Remember the NFL Draft? Well, it's back in Skype form. The NFL's biggest spectacle outside of the Super Bowl returns this year despite Covid-19. This time it will be a little different but there is still a raft of superstar college players who will find out where their NFL careers can begin.
The 2020 NFL draft is this week. While the rest of the world's sport has come to a standstill, the NFL world will convene as normal. Instead of meeting Roger Goodell on a floating stage on the Las Vegas strip, all prospects will watch from home like everyone else. It's going to be the most famous skype call in history.
While the pomp and pageantry won't exist, the excitement and hope will be as prevalent as ever. This year's draft class is a strong one. It's got quarterbacks worthy of going at the very top, wide receivers of great variety and athletic defenders. There are even some high-quality offensive linemen for those in need.
Joe Burrow is the first pick. That's been known for a while, however, after that, it's less predictable than normal.
Some combination of Chase Young and Tua Tagovailoa will come off the board immediately after Burrow. Then there is a plateau of talent that stretches as far as the 20th pick in the first round. 60 prospects can reasonably claim to be worthy of selection in the first round. That makes predicting the first 32 picks a greater impossibility than the regular impossibility it is annually.
Instead of trying to predict the future, this Mock Draft will make picks that are logical for what each team needs.
1. Cincinnati Bengals - Joe Burrow, Quarterback, LSU
After moving on from Marvin Lewis prior to last season, the Bengals took a predictable downslide during Zac Taylor's first year in charge. Burrow is the best quarterback prospect in this class and a completely different type of quarterback to incumbent Andy Dalton. His intelligence, accuracy and poise will serve him well as a Year 1 starter.
The Bengals decided to retain A.J. Green this offseason so Burow has a ready-made receiving corps to work with. Jonah Williams, the team's first-round pick last year, missed his rookie season so is in line to make his first start at left tackle this season. Wiliams and Burrow give the Bengals a foundation to build their offence on moving forward.
2. Washington - Chase Young, Defensive End, Ohio State
The consensus best defensive player in this draft. Chase Young is powerful, explosive, balanced and already understands how to use his hands like a pro. Washington will have trade offers but it's not likely that anyone will offer enough to keep Ron Rivera away from a prospect who could be the best pass rusher in the NFL in a few years. Rivera is a defensive-minded head coach who previously built great defensive units in Carolina.
Putting Young alongside Ryan Kerrigan will give Washington one of the best pass-rushing tandems in the NFL. It will also mean they have five first-round picks at the front of their defence.
3. Detroit Lions - Tua Tagovailoa, Quarterback, Alabama
Matthew Stafford is 32 years old. It's hard for the Lions to trade him away this year because of how the money works in his contract. Tua Tagovailoa is coming off a devastating hip injury. He will be physically healthy when the season starts, but it makes more sense for him to sit out his rookie season. The Lions can make the same transition to Tagovailoa that the Chiefs made to Patrick Mahomes.
Tagovailoa isn't a superstar prospect even if you ignore the hip injury. He's a very talented quarterback who showed off good accuracy in a well-designed scheme at Alabama. He makes consistently good decisions and has enough physical ability to make plays inside and outside of the pocket against NFL-calibre athletes. But expecting him to be the next Lamar Jackson or Mahomes is unrealistic.
Lions Head Coach Matt Patricia also hasn't done a good job so far. Having Tagovailoa to point to would help his job security into the 2021 season.
4. New York Giants - Tristan Wirfs, Right Tackle, Iowa
The Giants are in an awkward spot in this draft. There are two quarterbacks at the top who are worth a premium in a trade. There's one other superstar prospect outside of those two. Picking fourth means getting the best player on the second tier. It's very unlikely that anyone pays a premium to trade up with the Giants, forcing them to find the best player who fits their philosophy. Isaiah Simmons is a popular prediction for this slot but Tristan Wirfs makes more sense.
