The 2020 NFL draft starts at pick No. 3—that's something I've been saying since the order was set and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow set records en route to a Heisman Trophy and national championship. We can confidently project that he goes first to Cincinnati and that Ohio State pass-rusher Chase Young becomes the Nick Bosa for Ron Rivera and a defensive line already stocked with three first-rounders in Washington.
But then what happens? No one knows right now, which is why the Lions are where the draft starts. And no one is happier this week than general manager Bob Quinn after AL.com's Mike Rodak reported that former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is expected to be healthy and throwing for NFL teams by April.
That sound you hear is Quinn's phone ringing as teams begin making exploratory calls to gauge a possible trade-up. And that's why in one report from his agent, Leigh Steinberg, Tua has changed the draft.
When asked how this shifted the landscape, one general manager whose team doesn't need a quarterback said: "This class really looked like one you could wait on a quarterback in. Sure, Miami maybe would have drafted one at five overall, but now the pressure will be to trade up and secure your guy."
The trade-up scenario is important to explain. The draft order has the Lions at No. 3, the Giants at No. 4, the Dolphins at No. 5, the Chargers at No. 6 and the Panthers at No. 7. The Giants aren't drafting a quarterback after using a top-10 pick on Daniel Jones last year, so why do teams need to jump them? To make sure no one else does.
Some are already speculating that Washington could make the second pick available as well, but from what I've heard, that won't happen. Young is the best pass-rushing prospect maybe in the last decade, and there's a need there.
This is similar to what happened in 2017, when quarterback-needy teams were attempting to trade to No. 2 overall. It wasn't because they feared the 49ers would draft a quarterback. It was to make sure they got their guy by trading up, which is exactly what the Bears did when they moved from No. 3 to No. 2 to select Mitchell Trubisky.
The Lions are in position—with league sources saying they don't expect Detroit to draft a quarterback—to auction off the pick to the highest bidder. With Tua reportedly expected to be healthy, there is a bright and shiny prize worth trading up for. Before this report, there was little buzz about Oregon's Justin Herbert being a trade-up kind of quarterback option. Tua, though, is viewed as a franchise QB if healthy. If he's healthy when teams view him at a medical recheck in Indianapolis in early April, the phone will be ringing off the hook.
So who trades up, and what could the cost be? It's easy to look at teams that need a quarterback and see there are three of them between picks five and seven: Dolphins, Chargers and Panthers. Outside the Top 10 are others: Colts, Buccaneers, Raiders and, depending on free agency, Patriots.
Dolphins: Much like the Jets (2018) and Eagles (2016) in previous drafts, the Dolphins are loaded with draft capital in case a trade-up is needed to secure a franchise quarterback. They own three selections in Round 1 (Nos. 5, 18 and 26), two second-rounders (Nos. 39 and 56) and two selections in the 2021 first round. They have more than enough to move from No. 5 to No. 3.
When the Bears traded up one spot in 2017, it cost four total picks: No. 3 overall, two third-rounders and a fourth-rounder. When the Jets jumped from No. 6 to No. 3 before the 2018 draft, the cost was three second-round picks (along with the sixth pick).
Based on Ourlads' trade value chart, the Dolphins could also offer picks Nos. 5 and 26 overall (2,400 points) for No. 3 overall (2,200 points) and call it a day while still having No. 18 overall and all their second-rounders.
Given that the Dolphins were the original #TankforTua team in August, it would be fitting that he ends up there.
Chargers: The Chargers don't have the draft capital to match what the Dolphins can deal, but we've seen teams borrow from future drafts before. That's what the Chargers would have to do—likely sending a 2021 first-rounder—to move up from No. 6 to No. 3.
But if the team believes in Tua and sees a future where Philip Rivers can start for one more season on a new contract while Tua rehabs and acclimates to the NFL, it's a fit that works. You also have to consider the pressure of selling tickets in a new stadium. Ownership can't be excited about the potential of selling season tickets in Los Angeles (competing with the Rams) with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback.
Tua's stellar play at Alabama makes him a household name before he has even put on an NFL helmet. That's a draw for the Chargers on top of what he adds as a football player, and it could make the expense of a future first-rounder worth it if his medicals are clear.
Panthers: Cam Newton is set to be a free agent after the 2020 season and hasn't been on the field regularly since Week 14 of the 2018 season. With his health in question long term, the Panthers with a new(ish) owner and new head coach could look at the potential of a franchise quarterback in Tagovailoa and jump at the chance to draft Newton's replacement.
What makes this situation unique and tempting for the Panthers is that Newton is under contract for another season. Many have speculated the team must cut him to save money on the salary cap, but keeping Newton and drafting Tua allows the Alabama quarterback to rehab at the pace he needs. This also applies with Kyle Allen and Will Grier on roster; the Panthers are in good position to draft a quarterback of the future and not rush him onto the field.
