The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine is almost here, so that means it’s time for another mock draft before the Combine shakes things up again.
This is going to be the first part of a two-round mock draft. And rather than just list 64 names, I am breaking the draft into two parts and offering my brief thoughts or rationalization for each pick. Obviously the Giants’ picks will be getting more thorough and lengthy explanations.
I will be taking some ideas of what I think might happen in free agency into account, but I also will not be mocking any trades. Obviously there will be trades — this year could be insane for them, and I absolutely advocate the Giants partake — and I never claim any kind of accuracy when mock drafting. This is really more of an exercise to look at how players might be valued before the Combine and how current team needs could impact the draft board.
The second round will be posted later in the week.
1) Cincinnati Bengals - Joe Burrow (QB, LSU)
Yes, Burrow only has a one-year track record, but when you spend an entire year producing better under pressure than most QBs do from perfectly clean pockets, that’s saying something.
2) Washington Redskins - Chase Young (EDGE, Ohio State)
Assuming there isn’t a trade here — and since I’m not allowing trades, there isn’t — Young almost has to be the pick. Not because he addresses a need, but I don’t see Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio allowing him to pass them. Washington could have a really scary defense next year.
3) Detroit Lions - Jeffery Okudah (CB, Ohio State)
Here we have a need directly addressed. There is talk of the Lions trading Darius Slay rather than letting him play out his contract. But either way, Okudah addresses an immediate need while also being acceptable value.
4) New York Giants - Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
The Big Blue View comment section right now. But I’m not trolling, honest! In this scenario I have the Giants making Jack Conklin their number one priority in free agency, filling the hole at right tackle, as well as finding at least one pass rusher in free agency (I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them bring back Markus Golden and see Jason Pierre-Paul back in Blue). That would leave Dave Gettleman free to follow his passion, and we all know where that lies. And frankly, Brown is good enough to warrant the pick from a pure trait and ability perspective. Expect him to put on a show at the Scouting Combine, and a workout on par with Ndamukung Suh, Muhammed Wilkerson, or Chris Jones wouldn’t be surprising).
In fact, former NFL Scout and current NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah has Brown graded equally with Chase Young, with Lance Zierlein adding “Brown’s tape is actually more consistent and he’s further along with less projection needed.”
We might not want to hear or see it, but it is hardly far fetched that Dave Gettleman could fall head-over-heels in love with Brown by April 23rd.
5) Miami Dolphins - Tua Tagovailoa (QB, Alabama)
If Jack Sparrow wants to know where all the rum went, the Dolphins gave it to Jobu to counter the Fitzmagic and still get Tua despite winning five games. Personally, I’m fully expecting a trade up from the Dolphins to secure “Their Guy,” as they have have the motive and the draft capital to make it happen — And that’s why mock drafts are silly.
6) Los Angeles Chargers - Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)
With Philip Rivers headed out of town, the Chargers are going to need a quarterback. The only question is who and when. Could they try to land Tom Brady if he actually tests free agency? Could they be another team trying to trade up to land “Their Guy”?
7) Carolina Panthers - Jedrick Wills (OT, Alabama)
Carolina’s offensive line has fallen into disrepair over the last few years. While the Panthers could certainly use a player like Isaiah Simmons or Jerry Jeudy, I would expect Matt Rhule to want to build up front first.
8) Arizona Cardinals - Tristan Wirfs (OT, Iowa)
Arizona just signed D.J. Humphries to a 3-year deal. Hopefully that will solidify one side of their line, but he has been injury prone. Wirfs would give them an answer on the right side and options for the left if Humphries goes down again.
9) Jacksonville Jaguars - Isaiah Simmons (Off-ball Linebacker, Clemson)
Jacksonville is in a tough place. They could be serious contenders to trade up, considering two QB-needy teams in front of them. But they are also going to have to shed cap space, and that is likely going to have to come from their defense. Simmons is the best defender left on the board and would replace a presence they’ve missed since Telvin Smith stepped away from the game.
10) Cleveland Browns - Andrew Thomas (OT, Georgia)
Cleveland lucks out here and a top offensive tackle prospect falls to them. They need to rebuild their offensive line to give Baker Mayfield the time to play up to his potential.
11) New York Jets - Jerry Jeudy (WR, Alabama)
The Jets could well go for an OT here — and probably should — but if Robby Anderson leaves in free agency, they’ll need a top target for Sam Darnold. Jeudy is a superb route runner with plenty of athleticism to be a big play threat.
12) Las Vegas Raiders - CeeDee Lamb (WR, Oklahoma)
There are a lot of ways the Raiders could go with this pick — and even more if the rumors of them shopping Derek Carr are true. But assuming they keep him, Lamb gives him a reliable downfield option for that big arm and another way for John Gruden to open up his playbook.
13) Indianapolis Colts - Jake Fromm (QB, Georgia)
This might seem a bit high for Fromm, and he lacks the elite arm strength or athleticism to generate a big buzz for himself. But he has enough arm strength to go with good accuracy, careful decision making, and a good release. The Colts are built to win now, and Fromm is a good fit with Frank Reich’s West Coast based scheme.
14) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - K’Lavon Chaisson (EDGE, LSU)
The Buccaneers will almost certainly be bringing Shaquil Barrett back, but they might not bring back Jason Pierre-Paul. Chaisson isn’t the same kind of player that JPP is, but without JPP Tampa’s best pass rusher was Carl Nassib with 6.0 sacks. They Get more speed so offenses can’t focus on Barrett.