Wirfs is a ready-made starter at right tackle who can immediately upgrade the Giants run blocking and pass blocking. The Giants need new starters at three spots on their line, Wirfs is a boring pick but a hugely valuable one for Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones. Darius Slayton's emergence as an adequate replacement for Odell Beckham last year wards them away from looking at a receiver.
5. Miami Dolphins - Mekhi Becton, Left Tackle, Louisville
When a team tanks, it's not the players or the head coach who decides to tank. It's the manager above the head coach. He's supposed to strip away all parts from the roster so it's impossible to compete. The Dolphins failed at that last season, much to the joy of their fans during the regular season. But now they're paying for that. They're not in position to select a top quarterback and trading up for Tagovailoa isn't logical. It would defeat the purpose of tanking further and put them right back where they were with Ryan Tannehill.
Instead of looking for a quarterback to solve all their problems, the Dolphins should continue to round out their roster so they're ready to compete for a Super Bowl when they find someone worth starting. Becton is an athletic tackle with huge upside. He needs to learn how to drop back in pass sets but he has the foot frequency and upper body power to dominate once he learns the intricacies of the position.
The Dolphins need to continue to embrace their rebuild by selecting high upside players who they can let develop over the coming 12 months without the pressure to win games.
6. Los Angeles Chargers - Isaiah Simmons, Linebacker/Safety/Cornerback, Clemson
Isaiah Simmons is a freak athlete amongst freak athletes. At Clemson, he played outside linebacker but his position regularly became slot cornerback or safety. He doesn't have a set position. What's most important is that he's very comfortable playing in space. He's a versatile defender who can drop back and move laterally before coming forward aggressively.
For most teams, Simmons' lack of an obvious fit will be a problem. For the Chargers, the opposite is true. The Chargers defence boasts Derwin James (a better version of Simmons) and Chris Harris in its back seven. Harris can play inside or outside, James can play literally any position. Simmons could be a slot cornerback, a third safety or a starting linebacker. He could be all three play-to-play depending on how the offence lines up.
7. [Trade] Los Vegas Raiders - CeeDee Lamb, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma
*Raiders trade 12th overall, 91st overall and 121st overall to the Carolina Panthers for 7th overall*
Derek Carr threw 44.1% of his passes short of the first down line on third downs last season. He needs receivers who can create after the catch in Jon Gruden's offence. CeeDee Lamb is not only the best receiver in this class he's also the most explosive and elusive with the ball in his hands. He is a perfect fit for what the Raiders want to do. Antonio Brown's premature release from Oakland last season means the gap left by Amari Cooper two years ago remains. Tyrell Williams was good during his first season with the team last year but the Raiders need a better number one receiver to complement Darren Waller at tight end.
8. Arizona Cardinals - C.J. Henderson, Cornerback, Florida
C.J. Henderson is a really bad tackler. He's a willing tackler, he flies in at speed often, but he doesn't have the technique or bulk to be an effective tackler just yet. If he never improves as a tackler, it won't prevent him from being one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Henderson's coverage skills are spectacular. He has the physical tools, the footwork and the awareness to be dominant in different defensive assignments. The Cardinals can go in different directions with this pick after adding DeAndre Hopkins at a cut cost earlier this offseason. Henderson has the most upside in the short term and the long term.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars - Jeffrey Okudah, Cornerback, Ohio State
If Okudah lasts this long on draft night it will be considered a steal for the Jaguars. The versatile cornerback is being projected as the third overall pick in the draft by some established NFL analysts. He has less upside in coverage as Henderson but is a more rounded defender. Okudah can drop into any defence in the NFL and find a role because of his comfort in zone and man coverage and his ability to play both inside and outside depending on his matchup. The Jaguars are entering a rebuild after trading away the best players on their roster.
10. Cleveland Browns - Andrew Thomas, Left Tackle, Georgia
Kevin Stefanski is taking over the Cleveland Browns offence this year. Stefanski ran Gary Kubiak's offence in Minnesota last season. That means putting the quarterback under center and running the ball as much as possible. Nick Chubb, not Baker Mayfield, will be the focal point of play designs. As such, the Browns are in the market for big, powerful offensive linemen who can move bodies off the line of scrimmage. Jack Conklin was signed as a run-blocking right tackle and Andrew Thomas can be drafted to be the run-blocking left tackle. There's (another) identity change coming to Cleveland.
