Locker 2020 NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Defensive Stars Traded
With under 50 days until the 2020 NFL Draft, the outbreak of the pandemic coronavirus has shut down almost all sports around the world. This includes, unfortunately, NCAA college basketball, Major League Baseball, the NBA, and even golf.
What will get us through these arduous, unprecedented times?
Mock drafts (video games notwithstanding).
That’s right, folks. Though the NFL could—and likely will—alter the league’s annual Draft by restricting fan access, the actual event itself is, in my opinion, very unlikely to be rescheduled.
Some two weeks subsequent to the NFL Combine—colloquially known as the “Underwear Olympics”—and just 1 day until the NFL’s legal tampering period officially opens, here are my thoughts about what each team will (and often should) likely do during the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on April 23rd.
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Toughness. Accuracy. Athleticism.
Joe Burrow has it all.
After a long, winding road that led him from Columbus, Ohio—just around 1 hour and 15 minutes from his hometown of Athens, Ohio—to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Burrow’s journey finally paid off in 2019.
Burrow threw for a ludicrous 5, 671 yards, 60 touchdowns, just 6 interceptions. Most importantly, he guided the LSU Tigers to an undefeated season in which they were crowned College Football Playoff National Champions.
Something that shouldn’t be overlooked is Burrow’s rushing ability. The 6’4” gunslinger trotted for over 500 yards during his Heisman campaign, and often isn’t afraid of sustaining a big hit from an incoming defender.
After years of mediocrity with Andy Dalton under center, the Bengals and second-year head coach—and former QB coach—Zac Taylor should be elated to select Burrow with the #1 overall pick.
2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
There are rumors swirling that the Redskins and new head coach Ron Rivera may be interested in selecting former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with this pick; this scenario would parallel what we saw with the Arizona Cardinals last year, who took the eventual 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray and traded Josh Rosen to the Dolphins in Kliff Kingsbury’s first year.
I just don’t see how that makes any sense for Washington, especially when you can draft a 6’5” monster in Chase Young.
Young totaled a whopping 21 sacks in 2019 and was named the Chuck Bednarik winner. For a franchise that has just 1 playoff appearance in the last 5 years, the Redskins need all the superstars they can get.
Additionally, it is far too premature to give up on second-year QB Dwayne Haskins. Haskins was ill-prepared in his first few starts and was rushed under center; in his latter few appearances, Haskins fared slightly better, but that performance was with Terry McLaurin as his only weapon.
The decision should be easy for Washington: take Young, a transcendent defensive end talent, rather than deliberately opting for another year with a rookie QB.
3. Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Like the Redskins above, many feel that the Lions may move on from longtime franchise signal-caller Matthew Stafford. And, like Washington, the Lions would be much better served to take the best available prospect rather than move on at QB.
Okudah is the best cornerback prospect in this draft class, and the Lions need secondary help—especially in light of the fact that superstar CB Darius Slay is slated to be traded quite soon.
Stafford likely has plenty left in the tank and showed no signs of declining before his back injury last season.
In terms of Okudah, some have labeled him a generational corner talent. I’m not sure that label applies, but regardless, the Lions would be prudent to take the First Team All-American and make it two Buckeyes selected in a row.
Giants get: Yannick Ngakoue, DE
Jaguars get: #4 overall pick (1st round), #99 overall pick (3rd round)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson
This is where it gets interesting.
In my opinion, the first 3 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft are essentially locks. However, Giants GM Dave Gettleman has expressed that he would consider trading out of the #4 spot; in this scenario, Jaguars GM David Caldwell trades superstar Ngakoue—who has publicly declared that he does not want to remain in Jacksonville for the future—and moves up.
The Jags’ defense is an absolute mess, especially after they just traded away 2017 Pro Bowler A.J. Bouye to the Broncos. Drafting Simmons, an explosive Swiss army knife, would certainly help to ameliorate the matter.
Simmons played linebacker (both inside and outside) and safety at Clemson, and totaled a ridiculous 2019 stat line of 104 total tackles, 8 sacks, 3 interceptions and 8 pass deflections. But his Combine performance may have been even more jaw-dropping.
The First Team All-American posted a gaudy 4.39-second 40-yard dash as well as a 39” vertical jump and an 11’ broad jump, numbers that only confirm that he shouldn’t escape the top 10—let alone 5—of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Outside of defensive end Josh Allen as well as middle linebacker Myles Jack, the Jags are essentially devoid of defensive talent. Simmons is the perfect fit and seamless stopgap at #4.
5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Miami seemed destined to draft Tagovailoa after Week 8, losing a lead that they had built at Heinz Field and ultimately faltering at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football to fall to 0-7.
