2020 NFL Mock Draft: First-Round Predictions (early January edition)

Now that Tua Tagovailoa has announced he's going pro, where does he land?

The NFL regular season is long gone and the playoffs are well underway. With college football on its last legs as well, that can mean only one thing: it's draft season.

 

While we are still months away from cards being turned in out in Las Vegas, there's still plenty of information out there to sort through. Underclassmen still have some time to declare for the draft but it still won't be long before the Senior Bowl is here and trips to Indianapolis are booked. With all that in mind, how could the draft play out in a few months?

 

Here's a look at who could go where in the first round:

 

1. Cincinnati Bengals — Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

The Heisman Trophy winner can return to Ohio a conquering hero as the native son tries to rescue the franchise from the depths. He likely won't be counted on to play right away but the veteran mentality he brings will cause him to see the field sooner rather than later in Cincy.

 

2. Washington Redskins — Chase Young, DL, Ohio State

Perhaps the easiest pick in the draft to make, fellow Buckeye and current QB Dwayne Haskins has already hinted at Young following him from Columbus to the DMV. New head coach Ron Rivera's teams in Carolina were always marked by their ability to get after the passer with the front seven and he can begin re-tooling around Young.

 

3. Detroit Lions — Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

The Lions have needs all over the board and but with the current brain trust still in place, it seems doubtful the move is for a QB at this point. Simmons is the best linebacker available by a good margin and his incredible versatility should play well in Matt Patricia's scheme.

 

4. New York Giants — Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State

The new coaching staff in the Big Apple certainly won't complain about getting one of the most polished cornerbacks to come into the draft in some time. It's no secret that the Giants' pass defense has been suspect for a while but Okudah can come in and change that from Day 1.

 

5. Miami Dolphins — Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Miami has been linked to Tagovailoa for nearly 18 months now but things have certainly changed since that previous draft talk. For one, the medicals on the Tide signal-caller will be critical for any franchise in selecting him but the reward far outweighs the risk for Brian Flores and company to get "their guy" going forward even if he misses a chunk of the 2020 campaign.

 

6. Los Angeles Chargers — Andrew Thomas, OL, Georgia

Lots of speculation about what the Chargers will do at the quarterback position but that might be best addressed through free agency. As a result, finally shoring up that offensive line remains paramount with such a high pick and Thomas should be able to help solidify the outside quickly enough.

 

7. Carolina Panthers — Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn

Brown is just too good of a talent to pass up here as Carolina makes huge changes within the franchise from top to bottom. While Gerald McCoy's signing was a splash last offseason, the addition of the Tigers superstar leaves an even bigger mark.

 

8. Arizona Cardinals — Jedrick Wills Jr., OL, Alabama

It's no secret that the Cardinals need offensive line help to protect Kyler Murray and it would be a shock if they used this pick on anything other than that. Wills has the size and athleticism to make an early impact and help Kliff Kingsbury's offense take another step forward.

 

9. Jacksonville Jaguars — CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

The Jags need help in a number of areas but will have a hard time passing up on adding a true No. 1 receiver in Lamb. Regardless who is at quarterback come 2020 for the team, they'll be thankful for adding the explosive playmaker.

 

10. Cleveland Browns — Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa

While former general manager John Dorsey upgraded the roster quite a bit, offensive line was the one spot he really couldn't fix. Wirfs should play early at either tackle spot and help pave the way for Nick Chubb and protect Baker Mayfield.

 

11. New York Jets — Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Gang Green can rejoice that Jeudy falls in their lap as he's a perfect addition to Adam Gase's offense. The top-end route runner will instantly become Sam Darnold's best friend and provide plenty of juice in New York.

 

12. Las Vegas Raiders — Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

Still strange to think this will be the Las Vegas Raiders' first draft pick. GM Mike Mayock has done an impressive job building through the draft so far and that continues with an impact player in Murray. The Sooners may not be known for producing defenders recently but the tackling machine should slide into the lineup right away for a defense that needs help.

 

13. Indianapolis Colts — Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado

Quarterback could be another route Indy goes with this selection but they've been searching for a running mate to T.Y. Hilton for forever and finally land one in Shenault. His injury history might scare some teams away but the talent is off the charts and a huge boost to an offense lacking consistency.

 

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Jacob Eason, QB, Washington

The team was not exactly throwing their weight behind continuing the Jameis Winston experience some more but if Bruce Arians gets his way, a strong-armed QB like Eason makes a lot of sense given the head coach's history. He still needs to improve in certain areas but the upside is easy to see and he's less turnover-prone than his predecessor.

 

15. Denver Broncos — Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Even die-hard fans of the NFL might have a hard time coming up with the names of more than one Broncos wide receiver. Drew Lock did flash some potential down the stretch in 2019 and adding a speedster like Ruggs could help the offense further.

