2020 NFL Mock Draft 1st edition
Updated: Mar 10
Yesterday was the deadline for juniors to declare early for the 2020 NFL draft. With that over, I present my first Score On Air 2020 NFL Mock draft. A few things before I begin though:
I’m not taking into account trades, free-agent signings, or anything else until it actually happens.
I will give reasoning, if needed, for my picks.
When I make statements like “top-rated” it’s based on a composite of rankings, not just one.
Don’t “@” me, it doesn’t end well for anyone.
OK, got it? Great! With the first pick of the 2020 NFL draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select –
Cincinnati Bengals – Chase Young – DE – Ohio State
Yes, I know, Joe Burrow is the pick here. Sure, if you believe that he is A) the answer at QB for the Bengals and B) Chase Young is not a pass rusher in the mold of the Bosa brothers. Listen, I get it, the urge to have a settled starter at QB is a hole in your gut and you need to fill it, but drafting a QB that doesn’t pan out sets your team back years (*cough* Akili Smith *cough* David Klingler). Chase Young is the smart pick AND the safe pick. Give Ryan Finley a year and see what you have in him; you can get always get Trevor Lawrence in the next draft.
Washington Redskins – Jeff Okudah – CB – Ohio State
This is where were I dealing in trades, I would see someone trading up to take Burrow. I’m not, and they aren’t. We’re sticking with Washington, who were likely salivating at the thought of Young joining 2019 first-rounder Montez Sweat pressuring QBs. Instead, we’re giving them, in almost everyone’s opinion, the best CB in the draft. Washington gets younger in its secondary and helps a defense ranked 27th in points allowed per game.
Detroit Lions – Isaiah Simmons – OLB – Clemson
The chaos waterfall continues! At the start of the draft, the Lions were likely thinking Okudah would certainly drop to them, instead, I happened. Forced to make a choice between either the next highest rated CB or the top-rated LB, the Lions go with Simmons. A versatile LB who can play multiple positions, play all three downs, stop the run, cover, or rush the passer; Simmons should be a starter from Day 1 of training camp.
New York Giants – Tristan Wirfs – OT – Iowa
A pick that helps the Giants on multiple fronts, and, remember, boys and girls, games are won and lost in the trenches. Wirfs is an Iowa Tackle in the mold of Branden Scherff (#5, 2015), Riley Rieff (#23, 2012), and Bryan Bulaga (#23, 2010); whatever you think of Kirk Ferentz, this program turns out NFL players. Played his time primarily at RT but is athletic enough to play both spots, Wirfs is a dominant run blocker, and if he were kept on the right side would form a dominant combo with RG Kevin Zeitler.
Miami Dolphins – Joe Burrow – QB – LSU
This is the Heisman winner’s landing spot- South Beach. The Dolphins have been trying to fill this spot since the retirement of Dan Marino (remember when they had a chance to sign Drew Brees?) and with this pick, they do. I won’t say I don’t have my doubts about Burrow, I do, but he’s had as strong a season as I’ve ever seen in college. There’s nothing I can point to and say “That’s it!” he has a great arm, he can throw to (NFL) windows in coverage, he makes good decisions, hell, he’s even got good mobility. Draft him and be happy ‘Phins fans.
Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Herbert – QB – Oregon
I made the point to someone about Herbert that if you took the top three QBs in this draft and stripped them of name and stats, most people would end up picking Herbert, he just looks like a QB made from scratch. The Chargers are or should be, looking to the future, Phillip Rivers won’t be there forever, it just feels that way. If the Chargers do decide to go another way it will likely be to pick an OT and try to extend Rivers’ shelf life.
Carolina Panthers – Derrick Brown – DT – Auburn
With questions swirling around Cam Newton’s future, a new coach (Matt Rhule, formerly of Baylor), and ILB Luke Kuechly’s surprise retirement, there’s a lot of different ways the Panther could go with this pick. They could take Tua Tagovialoa (if they’re satisfied with the health of his hip), they could go with one of the remaining tackles to solidify a leaky O-line (58 sacks allowed, T-league worst), or they can take the (in my opinion) second-best defensive player in the draft. Brown is a beast in the middle and running at him is like trying to run through a swamp, it’s not happening.