11. New York Jets - Jedrick Willis, Left Tackle, Alabama
The Jets will be delighted that the Browns took the better scheme fit for their offence, leaving Jedrick Willis to drop into their laps. Willis is arguably the more talented player. He's a better pass blocker than Thomas. Thomas has greater size and more powerful hands. Willis will be comfortable moving around the field more and dropping into pass sets for Sam Darnold, who spends more of his time in shotgun/spread alignments than Mayfield figures to next season. Darnold desperately needs offensive line improvement. The biggest concern with Willis is his relative youth. He'll be a very young starting left tackle next year.
12.[From Raiders] Carolina Panthers - Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle, Auburn
The Panthers would have taken Derrick Brown had they made their original choice in the top 10. A potential superstar at defensive tackle. He lacks the explosiveness of an Aaron Donald but makes up for it by being overwhelmingly powerful and consistent. He could be the next Calais Campbell if everything breaks right. The Panthers need someone who can plug the middle of their defensive line after being the worst run defence in the NFL last year.
13. San Francisco 49ers - Henry Ruggs, Wide Receiver, Alabama
There are few things Kyle Shanahan loves in this world more than a fast wide receiver. Ever since he's been in the league he's unearthed sprinters and turned them into effective receivers. Whether it's Taylor Gabriel, Aldrick Robinson or Marquise Goodwin. Henry Ruggs is the fastest receiver in this draft and already shows off an understanding of how to run routes. He is a perfect fit in the 49ers offence and an ideal complement to Deebo Samuel.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jerry Jeudy, Wide Receiver, Alabama
Wide receiver isn't a need for the Buccaneers. They have Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Tom Brady will be fine with them and the tight ends. But Jerry Jeudy's quality at this point of the draft is hard to resist. And not only that, Jeudy is also a great complement to what's already in Tampa Bay. Jeudy is a precise route runner who can get open in an instant off the line of scrimmage. He's not big like Godwin or Evans, he can work from the slot comfortably to help Brady get rid of the ball quickly.
15. [Trade] Miami Dolphins - Javon Kinlaw, Defensive Tackle, South Carolina
*Dolphins trade 18th overall and a 2021 third-round pick to the Denver Broncos for 15th overall*
Similar to the Dolphins' first pick in this draft, Javon Kinlaw is a raw athlete with rare ability that needs to be refined. He has long arms and the power to drive his way through blockers consistently. Unleashing Kinlaw in the middle of the opposition's offensive line is a sure-fire way to disrupt the design of the play. He may need to develop over the initial stages of his career to become an every down player, but even before then he can be a useful third down pass rusher. Kinlaw has huge upside, hence the trade.
16. Atlanta Falcons - K'Lavon Chaisson, Defensive End, LSU
Vic Beasley just left the Falcons for the Tennessee Titans. Beasley was supposed to be the Falcons' best pass rusher, a speed rusher who came out of Clemson. All he lacked was size. That size prevented him from being an effective defensive end so he eventually moved off the line of scrimmage into a linebacker spot. K'Lavon Chaisson is a somewhat similar prospect to Beasley but the Falcons will hope he can show off the power and strength to hold up better as an edge defender.
17. Dallas Cowboys - Xavier McKinney, Safety, Alabama
The Cowboys didn't give HaHa Clinton-Dix starter money in free agency. That suggests they're open to adding another safety to join him and Xavier Woods. Both Woods and Clinton-Dix are deep safeties, whereas Xavier McKinney is an ideal strong safety. He is very quick to diagnose plays from underneath zones, can track receivers in man and plays the run like a roaming hammer. McKinney would have been a top-10 pick 10 years ago. Safeties just aren't as valued anymore.
18. [Trade] Philadelphia Eagles - Justin Jefferson, Wide Receiver, LSU
*Eagles trade 21st overall and 103rd overall to the Broncos for 18th overall*
Justin Jefferson was LSU's slot receiver. He is capable of stretching the field from inside or outside alignments. Jefferson is a very similar receiver to Nelson Agholor, who just departed Philadelphia to join the Las Vegas Raiders. Agholor was a perfect fit in the Eagles offence, he just dropped too many passes in big moments. If Jefferson can catch the ball more consistently, it will be a smooth transition for Doug Pederson's offence.
19. Las Vegas Raiders - Patrick Queen, Linebacker, LSU
It's been a very long time since the Raiders have had a quality starter at middle linebacker. Patrick Queen possesses the leadership qualities that the Raiders so publicly desire. He has the ability to play side-to-side in run defence without lacking the aggression to come forward and shut down running plays between the tackles. The Raiders have already added Maliek Collins and Cory Littleton to the spine of their defence this offseason. Queen could be the final piece.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars - Yetur Gross-Matos, Defensive End, Penn State
Having gotten great value with Jeffrey Okudah in the top-10, the Jaguars round out the top 20 with a developmental pass rusher. Gross-Matos is long-armed with powerful legs to generate power in his pass rush. He hasn't filled out his body yet, which prevented him from being a dominant college player. The Jaguars can afford to be patient with him as he develops over the early stages of his career.
21. [From Eagles] Denver Broncos - Denzel Mims, Wide Receiver, Baylor
Denzel Mims is a monster at the catch point. He has great size and athleticism, which he uses to adjust to the ball in the air and bully defensive backs. But Mims needs to develop his stems and releases from the line of scrimmage. If he can do that, he can have a similar rookie season to D.K. Metcalf. If he can't, the Broncos will regret this pick. Drew Lock already has one ball-winning receiver in Courtland Sutton, giving him Mims as a complement would set him up well for his first full season as a starter. If Mims transitions quickly and Noah Fant takes a big step forward in his second season, the Broncos could quickly be a very good offence.
22. Minnesota Vikings - Trevon Diggs, Cornerback, Alabama
Mike Zimmer has a track record of developing cornerbacks. He seeks out athleticism that he can refine. It didn't work exactly as planned with Trae Waynes, but Zimmer's credentials date back to Cincinnati. Trevon Diggs is somewhat similar to Waynes. He has the size and athleticism to be a great press-man corner, he just needs to be taught better technique so he can find the ball at the top of his routes. Both Waynes and Xavier Rhodes departed Minnesota this offseason. The Vikings need at least one new starter to partner with Mike Hughes.
23. New England Patriots - Jordan Love, Quarterback, Utah State
It's a good year to need a developmental quarterback. Justin Herbert is expected to go in the top 10, but he belongs in the second round. Jake Fromm is a smart quarterback who needs to prove he has a strong enough arm to be an NFL starter. Jordan Love is Patrick Mahomes without the huge arm. Love makes mistakes but can also generate big plays outside of structure consistently. Whether the Patriots chose to start him from Week 1 or not will depend on how he plays through training camp and the preseason.
24. New Orleans Saints - Zack Baun, Linebacker, Wisconsin
The Saints have plenty of quality in their secondary and on their defensive line. They lack linebacker quality. Baun is a bit of a tweener. He's most similar to Ahmad Brooks, the former San Francisco 49ers linebacker. He is very comfortable dropping into coverage and moving with running backs in the flat. He can rush the passer but he's not got huge upside as a pass rusher. His best role is as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 who can flip between the strong and the weak side with ease. That's perfect for what the Saints are lacking.
25. Minnesota Vikings - Tee Higgins, Wide Receiver, Clemson
Trading away Stefon Diggs for a first-round pick sounds a lot better than trading away Stefon Diggs for a specific prospect. No matter who the Vikings come away with from this draft, they're not getting anyone of Diggs' calibre for the 2020 season. Tee Higgins is a spectacular talent who dropped too many passes in college. Had he shown better hands, he could have been a top-10 pick. He will help Kirk Cousins by offering the Vikings quarterback a wide catch radius deep downfield. Bisi Johnson can start at the beginning of the year while Higgins works his way into the starting spot across from Adam Thielen.
