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2020 NFL Mock Draft 7.0: Chargers Draft Justin Herbert to Replace Philip Rivers

Also, Joe Burrow goes No. 1, Tua Tagovailoa goes No. 5 and the Panthers find a replacement for Luke Kuechly in the top 10.

Several high-profile veteran quarterbacks are scheduled to hit free agency next month.

It’s possible that Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers won’t be under center Week 1 for the Patriots, Saints and Chargers, respectively. The Chargers have already confirmed Rivers will play elsewhere, but Brady is expected to test the free agency waters and Brees has yet to commit to a return in 2020.

In addition, Dak Prescott, Ryan Tannehill and Jameis Winston are also free agents. It’s possible that the franchise tag is used on all three if long-term deals aren’t reached, but Winston’s future is the least certain of that group. And while Cam Newton is under contract, will the Panthers move in a different direction in 2020?

Either way, it will be interesting to see how the free agency and the draft shake up quarterback rooms around the league. With that said, here’s an updated look at how the first round could play out.

And check out my previous mock draft to see how things have changed.


1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

All indications point to Burrow being under center for his home-state Bengals in 2020. While he’ll turn 24 as a rookie and has only good, not great, arm strength, Burrow shows tremendous poise in the pocket and throws with pinpoint accuracy. Breaking multiple SEC passing records, running away with the Heisman Trophy and leading LSU to an undefeated championship-winning season, Burrow made it look easy at times despite facing seven top-10 opponents along the way.

2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State

Unless Washington gets a king’s ransom to move back, Young is the no-brainer pick here. The source of nightmares for opposing offensive tackles, quarterbacks and offensive coordinators alike, Young has 27 sacks over the past two seasons, including a school-record and FBS-high 16.5 in 2019.

3. Detroit Lions: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State

In the previous iteration of my mock, Miami traded up for Tua Tagovailoa, which allowed the Lions to still get their man (Okudah) at No. 5 and acquire a pair of additional Day 2 picks. If they don’t find a trade-back scenario they like, the pick will likely come down to Okudah, Derrick Brown or Isaiah Simmons. Pairing a complete corner like Okudah with Darius Slay, who is entering a walk season and looking for a big contract, would give the Lions one of the best cornerback tandems in the league (for at least one season).

4. New York Giants: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

The Giants have used early first-round picks on Saquon Barkley (2018) and Daniel Jones (‘19) at the top of their previous two draft classes. This pick will help both of those players. A two-year starter at right tackle at Alabama, Wills is a dominant run blocker that has improved in pass protection and would replace free agent-to-be right tackle Mike Remmers to provide a significant upgrade to the offensive line as a rookie.

5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Provided team doctors are comfortable with his medical evaluation, it becomes an easy choice for a front office that has been looking for a franchise quarterback since Dan Marino. Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Tagovailoa’s three-month CT scan was “as positive as possible.” With elite accuracy, anticipation and touch, Tagovailoa could be redshirted for a season with Ryan Fitzpatrick coming back in 2020.


6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

The widely-expected belief that Philip Rivers won’t be back with the Chargers was confirmed by the team on Monday. Regardless of the free agents the Chargers may pursue ahead of the draft, Herbert has the tantalizing traits—prototypical size, arm strength, plus mobility and intelligence—that could entice the Chargers to take a chance on him this high. Meanwhile, the Senior Bowl’s Jim Nagy called concerns about Herbert’s quiet leadership style a “false narrative” and went on to say that Herbert has “far more charisma than many NFL starters we’ve been around.”

7. Carolina Panthers: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

With the retirement of Luke Kuechly, adding a talent like Simmons here makes sense. While Simmons won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker, it’s his versatility that stands out. The converted safety had 104 tackles, eight sacks, three interceptions and two forced fumbles for Clemson in 2019.

