In my previous 2020 NFL mock draft of the first round, I went against the grain and got a little wild. But now, with free agency in the rearview mirror, and with team needs and tendencies becoming more clear, we can shift our emphasis from the possibilities of the NFL Draft to the probabilities. Lots of things are possible, but what is most likely to happen in late April? Using the Pro Football Network mock draft simulator, I went through the first 32 picks, making selections and trades that make sense given team needs and the information and rumors that we have heard thus far. Let’s dive in.
Ian Cummings’ 2020 NFL Mock Draft 3.0
1) Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB LSU
There’s been a little talk that the Bengals will surprise everyone and pick Justin Herbert at #1, or that Joe Burrow will pull an Eli Manning and refuse to play for one of the NFL’s most dysfunctional franchises. But Burrow is the best, safest quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft, and he’s never been one to back down from a challenge. Come draft night, these two parties should be eager to get the most out of one another.
There has also been talk that the Dolphins might try to trade up to #1, but the Bengals are in complete control here, and they might not be eager to give Burrow up without getting the kitchen sink from Miami. Given all that’s at stake, I don’t expect Miami to move up that high, unless they’re dead set on Burrow being their guy.
2) Washington Redskins: Chase Young, EDGE Ohio State
The momentum is leading toward a trade back for the Washington Redskins, but I’m still skeptical that it happens, for two reasons: one, there aren’t a lot of factors that make the second overall pick the destination to trade to over the third overall, and two, trading up to #2 involves talking the Redskins out of picking Chase Young, whom they love.
EDGE isn’t a surefire need for Washington, but talent is, and Young is the best prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft, with his combination of size, explosiveness, burst, and bend off the edge. Young is not “generational” per se, but that says more about the overuse of the word than the strength of Young’s profile. He’s a prospect on par with the Bosa’s and with Myles Garrett, possessing an unmatched ability as a pass rusher to make the quarterback uncomfortable. That’s an invaluable luxury in the modern NFL.
3) Miami Dolphins (via DET): Tua Tagovailoa, QB Alabama
The Dolphins have the picks, and they have a strong infusion of acquired free agency talent to lean on. They’re going to make sure they have some authority as to who their quarterback is at the end of the day.
While some reports have Tagovailoa slipping as of late, the Alabama passer’s medicals have apparently been “overwhelmingly positive“, and with medicals not being a factor, Tagovailoa is a top prospect, with the functional athleticism, arm accuracy, and competitiveness to warrant an early pick.
4) New York Giants: Jedrick Wills, OT Alabama
The New York Giants have a definite lack of talent on defense to address in the 2020 NFL Draft, but before they do that, they have to work on protecting franchise quarterback Daniel Jones. There exists an equally major need along the offensive line, specifically at offensive tackle.
With Jones entering his second season, Joe Judge and company should seek out a tackle who brings both immediate utility and long-term upside. Jedrick Wills, an absolute monster on tape, fits that profile well, and could start at right tackle on day one.
5) Detroit Lions (via MIA): Jeffrey Okudah, CB Ohio State
Honestly, wherever they pick, the Detroit Lions’ choice is going to be pretty simple. There’s a chance Isaiah Simmons could win them over, but Jeffrey Okudah is the best player on the board — a player who happens to fill Detroit’s top need, and one of the most important positions on defense.
Okudah is a long, spry cover man with the wingspan to disrupt the passing lane and the closing speed and fluidity to be a menace wherever he travels on the field. The Lions, who just traded Darius Slay to Philadelphia, can’t let this position go unaddressed for long, and Okudah at #5 is a best-case scenario.
6) Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB Oregon
Miss me with the Tyrod Taylor talk. Taylor is a decent quarterback, but he doesn’t move the needle. The Los Angeles Chargers have a chance to pick a young quarterback with upside and lock them up on a four-year deal.
They’d have to really be sold on Taylor to pass up this rare opportunity. Opinions are much less unanimous on Justin Herbert and Jordan Love, but both signal-callers have the upside of a long-term franchise QB, and that’s something you have to acquire with this pick if you’re Los Angeles.
7) Carolina Panthers: Isaiah Simmons, DEF Clemson
Matt Rhule won’t have to wait long for people to challenge his reputation as an innovator. In fact, Carolina’s interesting start to the 2020 offseason already has people questioning the viability of the rebuild. But with the seventh pick, Rhule can make a statement, and pick a player who aligns with his ideals.
Simmons is the best fit, as he’s a position-less prospect on defense with the athletic upside to be a versatile centerpiece for years on the Panthers defense. Simmons needs an innovative mind to maximize his potential, and Carolina, by hiring Rhule, proclaimed itself a haven for those kinds of minds.
8) Arizona Cardinals: Derrick Brown, DL Auburn
The mock drafter’s first inclination with the Arizona Cardinals’ pick is always to look at the offense first, for whatever reason. Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray are engineering a new wave of sorts, and it only feels right to strengthen the framework around them. But the Cardinals, especially after trading for DeAndre Hopkins, are surprisingly well-equipped on offense, and conversely less solid on the defensive side of the ball.
