Mock drafts can be so vanilla this time of year. It’s almost impossible to predict what’s going to happen in April, so why confine ourselves to a standard outline? Let’s get a little weird with it, and play around with some “what if” scenarios presented by our own AJ Schulte in a recent article. What if Joe Burrow isn’t the #1 pick? What if Chase Young gets no invite to the capital? What if the Dolphins use their three first-round picks on talent rather than trading up for a quarterback? Let’s dive into the possibilities!
This is my second mock draft, with the first one being published on December 19, 2019 in Week 16 of the NFL regular season. If you want to get in on the action and be your favorite team’s general manager, be sure to check out FanSpeak’s On the Clock Draft Simulator.
Ian’s 2020 NFL Mock Draft 2.0
1) Cincinnati Bengals: Tua Tagovailoa, QB Alabama
No, you read that right the first time. In this mock, the Bengals’ pick is not LSU’s Joe Burrow, but instead Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. If there’s a quarterback that has a strong case for QB1 besides Burrow, it’s Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa was, in fact, the 2020 NFL Draft golden boy before Burrow’s historic 2019 season, and he has similar franchise-altering potential.
When a prospect’s biggest knocks are his durability and his left-handedness, you know he’s solid. Tagovailoa has a complete quarterback profile with strong mobility, accuracy, out-of-structure proactivity, and intelligence, and if the anti-Cincinnati whispers from Burrow’s camp grow too strong, Tagovailoa could help the Bengals change their QB1.
2) Las Vegas Raiders (via WAS): Joe Burrow, QB LSU
The common assumption has been that the third overall pick will be the hot spot for trade talk. But if the Bengals pass on Joe Burrow, that changes. Tagovailoa may go first here, but Burrow might be one of the safest quarterback prospects ever to hit the first-round circuit, and he’s bound to have enough fans across the league to attract major interest if he slips past the first overall pick. That interest will be enough to bump the hot spot up a notch, to the number two pick, in order to close out all other teams for good.
In this hypothetical sweepstakes, it’s all on the table. The Dolphins, Chargers, Panthers, Colts, and Raiders all seem like viable candidates to get in on the action. But while the Dolphins have the most draft capital to work with in this scenario, and while the Panthers have a pre-existing connection to Burrow in Joe Brady, neither of them win out in this one.
Instead, it’s the Raiders. Trade: Raiders send picks #12, #19, #80, and a 2021-first to Redskins for pick #2 and a fourth-round compensatory pick
The Raiders are interesting, in that they have enough draft capital to make a major move upward, and they have more susceptibility to that kind of major move. They’re moving to Las Vegas. Jon Gruden’s coming off a 7-9 season. They need a splash, and if they can’t get Tom Brady in free agency, Burrow gives them that. For a steep price, nevertheless, but in Vegas, no one every gains anything by playing it safe.
3) Detroit Lions: Chase Young, EDGE Ohio State
So the Bengals passed on Joe Burrow and picked Tua Tagovailoa, which caused half the league to scramble for the second pick, which the Raiders eventually won and used on Burrow. Now, a lot of complex happenings make for a very, very simple selection in Detroit.
The Lions are under pressure to win now with Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn, and the best way to do that is to keep Matthew Stafford, who was an elite passer in 2019, and somehow get Chase Young — an immediate difference-maker on defense. Quinn might break the 40-yard dash record running this card to the podium.
4) New York Giants: Mekhi Becton, OT Louisville
Dave Gettleman keeps you on your toes, but he’s also somewhat predictable. In 2018, he clashed with the analytical mold by picking running back Saquon Barkley second overall. In 2019, he passed over Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock for Daniel Jones, a quarterback renowned for his prototypical build and toughness, old-school components Gettleman was bound to find attractive. And with his second first-rounder, he grabbed Dexter Lawrence, a big, physical presence on the defensive line.