8. Arizona Cardinals: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

The 2020 wide receiver draft class is one of the best ever and the Cardinals get their top choice here as they reunite Lamb with his former quarterback Kyler Murray. Scoring 26 touchdowns in 27 games over the past two seasons, Lamb has outstanding hands, body control and run-after-catch ability.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown, iDL, Auburn

Only the Panthers (5.2) allowed more yards per carry than the Jaguars (5.1) last season, and Brown is a dominant run defender who moves extremely well for his size. Given that Marcell Dareus has a team-high $22.5 million salary-cap charge, he’s a likely release candidate this offseason.

10. Cleveland Browns: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Cleveland could be in the market to upgrade both tackle spots. Left tackle Greg Robinson was briefly benched midseason and is a free agent again while right tackle Chris Hubbard graded out as PFF’s 76th-best offensive tackle (out of 81 qualifiers) last season. Becton moves extremely well for a man his size and could play either left or right tackle for the Browns.

11. New York Jets: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

As long as one of the top four offensive linemen are on the board here, I’d expect that to be the pick. The Jets ranked bottom-three in Football Outsiders’ offensive line rankings in both run blocking (31st) and pass blocking (30th) in 2019. Topping Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks List” in 2019, Wirfs would be an immediate upgrade at right tackle, could play left tackle or shift inside to guard.

12. Las Vegas Raiders: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Darren Waller had a breakout season (90-1,145-3), but the trade for Antonio Brown turned out to be a failed experiment, leaving an opening for a true WR1. Ending his collegiate career on a high note (6-204-1 vs. Michigan), Jeudy is a polished route-runner with breakaway speed that can immediately step into the WR1 role.

13. Indianapolis Colts: Javon Kinlaw, iDL, South Carolina

Perhaps Chris Ballard would select Lamb or Jeudy, if one of those top-10 talents were to fall, or draft a quarterback with the upside of Jordan Love here. As Ballard said last month the “3-technique drives this” defense and “we've got to be able to get some more interior pressure.” Kinlaw has generated 10 sacks over the past two seasons by using his blend of length, strength and quickness.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

Following his 30-interception season, there’s no guarantee that Jameis Winston will be back in 2020, although that hasn’t been ruled out either. While Love regressed in his junior season as he threw nearly as many interceptions (17) as touchdowns (20), he has the physical traits including elite arm strength that would fit in Bruce Arians’s vertical passing attack.


15. Denver Broncos: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama

Perhaps the Broncos draft an offensive tackle like Georgia’s Andrew Thomas here, but in this mock they go in a different direction to help second-year quarterback Drew Lock. Courtland Sutton had a breakout sophomore campaign (1,112 yards) for the Broncos and Ruggs offers a complementary skill set to Sutton’s. Few players can match the elite sub-4.3 speed of Ruggs, who scored on one of four career touches at Alabama.

16. Atlanta Falcons: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU

Only the Dolphins (23) had fewer sacks this season than the Falcons (28), who have announced they will move on from Vic Beasley (team-high eight sacks in 2019). The 20-year-old has elite speed off the edge and came on late—4.5 sacks in final four games—and led LSU in sacks, tackles for loss and QB hurries in 2019.

17. Dallas Cowboys: Grant Delpit, S, LSU

Outside of Jeffrey Okudah, the Cowboys would have their choice of defensive backs in this mock draft scenario. The Cowboys were tied for the league low in passes intercepted (seven) last season and Delpit is a rangy playmaker with eight interceptions and 24 passes defended in his three seasons at LSU.

18. Miami Dolphins (via PIT): Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

Not only do the Dolphins need to fill the void left behind when traded away Laremy Tunsil, but the team could benefit from multiple upgrades to their line, which finished last in Football Outsiders’ 2019 offensive line rankings. A three-year starter at Georgia, Thomas has experience at both left tackle (2018 and ‘19) and right tackle (‘17).

19. Las Vegas Raiders (via CHI): Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

This pick could be a linebacker, such as Patrick Queen, but the Raiders instead go with one of Queen’s LSU teammates. Not only did the Raiders trade Gareon Conley midseason for a third-round pick, but Daryl Worley will be an unrestricted free agent next month as well.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR): C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

The Jags own this pick (and others) after trading Jalen Ramsey to the Rams. The biggest knock on Henderson will be his tackling, but he possesses the length, speed and confidence to thrive as a cover corner at the next level.

