2020 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Miller's Picks Before the Regular Season Kicks Off
There is no better way to kick off the start of the college football and NFL seasons than by getting an early jump on the 2020 draft season with a new mock draft.
And this is timely, too. Andrew Luck's retirement will have the Indianapolis Colts at least evaluating the quarterback position for the first time since before they drafted Peyton Manning given how much of a slam dunk Luck was as the No. 1 overall pick in 2012.
It's not just Luck, though. Melvin Gordon III and Ezekiel Elliott continue to hold out and seek new contracts, which could create positions of need for their respective teams next offseason. Could the Los Angeles Chargers or Dallas Cowboys dip into a strong running back class to draft the future at the position instead of paying a huge contract to their established stars? It wouldn't be a surprise.
As the 2020 draft class sets up, one thing is clear: This will be a year dominated by quarterbacks, wide receivers and secondary players. That's great news, as many clubs like the Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans and maybe the Colts start a serious evaluation of their passers and look to college for a potential answer.
Who goes first? With the draft order based on updated Super Bowl odds from Caesars Palace, the Dolphins are on the clock.
1. Miami Dolphins
The Pick: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
It's tempting to think Josh Rosen will win the starting quarterback job and turn around the Miami Dolphins, but Rosen hasn't won the starting job after struggling to beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Given this, it's unfair to think in early September that the Dolphins would bypass a top-tier quarterback prospect for Rosen, especially after they moved on from left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills in a trade with the Houston Texans that allowed them to add key draft choices in 2020 and 2021.
Tua Tagovailoa has been potentially overlooked—stunning but true to say about a national champion and Heisman Trophy runner-up. Too many fans and analysts are forgetting how dominant he was throughout the 2018 regular season and instead focusing on his poor performance (while injured) against Clemson.
Go back and rewatch Tua throughout the regular season and you'll see the touch, toughness, anticipation and accuracy I haven't seen from a lefty since Steve Young. If the Dolphins see the same traits we have, Rosen will be a forgotten man as Tua takes over South Beach.
2. Washington Redskins
The Pick: EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State
The Washington Redskins don't have a clear-cut need that is traditionally addressed with a top-five selection. They might have a hole at left tackle, depending on what happens with Trent Williams, who certainly seems like he's done playing for team owner Daniel Snyder. But there isn't a left tackle prospect worthy of a top selection.
Barring a complete meltdown by 2019 first-rounder Dwayne Haskins—if he's given the chance to play meaningful starts in his rookie season—the safe money would be on a pass-rusher being the selection here without trades predicted. The good news is that Ohio State's Chase Young is a phenomenal prospect.
Young, who helped Buckeyes fans forget about Nick Bosa last season, has exceptional first-step quickness and power in his game. He can line up on either the right or left side and has experience both as a hand-down and stand-up rusher. His versatility and athleticism are eye-opening enough to make him the No. 2 overall player on my draft board.
3. New York Giants
The Pick: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
Maybe we're giving general manager Dave Gettleman too much credit, but it's not impossible to think he looked ahead to the 2020 talent at wide receiver and saw Jerry Jeudy at Alabama, which led to his comfort trading away Odell Beckham Jr. while the price was high.
If anyone can replace OBJ, it's my No. 1 overall player for the 2020 draft class.
Jeudy, like Odell, is a silky smooth route-runner with excellent speed, body control and a big catch radius on a 6'1", 192-pound frame. He's quick through his cuts, is graceful in space and has an explosive quality to his game that would make Giants fans forget all about No. 13.
Many top-tier wide receivers have come out of college football in the last decade, but none has had the route-running and agility traits Jeudy possesses. He's not a physical standout like Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in route savvy, acceleration and balance.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
The Pick: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
If the Cincinnati Bengals own a top-five draft pick, that's not good news for Andy Dalton.
