no pun intended).
26. Miami Dolphins (via HOU): D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
There are a number of backs that could hear their name called on Day 1, but the versatile and elusive Swift has a strong chance to be the first off the board. Averaging 6.6 yards per carry, Swift has also averaged 9.7 yards per catch on his 64 career receptions. A young quarterback’s best friend can be a strong running game and Swift will significantly upgrade Miami’s current depth chart at the position.
27. New Orleans Saints: Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
The 2020 receiver class is loaded with first-round talent, and Shenault is the fifth receiver off the board in this mock. The 225-pound wideout has battled injuries throughout the season, but his run-after-catch abilities are elite and Sean Payton will be able to get creative using the versatile receiver.
28. Seattle Seahawks: Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame
The Seahawks used a first-round pick on L.J. Collier in 2019, but several of their top pass-rushers, including Jadeveon Clowney, are currently scheduled to be free agents in 2020. More than half of Okwara’s sack production came in one game (three vs. Virginia), but he has the length and athleticism that the Seahawks should find intriguing.
29. Baltimore Ravens: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
As the Crimson Tide continue to churn out NFL-caliber inside linebackers, the Ravens lost an ex-‘Bama linebacker (C.J. Mosley) in free agency this past March and replace him in 2020 with the uber-talented Moses. If it weren’t for a torn ACL in August, Moses wouldn’t likely still be on the board this late and still may not be despite the knee injury.
30. Green Bay Packers: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
With sideline-to-sideline speed, Murray is a three-down linebacker and tackling machine that has put himself into the first-round conversation. In addition, he would fill a position of need for the Packers.
31. New England Patriots: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
While his previous two seasons were essentially lost to injury, Lewis has 6.0 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss through eight games. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Lewis is off the board 15 picks earlier than this, but the Patriots would be happy to add him to their pass-rush rotation if he slipped to the end of Round 1.
32. San Francisco 49ers: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
Joe Staley is under contract for two more seasons, but the team’s long-time left tackle will turn 36 before the start of the 2020 season. With experience at both left and right tackle, Cosmi has the quick feet to develop into Staley’s eventual replacement.
Kevin Hanson joins SI for the 2020 NFL Draft season. His NFL Mock Drafts have graded as the most accurate over the past five years, per The Huddle Report. His 2015 NFL mock draft graded as the most accurate and his 2019 NFL mock draft was the second-most accurate out of 101 draft analysts.
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