By Matt Szczypiorski and
Evan Krawczuk, Contributing Writers
Matt: No matter what happens next week, the 2020 NFL Draft is going to be something that we’ve never seen before. The NFL made the highly criticized decision to continue on with its annual April draft despite the nationwide impact of Covid-19.
Each team’s front office will be talking strategy and discussing their moves through a conference call. Roger Goodell will not be booed at the draft for the first, and likely last, time in his life as he announces draft choices from his basement.
This is going to be weird. It’s going to be different. But, at this point, we could all use something to distract us from all things Coronavirus.
Evan and I will each be predicting all 32 picks of the first round. We will not be doing any trades in this mock, given that most draft trades are not done until the draft has already begun. So, we will be keeping it simple.
#1: Cincinnati Bengals
Matt: Joe Burrow, Quarterback, LSU
The first overall pick has pretty much always been known heading into the draft since it began being televised in 1980. This year is no different. It has been essentially a forgone conclusion that LSU’s Joe Burrow would be donning a Cincinnati Bengals hat on draft night since the Bengals locked up the first overall pick in week 16 of the 2019 season. The 2019 Heisman trophy winner checks all the boxes for an elite quarterback prospect. He’s got the physical attributes, the other worldly stats (5671 passing yards and 60 touchdowns in 2019) and the winner’s mentality. He has even been compared to Andrew Luck in terms of football IQ. Don’t mess him up, Cincinnati.
Evan: Joe Burrow, Quarterback, LSU
The Bengals are really bad. Joe Burrow, on the other hand, is really good. Burrow had, what may have been, the best season by a quarterback in college football history last season. Burrow has said that he doesn’t want to go to a losing team, but the Bengals do have some weapons. Joe Mixon along with a healthy AJ Green could be a formidable trio if Burrow can stay upright.
#2: Washington Redskins
Matt: Chase Young, Defensive End, Ohio State
A few months ago it was rumored that the Redskins were going to look into the quarterback position in the draft after a regime change in January. As of now, that no longer seems to be the case. Chase Young is the #1 rated prospect regardless of position in this draft class. Even the Redskins can’t mess this up and pass on him. He is a game changer on the defensive line and a freak of an athlete. He was nearly impossible to block at Ohio State, recording 30.5 sacks in three years in Columbus. He will be the face of an improving, young defensive line in Washington.
Evan: Chase Young, Defensive End, Ohio State
Chase Young is a freak. The 6’5”, 265 pound defensive end put up 30.5 sacks in his college career, including 17(!) in his junior season. Chase Young may be the most NFL-ready player in this draft and if I’m the Washington Redskins there is no way I can pass on a generational talent like this. Washington should be drafting the best player available and Young may be the best player in this draft.
#3: Detroit Lions
Matt: Jeff Okudah, Cornerback, Ohio State
Like most teams in the top five of any draft, the Lions need a little bit of everything. Jeff Okudah fills Detroit’s most glaring need at corner after they traded Darius Slay to the Eagles. While this is outside of the Lions typical strategy of just signing Patriots castoffs, they should be more than happy to have a player of Okudah’s caliber fall into their laps at the third pick. While Okudah had just three interceptions during his three-year career as a Buckeye, quarterbacks often did not test his side of the field, which is the ultimate compliment of a cornerback’s skill. He was a unanimous first team All-American selection for a reason.
Evan: Jeff Okudah, Cornerback, Ohio State
Shhhhhhhh! Okudah could possibly be the quietest superstar in this year’s class. Okudah isn’t getting the same media attention as the quarterbacks, receivers or d-lineman but he will be a plug-and-play stud for the Lions. Not to mention that the Lions just shipped pro bowl corner Darius Slay off to the Eagles. Matt Patricia is going to get a shutdown corner with the number three pick here.
#4: New York Giants
Matt: Isaiah Simmons, Linebacker, Clemson
Linebacker may not be the Giants most glaring need, but if Simmons is available at this spot and the Giants hold onto this pick, there shouldn’t be much of a deliberation here. Simmons played all over the field at Clemson, quite literally. He played inside and outside linebacker while also logging some time as a safety in certain situations. He even recorded an interception in the National Semi-Final against Ohio State (see below) from the safety position. He has incredible ball skills and abilities in pass coverage for a linebacker and can run sideline-to-sideline better than anyone at the position in this class. New York would be boneheaded to pass on Simmons, but Dave Gettleman has made plenty of those kind of decisions in the past (see Odell Beckham trade).
