There is still a long way to go before the 2020 NFL Draft (free agency will likely change things dramatically), but with the combine beginning tonight, it’s a good time to drop another mock draft. This time, trades are included—featuring a couple of huge jumps by NFC East teams.
1. CIN: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
I wouldn’t say Burrow 100% closed the door on a scenario where he doesn’t play for the Bengals at Tuesday’s press conference, but as things currently stand, it would be a shock if April’s draft didn’t begin with the Ohio kid hearing his name called to be Cincinnati’s next quarterback.
2. WAS: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
If you could guarantee the Lions were going to keep the No. 3 pick and select Young, I’d say the Redskins should strongly consider trading down to accumulate more picks. But with the Giants lurking in the top five, Washington needs to get the Ohio State pass rusher to boost an emerging defensive line.
3. MIA (mock trade w/ DET): Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The medicals for Tagovailoa will be key, but assuming his long-term future isn’t in doubt, Miami seems to be preparing themselves for this selection with Ryan Fitzpatrick back as the starter and Josh Rosen also returning. Tua will be able to “redshirt” in 2020 before taking over in 2021.
4. LAC (mock trade w/ NYG): Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Los Angeles is looking for their quarterback of the future, and they probably can’t stay at No. 6 and risk losing out on Herbert if he’s their guy. The Oregon product could use some polishing, but Tyrod Taylor can start this year, and the offense has plenty of star power for Herbert to eventually thrive alongside.
5. DET (mock trade w/ MIA): Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
I would be shocked if Detroit—with the current regime basically entering a do-or-die season—was targeting a quarterback like some apparently believe, so this is a best-case scenario for them. Okudah versus Derrick Brown should at least be a debate, but the Lions might have a preference for cover guys.
6. NYG (mock trade w/ LAC): Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Giants head coach Joe Judge expressed the importance of position versatility this week, and unless his comments were nothing more than a smokescreen, Simmons sounds like the guy for New York. This pick would allow the defense to more easily change their game plan based on the weaknesses of opponents, which Judge said he wants to do.
7. DAL (mock trade w/ CAR): Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Carolina is one of the teams most likely to trade down and acquire more lottery tickets in Year 1 of the Matt Rhule era, and I think Dallas will be a great partner if Jerry Jones wants to make a splash. Brown is an impact defender that may lift the entire unit to finally play up to their potential.
8. ARI: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Getting a bookend for recently-extended left tackle D.J. Humphries will certainly be an option, but reuniting Kyler Murray with Lamb—his top target at Oklahoma—would be exciting. Imagine a future four-wide set of Lamb, Christian Kirk, Hakeem Butler, and Andy Isabella having all learned under Larry Fitzgerald’s tutelage.
9. JAX: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
The Jaguars simply have to improve the run defense if they want to have any chance of rebounding in the AFC South, and Kinlaw is long and powerful with exceptional burst at the snap. Jacksonville potentially losing Yannick Ngakoue would be softened by having Kinlaw and Josh Allen as defensive building blocks.
10. CLE: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Wirfs may be viewed as the best fit for Kevin Stefanski’s offense, but Cleveland can go in a variety of directions depending on who they add in free agency. For now, the skillset of Wirfs for a zone-blocking scheme makes him a logical choice at either right or left tackle.
11. NYJ: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
General manager Joe Douglas knows the team needs to protect Sam Darnold next season if he is going to get more than one opportunity to draft in New York, and Becton is a towering (but athletic) six-foot-seven, 368-pound bodyguard. It’d be interesting to see if Adam Gase has a preference for one of the Alabama wideouts.
12. LV: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
The Raiders could really use a speed element on the outside to open things up for Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow underneath, and Ruggs III has a legitimate chance to break the 40-yard dash record tonight. More importantly, he brings toughness and natural hands to the wide receiver group for whoever plays quarterback in Las Vegas.
13. PHI (mock trade w/ IND): Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
The Cowboys making a splash by trading up for Derrick Brown could lead the Eagles to follow suit by making sure they get the third of the “big three” at receiver. Although the position is historically deep and trading picks will be costly, Jeudy might be viewed as the perfect fit for Carson Wentz because of his ability to create separation.
14. TB: K’Lavon Chaisson, OLB, LSU
Head coach Bruce Arians has emphasized how important the defense is to Tampa Bay’s success, and Chaisson would be another high-upside piece to add up front. Assuming the team re-signs NFL sack leader Shaquil Barrett, he and Chaisson would be an excellent tandem off the edge.
15. DEN: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Wills was originally slotted in as the No. 6 overall pick to the Giants before the talk of positional versatility changed it to Simmons, but this might be the floor for the Alabama product. Denver signed right tackle Ja’Wuan James to a big contract last year, but he played just three games, while former first-rounder Garrett Bolles is probably entering a make-or-break campaign on the blindside.
