2020 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions for Under-the-Radar 1st-Round Prospects

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 24, 2019

Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III (11) carries the ball after a reception against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill/Associated Press

The coverage leading up to the 2020 NFL draft will inevitably center around the prospects atop every mock draft board.

But as any football fanatic can attest, stars can surface from any spot on the draft board. (Just ask Tom Brady, the 199th selection of the 2000 talent grab.)

Underrated and overlooked prospects are our focus here, as we'll identify three of our favorite less-heralded first-round prospects after laying out our latest mock draft.


2020 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

3. Detroit Lions: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

4. New York Giants: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

6. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

7. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

8. Carolina Panthers: Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson

9. Arizona Cardinals: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

10. New York Jets: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

11. Denver Broncos: Austin Jackson, OT, USC

12. Cleveland Browns: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

13. Atlanta Falcons: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa

14. Las Vegas Raiders: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado

15. Dallas Cowboys: Grant Delpit, S, LSU

16. Indianapolis Colts: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

18. Las Vegas Raiders (from Chicago Bears): Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State

19. Miami Dolphins (from Pittsburgh Steelers): Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams): Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford

21. Tennessee Titans: Julian Okwara, DE, Notre Dame

22. Buffalo Bills: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

23. Minnesota Vikings: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

24. Seattle Seahawks: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

25. Philadelphia Eagles: C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

26. Miami Dolphins (from Houston Texans): Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

27. Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

28. Green Bay Packers: Dylan Moses, ILB, Alabama

29. New England Patriots: Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama

30. New Orleans Saints: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

31. San Francisco 49ers: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

32. Baltimore Ravens: Kenneth Murray, ILB, Oklahoma


Under-the-Radar First-Round Prospects

Julian Okwara, DE, Notre Dame

Do you want to know a good way to fly off the grid? Have your senior season stopped prematurely, as Okwara's was by a fractured fibula in November.

He's still far from an unknown. He recorded eight sacks in 2018, and he entered this campaign as a preseason All-American.

He had set his sights on 18.5 sacks for his senior campaign, and while he only finished with four, he showed his disruptive ability with three sacks and two forced fumbles over then-18th-ranked Virginia in late September. He's still a bit of a project, but the payoff to his NFL employer could be massive.

"[Okwara] brings an unrefined but very high-ceiling speed profile to his pass-rushing attack, which includes burst, flexibility, bend and strength," The Draft Network's Trevor Sikkema wrote. "Really has all the tools you'd want to be a successful speed rusher in the NFL."


Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

You'd think that, by the nature of the position, it would be near-impossible for a first-round wide receiver prospect to fly under the radar. But considering Ruggs isn't even the highest-rated receiver on his own team and could be one of three Alabama receivers to go in the first round, he might be one of the exceptions.

The first thing you notice with Ruggs is his world-class burst. The speed is just silly. He reportedly clocked a 4.25-second 40-yard dash at Alabama's junior pro day in March, then later told reporters, "I still feel like I can do better."

He might be serious, too. His 96 catches at Alabama went for an average of 17.6 yards; 24 of them reached the end zone. So, too, did the only rushing attempt of his career, which went for 75 yards.

There aren't enough fire emojis in the digital universe to properly convey what kind of burner Ruggs is. He's sitting a hair outside our top 20 for now, but if he lights up the combine testing the way he can, he'll rocket up the draft board.


Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

It's tempting to look at Taylor's career production and label it video game numbers, but if video games were that easy, no one would bother playing them.

His 905 rushes over three seasons screams workhorse. His 6.7 yards per carry seem more like they should come from a change-of-space spark plug. His 50 rushing touchdowns in a three-year span makes you wonder if he really is a part of this passing-crazed generation.

Oh, and the fact he tripled his career-high in receptions this season (24, which delivered 209 yards and another five scores) suggests his game still has ample room for growth.

Yet, given how the NFL handles this position, he's not a first-round lock. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has a 25-player big board, and Taylor doesn't make the cut.

His workload at Wisconsin might cause concerns regarding longevity, but his talent would be tough to pass up. His size, power and speed combo doesn't come around often.