NFL Mock Draft 2020: Projections for Top Prospects Before Championship Weekend

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2020

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young (2) during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game against Clemson, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri).
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

The Cincinnati Bengals might have felt like they were watching their own future on Monday night.

That's when presumed No. 1 pick Joe Burrow steered the LSU Tigers to a national title, throwing for 463 yards and five touchdowns while knocking off the defending champion Clemson 42-25. It was the perfect final chapter on a record-breaking, Heisman-winning season for the former Ohio State backup.

The Bengals, who "won" the right to take Burrow by going an abysmal 2-14 during coach Zac Taylor's first season, can't mess this up. They need a franchise quarterback, and Burrow left no doubt that he's the perfect prospect for the job.

After laying out our latest first-round mock, we'll identify three other no-doubt team-prospect connections on our board.


NFL Mock Draft 2020

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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: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

8. Arizona Cardinals: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

10. Cleveland Browns: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama

11. New York Jets: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

12. Oakland Raiders: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

13. Indianapolis Colts: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Grant Delpit, S, LSU

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

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

17. Dallas Cowboys: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

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

19. Oakland Raiders (via Chicago Bears): Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams): CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

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

22. Buffalo Bills: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

23. New England Patriots: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

24. New Orleans Saints: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

25. Minnesota Vikings: Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma

26. Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans): D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

27. Seattle Seahawks: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

28. Baltimore Ravens: Terrell Lewis, Edge, Alabama

29. Tennessee Titans: Julian Okwara, Edge, Notre Dame

30. Green Bay Packers: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama

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

32. San Francisco 49ers: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State


Clear Prospect-Team Connections

Chase Young To Washington

Team need won't drive the Redskins to Chase Young, but draft value will. He's the most talented prospect in this class and getting him with anything other than the No. 1 pick represents incredible value.

He's an explosive edge-rusher who can overwhelm offensive linemen with power, speed or a combination of the two. He has 27 sacks and seven forced fumbles since the start of last season, despite working around ankle injuries as a sophomore and a two-game suspension as a junior.

Sure, the Redskins have invested significant capital into the defensive line in recent years, but that actually increases Young's appeal. Put him alongside recent first-round picks Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Montez Sweat, and Washington might unlock the league's next stone wall.

"Young could be the piece that causes the team's defense to go from disappointing to dominant," Peter Hailey wrote for NBC Sports Washington. "Yes, they've already spent so much on that part of the depth chart, but one more investment may be all the Redskins need to see their recent decisions finally all collectively pay off."


Tua Tagovailoa To Miami

The Dolphins botched their #TankForTua and instead had the audacity to win five games during coach Brian Flores' first season at the helm. But Tua Tagovailoa's hip injury potentially put him back in play for Miami, which cannot botch this opportunity of finally solving its quarterback problem.

If his medicals are clear—he could throw for NFL teams at Alabama's pro day in March—this might be the easiest call outside of the top two picks. A franchise that doesn't know its future at the position (beyond knowing Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen aren't the long-term answers) would suddenly have access to a player who tallied 6,806 passing yards with 76 touchdown passes against only nine interceptions the past two seasons.

"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.

Miami can't overthink this. If his medical report is free of red flags, the Dolphins have to take the plunge. He's an incredible talent, the kind who can transform an entire organization.

With three first-round draft picks and plenty more beyond that, Miami has more than enough ammunition to climb the board and get him if that's what it takes.


A.J. Epenesa To Atlanta

This isn't the next-strongest consensus pick, as plenty have linked the Los Angeles Chargers to Justin Herbert (as we did above). But if the Bolts are planning another go-round with Philip Rivers, it might use this top-10 selection to assist its current quarterback and not search for the next one.

The Falcons, on the other hand, know they'll need a pass-rushing pick-me-up, as ESPN's Vaughn McClure explained in mid-December:

"The Falcons need to find pass-rush help immediately. Their ugly cap situation for 2020 means they probably won't be able to lure a top-flight edge rusher in free agency. Although this draft class might lack dominant pass-rushers, the Falcons ... need to find a gem among the draftees. Vic Beasley Jr., the league leader in sacks in 2016, leads the team with six sacks, but he's unlikely to be back next season, given his inconsistency. Former first-round pick Takk McKinley still needs some work."

If A.J. Epenesa reaches the 16th pick, the Falcons should be all over him. In September, he was being christened as "the next J.J. Watt." While it took a bit for him to get going, he certainly looked the part down the stretch. Over his final five collegiate contests, he recorded 28 tackles, seven sacks and four forced fumbles.

Over at NFL Mock Draft Database, they have compiled a consensus mock draft based on the selections of experts across the web. Outside of the top 10 picks, only one prospect lands with the same team more than 23 percent of the time: Epenesa, who's a Falcon in 40 percent of mocks.


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