2020 NFL Mock Draft: Pre-Wild Card Round Predictions for 1st-Round Prospects

mandela namaste@@mandiba13Contributor IJanuary 4, 2020

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) walks off the field during the second half of the Peach Bowl NCAA semifinal college football playoff game against Oklahoma, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
Danny Karnik/Associated Press

Football season is just getting started for 12 lucky NFL fanbases, but for members of the remaining 20, it's time to burrow your heads deep in college football world and familiarize yourselves with this year's top draft prospects. After the regular season concluded on Sunday, the first 20 selections of the first round are now set in stone, with the 2-14 Cincinnati Bengals on the clock.

This year's class doesn't appear to be as deep as in previous years, but that can always prove foolish in due time. For instance, the 2013 draft, thought to be one of the weakest draft classes in recent memory, has since produced perennial All-Pros like DeAndre Hopkins, David Bakhtiari, Travis Kelce and Travis Frederick. You never know what's to come out of a given draft. 

However, the 2020 class does have a few no-brainer top-tier players, as well as tremendous depth within positional groups like wide receiver. Hopefully, your favorite team finds a diamond in the rough at a position of need.

       

2020 Round 1 NFL Mock Draft

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1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

2. Washington: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

3. Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

4. New York Giants: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

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

7. Carolina Panthers: Isaiah Simmons, OLB/S, Clemson

8. Arizona Cardinals: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Grant Delpit, S, LSU

10. Cleveland Browns: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

11. New York Jets: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

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

13. Indianapolis Colts: Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

15. Denver Broncos: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford

16. Atlanta Falcons: Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State

17. Dallas Cowboys: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

18. Miami Dolphins via Pittsburgh: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

19. Las Vegas Raiders via Chicago: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

20. Jacksonville Jaguars via LA Rams: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

22. Tennessee Titans: AJ Epenesa, DE, Iowa

23. Buffalo Bills: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

24. Minnesota Vikings: Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State

25. Miami Dolphins via Houston: D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

26. Seattle Seahawks: Julian Okwara, DE, Notre Dame

27. New England Patriots: Alex Leatherwood, T, Alabama

28. Green Bay Packers: Terrell Lewis, LB, Alabama

29. Kansas City Chiefs: Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia

30. New Orleans Saints: Anfernee Jennings, LB, Alabama

31. San Francisco 49ers: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

32. Baltimore Ravens: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

        

National Championship Spotlight

Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

For those of you just now tuning into college football, this is the guy to watch.

Rises to stardom rarely come from this far out of nowhere. Burrow started last season for LSU and was perfectly mediocre, completing 57.8 percent of his passes and throwing 16 touchdowns for a 10-3 Tigers squad that won the Fiesta Bowl.

And though he was a highly touted prospect who had transferred from Ohio State, nobody expected what was to come from the senior.

Burrow got off to a red-hot start this season and never slowed down, throwing at least four touchdowns eight times and never completing fewer than 71 percent of his passes in any game this season. And he's not slowing down. In LSU's first playoff matchup against Oklahoma this past week, Burrow threw for 493 yards and a career-high seven touchdowns in an absolute rout of the Sooners. 

You can bet numerous teams will try to trade up for Burrow in what may be one of the most active quarterback markets in years, but the Southeast Ohio native is almost certain to land with the Bengals. Fate couldn't write it any better.

     

Grant Delpit, S, LSU

Heading into this season, Delpit was considered a prospect near the level of his LSU predecessor Jamal Adams. Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller stated in May 2019 that Delpit would be at an All-Pro level within his first two seasons in the NFL, and Miller was far from the only one hyping up the safety. 

Following a disappointing junior year that saw significant statistical decline, expectations have re-entered Earth's atmosphere a bit. But make no mistake: Delpit is still a high first-round talent.

He's got a high football IQ, with an uncanny ability to read the field in the blink of an eye, and marries those smarts with exceptional athleticism, a combination that gives him first-round status almost by itself. In addition, LSU coach Ed Orgeron has made good use of Delpit's versatility, using him at both free and strong safety as well as the occasional stint at nickel cornerback or box linebacker.

That kind of positional flexibility is craved nowadays by NFL teams. Just look at Derwin James, Keanu Neal or Tyrann Mathieu. Delpit could be next in that high-profile line.

       

Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson

Speaking of versatile back-line defenders, keep an eye on Isaiah Simmons next Monday night. 

After several years of pure tools boosting him into the draft spotlight, the junior has exploded in full bloom. Perhaps the best player on a stacked Tiger defense, Simmons racked up 97 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. This breakout season culminated in him winning the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and the Butkus Award, given annually to the top linebacker in college football. 

However, the exciting part about Simmons is that he's far from just a linebacker. In Miller's most recent mock draft, he wrote that "[Simmons] lines up at slot cornerback, middle linebacker, edge-rusher and safety for the Clemson defense while showing rare athleticism on a 6'4", 230-pound frame. Comparisons to Sean Taylor and Brian Urlacher have already been heard."

A high bar to be sure, but based on his play this season, don't be surprised if he reaches it. If Clemson is the team to finally slow down Joe Burrow in the National Championship, Simmons will undoubtedly play a huge part in doing so.

      

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

Higgins is not the best receiver in this class, but take that not as an indictment of him but as an appraisal of the absurd depth around him. He's a worthy first-rounder, no question. 

Each of Higgins' three seasons has been outstanding in its own way. His first year, he averaged 20.3 yards per catch behind future pros Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow and Ray-Ray McCloud. These last two years, however, Higgins has been the primary receiver for phenom quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and with 2,051 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns in 2018 and 2019, he has delivered time and again. 

With his 6'4" frame and gigantic catch radius, the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, native will likely be a contested-catch specialist in the NFL. He's not the fastest nor the most refined route runner, but he could easily be a top-tier receiver in the mold of Alshon Jeffery, who's had a successful eight-year career in the NFL despite being often injured. 

Higgins has been on fire the past six weeks, with 29 receptions, 527 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns in November and December, outpacing even upstart teammate Justyn Ross. Quarterback duel and title game mystique aside, his matchup against Delpit and the rest of the LSU secondary is the premiere reason to watch the National Championship.