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

Auburn's Derrick Brown continues to move up boards as the draft gets closer

The NFL is going full "damn the torpedoes" and is moving full steam ahead with the draft as scheduled. What form it takes is still to be determined, but at the end of the day, we'll still be getting seven rounds of picks later this month — albeit virtually. That puts a lot of extra pressure on front offices and coaching staffs to be in sync and ready to go when it comes time for their name to hit the clock.

 

With free agency out of the way and a few big trades already made, how could the first round of the draft — in whatever form it takes on — play out in a few weeks? Here's a look at who could go where when it comes time to phone in the selection down for the 2020 NFL Draft:

 

1. Cincinnati Bengals — Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

The abbreviated draft process seems like it will make it extra certain that the Bengals grab their QB of the future in the name they've been linked to for the last five or six months. The bigger question come draft time could be whether they get what they want to move Andy Dalton via trade to add even more draft capital to help out Burrow when he eventually arrives in Cincy.

 

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

Another team that won't be messing around in the first round to turn in their pick, the new regime in Washington would truly need a godfather-like offer to move off the most talented player available in 2020.

 

3. Detroit Lions — Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

While Young gets all the press, the grades for Brown across the league don't show much of a gap between the two. Detroit has a big weakness upfront, and the New England imports in the draft room will know the importance of building a defense front to back even if there is that glaring need in the secondary. Moving back a few spots with a QB-needy team may still be the most likely course of action though.

 

4. New York Giants — Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama

Lots of focus on finding more protection for Daniel Jones, and Wills could slot in right away as the team's starting right tackle (he's obviously familiar on that side). He's got much more upside, though, and replacing Nate Solder over the long-term has to be the plan in the Big Apple eventually.

 

5. Miami Dolphins — Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

With questions about Tua Tagovailoa's long-term and short-term health in question, some will label this a safe pick. But this would be a selection about who the 'Fins are picking as opposed to who they are not. Herbert has a lot more going for him than outsiders realize, and it's not hard to see a path to being the best AFC East QB in two years' time.

 

6. Los Angeles Chargers — Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

The Chargers have continued to insist that they're comfortable with Tyrod Taylor for 2020, but that's quite the poker face. Instead, they get a ready-made star who can finally win some fans over in LA and be a lefty version of the guy they drafted nearly two decades ago in Drew Brees.

 

7. Carolina Panthers — Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

The Matt Rhule rebuild gets underway in a big way with what should be a cornerstone draft pick. The new regime will be looking for the best player available and a high-character guy to help instill a new locker room culture. Okudah checks both those boxes as the new top corner in Carolina.

 

8. Arizona Cardinals — Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

The trade for DeAndre Hopkins shows how committed the Cards are to making their offense even more fun to watch, and they'll take the next step by landing who some think is the best tackle available with their top pick. Becton still needs some polishing, but his athletic traits are off the charts, and he can develop quicker upfront in the Air Raid.

 

9. Jacksonville Jaguars — Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

Duval can't believe their luck in seeing Simmons slide this low. The front office loves their uber-athletic prospects, and the former Tigers star is that in spades while also being a potential fix for that problematic linebacker spot.

 

10. Cleveland Browns — Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

Baker Mayfield will get both flanks upgraded in a big way with the signing of Jack Conklin and the pick of Thomas. The ex-UGA tackle has a chance to really step in and help boost the team's run game in particular with his old teammate Nick Chubb.

 

 

11. New York Jets — Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

New general manager Joe Douglas might be looking to move up in order to ensure he can get a top-tier tackle but still lands one at No. 11 the way these cards fall. Wirfs' athleticism will come in handy protecting Sam Darnold, and his nasty streak will endear him to fans of Gang Green right away as a rookie.

 

12. Las Vegas Raiders — CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

Nobody needs a top-tier wideout quite like the Raiders do with their move to Vegas, so enter the prolific pass catcher who will have Gruden and company drooling at his potential.

 

13. San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis Colts) — Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Kyle Shanahan turned Deebo Samuel into a star last year and will add speed to speed by using Ruggs to take the offense to another dimension. Given how the franchise knows better than most that speed kills on the biggest stages of the game, they just made a big upgrade to get back to the big game.

 

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

Even with the GOAT onboard and other pressing needs, there's too much value in going with Kinlaw here given his talent. He can learn a lot in a room with guys like Ndamukong Suh and has the potential to be even more than the next Gerald McCoy for the Bucs.

 

15. Denver Broncos — Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

John Elway will run to the, uh, telephone line to turn in Jeudy's name as he finds Drew Lock a new best friend. There's no better route-runner in the draft, and he could be a top option in the thin Mile High air right away.