Evan: Isaiah Simmons, Linebacker, Clemson
Isaiah Simmons played outside linebacker, inside linebacker, safety, nickel, corner and edge rushed for the Clemson Tigers last season. That is unbelievable. Simmons is one of the most versatile players college football has ever seen and his skills will translate to the NFL. Simmons will be a playmaker for the Giants, a stud on their defense for years to come. Simmons will be a guy that quarterbacks need to identify on every play because he is that dangerous and versatile.
#5: Miami Dolphins
Matt: Justin Herbert, Quarterback, Oregon
This may come as a surprise to some, but Herbert to Miami has created some buzz over the last few days with news that teams are still concerned with Tua Tagovailoa’s injury history. The Oregon product’s stock has continued to rise since he was initially projected to go in the mid-to-late first round. Herbert had an outstanding career as a Duck, starting for four years and compiling over 6500 yards and 61 touchdowns through the air in his final two campaigns. His style of quarterbacking certainly translates well to the NFL, and he even as a sneaky ability to run the ball effectively when he has to. After a strong finish to the 2019 season and an active beginning to the 2020 offseason for the Dolphins, Herbert could be the final piece that allows Miami to accelerate their rebuild.
Evan: Jordan Love, Quarterback, Utah State
Miami needs a quarterback, but I think they skip on Herbert and take a chance on Love’s high ceiling. You may be thinking “Well what about Tua?”, and I think that Miami needs someone who can stay healthy and learn by being thrown into the fire. I also see Miami continuing to work on their offense in this draft and give Love weapons to grow with. Tua wouldn’t be able to grow with them if he can’t stay on the field, so I think Love is the pick here.
#6: Los Angeles Chargers
Matt: Tua Tagovailoa, Quarterback, Alabama
I think this pick would be the definition of a steal for the Chargers. Prior to the 2019 season, Tua was a slam dunk to be the first quarterback off the board in this draft. Yet, due to a serious hip injury suffered in a blowout win against Mississippi State, questions about his health have only continued to rise. It has been rumored that teams are becoming increasingly worried about the results of his physical, even though it had been reported that he passed. I don’t buy it. I feel like this happens every year, but usually it’s just a smoke screen for teams to create a distraction to deviate their plan from the public. Tua has shown precise accuracy and the ability to make unbelievable plays look ordinary since the first time he took center stage in the 2018 National Championship. He is going to be a phenomenal NFL quarterback. I am willing to die on this hill. You don’t throw for nearly 7000 yards and 76 touchdowns in two years on accident.
Evan: Justin Herbert, Quarterback, Oregon
The Chargers need to find the heir to Philip Rivers’ throne, and Herbert may just be that guy. I believe the Chargers should sign a veteran and let Herbert sit for a year but, if needed, Herbert could play right away and lead a pretty talented Chargers roster. Herbert is a taller quarterback but has some pretty good mobility, so he won’t be a statue in the pocket like Rivers was. The Oregon product could be their guy for a long time and that’s the pick at six.
#7: Carolina Panthers
Matt: Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle, Auburn
Defense needs to be a priority for Carolina in this draft. They have major holes throughout their defensive roster, but perhaps the most glaring hole of all is on the defensive line. Derrick Brown is NFL ready and will make an impact in Carolina’s defense the day he steps on the field. He is an elite force against the run and is a decent pass rusher for a defensive tackle. If he is able to develop into an elite pass rusher, I think a fair NFL comparison for Brown would be Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox.
Evan: Jedrick Wills, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
Carolina just added quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and extended running back Christian McCaffery, why not give them a big body to lead the way? Wills is very athletic and has received comparisons to future hall-of-famer Jason Peters. His size isn’t typical for tackles, but he’ll be able to more than make up for that with his quickness. He is said to have great feet and can be a wrecking ball in open space. Panthers fans have to be drooling at the thought of Wills leading the way for CMC on a screen.
#8: Arizona Cardinals
Matt: Tristan Wirfs, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
Arizona has made their plan for this offseason painfully obvious: give Kyler Murray some help. Kudos to them for actually building around their franchise player. They’ve given Murray an elite receiver after their trade for DeAndre Hopkins, now they can address their most significant hole on offense with this pick. Wirfs was the star of the combine, wowing scouts with his freak athleticism after running a 4.85 40-yard dash. This kind of athleticism certainly helps him in the run game with his quick feet, but where he needs most improvement is in pass sets. Even then, he doesn’t need much improvement. He should be plugged into the starting line-up week one for Kliff Kingsbury. Where he plays on the line remains to be seen.
Evan: Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle, Auburn
The Cardinals have the makings of a pretty powerful offense with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins to go with Kyler Murray and the ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald. So, why not beef up the defense? With Derrick Brown, “beef up” is the right terminology. Brown was a stalwart for the Auburn defense with 12.5 tackles for a loss last season as well as four sacks. Brown could be an anchor for the Cardinals defense for the next 10-12 years.
