2020 Mock Rookie Draft - Version III
John Holler - 4/18/2020
As everyone is fully aware, this is going to be a draft like no other thanks to COVID-19. Teams haven’t been able to invite players in for pre-draft visits. There weren’t many Pro Days. Medical staffs didn’t get their hands on players with injury histories. Teams have been isolated from players and didn’t get a chance to do the legwork they typically do in the days and weeks leading up to the draft.
Still there are a lot of reasons for this to be one of the most memorable drafts in history. This is a talented draft crop that could see a handful of quarterbacks go in the first round and this may be the deepest wide receiver class in history and there are elite players at just about every position that are legitimate first round talents.
While many of us are fully sequestered and all of us are not living the lives we’re accustomed to, all of us at FF Mastermind hope you stay safe and this year’s draft will be a memory we look back on as the strangest draft we’ve ever seen – and one we don’t want to see again.
1. Cincinnati – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU. This is a franchise-changing pick. He ascended to the top spot in projections during his record-breaking season and nothing has changed. An Ohio kid coming back to his home state to be the face of a franchise. Like so many other top picks, the world will be on his shoulders and it will be up to him to live up to his hype as the top dog. Teams may look to move up to trade, but Bengals fans would never forgive the team if the face of their franchise wins a Super Bowl with somebody else.
2. Washington – Chase Young, DE, Ohio State. How many times have we seen the "can’t miss" quarterbacks dot the top of the draft and the team that takes "can’t miss" defensive players become franchise stars for those who don’t roll the dice on a QB. Young is one of the best pure edge rushers coming out of college in a decade. Washington will likely get offered a sweet pile of picks to move out of this spot, but it might take a Godfather-style offer they can’t refuse.
3. Detroit – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State. This pick could be the one that gets traded for a team in love with Tua Tagovailoa. If that team is Miami, Detroit could end up with Okudah at No. 5 and add picks (and Miami has plenty of them). They traded Darius Slay to the Eagles and Desmond Trufant is on the downside of his career. Detroit had the worst pass defense in the league last year and Matt Patricia is on a hot seat after winning just nine games in his first two seasons as a head coach. He needs to add the best corner in the draft for his own survival and Okudah is head and shoulders the best corner in this year’s class.
4. New York Giants – Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson. This is a pick that could very likely be traded (I’m not projecting trades and getting into the over-analysis dark web of devising trade packages). The Giants’ biggest need, especially with a young, unproven quarterback, is help up front to protect him. There are four offensive tackles that could be immediate starters for the Giants, but, with the fourth pick, this is a bit of a reach because the way the talent is stacked in this year’s draft, one of those four guys will be available eight to 10 picks from here. The Giants may not make this pick, but, if they do (or the team that trades into No. 4), Simmons is the hand’s down guy to take here because he can be a dominator.
5. Miami – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama. This is a dice roll on greatness that Miami needs to make. They have grizzled veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starting QB and he can be the bridge to Tua. His injury history is extremely troubling, because lower-body injuries are the death of mobile quarterbacks. His talent is obvious and, without the injuries, he could have been the No. 1 overall pick. He’s going to be a long-term gamble, but, with Fitzpatrick to serve as mentor and placeholder until Tua is 100 percent, it makes the investment worth the risk because of his upside potential.
6. Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon. At 6-6, he is a giant at the position and has many of the intangibles teams look for. After more than 15 years with Philip Rivers as the starting QB, the franchise has moved on. Tyrod Taylor isn’t the long-term answer. He’s not even the short-term answer. The Chargers are moving into a new stadium and need a new face of the franchise and Herbert will get every opportunity to be that guy as the team moves on to the next chapter of its history.
7. Carolina – Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn. This pick could go in several directions, especially if Simmons or Okudah are still on the board. But, the Panthers had a lot of offseason losses in the middle of the defense, including Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, Vernon Butler and Luke Kuechly, there is a clear need to replenish those positions. Brown is a disruptive threat who has Pro Bowl potential and shouldn’t still be on the board. Carolina might get offers to move out of this spot, but Brown is a solid value pick here.
8. Arizona – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa. After spending its last two first-round draft picks on quarterbacks, the Cardinals won’t make the third time the charm and do it again. Kyler Murray needs protecting and there are a handful of tackles that could be viewed as the No. 1 tackle prospect. They’re going to start coming off the board quickly. After taking 50 sacks last year, Murray needs to have a better unit in front of him and Wirfs would be a good start to accomplishing that.
9. Jacksonville – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama. Quarterback Jordan Love could be an option here because I don’t believe in Gardner Minshew as a long-term starter. However, if he is to make the most of his career or if the team ends up signing a veteran like Cam Newton, they need to improve the front line. Offensive linemen don’t necessarily put butts in seats, but they’re critical to any success an offense is going to have and they need to add a building block piece.