Credit Gettleman with this: He sticks to his guns, and in 2020, that actually might help him out. With a growing core of talent on offense, the Giants need to invest more in protection. Mekhi Becton isn’t the consensus top tackle yet, but his 2020 NFL Combine appearance might raise some eyebrows. Becton has insane quickness, mobility, and power for a 6-foot-7, 370-pound tackle, and while he’s not quite as polished as Jedrick Wills or Andrew Thomas, his upside is through the roof as an NFL tackle. Gettleman loves big guys, and this time, that preference will serve him well.
5) Miami Dolphins: Jeffrey Okudah, CB Ohio State
This isn’t your typical Miami Dolphins mock draft. The theatrics early on have forced the Dolphins into a bit of a bind. They weren’t willing to outbid the Raiders for Burrow once Tagovailoa went to the Bengals, but in a way, their hesitance is a blessing in disguise.
Now, the Dolphins can load up on elite talent elsewhere with their three first-round picks, and get the team ready for a Trevor Lawrence trade-up in 2021. It’s a method that requires patience, as well as another year of Fitzmagic (unless Tom Brady enters the fold), but promises sudden and prolonged contention once completed.
Now that we know that the Dolphins are passing on Justin Herbert, this pick becomes a lot easier to make. The Dolphins need to go best-player-available, and at number five, Jeffrey Okudah is the guy. Okudah is far and away the best cornerback prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft, with the length, closing speed, and tenacity to be a force across from Xavien Howard from Day 1. Yeah, it’s not a quarterback. But trust me, Dolphins fans. This is good, too.
6) Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB Oregon
Even when everything is falling apart, some things just make sense. Justin Herbert to the Chargers is one of those things. Even with teams scrambling to position themselves for draft success, there’s a good chance Justin Herbert escapes the early furor and falls to sixth overall.
Herbert has tantalizing tools, but his inconsistency on tape should be enough for teams to resist shelling out assets to trade up for him. That said, Herbert should be a big winner after the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, creating the potential for a higher selection. Here, however, Joe Burrow is the one teams flock to, and the Chargers safely get their guy outside the top five.
7) Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, DL Auburn
Sorry Panthers fans, I’m going to be boring for your (first) pick. Yes, the Panthers need quarterback stability, and the Panthers need to establish a new direction, but more than anything else, they need talent to expedite their rebuild. And there’s no better way to add talent than by picking the most talented player left on the board.
At pick seven, that’s Auburn’s Derrick Brown. A common selection at this juncture, Brown has a menacing combination of explosiveness and length for his 6-foot-5, 318-pound frame, and with his all-encompassing profile, he has legitimate All-Pro potential at the next level. In Brown, talent and need coalesce for Carolina, kicking off the Matt Rhule era right.
8) Arizona Cardinals: Jedrick Wills, OT Alabama
Playing the connections game, CeeDee Lamb is a popular choice here, as he was Kyler Murray’s favorite target back in Oklahoma. But looking at the Cardinals’ depth chart, combined with the depth of the 2020 receiver class, it’s apparent that other options at least deserve consideration from Arizona at this juncture.
One such option is offensive tackle, where a talented player is bound to be available. The Cardinals recently re-signed D.J. Humphries at left tackle, but they need security on the other side. Perhaps no one in the 2020 NFL Draft is better for that job than Jedrick Wills, a fleet-footed mauler with excellent technical prowess and tenacity, who spent his entire Crimson Tide career on the right.
9) Jacksonville Jaguars: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE LSU
The Jaguars are a team without direction. Thus, projecting their first-round selection isn’t as simple a task as it is for other teams. The defensive side of the ball seems like a good bet, as the Jaguars have seen a good amount of talent slip away in that area in recent years. With Yannick Ngakoue all but set to enter free agency, the blows only keep coming, and the only way to respond is to fight back.
The Jaguars picked an edge rusher in the top ten last year, and this time around, they’ll do the same. K’Lavon Chaisson is a developing edge defender with incredible athletic upside, which will be quantified at the NFL Combine this week and boost his stock. He has an unreal combination of explosiveness and length, and in time, he could develop into a game wrecker for Jacksonville.