They could already be described as in "quarterback purgatory," and any potential slip-up by Dalton would open the door for his replacement. Finishing with a record deserving of the No. 4 overall pick would surely signal his end in Cincinnati.
New head coach Zac Taylor comes from the Sean McVay tree, which would seem to point at his desire for an accurate, somewhat mobile pocket passer such as Jared Goff, though maybe with a little more juice to his arm. That prospect actually exists in Oregon's Justin Herbert.
A senior passer, the 6'6", 237-pound Herbert has a beautiful right arm with good mobility and has shown the touch and accuracy to carve up defenses in a system like the Taylor/McVay offense that finds receivers a ton of space for yards after the catch.
If Dalton is out, Herbert would be a dream fit for Taylor.
5. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: CB Jeffrey Okudah, Ohio State
It remains to be seen how the offensive experiment in Arizona will go, but one thing is clear watching the Cardinals this preseason: The defense needs a lot of work.
Even after they drafted Byron Murphy in the second round, the Cardinals could soon have a hole at cornerback. The brilliant tenure of Patrick Peterson is most likely coming to an end soon, as his contract expires after the 2020 season.
Jeffrey Okudah is a special kind of cornerback prospect. He's physical, smart, instinctive and fast. Compared to previous Ohio State prospects Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward, Okudah has the potential and traits to grade out higher than either.
There are needs on the offensive line, and the Cardinals could always add more front-seven talent defensively. But based on needs and who is on the board, this would be the right pick.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: S Grant Delpit, LSU
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a mistake in the 2018 draft when they passed on safety Derwin James for defensive tackle Vita Vea. General manager Jason Licht can correct that issue by drafting the mirror image of James in LSU's Grant Delpit.
Delpit is a fierce hitter with excellent range, vision and leadership at the position. Like James, he can play multiple alignments and position himself as a defensive eraser for whatever the offense throws at him.
Playing a running quarterback? Let Delpit spy him. Playing a top-tier tight end? He can match up in man coverage.
As offenses continue to diversify, players like Delpit are the answers defensively.
7. Detroit Lions
The Pick: CB C.J. Henderson, Florida
The 2020 draft class is loaded at cornerback, which is great news for the Detroit Lions as the team looks to get younger and more aggressive under head coach Matt Patricia. Henderson can be his Stephon Gilmore as an enforcer on the outside of the defense.
Henderson is a fiery and physical cornerback with excellent size and recovery speed. If anything, he might need to tone down his game a little to avoid penalties, but he's an expert at getting into the space and heads of SEC receivers. Coaches, especially those with defensive backgrounds, are going to love him.
Depending on how some young players develop, cornerback might not rank as the biggest need for the Lions. But Henderson is simply too talented to pass up.
8. Buffalo Bills
The Pick: WR Tee Higgins, Clemson
Let's get Josh Allen some real talent at wide receiver.
One year after the Bills basically bought an offensive line, Allen now needs more help from his supporting cast at wide receiver. Buffalo has decent talent and depth at the position, but nothing like the explosive Tee Higgins.
Another Clemson receiver with top-10 talent, Higgins is a blur after the catch but equally slippery and elusive in his route tree. He's a well-versed and talented route-runner coming out of a system that produces NFL talent at receiver on the regular.
Higgins is ready to become Allen's go-to receiver.
9. Denver Broncos
The Pick: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia
The Garrett Bolles experiment hasn't gone well for the Denver Broncos at left tackle, which is why the front office would jump at the chance to replace the 2017 first-rounder with a much more complete prospect.
Andrew Thomas is the best offensive lineman in college and a clean projection as an NFL left tackle. He's powerful, smart, agile and experienced. That's what every team should be looking for.
His only question mark might come in the arm-length department. But his style of play and body of work make him look like an ideal plug-and-play candidate to protect the blind side.