26. [Trade] Kansas City Chiefs - A.J. Terrell, Cornerback, Clemson
*Chiefs trade the 32nd-overall pick and the 96th-overall pick to the Dolphins for the 26th-overall pick.*
Terrell is a big, strong cornerback with the athleticism to stick to receivers in man coverage. He uses his hands to manipulate the upper body of his assignments and faced some high-end competition in college. The Chiefs coaching staff need to work on his footwork to prevent him from wasting motion or taking himself out of position, while also helping him to trust his eyes so he can break on the ball more regularly. Other cornerbacks went ahead of him because they showed better instincts in zone and better ball skills in man. His physical talent still makes him an attractive get at this point in the draft.
27. Seattle Seahawks - Austin Jackson, Right Tackle, USC
Austin Jackson has long-term potential at left tackle but the Seahawks have Duane Brown at that spot currently. Instead, he'll start his career by taking over at right tackle. The Seahawks currently have Cedric Ogbuehi there, a backup who can't be trusted to start. Jackson's length and athleticism make him an immediate upgrade in pass protection with the potential to develop into a good run blocker. Russell Wilson could quickly have one of the better starting tackle tandems in the league.
28. [Trade] - Indianapolis Colts - Brandon Auyik, Wide Receiver, Arizona State
*The Colts trade the 34th-overall pick and the 44th-overall pick to the Ravens for the 28th-overall pick.*
Brandon Auyik is the last remaining receiver worthy of going in the first round of the draft. The Indianapolis Colts desperately need another receiver after adding Philip Rivers in free agency. Auyik is incredibly smooth. His route running is precise and his athleticism allows him to generate separation with relative ease. he has a sharp release from the line of scrimmage, relying on quick steps to accelerate away from defensive backs in tight alignments.
29. Tennessee Titans - Josh Jones, Right Tackle, Houston
The Titans can trust Dennis Kelly to be their starting right tackle if they have to, but they'd rather not. Jack Conklin's departure means there is an opportunity for them to add Josh Jones. He comes with a mammoth body and showed development in college despite his overall profile being that of a raw prospect. Jones fits in the Titans'offence, meaning he can move laterally and advance downfield on running plays. This will remain a Derrick Henry-oriented attack in 2020.
30. [Trade] New York Giants - Cesar Ruiz, Center, Michigan
*The Giants trade the 36th-overall pick, the 99th-overall pick and the 150th-overall pick to the Green Bay Packers for the 30th-overall pick.*
Cesar Ruiz is an intelligent, technically-sound interior offensive lineman. He lacks the girth to be a starting guard but should excel playing in the middle. The Giants entered this draft needing three new starting offensive linemen: a right tackle, a left tackle and a centre. They managed to address both right tackle and centre, leaving only Nate Solder as the last piece to be replaced. Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley's jobs just got a lot easier.
31. San Francisco 49ers - Ross Blacklock, Defensive Tackle, TCU
DeForrest Buckner won't be replaced this offseason. He had become one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL last year. Now that he's a Colt, the 49ers need to fill his spot in the rotation upfront. Blacklock shouldn't be a starter from day one. He can attempt to offset the loss of Buckner by shooting gaps and showing off his intensity in obvious passing situations.
32. [From Chiefs] Miami Dolphins - Jeff Gladney, Cornerback, Texas Christian
This isn't a great spot for the Dolphins with what's left on the board. Grabbing one of the falling tackles would have been ideal, a second tackle in the first round isn't an issue when you need two starting tackles. Neither A.J. Epenesa or Grant Delpit are great fits with them at this point of the draft. The value at other positions can't beat Gladney's as a slot cornerback. The Dolphins don't necessarily need a cornerback but like the Patriots have proven in recent years, stockpiling them is a good strategy. Gladney's ball skills and ability to play press-man inside will diversify the playbook for a team that already added Byron Jones to Xavien Howard.