#9: Jacksonville Jaguars
Matt: CJ Henderson, Cornerback, Florida
The Jaguars took one of their biggest strengths and turned it into their biggest weakness in less than eight months. Honestly, that is kind of impressive. After trading former All-Pro’s Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye in an effort to…cut salary? Yeah, let’s go with that. The Jaguars are in dire need of talent in the secondary. While some may think this could be a reach of a pick at nine overall, I believe Henderson is every bit as talented as Jeff Okudah, the first cornerback to go off the board in this mock draft. He is great in man-to-man coverage and has tremendous ball skills. His main concerns are his lack of size and struggle to get off of blocks in the run game. Still, the Jags can’t afford to pass up on this type of talent when they have such a glaring need at this position.
Evan: Tua Tagovailoa, Quarterback, Alabama
With the Jags moving on from Super Bowl 52 MVP Nick Foles, there is no way they would just hand the reigns over to Gardner Minshew, right? I love Minshew, I think he’s a great character, but Jacksonville needs to find the one, star quarterback they’ve never really had before. It could be Tua, if he stays healthy. Health is the former ‘Bama quarterback’s biggest concern. If he’s on the field he can produce, but can he stay on the field?
#10: Cleveland Browns
Matt: Jedrick Wills, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
It is no secret that the Browns need major help on the offensive line. They addressed this issue in free agency with the signing of tackle Jack Conklin. They still need much more help, especially on Baker Mayfield’s blindside. Wills and Conklin have both been right tackles through their careers, but I’m sure one of them will be able to make the transition to left tackle. Wills is maybe the most complete lineman in the draft, as he excels in both the run and the pass game. He should be a day one starter in Cleveland based off his skill set alone. It’s not like the Browns have anyone better.
Evan: Mekhi Becton, Tackle, Louisville
Mekhi Becton is enormous. Becton is 6 foot 7 inches, 364 pounds. The first thing that comes to mind is “he probably doesn’t move well, right?” WRONG. Becton ran a 5.1 second 40-yard dash (unofficially) and also has a 7-foot wingspan. Baker Mayfield will certainly feel a lot more comfortable in the pocket if edge rushers need to get around this behemoth. The Browns need help on their O-line anyways.
#11: New York Jets
Matt: Mekhi Becton, Offensive Tackle, Louisville
This is an interesting pick for the Jets. Like always, they have so many glaring holes at key positions, such as offensive line and wide receiver. Given how deep this draft is at wide receiver made me lean toward the Jets selecting the Louisville product rather than a top receiver. Mekhi Becton is more of a mountain than a man, standing at 6’7” and weighing a gargantuan 364 pounds at the combine. He started all 13 games of his 2019 season at left tackle, where New York needs the most help on their offensive line. He excels in power run situations as well as on perimeter running concepts such as sweeps. His most significant flaw is his hesitation in pass blocking. If he can improve upon that, he should be the long-term solution for protecting Sam Darnold’s backside.
Evan: Jerry Jeudy, Wide Receiver, Alabama
New GM Joe Douglas has a ton of holes to fill on this Jets roster. The best thing to do in this situation, though, is to give his young quarterback a new weapon. Jeudy was an electric wide out for the Crimson Tide and it’ll be interesting to see who goes first between Jeudy and his college teammate Henry Ruggs. Jeudy has been compared to former Jet star Santonio Holmes and I think head coach Adam Gase would welcome that with open arms.
#12: Las Vegas (that felt weird) Raiders
Matt: CeeDee Lamb, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma
At this point it’s not a matter of whether Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock will take a receiver or not, it’s a matter of which receiver they take. In this situation, I don’t think the Raiders can go wrong with either Lamb or Jerry Jeudy, but I think they’ll lean toward Lamb because of his ability to make a contested catch. Derek Carr hasn’t had a good receiver at his disposal other than Amari Cooper, and he had his issues with drops throughout his Raider career. Lamb would give Carr a clear number one option who can do everything really well. Lamb is exceptional running after the catch and getting open on deep routes. The Raiders need his explosiveness. I’d be intrigued to see what Gruden does with Lamb at his disposal.
Evan: CeeDee Lamb, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma
CeeDee Lamb is a stud. After giving up on Antonio Brown’s antics, the Raiders need someone for Carr (or maybe Mariota) to throw to. Lamb has a chance to score every time he touches the ball. Lamb is an incredible talent and is an all-around playmaker as well as having a ton of skill and elusiveness on special teams as a punt returner.