 

16. Atlanta Falcons — A.J. Epenesa, DL, Iowa

The Falcons have to thank their lucky stars that Epenesa fell this far because he's been the missing piece Dan Quinn's defense has been looking for. He'll not only get after the QB but also set the edge in a big way.

 

17. Dallas Cowboys — Grant Delpit, S, LSU

New head coach Mike McCarthy may be offensive-minded but he knows that the continued revamping of Big D's defense will be key to getting back to the promised land. Delpit didn't perform up to his potential earlier this season when injured but when fully healthy, the hard-hitter is an impact player.

 

18. Miami Dolphins (from Pittsburgh) — Xavier McKinney, DB, Alabama

Miami may have moved on from one Crimson Tide defensive back but can still use the pick the team got from the Steelers to bring in another to help continue to change their fortunes in South Beach.

 

19. Las Vegas Raiders (from Chicago) — Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

The Raiders have made no qualms about drafting Clemson players recently and Higgins could be next in line. Jon Gruden's offense needs somebody who can help stretch the field and the Tigers wideout has the speed and size to put up big numbers at the next level.

 

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams) — Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina

Less of a need selection for Jacksonville as much as it is a tremendous value at this point in the draft. Kinlaw can get up the field in a hurry for somebody his size and could help make that once fearsome DL in Duvall even tougher.

 

21. Philadelphia Eagles — Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

It's been several years since we've been pointing to the Eagles' deficiency in the secondary and perhaps this is the draft they finally go hard in addressing those needs. Fulton doesn't have the upside of others but is such a solid player that he can come in right away and play quite a bit.

 

22. Buffalo Bills — Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State

Finding Josh Allen more weapons is obviously a priority in this draft but the ability to bring in the Penn State pass rusher also adds to a growing young core of talent. His upside is off the charts and if he reaches it, the Bills should have athletic playmakers at every level of the defense.

 

23. New England Patriots — Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington

Tom Brady's future is in doubt in Foxboro but if the team ultimately works things out, finding the signal-caller more targets is the easy way to spend draft capital. Field-stretching receivers could also be in play but a dependable pass-catching tight end is a must for New England's offense and Bryant is a potential starter right away with what he brings to the table.

 

24. New Orleans Saints — K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State

The Saints' passing game has been wholly focused on Michael Thomas no matter how many veterans are brought in but Hamler's speed could add a totally different dimension to what Sean Payton wants to do. They might be able to get him later on but the marriage of talent, fit and need is tough to pass up.

 

25. Tennessee Titans — Terrell Lewis, EGDE, Alabama

Mike Vrabel knows better than anybody how much athletic pass rushers can transform a defense and Lewis could be the latest out of Tuscaloosa to help address that in Nashville. He's not as polished as some others coming out of Nick Saban's program but the upside is there and a great fit with the pieces already in place on the team.

 

26. Minnesota Vikings — Justin Madubuike, DL, Texas A&M

Mike Zimmer has continued to field one of the best defenses in the league by stocking ridiculous and sometimes overlooked athletes at all three levels. Enter Madubuike as the latest potential addition to the group in the middle as the coaching staff takes some impressive raw tools and turns them into a future star.

 

27. Miami Dolphins (from Houston) — Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Block out the sun big on the outside, Becton has the chance to develop into an All-Pro tackle given his inherent physical skills. For a team like Miami that is still growing into their window to compete, the Dolphins can live with the occasional mistake from the former Cardinals lineman as he transitions to the NFL knowing that the real payoff can come in a few years.

 

28. Seattle Seahawks — Julian Okwara, DL, Notre Dame

Trading for Jadeveon Clowney has paid off nicely but finding long-term solutions off the edge in Seattle remains something for the front office to address. Okwara figures to be a Scouting Combine star given how athletic he is and is just the type of player that the Seahawks love to draft.

 

29. Kansas City Chiefs — D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

Talk about the rich getting richer, Swift would almost be unfair to add to the collection of talent already at Patrick Mahomes' disposal. In addition to solidifying things in the backfield as the top option, he fits in well with the mold of players the team has surrounded their MVP QB with.

 

30. Green Bay Packers — Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame

The Pack could go a number of different directions and always could look at Aaron Rodgers' eventual replacement as well. Still, Matt LaFleur has typically had an offense that leans heavily on quality play at tight end and Kmet allows them to get younger at the position while still upgrading the overall talent.

 

31. San Francisco 49ers — C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

Henderson has all the tools to be a top corner in the league sooner rather than later but his thin frame might hold him back in the eyes of some scouts. He's still blazing fast with good instincts and could be a nice young corner for the 49ers to start to build around on the back end.

 

32. Baltimore Ravens — Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

Lamar Jackson getting more weapons is already enough to cause division foes to moan and groan but Reagor is the type of catch-everything receiver that could fit in well on the outside of Hollywood (Marquise) Brown. His catch radius is incredible and with just a bit more consistency, could be an ideal fit in Baltimore.

 

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

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