Even after going 5-4 over their next 9 games, the Dolphins are still in prime position to draft the guy they have pursued for so long.
Tagovailoa is the #3 quarterback on my board, and it’s only because of his durability problems. But after the latest report claiming that his hip is “very good”, the Dolphins should still target him at #5. In fact, Tua should only have more time to rest and heal considering that veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will likely serve as the Dolphins’ starter for the foreseeable future—that is, until Tagovailoa takes the reigns.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
For those wondering from above, Herbert is, in fact, my #2 overall quarterback in this class. He has great size (6’6”), arm strength (including throwing some 62 yards flat-footed), and toughness. Plus, he largely doesn’t have the health concerns of Tagovailoa, and he was a 4-year starter at Oregon, leading them to a 2020 Rose Bowl victory.
Some have rumored that the Chargers may target an offensive tackle here due to recently trading away veteran Russell Okung, but picking Herbert makes more sense to me.
Regardless of whether or not Tom Telesco signs Tom Brady or Teddy Bridgewater, trades for a quarterback like Marcus Mariota or Derek Carr, or even sticks with backup Tyrod Taylor, the Chargers should groom a young QB to inhabit nascent SoFi Stadium for many years to come.
7. Carolina Panthers: Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
This pick may surprise some, but Kinlaw has been rapidly ascending 2020 NFL Draft boards ever since the Senior Bowl in late January, where had a phenomenal few days.
Additionally, after fellow interior defensive lineman Derrick Brown’s lackluster performance at the Combine—in which he ran a 5.16 40—Brown’s stock has only plummeted. Essentially, Kinlaw may have helped himself by not being tested for any Combine measurements or partaking in any drills at Lucas Oil Stadium due to a knee injury.
The Panthers should certainly target an interior defensive lineman with this pick. Projected 2020 starters Kawann Short and Dontari Poe are 31 and 29, respectively. Further, each is coming off major injuries: Short partially tore his rotator cuff and played in just 2 games in 2019, while Poe tore his quad and missed 5 games.
The Panthers may end up taking Brown here (or even a quarterback under new head coach Matt Rhule, which, to me, seems quixotic), but Kinlaw seems like the smartest pick here.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Cardinals fans may be disappointed to see their team not taking Murray’s former college running mate CeeDee Lamb with this pick, but I think offensive tackle is more of a position of need.
The Cardinals’ offensive line allowed 50 sacks a year ago, which tied for 4th-worst.
This OT class is incredibly deep, so the Cardinals could take any of Becton, Tristan Wirfs or Andrew Thomas. To me, Becton is the best due to being the tallest (6’7”) while arguably the most athletic (Wirfs’ Combine measurables were slightly better, but a 5.10 40-yard dash at Becton’s stature still wowed scouts).
In terms of Arizona’s receivers, they have future Hall-of-Famer Larry Fitzgerald for at least 2020 as well as a young crop that includes Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler, the latter of whom missed all of his rookie year. The Cardinals could add another pass-catcher, but their 2020 group will already be somewhat crowded.
What makes the most sense to me is for the Cardinals to take a tackle like Becton, who, in this case, would continue playing for the Cardinals—from Louisville to Glendale.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Speaking of Lamb, he would fit in seamlessly on the Jaguars, who would hypothetically be making their second first round pick.
It behooves GM David Caldwell to provide additional targets for second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew outside of D.J. Chark, and Lamb provides exactly that with excellent hands and speed coupled with ridiculous run-after-catch ability.
10. Cleveland Browns: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
I discussed Wirfs earlier, and it’s hard to imagine him slipping past pick #11. He absolutely tore up Indianapolis with a 4.85 40-yard dash, a 36.5” vertical jump, and a 10’1” broad jump, the last two of which are Combine records for offensive linemen.
The Browns had significant problems at tackle last season—both left and right—and adding Wirfs should make quarterback Baker Mayfield more protected as he attempts to rebound from an ugly 2019.
11. New York Jets: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Umpteen pundits have the Jets nabbing another offensive tackle here (like Georgia’s Andrew Thomas), something I could see them doing.
At the same time, the Jets need more targets for third-year QB Sam Darnold. With Robby Anderson set to become a free agent and test his market value, the Jets should be prepared to pay considerably for the 26-year-old wideout. Such move wouldn’t preclude adding another receiver to pair with Anderson and Jamison Crowder, especially considering that Gang Green may lose out on Anderson.
