With NFL free agency less than two weeks away, early offseason news and rumors are heating up. The ebb and flow of free agency often impacts draft needs one way or another, but many team philosophies place emphasis on looking to the draft to fill out the roster, for a multitude of reasons. Following the release of new information from the NFL Scouting Combine, Senior Draft Analyst Andrew DiCecco goes through his first-round selections in his early free agency 2020 NFL mock draft.[sv slug=”vegas”]
Andrew DiCecco’s 2020 NFL Mock Draft 3.0, Early Free Agency
1) Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Cincinnati ends the suspense and secures Andy Dalton’s successor to kick off the first round.
2) Washington Redskins: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Washington adds to their embarrassment of riches along the defensive line — which already includes Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Matt Ioannidis — and select Young. The expected move should put Washington in contention for having the most dominant defensive line contingent in the NFL.
3) Detroit Lions: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
The Lions fortify their leaky secondary by adding the top cover man in this class.
4) New York Giants: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
My favorite prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft likely comes off the board here. Given the Giants’ deficiencies at seemingly every level of the defense, Simmons is a versatile chess piece that can move around formations. A linebacker by title, the Clemson product represents the new age NFL defender.
5) Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The Dolphins hold firm at five and get their man. Tagovailoa, my top quarterback prospect, has the luxury of learning behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, as he works his way back to full strength from his November hip injury. The dual-threat quarterback has the innate poise, leadership, and experience to ease his transition to the next level.
6) Los Angeles Chargers: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
With Russell Okung now out of the picture and the rapidly developing Trey Pipkins poised to become the Chargers’ new blindside protector, adding Becton to play right tackle would give the Chargers an intriguing set of bookend tackles for the next decade.
7) Carolina Panthers: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Regardless of what transpires with Cam Newton, it is evident that the Panthers must groom a successor. While Kyle Allen and Will Grier performed well at times, identifying a long-term upgrade needs to be a priority. Love has the prototypical size, pocket awareness, arm strength, and athleticism to flourish in Carolina’s system with new offensive coordinator Joe Brady.
8) Arizona Cardinals: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
The Cardinals add my top-rated offensive tackle to protect last year’s first-round investment, Kyler Murray. Wirfs is an outstanding athlete that has the footwork, lateral quickness, and play-strength to be among the elite at his position for years to come.
9) Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Brown, an interior mauler who can affect both the run and the pass, is tailor-made for the Jaguars, who seemingly tried everything to plug their porous run defense last season. Adding Brown would pair him next to 2019 first-round pick Josh Allen, potentially giving Jacksonville two of the brightest, young defensive talents in pro football.
10) Cleveland Browns: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
The Browns add what many believe to be among the top-two offensive tackles in this class. Wills instantly improves a porous Browns’ offensive line that often served as the primary culprit to their offensive woes in 2019.
11) New York Jets: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
The New York Jets fielded the weakest pair of offensive tackles last season in Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell. Here, they attempt to rectify the problem by selecting arguably one of the safest first-round prospects, Thomas, to keep Sam Darnold upright. The former Bulldog offers Pro Bowl upside as a rookie.
12) Las Vegas Raiders: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
The Raiders sorely lack a downfield presence. Wide receivers Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow currently sit atop the Raiders’ depth chart but are secondary options on most offenses. Given the team’s glaring speed deficiency, look for Mike Mayock to make an aggressive statement by taking the Alabama burner ahead of schedule, creating even more excitement for the team’s inaugural season in Las Vegas.
13) Indianapolis Colts: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw would be an ideal fit here as well, but adding a dynamic pass-catcher of Lamb’s caliber will likely be too hard to pass up for Indianapolis. Injuries have plagued T.Y. Hilton recently, and the Colts had to rely on their remarkable depth at the position just to get by last season. Depending on how the quarterback situation pans out, Lamb could be a legitimate contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
14) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The Bucs nab an ideal successor to Jameis Winston in Justin Herbert. Possessing perhaps the strongest arm in the draft, Herbert’s rapid delivery and rocket-launcher of an arm should provide plenty of fireworks in Bruce Arians’ aerial attack.
15) Denver Broncos: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
With Ruggs off the board, the Broncos take Alabama’s other highly touted wideout. Jeudy, decidedly the savviest route runner in the draft, can stop and start on a dime and has the elusiveness to complement the ascending Courtland Sutton on the other side.
16) Atlanta Falcons: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
With Vic Beasley set to hit free agency and the Falcons in dire need for pass rushers, they land the draft’s most elite in Chaisson. Chaisson, a lightning-fast edge rusher with active hands and a relentless motor, and takes advantage of his length and flexibility to turn the corner. Chaisson has double-digit sack potential.
17) Dallas Cowboys: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
Kinlaw’s tumble doesn’t last long, as Dallas stumbles on tremendous value at pick 17. The mountainous South Carolina defensive tackle not only has perhaps the draft’s most compelling story — he has the elite traits of a future All-Pro. In Dallas, he would likely play alongside Maliek Collins to wreak havoc along the interior.