10. New York Jets
The Pick: EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
After they selected Jachai Polite in the third round, the Jets were supposed to be set at one pass-rusher position. But Polite struggled throughout training camp and the preseason, to the point that the team cut him in a surprising move. The new front office, which didn't draft Polite, is ready to go in a more stable direction, and there is no more stable front-seven prospect than Iowa's A.J. Epenesa.
A top-three player on my board, Epenesa falls into the Jets' laps because of positional needs ahead of him.
He's fantastic, though. A powerful 4-3 defensive end, he has the power to kick inside on third downs but the speed and savvy pass-rushing moves to play on the edge.
In Joe Douglas' first draft as general manager, he needs to hit on his first pick. Epenesa is a guaranteed hit.
11. Indianapolis Colts
The Pick: WR Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado
Let's assume for now that Jacoby Brissett will be as good at quarterback as the Colts internally believe he will be. If so, they will be signing him to a long-term contract and not drafting a quarterback with this selection.
Of course, that could go south and lead the Colts to look for a passer. But trusting general manager Chris Ballard is a smart way to operate, so we are.
With Brissett locked in, the needs in Indianapolis become about building an offense with enough playmakers to take advantage of his skill set. Adding youth and size at wide receiver will be exceptionally important for Ballard and Co. this coming year.
Colorado's Laviska Shenault Jr. is similar in many ways to JuJu Smith-Schuster, but with a little more jump-ball to his game. With Brissett's accuracy and timing, Shenault would be tough for AFC South defenses to handle in and out of the red zone.
12. Tennessee Titans
The Pick: QB Jake Fromm, Georgia
Neither Marcus Mariota nor Ryan Tannehill is the long-term solution at quarterback for head coach Mike Vrabel's Tennessee Titans. That much is painfully obvious. The challenge will be positioning themselves to draft a quarterback given the team's talent around the passer and how well Vrabel has done as a coach.
But owning pick No. 12 overall could be enough to land a solid franchise quarterback.
Jake Fromm won't wow you physically with gaudy arm strength or athleticism. Instead, he just picks apart defenses with accuracy, timing and field vision that is highly developed for a college junior. Titans fans may read this and think he's just another untalented game manager, but Fromm's toughness and football IQ allow him to make plays Mariota hasn't with his timid mentality.
Given the Titans' punishing running game and stout defense, Fromm could be a Jared Goff-type passer who can win conference titles and maybe Super Bowls.
13. Carolina Panthers
The Pick: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
The future of the Panthers feels open-ended with the recent injuries to Cam Newton, but one way to extend the life of the quarterback is to give him serious weapons at the skill positions. Carolina tried this by selecting DJ Moore in the first round of the 2018 draft, but the payoff hasn't been huge yet.
Adding another weapon to pair with Moore and superstar running back Christian McCaffrey still makes sense.
Lamb is an explosive yards-after-catch target who would have Panthers fans reminiscing about Steve Smith's ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. He dominates the middle of the field but has serious speed to stretch it.
If you liked Marquise Brown last year, Lamb is a bigger and healthier option, which is why he's locked in as a top-15 pick.
14. Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU
Russell Wilson has never quarterbacked a team with a losing record in the NFL, so it would be surprising to see the Seahawks select at No. 14 overall. But this would allow the organization to reload defensively after losses like Frank Clark shook up the front four.
K'Lavon Chaisson isn't your typical 4-3 defensive end, but he would bring more of the Cliff Avril kind of athleticism, speed and versatility to the defense. If the Seahawks want a speed rusher opposite 2019 first-rounder L.J. Collier's power, this would be the perfect fit.
Chaisson missed the 2018 season with a knee injury. But he's back healthy, and the LSU coaches are already raving about his talent.
With Jadeveon Clowney potentially a Seahawk for just one season—free agency is coming for him after 2019—this might not seem like an on-paper need. This pick would change if any long-term deal were signed, though.
15. San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: CB Kristian Fulton, LSU
The secondary in San Francisco needs work—a lot of it.