#13: San Francisco 49ers (via Indianapolis Colts)
Matt: Henry Ruggs III, Wide Receiver, Alabama
Ruggs over Jeudy? It’s surprising, but certainly not outlandish. It’s no question that the 49ers biggest need after a super bowl appearance is upgrading their wide receiving core after losing Emmanuel Sanders to free agency. Ruggs is the definition of a burner; he ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at the combine and looked even faster running away from defenses at Alabama. In Kyle Shanahan’s offense, I think that Ruggs is the better choice opposed to Jerry Jeudy given the fact that he is more similar to what Sanders was last season for San Francisco, but much faster. He also runs extremely crisp routes coupled with excellent hands, making him the ideal home run hitter for the Niners. Opposite of Deebo Samuel, this would be an explosive offense again in 2020.
Evan: Tristan Wirfs, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
The Super Bowl 54 runner ups snuck up inside the top 15 after trading DeForest Buckner to the Colts. With this pick they take Joe Staley’s heir. Staley, whose been a stud for years, is nearing the end of the line and with an extra pick in the first round it makes a lot of sense to get another bookend opposite Mike McGlinchey. Wirfs is a freak, he has an incredible frame, great work ethic and unbelievable quickness for a tackle.
#14: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Matt: Andrew Thomas, Offensive Tackle, Georgia
The Bucs made the biggest splash of the 2020 offseason by signing the 42-year old prized possession, Tom Brady. Brady has playmakers around him at the skill position, but they have an opening at right tackle after moving on from the unspectacular Demar Dotson. Thomas was a four-year starter for the Bulldogs, so he has plenty of game experience. While he’d likely fill in at right tackle, his flexibility and athleticism would make him a natural fit at left tackle. However, he does struggle against speed rushers. That fact makes me hesitant to stick him with the task of protecting the blindside of the greatest quarterback of all time. Still, I think he is the right choice for Tampa as he fills a need right away because of his game experience.
Evan: Andrew Thomas, Offensive Tackle, Georgia
Well, Tampa got their man. TB12 will be heading to Raymond James Stadium and if the Bucs want him to play all 16 games, they need to protect him. Tampa has a decent O-line with DIII product and captain, Ali Marpet, but that’s the peak of their hogs. Thomas was an AP All-American in his senior season and was an anchor on the Bulldogs line for the last three seasons. Thomas should be a nice addition to help keep the future hall-of-famer safe.
#15: Denver Broncos
Matt: Jerry Jeudy, Wide Receiver, Alabama
There are plenty of directions that John Elway could go with this pick, as they have plenty of needs in their back seven on defense. However, if Jerry Jeudy is still on the board at Denver’s pick, Elway should be doing cartwheels in the Broncos war room (his basement). Giving young quarterback Drew Lock a receiver of Jeudy’s caliber to pair with Courtland Sutton after a breakout season in 2019, along with free agent signing Melvin Gordon at running back, could lead to some significant progression from Denver’s offense. Jeudy has been called the best route runner in this class and is excellent in the open field. The only concerns with Jeudy would be dropping the football and that he didn’t face much press coverage while wearing Crimson. Still, there is a reason he was perceived to be the top wide receiver prospect in this class.
Evan: Henry Ruggs III, Wide Receiver, Alabama
After sending Emmanuel sanders off to the Niners last season, Courtland Sutton made a name for himself in the Mile-High city, but it won’t hurt to get their young QB another weapon. Elway and the Broncos signed Melvin Gordon to sure up their run game, so why not give second year QB Drew Lock another target in the passing game? Ruggs is a speed demon, running a 4.27 40-yard dash at the combine. Ruggs would be a perfect complement to Sutton’s 6’4” 210+ lb. frame.
#16: Atlanta Falcons
Matt: Xavier McKinney, Safety, Alabama
There are a lot of rumblings that the Falcons are one of the top candidates to move back in the draft. While I could certainly see that happening, this mock draft is trade-free! So, the Dirty Birds address their incredibly weak secondary with the best safety in this class. He is a good long-term answer for Atlanta’s secondary, especially with the oft-injured Keanu Neal. McKinney is versatile, as he can line up at safety, slot or even at linebacker in definite pass situations. He’s as good a tackler as you’ll find in this secondary class, too. One of the most notable flaws in his game is that pass coverage is not his strong suit, which could be a concern for a player who would be in the secondary. His talent is too good to pass up in my opinion.
Evan: Patrick Queen, Linebacker, LSU
Atlanta has an absurd number of first round picks on their offense, they’re not going to use another one here. They need all the help they can get on their defense, literally anyone that can stop a nosebleed. Queen can be that guy. Queen has good speed for a linebacker and great recognition to get from gap-to-gap. Queen is also an excellent tackler in open space as well as between the tackles.