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado

Carson Wentz became the first quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards without a 500-yard wide receiver. The trio of Alshon Jeffery (10), DeSean Jackson (three) and Nelson Agholor (11) played only 24 games in 2019. Built more like a running back than a wide receiver, Shenault flourishes in the open field due to his strength, size, burst, vision and elusiveness.

22. Buffalo Bills: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

The Bills signed a pair of smaller receivers—John Brown and Cole Beasley—last offseason and the duo combined for 139 catches for 1,838 yards and 12 touchdowns. Tying Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins for the most receiving touchdowns (27) in Clemson history, Higgins has a large catch radius, high points the football well and wins as a vertical receiver.

23. New England Patriots: A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

While not the most explosive off the line, Epenesa possesses a nice blend of power, length and heavy hands. While he started the 2019 season slowly, he closed the season strong with eight sacks and four forced fumbles over his final five games.


24. New Orleans Saints: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

Assuming that Drew Brees is under center for at least one more season, adding another playmaker opposite Michael Thomas makes sense. Coming off a breakout senior season, Aiyuk has the speed and open-field vision to rack up yards after the catch in bunches. The former Sun Devil has an 81" wingspan, which is equivalent to someone 6' 9".

25. Minnesota Vikings: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

Both Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are scheduled to become free agents, and the play of Xavier Rhodes has regressed significantly despite making the Pro Bowl. In fact, Rhodes could become a cap casualty this offseason. The younger brother of Stefon, Trevon Diggs has ideal length for the position and led Alabama in pass breakups (eight) last season.

26. Miami Dolphins (via HOU): Josh Jones, OT, Houston

As noted earlier, the Dolphins have a league-worst offensive line that could use multiple upgrades including at both tackle spots. The offensive tackles currently on their roster that played 500-plus snaps last season, graded as the 63rd (or worse) offensive tackles last season, per PFF, and one of them (J’Marcus Webb) is a 31-year-old free agent-to-be. A four-year starter at Houston, Jones has the length, quick feet and movement skills coveted in a left tackle.

27. Seattle Seahawks: Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame

Only the Dolphins recorded fewer sacks (23) than the Seahawks (28) in 2019 and both Jadeveon Clowney and Ezekiel Ansah are potential free agents. Okwara’s season was cut short (fibula) and he has lacked consistency, but he’s a long and explosive athlete that racked up 13.5 sacks and 19.5 TFL in 22 games over the past two seasons.

28. Baltimore Ravens: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama

Especially if the Ravens are unable to retain Matt Judon, who had a team-high 9.5 sacks last season, edge rusher will be the team’s biggest draft need. Injuries derailed the start of his Alabama tenure, but Lewis has the explosive first step and length to become a productive pass-rusher for the Ravens.

29. Tennessee Titans: J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

If the Titans and Derrick Henry are unable to agree to a deal to keep him in Nashville, Dobbins could step into his workhorse role. Dobbins has tremendous vision, balance and power and is a capable receiver (22-plus catches in all three years in Columbus). He also broke Eddie George’s single-season rushing record at Ohio State.

30. Green Bay Packers: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

A pair of Packers linebackers—Blake Martinez and B.J. Goodson—are set to become free agents. Queen is a three-down linebacker with outstanding speed and coverage skills, who played his best football down the stretch.

31. San Francisco 49ers: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

Jimmie Ward is set to become a free agent and McKinney has the versatility to play both safety spots as well as nickel corner. Adept in both run support and as a pass defender, McKinney had three interceptions for the Crimson Tide this season.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

Several of the Chiefs’ cornerbacks—Kendall Fuller, Morris Claiborne, Bashaud Breeland and Keith Reaser—will become free agents in the offseason. While he’s not the biggest corner (183 pounds), Gladney plays more physical than his weight and is exceptionally fast (4.34 40). Gladney has five career interceptions and 26 passes defended over the past two seasons.

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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