Rust never sleeps – and neither does the National Football League. Inching closer, the 2020 NFL Draft will be held on April 23, 24 and 25 in Las Vegas. Keeping in mind the record-high 40 trade deals made during the draft last year, this early mock draft is based on current pressing needs for all 32 NFL teams.
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Following one of the greatest seasons in NCAA history, which included a Heisman Trophy and National Championship win, Burrow is an NFL ready quarterback. He showed that by putting up impressive, record-breaking numbers in 2019 against some of the best teams in the NCAA. Possessing a high football IQ, often pinpoint accurate, and showing great poise in the pocket, Burrow is the complete package and a promising franchise pivot. While flaws were few, during his senior season at LSU, greater arm strength is something Burrow should develop.
2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Although they have an assortment of needs and an EDGE rusher may not top the list, Young will be difficult for Washington to pass on with the second pick of the draft. The Redskins saw first hand the damage a top talent like Young can do when former Ohio State teammate Nick Bosa visited the District last season. Bosa was picked second overall by San Francisco last year and Washington should follow that lead here. Young set an Ohio State record with 16.5 QB sacks in 2019 and he appears to be further along in his progression than Bosa was at this point of his career. Apart from some technique tweaks – Young is NFL ready.
3. Detroit Lions: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
After finishing last in total pass defense and interceptions, plus in the bottom four in touchdown passes allowed, Detroit needs secondary help. Drafting Okudah would be a solid first step as he often draws comparisons to Jalen Ramsey. A Buckeye cornerback has been selected in the first round of four of the last five drafts so the Lions acquire a well-schooled starter. A gifted athlete, physically and mentally, Okudah excels in man coverage. Quick feet, plus well above average arm length, will help Okudah become a lockdown NFL cornerback.
4. New York Giants: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
To help get RB Saquon Barkley back on track, the Giants defense must reduce the 28.2 PPG allowed last season. A hybrid linebacker, who won the 2019 Butkus Award, Simmons played every position on defense (except IDL) during four seasons at Clemson. Helping the Tigers win two National Championships, Simmons has top-level athletic ability that makes him NFL ready. Strong against the run and pass, Simmons is also developing as a pass rusher and that helps make him the most versatile defensive player on the 2020 NFL Draft board.
5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
While FitzMagic can be fun to watch, Ryan Fitzpatrick is winding down his 15-year NFL career. After a serious hip injury ended his junior season, the Dolphins selecting Tagovailoa will depend on his health. Extremely accurate, the Crimson Tide star posted 6,806 pass yards, with 76 TD and just 9 INT, during 24 games in 2018 and 2019. Cool and confident, he has great pocket mobility and an innate ability to keep his eyes downfield while under pressure. If Tagovailoa is at full health, the Dolphins will select him over Justin Herbert.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Philip Rivers has entered the NFL free agent market and his 16-year run with the Chargers is over. With size and skills similar to Rivers, Justin Herbert put up 10,541 passing yards, with 95 TD and 23 INT, during 43 games over four seasons at Oregon. An accurate passer, with powerful arm strength, Herbert can stretch the field with deep throws and fit the ball into tight spaces. During his final start as a Duck, Herbert displayed his scrambling ability as he posted three rushing scores and helped Oregon defeat Wisconsin 28-27 in the 2020 Rose Bowl.
7. Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
Allowing a league high 31 rushing TD last season, plus allowing 143.5 rushing YPG, Derrick Brown is a good player to start the rebuilding of the Carolina Panthers' defense. The need increased due to the retirement of Luke Kuechly. Brown has explosive power at the point of contact, plus exceptional instinct and a motor that never quits. At 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds, Brown is quick for a big man and has the required skills to play anywhere along the defensive line. An NFL ready player, Carolina gets an All-Pro in the making with this selection.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Jedrick Wills, OL, Alabama
Despite the luxury of a mobile quarterback, Arizona was bottom five in pass protection as the offensive line allowed 50 sacks last season. Selecting Jedrick Wills helps protect franchise QB Kyler Murray and opens gaping holes for the Cardinals rushing attack. Playing in Alabama’s NFL style offense, Wills has overpowering strength and he is able to maintain his blocks throughout the play. Possessing a junkyard dog mean streak, Wills is a no mercy type player who will quickly earn respect (fear) from every defense he faces.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Andrew Thomas, OL, Georgia
Though unclear who he will be protecting, whether it’s Nick Foles or Gardner Minshew, Andrew Thomas will be a solid addition to the Jacksonville offensive line. A physical and aggressive big man (6-foot-5, 320 pounds), Thomas delivers bulldozer style run blocking and solid pass protection. As a three-year starter at left tackle for the Bulldogs, Thomas continuously faced the best defensive players throughout his NCAA career. That’s excellent NFL conditioning for the big man, who should step in and make an immediate impact for the Jaguars.