The front office has prioritized key positions like defensive end and offensive tackle with first-round picks in previous drafts but must look at an aging and talent-depleted secondary as a key area to improve in the offseason.
LSU's Kristian Fulton was overshadowed last season by Greedy Williams, but NFL evaluators are already convinced the returning senior is the better of the two prospects. Fulton is sticky in coverage but also has the mentality to come up and play the run. He'll remind SEC fans of the type of play we saw from Deandre Baker last season, which led to him being a first-rounder while Williams went in the second.
16. Oakland Raiders
The Pick: LB Dylan Moses, Alabama
An ACL injury suffered in late August won't keep Dylan Moses outside the first round of the 2020 NFL draft; he's simply too talented to pass up as long as his recovery is on schedule next April.
There is every reason to believe Moses will be back to full strength at some point in his rookie season, which is why an opportunistic general manager should and will jump all over him if he starts to slide down the board.
The top-rated linebacker in the 2020 class, Moses has excellent middle linebacker athleticism, vision and instincts. As that's a huge positional weakness for the Oakland Raiders, he would present a plug-and-play solution to the middle of the field.
17. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: RB D'Andre Swift, Georgia
No disrespect to Gus Edwards or Mark Ingram II, but they aren't D'Andre Swift, and that's too bad for the Baltimore Ravens.
Swift, who ranks as the top running back in a deep class, is an Alvin Kamara-like back with power, speed, soft hands and excellent balance through contact. He's the modern NFL blueprint at the position.
Addressing the pass rush could be a key for Baltimore depending on how some young players step up in 2019. But the opportunity to draft a running mate for Lamar Jackson and an excellent check-down option in the passing game could take this offense over the top.
18. Miami Dolphins (from Houston)
The Pick: RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
The Houston Texans sent this choice to Miami in exchange for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills, and the Dolphins are now in prime position to load up around a young quarterback. They have a decent ball-carrier in Kenyan Drake but no featured back around which they can build the offense.
With the first selection in this mock draft, they already selected quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Pair two of college football's most exciting offensive players in Miami's backfield and this team's future would look completely different.
Taylor, who already has over 4,000 career rushing yards in just two seasons at Wisconsin, is a power back with speed. He's a legitimate 4.4 runner with the mentality to punish defenders in the box before bouncing and beating linebackers and defensive backs with deep speed.
A running back might seem like a luxury for the Dolphins in Round 1, but Taylor is worth it.
19. Atlanta Falcons
The Pick: DL Derrick Brown, Auburn
Many analysts expected the Atlanta Falcons to address the interior defensive line throughout the 2019 NFL draft, but the team instead doubled-down on offensive linemen by selecting Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary in the first round.
Auburn's Derrick Brown also surprised folks when he opted to return to school for his senior season instead of entering the 2019 draft, in which he would have been a likely top-50 selection.
Brown is a powerful interior penetrator with excellent size and push off the snap. His ability to split blockers and get upfield would make him an ideal fit next to Grady Jarrett in the Atlanta defense.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a rare team without many identifiable needs on paper. This is a young roster with many emerging or developing players at key positions who are expected to be the nucleus moving forward. Barring trades, injuries or surprising regression, this is a team built to make noise.
When it isn't easy to spot a need during a preseason mock draft, a team is always pushed to go with the best player available. For Jacksonville, that's one of the nation's most athletic linebackers in former safety Isaiah Simmons.
Watch Clemson play and you'll be blown away by the speed, aggression and playmaking of Simmons. If he were paired with Josh Allen, Myles Jack, Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngakoue, the Jaguars could have a truly dominant defense for years to come.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama
The Artie Burns experiment hasn't worked in Pittsburgh, and after last year's draft saw the team trade up to take linebacker Devin Bush at No. 10 overall, it still has room for an early selection at the cornerback position.
Enter speedster Trevon Diggs.