Arizona Cardinals – Andrew Thomas – OT – Georgia
Given that 2019 #1 pick Kyler Murray was sacked 48 times last season and that the run game was atrocious before Miami refugee Kenyon Drake arrived at the trade deadline, it only makes sense for the Cardinals to draft an offensive lineman who can protect Murray and blast holes for Drake in the run game. Thomas is that guy. Physical and aggressive in the run game, Thomas is equally adept at pass blocking though he can occasionally forget to move his feet against smaller, faster edge rushers.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Jerry Jeudy – WR – Alabama
How the Jaguars approach this pick sets the table for the second third of the draft. They need help at several positions and if Derrick Brown were here, he’d be a good choice to help a 28th ranked run defense. Instead, they take the top-ranked WR in the draft. Jeudy isn’t the “monster” WR we see fans pining over for the highlight grabs, no, he wins his battles with quick feet, strong hands, and precision. If there’s something to nitpick it’s that he goes down easily, mostly because he’s looking to juke away from contact and make plays.
Cleveland Browns – Jerrick Willis – OT – Alabama
The Browns weren’t terrible last year, passing or rushing, but they most certainly weren’t good either. In fact, they were 22nd in passing and 12th in rushing but only 22nd in total offense. Something needs to change and with everything invested in this offense, they could probably do with someone to block for them. Enter Jerrick Willis. While we tend to think of OTs drafted this high as mostly playing blindside protector, Willis has spent his time on the right side of the line. A road grader in the run game, Willis displays enough technique and such a good base that it’s easy to imagine him playing LT. Regardless of where he plays, he’s an upgrade to the line.
New York Jets – Henry Ruggs III – WR – Alabama
With a 29th ranked passing game and only 2 wide receivers catching more than 1 TD pass each (RB Le’Veon Bell also caught 5) the Jets need an outside receiver who can produce. Ruggs can be that player. Explosive on release, Ruggs has excellent ball skills in the air and is able to take the top off a defense on any given play. When he’s not getting the ball, you can see that he’s a product of Nick Saban’s tutelage, he’s competitive and blocks hard for his running back. A bit on the lean side, and he isn’t the most experienced running the entire route tree, he is, nonetheless, just what the Jets need.
Las Vegas Raiders – CeeDee Lamb – WR – Oklahoma
I make this pick mindful that one of the top names in this draft is still on the board and also a position of need for the Raiders in Tua Tagavialoa. I want more info before drafting Tua in the Top 10; back, hip and knee injuries make me antsy. Lamb offers the Raiders a weapon that, along with great ball skills, blocking, and being an excellent runner after the catch, should make Derek Carr more accurate with his hands and ability to create separation. A lack of elite speed is a knock, but Jerry Rice didn’t have elite speed either.
Indianapolis Colts – Tua Tagovialoa – QB – Alabama
Just a year after Andrew Luck retired on the eve of the season opener, the Colts get his replacement. If (and I addressed this in the pick above) Tua’s hip is sound and there are no long term concerns, he is, debatably, the best QB in this draft. Tua wins with his head and his feet as much as he does with his arm. Remain calm, even when he is feeling the rush and he is able to slide in the pocket to make rushers overshoot him. Tua’s ability to anticipate receivers coming open is very good and he has shown the ability to make the tight window throws you will need to make in the NFL to be successful. He has a good but not great arm and with the hip injury, his durability comes into question.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Javon Kinlaw – DT – South Carolina
With Derrick Brown off the board, the Bucs select the second best DT on the board in Kinlaw. With his insane get-off at the snap, Javon can play just about anywhere on the line, and in whatever formation you want. Has the ability to penetrate playing either a one or two-gap scheme and is able to diagnose screen plays quickly and blow them up. Strength is no issue but he can forget to reset his feet for a second push. Has very good lateral movement for a big man and should be a three-down player for years to come.
Denver Broncos – Tee Higgins – WR – Clemson
With The Broncos moving on from longtime stalwarts Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in the last year, Cortland Sutton finds himself the top receiver in Denver. At this pick, there may be more value in one of the remaining corners, but I see GM John Elway taking a receiver to give second-year QB Drew Lock a full complement of weapons. Higgins isn’t the most experienced route runner, but does a good job creating separation at the top of the route and has a huge catch radius. A natural hand catcher, Higgins doesn’t hesitate to climb the ladder and give up his body to make a catch. A receiver who is cognizant of where he is on the field in relation to the sideline.
Atlanta Falcons – A.J. Epenesa – DE – Iowa
With just 28 sacks during the 2019 NFL season, the Falcons need help rushing the passer, and they need it soon. Fortunately, in this draft, A.J. Epenesa falls to them at the 15th pick to fill that need. While he is not the explosive and flexible pass rusher that Chase Young is, Epenesa is smooth and fluid. When watching his film you see a DE who can set the edge or push the pocket. His bull rush or push-pull rush moves are his bread and butter and with his strength, damn near impossible to stop. He will need to develop more moves and counters to be an elite pass rusher. He is very aggressive and takes pride in it, but can display a level of unsureness when his intensity is matched.