 

16. Atlanta Falcons — Xavier McKinney, DB, Alabama

The offensive makeover has attracted most of the attention, but if the Falcons want to make a dent in the division — and keep Dan Quinn's job again — they'll need more upgrades on defense. Enter the versatile McKinney, who will not only provide cover for the oft-injured Keanu Neal but, more importantly, also will see the field plenty in the slot and around the box.

 

17. Dallas Cowboys — CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

Out goes Byron Jones, in comes his replacement? Henderson has a chance to be CB2 in this draft with the upside of perhaps being the top guy sooner rather than later on the field. His speed will be an asset on the athletic Dallas defense right away as they look to get to the big game one more time for Jerry Jones.

 

18. Miami Dolphins (from Pittsburgh Steelers) — Austin Jackson, OT, USC

Miami has been looking for solutions along the line for years now, and with their QB secured, attention will be turned to fixing things upfront. Jackson is young and still needs a bit more seasoning, but his upside is off the charts, and he has the capability of being the Pro Bowler the franchise has been searching for.

 

19. Las Vegas Raiders (from Chicago Bears) — Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

It's been talked about for the better part of 18 months that Derek Carr might not have a future beyond 2020 in Sin City. Enter the long-term move for the franchise in the highest-upside signal-caller in the draft and just the kind of guy who can really push the ball downfield.

 

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams) — Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU

After shipping Calais Campbell out and saying goodbye to Marcell Dareus, the remaking of the defensive line will begin in earnest in Duval. Blacklock has a chance to juice the pass rush right away; the way he gets off the ball and into the backfield and has Pro Bowl upside.

 

21. Philadelphia Eagles — Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

Lots of talk this draft about being able to get receivers later on due to the depth at the position, but that's downplaying the impact some of the big names can have. Jefferson would qualify and could provide plenty of juice to a receiving group that needs more consistent options.

 

22. Minnesota Vikings (from Buffalo Bills) — Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

Stefon Diggs is in Buffalo, so Kirk Cousins has a need for another playmaker. While the franchise doesn't want to go like-for-like with the pick they acquired, the looming potential for a run on pass catchers and Aiyuk's incredible catch radius make him too good to pass up.

 

23. New England Patriots — Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

The most interesting pick in the Belichick era in New England given recent events with a certain QB? Murray is tailor-made to help transform the linebacking corps and add to an already top-flight defensive unit.

 

24. New Orleans Saints — Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

After the offseason the Saints have had, they are in a position to go with the best player available. That might just be the recent hero from just up the road who was flashing as a potential key piece in front of his future head coach at the Superdome just a few months ago.

 

25. Minnesota Vikings — K'Lavon Chaisson, LB, LSU

The lack of depth at edge rusher in this draft class will put a premium on guys like Chaisson, who finds a good fit with a scheme that has made others very rich players down the road. There's a little risk but also tremendous upside in a guy who really came along in the Tigers' run to a title.

 

26. Miami Dolphins (Houston Texans) — Josh Jones, OT, Houston

An additional pick in the first round is an additional stab at addressing those needs along the offensive line. Jones has the upside to end up as a top-flight tackle even if he might need a season in the league under his belt to truly show what he's capable of.

 

27. Seattle Seahawks — A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa

Seahawks fans are still waiting out the Jadeveon Clowney situation, but the bottom line is that upgrades need to be made off the edge. Epenesa comes in ready to play from Day 1 and has a chance to really thrive as somebody who can move around a bit in Pete Carroll's scheme.

 

28. Baltimore Ravens — Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

Adding more weapons around the MVP behind center will be a priority for the front office even if it seems likely they'll move back out of the first round in what could be a trade-heavy draft. Higgins can be a great complement to Hollywood (Marquise) Brown on the outside while adding another big-play threat for defenses to account for.

 

29. Tennessee Titans — Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah

The Malcolm Butler acquisition didn't quite work out as expected, and Adoree' Jackson may be better suited to the slot. Johnson is an intriguing option that could allow more flexibility on the backend for Mike Vrabel and Co.

 

30. Green Bay Packers — Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia

Wilson has the upside to go in the first round and has built some (quarantined) momentum in the draft process. The Pack's line is a bit in flux over the next few years, but the former Bulldog could be one key building block going forward.

 

31. San Francisco 49ers — A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

Richard Sherman continues to age, and at some point, it will be time to find his heir apparent. Terrell can slot in right away as a contributor for the NFC champs while becoming the top option at corner long-term.

 

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

The rich get richer. Finding a consistent running back that sticks on the field all the time gives Andy Reid even more flexibility and creativity in drawing up plays.

 

— 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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