#17: Dallas Cowboys
Matt: K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU
The Cowboys have a lot of needs after a less than impressive offseason. Center Travis Frederick retired. The defense took a big hit when they lost Robert Quinn, Byron Jones and Jeff Heath to free agency. Chaisson addresses one of those needs as the opposite edge rusher to Pro-Bowler Demarcus Lawrence. The former Bayou Bengal has incredible athleticism for his position, which makes him a great speed pass-rusher. Chaisson totaled 6.5 sacks in 2019 after suffering a torn ACL in 2018. He still needs to get better against the run game, but if he does, this could turn out to be a great pick for Dallas.
Evan: C.J. Henderson, Cornerback, Florida
The Cowboys lost their best defensive back when Byron Jones signed with the Miami Dolphins. They need someone opposite Awuzie to solidify their secondary. Henderson has great athleticism and size. He reads the quarterbacks eyes, which could hurt him, but also helps him make a ton of plays. He’s not the best tackler but that’s something that could be refined in the league.
#18: Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh Steelers)
Matt: Josh Jones, Offensive Tackle, Houston
After drafting their quarterback of the future in the beginning of this round, the Dolphins need to get Herbert some help. It wouldn’t hurt to get a young skill player, but Miami’s biggest need on offense at this current juncture would be offensive line. Jones would be a good fit for the ‘Fins, as he is incredibly athletic for his size and is very solid in pass protection. According to scouts, Jones needs to get stronger and can improve in his run blocking. I think that his athleticism will help him become a better run blocker the more comfortable he gets at his position.
Evan: D’Andre Swift, Running back, Georgia
Love and Swift could make a dynamic duo in Miami’s backfield for a long time. Swift is a do-it-all back. He runs with strength and speed, can catch the ball well and is a surprisingly solid blocker. Coming from the Georgia running back tree, the Dolphins can’t help but to drool over Swift’s potential. Swift may end up battling Todd Gurley as the most talented back out of Georgia in recent history.
#19: Las Vegas (still strange) Raiders (via Chicago Bears)
Matt: Javon Kinlaw, Defensive Lineman, South Carolina
The Raiders need to improve their entire defense. It can certainly be argued that the Raiders should be addressing their secondary with this pick but taking any of the defensive back prospects left available at this spot would be a reach. Therefore, taking a guy who is ranked as a top ten prospect on some draft boards at another position of need is the right choice for Da Raidahs (Chris Berman voice). Kinlaw is an elite pass rusher for his size at defensive tackle, recording six sacks in 2019 for the Gamecocks. He has great strength for a guy at his size and can overpower blockers and collapse the pocket. Scouts say that Kinlaw needs to add more pass rush moves and get better with his hand usage in fighting off blocks. Still, there is plenty of upside for Kinlaw, too much for the Raiders to pass up on.
Evan: Javon Kinlaw, Defensive Lineman, South Carolina
The Raiders could really use a stud in the trenches of their defense. Kinlaw is one scary dude. Standing at 6’5”, 324 lbs. of lean muscle, Kinlaw is terrifyingly strong in his bull-rush and is a problem for opposing offensive coordinators. Although his numbers didn’t show it, Kinlaw was extremely disruptive last season and earned AP All-American honors. Kinlaw could bring some nastiness to the Raiders defense that they haven’t seen in a while.
#20: Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams)
Matt: Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State
After trading away Calais Campbell and being likely to move the unhappy Yannick Ngakoue, “Sacksonville” is not really living up to its former label. So, drafting the former Nittany Lion makes sense for the Jags, though it could seem like a stretch at this point in the draft. Gross-Matos is a great athlete and has strong hands who can overpower offensive tackles. He recorded 9.5 sacks in 2019 for Penn State, and I can confidently say he is an elite pass rusher after watching him from the stands of Beaver Stadium. However, Gross-Matos does have a problem of disappearing for long stretches. If he can become more consistent, this could be a steal of a pick for the Jags.
Evan: Cesar Ruiz, Center, Michigan
After drafting an injury riddled quarterback with their first pick, the Jags get a solid center to lead their line and keep Tua safe. Ruiz continues the trend of really good offensive linemen from the Big Ten. Ruiz has good quickness from snap to contact and is an effort guy, finishing blocks until the whistle. Ruiz also has the ability to play guard, some versatility that could be useful for the Jags as they build around their new QB.
