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2020 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions for Nation's Elite Prospects

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 25, 2019

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 09: Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks to pass during the second half against the LSU Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 9, 2019 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The NFL's 2019 season still has one more week to go, but already teams are itching to get their mitts on their offseason prize.

And no, we're not talking about the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

For a huge section of the football world, it's already draft season. Or, more aptly, mock draft season. This is when fans can (try to) forget a year's worth of misery and missteps by pinning their hopes on finding the next franchise savior.

Since that impact is most easily provided by a quarterback, we'll break down the top three passers on our board after running through our latest mock first round.

                    

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

                    

Elite Quarterback Prospects

Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

With a Heisman Trophy to his credit and the No. 1 spot on our draft board all to himself, Burrow is exactly the kind of young signal-caller clubs want to build around.

He wasn't supposed to sit atop this draft class. But 4,715 passing yards and 48 touchdown passes later, here he is. Some might have raised an eyebrow when he burst on to the scene to start the year, and many had his Nov. 9 trip to Tuscaloosa as a prove-it matchup. He more than proved his worth by torching the Crimson Tide for 393 passing yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions and only eight incompletions.

As one quarterbacks coach told B/R's Matt Miller ahead of the Alabama game, watching Burrow makes it seem like you're seeing the next NFL franchise star:

"Burrow just has it. You can't coach it; you can't develop it. Some guys just have it. Baker [Mayfield] has it. Gardner Minshew has it. The difference is that Burrow has better size than both and a much better arm than Minshew."

Burrow's track record is limited, and he doesn't have the biggest arm. But he's tough, he makes good decisions and he's mobile enough to make or extend plays with his legs.

                     

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

If Tagovailoa stayed healthy, neither Burrow nor anyone else could've risen to the No. 1 spot. But a dislocated hip cast a cloud of uncertainty over Tagovailoa's future, and frankly, it's not even certain he's a member of this draft class.

But quarterback-needy clubs are surely hoping he heads to the next level.

"As a player, Tagovailoa is a top-five talent with elite accuracy and all the physical and mental tools teams look for in a starter," ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. wrote.

Even if Tagovailoa's production is propped up a bit by playing for loaded Alabama teams, the numbers are still as silly as anyone's. Over two-plus seasons, he tallied 87 touchdown passes against only 11 interceptions. He completed 69.3 percent of his passes. He had the nation's highest quarterback rating in 2018 and 2019.

He can make every throw, and he can throw his receivers open. He flashes effortless arm strength, and he can pick apart defenses with his intelligence and instincts.

His injury concerns aren't going away, and they were prevalent even before the hip problem given his lack of size. But maybe that's just a way for someone to get the best talent in this draft at a discount.

                   

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Herbert could have been in play for last year's No. 1 pick had he left Oregon then, but staying around for his senior season shouldn't cost him much.

He actually had a better year now than he did in 2018. On nearly the same number of attempts (408, up from 404), he threw more touchdowns (32, up from 29) with fewer interceptions (five, down from eight) and completed a higher percentage of his attempts (66.7, up from 59.4).

He didn't quite solve his issues with inconsistency, but this was his most complete campaign to date. That could be huge in the eyes of some evaluators since they already loved his tools.

"He's a beautiful passer," Miller told NBC Sports Northwest's Bri Amaranthus. " ... Mechanically he's flawless. He has excellent size and arm strength. He can move well out of the pocket. There's a lot to love."

Someone will fall in love with Herbert's ceiling. Maybe multiple teams will. His consistency and decision-making must continue to improve, but those willing to take on that risk could position themselves to reap a major reward down the line.