The 2019 NFL season moves another week closer to its inevitable conclusion, and the 2020 NFL Draft is slowly growing closer. College bowl season is kicking into high gear and the Senior Bowl is just a month away. So how does our Week 16 NFL mock draft shape up?
2020 NFL Draft
#1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
The ascent of Joe Burrow in 2019 never ceases to amaze. One year ago, the former Ohio State castoff was considered a mid-to-late-round prospect. Now, he’s a virtual lock to be the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and by extension, the face of the Cincinnati Bengals franchise.
In an age where athleticism and arm talent is all the rage, Burrow has reminded teams that there’s far more to quarterbacking than velocity tests and verticals. He’s not a bad athlete by any means, and his arm, while weaker in comparison to other 2020 prospects, is not below average. But Burrow supplements what he has physically with unwavering poise and instinct under pressure, fast processing skills, and fluid mechanics. It’s rare for a quarterback prospect to have so few condemning flaws as Burrow does, and that’s why he’ll be Zac Taylor’s choice without a second thought.
#2. New York Giants: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Chase Young recently expressed a desire to return to Ohio State for his senior year, but he was quick to walk back his comments later on. Even Young understands how much of an impact he’s made on an entire nation, and a league impatiently awaiting his arrival.
Young has 16.5 sacks so far this season, and Ohio State has at least one more game to go in the College Football Playoff. Young, standing at 6-foot-5, 265, is an edge rusher in the same vein as some of the most athletically gifted defenders to enter the NFL in recent years. He’s dominated almost every opponent he’s faced, and in the NFL, his mix of burst, length, power, and relentlessness will come at a premium price. The Giants, with an ailing edge presence, simply have no other choice here. The best player available aligns with one of their greatest needs.
#3. Miami Dolphins: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The #TankForTua hashtag has dominated the Miami Dolphins draft buzz this season, but what if Stephen Ross and company decide the hip injury is enough for them to consider someone else? The Dolphins need a quarterback either way – Josh Rosen’s growth appears to have been permanently stunted, and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s days of deceiving teams are long gone.
Fitzpatrick could allow the Dolphins to ease in Tua Tagovailoa if they so pleased, but what if they fear that his hip injury will limit his upside down the road? Were that to be the case, then Justin Herbert is a tantalizing option at number three. Herbert is a frustrating evaluation at times, but his upside is very apparent. He has the size and athleticism to hurt teams with his off-script ability and pocket mobility, and he has an excellent arm. If incubated by a competent coaching staff, which the Dolphins seem to have organized, Herbert could attain more consistency, and reach his true potential. He has the unteachable traits, as well as the character and the drive. If drafting is projecting what players can be, then Herbert deserves to be in the same conversation as the best.
#4. Washington Redskins: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Offensive tackle has been the common match for the Washington Redskins in mock drafts this season, but there’s still a scenario where veteran blindside blocker Trent Williams returns to the team. Williams’ qualms with the franchise were ultimately instigated by team president Bruce Allen. The cards are starting to stack up against Allen, and if he were to be removed from the organization, it could be the catalyst to bring Williams back and effectively eliminate one top need.
In this theoretical scenario, the Redskins would have some freedom at number four, and here, they go with Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb. Picking a WR this early is never a move without doubts, especially in this incredibly deep wide receiver class. But Lamb is a special talent, and the complete wideout the Redskins need to pair with Terry McLaurin. Smooth before the catch, powerful at the catch point, and electric after the catch, Lamb’s multifaceted approach to his position is something few prospects have in a complete sense. Thus, he’ll be a coveted weapon on draft day and a welcome addition to a Redskins offense that needs more firepower.
#5. Detroit Lions: Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa
The Lions’ woes are an annual affair – onlookers watch in anticipation of the inevitable collapse each season. What makes it even sadder is that the Lions have a lot of good pieces, and Matthew Stafford is one of the most productive quarterbacks of not just his generation, but NFL history. The Lions can’t afford to waste Stafford’s career, and with time running out, they need to get the most they can get out of this offense.