10) Cleveland Browns: Tristan Wirfs, OT Iowa
It’s another boring pick, but the Browns picking an offensive tackle makes too much sense to not happen. They’ve needed at least one for years, and now they need two. Kevin Stefanski, the new head coach, has seen what consistent pressure can do to a quarterback in Minnesota, and how subsequent improvements can trickle into a quarterback’s performance.
It makes sense for Cleveland to dip into the pool of elite tackle talent at the top of the 2020 NFL Draft, and as our own AJ Schulte said in his NFL mock draft 2.0, Wirfs fits the Browns’ vision to a tee.
11) New York Jets: Henry Ruggs III, WR Alabama
Robby Anderson provided the speed for the Jets offense in recent years, but it looks like he might leave in free agency this offseason. If he does, the Jets will need someone else to apply that element for Sam Darnold and company. Who’s better to fill that void than Alabama’s Henry Ruggs?
Ruggs gets a lot of publicity with his speed, which could fall in the 4.2 range at the NFL Combine this week, but he’s much more than a vertical threat. He has excellent lateral quickness at the line, as well as the vertical explosion and catch point focus to be a reliable target in contested situations. His volume won’t be a problem in New York, so long as Adam Gase doesn’t get in the way.
12) Washington Redskins (via LVR): Isaiah Simmons, LB Clemson
Crazy things happen on draft night. Once his combine performance gets out, Isaiah Simmons shouldn’t slip past the top-10. But sometimes team needs and trades get in the way. For the Redskins, this is a dream-come-true scenario.
They traded back out of the top ten and still manage to grab Simmons, an elite athlete with a 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame and the versatility to line up almost anywhere on the second and third levels. For Ron Rivera, Simmons is the chess piece needed to bring Washington’s defense to the next level, and if they can use him right, he could be a revelation in the modern NFL.
13) Indianapolis Colts: Jordan Love, QB Utah State
I debated having the Colts trade this selection to the Panthers for Cam Newton, just to make things even spicier, but decided against it. Frank Reich would undoubtedly have fun with Newton’s skill set, but Jordan Love is athletic and in possession of solid arm talent as well, and he comes in at almost ten years younger and far, far cheaper. With Love, the Colts can lock down a high-upside quarterback on a rookie contract, develop him, and build their way back to contention.
14) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Andrew Thomas, OT Georgia
Quarterback is an obvious area of contention for the Buccaneers heading into the 2020 offseason, but at number 14, finding a surefire replacement for Jameis Winston is far from a guarantee. Thus, a healthy alternative might be solidifying the security of whomever the team’s signal-caller ends up being.
Andrew Thomas will need to refine his technique a bit before he can become a flawless fit in Bruce Arians’ offense, but he has the athletic freedom and power necessary to function as a productive starter at tackle. The optimal directive here is slotting Thomas in at left tackle while allowing Donovan Smith to go to right tackle, but Thomas has the traits to fulfill either role.
15) Denver Broncos: Jerry Jeudy, WR Alabama
The Broncos said goodbye to an elite route runner when they traded away Emmanuel Sanders midway through the 2019 season. Luckily for them, in this 2020 NFL Draft mock, they have the opportunity to re-fill that position with startling immediacy.
Jerry Jeudy is terrifying in his refinement as a route runner, with the short-area quickness and nuance to send defenders spinning left and right. He’s slight of frame, but he has the twitch and intelligence to make up for it in press, and gain separation in open field. He’s also not slow, for you speed freaks out there.
16) Atlanta Falcons: Javon Kinlaw, DL South Carolina
Dan Quinn is under pressure to rebound after a down 2019 season, and to do so, he’ll need to infuse his defensive unit with more top-end talent. The Falcons have a definite need at edge rusher, but early reports from Pro Football Network Insider Tony Pauline suggest that they’ll look to free agency there, with potential mutual interest in Dante Fowler. Thus, the Falcons can look to the interior at pick 16, and select Javon Kinlaw, a massive defensive lineman with searing explosion off the line, and the length to be a steady anchor for years on end.
NEXT: Picks 17-32