NFL Draft 2020: 1st-Round Order and Updated Mock Draft Projections

Theo SalaunContributor IIIJanuary 20, 2020

Clemson's Isaiah Simmons works during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Wofford Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
Richard Shiro/Associated Press

The deepest wide receiver class in recent memory, three quarterbacks projected to go in the top 10 and some defensive game-changers. Aside from around three picks, the 2020 NFL draft class is so full of riches that it's hard to know how front offices will prioritize among the spoils.

Joe Burrow is practically a lock to go to the reinventing Cincinnati Bengals, Chase Young won't get past Washington and the Miami Dolphins feel destined to take a chance on Tua Tagovailoa. Past them, the draft feels like high-upside receivers and mysteries at every other position.

Based on team need and player talent, here's a first-round mock draft and some analysis of three of the draft's most intriguing decisions.

                         

1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

3. Detroit Lions: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

4. New York Giants: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

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

7. Carolina Panthers: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

8. Arizona Cardinals: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

10. Cleveland Browns: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama 

11. New York Jets: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

12. Las Vegas Raiders: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

13. Indianapolis Colts: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

15. Denver Broncos: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

16. Atlanta Falcons: Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah

17. Dallas Cowboys: Grant Delpit, S, LSU

18. Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh Steelers): Josh Jones, OT, Houston

19. Las Vegas Raiders (via Chicago Bears); Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia

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

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

22. Buffalo Bills: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado

23. New England Patriots: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa

24. New Orleans Saints: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

25. Minnesota Vikings: Creed Humphrey, OL, Oklahoma

26. Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans): Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State

27. Seattle Seahawks: Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington

28. Baltimore Ravens: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

29. Tennessee Titans: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State

30. Green Bay Packers: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

31. Kansas City Chiefs: Jordan Elliott, DT, Missouri

32. San Francisco 49ers: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

                  

Detroit Opts for Defensive Versatility Over Offensive Line

Some mocks have Clemson's Isaiah Simmons getting to the double-digit picks. Given his unparalleled versatility, that feels silly.

Simmons is 6'4", 230 pounds and went from playing safety in 2017 to winning the Butkus Award as college football's best linebacker in 2019. His ability to play every position but defensive tackle keyed a Clemson defense that allowed the third-least points per game in college football this season.

He can rush downhill off the edge, drop back into rangy coverage or stick a man with impressive agility for his size. He's a defensive unicorn with the athletic ability and instincts to handle most assignments.

In 2019, Simmons played more than 200 snaps at both safety and cornerback along with more than 100 snaps at both outside and inside linebacker. He rushed the passer 71 times (getting seven sacks along the way) and played perimeter corner for 17 plays.

For a Detroit Lions team whose defensive identity hit a wall in 2019, Simmons would be a fantastic pick whose unique upside extends past the likes of 2020's offensive linemen and cornerbacks. The Lions need help along the offensive line and Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah could supplant Darius Slay in their secondary, but Simmons could be the force that shapes the team's character for years.

                          

Michael Thomas Gets His Sidekick 

The New Orleans Saints have a filthy offense and a stout defense. Before being cursed once again and meeting their untimely end at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings, many believed New Orleans was destined for the Super Bowl. But outside of Michael Thomas and the gigantic gadget, Taysom Hill, the Saints offense got no help in the postseason.

Thomas is Drew Brees' only reliable pass-catching weapon. Jared Cook is prone to disappearing acts and only getting older, Alvin Kamara has yet to get past his injuries and regain his 2018 form and the other wide receivers, Ted Ginn Jr. and Tre'Quan Smith, are middling at best. Ginn is a one-trick speedster, and Smith may not even have a trick to lean on.

In a draft packed to the brim with receiving talent, the Saints should choose the best one available by the 24th pick. Unless someone drops, that receiver should be Jalen Reagor—a true playmaker who remains appealing despite a lackluster third season at TCU.

After hitting 1,061 receiving yards and 11 total touchdowns in 2018, Reagor only tallied 611 yards and five touchdowns in 2019. Still, the 5'11, 195-pound Reagor is a dynamic player who, despite having little help on offense and getting centered upon by defenses, showed enough flashes to warrant a selection by Sean Payton's Saints.

While Reagor's return ability isn't likely to be a selling point for New Orleans, for whom rookie Deonte Harris has excelled at the position, that big-play ability proves his game-changing breakaway talent. Reagor recognizes defenders' intentions and boasts the quickness and explosiveness to make things happen.

Payton could go after a bigger-bodied receiver like Tee Higgins or Justin Jefferson, but Reagor's upside as a versatile, shifty playmaker makes him the most intriguing complement to Thomas.

                   

Bill Belichick Waits on Gronk's Replacement

Purdue's Brycen Hopkins, at 6'5" and 245 pounds with terrific hands, feels like a perfect pick for the New England Patriots. He's a big-bodied tight end who could be a great target for Tom Brady, but Bill Belichick isn't likely to pull that trigger if Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa falls into his lap.

Epenesa is gigantic—6'8" and 280 pounds—but routinely dominated the edge as he piled up 11.5 sacks in 2019 (and another 15 in his first two seasons as a Hawkeye). If not for Chase Young, Epenesa would likely be the first edge taken in 2020.

Despite his talent at such a meaningful position, 2020's bounty of wide receivers, offensive linemen and cornerbacks could push Epenesa down toward the end of the first round. His highlights aren't the flashiest, and his combine isn't likely to wow many, but the big Samoan has enough technique and size to make him a perfect fit for a Patriots defense in search of consistency in its pass rush.  

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