Dallas Cowboys – Grant Delpit – S – LSU
A safety that might remind you a bit of former Cowboy Roy Williams, though not quite as physical and a better coverage safety. He has experience at all secondary positions as well as playing as an extra linebacker. When in coverage he is a ball hawk who competes for the ball and will make a play if the QB makes any sort of mistake. Delpit is able to flip his hips and cover or play press coverage as needed and he is unlikely to be a liability against most receivers he would be asked to cover. He is competent as a pass rusher with the ability to identify gaps and disguise blitzes. Unfortunately, he is not the best tackler and has a tendency to attempt to a shoulder tackle or dive at ankles only to come up short.
Miami Dolphins – Trevon Diggs – CB – Alabama
With their “Face of the Franchise” secure, the Dolphins turn to another glaring hole on their roster. CB Trevon Diggs is what you might end up with if you were building an NFL corner in a lab. Tall? Check. Strong? Check. Physical? Check. Fast? Double-check. Best in zone coverage and wins most of his battles with his physicality and ability to retain leverage. He doesn’t get lazy after contact and with his size and speed can make up space if the receiver creates separation. He could be more aggressive in run support and is not the best open-field tackler.
Las Vegas Raiders – C.J. Henderson – CB – Florida
Another tall, lanky cornerback, Henderson does an excellent job in man coverage with his ability to mirror the receiver, even at full-speed. Does a good job in zone coverage, but will freelance, conceding easy catches at times but making plays in other instances. He is able to keep receivers covered with his long arms even if they have him blocked with their body. Prides himself as a run defender and is a good one, but tackling can be a bit of an issue. This pick should fill another big need for the Raiders and when paired with Trayvon Mullen gives the franchise a pair of talented corners.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Kenneth Murray – LB – Oklahoma
With the Jags filling a position of need on offense they turn to defense with their second first-round pick. Murray is a new-school linebacker, not as thick or heavy, more finesse than physical and perfect for defending today's offenses. A sideline-to-sideline defender, playing in the Big XII prepared Murray for up-tempo offenses. Athletic and explosive, Murray is rarely beaten to a corner. Can cover, but will need to work on his decision making as he watches the QBs eyes only to get burned. He is a good tackler and wraps up when doing so. A high upside player who will need to develop before reaching his potential.
Philadelphia Eagles – Kristian Fulton – CB – LSU
With the Eagles running low on receivers as the season wound down, it’s entirely possible that they could choose a receiver here, it just depends on how much they like the ones remaining on the board VS the remaining cornerbacks. Fulton is, to many, the second-best CB in this draft; personally, I like him a little less because he isn’t as likely to cause turnovers as he is to stop receptions, that’s a personal preference though, not a knock. Excellent in man coverage and smart, rarely over-committing or taking false steps. Run support/tackling could be better, but you’re drafting him as a shutdown corner.
Buffalo Bills – Laviska Shenault – WR – Colorado
From being a Buffalo to playing in Buffalo, I briefly thought that maybe one of the remaining edge rushers would be a good fit here, but decided that Shenault would be a better choice; after all, the Bills were Top 10 in both pass and rush defense last season and were near the bottom of the league in pass offense. A natural playmaker, Shenault is big, strong, and fast, all things you like to see in a receiver. Any reception is a possible score due to his speed and ability with the ball in his hands. Might not be as polished a receiver as you’d like due to being moved around at Colorado (played WR, TE, RB, and wildcat QB).
New England Patriots – K’Lavon Chaisson – DE – LSU
When I got here and saw Chaisson still available, I knew he was home, he is the type of player that the Patriots take then turn into a Pro Bowler for the next 7-10 years. A high IQ player who can be moved around (see what I mean) to cover TEs or jam receivers. Explosive, his get-off is crazy and even though his hand-fighting skills needs work, his speed is often enough to win the day. A high motor player who is also athletic, not “just” effort, he is a violent tackler and wraps up when he gets there. Technically sound OTs will give him some problems until he is more polished with his hands and can disengage blockers better.
New Orleans Saints – Tyler Biadasz – C – Wisconsin
With other positions of need just about tapped out for first-round talent, the Saints look to draft the first interior offensive lineman of the daft in Biadasz (bee-AH-dish). A leader on the O-line, Biadasz has the nastiness and intelligence you want from an interior lineman. He never stops battling and when he locks on and utilizes his natural strength he is almost impossible to disengage. Anchors well in pass protection but run blocking is where he really shines. Whoever drafts him should look to improve upon his natural strength and his feet which can get heavy at times.