Jeudy is the most polished route runner in this entire class, and also has great RAC ability to go along with strong hands. If the Jets want Darnold to truly develop in 2020, giving him another elite option—as well as adding offensive line help, either through in the Draft, later in the 2020 NFL Draft or via free agency—is the best way to go.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
As they move to Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, the Raiders are looking for young, promising talent that can propel the franchise to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Ruggs is that guy.
Regardless of whether or not they nab Tom Brady or stick with Derek Carr, Las Vegas needs more offensive weapons. Josh Jacobs proved to be a phenomenal choice in the first round last year, and Darren Waller broke out big time in 2019.
In terms of receivers, though, the Raiders are thin except for Tyrell Williams—who largely could not remain healthy a year ago. Ruggs would be a great complement to Williams and would easily attract fans through his burners, which enabled him to run a 2020 Combine best-4.27 40.
13. Indianapolis Colts: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
The Colts seem to have wavering interest in quarterback Jacoby Brissett, as murmurs are that they may pursue a signal-caller like Brady or even Philip Rivers.
No matter if they add a veteran QB or stick with Brissett—who is in a contract year—the Colts should draft a quarterback at some point, and Love is a great project for development.
I’m not infatuated with Love’s play. His numbers are subpar, especially considering that he faced inferior Mountain West defenses.
Love threw for 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions for the entire 2019 season. In terms of facing Power 5 teams, Love threw for 416 yards, 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions at Wake Forest; he was harangued for 130 yards and 3 interceptions at LSU.
However, Love certainly has the ability to be groomed and to learn from someone like Brissett, Brady or Rivers. The Colts could try to trade up for the likes of Tagovailoa or Herbert, but allowing Love to get acclimated to Frank Reich’s system for a year or two is also logical.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
We have yet to know who will suit up at quarterback for Bruce Arians and Tampa Bay in 2020; nonetheless, their offensive line needs some retooling.
2019 right tackle Demar Dotson is a free agent, not to mention that he is 34 years old. Thomas would be a smart draft selection as a replacement, especially considering that Tampa’s $79 million in cap space will likely be utilized to sign a QB and some defensive pieces, including extending star outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett.
Broncos get: Darius Slay, CB
Lions get: #15 overall pick (1st round), #95 overall pick (3rd round)
15. Detroit Lions: Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
A second trade in the first round, and another for a defensive star looking for a long-term and lofty payday.
After taking Okudah with the #3 overall pick, the Lions ship the 3-time Pro Bowler Slay to the Broncos and pair him with Bouye.
In exchange, the Lions would likely target their interior defensive line at #15, and Brown is just the right guy to do so.
Both Mike Daniels and A’Shawn Robinson are free agents, so their futures are certainly in the balance in Detroit. The Lions had just 28 sacks in 2019—tied for 29th—so they should look to better their front 4 by drafting a formidable presence inside with the First Team All-American Brown.
16. Atlanta Falcons: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
Like the Lions, the Falcons struggled getting opposing QBs on the ground in 2019, also compiling 28 sacks.
With former standout DE Vic Beasley set to hit free agency, moreover, drafting Chaisson would only make more sense.
Chaisson is an absolute blur off the edge and wreaked havoc in the 2019 College Football Playoff Semifinal, sacking Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts twice. His CFP dominance will likely continue in the NFL, and the Falcons seem to be the perfect home.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
For essentially 2 years now, the Cowboys have desperately needed a safety. The George Iloka signing absolutely floundered, and Jeff Heath is set to hit free agency; considering that Dallas has to attempt to resign stars Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Byron Jones to long-term deals with a total of around $74 million in cap space, it figures that they will have to look to the Draft to fill the void at safety.
It’s a toss-up between McKinney and Grant Delpit of LSU, but I think McKinney is a slightly better tackler, as he had 30 more total tackles than Delpit in 2019. McKinney’s 40 time of 4.63 wasn’t outstanding, but he will certainly still go in the first round; Dallas would be wise to draft him to help progress the rebuild of their secondary.
18. Miami Dolphins: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
The Dolphins have a plethora of positions of need, but, after recently cutting 2-time Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones, they need a young ballhawk to roam the secondary.
Delpit’s play regressed slightly in 2019, but he was largely hampered by an ankle injury. Nonetheless, he was still awarded the Jim Thorpe Award—a prize that may have been better suited for his teammate, freshman sensation Derek Stingley Jr.
GM Chris Grier selecting Tagovailoa and Delpit through 2 picks should make Dolphin faithful ecstatic.
19. Las Vegas Raiders: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Drafting for the second time in 8 picks, the Raiders take Murray, an inside linebacker who would likely be an instant starter considering that both Vontaze Burfict and Will Compton are free agents.
