Ian Cummings’ 2020 NFL Mock Draft 3.0: CBs rule the first round

Ian Cummings mocks the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft using probable selections and sensible trades.

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.

Related | Brad Kelly’s 2020 NFL Draft quarterback rankings

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.

Related: San Francisco 49ers 7-round mock draft

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.

17) Dallas Cowboys: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE LSU
After trading away Robert Quinn to the Chicago Bears, the Dallas Cowboys have a clear need for talent on the edge across from Demarcus Lawrence. Thus, at #17, it makes sense to pick the best available player, who happens to fill that position of need. LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson is a bit raw as a prospect, and scouts who weigh production heavily will mark him down there.

But Chaisson’s combination of explosiveness and length pops on tape, and he clearly has a rare athletic toolbox when it comes to rushing the passer. His length also provides him with the ability to set anchors in run defense, cementing his upside as a dynamic all-around defender.

18) Philadelphia Eagles (via MIA): Justin Jefferson, WR LSU
The Eagles aren’t trading up for Ruggs, but trust me when I say Justin Jefferson is a receiver worth trading up for all the same. The Eagles have had bad luck with receivers in the past, and picking a safe option with proportional athletic upside like Jefferson is a move that should only benefit them in the long run, even if it comes at the cost of a second-round pick.

Jefferson, a popular pick for the Eagles, is a stellar talent with route nuance, toughness, and body control at the catch point, along with the dynamism to create yards after the catch. He’s comfortably WR4 on my board, and he can challenge the top receiver trio if he’s catching passes from Carson Wentz.

19) Las Vegas Raiders: Jordan Love, QB Utah State
Okay, now the price is right. The Raiders have already successfully bred competition by adding Marcus Mariota to compete with Derek Carr, and they still have former second-round pick DeShone Kizer in the wings. But as far as our current knowledge takes us, all three of these signal-callers could remain journeymen through the competition. Jon Gruden does not want to settle at the quarterback position. At #19, Jordan Love is as good of a “value” pick as he is a “need” pick.

20) Jacksonville Jaguars: Noah Igbinoghene, CB Auburn
The Jaguars’ cupboard at cornerback is essentially bare, which is why I went with Auburn CB Noah Igbinoghene at #20. This might be the highest you’ve ever seen Igbinoghene go, so allow me to sell you on this pick: Igbinoghene is an elite athlete with hip fluidity and burst that rivals Henderson on tape.

He’s also very young, having yet to turn 21 years old. Most impressively, he’s a converted receiver with only two seasons of experience at cornerback, where he played both on the outside and in the slot with the Tigers. Igbinoghene is relatively raw with his hand usage and technique, but his athletic traits make him a very versatile player, and his aggressive, high-speed pace as a player only compounds his astronomical long-term upside. 

Related | Noah Igbinoghene is a massive sleeper

21) Miami Dolphins (via PHI): Grant Delpit, S LSU
Anywhere from 18 to 26 is tricky for the Dolphins, in terms of making a selection that brings adequate value. No offensive tackles felt good enough to claim at this juncture, and especially considering the top-end depth of the 2020 offensive tackle class, it felt more cost-effective to wait until the second round in this scenario.

At #21, the pick ended up being Grant Delpit, which may be a point of contention for many, considering that many mocks now have Delpit falling out of the first round. That said, while Delpit’s 2019 tackling issues have eroded his stock, he’s still a stellar athlete with an imposing 6-foot-2, 213-pound frame, a great football IQ, and leadership ability. He fits both the cultural and physical mold that Brian Flores is seeking in his next safety, and has excellent upside.

22) Minnesota Vikings: Trevon Diggs, CB Alabama
Trevon Diggs is a great fit for the Vikings’ defense. He has a similar physical profile to that of Xavier Rhodes, as well as former All-Pro Aqib Talib, a comparison that he has drawn frequently throughout the pre-draft process. Diggs is an extremely long cornerback who knows how to use his length, both to disrupt receivers in press coverage and disrupt passes at the catch point.

Additionally, Diggs has enough athleticism to go stride-for-stride with receivers anywhere on the field, and the ball skills and body contortion ability to make a play once a pass enters his window. The Vikings need a new #1 cornerback above all else, and Diggs has that potential.

23) New England Patriots: Kenneth Murray, LB Oklahoma
The Patriots lost a lot of linebacker talent in free agency, mostly at the hands of Brian Flores. The position, while occupied by a few solid depth players, needs more starting upside, and that’s exactly what Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray provides in spades.

Murray is a bit underdeveloped mentally, as he can still hone his instincts and response time at the next level. But despite his raw status, Murray has a ton of speed and physicality, and he can be the vocal leader of a defense who can bring Bill Belichick the foundation he needs.

24) New Orleans Saints: Kristian Fulton, CB LSU
You’re not going to find a lot of mocks where Kristian Fulton falls this far, but considering Fulton’s relative lack of length, as well as the general athletic upside of the 2020 NFL Draft cornerback class, there’s a chance Fulton could get lost in the mix and slip a bit.

In this case, the Saints are very compliant beneficiaries; they need a starting cornerback opposite Marshon Lattimore to build for another potential playoff run, and Fulton has the physical traits and in-game instincts to win a starting role right away.