Minnesota Vikings – Neville Gallimore – DT – Oklahoma
With this pick, the Vikings give their interior line an upgrade. While not a true NT, he can do some of his best work lined up directly over the center where he can use his explosiveness and strength to overwhelm opposing centers. A high effort player, Gallimore is agile and a nightmare in the phone booth. He has excellent upper-body strength and a variety of pass rush moves that he can bring to bear. As I noted above, he’s not a true nose and can struggle to anchor in the run game when facing double teams or powerful drive blockers.
Miami Dolphins – Mekhi Becton – OT – Louisville
With their previous picks the Dolphins filled holes, OT tackle is a hole too, and doubly so with Burrow as your “Franchise”. Becton is someone I didn’t really see much this season; aside from the game against Notre Dame on Labor Day weekend, the Cardinals only had 4 other nationally televised games, and I only caught part of the game Vs Clemson, a game no one looked good in. When I started watching his tape, I found a surprisingly (for a 6’7”, 360-odd pound tackle) agile man who is just as strong as you’d imagine and has the footwork to match. His technique needs to improve at the NFL-level and whoever drafts him will need to make sure his weight doesn’t become a problem.
Seattle Seahawks – Yetur Gross-Matos – DE – Penn State
Where the Seahawks go with this pick is dependent on what happens with Jadeveon Clowney; if he stays I believe this pick becomes a cornerback, for now though, he’s scheduled to be a UFA in March. To me, Gross-Matos looks like a high ceiling, high floor player who could definitely increase his stock during the draft process. He has three-step quickness that OTs will find difficult to deal with; if he can expand his pass rush moves and counters he could be devastating. A very good run defender, though he can misdiagnose plays at times and overthink his attack.
Baltimore Ravens – Terrell Lewis – DE – Alabama
This pick shouldn’t surprise anyone, GM Ozzie Newsome likes the product coming out of his Alma Mater in Tuscaloosa. With two of his last six 1st round picks (2014, 2017), Newsome has chosen a Tide defensive player, well, make it three of seven now. A violent pass rusher who uses long limbs and a willingness to attack inside or out and in close quarters. Lewis gets to the passer more through effort and determination than skill or technique, he doesn’t read QB drops or tackle sets and will need to refine his rush moves and his ability to read what the offense is doing. Lastly, and I know this is nit-picky, but I’d like to see him add 15-20 pounds, he’s just too lean for me as a DE.
Tennessee Titans – Raekwon Davis – DT – Alabama
A big-framed DT that the Titans can plug into the middle of their defense for the next several years. He has good first-step quickness and can use his lower body strength to collapse the pocket from the middle. His pass rush moves are minimal but he diagnoses plays in the backfield and how he will be blocked very quickly. He can disengage from blockers and use his upper body strength to make them look silly. He does play better in the first quarter than the fourth so conditioning (as with almost all DTs) is a concern. Height alone should yield a number of batted balls every year.
Green Bay – Jalen Reagor – WR – TCU
I’m bucking a trend here with the Packers, of their last eight first-round picks, all eight have been defensive players; in fact, you have to go back to 2011 to find their last offensive first-rounder. With that said, I think that the Packers are getting to the point where they will be adding more weapons for Aaron Rodgers to use in an effort to extend his career. That begins with Jalen Reagor. The son of former NFL lineman Montae Reagor, Jalen is a twitchy, fast runner, who was one of the best long jumpers in the nation in high school. Runs the route tree well and makes DBs who bite on double moves pay. Occasionally has concentration issues and will turn upfield before securing the ball.
Kansas City Chiefs – D’Andre Swift – RB – Georgia
It took long enough, right? If Swift were drafted here it would mark the latest selection of the first running back taken since the 2014 draft (Bishop Sankey taken 54th). Regardless of when he is taken, Swift will be a day one starter and a three-down back. A game-breaker anytime he touches the ball, Swift is both a tenacious runner and a skilled receiver with his overall skillset comparing favorably with Christian McCaffrey. He doesn’t go down easily, nor does he absorb a lot of heavy hits. His pass protection is adequate and he uses leverage quite well to get the job done.
San Francisco 49ers – Xavier McKinney – S – Alabama
When you win the Super Bowl, it’s hard to say you have many holes on your roster, instead, you look to get stronger at your weakest point. McKinney will allow the 9ers to do just that at several places with his Swiss Army-knife capability. He can play as a centerfield safety, cover in man-to-man, blitz, or even play as a sub-package LB. A real athlete and football player who just “is” regardless of position. Closes on ball carriers in a heartbeat and is reliable against the run, although sometimes the angles he takes force him to lunge for the carrier.