The NFL offseason is in full swing with some major trades and signings already shifting the balance of power — or at least, the balance of intrigue — with the likes of Tom Brady (Pats to Bucs), DeAndre Hopkins (Texans to Cardinals), DeForest Buckner (Niners to Colts), and Stefon Diggs (Vikings to Bills) all changing teams, among many others.
With teams now getting their rosters together, we’ve gained a better understanding of the real needs teams will have going into the 2020 NFL Draft. Most notably, there are a few teams that have shored up their quarterback situation for this season, while others suddenly have signal-caller as their most pressing need. Tom Brady choosing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has all but assured us that the Los Angeles Chargers will be looking at a QB with the sixth overall pick, while the Patriots, picking 23rd, will also be in search of a higher-end long term option if one is available.
We also know a few teams that will be seeking a top receiver in this year’s draft, and the strength of this year’s receiver class is likely what led teams like the Texans and Vikings to feeling comfortable enough to deal away their No. 1 wideouts earlier this month. The very top of this year’s draft figures to bring little in the way of surprise, but the depth at a few positions means there will be some very interesting decisions to make in the mid-first round for teams dealing with the ever-present question of drafting for need or best player available.
Before we get started, I’d like to quickly shout out the great folks at The Draft Network, whose site allows for creating your own mock drafts. I highly recommend their service if you like to tinker with mocks.
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB (LSU)
There’s no mystery at the top of the draft, as the Bengals will be using the top pick on Ohio native, Heisman winner, and title winner Joe Burrow. He’s very good and from here it will be on Cincy to build an offense that can maximize his talents.
2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, EDGE (Ohio State)
This is, maybe, the spot things could get weird in the top 5 as Washington has insisted they aren’t completely ruling out taking a QB, even with Dwayne Haskins on the roster. However, the consensus is this is where Chase Young comes off the board as the top player on most people’s big boards, as he’s a future All-Pro at a position everyone always wants to upgrade.
3. Detroit Lions: Jeffrey Okudah, CB (Ohio State)
The Lions have been aggressive in addressing their defensive needs this offseason, and the expectation is that continues with the third pick. They traded Darius Slay to the Eagles and signed Desmond Trufant in free agency, but still have needs to upgrade the corner position and Okudah is the best corner in this draft, making it back-to-back Buckeyes in the top-3.
4. New York Giants: Isaiah Simmons, LB (Clemson)
The Giants need talent and Simmons might be the most versatile and talented player in this year’s draft. He can play all over the field, from edge to linebacker to safety. His combine performance all but solidified his spot in the top 5, running a preposterous 4.39 in the 40 among other wildly impressive measurables that only enhance the value his tape shows. Offensive line is the other possibility here, but Simmons’ talent is just too tantalizing.
5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB (Alabama)
When the Dolphins tank began rolling along last season, Tua was the guy everyone expected them to get with the top pick. Even after a late surge dropped them to fifth, Tua remains the projection to Miami. All indications are his hip injury is healing well and he’ll be a full go for camp, and as the Dolphins have broken open the piggy bank this offseason to upgrade at a lot of spots, quarterback remains their biggest need.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB (Oregon)
This is the first big decision of the draft, as the drop from the top two quarterbacks to the third is pretty steep in terms of feeling assured of anything. The decision for the Chargers will be two-fold. First, dare they trade down knowing that, at this point, it’s them and the Pats with the most glaring need at QB and Belichick has never been one to like trading up in the first round. If someone really likes Derrick Brown and knows he’s likely off the board at No. 7 when the Panthers pick, they might be willing to part with a nice package to get to No. 6. If L.A. stays at this spot, the decision seems to be between Justin Herbert and Jordan Love. Love is the high-upside guy, and with Tyrod Taylor expected to be the Day 1 starter they’ll be developing either one. Still, I think they’ll go the safer route and take Herbert, hoping a year or partial season behind Taylor can get him comfortable enough to reach his full physical potential.
7. Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, DT (Auburn)
The Panthers could really use a defensive tackle and lo and behold here is the best one in this year’s draft. If Brown is on the board it’s really hard to see Carolina thinking too hard about this one.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Tristan Wirfs, OT (Iowa)
The Cardinals desperately need to upgrade their offensive line and protect Kyler Murray and that’s doubly important now that they have a legitimate deep threat in DeAndre Hopkins. They have to keep Murray upright long enough to push the ball down the field now, and Wirfs is, for my money, the best in this draft. Many learned his name during the Combine when he did ungodly things in the 40 and vertical leap, flashing the athleticism that can allow them to do some unique things with moving the pocket and taking advantage of Murray’s mobility. On top of that, his tape at Iowa is great and coming from an OL factory like Iowa makes you pretty confident he can be a fixture at tackle for a decade.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: C.J. Henderson, CB (Florida)
The Jaguars, uh, keep having to trade their very good defensive backs and as such this is the biggest position of need and probably leads us to the first “reach” pick of the first round when looking at most big boards that are out there. The Jags like taking guys from the state of Florida and that might give Henderson the edge here over Kristian Fulton of LSU, as they are the top two CBs behind Okudah. There’s smoke about this being the guy for Jax and, well, there’s certainly a need at this position.
10. Cleveland Browns: Jedrick Wills, OT (Alabama)
The Browns signed Jack Conklin in free agency to anchor the right side of the line, so let’s take care of the left side of Baker Mayfield with the 10th overall pick and give him Jedrick Wills out of Alabama. Mekhi Becton also could be the name here (he’ll be gone very shortly) but it’ll be fairly stunning if this isn’t a tackle at this spot. Baker will have no excuses next year with a revamped line and a deep receiving corps for his third season as the starter in Cleveland.
11. New York Jets: Mekhi Becton, OT (Louisville)
The biggest tackle goes to the biggest apple to protect Sam Darnold. The Jets have plenty of needs, but upgrading the offensive line is paramount and with three really good tackles at the top of this draft expect them to take whichever is left come the 11th pick.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: Jerry Jeudy, WR (Alabama)
This is the deepest wide receiver class we’ve seen in awhile and it might seem odd that for such a talked about class it takes until the 12th overall pick to get the first off the board. That’s mainly due to the needs of these top teams at more key locations like offensive line and quarterback, but expect a big run on receivers in the mid-first round. This is what I mention at the top about teams suddenly having questions about best available versus need, because some receivers will slip a bit compared to board position and make for some real arguments in war rooms. For Vegas, I have a hard time believing Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden aren’t head over heels in love with Jeudy. His route-running has just about every analyst drooling and while CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs III make strong cases for being the top receiver, knowing Mayock and Gruden’s affinity for finely tuned skill, I feel like Jeudy will be their guy.
13. San Francisco 49ers: CeeDee Lamb, WR (Oklahoma)
The Niners would be thrilled by this if they keep this pick. They could use more weapons on the outside — insert joke about whether Jimmy G can get them the football here — and Lamb is a nice fit as the deep ball outside threat with Deebo Samuel as the speed guy underneath and George Kittle working the short and intermediate zones in the middle of the field. San Francisco got this pick from the Colts in the Buckner deal and the expectation is they use it to move back and stockpile more picks in the 2-4 rounds where they have no picks currently. If Lamb is here, though, they might reconsider.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Andrew Thomas, OT (Georgia)
The Bucs have this fellow by the name of Tom Brady now playing quarterback and, as such, it is paramount that they protect him. Enter Andrew Thomas out of Georgia, who can help keep Brady upright in the pocket and help the Bucs immediately.
15. Denver Broncos: Henry Ruggs III, WR (Alabama)
The Broncos are desperate for receiver help and this is a good draft to be in that position. Ruggs is the ultimate speedster and would let Drew Lock open it up.
16. Atlanta Falcons: Kristian Fulton, CB (LSU)
The Falcons have gone after pass rushers in free agency and still likely will address that position in the draft, but with Trufant leaving they need a top-end corner and Fulton is that dude.
17. Dallas Cowboys: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE (LSU)
Dallas tagged Dak and re-signed Cooper so the offense seems pretty set. The draft in Dallas seems likely to focus on the defense and I think they look to the national champs to upgrade their pass rush with Chaisson here at 17 if Fulton is off the board ahead of them.
18. Miami Dolphins: Xavier McKinney, S (Alabama)
The Dolphins have not been shy in free agency, inking big contracts and a lot of that spending coming on the defense in the form of Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson, and Emmanuel Ogbah. Still, I like McKinney in this spot to give them another playmaker on the back end of the defense that needed a number of upgrades.
