This is what I think will happen in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft with the two primary goals being 1) getting the correct 32 players in the 1st round, and 2) matching the players to the correct teams.
1. Bengals - Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
There hasn’t been a single credible report saying otherwise.
2. Redskins - Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
There hasn’t been a single credible report saying otherwise.
3. Lions - Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
I’m sure Detroit wants to move down to No. 5 or 6, but I think it’s more likely that those phone calls lead to nowhere, forcing them to take a top defensive player. That could be DT Derrick Brown, who definitely fills a team need, but I think Okudah is the better player and plays the more valuable position. This is definitely close to a coin flip though.
4. Giants - Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
LB Isaiah Simmons is certainly being considered, but I think tackle is the bigger need, especially after GM Dave Gettleman said retooling the offensive line was a priority when he took the job over a few years ago. Deciding which tackle they choose is tough. ESPN’s Jordan Raanan reports the Giants have been linked to Wirfs the most, and NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah mocked Wirfs there, too.
5. Dolphins - Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Which quarterback Miami picks is the top storyline of the draft. The local beat reporters have been hinting at Herbert over Tagovailoa, and I think that’s the more likely outcome given the circumstances. Tagovailoa was simply hurt by the lack of medical testing with social distancing established. In the end, I view Tagovailoa as the better player, but it’s impossible to know Tagovailoa’s projection without being a doctor and seeing him in-person.
6. Chargers - Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
I’ve heard that the Bolts have been high on Herbert for more than one season but haven’t heard how they feel about Tagovailoa. If Tua is medically cleared, I think his ceiling is too high for them to pass up. It is, however, totally possible for Tagovailoa to slide to the teens because we simply just don’t know how teams feel about his hip and ankles. The draft will be very interesting if Los Angeles picks an offensive tackle (Andrew Thomas?) and waits for a quarterback in the 2nd or 3rd round (Jalen Hurts?).
7. Panthers - Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
It’s possible that Carolina will be deciding between Brown, Isaiah Simmons, Javon Kinlaw, or C.J. Henderson with this pick, but I think the NFL in general is highest on Brown of this group. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year also fills up a massive need for the Panthers, who were absolutely destroyed on the ground last season. Defensive tackle is also weak this draft, so they can find a linebacker, corner, and the rest of their needs on Days 2 and 3.
8. Cardinals - Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson
Arizona is in a weird (but good) spot with this pick as they’ll have a couple of options at offensive tackle and defense to choose from. I think offensive tackle is the bigger need but Simmons (or Derrick Brown) just may be graded higher on their board, so I’ll slide him in here. Ultimately, the Cardinals have every incentive to move down the board as they only have one other top-100 pick (No. 72). Maybe the Bucs (No. 14) or Falcons (No. 16) come calling.
9. Falcons (from JAX) - C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
Projected trade: ATL receives No. 9, 140, 157 and 223, and JAX receives No. 16 and 47.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Atlanta was eyeing a trade up, and I think there are three players that could be targets -- C.J. Henderson, Derrick Brown, and Javon Kinlaw. With Desmond Trufant gone, corner is the biggest need on the team, and it sounds like the NFL has a decent gap between Henderson and the third-best corner, so I’m connecting the dots and having the Falcons move ahead of the corner-desperate Raiders.
10. Browns - Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
If Cleveland stays here, I think it would be for Thomas, who is arguably the most pro-ready left tackle in the class. Wills (RT), Wirfs (RT), and Becton (needs some development) don’t help the offense in 2020 and 2021 as much as Thomas would, and I think the front office knows their window to win a Super Bowl is with Baker Mayfield on his rookie contract. With that said, I can see them trading back and acquiring picks.
11. Jets - Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Sam Darnold will be getting help with this pick whether it's with a receiver or tackle. Both positions are deep, so they are in good shape regardless of which direction they go. ESPN’s Rich Cimini leans tackle in Round 1, and I don’t have a reason to disagree, especially with Daniel Jeremiah mocking one of his best friends Jets GM Joe Douglas Becton in his final mock.
12. Raiders - CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Las Vegas will likely be focused on two positions with their two first-round selections - corner and receiver - assuming Tua doesn’t slide (which may be a bad assumption). If Henderson is gone, then one of these top three receivers will be theirs. Lamb gets the advantage as an outside receiver over Jeudy, so he’s my pick. He would be the go-to receiver with Darren Waller (tight end), Tyrell Williams (deep threat), Hunter Renfrow (slot), and Josh Jacobs (running back) in lower-volume receiving roles.