They could use more talent on all three levels, particularly the defensive line, where their unit is unforgivingly average. Auburn’s Derrick Brown can help with that; he’s a tremendously powerful and twitchy lineman on the interior, with the motor and strength to be an impact player from day one.
9) New York Jets (via JAX): Tristan Wirfs, OT Iowa
With the top players at all of Jacksonville’s positions of need gone at this point, the Jaguars might be inclined to mount a small trade back in the first round. The Jets are a decent suitor, as New York might be motivated to spend an early pick or two to leapfrog Cleveland and get the first choice at offensive tackle.
That’s what New York does here, swapping picks with Jacksonville to land Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs. Wirfs is an astounding athlete with excellent power to couple with his mobility, and he’d offer an unfamiliar kind of elite talent to New York’s blocking unit, potentially expediting Sam Darnold’s development as well.
10) Cleveland Browns: Mekhi Becton, OT Louisville
The Jets got the first choice in this interchange, but let’s not act like the Cleveland Browns got the short end of the stick. Wirfs may be easier to project than Mekhi Becton, but Becton is a similarly exciting prospect with a tantalizing combination of size and athleticism.
Kevin Stefanski and Andrew Berry have to know that offensive tackle is by far the most important need for Cleveland, with Baker Mayfield entering year three. One of the top four tackles will be available at this pick, and the Browns can’t afford to pass up on this group.
11) Jacksonville Jaguars (via NYJ): Javon Kinlaw, DL South Carolina
The Jaguars successfully traded back to add just a little more ammunition to their rebuilding effort. Now, with the 11th pick, they can still add an elite talent to bolster their unit. The Jaguars have a good amount of needs, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, so picking the best player available in that department makes sense at this juncture.
With the board playing out the way it has thus far, that player is South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw, a massive athletic specimen with an impressive combination of explosiveness and length off the line.
12) Las Vegas Raiders: Jerry Jeudy, WR Alabama
There’s a chance the Raiders could pick Jordan Love here, as recent reports have surfaced suggesting that Jon Gruden is interested in adding a third quarterback if the price is right. But the price isn’t quite right for me just yet; there are still three or four top-tier receivers on the board, and the Raiders have a glaring need there.
With the 12th pick, they still have the first choice in that regard, so it makes sense to go receiver and wait for the board to play out before their next pick. In this scenario, I chose Jerry Jeudy, a player who can provide the Raiders with the speed they need, while also doubling as an elite route runner and a dynamic threat after the catch.
13) San Francisco 49ers: CeeDee Lamb, WR Oklahoma
This pick is an exciting one to mock because it’s a pick the Super Bowl runner-ups shouldn’t have. The San Francisco 49ers can have some fun with this one, and the selection of Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb is the equivalent of Kyle Shanahan indulging in his offensive fantasies as much as he can.
Lamb doesn’t have the top-end speed of Jeudy, let alone the top-top-end speed of Henry Ruggs III, but he brings far more at the catch point than both of his counterparts. He’s also very dynamic as a ball carrier and is building nuance as a route runner. Lamb’s ability to secure the catch and create after the catch is a coveted trait in Shanahan’s offense.
14) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Andrew Thomas, OT Georgia
Jordan Love was an enticing option at this pick, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t playing the long game just yet. They signed Tom Brady to a two-year deal. Their roster is packed with talent. They’re trying to win out of the gates, and as exciting as Love’s upside is, he doesn’t help with that.
One prospect who does help with that is Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, a sturdy, physically capable offensive tackle who’ll be able to serve as a quality starter on either side of the line from day one.
15) Denver Broncos: Henry Ruggs III, WR Alabama
Well, that worked out. There have been reports that the Denver Broncos might have to trade up if they want to grab Ruggs. They certainly have the draft capital to do so, but in this mock, that was not a requirement, as the board allowed Ruggs to fall to them at pick #15.
Ruggs’ collegiate production isn’t as voluminous as one would hope from a player with 4.27 speed, but Ruggs’ tape shows a prospect who can break the game with his ability to gear up, as well as a prospect with good route nuance, excellent suddenness against press coverage, and vertical receiving ability. He’d be a perfect weapon for Drew Lock.
16) Atlanta Falcons: CJ Henderson, CB Florida
I’d like to mix things up here — maybe just pick Jordan Love for kicks, just to see Falcons fans’ reactions — but there’s one clear top need for the Atlanta Falcons, and it’s not a quarterback. Instead, it’s the phonetically-similar counterpart on the defensive side of the ball – cornerback.
The Falcons’ pick should be cornerback at #16, and on a lot of boards, Henderson is going to be the one who aligns best at this spot. Henderson is a tremendous athlete with some of the best closing speed, short-area burst, and hip fluidity in the 2020 NFL Draft. He’s inconsistent as a tackler, but that can be taught. Athleticism can’t.
NEXT PAGE: PICKS 17-32