#21: Philadelphia Eagles
Matt: Patrick Queen, Linebacker, LSU
The Eagles not taking a wide receiver in the first round? Say it ain’t so! Don’t burn me at the stake just yet, hear me out. This draft is so deep at wide receiver that the Eagles can address that need in later rounds if they do not trade up to get one of the top three guys. Also, the Eagles have just as big of a hole at linebacker as wide receiver, and there are not as many good linebackers as receivers in this class. So, I present to you: Patrick Queen. As part of a national championship winning defense, Queen displayed the ability to quickly diagnose a play. This leads him to be able to have good suddenness after the snap, excel as a blitzer and sniff out screens at an incredible speed. I cannot name one player on the Eagles roster who can do that. He is also great in coverage for a linebacker, a necessary trait to have in today’s NFL. Queen doesn’t come without weaknesses, as he struggles to shed blocks and is almost too quick, leading him to over pursue at times. If he can overcome those downfalls, this is the right pick for the Birds and Philly will fall in love with him.
Evan: Kenneth Murray, Linebacker, Oklahoma
I understand the Eagles need receivers, but it would not be a good decision to reach for one at this point. Justin Jefferson is not the guy the Eagles need, but Murray could be. Murray has great speed for an inside linebacker and is an incredible tackler. Murray started all three years in Norman and excelled all three years. The OU backer is strong in coverage, able to spy and comes down hill to make tackles. Not only is Murray a great player but he’s also said to have the best character in the draft, something that is welcome in every locker room.
#22: Minnesota Vikings (via Buffalo Bills)
Matt: Justin Jefferson, Wide Receiver, LSU
Minnesota will be doing jumping jacks on their conference call if the Eagles do end up passing on Jefferson. He is an ideal replacement for Stefon Diggs. Jefferson is excellent in the slot and would be a great running mate for Adam Thielen, I think their games would complement each other really well. Jefferson shut up critics of his speed when he ripped off a 4.43 40-yard dash time. He has a large catch radius, excels at finding holes in coverage, runs great routes and was Joe Burrow’s trusty security blanket en route to a national championship. In other words, he is the ideal slot receiver for Kirk Cousins. The only downfall with Jefferson is that he rarely faced press coverage in his time at Baton Rouge, so he could struggle as an outside receiver. Still, this is the right pick for the Vikings before they pick again at #25.
Evan: Denzel Mims, Wide Receiver, Baylor
The Vikings moved on from star receiver Stefon Diggs this offseason, so they’re looking to replace him immediately. A bit of a reach here for the Vikings, Mims is more of a second-round talent but it’s definitely possible for Mims to find his way into the end of the first round. Mims is a guy with good size and speed and could be a very dangerous red zone target. He excels going “above the rim” for 50/50 balls and has a large catch radius for Cousins to throw to.
#23: New England Patriots
Matt: Kenneth Murray, Linebacker, Oklahoma
If the other 31 teams in the league were in the situation New England was in, they would most certainly be taking a quarterback with this pick. In case you haven’t watched any football over the last two decades, the Patriots don’t do things like the rest of the league. Bill Belichick has his own agenda; rational logic be damned. So, with that in mind, I try to channel my inner Belichick and attempt to think what he may do on Thursday. Drafting the stud linebacker from Oklahoma seems like a good idea for the Pats, as they lost Jaime Collins to the Detroit Patriots, I mean Lions, in free agency. Murray has great sideline-to-sideline speed and is a sure tackler while being one of the best athletes on the field. If he can improve upon his weakness as a pass defender, Belichick will have proved everyone wrong again.
Evan: Cole Kmet, Tight End, Notre Dame
The Patriots lost their super man in free agency this year as Tommy Terrific left for Tampa. They’ve stated that Stidham is their guy, so might as well give him a security blanket to throw to. Notre Dame has produced some really solid tight ends in the past including Kyle Rudolph, Tyler Eifert and Anthony Fasano. There’s no reason Kmet can’t be added to that list, especially with how we’ve seen Belichick use tight ends in the past.
#24: New Orleans Saints
Matt: Jordan Love, Quarterback, Utah State
The Saints have one of the best all-around rosters in the league. They’re “needs” are not as prominent as other teams. So, they address their future with their first pick. No, Taysom Hill is not their quarterback of the future. Drew Brees is likely entering his last year as the starting quarterback of the New Orleans Saints after signing a contract with NBC Sports for his post-playing career. Drafting a quarterback like Love, who has truckloads of talent but is far too raw to take the field in his first year, and giving him the advantage of learning from a guy with Brees’ stature is an ideal situation for Sean Payton and the Saints. Love has the ability to make every throw on the field and has great athleticism. Giving him a year just to learn the offense behind Brees will give him time to work on his weaknesses of staring down receivers and trying to do too much. We saw this work with Patrick Mahomes under Andy Reid. That leads me to believe it can work with Love under a head coach with similar genius as an offensive guru.
Evan: Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State
New Orleans’ Roster is so deep that it’s hard to find a real need on their roster. Whoever they take here wouldn’t be a bad pick, but I see them just taking the best player available. Gross-Matos is an athletic edge rusher with good length. He’s a bit slim right now but could easily fill out his frame with time. The ex-Nittany Lion would be solid addition to an already very talented Saints defense.