Related | New Orleans Saints 7-round mock draft

25) Minnesota Vikings: Denzel Mims, WR Baylor
It almost goes without saying, but the Vikings have a void to fill at wide receiver now that Stefon Diggs is in Buffalo. In an instance of convenience for the Vikings, both of their first-round picks set them up well to add a receiver.

In this case, with the Vikings opting to go the cornerback route at #22, they can come back at #25 and select Baylor’s Denzel Mims. Mims is a terrific size-speed prospect with very good physicality and ability against press coverage, similarly imposing contested-catch ability, and solid route nuance.

26) Detroit Lions (via MIA): Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE Penn State
Yes, AJ Epenesa is on the board, and no, he’s not the Lions pick. Allow me to explain. I’m not as high on Epenesa as the consensus, but that has nothing to do with his omission here. The Lions have an Epenesa-esque player already in Trey Flowers; Flowers blends the boundary between positions on the defensive line, and has the versatility to play inside as well as outside.

Epenesa has a similar multifaceted projection, and he can fill that role well at the next level. That said, I think the Lions need a more pure edge player if they’re going to fix their pass-rushing woes. That’s why the pick here is instead Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos — a 6-foot-5, 265-pound edge rusher who’s longer than Epenesa, has more athletic upside than Epenesa, and better fits the edge-rushing role for the Lions. 

27) Seattle Seahawks: Austin Jackson, OT USC
It’s been a common theme throughout this draft season that the NFL is generally higher on USC offensive tackle Austin Jackson than other draft analysts are. Personally, I would pick someone like Lucas Niang at this juncture, but I’m not making this pick. The Seahawks are. Seattle will like Jackson, as he’s a mobile blocker who brings a lot of experience and length outside.

There’s a belief that Jackson’s bone marrow transplant to save his sister impacted his power and leverage in 2019, and a coinciding belief that he should only improve physically as he continues to recover. Thus, Jackson is a high-upside, high-character prospect who can help Seattle at a position of need.

Related | Seattle Seahawks 7-round mock draft

28) Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen, LB LSU
After losing Patrick Onwuasor to the New York Jets in free agency, the Baltimore Ravens need more talent at the linebacker position. It just so happens that there’s another “Patrick” available who can help mitigate the turnover at that position in LSU’s Patrick Queen.

Queen came on late in the 2019 season, and evaluators were able to get a close-up look at the kind of upside he can provide at the NFL level. Queen isn’t as imposing of a prospect as Murray, but he brings terrific athleticism, smarts, and tackling ability. His upside behind the Ravens’ defensive front is exciting to think about.

Related | Baltimore Ravens 7-round mock draft

29) Tennessee Titans: AJ Epenesa, DE Iowa
In my opinion, this is one of the best fits for AJ Epenesa in the NFL Draft. Epenesa’s profile, to me, best projects as a 3-4 defensive end, which is the role he’d be playing in Tennessee. Epenesa has the length and power to be an imposing force in the interior, while also possessing enough flashes of burst to outmatch interior linemen matched up with him.

In even sets, he’d also be able to move outside and provide utility there. In Tennessee, Epenesa would have the primary role he needs to flourish, while also possessing the versatility to move based on alignment.

Related | Tennessee Titans 7-round mock draft

30) Green Bay Packers: Jalen Reagor, WR TCU
With Murray and Queen selected in the past seven picks, the linebacker board is suddenly devoid of first-round value, leaving the Packers in a bit of a quandary. Luckily, there’s value on the other side of the ball, where the Packers can add a running mate for Davante Adams in TCU’s Jalen Reagor.

Reagor has all the explosiveness and open-field speed you want to see from a premier receiving threat. His ability to stretch the field while also providing dangerous run-after-catch ability should help Aaron Rodgers in his twilight years.

Related | Green Bay Packers 7-round mock draft

31) San Francisco 49ers: Jaylon Johnson, CB Utah
The 49ers have a decent amount of upside at their cornerback position already — almost enough to downplay the whole “need” aspect a bit — but lost in that upside is context. Richard Sherman, as good as he’s been, will hit the cliff eventually. Emmanuel Moseley, who started nine games at a high level in 2019, will be a free agent in 2021, as will Ahkello Witherspoon, the player Moseley benched. The 49ers could stand to quell some of the uncertainty at cornerback, and Jaylon Johnson is a player who can help with that. 

Johnson isn’t the top-tier athlete that others taken ahead of him are, but he couples his own functional athleticism with excellent physicality, ball skills, and awareness of spacing. Johnson has a high floor, and his outlook as a starter in the NFL is positive.

32) Kansas City Chiefs: Jeff Gladney, CB TCU
Jeff Gladney caps off a first-round mock that had seven cornerbacks go in the first 32 picks. It’s a very good class, as the talent acquired earlier on has shown, and Gladney is just the latest example of the athletic potential coming out this year. For the Chiefs, who come off their Super Bowl victory having multiple starting spots to fill on the back end in 2020, Gladney provides versatility with his exceptional athletic traits. While he’s a bit on the smaller side, he brings searing closing speed, vertical athleticism, and urgency as a defender in the secondary.

Related | Kansas City Chiefs 7-round mock draft

Ian Cummings is an NFL Draft Analyst for PFN. Follow him on Twitter @ian_cummings_9. Follow PFN on Twitter @PFN365

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