There is also another possibility. Owner David Tepper should be in no hurry to win. This is a rebuild, and it will take time. The Panthers could look at Trevor Lawrence just down the road at Clemson and see him as the savior. Could the Panthers #TankforTrevor? It's not impossible.
Colts: You might be noticing a trend here. A team with a veteran presence at quarterback that needs an upgrade is willing to mortgage the future. The Colts fit that bill with additional selections (No. 34) and a hungry owner ready to win.
Jacoby Brissett isn't awful, but he's not great. General manager Chris Ballard knows he'll need a top-tier quarterback to eventually win here, and with Andrew Luck's retirement last summer, the team needs an infusion of talent under center. Trading up for Tua—which would cost picks Nos. 13 and No. 34 in this class, plus selections in 2021—would give the Colts the shot in the arm the offense needs.
The question is if Ballard, who loves draft picks, is willing to trade up for a quarterback coming off two ankle injuries and a fractured hip.
Buccaneers: This one is pretty farfetched, but it has to be considered. Tua doesn't seem like a natural fit in the Bruce Arians offense, which favors big quarterbacks with strong arms to throw the ball downfield. But if Arians and the Buccaneers move on from free agent Jameis Winston, anything is possible.
Owning pick No. 14 overall and no additional early-round picks, the Bucs would be in a true future-mortgaging move if they traded up to No. 3 overall. What's more likely is they would trade up to grab a Justin Herbert or wait on Jordan Love (Utah State) or Jacob Eason (Washington).
Patriots: The belief that an elite quarterback will somehow fall into the hands of the Patriots has been around the NFL as long as I have been. Every year fans fear the next great quarterback will somehow, someway land in New England. This year is no different.
With Tom Brady 42 years old and a free agent, the Patriots have a need for a long-term answer. They don't have the draft picks in 2020—even with two picks expected to be coming in Round 3 via compensatory selections—which makes this a long-term investment, but it's not one that should be ruled out.
If Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels fall in love with a quarterback, it could happen.
The Scout's Report
—The exodus out of Baton Rouge started soon after LSU won the national title. Passing game coordinator Joe Brady left for the Panthers. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda was hired as the new Baylor head coach. On top of that, seven players (as of this writing) declared as underclassmen for the 2020 draft.
The Tigers will lose underclassmen Grant Delpit, Patrick Queen, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Justin Jefferson, Lloyd Cushenberry III, Saahdiq Charles and Jacob Phillips, with announcements from K'Lavon Chaisson and Thaddeus Moss forthcoming.
Ed Orgeron is a great recruiter, and winning a title will help, but he has his work cut out for him in 2020.
—It's rare to talk about players going back to school this time of year, but that's the case with three excellent running backs. Alabama's Najee Harris, Mississippi State's Kylin Hill and Oklahoma State's Chuba Hubbard all announced this week they'll return for another season of college football.
The early look at the 2021 draft class isn't particularly loaded at running back, which could be why each player decided to return to school. All three will have a shot at RB1 for 2021.
—One player LSU is keeping is star true freshman cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., but don't expect him to stay listed at just cornerback for long. Word out of Baton Rouge is the Tigers plan to use Stingley on offense and special teams in 2021.
He already served as the team's punt returner but could see a much larger role next year, according to a coach on the team. Stingley might be making his push for a Charles Woodson-like Heisman run.
—The 2020 Senior Bowl kicks off next week in Mobile, Alabama, and I'll be on the ground all week with the Stick to Football crew. Here's our schedule:
Monday night: Live podcast at Draft Picks Taproom (7:30 p.m.)
Tuesday: weigh-ins and practices
Wednesday: podcast drops in the morning, practices, live podcast event at Draft Picks (7:30 p.m.)
Thursday: podcast drops in the morning, practices
Friday: Scouting Notebook drops
Saturday: Gameday coverage
The Mock Draft
*A quick note: I do not project trades in mock drafts because it throws off the entire selection process for so many teams. Given the goal of a mock is to predict what teams will do, projecting a trade that benefits one team has never felt right. However, this week I'm breaking my rule to show what a trade-up for Tua could look like. Enjoy!