10. Cleveland Browns: Mekhi Becton, OL, Louisville
Constantly harassed during a dismal sophomore season in Cleveland, it’s clear that the Browns need better protection for QB Baker Mayfield. LT Greg Robinson, the Browns 2014 second overall pick, struggled last season and is currently an unrestricted free agent. Enter Mekhi Becton who is a mountain of a man with a rare combination of size (6-foot-7, 360 pounds) and flexibility. With a massive wingspan, and delivering a powerful punch at the point of attack, Becton is brawler who busts open running lanes and is solid as pass protector.
11. New York Jets: Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa
New York is another team that needs to protect its young quarterback and fire up the run game. The offensive line allowed 52 sacks last season, and the offense was second to last in the NFL with just 1,257 total rushing yards. With the offensive line pool drying up, Iowa Hawkeyes OT Tristan Wirfs seems like a good fit for the Jets here. Wirfs was a three-year starter in Iowa and is another powerful big man with top-level athleticism. Wirfs is a complete package. He is a solid run blocker and can protect his quarterback. Both abilities are needed in New York.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Needing to add to the buzz generated from moving to Las Vegas, the Raiders must improve on the 19.6 PPG they scored on offense last season. RB Josh Jacobs had a solid rookie campaign, but outside of TE Darren Waller, he didn’t receive much support from the Raiders' weak receiving crew. CeeDee Lamb, who posted 3,292 receiving yards and 32 touchdowns over three seasons in Oklahoma, draws comparisons to DeAndre Hopkins. Lamb is a gifted receiver with great hands, excellent ball tracking skills and exceptional leaping ability.
13. Indianapolis Colts: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Evident by the fact that Indianapolis finished 30th in the NFL with just 194.3 passing yards per game, the Colts need a better option at quarterback than Jacoby Brissett. While injuries played a role, the Colts passing game did not instill fear into opposing defenses last season. Jordan Love (6-foot-4) has the size, skill set and mobility needed at the next level. After posting a 32:6 TD to INT ratio in 2018, Love regressed last year (20:17). However, that was largely due to the supporting cast around him. Colts coach Frank Reich will be a solid mentor for Love.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
Seeming to be in a perpetual rebuilding mode, Tampa Bay needs help on both lines, plus they need to decide if QB Jameis Winston is a viable option moving forward. With Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul on expiring contracts and nearing the end of their respective careers, retooling on defense is a priority for the Bucs. Resetting with a stud edge rusher looks like a fit here.
With J.J. Watt as his inspiration, A.J. Epenesa was a human wrecking ball for the Hawkeyes during his final two seasons as he racked up 22 sacks and forced eight fumbles over 26 games.
15. Denver Broncos: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Helping improve all aspects of the Broncos’ offense, selecting WR Jerry Jeudy seems like a wise pick for Denver. Courtland Sutton had a great sophomore season, but he was a man on an island once Emmanuel Sanders was traded to San Francisco. Acquiring Jeudy would pull some attention away from Sutton. It would also give QB Drew Lock a viable weapon on both sides of the field and take some pressure off the rushing attack. Schooled in the pro style offense at Alabama, Jeudy is an excellent route runner with quick feet and top-level speed.