15) Denver Broncos - Mekhi Becton (OT - Louisville)
Assuming Becton performs like I think he will at the Combine, I couldn’t let him fall any further. This gets Drew Lock some protection, and upgrades an offensive line that wasn’t good last year.
16) Atlanta Falcons - Javon Kinlaw (DT, South Carolina)
The Falcons need as much help on defense as they can get. Kinlaw is a disruptive force on the interior that few linemen could deal with in college or at the Senior Bowl.
17) Dallas Cowboys - Kristian Fulton (CB, LSU)
Dallas needs defensive backs as it is. If they let Byron Jones leave via free agency (which they might not be able to avoid), they’ll have to spend draft picks on DBs. Fulton isn’t as well-rounded as Okudah, but he is a good press-man player.
18) Miami Dolphins - via Pittsburgh Steelers - Laviska Shenault Jr. (WR, Colorado)
Shenault is going to raise his profile at the Combine. He is a big receiver with explosive traits and good hands. His potential is sky-high if he can learn the nuances of the position. Tua gets a weapon.
19) Las Vegas Raiders - via Chicago Bears - Grant Delpit (S, LSU)
Oakland has some pieces to build around on defense, but it wasn’t very good last year. Delpit has slipped since the end of the 2018 season, but he has high football IQ and fantastic range to capitalize on the mistakes forced by Maxx Crosby.
20) Jacksonville Jaguars - via Los Angeles Rams - Jalen Hurts (QB, Oklahoma)
Jacksonville needs to get their quarterback situation figured out. Hurts isn’t a prototypical NFL quarterback, and that’s okay. He is an incredible leader, with a good arm, enough accuracy, and the athleticism to let the offense play 11 - on - 11. Doug Marone has been interested in the Option since making Ryan Nassib run it at Syracuse and his greatest success in Jacksonville was with Blake Bortles running. He gets a QB who can do both.
21) Philadelphia Eagles - C.J. Henderson (CB, Florida)
The Eagles have needed corners for the last two years. Henderson has the size and athleticism for man coverage and a feel for zone coverage.
22) Buffalo Bills - Henry Ruggs III (WR, Alabama)
Not even Josh Allen could over-throw Ruggs. He might not have a massive catch radius, but he is good at tracking the deep ball and has the afterburners to go get it.
23) New England Patriots - A.J. Epenesa (DL, Iowa)
I have seen several traditional talent evaluators struggle to project Epenesa to the NFL. Darth Hoodie called the New England defense last year and he knows exactly what to do with talented players other teams can’t figure out. Put them in position to do what they do best and let them wreck.
24) New Orleans Saints - Patrick Queen (LB, LSU)
Queen impressed as LSU’s season wore on and has received rave reviews from his teammates for his football IQ. The Saints have some serious free agent questions to answer in their secondary, but for now I’m giving them a piece for the middle of their defense.
25) Minnesota Vikings - Jalen Reagor (WR, TCU)
Minnesota could be parting ways with Stefon Diggs, and if so they are going to need a replacement. Reagor is a good, nuanced route runner with the agility and speed to be a home-run hitter after the catch or on vertical passes. He should help Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook.
26) Miami Dolphins - via Houston Texans - Xavier McKinney (S, Alabama)
The Dolphins need players all over their defense. The other choice here would be an EDGE, but I don’t like any of the remaining pass rushers more than McKinney. He would give a team that hemorrhaged big plays a reliable last line of defense.
27) Seattle Seahawks - Cesar Ruiz (C, Michigan)
At this point I’m not sure who the first interior lineman off the board will be, but Ruiz is big, athletic and a good center. Seattle needs to (finally) build around Russell Wilson and giving him a rock in the middle of the OL will do that. Unfortunately, Pete Carroll will also insist on running the ball and making Russ put his cape on to bail out the offense. Ruiz can help with that too.
28) Baltimore Ravens - Julian Okwara (EDGE, Notre Dame)
Okwara will help add more speed to Baltimore’s defense and potentially offset the loss of Matt Judon if he leaves via free agency. Okwara is a different kind of pass rusher, but his length and athleticism should give them options for different looks and blitzes.
29) Tennessee Titans - Lucas Niang (OT, TCU)
If you remember, I took Jack Conklin away from the Titans and signed him to the Giants. So Tennessee is going to need a new right tackle. Niang is big, long, athletic, and strong tackle prospect with experience playing on the right side. He needs to work on his technique, but his upside is considerable once he can unlock it.
30) Green Bay Packers - K.J. Hamler (WR, Penn State)
The Packers need another receiver across from DeVante Adams. Hamler is small (listed at 5-foot-9, 179) but he is fast and a good route runner to boot. A nice contrast with the versatility to play the slot and be a big play threat for Aaron Rodgers.
31) San Francisco 49ers - Trevon Diggs (CB, Alabama)
The 49ers already know what to do with a big, long, physical cornerback who profiles as a Cover 3 corner. Both Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon will be entering the last years of their contracts in 2020 and Diggs can give them insurance and continuity at an important position.
32) Kansas City Chiefs - Yetur Gross-Matos (EDGE, Penn State)
I am, more or less, leaving YGM off to the side after being named in a lawsuit alleging sexual assault and hazing. However, if Emmanuel Ogbah leaves in free agency, he would be a good fit and a potential upgrade.