13. 49ers - Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
If San Francisco doesn’t move down, then I think they’ll primarily be eyeing the receivers and defensive tackles. Ruggs would be the ultimate complement to this offense, as he would keep the secondary honest with his top-speed while coach Kyle Shanahan murders linebackers with a complex rushing offense, George Kittle, and Deebo Samuel.
14. Bucs - Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Signing Tom Brady almost ensures this pick will be on offense, with offensive tackle being the most likely position by far. It’s certainly possible that all four offensive tackles would be selected by their No. 14 pick, so I think a trade up makes a ton of sense, especially after NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah reported the Bucs have already been calling teams about a move up. What I think comes to is this: Has more than one offensive tackle been selected through the first eight picks? If more than one tackle is gone, then the Bucs have to trade up (Jaguars at No. 9?) to get one of the consensus top-four tackles because they have to assume the Browns and Jets will gobble up the rest of the great tackles before the Bucs are on the clock at No. 14. In this mock draft, only the Giants grabbed one in the top-8, which vastly increases the chances of the Bucs letting a tackle fall to them, so they stay put.
15. Broncos - Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
I have no idea which receiver GM John Elway is after, but there must be one he likes above the rest if he’s considering a trade up. I’d guess it’s Jeudy, although Henry Ruggs would be a lot of fun in that offense as well. Ultimately, I have the Broncos staying put and letting one fall to him because there may be less incentive for a trade up with all of the offensive tackles being pushed up the board. Either way, Courtland Sutton is likely to have a legit running mate very soon.
16. Jaguars (from ATL) - Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
Projected trade: ATL receives No. 9, 140, 157 and 223, and JAX receives No. 16 and 47.
All six of Jacksonville’s last 1st and 2nd round picks have been SEC prospects, and that extends to 8-of-10 if we add another two seasons. With that and team needs in mind, the Jaguars are likely eyeing DT Derrick Brown, DT Javon Kinlaw, CB C.J. Henderson, or a trade down from No. 9 overall. In this scenario, Jacksonville accomplishes two of those things by trading down and scooping up an interior disruptor in Kinlaw.
17. Cowboys - K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
I’m sure there are higher graded players on Dallas’ board, but I bet they are really hoping Chaisson falls to them. He fills a massive need and has the athletic traits they covet. This pick becomes more interesting if he’s already selected because they’d likely have to reach a bit. Cesar Ruiz? A.J. Terrell? Trevon Diggs? Xavier McKinney? Another DB? One of these WRs?
18. Dolphins - Austin Jackson, OT, USC
Jackson doesn’t have the quality 2019 tape of other offensive tackles expected to go in the first round, but there are good excuses for that. He wasn’t as strong as he could’ve been after donating bone marrow to his sister right before the season began, and he’s just 20 years old. Jackson needs work with his feet and overall strength, but he’s an 89th percentile athlete and could be a quality starter three to four years down the line. Of the teams, Miami is working closest to that timeline.
19. Raiders - A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
Las Vegas snagged their alpha receiver with pick No. 12, so it’s now time to plug their hole at corner. The front office and coaching staff like competitors from big programs, and Terrell fits the mold. He has the length to be their best corner within two seasons if things break his way.
20. Jaguars - Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
Jacksonville will likely be looking to move franchise tagged edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue and will need to find a potential replacement. Gross-Matos, in my opinion, is the best pass rushing prospect available with Young and Chaisson off the board, and I don’t think edge-needy teams want to be waiting around for Day 2 talents. I didn’t like many of them during my studying this past month.
21. Eagles - Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Philadelphia has a few other needs (LB, CB), but receiver is the biggest priority, and they’d be getting a great slot receiver in Jefferson, who also may be able to win outside and down the field. I believe Jefferson is closer to the Lamb-Jeudy-Ruggs tier than the Mims-Higgins-Aiyuk one. It’s even possible that Philly moves up to lock this one in. Jefferson is a very safe prospect.