#25: Minnesota Vikings
Matt: Kristian Fulton, Cornerback, LSU
The Vikings are in dire need of talent in their secondary. After letting Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes walk out the door (which was the right choice), they’re best option is 2018 first round pick Mike Hughes, who has been unspectacular in two seasons while facing injuries. Adding a guy like Fulton who excels in press-man coverage and has one of the best closing abilities of any corner in the draft is ideal for the Vikings. If he can address the weaknesses scouts have presented such as his lack of strength and appearing slow in deep ball coverage, Fulton fits the bill for Minnesota.
Evan: Xavier McKinney. Safety, Alabama
The Vikings are going to look for someone to pair up with Harrison Smith in their secondary. McKinney is known for having a great football IQ and that would mesh nicely with Smith who is also a high IQ guy. McKinney’s 40-yard dash time wasn’t the most impressive at the combine but he’s a guy who has good game speed. He’s strong enough in play in the box in certain personnel's and has good vision to play center field in cover one.
#26: Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans)
Matt: D’Andre Swift, Running back, Georgia
The last of the Dolphins league-leading three first round picks will be spent on the most complete running back in the draft. The Philadelphia native had a tremendous career at Georgia, a school known for pumping out NFL running backs. The Dolphins need a bit of everything on their team, even though they did just sign former Eagle Jordan Howard at running back. However, he is obviously not the long-term solution that Swift could be for Miami. The ex-Bulldog was exceptional after first contact and has great acceleration. He is also a three down back, as he has proven that he is a weapon in the pass game. Miami made defense a focal point in free agency, now they put their attention to their offense for 2020 and beyond.
Evan: Justin Jefferson, Wide Receiver, LSU
The Dolphins go three for three to beef up their offense here selecting the wide out from LSU. Jefferson was a vacuum last season catching over 100 passes. That would be a great go-to target for rookie quarterback Jordan Love. The Dolphins go all-in on offense and get a core group of guys to grow together in south beach. Pair Jefferson, Swift, and Love with young tight end Mike Gesicki and Miami has a solid young offense moving into the future.
#27: Seattle Seahawks
Matt: A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa
Jadeveon Clowney is still on the market as of the time I’m typing these words, but he did not have a good season stat wise for the Seahawks in 2019. Epenesa is an underrated prospect in this draft, in my opinion. An edge rusher who excels not only in getting to the passer, but also in defending the run deserves to be a first-round pick. Especially for a team like Seattle, who is desperate to find an elite pass rusher after producing the second fewest sacks in the league last season. The former Hawkeye had 11.5 sacks in 2019 and played in every game en route to a first team all-Big Ten selection. If Gross-Matos is indeed off the board at this point like he is in my mock draft, Espenesa should be the pick for Seattle.
Evan: K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU
Seattle is getting what could be a perennial pro-bowler here in Chaisson. Replacing Clowney will be a tough task but Chaisson has the make-up to do the job. Chaisson would’ve been selected higher if not for injury concerns. He missed all of 2018 with an ACL injury and a couple games in 2019 with a bum ankle. When Chaisson is on the field he has a great ability to get to the quarterback.
#28: Baltimore Ravens
Matt: Cesar Ruiz, Offensive Lineman, Michigan
Keep an eye on the Ravens to be a top candidate to trade out of the first-round if one of the guys they have their eyes on isn’t there. If they hold onto this pick, drafting a possible replacement to Marshall Yanda is not a bad idea. Ruiz’s most noticeable quality is his athleticism, which would make it easy for him to play any interior line position. He excels in the run game as he snaps out of his stance and has light feet. For a team like Baltimore that runs the ball a lot, this would be an ideal fit for the ex-Wolverine. However, he will definitely need to improve on his pass protection, as he is prone to getting bull rushed into the quarterback. Still, I think that this is a pick that would best fit both the team and the player.
Evan: Zach Baun, Linebacker, Wisconsin
The Ravens need a replacement for C.J. Mosely. No, Baun won’t be able to come in and be Mosely immediately but he’s got great instincts to fill the run and he is violent at the point of attack. Baun is very versatile, he’s great in the run game, solid in coverage and also has the athleticism to be a nightmare rushing the passer. Baun still has some kinks to work out but he could definitely be a very solid player for the Ravens down the line.
#29: Tennessee Titans
Matt: Ross Blacklock, Defensive Lineman, TCU
After trading away Jurrell Casey for the comically low price of a seventh-round pick from Denver, the Titans are going to need to fill that production. Blacklock has a very explosive first step and has a big motor with a high level of athleticism. While he does have moments where he has good pass-rush moves, he is not as advanced in that area of his game as he needs to be. He also has a disappointing level of strength for a guy his size. Still, I think that his athleticism and explosiveness make him worthy of this pick. I could also see the Titans taking a replacement for Jack Conklin with this pick.