19. Las Vegas Raiders: Javon Kinlaw, DT (South Carolina)
The Raiders need to beef up the interior of their defensive line and Kinlaw fits the bill at 6’5, 315. He’s a Mayock kind of guy with his pop and, as Mike would say, bubble butt.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: Grant Delpit, S (LSU)
This could be the spot for Jordan Love if the Jags want to bring in competition for Gardner Minshew, but if they have their eye on a top QB next year, expect them to keep building on defense. Delpit brings versatility to the back end of the defense and, as mentioned earlier, the Jaguars basically have to rebuild their secondary right now. He was once considered a potential top-10 pick going into this season but had some uneven play at LSU, but the physical tools are all there and he makes a lot of sense in Jacksonville.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Patrick Queen, LB (LSU)
In a shocking turn of events, LSU has a lot of guys going in the first round. Queen is a stud in the middle and would immediately upgrade this Eagles defense.
22. Minnesota Vikings: Jeff Gladney, CB (TCU)
The Vikings need some help at corner after letting go of Xavier Rhodes and seeing Trae Waynes get signed by the Bengals. Minnesota will take a receiver at some point, but right here I think they go after a corner and take the uber-athletic Gladney from TCU — he ran a 4.48 with a 37.5 inch vertical at the combine.
23. New England Patriots: Jordan Love, QB (Utah State)
Probably the outcome everyone in the league is terrified of is the Patriots getting Love and him tapping into his full potential in New England. It’s just hard to see exactly who is wanting to spend a mid-first on a quarterback once the Bengals, Dolphins, and Chargers make their selection, aside from maybe the Jaguars with their two picks. If it’s not Jacksonville, the Pats might fall into the high-upside Love and be able to take as much or as little time they want grooming him before throwing him into the fire.
24. New Orleans Saints: Kenneth Murray, LB (Oklahoma)
Kenneth Murray is a very good inside backer and the Saints could use an upgrade at that spot. Murray was highly productive in the middle of the Sooners defense and would come in and immediately help the Saints particularly against the run.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Laviska Shenault, WR (Colorado)
When you lose a big play threat on the outside it makes sense to replace him with another. Shenault is a big play waiting to happen and figures to be a great complement to Adam Thielen by providing the threat of taking the top off of the defense. His production last year wasn’t what some hoped it would be, but the Buffs were a bit of a mess and think he’ll be a really good pro and the fit in Minnesota seems snug.
26. Miami Dolphins: Josh Jones, OT (Houston)
The Dolphins will want to add line help to protect Tagovailoa and Jones has all the physical traits at 6’5, 311 pounds. He’s a massive man with long arms and solid athleticism, the question among draft folks seems to be whether he can come in and contribute immediately or if he’s better served as a project.
27. Seattle Seahawks: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE (Penn State)
Gross-Matos has a ton of physical upside and this might be a touch low for him. The Seahawks would be a pretty great landing spot for him, though, and they could use more pass rushers whether they re-sign Clowney or not.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Justin Jefferson, WR (LSU)
One last Tiger off the board as Lamar Jackson gets a legitimate weapon on the outside. The Ravens will want to open their passing game up more this coming season to utilize the receivers more and to do so, they could use someone like Jefferson. Jackson threw to tight ends more than anyone else and Hollywood Brown was the big play threat, but adding a big body threat on the outside like Jefferson would add a whole other dimension to their passing game and make the Ravens offense even more dynamic and dangerous.
29. Tennessee Titans: Ross Blacklock, DT (TCU)
I’m not sure Blacklock lasts this long, but the Titans would be happy to have him as they look to add some interior defensive line talent.
30. Green Bay Packers: K.J. Hamler, WR (Penn State)
Most every mock is projecting a receiver to the Packers in this spot for good reason, the question is who they take. I, personally, would love to see Hamler paired up with Aaron Rodgers, because Hamler is an incredibly fun playmaker and I’d like to see all the different ways Rodgers would find to get him the football in space.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Trevon Diggs, CB (Alabama)
Diggs is a physical specimen and seems like the kind of DB that would have John Lynch very excited. The question, again, is whether the Niners move back out of this pick or the 13th pick to acquire more assets in the mid rounds. If they’re still here and Diggs is here, it makes a lot of sense, though.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: D’Andre Swift, RB (Georgia)
Just what the Chiefs need, another offensive weapon. It’s hard to find the place in the first round for a running back given the talent at other more premium positions, which means top backs like Swift and J.K. Dobbins are going to fall. That offers an opportunity for a team with an embarrassment of riches like the Chiefs to happily swoop in and go BPA and add another great talent to their offense. A workhorse-capable back that wouldn’t need to carry that much of a load in KC.