As I said earlier, the Raiders need bonafide stars as they relocate to one of the most luminous and cosmopolitan cities in the world, Las Vegas. Murray is just that, as he compiled over 100 tackles, 4 sacks and 4 pass deflections in 2019 for Oklahoma.
Several think Las Vegas may target LSU linebacker Patrick Queen with this selection, but after both watching the tape and analyzing the numbers, Murray seems to be the better player.
Murray is a more solid tackler and better in coverage than Queen. Additionally, Murray ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at 6’2”, while Queen ran at 4.5 at 6’0”. Murray appears to be the more explosive athlete, and adding him to a defense with burgeoning star Johnathan Abram would be shrewd.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
At this point, the Jaguars would have already taken Isaiah Simmons and CeeDee Lamb. Why not add a corner like Henderson to a defense that, as I mentioned earlier, needs all the secondary help it can obtain?
Henderson is the #2 corner on my draft board. His 4.39 40-yard dash was stellar; though he had 0 interceptions in 2019, his ball skills—especially back shoulder—are superb.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
The Eagles have a muddling receiver scenario, as veteran and oft-injured Alshon Jeffery as well as Nelson Agholor are set to hit free agency.
Philadelphia has needed secondary and receiver help for some time now, and the 6’1” Jefferson would certainly provide the latter. His 4.43 40 speed would add another excellent target for QB Carson Wentz—and, most importantly, a reliable one.
22. Buffalo Bills: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
The Bills already have a do-it-all receiver in John Brown, but in order for third-year gunslinger Josh Allen to really hit his stride, why not give him another toy?
Veteran slot receiver Cole Beasley is 30, and the Bills have little in terms of WRs outside of him and Brown. Adding a great deep ball receiver like Shenault Jr., who is also a guy whose hands you want the ball to be in—via reverses and RPOs—would grant great depth to Buffalo’s playbook.
23. New England Patriots: Cesar Ruiz, OL, Michigan
This offensive guard class isn’t tantamount to that of receivers or cornerbacks, but Ruiz seems to be the best interior offensive lineman out of this group.
Ruiz’s Combine measurables were good for his 6’3” size. And with LG Joe Thuney set to hit free agency and C David Andrews missing all of 2019 with blood clots, the Patriots need help along the interior of their offensive line, no matter if their 2020 QB is Brady, Andy Dalton or even Jarrett Stidham.
24. New Orleans Saints: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
The biggest reason why the Saints were so shockingly usurped by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2019 Wild Card Round was their inability to cover Adam Thielen, who gashed the Saints on their home turf for 129 yards, including a 43-yard pass allowed by Patrick Robinson in overtime.
Robinson is 32, and fellow corner Eli Apple is set to hit free agency. Fulton would fit right in, traveling just 81 miles to join the Saints.
As I said earlier, Fulton wasn’t the best secondary member on his own team—that honor belongs to Stingley Jr. But Fulton is a long, tall corner who plays bigger than 6’0” with good speed.
The Saints do need to add more targets outside of Michael Thomas, but I think Tre’Quan Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. are still viable options; adding a WR in the later rounds definitely makes sense, though.
With Drew Brees expected to come back for 2020, the Saints need to address the back end of their defense, and picking Fulton—the hometown kid—would do just that.
25. Minnesota Vikings: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
If you thought the Saints had a problem in the secondary, the Vikings’ quandary is far worse.
With news coming yesterday that the team is releasing veteran Xavier Rhodes—who still made his way to Orlando for the Pro Bowl despite having a horrific 2019—and as Mackensie Alexander, Trae Waynes and Anthony Harris are slated to be free agents, the Vikings need an imminent secondary rebuild.
Terrell is a long 6’1” and boosted his Draft stock with a 4.42 40. Something else that he has is championship pedigree, as he played in 2 College Football Playoffs—even intercepting Tagovailoa in the 2019 CFP National Championship game.
26. Miami Dolphins: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
There are rumors that the Dolphins are intrigued by free agent running back Melvin Gordon, but Gordon had a slow 2019 after holding out.
What would be smartest for the Dolphins to do is to add a rookie RB (regardless of whether or not they sign Gordon or another free agent), and, in my eyes, Taylor is the cream of the crop at halfback.
Taylor is a physical runner at 5’11”, and ran an outstanding 4.39 40. Oh, and did I mention that he has consecutive seasons of 2,000 rushing yards and can also be used in the passing game?
Yes, there are other RBs that Miami may target in the 2020 NFL Draft, like D’Andre Swift of Georgia or J.K. Dobbins of Ohio State. To me, though, Taylor is simply the best out of all of them, and he would fill the gorge left by trading away Kenyan Drake in 2019.
