2020 NFL Mock Draft V3-Quarantine/Free Agency Edition
So, just a little bit has changed since the end of the NFL Combine (which might be the understatement of the year); Pro Days canceled, “social distancing” is now a thing, Las Vegas is closed, and, with the opening of the new league year on last Wednesday, free agency has been added to that concoction.
So, no use putting it off, here is my third version of the Score On Air 2020 NFL Mock Draft. With the first selection…
Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow – QB – LSU
With the Bengals dipping into free agency adding D.J. Reader (DT-HOU) and Trae Waynes (CB-MIN) to beef up their defense and placing the Franchise tag on long-time receiver A.J. Green, presumably to ensure that expected pick Burrow has some weapons to throw to is a step in the right direction. I’m still not a 100% on Burrow, I’ve stated that I believe Chase Young is the smart/safe pick, but I completely understand why the Bengals will select him at the top of the draft.
Previous pick – Joe Burrow
Washington Redskins - Chase Young – DE – OSU
Plenty has gone on inside the beltway since the opening of free agency; Washington just missed out on signing Amari Cooper away from division rival Dallas (a move I’m guessing had more to do with the current state of each squad than money), the return of CB Kendall Fuller from the Chiefs, Brandon Scherf being Franchise tagged, and four other players in free agency (S, 2 LBs, and an OG). The big story is Rivera talking about bringing in his former Panthers QB Cam Newton for a reunion and what it may mean for last season’s #1 selection Dwayne Haskins. Oh yeah, and I’m projecting Chase Young to be selected here and win defensive rookie of the year. Other than that, just a normal day in the beltway.
Previous Selection – Chase Young
Detroit Lions – Jeff Okudah – CB – OSU
With Detroit adding help at all three levels of the defense in the first days of free agency with S Duron Harmon and former Browns Jamie Collins (LB) and Danny Shelton (DT) it would appear that Isaiah Simmons (LB-Clemson) is no longer quite the fit he was before. The Lions could still select him, after all, players like he projects to be, come around only once every few drafts, but the top CB in the draft, Okudah, makes more sense at this time. The Lions also added veteran QB Chase Daniel, a move that could be looked at as A) adding a quality back up behind Stafford. Or B) adding a solid vet to back up Tua (or whoever they like after Burrow) before they move Stafford. Either way, the pick should be Okudah.
Previous selection – Isaiah Simmons – LB – Clemson
New York Giants – Tristan Wirfs – OT – Iowa
The Giants took care of things in the early going of free agency adding a trio of LBs and a TE for depth, tagging their own free agent DT Leonard Williams, and signing CB James Bradbury to a 3year/$45M deal. They are also likely to resign ED
GE Markus Golden who came to them on a one year “prove it” deal and proceeded to do just that. Wirfs blew everyone away at the combine and with the OL being a position of serious need to protect their futures in Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones, I would see no reason for the Giants to overthink this and select someone else.
Previous pick – Tristan Wirfs
Miami Dolphins – Isaiah Simmons – LB – Clemson
I found myself with a difficult choice at this pick. The Dolphins need a quarterback, badly, and there are two (pretty) clear cut choices available to them at that position. Isaiah Simmons is also available but not really a position of need. What to do? What to do? Obviously you draft the player who you believe has the best chance to succeed. Yes, the ‘Phins still need a QB but they’ve also been given a chance to draft a special player who has wowed all season long which culminated in him winning the Butkus award (Best LB) for 2019. He was expected to “Wow!” at the combine and did. Of the three choices, Simmons is the one most likely to find stardom. Don’t overthink this Chris Grier.
Previous pick – Jeff Okudah – CB – OSU
Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Herbert – QB – Oregon
With the news that Philip Rivers had agreed to a one-year deal with Indianapolis, the Rivers era with the Chargers officially ended. With that, my pick of Justin Herbert continues. He has the arm (62-yard toss… flatfooted!), the experience (43 gms started), the decision-making (22 INTs in 43 gms), and the look, he just looks like a quarterback. Yes, the Chargers could go with Tua Tagovialoa, they could draft the next best OL on the board, they could even beef up their D-line. This is the right pick though.