18) Miami Dolphins: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
The Dolphins fill one of a multitude of needs here by adding the second-best cornerback in this class. With starting cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Xavien Howard’s training camp status up in the air, Henderson gives the Dolphins an athletic specimen on the boundary that plays the ball with tremendous anticipation. The Florida cornerback’s fluidity is second only to Jeffery Okudah; he gets in and out of his backpedal with little wasted motion, and has the loose hips to turn and run with anyone.
19) Las Vegas Raiders: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
The Raiders hit their second home run of the first round, adding Queen to their ever-growing nucleus of young talent on the defensive side of the ball. Queen, an instinctive prowler on the second level, possesses the lateral agility and range to become an instant-producer as a rookie. The LSU standout would give the Raiders blue-chip prospects on every level of the defense.
20) Jacksonville Jaguars: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Once the A.J. Bouye-to-Denver trade becomes official on March 18, the Jaguars will be left with Tre Herndon, D.J. Hayden, Brandon Watson, and Parry Nickerson as the top four cornerbacks. Adding Fulton, one of the premier cover men of this class, gives the Jaguars a physical, smart, fundamentally sound perimeter defender, with the potential to evolve into a lockdown cornerback in time.
21) Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Jefferson gives quarterback Carson Wentz a consistent, dependable possession target that thrives from the slot; the LSU pass-catcher has a good feel for spacing and knows how to get open. Without much to speak of in terms of reliable pass catchers, it is likely that the Eagles come out of this draft with a pair of wide receivers.
22) Buffalo Bills: AJ Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
With Jerry Hughes undergoing offseason groin surgery and Trent Murphy approaching 30, the Bills add the young edge rusher to complement their strong interior. Epenesa (6’5″, 275) adds exceptional size and strength to a vaunted Bills defensive line that includes Ed Oliver, Jordan Phillips, and Harrison Phillips.
23) New England Patriots: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Originally joining the Patriots as a cornerback in the 2010 NFL Draft, Devin McCourty is set to hit the free agent market, and will be 33 years old by the start of the 2020 campaign. The Patriots find his successor in Alabama’s McKinney, who, much like McCourty, has the versatility, ball skills, and an innate football IQ to become a factor as a rookie.
24) New Orleans Saints: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Whether it’s been Ted Ginn or Tre’Quan Smith, New Orleans has struggled to find a reliable second option opposite All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas. The Saints’ glaring absence of speed is addressed in the form of TCU’s Jalen Reagor, who gives quarterback Drew Brees the explosive vertical threat the team so desperately needs.
25) Minnesota Vikings: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
With Anthony Harris poised to cash-in on his breakout 2019 campaign in free agency, the Vikings add one of the better centerfielders in this class in Delpit. The hulking LSU safety adds a physical element to the Vikings’ secondary.
26) Miami Dolphins: Austin Jackson, OT, USC
The Dolphins don’t risk waiting until the top of the second-round to select the fast-rising Jackson to protect their prized investment, Tagovailoa, for years to come. Jackson is a fluid athlete with nimble feet that hasn’t yet scratched the surface of his capabilities.
27) Seattle Seahawks: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
With pending free agent Jadeveon Clowney expected to relocate this offseason, Seattle needs a young edge rusher to bolster a defense that struggled mightily to get to Aaron Rodgers in the Divisional Round. Built similarly to Clowney, Gross-Matos has the size, athleticism, and bend that typically translates to early success at the next level.
28) Baltimore Ravens: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
The 6-foot-2, 241-pound Murray is a ferocious sideline-to-sideline defender that plays a brand of physical football. A fluid, instinctive linebacker, Murray would give a notoriously stout Ravens defense an instant-impact player on the second-level. He would effectively offset the potential losses of Matthew Judon and Patrick Onwuasor in free agency.
29) Tennessee Titans: Zack Baun, EDGE, Wisconsin
Baun is a fast-twitched edge rusher that boasts tremendous lateral agility and bend off the edge, while also possessing the range and coverage prowess to run with tight ends and running backs. Once thought to be a second-round prospect, Baun has quickly ascended up draft boards and would represent strong value at the back end of the opening round.
30) Green Bay Packers: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
Once considered to be a top-50 prospect, Mims has seen his draft stock soar with a stellar pre-draft cycle, which culminated in a head-turning performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. Known for his outstanding body control, Mims (6’3″, 207) plays with an ‘above the rim’ mentality and has enough speed to separate from defenders at the NFL level. He’ll pair with Davante Adams to give the Packers perhaps the most formidable tandem of pass-catchers in the NFC North.
31) San Francisco 49ers: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
While Richard Sherman figures to reprise his role as a starting cornerback in 2020, Akhello Witherspoon appears destined for a depth role, and veterans Jason Verrett and Dontae Johnson are set to become free agents. Adding Diggs, a lengthy perimeter defender, at the back end of the first-round effectively addresses one of the few needs on a dominant 49ers defense.
32) Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
With few glaring needs to speak of, the Super Bowl Champions close out the first round by selecting the top running back in the 2020 NFL Draft. While the Chiefs currently roster Damien Williams and Darwin Thompson, they are best served as complementary components to a backfield. Taylor, perhaps the only running back in this class with workhorse potential, adds another dimension to the NFL’s most explosive offense.
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