The biggest stage for the top prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft is here. Although this week’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis won’t shake up everything, it is when the evaluation process reaches its peak, with the most players on display for all 32 teams at the same time.
Much has changed since our last mock draft, right after Super Bowl 54. There is more information across the big board to better determine both who remains worthy of first-round consideration and who deserves more of it.
Without further ado, here’s our latest edition of projecting where prospects will be picked, with fewer than two months to go before the draft starts April 23.
Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Forget the hand size and rampant rumors of Burrow trying to avoid the Bengals. Unless another team gets aggressive and makes Cincinnati an offer it can’t refuse, he will be the next franchise quarterback under offensive-minded coach Zac Taylor. At 6-3, 221 pounds, Burrow combines his mental and physical toughness in the pocket with a strong arm and accurate delivery. During his amazing Heisman Trophy- and national championship-winning run with the Tigers, his leadership skills and athleticism flourished at an unprecedented college level.
Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
With defensive-minded Ron Rivera hired as head coach, assuming the Redskins also don’t get a can’t-refuse offer to trade back, they should jump at the chance to get this cornerstone talent for the team’s defensive rebuild. Young (6-5, 265 pounds) is a game-changing disruptor who had 16.5 sacks in only 12 games as a junior. He can produce at an all-around level even higher than that of Nick Bosa, who went No. 2 from the Buckeyes to the 49ers and promptly dominated as SN’s Rookie of the Year.
Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson
Some think the Lions might consider drafting Tua Tagovailoa as Matthew Stafford’s near-future successor, and even more feel they are positioned to trade back. Should they keep this pick and go non-QB, Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn, with a win-now ultimatum, need to consider the best defensive player available to deliver the most immediate impact. Detroit also can consider cornerback and defensive line here, but it did have atrocious linebacker play last season. Simmons seemed to be all over the field at all times in college with great speed and range at 6-4, 230 pounds, and he also can get to the quarterback. He posted 104 tackles, 7 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and 3 interceptions in 15 games.
Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
The Giants likely won’t overspend to keep Leonard Williams for the front of new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s scheme. This can be a transcendent pick for Dave Gettleman. Brown has stood out from early in the draft process as the most impactful interior defensive prospect. At 6-5, 318 pounds, he is a quick disruptor who makes a lot of plays in the backfield.
Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
The Dolphins have been attached to Tagovailoa, but with some other QB options developing, they might not be aggressive in going after him. Should Simmons and Brown be off the board at this point, Okudah would make for a sneaky-good pairing with Xavien Howard on the back end of the defense. Okudah, an elite ball hawk at 6-1, 200 pounds, has the build to handle receivers of all sizes. He is fluid and quick enough with great recovery skills in coverage to develop into a shutdown type with his strengths showing up in press man.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
With Tagovailoa (6-0, 217 pounds) on track to recover from the hip injury that cut short his final college season, QB-needy teams have more confidence in his potential to be as successful in the NFL as they think Burrow will be. The Chargers, moving on Philip Rivers, have Tyrod Taylor as a bridge should Tagovailoa need more time. When healthy, Tagovailoa is an accurate, mobile, deep-ball throwing QB with the upside of Russell Wilson, only throwing with his left arm. Anthony Lynn would be the right kind of coach to develop him.
Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
The Panthers also can think about QB with this pick. Ultimately, with a defense in need of a big rebuild under Matt Rhule and Phil Snow, Carolina drafting a strong, powerful building block from Columbia would be wise. The 6-6, 310-pound Kinlaw posted 6 sacks in 12 games for the Gamecocks. He was impressive at the Senior Bowl (on and off the field) to further boost his stock.
Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
The Cardinals re-signed left tackle D.J. Humphries but will still be focused on improving pass protection for Kyler Murray and better opening holes for (likely) Kenyan Drake. Wills (6-5, 320 pounds) is a strong, powerful run-blocker who needs a little time to develop into an elite pass-protector.