Previous pick – Justin Herbert
Carolina Panthers – Derrick Brown – DT – Auburn
Well, this week we found that what a new head coach says about his incumbent QB means exactly as much as a politician’s promise on the campaign trail – nothing. On Tuesday, the day before the league year began, Newton was given permission to seek a trade out of Carolina. This just hours after the news that Teddy Bridgewater had been inked to a 3-year $63 million contract. Whatever. Not my team, not my quarterback. Even with that bit of drama swirling overhead, the Panthers need to upgrade their D-line and Brown is the perfect place to start.
Previous pick – Derrick Brown
Arizona Cardinals – Jedrick Wills – OT – Alabama
With the Cardinals just pulling off the biggest heist in the NFL since Dallas traded Herschel Walker to the Vikings when they traded picks and out-of-favor RB David Johnson to the Texans for 3-time All-Pro WR DeAndre Hopkins, the Cardinals are positioning themselves for a breakout season in the NFC West. Drafting a road-grading tackle can only help them and RB Kenyon Drake, who had the transition tag placed on him last Monday, enabling the Cardinals to match any offer he would receive. That tackle should likely be Jedrick Wills. Wills would be able to stay at the RT position, the same position he manned during his time in Tuscaloosa, thanks to the Cards already re-signing D.J. Humphries to a three-year deal.
Previous pick – Jedrick Wills
Jacksonville Jaguars – Javon Kinlaw – DT – South Carolina
For those of you who read my first two mock drafts, I had WR Jerry Jeudy slotted to the Jags in both of them. My thinking is that the Jags would want to give 2nd-year QB Gardner Minshew another weapon. The nagging feeling I had about their under-performing defense last year was only heightened by their trade of Calais Campbell to the Ravens. That feeling has caused me to reverse my course and select Javon Kinlaw at this spot. Kinlaw has an explosive first step and surprising quickness for a man as big as he is. As complete an interior pass rusher as I’ve seen in a few drafts.
Previous pick – Jerry Jeudy – WR – Alabama
Cleveland Browns – Mekhi Becton – OT – Louisville
Depending on how free-agent signee Jack Conklin’s knee holds up, the selection of Becton could end up giving the Browns one of the best OT bookends in the league. We won’t get a chance to see everything Becton can do, that’s not to say teams won’t, but unless someone leaks it, we won’t. That’s OK, I think Becton will be one of a big handful of players spared the normal nit-pickiness of the draft process. You know what I mean too, “Well his 10-yard splits are a little slow.” “He only did 22 reps on the bench press.” “He played in a small conference.” THAT sort of stuff. Watch Becton’s game tape against Notre Dame and tell me you don’t see him as a potential franchise protector. I dare you.
Previous pick – Mekhi Becton
New York Jets – CeeDee Lamb – WR – Oklahoma
The Jets have spent the early stages of free agency shoring up their offensive line adding OT George Fant and C Conner McGovern (both 3-year deals) as well as bringing back OG Alex Lewis. With the line attended to, the rumors that were swirling around Le’Veon Bell quiet (for now), the Jets can focus on selecting the first wide receiver in this draft, CeeDee Lamb. I had Lamb going to the Jets in the last draft but had him going behind ‘Bama product Jerry Jeudy. Since then I’ve had time to watch more tape and with no Pro Days (Lamb DID have one, Oklahoma had theirs scheduled Early in March, one of the few P5 teams to do so) and he was what you expected, a natural-born receiver. Done and done.
Previous pick – CeeDee Lamb
Las Vegas Raiders – Tua Tagovialoa – QB – Alabama
When I had completed my last mock draft, Tua still had not been cleared to work out. On March 9th, he was cleared for football activities… but there aren’t any. If any player could benefit from a remote workout, it’s Tua. Show that you’re back, there’s no hitch in your giddyup, it’s not like there weren’t red flags about your health before the hip injury. Still, I think that despite the Marcus Mariota signing and the fact that Derek Carr is still with the team, Tua will be the pick for the Raiders.