10. Cleveland – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville. The Browns offense was viewed as the team on the rise last season only to fall short, due in no small measure due to an offensive line that couldn’t protect Baker Mayfield. In free agency, the Browns added Jack Conklin to be a foundation piece on the right side of the line, but have still never adequately replaced future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas on the left side and the 6-7, 364-pound Becton would be an immediate upgrade for the position as the Browns look to live up to the hype that followed them last year.
11. New York Jets – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama. If Sam Darnold is going to succeed, the Jets need to get him more weapons. Jeudy is one of the most polished receivers to come out of the college game in some time and should be able to step in as an immediate starter who can blow the top off a defense. He has Offensive Rookie of the Year potential and will immediately elevate the Jets offense with a new weapon.
12. Las Vegas – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama. I have CeeDee Lamb rated ahead of Ruggs in my final rankings, but these are the Raiders and the Davis family has always loved speed more than most organizations. While Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden are running the show, but Mark Davis has a saw – owners always do – and he will likely be pushing hard for Ruggs, who blazed a 4.27 40 at the Combine. Lamb could easily be an option because he steps in more pro-ready on Day 1, but Ruggs has the one thing that can be taught – the ability to blow past a Pro Bowl corner and create the splash play.
13. San Francisco (from Indianapolis) – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma. The 49ers would be thrilled to have Lamb still on the board in this spot. After losing Emmanuel Sanders in free agency, Kyle Shanahan is looking to find a complement to Deebo Samuels on the other side of the field. Lamb is a speedster and excellent route runner who can do a lot of damage. As stated in the Raiders pick, Lamb is more pro-ready and some scouts rate him as the best receiver in the draft class, which could be a lucky break for a team that went to the Super Bowl last year.
14. Tampa Bay – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia. The Bucs shocked the world when they emerged as the frontrunner to land Tom Brady to start the second and final chapter of his Hall of Fame career. It’s one thing to make a splash signing like Brady, but that investment requires protecting because Jameis Winston took a beating the last couple of seasons and Brady can’t take that kind of abuse at his age. Thomas is an upgrade from what they have now and will blend in quickly.
15. Denver – C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida. Wide receiver is an option, as is offensive tackle if Thomas slips to this spot. But, in the first round, smart teams tend to select the best player available, not a positional need. Henderson is a rising prospect who has emerged as a rising prospect. The Broncos know the value that Henderson has and he could be an immediate starter who can play at a high level from Day 1.
16. Atlanta – L’Lavon Chaisson, OLB, LSU. Atlanta has fallen on hard times since blowing their huge lead in the Super Bowl four years ago and much of it has been because of its defense. This could one of three directions, all of them defense – an edge rusher, cornerback or defensive tackle. If Henderson is still on the board, he could be the pick. DT Javon Kinlaw is also a solid option. But, in a division that now has Drew Brees and Tom Brady in it, pressuring them from the edge is a must and Chaisson can bring the heat like few others.
17. Dallas – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama. The Cowboys suffered a lot of losses on the defensive side of the ball in the offseason and need to fill some of those holes. McKinney is the best safety in this year’s draft class and he will be an immediate starter. For a secondary that had just seven interceptions last season, an upgrade is needed. If Henderson is still on the board, he could be a viable option as well, but McKinney is going to be a star for the Cowboys.
18. Miami (from Pittsburgh) – Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina. The Dolphins have been aggressive in free agency, but they had one of the worst defensive in the league, allowing 31 points a game and generating just 23 sacks – both worst in the league. The Dolphins addressed quarterback with their first of five picks in the first two round. Now they make a value pick to get a player who can be an immediate difference-maker up front on defense. With so many picks, they can address a lot of needs and after Kinlaw, the talent pool at defensive tackle drops off pretty quickly.
19. Las Vegas (from Chicago) – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State. Gruden and Mayock didn’t draft Derek Carr. They inherited him. This will light a fire under him much in the same way the Chargers bringing in Philip Rivers 15 years ago forced Drew Brees to step up his game. They have Carr and Marcus Mariota in front of Love, but both of their contracts expire at the end of the 2020 season. If Mayock and Gruden are going to build the offense in their own image, they need to have a guy they can groom from Day 1 and Love is going to get that opportunity.
20. Jacksonville (from L.A. Rams) – Kenneth Murray, ILB, Oklahoma. The Jags have a lot of needs at different positions and addressed offensive tackle with their first pick and now they look at defense. Murray has position versatility to play all three linebacker spots and this is a good spot for a player of his skill set to land. Trading down to get more picks could be an option here too, but Murray would be a good fit here because he can step in and make an immediate impact where it is needed most in the linebacker unit.