A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
The Jaguars might tag Yannick Ngakuoe, but Calais Campbell is entering his age-34 season, and after drafting Josh Allen last year, they can keep up the young pass-rushing momentum for Todd Wash. Epenesa (6-6, 280 pounds) is a powerful, explosive, big-bodied player. He can push blockers out of the way to get to the QB and also stands up strong against the run. He confirmed his top-10 status with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble against USC in the Holiday Bowl.
Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
The Browns have an amazing set of skill players around Baker Mayfield, but their pass protection was the reason they were slow to find their explosiveness early in 2019. That will change with run-tilted and offensive-minded new coach Kevin Stefanski. Thomas matches great size (6-5, 320 pounds) with good hands and footwork. Stefanski also will love what Thomas can do to open holes for the running game.
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Lamb can be the Jets’ version of DeAndre Hopkins. Robby Anderson, a pending free agent, is more of a deep threat and not a No. 1, anyway. Lamb can be that explosive field-stretcher and steady possession guy outside. At 6-2, 199 pounds, Lamb needed only 58 receptions to post 1,208 yards and 14 TDs in 13 games last season.
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
The Raiders have a glaring need for a top receiver no matter who their QB is, Derek Carr or someone else, in 2020. The Antonio Brown debacle is behind them, but they also need to worry about Tyrell Williams coming off a disappointing season and foot surgery. Jeudy fits the profile as a No. 1 receiver; he is a classic intermediate to deep field-stretcher and smooth drive-finisher in the red zone at 6-1, 198 pounds.
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Herbert has the size (6-6, 236 pounds) and underrated athleticism that’s ideal for a team needing to look to its QB future beyond Jacoby Brissett. Although Herbert is efficient and mentally tough, there are times when he can go into a slump with his decision-making, forcing throws out of overconfidence. With good NFL coaching, however, he can live up to being a prototypical superstar, signs he showed at the Senior Bowl. Frank Reich would have a strong influence on Herbert.
Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Whether their QB remains Jameis Winston or someone else, the Bucs need both better pass protection and better run blocking. Wirfs has the athleticism at 6-5, 322 pounds to hold down the left side for a long time. He combines his pass-blocking skills with power and physicality in the running game. He can start on the right if needed with Demar Dotson going into free agency.
Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Becton (6-7, 369 pounds) has gotten more attention for his strong and powerful frame, as he has shown he can also be smooth in his movements. He is willing to work hard to become as good in pass protection as he is overwhelming blockers when setting the edge against the run. The Broncos need to improve at tackle after the disappointment that was Garret Bolles.
K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE/OLB, LSU
Chaisson (6-4, 250 pounds) has a great name for an elite, active defender who chases after QBs and RBs alike. He had 6.5 sacks and 60 tackles during LSU’s championship run, and like several teammates, his draft stock shot up throughout the season. He is an effective hybrid player who can work in Dan Quinn’s 4-3 scheme.
Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
The Cowboys need an upgrade at free safety to get better at covering backs and tight ends. At 6-1, 197 pounds, McKinney could do it all for Dallas to complement Xavier Woods, handling tight ends in coverage and cleaning up against running backs.
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
With three picks in the first round, the Dolphins can wait for high-ceiling QB without having to reach. Love (6-5, 224 pounds) didn’t waste his opportunity at the Senior Bowl. He has terrific size and immense physical skills, including a big arm, and his athleticism bodes well if his accuracy, decision-making and footwork can become cleaner with good NFL coaching.
Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
The Raiders need help on the back end after getting consistently burned last season despite some improvements in the pass rush. Fulton (6-1, 192 pounds) has the size, speed, smarts and sound coverage skills to have a long, prosperous career, which is why he felt confident enough to pull out of the Senior Bowl. This is a must-address position for the Raiders, and Fulton has the highest playmaking upside among corners in the draft.
Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
The Jaguars need to improve their secondary, too, and they can do it by drafting a solid coverage solution with the pick they acquired in the Jalen Ramsey trade. Diggs offers good size (6-2, 207 pounds), strength and downfield speed. He shot up the board quickly during his big senior season (3 interceptions in 12 games).
Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
The Eagles need more speed, quickness and big-play ability at wide receiver with Alshon Jeffery fading, DeSean Jackson aging (and hurting) and Nelson Agholor leaving. Ruggs (6-0, 190 pounds) fits the bill as a field-stretcher who also can use his route-running skills to win on shorter routes.
Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
The Bills hit on outside threat John Brown and slot man Cole Beasley in last year’s free agency to boost Josh Allen and the offense as a whole. Higgins working the perimeter would a perfect complement. The Clemson product is a dangerous, all-around playmaker who can be a force in the red zone. At 6-4, 215 pounds, he posted 59 receptions for 1,167 yards and 13 TDs in 15 games last season. He also rushed for a 36-yard score against LSU in the title game.
Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
The Patriots can think about many positions with this pick, but defense should come first given their potential linebacker depletion in free agency. Gross-Matos (6-5, 242 pounds) is a well-built, explosive and versatile defender who can thrive in Bill Belichick’s scheme.
Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
The Saints need a reliable No. 2 opposite Michael Thomas to give Drew Brees another trusted and technically sound target. Shenault (6-2, 220 pounds) is a sure-handed field stretcher who has some nice big-play flair after the catch. He posted 56 catches for 764 yards and 4 TDs for the Buffaloes last season, standing out on a struggling team.
C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
With Xavier Rhodes fading and Trae Waynes headed to free agency, the Vikings need to consider cornerback early in the draft to keep the strengths of Mike Zimmer’s defensive back seven intact. Henderson (6-1, 202 pounds) plays bigger than his size with great athleticism and technique in his favor. He just needs to get a little more physical to be trusted against receivers who rely on body positioning to get open.
De’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
The Dolphins finish their first-round haul by adding a running back. Given their lack of feature options, it’s worth using a high pick on the position. Swift (5-9, 229 pounds) is capable of both getting the tough yards inside and breaking free for big plays in the open field. He also flashed as a receiver for the Bulldogs and can excel in the screen game.
Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma
The Seahawks will need some defensive line reinforcements with Jarran Reed, Ziggy Ansah and Jadeveon Clowney all headed to free agency. Gallimore (6-2, 301 pounds) got more attention throughout last season for the punch he showed on the Sooners’ interior line, blossoming as a senior with four sacks. He backed that up with a strong Senior Bowl week to get back into first-round consideration.
Kenneth Murray, ILB, Oklahoma
The Ravens need more speed on the second level to better handle the run and cover short-to-intermediate routes. Murray (6-2, 243 pounds) is an active, rangy playmaker who can be as effective dropping back as he is getting downhill against the run or blitzing.
Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
The Titans took a chance on Jeffery Simmons for their defensive line last year, and their flexibility this year allows them to go after the best draft riser available. Blacklock (6-4, 309 pounds) would bring physicality and more youthful playmaking juice to MIke Vrabel’s rotation with Jurrell Casey entering his age-30 season.
Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
The Packers still need to shore up the middle of their defense with Blake Martinez headed to free agency. Queen (6-1, 227 pounds) has great range when either working downhill against the run or moving all over the field in coverage. He is relatively small but is the type of linebacker who can have a major impact from any alignment.
Grant Delpit, S, LSU
The Niners have seen their defensive work in the draft pay off, but with Jimmie Ward a pending free agent, they will think about addressing safety next to Jaquiski Tartt. Delpit flies around the field, stopping the run like an extra linebacker and making big plays on the ball in downfield coverage. He plays like the Chargers’ Derwin James with tremendous hybrid size (6-3, 203 pounds) for the position.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
The Chiefs like Damien Williams, but they could use more youth and durability at RB. Taylor (5-11, 219 pounds) has great vision and burst as a runner. He also doesn’t get enough credit for what he can do as a receiver, which was on display more during his final college season. In three years for the Badgers, he posted 6,581 scrimmage yards and 55 total TDs.
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