Previous pick – Tua Tagovialoa
San Francisco 49ers – Andrew Thomas – OL – Georgia
The Colts traded away this pick in exchange for DeForest Buckner who they wasted no time in hammering out an extension to the tune of $21 Million/season. Armed with this pick the ‘9ers have a chance to revitalize their aging and injury-prone offensive line. They take it and draft Thomas who is a force in the run game and has loads of potential in pass protection. An aggressive tackle who has heavy hands and good feet, Thomas also brings experience and IQ to the table as Georgia used many of the same concepts that he will see in the NFL.
Previous pick – Jordan Love (Colts)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DeAndre Swift – RB – Georgia
Things were all set for the Bucs to draft a top DL/EDGE player here, after all, that’s what I had them taking in my first two mocks, and they still might, but I’m betting that the Bucs load up their offense to make a run at being the first team to ever play in the Super Bowl that they’re hosting. Swift is a HUGE upgrade over last season’s starter Ronald Jones who, despite a respectable 4.2 YPCA, never felt like a real part of the offense. Swift should also be a bigger part of the passing game. I know, maybe you want an OT to protect your new Tom Brady action figure, but any tackles worth a pick here are gone already.
Previous pick – A.J. Epenesa – DE – Iowa
Denver Broncos – Jerry Jeudy – WR – Alabama
With the chaos of free agency comes the opportunity for others, count Denver among those others. The cascade effect of players being signed and released lets Jeudy “fall” to the 15th pick. With the release of long-time receiver Demaryius Thomas last off-season and the trade of Emmanuel Sanders to the 49ers this season, the Broncos are looking to fill a big hole at wide receiver. You can’t turn in the card for Jeudy fast enough. No, he doesn’t catch “everything” thrown his way and has concentration drops at times, but he’s fast enough to make corners wary at undercutting him on double moves and runs a very good route tree. Drew Lock will be pleased to have a receiver the caliber of Jeudy to throw to.
Previous pick – Andrew Thomas – OT – Georgia
Atlanta Falcons – C.J. Henderson – CB – Florida
The Flacons have already addressed on glaring need in free agency, that of their sad (?no?) sack pass rush with the signing of Dante Fowler who played for Falcons coach Dan Quinn in college at Florida. I’m not 100% convinced that that fixes the problem, but it at the least, addresses it. Henderson should slot in nicely for the departed Desmond Trufant (released) at CB. His ability to close on balls is excellent as are his hands enabling him to go for INTs rather than just batting it away. If it bothers you, his tackling could use some work, but to me a corner covers.
Previous pick – K’Lavon Chaisson – EDGE – LSU
Dallas Cowboys – K’Lavon Chaisson – EDGE – LSU
An explosive first step, a variety of pass rush moves, the ability to set the edge, and he brings the heat when he gets to the ball? That sounds like a first-rounder to me! With the moves made in free agency/players being released, some teams have already chosen to fill their EDGE needs. Things aren’t over and the Cowboys could do that as well, but to this point, they might be able to get the best EDGE player not named Chase Young. A 2018 ACL tear concerns me, but he has shown plenty of explosion out of his stance and never seemed to be trying to “protect” his injured knee in the tape I’ve seen.
Previous pick – Xavier McKinney – S – Alabama
Miami Dolphins – Jordan Love – QB – Utah State
After taking (who I view as) the best player available at #5 the Dolphins can chase a need at this pick. Enter Jordan Love. He had a bit of a fall-off after a spectacular junior year that saw him throw 32 TDs to only 6 INTs. This year wasn’t nearly as kind, but he lost playmakers from one year to the next. He’s patient in the pocket and looks vertically maybe a touch more than he’ll be able to in the NFL, but if he can work on getting through his reads faster and not be afraid to take the 7-yard slant on occasion, the ‘Phins could have their future in hand.
Previous pick – D’Andre Swift – RB – Georgia
Las Vegas Raiders – Henry Ruggs III – WR – Alabama
No need to panic for the Raiders, they were able to wait for their QB of the future and now they waited and had one of his favorite targets fall to them as well. After a season that saw the Raiders receiving Corps only place two wideouts among their top 6 receivers, and those two combined for fewer than 100 catches, it makes sense to add a wide receiver after you’ve addressed (debatably) your biggest need in with your first pick. Ruggs will give the Raiders a “Top Off” weapon that opposing defenses will have to give most CBs help to on every play, he’s lightning-fast and if he gets a step you’d better have over the top help.
Previous Pick – Henry Ruggs III
Jacksonville Jaguars – Xavier McKinney – S – Alabama
After drafting Javon Kinlaw at #9, the Jags have some flexibility here, do they want to add another WR for their 2nd year QB, Gardner Minshew? Draft a replacement/backfield partner for Leonard Fournette? I think that the Jags stay on defense and select Xavier McKinney to solidify their secondary. With a high football IQ and very good instincts, McKinney also has good ball skills and can come down to the box and deliver pop on impact.
Previous pick – Trevon Diggs – CB – Alabama
Philadelphia Eagles – Tee Higgins Jr. – WR – Clemson
With all of the injuries that the Eagles had last season to their wide receivers and then top that with the loss of Nelson Agholor in free agency, the Eagles need to shore up their receiving corps. Enter Tee Higgins. A big receiver at 6’4”, 215lbs, he has a great awareness of where he is in relation to the sidelines. He creates separation at the top of his routes and plays physically with the ball in the air. Hasn’t run a complete route tree in college and could be a better blocker, but, in the red zone, he’ll make you forget those shortcomings.
Previous pick – C.J. Henderson – CB – Florida
Minnesota Vikings – Kristian Fulton – CB – LSU
The Vikes picked this selection up with their trade of Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills and since I had the Bills taking a WR here, I have to think that this works well for both teams. Minnesota has lost both starters from last year’s squad and while finding a replacement for Diggs is a priority, it can hold for a few picks. Fulton gives the Vikes a day one starter at a corner spot who can play whatever type of coverage you’d like, stays stuck to his assignment, and keeps throwing lanes disrupted. Could be better as a run defender, but we covered my thought on that earlier.
Previous pick – Tee Higgins – WR – Clemson (Buffalo)
New England - A.J. Epenesa – DE – Iowa
After a poor showing (by others expectations) at the combine, Epenesa has fallen off a bit with regards to how he’s being viewed by draft experts. While this is the lowest that I’ve had Epenesa picked, I think he’ll be a solid player for several years in the NFL, make a few Pro Bowls as a coach’s selection, and generally be thought of well. He also feels like the type of player that the Patriots let fall to them and then turn him into a beast. Epenesa isn’t going to blow past you with explosive moves, he’s going to club your tackle into submission and sports a super-strong bull-rush move that can overwhelm tackles not ready for it.
Previous Pick – Zack Baun – Edge/LB – Wisconsin
New Orleans – Patrick Queen – LB – LSU
It’s entirely possible that the Saints select a wide receiver at this spot, but I feel they can add a key piece to their defense by taking Patrick Queen here. As sharp a player as you’ll find in this draft, Queen is a blend of the old and new schools; he is old school with his ability to get teammates into the correct defensive alignment and get to the point of attack with bad intentions, new school for his ability to cover and understanding of routes. He has an explosive first step when shooting the gap and rarely lets a blocker get square to him doing so.
Previous pick – Kenneth Murray – LB – Oklahoma
Minnesota – Justin Jefferson – WR – LSU
Minnesota goes back to the bayou for the second time in the first round taking Jefferson to replace the traded Stefon Diggs. Jefferson gives the Vikes an accomplished route runner to put opposite Adam Thielen and prevent teams from doubling him. Has strong hands and excellent body control which are on full display in contested ball situations. He doesn’t create a ton of separation when making his cut and needs to use his hands better when defeating press coverage at the line.
Previous pick – Javon Kinlaw – DT – South Carolina
Miami Dolphins – Josh Jones – OT – Houston
I mentioned Josh Jones a few months ago during a segment on “The Degenerate Duo” and opined that he would likely work his way into the top of the second round with good workouts and a good showing at the Senior Bowl. We never got to see everything at the combine but what we saw was good and he dominated at the Senior Bowl in January. Long and athletic, Jones possesses quick feet that let him make up for false steps in pass protection. He has some issues, but they appear to be ones that can be fixed through proper coaching.
Previous pick – Laviska Shenault – WR – Colorado
Seattle Seahawks – Yetur Gross-Matos – DE – Penn State
The only pick that I’ve had stay the same since my first mock draft, Gross-Matos still fits here with the Seahawks moving on from Ziggy Ansah and (from all indications) Jadeveon Clowney. A tall, long-limbed edge rusher with an exceptional motor, Gross-Matos pairs that with first-step quickness that can surprise offensive tackles. Does a good job of keeping his pad level low for such a tall defender. He will need to improve his pass-rush counters to reach his ceiling.
Previous pick – Yetur Gross-Matos
Baltimore – Denzel Mims – WR – Baylor
With the Ravens doing a lot to address their defensive line in free agency, it’s looking more and more like they will wait until the draft to address their needs at receiver. With Mims, the Ravens get a tall, fast receiver with sticky hands and good ball skills. Ran a somewhat limited route tree at Baylor, but has very good RAC skills and is at his best when he can box out defenders and use his soft hands to pluck the ball away. If the Ravens can coach up his route running, they might have a diamond on their hands.
Previous pick – Denzel Mims
Tennessee – Ross Blacklock – DT – TCU
With the need at EDGE filled by the signing of Vic Beasley, the Titans can turn their attention to the interior of their line. Drafting Blacklock gives them a bit of flexibility with how they align, capable of playing either as a traditional DT, as a 3-4 end, or even as a nose tackle over the center in pass-rush situations. Has shown the ability to read and stack in one-on-one situations as well as penetrate to make plays on the ball carrier. Pad level could be more consistent, but his motor makes up for it. If there’s a red flag, it’s the Achilles injury he suffered prior to the 2018 season.
Previous pick – Neville Gallimore – DT – Oklahoma
Green Bay Packers – Jalen Reagor – WR – TCU
The Packers lost WR Geronimo Allison this past Sunday, thinning an already skinny receiving corps in Green Bay. Let’s get that pumped back up a bit by drafting them an explosive, twitchy, route runner that can create separation through his moves or his speed. He has a natural feel for how to sell defenders and how to win at different levels. Not a dominant blocker and can suffer from concentration lapses but he has more upside than down.
Previous pick – Patrick Queen – LB – LSU
San Francisco 49ers – Trevon Diggs – CB – Alabama
Finding someone to play opposite Richard Sherman has to be a priority for the 49ers now that they’ve filled the void at OT. Diggs gives them a physical cover corner who will do just that. Plays tough man defense and looks even better in zone coverage where his understanding of spacing and coverage layers squeezes windows shut. If he gets a bead on the ball, he can break up passes or cause fumbles with his hard, aggressive hand swipes, if he’s late getting his head around, back-shoulder throws can get the better of him. Not great in run support or shedding blocks, but in coverage he never stops competing.
Previous pick – Grant Delpit – S – LSU
Kansas City Chiefs – J.K. Dobbins – RB – Ohio State
For me, this pick really came down to who benefits the Chiefs more – Dobbins or S Grant Delpit? While Delpit is a solid choice, Dobbins strikes me as fitting in as the hammer among the Chiefs weapons. He makes me think of an old school RB who can carry the ball 25+ times a game and grind opponents down. He has excellent vision and can make opponents miss but really enjoys delivering the hits. Proficient as a receiver and while his pass blocking could be better, it’s not for a lack of effort. I feel he may need to put on a bit of weight to hold up to NFL punishment but has the frame to do it.
Previous pick – Jalen Reagor – WR - TCU