27. Seattle Seahawks: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
To me, this is a relatively easy pick.
Veteran pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney is about to hit free agency, and he has a smattering of teams interested; plus, the Seahawks allegedly agreed not to use their franchise tag on him. Additionally, DE Ziggy Ansah’s contract is also expiring.
Gross-Matos is my #3 edge rusher. He utilizes a great repertoire of moves to evade offensive linemen and has tremendous finesse for his 6’5” frame. He is a truly formidable force coming off the edge, and drafting him would help Seattle retool their defensive line that is sure to witness a few departures.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
The Ravens had arguably the most explosive offense in the league in 2019, and their defense was surreptitiously great as well.
Baltimore could go OG here in light of the fact that veteran and 8-time Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda just called it a career. But the Ravens have a morass at MLB, where Patrick Onwuasor, Josh Bynes and Pernell McPhee will all be free agents.
Queen is a very quick-twitch player who could do anything the Ravens ask him to, including blitzing—he really shines coming off the edge and harassing QBs. Such trait could be vital for Baltimore, as many feel that they will trade franchise tagged-OLB Matthew Judon.
29. Tennessee Titans: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama
The Titans, like Baltimore, don’t have too many holes on their roster. I pondered giving them a receiver here, but OT seems to be the more pressing problem as tackle Jack Conklin is expected to cash in a few days as a free agent.
Conklin would be a key loss for Mike Vrabel’s offense, who I think will re-sign QB Ryan Tannehill (UPDATE: Tannehill has re-signed with Tennessee on a 4-year, $118 million deal) and RB Derrick Henry. Consequently, drafting the 6’4” Wills—who also had a solid Combine—would plug such gap.
30. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
In 2019, the Packers had little wide receiver production, as star Davante Adams missed 4 games, and Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling combined for just 739 receiving yards. Allen Lazard came on late, starting both postseason games for Green Bay, but seemingly perennial Pro Bowler Aaron Rodgers needs more weapons on the perimeter.
Mims is exactly that. His Combine numbers eerily match Falcons superstar Julio Jones:
Mims: 6’3”, 4.38 40-yard dash, 38.5” vertical leap
Jones: 6’3”, 4.39 40-yard dash, 38.5” vertical leap
The two look very similar on tape as well. Each is an excellent red zone target with strong hands; both pluck balls out of the air over defenders and run crisp routes.
I mulled having the Packers select Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool here, as Claypool lit up the Combine, drawing comparisons to famed Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson in the process.
To me, though, the somewhat unsung Mims is just as good as Claypool. He would pair marvelously with Adams and Lazard.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota
Winfield Jr. is one of my favorite players in the 2020 NFL Draft. Listed at just 5’9”, he has absurd range for a safety. The ball finds a way to come to him—much like the Steelers’ Minkah Fitzpatrick—as he totaled 7 interceptions in 2019, good for 4th in the country.
In terms of their free agents, the 49ers may lose two key defenders: DE Arik Armstead and S Jimmie Ward. GM John Lynch has just 2 days to franchise one, and Armstead is far more likely to be tagged.
As such, the Niners easily may lose Ward. You could make the argument that Winfield Jr. is the best safety in this draft class—that should be music to Lynch’s ears.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Noah Igbinoghere, CB, Auburn
Admittedly, this pick was tough to determine.
The Chiefs do need to add another running back, but, with Taylor gone, I don’t feel that other runners like Swift or Dobbins really offer a change of pace from Super Bowl standout Damien Williams.
On the other hand, the Chiefs also face numerous obstacles in their secondary, as the contracts of Kendall Fuller, Morris Claiborne and Bashaud Breeland are all expiring. Moreover, Kansas City has made it clear that they intend to tag defensive tackle Chris Jones, so the negotiating period for such corners will not be extended as it will be with Jones.
Fundamentally, the Chiefs need a cornerback to pair with their stellar safety duo of Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill.
It was hard to discern between Igbinoghene, Jeff Gladney of TCU and Damon Arnette of Ohio State, but I chose the former.
What Igbinoghene does phenomenally is squeeze receivers to the sidelines, cutting off their routes; he also plays much faster than 4.48 speed, and the Chiefs could explore putting him at kick returner alongside Second Team All-Pro Mecole Hardman. Igbinoghene averaged a whopping 35.2 yards per kick return last season.
I expect the Chiefs to add a tailback at some point in this Draft, but picking from this crop of corners—especially Igbinoghene–would make the most immediate impact for the defending champs.