Alabama has become a defensive back factory since Nick Saban took over as head coach, thanks to his pedigree as an ace positional coach in the secondary. Diggs is another in a long line of athletic, accomplished and experienced corners with the traits to excel in the pros. Gone are the days of Alabama only playing press man with corners who can't backpedal. Today's Crimson Tide secondary is NFL-ready.
With rookie Justin Layne representing one potential piece for the future, he and Diggs could form a duo at cornerback capable of keeping up with the AFC North's talented receivers.
22. Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
The offensive line build continues in Minnesota, where new additions like Garrett Bradbury (2019 first-rounder) should help. But much more is needed. That's where a pro-ready tackle from a proven offensive line factory comes into play.
Wirfs, who plays right tackle for the Hawkeyes, has shown the athleticism on tape to make the move to the left side if needed. He's big and powerful and has the athleticism and agility to handle such a move. Conversely, the Vikings could plug him in at right tackle and have a near-Pro Bowl-caliber rookie holding down the fort and keeping Kirk Cousins' face clean.
That's the move we'd make, as Wirfs has the look of a high-caliber right tackle from the jump.
23. Green Bay Packers
The Pick: WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
Davante Adams is a blue-chip wide receiver. He even made Chad Johnson cry talking about his sweet route-running skills. But the Packers need more.
Surrounding Aaron Rodgers with a legitimate cast of talent on the edges is the best way to extend any possible Super Bowl window.
Henry Ruggs III will most likely rank as the fastest wide receiver in the 2020 draft class thanks to legitimate sub-4.3 speed and amazing acceleration off the line. Were he not in an offense with Jerry Jeudy, we'd be talking about him more.
But as it stands, NFL evaluators will know the No. 2 option at Alabama has the goods to be a Tyreek Hill-type threat in the pros.
24. Los Angeles Chargers
The Pick: OT Walker Little, Stanford
General manager Tom Telesco has done an admirable job of building an offensive line in Los Angeles without a ton of resources through the salary cap or early-round draft choices, but more work is needed. That's where an in-state prospect like Walker Little with prime athleticism for the left side of the line could be a valuable addition.
Little doesn't have great Day 1 power to his game, but he's a young prospect with plenty of time to develop more lower-body power and pop to his game. As it stands, he's an excellent mover and good overall athlete who mirrors and slides well in pass protection.
With the left side of the Chargers line in question, Little could be an awesome addition.
25. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: CB Bryce Hall, Virginia
It has become obvious the Dallas Cowboys cannot pay everyone on the roster who will be coming up for free agency soon. That means Jerry Jones and Co. must reload on the fly by addressing needs and filling in future needs.
The secondary will be an interesting part of the roster construction. Can the team pay Byron Jones? Where will the priorities lie defensively? One fix is to aggressively bolster the secondary with priority draft picks like this one.
Bryce Hall likely would have been a top-64 draft choice had he entered last year's lottery, but coming back for his senior season gives the physical cornerback a realistic shot at Round 1, where he'd be an excellent fit for the Dallas defense thanks to his size (6'1", 200 lbs), physical play in press coverage and his instincts for the ball in the air.
26. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: OT Trey Adams, Washington
On paper, the Cleveland Browns have few weaknesses. One obvious issue is on the offensive line, particularly at left tackle. Without a first-round pick in the 2019 draft, the team couldn't address this spot and the expectation is that the upcoming offseason will feature a heavy amount of offensive tackle evaluation in Cleveland.
Washington's Trey Adams is an intriguing prospect whose name is on the rise among NFL evaluators after what is being called a great summer for him in team camp. Adams, who sat out most of the 2018 season with a back injury, must be deemed healthy before he can enter the Round 1 conversation, but following his sophomore season in 2017, he did look like a potential first-rounder.
If Adams is back on his game, the Browns could have their answer at left tackle.
27. Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick: EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
Go ahead and pencil in edge-rusher as the Eagles' biggest offseason need.