21. Philadelphia – Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State – The Eagles don’t have a lot of needs, but one of them is at wide receiver, where Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson are both on the wrong side of 30 and injury prone. He has a nice combination of size, speed and long arms (81 inches from fingertip to fingertip) and fills a need that has existed the last couple of seasons. If the Eagles are going to regain their NFC East title, it’s going to have to come from a more diverse offense and Aiyuk can fill that void.
22. Minnesota (from Buffalo) – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU. The Vikings traded disgruntled Stefon Diggs, leaving the wide receiver with Adam Thielen and not much else. Jefferson is a rising star who was a reception machine last season with the National Champion Tigers. This is a tough call because the clearest draft needs are wide receiver, cornerback and offensive tackle. Minnesota has another pick at 25 and the teams currently in between them don’t have as pressing a need at cornerback and the guy they want will likely still be there. Jefferson becomes a Week 1 starter.
23. New England – A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa. The Patriots have a surprising number of needs – if Jordan Love is still on the board he could land here – but Bill Belichick has earned his spot as a coaching legend by bringing in players that fit what he does, especially on defense. He needs a player up front that can play 5-Technique in his 3-4 defense and Epenesa fits that need about as well as anyone left on the board.
24. New Orleans – Patrick Queen, ILB, LSU. The Saints have been on the brink of the Super Bowl the last three years only to miss out every time – twice by miracle finishes. They have strength on both sides of the ball and are looking to fill in an area of weakness and Queen fits what they want both as a player and a star from LSU. He will compete for a starting spot immediately and will have the opportunity to be a star sooner than later.
25. Minnesota – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama. This may just be wishful thinking of a team that traded away Diggs’ brother because he was disgruntled and replace him with Trevon. There may be questions as to whether the organization will risk that the younger brother was as moody as his older brother, but he’s the top corner remaining on our board. The Vikings lost their top three cornerbacks in the offseason – Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander – and need to replace them somehow. This is Step 1 of what will be a long process of restocking the shelves.
26. Miami (from Houston) – Josh Jones, OT, Houston. There was a run on offensive tackles early and the numbers have begun to thin. We have Jones as the last player in the first tier of offensive tackles and the Dolphins need to upgrade the line, especially after making a big investment in Tua Tagovailoa. Jones has the skill set that coaches look for and, after allowing 58 sacks (the worst total in the league) last year, it’s clear that help is needed.
27. Seattle – Zach Baun, OLB, Wisconsin. Seattle has found a way to overhaul the roster without taking the step back that most organizations do. They’re very adept at drafting players who can fit in what Pete Carroll wants to do and Baun is a talent that was disruptive behind the line a lot last season (12½ sacks and 19½ tackles for a loss). He is going to be a starter, perhaps immediately, but brings a lot of positives to the table for a team that has a good history of drafting players they know can have their skill set blend in nicely with what the Seahawks do.
28. Baltimore – Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU. The Ravens would clearly love to have middle linebackers Queen or Murray to drop to this spot and may end up trading up to land one of the two of them. But, they do have other needs. They’ve upgraded the edge by trading for veteran Calais Campbell and keeping Matthew Judon on the franchise tag, but need more help in the middle. Derek Wolfe will likely start camp as the No. 1 guy at nosetackle, but Blacklock’s athleticism will make a legitimate battle that will see the two players in a platoon to start with Blacklock eventually taking over the starting job.
29. Tennessee – Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State. The Titans have tried to the keep the band together on offense and need to shore up the defense is they want to make another Super Bowl run. He has the ability to make an immediate impact and will compete with Vic Beasley for playing time in Tennessee’s 3-4 defense. He has the agility to play as an edge-setting end up front or as an outside edge rusher. His versatility is his selling point and he brings a lot to the table.
30. Green Bay – Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson. The Packers have refused to invest early in a receiver to line up opposite Davante Adams and the results have been obvious. Adams gets double teamed on almost every play and earns everything he gets. Higgins is a big playmaker who can burn single coverage and give the Packers pass offense a weapon it has needed for the last couple of years.
31. San Francisco – Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota. A player like Grant Delpit could be the pick here, but Winfield has been rising up boards as teams look at more film on him. He’s only 5-9, but so was his father and he had a long and productive career. He has the speed to play center field as a safety, the quick-twitch ability to play slot corner and is a returner as well. The 49ers have a history of drafting athletes they can mold a roll for and Winfield has a lot of tools in his toolbox that can be exploited.
32. Kansas City – D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia. The value of running backs has dropped significantly over the last couple of years, as evidenced by guys like Todd Gurley being cut, David Johnson being traded and the Chargers moving on from Melvin Gordon. Andy Reid has a wide-open pass offense, but has always been a player who has an appreciation for a go-to running back to provide balance to the offense – see Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy and Kareem Hunt as examples. From a talent standpoint, Swift is mid-first round pick, but the new normal in the NFL has him dropping to Kansas City with the potential to become an immediate breakout star.
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