With the college football regular season complete and the NFL season winding down, it’s a good time to take another look at how the 2020 NFL draft could shape up. Although obvious, keep in mind that much will still change over the next four months.
That said, here is my current projection for the first round of the 2020 NFL draft:
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Switching from Andy Dalton to rookie Ryan Finley and back to Dalton this season has reinforced that neither Dalton nor Finley is the team’s long-term answer at quarterback in Cincinnati. While Burrow may not be the top prospect in this year’s draft class, it could be difficult for the Bengals to pass on making the Ohio native the face of the franchise.
Leading the Tigers to a perfect 13-0 record this season, Burrow has delivered in the biggest games and remained calm under pressure. Not only does Burrow lead the nation in completion percentage (77.9%), but he’s completed more than 70% of his pass attempts in every single game this season despite facing five top-10 opponents. The odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, Burrow has accounted for more than 5,000 yards—4,715 passing and 289 rushing—and 50 touchdowns—48 passing and three rushing—this season.
2. New York Giants: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Similar to what happened to former teammate Nick Bosa, who has 8.0 sacks this season and a top-10 edge rusher PFF grade, Young gets leapfrogged by a quarterback despite being the top prospect in his draft class. With Bosa sidelined down the stretch last season, Young emerged and finished his true sophomore campaign with 10.5 sacks. Taking another step forward in 2019, Young has been unstoppable as he set a school record with 16.5 sacks in only 10 games.
Only eight teams have recorded fewer sacks than the Giants (29) this season. Markus Golden has more than twice as many sacks (8.5) as any other Giant this season, but he’ll an unrestricted free agent in 2020. If the Bengals go with Burrow, this is a no-brained selection for New York.
3. Washington Redskins: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Washington’s offseason efforts should focus on improving the supporting cast around rookie QB Dwayne Haskins. Only seven offensive linemen have been drafted with top-five picks over the past decade, and Washington has drafted two of them—Trent Williams (2010) and Brandon Scherff (’15). Even though he didn’t play this season, Williams likely won’t play for the franchise in 2020 either, and the team will need to fill his void at left tackle. Only five teams have allowed more sacks this season than Washington (44).
4. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
A hip injury presumably ended Tagovailoa’s college career, and he isn’t expected to start throwing again until the spring. There’s a chance Tua returns to Tuscaloosa, but assuming he enters the 2020 NFL draft, the injury (or should I say past injuries, plural, considering his ankle injuries), widens his range of potential draft slots. When healthy, however, the junior throws with outstanding accuracy and anticipation, and it’s still certainly possible that he ends up in Miami.
5. Detroit Lions: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Okudah is a top-five prospect with the size (6' 1", 200), fluidity and athleticism to develop into a true shutdown corner at the next level. Not only would he give Detroit an upgrade opposite Darius Slay, but Slay is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2020 season.
6. Arizona Cardinals: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
The Cardinals drafted three receivers—Andy Isabella (Round 2), Hakeem Butler (Round 4) and KeeSean Johnson (Round 6)—in 2019 to join a receiving corps led by Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald. But Fitzgerald turns 37 next summer and is a free agent in 2020, and Kirk is better suited to be a No. 2 receiver. Jeudy has the speed and route-running ability to become a true WR1 for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Brown would have been a first-round pick had he declared for last year’s draft, and he has only improved his draft stock this season. Becoming more disruptive as an interior pass-rusher, Brown‘s dominance as a run defender will help shore up a run defense that has allowed 141.1 yards per game and 5.26 yards per carry in 2019.
8. Atlanta Falcons: A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
Only the Dolphins (17) and Bengals (21) have fewer sacks this season than the Falcons (23). Two of Atlanta’s top-three leaders in sacks—Vic Beasley and Adrian Clayborn—will be unrestricted free agents after this season. Epenesa has come on strong with 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles over his past four games for the Hawkeyes.
9. New York Jets: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
I considered Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb here—with Robby Anderson and Demaryius Thomas heading into free agency, it wouldn‘t surprise me if Lamb turns out to be a WR1 in 2020. That said, I expect Joe Douglas to go in a different direction to help Sam Darnold by improving the team’s offensive line with Wirfs, who can play either left or right tackle.
10. Los Angeles Chargers: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Philip Rivers just turned 38 years old and is in the final year of his current contract. Perhaps a top-10 pick means that the Chargers will take a long look at Oregon’s Justin Herbert. Drafting Wills would be an immediate upgrade at right tackle to protect whomever is under center in 2020 as well as improve the run blocking. Based on PFF stats, Wills has “11 big-time blocks,” the most of any draft-eligible tackle prospects.
11. Denver Broncos: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Despite playing with three quarterbacks, second-year receiver Courtland Sutton is having a breakout season with a current 1,157-yard pace 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 20.8 yards per catch this season with 15 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 than his former teammate.
12. Carolina Panthers: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Heading into the 2019 season, Delpit seemed destined to be selected much higher than this. While it’s been an up-and-down season for Delpit, he has the range and ability to be an impact player for the Panthers defense and safety Tre Boston is set to become a free agent in the offseason.
13. Philadelphia Eagles: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
The Eagles have missed the vertical element that DeSean Jackson could provide to their passing attack as he will miss virtually all of 2019. Averaging 18.6 yards per reception and scoring a (receiving) touchdown on every 4.0 receptions over his collegiate career, Ruggs is a field-stretcher and dangerous in space.
14. Oakland Raiders: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Simmons ideally fits the mold of today’s three-down linebacker. The converted safety possesses the size, athleticism, coverage ability and versatility to be used in a variety of ways, and he fills one of the Raiders bigger team needs.
15. Indianapolis Colts: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The Colts gave Jacoby Brissett a two-year extension after Andrew Luck unexpectedly retired prior to the start of the season. With Brissett as the incumbent starter, Indianapolis can be patient with Herbert, who possesses prototypical quarterback size (6' 6", 237 pounds) to go along with better-than-average athleticism and arm strength.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
With Burrow, Tagovailoa and Herbert off the board, the Bucs won’t reach for a quarterback at this point. Despite using a number of early-round picks on their secondary in recent drafts, Tampa Bay has the league’s No. 31-ranked pass defense and have to face Julio Jones and Michael Thomas four times per season. A cornerback makes sense here.
17. Cleveland Browns: Austin Jackson, OT, USC
The Browns re-signed Greg Robinson to a one-year deal to play left tackle and right tackle Chris Hubbard has graded out as PFF’s 77-best (of 79) offensive tackle this season. A two-year starter at USC, Jackson has elite movement skills for the position and gives the Browns a long-term solution at left tackle.
18. Oakland Raiders (via CHI): Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
Disruptive as an interior pass-rusher, Kinlaw has six sacks this season and displays plenty of power and quickness for his size (6' 6", 310 pounds).
19. Tennessee Titans: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
Titans’ Harold Landry has taken a step forward with a team-high 9.0 sacks in his second season, but Logan Ryan (3.5) ranks second on the team in sacks—and he’s a cornerback. Gross-Matos has been highly productive at Penn State with a combined 16.5 sacks and 34 tackles for loss over the past two seasons.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR): Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
After trading Jalen Ramsey to the Rams this season, the Jags use one of the picks they received for him on a corner to pair with A.J. Bouye. The younger brother of Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs, Trevon has good length, speed, physicality and ball skills, and he helps to address the loss of Ramsey.
21. Dallas Cowboys: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, “it looks increasingly likely [Byron Jones] will be elsewhere in 2020.” The next first-round cornerback from LSU, Fulton has the length and fluidity to be a lockdown corner.
22. Miami Dolphins (via PIT): D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
Miami has the league’s worst rushing attack—67.3 yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry. Providing a significant upgrade to the team’s backfield, the versatile and elusive Swift has averaged 6.6 yards per carry over his collegiate career as well as 9.1 yards per reception on his 73 catches.
23. Miami Dolphins (via HOU): Josh Jones, OT, Houston
The Dolphins have this pick due to their trade of Laremy Tunsil to the Texans. Miami has one of the league’s worst offensive lines—the worst based on Football Outsiders rankings. With three first-round picks, it’d make sense to use at least one of their picks to improve their line. Per PFF, Jones allowed just four pressures on 325 pass-blocking snaps in 2019.
24. Minnesota Vikings: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
The teams top four corners are either scheduled to become free agents this offseason—Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander—or graded out as the 85 (or worse) cornerback by PFF—Mike Hughes (85) and Xavier Rhodes (112). The 6' 1" Adebo’s ball skills have led to four interceptions in back-to-back seasons with a total of 27 passes defended.
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 has back-to-back 100-yard games, and he boasts eight touchdowns in his past three games.
26. Kansas City Chiefs: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
Several of the Chiefs’ cornerbacks—Kendall Fuller, Morris Claiborne, Bashaud Breeland, etc.—will become free agents in the offseason. While Wade has the length and athleticism typically coveted in outside corners, he has primarily manned the slot for the Buckeyes. Either way, he’d provide an immediate boost to Kansas City’s secondary.
27. Green Bay Packers: Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
Green Bay has struggled with inconsistent production from its wide receiver corps outside of stud Davante Adams. While the 225-pound wideout has battled injuries throughout the season, his run-after-catch abilities are elite.
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. New England Patriots: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
While his previous two seasons were essentially lost to injury, Lewis has 6.0 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss through 10 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.
30. New Orleans Saints: Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Michael Thomas is one of the most productive receivers in the league, but the Saints could use a more consistent option for the second receiver. Plus, the 34-year-old Ted Ginn Jr. will be a free agent this offseason. While he’s the third Alabama receiver off the board in the first round of this mock, Smith is worthy of hearing his name called on the draft’s opening night. In fact, Smith leads the team in both receiving yards (1,200) and touchdowns (13).
31. Baltimore Ravens: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
As the Crimson Tide continue to churn out NFL-caliber linebackers, the Ravens replace C.J. Mosley, who left for the Jets in free agency this past March, with the uber-talented Moses. If it weren’t for a torn ACL in August, Moses would likely not be on the board this late—and still may not be despite the knee injury.
32. San Francisco 49ers: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
The first round closes out with an unintended run on Alabama prospects as McKinney makes it four in a row. The versatile safety prospect leads Alabama in tackles (85) and forced fumbles (four) and his three interceptions is tied with Diggs for second on the team.
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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