After months of buildup and a busy few weeks of phone calls, texts and Zoom sessions with NFL talent evaluators and coaches, I'm putting out my final mock for the 2020 NFL Draft. This one includes several trades, with reasoning and context, as there are a number of teams looking to move up (Atlanta, hello) and quite a few looking to drop down and acquire more assets. I've got just three quarterbacks going in the first round and only two in the top 10. There's a run on offensive tackles early and a few names you won't see elsewhere. Have at it, folks.
As I said on Good Morning Football this week, the Bengals could have three advantages heading into the draft:
- They're first on the clock and can avoid any potential tech issues if things get weird when they're trying to make their pick.
- Their coaching staff had a chance to familiarize itself with close to 30 top prospects for a week at the Senior Bowl, while 30 other teams did not.
- They know the quarterback they're selecting is the top one on not only their board, but that of just about every GM (who I've spoken to, at least).
Wouldn't overthink this. Young is viewed in a different caliber than just about every player in this draft; coach Ron Rivera and VP of player personnel Kyle Smith know that, too.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH LIONS. The Dolphins trade their second-round pick (No. 39 overall) to swap spots with the Lions in Round 1 and ensure they get their quarterback. And it's not Tua Tagovailoa.
When you can't have pro days and you can't bring prospects into the building, you rely on relationships. And not just head coaches, but assistant coaches down to the equipment folks. I've gone back and forth on Wills or Tristan Wirfs here a million times after hearing conflicting things from people I trust. But in the end, I'll go with the new coach and his history with the Alabama coaching staff.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH DOLPHINS. The Lions scoop up another second-rounder and get Okudah here at No. 5 overall. The Ohio State corner is an immediate-impact guy and carries himself like a professional. He's all business, a student of the game and completely deflects when it comes to others raving about his play. GM Bob Quinn, front office executive Kyle O'Brien and coach Matt Patricia all came up through the Patriots' system. Good fit, here.
Our first shocker of the night. The Chargers pass on a quarterback and go with an offensive lineman. Three things I've been told by other evaluators in the last 48 hours:
- Keenan Allen, Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa and Hunter Henry are all entering the final year of their current contracts. "Which player gives them the best chance to win now?"
- "The Chargers don't trade up and don't trade back."
- When it comes to GM Tom Telesco, "Whatever you think is the chalk decision (QB, Tua?), go with something else."
Tua falls and becomes the most intriguing name in the 2020 draft.
Matt Rhule gets an anchor for his defensive line with the first pick of this new Panthers era. I hear there's some real affection for CB CJ Henderson here, too, but Brown's the pick.
Is he a safety? Is he a linebacker? The Cardinals have a history of taking "positionless players" on D. Here's their latest. Love this pick for Arizona.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH JAGUARS. Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff wasn't bluffing when he said he'd be in the market to trade up, and he finds a worthy partner in his old colleague from Atlanta, Dave Caldwell. The Falcons move up seven spots and give up next year's first-rounder to get a CB many teams see right up there with Okudah.
Some teams have Thomas higher than even Wirfs and Mekhi Becton. I think 10 to Cleveland seems perfect. Good fit. One NFL GM described Thomas to me as the "cleanest" prospect in this draft.
With Wills, Wirfs and Thomas all off the board, Jets GM Joe Douglas takes the biggest "risk/reward" offensive line prospect in this class. Becton is an absolute road paver and erases pass rushers. He's also got a couple red flags. A mountain of a man who measured in at 6-foot-7, tipped the scales at 364 pounds and ran a 5.1 40 at the combine, Becton would be the left (or right) tackle to protect Sam Darnold.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH 49ERS. Longtime buddies and Stanford alumni John Elway and John Lynch make another trade, and in this case, it's for Denver to move up two spots to get the expert route runner out of Alabama. The Broncos return return the third-rounder they got from the Niners in the Emmanuel Sanders trade (No. 95 overall) and add another target to go with Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH BRONCOS. The Niners trade down two spots, pick up a third-rounder (No. 95 overall) and still get Ruggs. Kyle Shanahan's had fast receivers in the past -- Taylor Gabriel and Aldrick Robinson come to mind -- but he's never had a burner with a complete skill set like Ruggs. Can you just imagine the 5-foot-11 speedster alongside George Kittle and Deebo Samuel? The rich get richer.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH FALCONS. The biggest mystery of this draft is where Tua ends up. If the Jags trade back from ninth overall and collect a first-rounder for next year, I could see them just seeing the value being too great and saying, "Why not?" I know Nick Saban's been singing Tua's praises to teams around the league. I just don't sense a long line of suitors at the moment.
