X

2020 NFL Mock Draft: Projections for Landing Spots of Top Prospects

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2020

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in an NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

If you're a fan of an NFL team that didn't make the playoffs, keep telling yourself postseason play is overrated.

It's not, of course. Wild Card Weekend was...well, as wild as it sounds, and the remaining march to Super Bowl LIV should be even better.

But you're a fanatic. You're allowed to think irrationally.

So, while everyone else is feasting on playoff action this weekend, just fire up some mock drafts and read about that surefire prospect coming to salvage your franchise. Hey, you can whet your appetite with our latest mock first-round below, followed by a breakdown of three sleeper prospects on our board.

               

2020 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, Edge, 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: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

8. Arizona Cardinals: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

10. Cleveland Browns: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

11. New York Jets: Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson

12. Oakland Raiders: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

13. Indianapolis Colts: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

15. Denver Broncos: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado

16. Atlanta Falcons: A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa

17. Dallas Cowboys: Grant Delpit, S, LSU

18. Miami Dolphins (from Pittsburgh Steelers): Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State

19. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago Bears): Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams): Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford

22. Tennessee Titans: Terrell Lewis, Edge, Alabama

23. Buffalo Bills: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

24. Minnesota Vikings: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

25. Miami Dolphins (from Houston Texans): Austin Jackson, OT, USC

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

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

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

29. Kansas City Chiefs: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

30. New Orleans Saints: Julian Okwara, Edge, Notre Dame

31. San Francisco 49ers: J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

32. Baltimore Ravens: K'Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU

                        

2020 Sleeper NFL Prospects

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Admittedly, it feels awkward labeling Tua Tagovailoa as a sleeper. He quarterbacked the most storied program of this era. He won a national championship and lost in the championship game during his three seasons in Tuscaloosa. He had a career completion percentage of 69.3, and he threw an absurd 87 touchdowns against 11 interceptions.

But a hip injury prematurely ended his 2019 season, knocked him out of the top spot in the mock-draft world and now casts a cloud of uncertainty over his NFL outlook.

"If I leave, the risk is, do I still go in the first round or do I even make it to the second round?" Tagovailoa told ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit last month (via USA Today's Steve Gardner). "These guys don't even know if I can play with the hip injury yet."

As our draft board shows, we don't exactly see him sliding out of the opening round. But even as our fifth overall pick, he has a chance to outperform that slot by a massive margin if he pans out to be the kind of passer we all envisioned before the injury.

Tagovailoa comes with more risk than we expected, but the reward remains incredibly rich.

              

A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa

Before the season started, many looked at Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa and saw game-changing ability. It wasn't hard to see why. He wasn't even a full-time player in 2018 but still tallied 10.5 sacks with four forced fumbles.

Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer profiled Epensa in September. The start of the article's title was "The Next J.J. Watt?" Expectations, in other words, were enormous.

"[Chase] Young is more athletic by a hair and gets more hype," an NFL scout told Kramer. "But I bet Epenesa is the better pro. There's some J.J. Watt to his game."

So, how does the Next J.J. Watt slip to our 16th selection? Because Epenesa didn't exactly set the world on fire during his first season in a full-time role. No one would complain about 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, of course, but when the numbers essentially mirrored what he did as a part-timer the year before, it was easy to feel a little underwhelmed.

But his upside remains tremendous, and for those still paying attention late in the season, he looked the part of a game-changer again.

Over his final five collegiate contests—including Iowa's win over USC in the Holiday Bowl—he tallied eight sacks and four forced fumbles. If he is the Next J.J. Watt, a lot of executives will be kicking themselves for letting him get by them.

                       

Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

Like Tagovailoa, Travis Etienne spent the bulk of his college career in the spotlight. He's still there, actually, as a key part of Clemson's hopes of dispatching LSU in the CFP National Championship.

Unlike Tagovailoa, though, his draft stock is all over the map, and it has nothing to do with health. B/R's Matt Miller sees him as a third-round pick. The Athletic's Dane Brugler sees him getting out of the first round and notes the running back "needs to become a better inside runner and convince teams that he can be reliable on passing downs."

To be clear, Etienne isn't the biggest back (5'10", 210 lbs), and he doesn't have a ton of work in the passing game (32 of his 49 career receptions came this season). But his home run potential is too great to ignore.

Maybe we're just blinded by the numbers, but that's only because they're so astonishing: 3,194 rushing yards the past two seasons, 55 rushing scores over three years, with at least one run of 75-plus yards in all three. He's elusive and explosive, and those traits matter now more than ever in this increasingly spread out game.

There's a non-zero chance he leads the skill players in this draft in career scores. Getting him with a late first-round pick or something even later could qualify as larceny.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.