22. Vikings - Josh Jones, OT, Houston
Minnesota always seems to be two (or five) offensive linemen away from having a functional line, and they are in the sweet spot to address that in the back half of the 1st Round. The Vikings have a type at tackle -- athletic movers -- and Jones would check that box. The Athletic’s Arif Hasan, who is great at his job, researched the athletic thresholds for the Vikings, and Jones was one of the tackles to meet their standards.
23. Patriots - Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
New England is always tough to figure out, especially after the mass exodus they experienced this offseason. One of their holes is at linebacker, and Murray fills the need. He is ultra athletic and was extremely productive in college, but the thing that’s drawing me to this pick is his character. He’s the typical Bill Belichick leader, something Bill will need as he brings in a more youthful defense.
24. Saints - Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
I’m not buying New Orleans spending a 1st round pick on a quarterback as they try to win a Super Bowl with Drew Brees, so I’m envisioning them going with the best player available here, especially since they don’t have a glaring team need. Queen, who is a local kid, would be an upgrade over Kiko Alonso. His coverage skills and play speed make him an ideal fit for the defense.
25. Vikings - Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
Minnesota lost three corners who played meaningful snaps last season, leaving them with one of the worst starting groups in the entire league. I’ll be surprised if they don’t grab a replacement with one of their two 1st round picks. With Johnson, they’re getting a smart press-man corner who wins within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. A defense that sends pressure is where he’ll shine. That’s the Vikings.
26. Dolphins - Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
I’d be very surprised if Miami isn’t aggressively addressing offensive tackles this draft. That could mean a trade up for one of the consensus top-four. That could also mean double-dipping on the line like I did here with Austin Jackson at No. 18 and Cleveland at No. 26. They could upgrade all five of their linemen this draft, and the offensive line run is going to start very early this draft.
27. Cowboys (from SEA) - Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan
Projected trade: DAL receives No. 27, and SEA receives No. 51 and a 2021 2nd.
Dallas has been very aggressive when addressing their offensive line over the years because it’s the identity of their offense in their minds (in reality it’s Dak Prescott), and I can see them valuing Ruiz a ton for a few reasons. The first being he's a good player with high-end athleticism, plus he’s just 20 years old. But he’s also one of the only quality interior offensive lineman in the 2020 NFL Draft class. In fact, Ruiz is the only one I gave a first-round grade to. With Travis Frederick retired, Ruiz can be the center for the next decade.
28. Ravens - A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
Baltimore needs more edge help, and there’s not many options for them if Young, Chaisson, and Gross-Matos are off the board. Epenesa will definitely not be graded highly by a lot of teams because of his athletic limitations, but he may work for the Ravens as a player who can play inside or outside. He’ll be impactful against the run and be insurance on franchise-tagged EDGE Matt Judon.
29. Titans - Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Tennessee is in a position to take the best corner or edge rusher available. Both are huge needs, but I’ll give them Fulton, who can replace CB Logan Ryan. Fulton would be the most physical corner on the roster, something that the Titans value more than just about anyone. The two parties have met throughout the process.
30. Packers - Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
The NFL appears to be high on the Sun Devil product, who likely fits in as a No. 2 receiver in the NFL. That’s exactly what the Packers are looking for with Davante Adams as their go-to garget. Green Bay (somehow) hasn’t drafted a single WR, RB, or TE in the first round with Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback. I can see that changing this draft.
31. Jaguars (from SF) - Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Projected trade: JAX receives No. 31, and SF receives No. 42 and 116.
I think Love going in the 2nd Round is a lot closer to 50/50 than most would think, but that just may be my bias because I don’t have Love as a first-round talent. There are a few teams that will buy into his “upside” and the old school Jaguars seem like one of the most likely buyers. They also have the ammo for a trade up, plus hold that No. 20 overall pick.
32. Dolphins (from KC) - Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Projected trade: MIA receives No. 31, and KC receives No. 39, 141, and 152.
The last pick of the 1st round is another foundation piece for Miami. McKinney will be a chess piece for the Dolphins’ defense and eventually be the leader of that secondary. Coach Nick Saban relied on McKinney a ton last season, and Brian Flores is a coach that has the vision for a player like him after spending time under coach Bill Belichick. In this mock, the Dolphins walk away with their franchise quarterback, two offensive tackles, and a smart safety. I’d be a happy camper if I were a fan.
Be sure to refer to my Top 100 list during this week's NFL Draft.