Interestingly enough, the Lions are almost set on the offensive side of the ball. Their receiving core is stacked with talent, T.J. Hockenson is a young piece with game-changing potential, even after a disappointing rookie season, and the offensive line has solid pieces, such as Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow. They could use some help both on the interior and at right tackle with Rick Wagner regressing, however, and at number five, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs is a player who projects well at both spots.
Wirfs, standing at 6-foot-5, 320, has a very impressive combination of size and athleticism, and he’s one of the draft’s most powerful blockers at the point of attack. He has some modest issues with footwork on the edge that have spawned some talks of him shifting inside, but he has the physical upside to thrive wherever the Lions put him. This pick gives the Lions flexibility to use Wirfs in a way that best completes their blocking unit.
#6. Arizona Cardinals: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Andrew Thomas is widely viewed as the best offensive tackle prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft, and although he falls to six in this mock, it’s in no way a reflection of his play.
Thomas has the potential to be the best offensive tackle to enter the NFL Draft circuit in years. He has the size, length, and hand power and precision that teams look for, and he’s also nimble on his feet around the outside. The Cardinals neglected to invest in the offensive line in last year’s draft, but with this pick, they more than make up for it.
#7. New York Jets: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Since the Jets can’t draft a new coach, they have to go with the next best thing here: a talented player. There are a number of different routes which the Jets could take, but their need at cornerback outweighs everything else. Defending the pass is a must in today’s NFL, and Jeffrey Okudah does it better than most.
Okudah is an elite athlete with an attitude, and in 2019, he completed his game by adding ball production to his resume. Quarterbacks dared not throw his way, and when they did, they suffered the consequences. Okudah has the mirroring ability to stick in man coverage, and he has the closing speed to capitalize on opportunities in the blink of an eye. He has blue-chip potential, and the Jets can’t afford to pass up that kind of upside.
#8. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
The Jaguars love first-round defensive linemen, and with their defense putting up statistical marks near the bottom of the league, they need one now more than ever. They have aging contributors soon to leave their primes in Calais Campbell, Abry Jones, and Marcel Dareus, and younger players like Taven Bryan haven’t panned out as one would hope.
Derrick Brown isn’t a sure thing, but he’s about as close as you’re going to get in the 2020 NFL Draft. Brown is a mammoth player at 6-foot-5, 315, and he moves very well for his size. With a dominant blend of burst and burl, Brown is the defensive line prospect the Jaguars have been looking for all this time.
#9. Los Angeles Chargers: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
No matter how fearful teams might be of the long-term implications of Tua Tagovailoa’s hip injury, his slide in the 2020 NFL Draft won’t last long. Tagovailoa is a top-end talent, and reports suggest that doctors are confident Tagovailoa will make a full recovery.
Teams will make their own separate judgments, and in a clustered quarterback class, something like Tagovailoa’s surgery could be enough to sway the vote. But that kind of outcome can’t be expected across the board, and while the Dolphins passed on Alabama’s star signal-caller earlier in this mock draft, the Chargers don’t follow suit.
With Philip Rivers now in steep decline, the Chargers need to expedite their succession plan, and Tagovailoa slipping to number nine perfectly plays into their hand. Tagovailoa is a very exciting prospect, possessing the athleticism to produce in multiple phases, as well as throw with accuracy both off-base and in structure. Tagovailoa is a very efficient passer to all three ranges of the field, and his skill set will be welcome in Los Angeles. Rivers allows him an opportunity to be eased in, as well as learn from an accomplished veteran off the field.
#10. Denver Broncos: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
The Denver Broncos lost an elite route runner in Emmanuel Sanders when they traded him to San Francisco, but they have a rare opportunity to immediately replace him in the 2020 NFL Draft and give Drew Lock the talent he needs to flourish.
Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy fits the profile of the elite technician; with hips like Shakira, he identifies as a human joystick. His route running is very advanced for his age, and while his thin frame prevents him from being dominant in other phases of the game, such as at the catch point, Jeudy’s skill set is one that translates well to the modern NFL, where separation is ultimately king.
#11. Carolina Panthers: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
The Panthers are a potential quarterback suitor in 2020 – there’s still too much uncertainty surrounding Cam Newton’s future with the team to unequivocally lean one way or the other, but David Tepper might want to execute a hard reset in conjunction with a coaching change. He was willing to make a tough decision by letting go of beloved head coach Ron Rivera, and in that moment, he revealed that no one – not even Superman – was safe.
Tepper has openly expressed his interest in implementing analytics into Carolina’s operations, and in doing so, he may find that the Panthers quarterback of the future is available in the 2020 NFL Draft. Jordan Love’s raw stats from 2019 aren’t inspiring, but beyond the surface, he’s a very intriguing prospect with a ceiling that rivals the highest in the draft. Love provides utility as a runner, and near limitless potential as a thrower, with the arm talent to make every throw. It’s not so much a slight to Newton, but instead a needed transition in a hard reset. Love can help the Panthers step forward on the right foot.
#12. Atlanta Falcons: Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
Derrick Brown is a bit more established as a talent on the interior defensive line, but South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw has quickly separated himself as another higher-echelon player at the position in the 2020 NFL Draft, and he could end up being a better pro in a few years.
Kinlaw has a massive 6-foot-6, 310-pound frame, and he carries that weight very well. He’s able to concentrate an absurd amount of potential energy in his lower half, which helps him cultivate menacing explosion off the snap. Kinlaw is a wrecking ball up the middle, and he’ll help Grady Jarrett solidify the Falcons’ presence on the interior.
#13. Oakland Raiders: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
The Oakland Raiders need to undergo a great deal of self-scouting in the 2020 offseason. Their offense has talent, as does the defense, but Jon Gruden needs to find out just how far he is from legitimate contention.
One way to close the gap organically, however, is to pick Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons in Round 1. Simmons has a rangy 6-foot-4 frame, and he’s an elite athlete who can provide the Raiders with a position-less chess piece on the second level of the defense.
#14. Indianapolis Colts: Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
Jacoby Brissett aced the first half of his audition for the long-term job as the Colts starting quarterback. But down the stretch in 2019, he was a key reason why Frank Reich’s squad failed to sustain its success through the latter portion of the season. Brissett simply can’t elevate his teammates consistently enough, and in the 2020 NFL Draft, Reich and Chris Ballard need to find a quarterback who can. Washington’s Jacob Eason has the developmental upside to fit the desired profile.
Eason is a big guy with a big arm, and he’s up with the best of the 2020 class in terms of cultivating raw velocity with that arm. Eason can fit the ball into some tight windows, and he’s mobile enough to manipulate the pocket and extend plays. Right now, Eason’s talent is chaotic, without a module to channel it through. Frank Reich can provide that, and help Eason get the best out of his raw talent.
#15. Cleveland Browns: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
The collapse of the Browns’ dream team in 2019 wasn’t caused by one specific person, but the team’s offensive line issues heavily contributed to Baker Mayfield’s sophomore slump.
There’s still time for the Browns to salvage the talent they have, but they have to start investing resources in the right places. They can start to do so by drafting Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, a looming behemoth on the offensive line who offers punishing physicality in the trenches.
#16. Philadelphia Eagles: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
The Eagles receiving core was a major disappointment this season. The unit was plagued by drops, inconsistency, and periodic unavailability. The secondary deserves to be a priority for Philadelphia, but even more important is the quest to surround Carson Wentz with weapons and support him. With DeSean Jackson only getting older, jumping at the chance to add Henry Ruggs III and his near-4.2 speed only makes sense.
NEXT: PICKS 17-32