16. Atlanta Falcons: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
Second to last overall in the NFL, the Falcons defense produced just 28 sacks last season. Once highly regarded, Vic Beasley and Takkarist McKinley have both played below expectations, and neither is expected to remain in Atlanta much longer. A rock solid defender off the edge, Yetur Gross-Matos racked up 94 tackles and 17 sacks during his final two seasons at Penn State. A nice blend of power, size and burst, Gross-Matos has the traits needed to develop into a smothering pass rusher and a solid run stopper at the NFL level.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Often neglecting the position, Dallas needs to improve its secondary by selecting a top safety. Currently a mid-range issue, the need at safety increases if the Cowboys lose unrestricted free agent Byron Jones in a bidding war. Grant Delpit impressed with six tackles, one sack and a forced fumble during the LSU Tigers' 2020 National Championship win. Delpit earned First-Team All-SEC honors during his final two seasons and won the 2019 Jim Thorpe award. Delpit is versatile across the back seven and appears to be NFL ready.
18. Miami Dolphins: Josh Jones, OL, Houston
Following the selection of Tua Tagovailoa, it makes sense for Miami to bolster the offensive line to protect their franchise quarterback. The Dolphins are fortunate there is a deep class of offensive linemen and Josh Jones should be available here. Making 45 starts at left tackle during four seasons in Houston, Jones grew and developed as a player. Peaking at the right time, Jones is credited with allowing just four QB pressures during the Cougars' 2019 season. Jones was impressive during practices at the 2020 Senior Bowl, which in turn helped boost his draft stock.
19. Las Vegas Raiders: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Back on the clock, Las Vegas will be torn between going after a quarterback, cornerback or linebacker with their second pick. With the top pivots already off the board, selecting CB Trevon Diggs makes sense here. The Raiders defense allowed the fourth most passing touchdowns (33) and had the fourth fewest interceptions (9) during the 2019 season. Diggs is an athletic cornerback, with great size and speed, who has a knack for disrupting receivers at the line of scrimmage. A converted wide receiver, Diggs is next level ready.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Acquiring a quality linebacker is a pressing need in Jacksonville. After netting a second first round selection from the Los Angeles Rams in the Jalen Ramsey trade, Patrick Queen would be a solid fit here. Following in the footsteps of LSU linebackers like Devin White and Kwon Alexander, Queen has a high football IQ, great instincts and proven leadership capabilities. His sideline-to-sideline range is excellent, and he projects as a three-down NFL linebacker. Queen led the Tigers with eight tackles during their 2020 NCAA National Championship victory.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Philadelphia needs to bring in some weapons at the wide receiver position for QB Carson Wentz. The need is pressing as DeSean Jackson (33) and Alshon Jeffery (30) are both aging and coming off injury-plagued seasons. Plus, after five underwhelming seasons, Nelson Agholor is a free agent who the Eagles will likely cut ties with soon. Playing second fiddle to Jerry Jeudy on the Crimson Tide wide receiver depth chart, Ruggs displayed big-play ability as he scored 24 touchdowns on just 98 receptions during three seasons in Alabama.
22. Buffalo Bills: K'Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
Defense was the engine that powered Buffalo (10-6) to its best record since 1999 and a playoff berth last season. With Shaq Lawson entering the free agent market, plus Trent Murphy not producing at a level his salary cap hit demands, the Bills need to restock at defensive end. K'Lavon Chaisson looks like a fit here. Chaisson was part of the LSU Tigers' 2020 National Championship team and possesses lightning quick explosion an edge rusher requires. While some of his skills and technique require polishing, Chaisson has a sky-high ceiling.
23. New England Patriots: Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame
Confusion continues to swirl around Tom Brady, who is a free agent for the first time in his 20-year career. It’s difficult to imagine Brady leaving New England so getting him some new weapons should be a priority. After Ben Watson was the Patriots top tight end, with just 173 receiving yards and no scores, Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet would be an upgrade. During his final season with the Fighting Irish, Kmet emerged as a downfield threat. He hauled in 515 receiving yards and six touchdowns. The Pats offense is much better with a viable tight end.