1. Cincinnati Bengals—QB Joe Burrow, LSU
2. Washington Redskins—EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State
3. Miami Dolphins (from Detroit)—QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama*
4. New York Giants—OT Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama
5. Detroit Lions (from Miami)— *CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State
6. Los Angeles Chargers—QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
7. Carolina Panthers—LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
8. Arizona Cardinals—WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
9. Jacksonville Jaguars—CB CJ Henderson, Florida
10. Cleveland Browns—OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
11. New York Jets—OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia
12. Oakland Raiders—WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
13. Indianapolis Colts—QB Jordan Love, Utah State
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU
15. Denver Broncos—DL Derrick Brown, Auburn
16. Atlanta Falcons—EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
17. Dallas Cowboys—CB Kristian Fulton, LSU
18. Miami Dolphins (from Pittsburgh)—OT Josh Jones, Houston
19. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago)—LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from L.A. Rams)—DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
21. Philadelphia Eagles—WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
22. Buffalo Bills—WR Tee Higgins, Clemson
23. New England Patriots—TE Cole Kmet, Notre Dame
24. New Orleans Saints—WR Justin Jefferson, LSU
25. Minnesota Vikings—S Grant Delpit, LSU
26. Detroit Lions (from Miami)— *DL Ross Blacklock, TCU
27. Seattle Seahawks—EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
28. Baltimore Ravens—EDGE Terrell Lewis, Alabama
29. Tennessee Titans—RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State
30. Green Bay Packers—WR KJ Hamler, Penn State
31. Kansas City Chiefs—CB Jeff Gladney, TCU
32. San Francisco 49ers—S Xavier McKinney, Alabama
10. The most common question on Twitter this week was some version of, "What would it cost for the Bengals to trade out of No. 1 overall?"
This is understandable. Burrow is a very good quarterback prospect, and a lot of teams are going to want a chance at him. But it takes two to tango, and the Bengals would have to want to trade out of the chance to draft an instate player from nearby Athens and someone whose family is connected to head coach Zac Taylor through the Nebraska alumni network.
Could they trade back? Absolutely. But a team with a need at quarterback and this many connections to Burrow should be expected to draft him.
How about No. 2 overall? The same goes for the Redskins and Young. He's local (from Hyattsville, Maryland) and is the type of player at a premium position you don't pass on.
As said above, the draft starts at No. 3.
9. With the player declaration deadline of Jan. 20 for guys to remove their names from the 2020 class, we now have an almost complete picture of how this group will look. One thing stands out: the depth at offensive tackle.
The additions this week of USC's Austin Jackson and Iowa's Tristan Wirfs adds two more top-end players. Wirfs, especially, has the tools to be a top-10 pick. Jackson, while rated as a second-rounder, has the type of athleticism to move up with strong workouts.
I like to think of position groups in tiers when ranking players. Here's how the tackle class looks right now:
Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama
Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
Andrew Thomas, Georgia
Austin Jackson, USC
Josh Jones, Houston
Mekhi Becton, Louisville
Isaiah Wilson, Georgia
Lucas Niang, TCU
Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn
Matt Peart, UConn
8. Congrats to Luke Kuechly on an amazing NFL career. For the last eight seasons, he's been the NFL's best inside linebacker, a claim that will surely put him into the NFL Hall of Fame five years from now.
7. Does Joe Brady to the Panthers signal anything about the team's plans at quarterback? Not really.
Brady is 30 years old and has never been an offensive coordinator, so little is known about what type of offense he'll run in the NFL. We can look at the Tigers offense and the Saints offense for a hint of what he'll do, but no one should be making predictions on the Panthers' quarterback plans based off that.
What we do know is that Matt Rhule at head coach and Brady at offensive coordinator should be explosive for whomever is under center.
6. The Jan. 20 deadline for underclassmen to submit their names for the draft is here, with a load of announcements coming this week.
Here's an unofficial list of the players who have announced they intend to enter the draft:
- Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy
- Alabama S Xavier McKinney
- Alabama WR Henry Ruggs III
- Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa
- Alabama OT Jedrick Wills Jr.
- Appalachian State RB Darrynton Evans
- Arizona RB J.J. Taylor
- Arizona State RB Eno Benjamin
- Arizona State P Michael Turk
- Arkansas S Kamren Curl
- Auburn CB Noah Igbinoghene
- Auburn EDGE Nick Coe
- Auburn P Arryn Siposs
- Baylor CB Grayland Arnold
- Baylor DL James Lynch
- Boise State OT Ezra Cleveland
- Boise State EDGE Curtis Weaver
- Boston College RB AJ Dillon
- BYU RB Ty'Son Williams
- Clemson WR Tee Higgins
- Colorado WR Laviska Shenault Jr.
- Florida CB CJ Henderson
- Florida Atlantic CB James Pierre
- Florida State RB Cam Akers
- Florida State CB Stanford Samuels III
- Fresno State IOL Netane Muti
- Georgia QB Jake Fromm
- Georgia IOL Solomon Kindley
- Georgia RB D'Andre Swift
- Georgia OT Andrew Thomas
- Georgia OT Isaiah Wilson
- Hawaii QB Cole McDonald
- Illinois EDGE Oluwole Betiku Jr.