Derek Barnett is solid, but the Eagles need more athleticism and more speed to play in Jim Schwartz's scheme opposite a bigger, stronger rusher like Barnett. That's where a speed-rusher like Yetur Gross-Matos comes into play.
The Penn State defensive end feasted on Big Ten offensive tackles last season, showing length, burst and hands to win against the best of the best. Watching his 2018 tape reminds you of Brian Burns heading into his final season at FSU. If Gross-Matos can take the next step in his development like Burns did, he'll look like a Round 1 lock.
28. New Orleans Saints
The Pick: QB Jordan Love, Utah State
If the Saints believe the Drew Brees window is closing—and this is something the front office has avoided in the past—then it's time to finally draft a legitimate successor to one of the greatest to ever play the game. It's either draft one or sign Teddy Bridgewater past the one-year deal he's on. And the smart money is on the draft.
Utah State's Jordan Love could be this year's Daniel Jones—a good prospect who shoots up the board as teams fall in love with his mechanics, character and football IQ. Love has the size (6'4", 225 lbs) and threw 32 touchdowns to just six interceptions last season.
A big senior year for Love will have scouts talking, and with a huge question mark at the position for the future, the Saints would be wise to consider the long-term effects.
29. Los Angeles Rams
The Pick: EDGE Julian Okwara, Notre Dame
It's remarkable what the Rams have been able to do with a pass rush that's often coming from three defenders, but that's the beauty of coordinator Wade Phillips. What would take the defense to the next level is the addition of another outside pass-rusher with more power to complement Dante Fowler and hopefully give Aaron Donald the occasional one-on-one look.
Julian Okwara was dominant for Notre Dame in 2018 and looks to be ready to attack even more this season. He won't get as many easy looks with Jerry Tillery now in the NFL, but his knack for setting up offensive tackles with either power or agility is impressive enough to feel confident in his ability to produce at a high rate this season and once in the pros.
30. New England Patriots
The Pick: EDGE Terrell Lewis, Alabama
Predicting what Bill Belichick will do in the draft is futile, but there has been a recent trend of the Patriots targeting the bigger, more successful programs in college football with early picks. There is no bigger or more successful program than Alabama, and outside linebacker Terrell Lewis is a dream fit in this defense.
Lewis, who missed 2018 with a knee injury, would be the young Jamie Collins for Belichick in this scheme. He can line up on the edge, play in space or set the edge in the run game. This is a linebacker who truly doesn’t have to leave the field and can be a mismatch against numerous formations and schemes.
With Lewis on one side and 2019 draftee Chase Winovich on the other, the Patriots would have a duo of young pass-rushers through which to build the defense.
31. Oakland Raiders (From Chicago)
The Pick: DL Raekwon Davis, Alabama
Keep building the lines, Mike Mayock. And keep going to the well of successful programs with NFL pedigrees like Clemson and Alabama.
That's what this pick is about—improving the depth and talent on the defensive line while paying attention to player value. Raekwon Davis is an ideal fit in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense thanks to his size and ability to win with length and his first step, but most importantly, he's a good value here at No. 31 overall. While not the biggest position of need, defensive tackle was rumored for the Raiders at pick No. 4 overall in the 2019 draft. If a high-caliber, high-leadership player like Davis is available, he fits the preferences of Mayock and Jon Gruden.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
The Pick: CB A.J. Terrell, Clemson
The Chiefs offense is superbly talented with the offensive line locked up and a host of skill players few teams can compete with. What the team doesn't have is much talent in the secondary, especially at cornerback.
If general manager Brett Veach holds on to his 2020 first-rounder, expect the pick to address coverage help to pair with safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill. The acquisition of Kendall Fuller has been solid but not an immediate help with journeymen Breshaud Breeland and Morris Claiborne acting as Band-Aids at the position. Investing a priority draft pick in the cornerback position is a must for Veach in 2020.