16. ATL: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
I would love for Atlanta to draft Jonathan Taylor here to give them an absolute powerhouse of an offense, but Epenesa is probably more realistic selection as the defense hopes to build on what they did in the second half of 2019. The comparison I gave him is Cameron Jordan, so perhaps Dan Quinn wants to get his own version in the NFC South.
17. CAR (mock trade w/ DAL): Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
I expect the Panthers will value speed in this draft, and Queen can fly around the field to step right in as Luke Kuechly’s replacement. Also, the young pieces are already there on offense, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Carolina trade down twice in order to set themselves up for Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in 2021.
18. MIA (via PIT): Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
With the franchise quarterback now in the organization, Miami can focus on building up the rest of the roster by selecting the best player available the rest of the way. Thomas is a powerful pass protector with three years of starting experience in the SEC.
19. LV (via CHI): Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
The intelligence and leadership of Fromm is undoubtedly going to win teams over in interviews, and it’s easy to picture Jon Gruden being at the top of that list. We’ll see if Fromm is able to quiet the overblown concerns about arm strength this week—in which case he may not even be available this late.
20. JAX (via LAR): Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Jacksonville may target a cornerback to replace Jalen Ramsey here, but a linebacker like Murray would help plug the aforementioned issues defending the run. If the goal is to get tougher this offseason, Day 1 selections of Javon Kinlaw and Murray would go a long way to accomplishing it.
21. IND (mock trade w/ PHI): Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Cornerback is similar to wide receiver in that personal preference will be different from team to team depending on what they’re looking for. In Diggs, the Colts would be getting a long, prototypical corner to start on the outside with Pierre Desir.
22. BUF: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
The biggest thing missing for the Buffalo offense is a big-bodied downfield threat, and Higgins fits the billing better than anyone in this year’s class. I think Josh Allen would have more confidence throwing deep with a target like Higgins having the ability to come away with 50-50 balls (or as he calls them: 80-20 balls).
23. NE: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
McKinney’s versatility is a perfect fit for the Patriots, who could do some retooling on the backend despite all the success the group had in 2019. Of course, Bill Belichick would be able to get any intel he needs on the intelligent and aggressive McKinney from Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
24. NO: C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
The Saints will likely have a preference for a man-to-man corner to pair with Marshon Lattimore, and Henderson is the top one on the board. This selection would reunite two former college teammates (second-year safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson being the other).
25. MIN: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
Minnesota has said they will bring back Everson Griffen, but Gross-Matos is a ready-made insurance policy because he is already a solid run defender and has plenty of upside getting after the quarterback—especially with Danielle Hunter taking attention away.
26. DET (mock trade w/ MIA via HOU): Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
Although the Lions already re-signed Danny Amendola to start in the slot between Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, you can’t have too many playmakers on offense. Shenault can potentially have an impact similar to Deebo Samuel in San Francisco as someone that can make things happen with the ball in his hands.
27. SEA: Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma
Seattle tried boosting the pass rush last season by drafting L.J. Collier at around this spot, but he fought injuries and ineffectiveness as a rookie. I believe Gallimore would be able to make things easier on Collier and the rest of the edge defenders by generating pressure up the middle.
28. BAL: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
I’d say the Ravens are a candidate to move up for the aforementioned Gallimore or one of the linebackers (Queen/Murray), but if they stay put, wide receiver may be the pick. Aiyuk is a big-play receiver that wins on the perimeter and would hopefully help NFL MVP Lamar Jackson continue to progress as a passer.
29. TEN: Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Baun to Tennessee is an easy player-to-team connection, as head coach Mike Vrabel should love the versatility he brings to a defense. The Wisconsin product has made the decision to prepare for the draft as an off-ball linebacker, but he had 12.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss on the edge last year.
30. GB: Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia
Unless they attack the position in free agency, Green Bay will need a wideout (or two) in April, but the long-term play might be making sure Aaron Rodgers remains protected. Wilson would be an excellent replacement at right tackle if Bryan Bulaga leaves in free agency.
31. TB (mock trade w/ SF): Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
If the Buccaneers sign Jameis Winston to a short-term deal like some have speculated, quarterback will 100% be on the table—and perhaps as high as No. 14 overall. In this mock, I have them trading back into the end of the first round with the rocket-armed Eason still available.
32. KC: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Hitting on draft picks is critical for Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes sure to command a record-breaking contract in the very near future, and adding another defensive piece seems wise with the offense in good hands. Fulton is a natural cover corner that could go higher than this if he runs well this weekend.