24. New Orleans Saints: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
Despite attracting top defenders throughout the 2019 season, Michael Thomas set an NFL record with 149 receptions as he produced 1,725 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. However, Thomas would benefit from some help on the other side of the field. WR Tee Higgins would fill that need as he racked up 2,103 yards and 25 TD while averaging 17.8 yards per catch during his final two seasons as a Tiger. Matching the school record set by Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, Higgins leaves Clemson with 27 career TD receptions.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Though not glaring, if one looks at raw statistics alone, the Minnesota secondary was a soft spot last season as the Vikings allowed eight 100-plus yard receivers. The need for improvement increases as Xavier Rhodes had a rough year, and will likely be cap casualty, while Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are free agents. Helping LSU win the 2020 National Championship, Kristian Fulton leaves the Tigers after three seasons. Fulton is a physical cornerback with great awareness and technique. He should earn a starting role early in his career.
26. Miami Dolphins: D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
Previously selecting a quarterback and offensive lineman, Miami now needs to fill a glaring void at running back. The Dolphins posted an NFL worst 72.3 rushing yards per game last year so Georgia RB D’Andre Swift a definite upgrade. Playing behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel during his freshman year, Swift led the Bulldogs backfield with 2,267 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns during his final two seasons. Swift is also a pass catching threat out of the backfield as he posted 666 receiving yards and five TD during 43 games in Georgia.
27. Seattle Seahawks: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
Finishing bottom six, allowing 263.9 pass yards per game, Seattle needs help in its secondary. Although Trey Flowers, Shaquill Griffin, and Ugo Amadi are under contract – they are all a work in progress. After four seasons at TCU, playing in the pass-happy Big 12 conference, Jeff Gladney is a versatile cornerback and appears NFL ready. Physical and fast, Gladney is a disruptor at the catch point as he was credited with 26 pass breakups during his final two seasons. Reliable and adept in man coverage, Gladney projects as a three down player.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Baun, EDGE, Wisconsin
Coming up short in the playoffs, after a record setting 14-2 season, Baltimore is left to ponder what might have been. While key players are in place for continued success, Baltimore may lose 2019 sack leader Mathew Judon who is an unrestricted free agent. The Ravens were blitz happy often last year but their 37 total sacks ranked bottom twelve. Racking up 12.5 sacks, during his final season in Wisconsin, Zack Baun is a fit here. Baun is a versatile defender, with a high football IQ, who can play various roles along the defensive front seven.
29. Tennessee Titans: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
Possibly getting swiped, by the Seahawks and Ravens spick above, Tennessee also needs help on defense. While Harold Landry made huge progress during his sophomore season, with nine total sacks, Cameron Wake missed seven games due to injury and posted just 2.5 sacks. After battling injuries during his college career, Terrell Lewis is a raw talent who Titans head coach Mike Vrabel will be able to mentor. Lewis had six sacks, 31 tackles (11 for loss), plus a team-high 16 QB pressures, over ten games during his final season in Alabama.
30. Green Bay Packers: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
With very few playmakers, beyond Davante Adams, Aaron Rodgers needs another weapon in the passing game. Held back some, by mediocre quarterback play, Laviska Shenault Jr. is a versatile receiver with great size and speed. Shenault lined up in the slot, on the outside and in the backfield while posting 1,775 receiving yards, 276 rushing yards, and 17 total touchdowns during his final two seasons in Colorado. Adding Shenault would give Green Bay a 1-2 punch they haven’t had since Adams and Jordy Nelson were a dynamic duo in 2017.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
One year after selecting second overall, San Francisco is at the opposite end of spectrum this year. The 49ers have just one pick during the first four rounds and may need to use it on safety if they can’t retain unrestricted free agent Jimmie Ward. Xavier McKinney was a starter in Alabama during his final two seasons and played multiple positions in the Crimson Tide secondary. Well schooled in Nick Saban’s system, which has cranked out several star NFL safeties, McKinney has experience at the strong safety and free safety positions.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Fresh off their Super Bowl LIV victory over San Francisco, Kansas City will make the final selection on Day One. While the Chiefs defense improved, during the second half last season, Kansas City can use some help at linebacker and cornerback. Since there will be CB talent available in the second round, LB Kenneth Murray is the pick here as he is projected to be an impact player in the NFL. During three seasons, as a starter in Oklahoma, Murray was a physical and aggressive defender with an explosive burst and outstanding range.