Kinlaw is a prospect some teams seem to love and others aren't as high on when it comes to their draft boards. At 17th overall, the Cowboys scoop up the DT who
dominated Senior Bowl practices before bowing out at the end of the week because of tendinitis in his knee. Kinlaw's got a tremendous story, a ton of energy and the ability to get behind the line of scrimmage.
The Dolphins loaded up in the front seven during free agency ( Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson, Elandon Roberts, Emmanuel Ogbah) and signed a versatile DB in Byron Jones. They get another instant-impact defender in McKinney. A player multiple GMs have told me is the draft's top safety by a wide margin, McKinney's the best Alabama player at the position since ... well, Minkah Fitzpatrick (yes, that's this pick).
The Jaguars have a questionable cornerback situation, to say the least. Terrell had a rough showing in the national championship game, but he's responded to any and all questions about that performance, and has owned it. Teams have loved meeting with him. Jacksonville adds Tua Tagovailoa, Terrell and a 2021 first-rounder on Day 1 of the draft. Not a bad start.
Two things to know about GM Howie Roseman, a well-respected and Super Bowl-winning evaluator who learned the trade at the hips of Joe Banner and Andy Reid. First, he never thinks he has enough offensive linemen. Second, he never thinks he has enough pass rushers. Eagles fans may lose their minds if Philadelphia passes on Justin Jefferson. That might very well happen if Chaisson slips out of the top 20.
Trade Stephon Diggs and end up with Justin Jefferson with one of the four picks acquired? Not bad, if it works out this way for Minnesota. Jefferson put up eye-popping numbers last season at LSU, but there were skeptics on his speed heading into the combine. He then ripped off a 4.43 40, dazzled in interviews and showed why he's the fourth-best wideout -- if not better -- in this loaded class.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH PATRIOTS. New England trades down five spots in the first round and picks up one of the Ravens' two third-round picks in the process. Baltimore takes Queen, an uber-athlete who is above Kenneth Murray on at least some teams' draft boards. The LSU linebacker had an outstanding 2019 and will only get better. GM Eric DeCosta is one of the savviest executives in the league. This would be another feather in his cap.
The love for Aiyuk in league circles is a lot stronger than perhaps what we're hearing in the media. I've got him going to the Saints, a team that has very few holes but could likely use one more receiver if they're going to make a run for Drew Brees' elusive second Super Bowl ring. Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Aiyuk would be a very dangerous 1-2-3.
Yet another LSU player goes off the board -- to a playoff contender in dire need of cornerback help. Fulton could be asked to play Day 1, and he'd be more than ready.
Viewed as one of the most reliable interior offensive linemen in this draft class, Ruiz is a young protector and leader who will help stabilize the Dolphins' shaky offensive line. With this pick, Miami's first-round haul includes: Justin Herbert, Xavier McKinney and Ruiz. I'm not sure that's lighting any Dolphins fan's hair on fire, but we're talking about three players who could serve as cornerstones of their respective units for years to come.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH SEAHAWKS. The Seahawks have traded back in the first round of every draft since 2012. They do it again, moving down three spots to acquire the Packers' fourth-round pick (No. 136 overall). I had an AFC coach tell me Murray -- who became a captain in his sophomore year at OU -- was the best combine interview he'd been a part of in years. A leader in every sense of the word, Murray's also an incredibly gifted athlete and tackler. Perfect addition for the Mike Pettine-coached Packers D.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH RAVENS.I don't see the Patriots going going wide receiver or quarterback here and think they could go right back to the University of Georgia. Swift is a dynamic playmaker and that Georgia connection is real.
The CB no one is talking about as a first-rounder, but who has the versatility to go among the top 32, is my pick for Tennessee at No. 29. Igbinoghene has good size, is lightning fast and can contribute on special teams. He can be the third cornerback in the rotation with Adoree' Jackson and Malcolm Butler in Tennessee. A lot more love for Igbinoghene in NFL circles than in mock drafts.
PROJECTED TRADE WITH PACKERS. Taylor's a name that's been coming up a bunch over the last 48 hours. I've got him sneaking into the first round to a team that could use some more help up front.
Completely unrelated side note: Seahawks GM John Schneider has shared with me what he'll be wearing for the 2020 Virtual Draft, and it's incredible. Just wait.
Joe Staley doesn't have many years left in his distinguished career, and I could see the Niners beefing up the tackle position if they don't trade this pick. Jackson is just 20 years old and his story is as inspiring and selfless as as any you'll ever read on a draft prospect.
Stefon Diggs' little brother would inject talent in perhaps the one area where Kansas City could use another immediate contributor. The Chiefs are beyond loaded, bringing just about everyone back for their title defense, and have a GM who's never been scared. Diggs goes 32nd overall.