Evan: Jeff Gladney, Cornerback, TCU
Ah yes, the surprise of the NFL playoffs, the Tennessee Titans. Head Coach Mike Vrabel is obviously a defensive guy and he gets a guy for his defense with this pick. Gladney combines quickness with great hands to get receivers off their routes and stay with them off of breaks. He’s a bit on the shorter side so he could have trouble with possession receivers but he has shown good time when batting away balls.
#30: Green Bay Packers
Matt: Brandon Aiyuk, Wide Receiver, Arizona State
Aaron Rodgers has been notoriously known as someone who doesn’t love having rookie receivers as his playmakers, but the Packers don’t really have much of a choice. Outside of stud Davante Adams, they lack playmakers at the position. Aiyuk is the definition of a playmaker. While he is small at just 6’0” and 205 lbs. he dominates in one-on-one coverage and is always a threat to take any reception to the house. His 18.3 average yards per catch is a good indicator of that. He is still raw and needs to become a better route-runner, but he is worth the chance for a team that needs to continue the influx of young talent on their offense.
Evan: Jalen Hurts, Quarterback, Oklahoma
Brett Favre was around the same age Aaron Rodgers as when the packers drafted Favre’s heir. In 2020, the Packers draft Rodgers’ heir. The Packers tried to draft Rodgers’ replacement a few times, but nothing really stuck. Hurts is a guy who seems to be willing to take a back seat for the time being and soak up knowledge from the future hall-of-famer. When the Packers do decide to move on from Rodgers, Hurts is an elite competitor with great athleticism at the quarterback position.
#31: San Francisco 49ers
Matt: Isaiah Wilson, Offensive Lineman, Georgia
The Niners would be smart to trade out of this pick in an effort to get picks in the mid-rounds, as they currently have no picks in rounds two, three, and four. But, if they were to keep this pick, drafting the eventual successor for veteran Joe Staley would be a good use of the pick. Similar to what the Eagles did with Andre Dillard behind Jason Peters last season, Wilson could learn and grow behind a future hall-of-famer in Staley. Wilson is gargantuan in size at 6’7” and 350 lbs. but moves like he’s much smaller, which is a good thing. He is a strong anchor, which is ideal for a tackle, and he is good in all facets of protection. He also has enough athleticism in him that he can recover if he is initially beaten on a block. The main knock on Wilson is that speed rushers give him problems around the edge, but he can work to develop that if he isn’t forced into a starting position right away.
Evan: Trevon Diggs, Cornerback, Alabama
Trevon Diggs is the younger brother of Bills receiver Stefon Diggs, so the Niners know they’ll be getting a fiery competitor with this pick. Diggs has solid length standing at 6’1” as well as good strength for the corner position. Diggs actually played some receiver at Bama as a freshman, which translates to his great ball skills. Diggs would be a huge help if the Niners were to get a Super Bowl rematch against the Chiefs with their star receivers.
#32: Kansas City Chiefs
Matt: A.J. Terrell, Cornerback, Clemson
I was very tempted to make Jonathan Taylor the pick here. Imagine the Chiefs offense with a great running back like that! Alas, I think that the Chiefs addressing their secondary with an abundance of great prospects to choose from in this spot is the correct move. After losing Kendall Fuller to free agency and only having Bashaud Breeland signed through 2020, cornerback is a position of need for the Super Bowl champs. Terrell is a long, athletic corner who runs exceptionally well (4.42 40-yard dash). He is great in man and press-man coverage. If he can improve in zone schemes and against the run, this could be a steal of a pick for Andy Reid.
Evan: Jaylon Johnson, Cornerback, Utah
The reigning Super Bowl champs obviously have the fire power to beat any team in the league, but they’re lacking in their secondary on defense. Ever since they traded Marcus Peters, they’ve been struggling to find their guy at corner. Johnson could be that guy. Johnson has solid speed, size and length to be a good corner on the perimeter. He is really good in press alignments, forcing receivers to work harder than usual to get off the ball. He projects as a future CB1 and has the potential for a few Pro Bowls.
Matt: The NFL Draft begins Thursday April 23, 2020 at 8 p.m. It will be interesting to watch, given the uncertainties of how it’s going to look, with every aspect of the draft being online. Still, I’m excited to see the closest thing to a sporting event we’ve seen in weeks.
If anyone wants to interact with Evan and I about the draft or any other sports discussions, each of our Twitters are linked in our by-lines at the beginning of the article. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed!