The 2020 NFL Draft is going to be different as teams must do things virtually. It’s also potentially going to be wild. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.
No in-person visits mean talent evaluators are going to have to lean more on tape … you know, how a guy actually plays football on the field … and less on what he looks like running around in shorts doing drills (I know, this is a novel concept for many in the National Football League).
So, for this year’s NBC 7 Mock NFL Draft I decided to go nuts. This is a rundown that asks: What if?
It’s out there and probably not going to happen in any capacity but every move laid out here makes at least a kernel of sense and gives us something to think about. Plus, it’s just fun to speculate and see how far down the rabbit hole we can get. With that in mind let’s start off with a blockbuster, shall we?
Pick 1 = TRADE: Miami Dolphins (from CIN) – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
I TOLD YOU IT WAS OUT THERE. Cincy and the Dolphins both made several moves in free agency but Miami seems to me like it’s further down the road to respectability. The Fins finally see a division with no Tom Brady so they decide to go all-in and make Cincinnati a Godfather offer: the 5th, 18th, and 39th overall selections this year plus one of their two 1st round and 2nd round selections next year for the right to move into the #1 spot and grab the Heisman Trophy winner. The Bengals are not looking to trade but when someone offers you five picks in the first 60 over two years you take it.
Pick 2 = Washington Redskins – Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio St.
New head coach Ron Rivera is a defensive guy. When a pass rusher this gifted is sitting there for you someone would have to offer up five 1st round picks, Von Miller, Patrick Mahomes, Mike Trout and a year’s supply of hand sanitizer to pass on him. Young had 16.5 sacks and they came in a nine-game stretch. It was obvious how much attention Clemson paid him in the CFB Playoffs and he still got a couple licks in on Trevor Lawrence. Washington stays put and takes Young.
Pick 3 = TRADE: Oakland Raiders (from DET) – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio St.
Isn’t this fun!?!? The Raiders and Lions swing a deal. Las Vegas needs a wide receiver in a bad way but they tried desperately to get a lockdown corner in the off-season. They missed on Byron Jones and thought about a trade for Darius Slay but to no avail. This draft is loaded with wide receivers so they can get one later. Detroit, like Cincinnati, has a ton of holes to fill so they take the Raiders’ 12th, 80th and 81st picks this year plus a 2nd rounder in 2021 to give up the 3rd overall selection. I know it’s a risk for the Silver and Black to go from 19th to 91st without a pick but if Okudah is as good as advertised it’s a gamble worth taking.
Pick 4 = NY Giants – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
The Giants need to get a guy to open holes for Saquon Barkley and keep Daniel Jones upright. They have their pick of the tackle litter and while there are a lot of good ones available GM Dave Gettleman probably makes a little bit of a reach (again) and goes for the biggest one on the board. Becton is 6’7” and 365 pounds and his college coaches say his footwork is good enough to be a standout power forward.
Pick 5 = Cincinnati Bengals – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The Bengals were going to have to trade Andy Dalton after taking Burrow. Now they can hold onto him for one more year to make sure Tagovailoa is fully healthy. The medical reports (or lack thereof) with Tua are terrifying but if he’s healthy he’s one of the most talented passers available in a while. Cincy head coach Zac Taylor, who’s supposed to be a quarterback whisperer, gets his hands on the lefty for a full learning year before unleashing him on the NFL.
Pick 6 = Chargers – Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Yes, the Bolts need a QB but I am one of the minority who think Justin Herbert is this year’s Brady Quinn. He has all the measurables you want but when I watch him he just doesn’t seem to play with enough feel. I’m thinking the rest of the league is seeing this, too, and Herbert is the guy who goes into free fall this year. This is just too high to go with Jordan Love and since the Chargers think they addressed their offensive line sufficiently during the off-season (they’re wrong, they still need a starting tackle) they pass on any of the tackles to take Simmons, one of the most disruptive playmakers in this year’s class. Gus Bradley gets an athletic freak who’s basically a slightly larger Derwin James. At Clemson, Simmons lined up at linebacker, safety and defensive end.
Pick 7 = Carolina Panthers – C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
The Panthers are extremely ticked off at the Chargers for taking Simmons, who could have been the replacement for Luke Kuechly. Instead Carolina addresses its biggest need with Henderson, although they will be listening to offers to trade down. I just don’t think the teams who would want to move to this spot have enough to offer up and the teams who do have enough trade ammo won’t want to get to this spot.
Pick 8 = Arizona Cardinals – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
The Cardinals have an electric young QB in Kyler Murray and made a deal for WR DeAndre Hopkins. Now they need guys to give those two to hook up. Wirfs is a plug-and-play starter at left tackle who does pretty much everything well.
Pick 9 = Jacksonville Jaguars – Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Brown is a monster who reminds me of former San Diego Charger stud Jamal Williams. He’s a pocket destroyer and the best run game disruptor available. This is a guy the Steelers would DESPERATELY want to get their hands on but without a first-round pick Pittsburgh doesn’t have the ability to move up and grab Brown, who’s probably going to end up in a half-dozen Pro Bowls.
Pick 10 = Cleveland Browns – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Wait, what? A wide receiver to Cleveland? What’s the deal here? Well I’ll tell you. The Browns have tried to say they aren’t trying to trade Odell Beckham Jr. My gut tells me that’s a bunch of hooey. Cleveland needs to cut down on distractions and get Baker Mayfield someone he’s more comfortable with. Enter Lamb, who was with Baker for little while at Oklahoma. Mayfield hit him for seven touchdowns when Lamb was a freshman and in that Rose Bowl shootout loss to Georgia they reversed it and Lamb threw a TD pass to Mayfield. It makes perfect sense to reunite them in the NFL, especially when you consider what the Browns are going to do next (keep reading to see the logic here).
Pick 11 = New York Jets – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
The Jets could certainly look wideout here but they’re a lot better when Sam Darnold is not running for his life so they get Wills to help with a pretty bad offensive line and plan on addressing the WR spot later.
Pick 12 = Detroit Lions (from LVR) – Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
Detroit’s defense was a mess last year and that was before they traded Slay. They added a slew of defensive players in free agency but still need help up front and in the secondary. With the top two corners off the board and another one a bit of a stretch here they get help on the line with the very large Kinlaw (6’5”, 325 pounds).
Pick 13 = San Francisco 49ers – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
49ers GM and Torrey Pines High alum John Lynch is jumping for joy when Jeudy is sitting there at 13. San Francisco doesn’t have many holes but wideout is a big one. Jeudy can stretch the field for Jimmy Garoppolo and open the underneath routes even more the TE George Kittle, a terrifying thought for opposing defenses.
Pick 14 = Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
The run on SEC players continues with Thomas because when you sign Tom Brady, you protect Tom Brady. If Tampa Bay goes anywhere other than offensive line with this pick I would not be surprised if Brady retired and took Gronk back out to pasture with him. Thomas can probably play left tackle but will fill a hole at right tackle to start.
Pick 15 = Denver Broncos – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Drew Lock won four of his last five starts after coming back from an injury. One thing he did not have is a premiere WR to work with. Ruggs is one of the fastest players in this class. He did struggle with some of the larger, more physical corners in the SEC, which is a concern against NFL defensive backs, but the Broncos will be smitten with the sub-4.3 speed (and his versatility as a returner).
Pick 16 = Atlanta Falcons – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
The Falcons really need cornerback help. Like, a lot. They’ll try to go up and get Henderson but to no avail so with this pick they strengthen two positions. Former San Diego State star Damontae Kazee has been playing safety because of injury concerns but he’s much better suited playing on the outside as a corner. McKinney’s presence (and perhaps the healthy return of Keanu Neal) allows the Aztec to go back to his natural spot so this selection is a nice 2-for-1 deal for Atlanta.
Pick 17 = Dallas Cowboys – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
IT’S THE COWBOYS OF COURSE SOMETHING CRAZY IS GOING TO HAPPEN. Dallas still has not committed to Dak Prescott. They franchise tagged him at $31 million for 2020. If Jerry Jones is not yet convinced that Dak is worth at least that on an annual basis he’s never going to be. So, Jones, always ready to be bold, goes with the extremely athletic Love in the 1st round. Prescott gets to start for one more year while Love learns under new head coach Mike McCarthy and takes over when Dak leaves in free agency after the season. It’s either brilliant or insane … but in true Cowboys fashion it gets people talking.
Pick 18 = Cincinnati Bengals (from MIA) – K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
Cincy does get an LSU star in the 1st round, after all. They need help on the edge and this kid makes plays all over the field. Good, safe pick for the Bengals, who could look back on this Draft as the one that turned the franchise around. Or it could be a complete disaster and set the franchise back another decade.
Pick 19 = Las Vegas Raiders – Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
Three of life’s guarantees: death, taxes, and Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden taking someone from Clemson. The Raiders need a wideout, they get one.
Pick 20 = Jacksonville Jaguars – Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
This is the pick they got from the Rams for Jalen Ramsey so it makes sense to use it on another cornerback. I like Gladney a lot because of his aggressiveness and instincts. The Jags quietly put together a very nice 1st round with a pair of players to build another dominant defense around.
Pick 21 = TRADE: Cleveland Browns (from PHI) – Jeff Jones, OT, Houston
What are the Browns doing here again? Well they took Lamb early because they knew they had a deal in place to send Odell Beckham Jr. to the Philadelphia Eagles for the 21st overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. Philly needs a wideout and unless they move up (and include other picks) they aren’t finding one here as good as Beckham, who will thrive again with Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson in the NFC East. Cleveland is happy to get rid of their headache and add the talented Jones, who needs refinement but should be ready to take over at left tackle soon.
Pick 22 = Minnesota Vikings – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Mike Zimmer loves big, fast corners. Minnesota needs to replace a few guys who left in free agency. They also need a wide receiver but will address that in a few minutes with their other 1st round pick because they can find better value there than waiting to see if someone takes Diggs and they have to settle for the next CB on their board.
Pick 23 = TRADE: Kansas City Chiefs (from NE) – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
The Patriots usually stockpile picks and are no strangers to trading down. They, strangely, don’t have a 2nd rounder this year so when the Chiefs call offering their 1st round pick (32nd overall) and 2nd round selection (63rd overall) the Pats bite. Kansas City wants to make the move because this is not a deep draft for linebackers and that’s one of their few weaknesses. Queen is a guy who does pretty much everything well and the Chiefs know he would not make it past the Saints at 24 so they pull the trigger to move up nine spaces.
Pick 24 = New Orleans Saints – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
The Saints have a pretty good roster but could use some corner help. Fulton is a solid perimeter defender who excelled for a national title winner right down the road in Baton Rouge. It’s a solid fit with Queen off the board.
Pick 25 = Minnesota Vikings – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Yes, three straight players from the defending national champs, and rightfully so. Jefferson is just outright productive and if the Vikings are looking for someone to replace Stefon Diggs and his speed on the outside (they are) Jefferson can do it. He ran 4.43 at the NFL Combine. Diggs ran 4.46 at the annual prospectpalooza in Indianapolis.
Pick 26 = Miami Dolphins – Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise St.
They’ll look long and hard at a running back here but the bottom line is they need to beef up the offensive line to protect Burrow. It may be a small stretch to take Cleveland here because he’s a bit of a project but he has a ton of upside that the Dolphins can turn into a productive tackle.
Pick 27 = Seattle Seahawks – A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
Neither Jadeveon Clowney not Ezekiel Ansah looks like they’re coming back so Seattle is in dire need of pass rush help. Epenesa finished the season with a flourish, including 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble against USC in the Holiday Bowl. He’s shown the ability to get to the quarterback and play the run, a combination Pete Carroll adores in his defensive linemen.
Pick 28 = Baltimore Ravens – Cesar Ruiz, C/G, Michigan
I really, really, really thought hard about putting Georgia RB De’Andre Swift here because the Ravens having another running back would just be too much fun. They could also look at linebacker and Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray is available. But the Ravens are smart and they know they need to do something to try and replace retired guard Marshall Yanda, one of the absolute best in the game. They try and do that by grabbing the best interior lineman in this class, especially when John Harbaugh calls his brother Jim for a scouting report.
Pick 29 = Tennessee Titans – Marlon Davidson, DT, Auburn
At Auburn, Davidson was Robin to Derrick Brown’s Batman. He’s versatile, can play all over the defensive line, and has a knack for getting to the quarterback. Tennessee traded Jurell Casey so they need another big body in the middle of the defense. Davidson fills that role perfectly.
Pick 30 = Green Bay Packers – Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona St.
Aaron Rodgers will hack into the Packers virtual conference and select a wide receiver himself if he has to. There is zero reason for a team with that guy at QB to not be a top-10 passing offense but darnit, the Packers pulled it off. Rodgers needs someone who he can rely on to catch the ball consistently. He was at his best when he had Jordy Nelson in the slot. Aiyuk is a fantastic slot receiver who will very quickly become one of Rodgers’ BFF.
Pick 31 = TRADE: Los Angeles Rams (from SF) – De’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
The 49ers need more picks. They don’t have another one until the 5th round. The Rams don’t have a 1st round pick again until 2022. It’s sometimes not ideal to trade with someone you have to play twice a year but let’s have the longtime division rivals swing a deal to help each other out. L.A. has a pair of 2nd round and a pair of 3rd round selections. They send one of each, 52nd overall and 84th overall, to San Francisco to move into the 1st round and take a running back from Georgia to replace Todd Gurley, a running back from Georgia. In 2020 the Rams offense will once again average 35 points a game.
Pick 32 = New England Patriots (from KC) – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Sure, why not. The Patriots end up with the last pick in the 1st round (where they’re so used to picking anyway) and snag Herbert, who they hope Josh McDaniels can turn into a solid NFL starting QB.