- Iowa EDGE A.J. Epenesa
- Iowa S Geno Stone
- Iowa OT Tristan Wirfs
- Iowa RB Toren Young
- Kentucky WR Lynn Bowden Jr.
- Louisiana Tech CB Amik Robertson
- Louisville OT Mekhi Becton
- LSU OT Saahdiq Charles
- LSU IOL Lloyd Cushenberry III
- LSU S Grant Delpit
- LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
- LSU WR Justin Jefferson
- LSU LB Jacob Phillips
- LSU LB Patrick Queen
- Maryland RB Javon Leake
- Maryland RB Anthony McFarland Jr.
- Miami CB Trajan Bandy
- Miami RB DeeJay Dallas
- Miami WR Jeff Thomas
- Michigan WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
- Michigan IOL Cesar Ruiz
- Michigan EDGE Josh Uche
- Michigan State CB Josiah Scott
- Michigan State WR Cody White
- Minnesota S Antoine Winfield Jr.
- Mississippi State CB Cameron Dantzler
- Mississippi State LB Willie Gay Jr.
- Missouri OT Trystan Colon-Castillo
- Missouri DL Jordan Elliott
- Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam
- Monmouth RB Peter Guerriero
- Notre Dame S Alohi Gilman
- Notre Dame RB Tony Jones Jr.
- Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet
- Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins
- Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah
- Ohio State EDGE Chase Young
- Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb
- Oklahoma LB Kenneth Murray
- Oregon State WR Isaiah Hodgins
- Penn State EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos
- Penn State WR KJ Hamler
- San Diego State IOL Keith Ismael
- South Carolina TE Kyle Markway
- Southern Miss WR Quez Watkins
- Stanford TE Colby Parkinson
- Syracuse WR Trishton Jackson
- TCU DL Ross Blacklock
- TCU WR Jalen Reagor
- Temple CB Harrison Hand
- Temple IOL Matt Hennessy
- Texas A&M WR Quartney Davis
- Texas A&M DL Justin Madubuike
- Texas A&M CB Debione Renfro
- Texas A&M WR Kendrick Rogers
- Texas Tech EDGE Houston Miller
- UCLA TE Devin Asiasi
- USC OT Austin Jackson
- Utah CB Javelin Guidry
- Utah CB Jaylon Johnson
- Utah State QB Jordan Love
- Utah State LB David Woodward
- UCF WR Gabriel Davis
- Virginia Tech TE Dalton Keene
- Virginia Tech RB Deshawn McClease
- Washington RB Salvon Ahmed
- Washington TE Hunter Bryant
- Washington QB Jacob Eason
- Wisconsin IOL Tyler Biadasz
- Wisconsin WR Quintez Cephus
- Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor
5. Stock Down
With the season over and no all-star games underway yet, picking a "stock down" player is based not on current events but from getting caught up on film study as the schedule slows down. Because of that, this week's stock down is Florida running back Lamical Perine.
Perine is a big back (221 lbs), but in a loaded class of runners, he's down far on the list—far enough that being drafted before pick No. 150 might be in question. His production was solid enough, but he needs a big Senior Bowl week to bounce back up the board and eclipse the talented juniors (Javon Leake of Maryland being one of them) and seniors ahead of him.
4. Stock Up
Getting a chance to catch up on underclassmen game film has resulted in a lot of guys climbing the board. One big climber is Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene. The 5'11", 200-pounder is fast, instinctive, long-limbed and smart. He didn't post an interception in 2019, but that was more from opposing quarterbacks avoiding him than his lack of playmaking skills.
Pre-combine, his stock is late Round 2, and don't be surprised if he climbs again after testing.
3. Sleeper of the Week
Michigan edge-rusher Josh Uche is underrated, so we're here to change that. After a week at the Senior Bowl, he should be a national name.
Uche, at 6'3" and 250 pounds, has good size to be an edge-rusher in a 3-4 base scheme and enough experience putting his hand in the dirt that he can work as a defensive end in a four-man front. His power, quickness and, most importantly, technique have him looking like an early contributor and future starter.
2. Tailgate Tour
Come hang out with Mello, Connor and me on Tailgate Tour throughout the 2020 draft process. Here are the details:
Jan. 20, 22 - Mobile, Alabama - 7:30 p.m., Draft Picks Taproom
Feb. 1 - Miami - 1 p.m., B/R Gridiron House
1. Stick to Football is back in-house this week, with our podcast episodes also available on YouTube as a video series. Check out the podcast and subscribe if you haven't already. We will also post a ton of behind-the-scenes content on our Instagram page.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.