In just a few days, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers will face off in Super Bowl LIV. It should be an exciting end to the NFL's 100th season and a good reminder of how smart drafting can lead to success.
The Chiefs are largely in the Super Bowl because of 2017 first-round pick and former MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The 49ers are here because they've successfully drafted a dominant defensive front that features former first-rounders Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Nick Bosa.
Getting draft picks is the easy part; making the right choices with them can be a bit trickier. Fortunately, there are a few blue-chip prospects in this draft class who have the potential to turn a struggling franchise into a prominent one in short order.
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: Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson
5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
7. Carolina Panthers: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
8. Arizona Cardinals: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
10. Cleveland Browns: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
11. New York Jets: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
12. Las Vegas Raiders: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
13. Indianapolis Colts: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
15. Denver Broncos: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama
16. Atlanta Falcons: K'Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
17. Dallas Cowboys: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
18. Miami Dolphins (from Pittsburgh): J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
19. Las Vegas Raiders (from Chicago): Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Rams): Julian Okwara, DE, Notre Dame
21. Philadelphia Eagles: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
22. Buffalo Bills: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
23. New England Patriots: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
24. New Orleans Saints: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
25. Minnesota Vikings: Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
26. Miami Dolphins (from Houston): Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
27. Seattle Seahawks: Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State
28. Baltimore Ravens: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
29. Tennessee Titans: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
30. Green Bay Packers: Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
31. Kansas City Chiefs: D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
32. San Francisco 49ers: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Like Bosa in 2019, Chase Young, his former Ohio State teammate, appears to be one of the safest picks in his draft class. The edge-rusher is coming off a remarkable 16.5-sack campaign and appears to be as good of a prospect as Bosa, if not better.
"The NFL loves twitchy edge-rushers who can get after quarterbacks...and that's Young," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper wrote. "He caught my eye as a true freshman in 2017, and he really came on in 2018, picking up the production with Nick Bosa sidelined."
Bosa had nine sacks during the regular season and has produced another three in the playoffs. He helped take the 49ers defensive line from very good to elite with his ability to wreak havoc off the edge. While teams picking at the top of the draft aren't in a strong position to make the sort of jump that San Francisco did this year, adding Young would go a long way toward turning a franchise around.
Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
For teams that have a starting signal-caller in place but questions along the offensive line, Georgia's Andrew Thomas might be the most interesting prospect in this draft class. A three-year starter at left tackle, Thomas has the experience and physical tools needed to be an early anchor on an NFL offensive line.
"He's a powerful run-blocker and a well-versed pass protector who has been battle-tested in the SEC over the last three seasons," Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller wrote. "And unlike Jedrick Wills Jr. (Alabama) and Tristan Wirfs (Iowa), Thomas played left tackle and not right tackle in 2019."
Thomas projects as a plug-and-play left tackle, which could be huge for teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns or New York Jets.
These are franchises who could be on the rise if their young quarterbacks develop. However, they are also franchises with serious questions at offensive tackle.
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Teams looking for the next Mahomes may be in on Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. The 6'4", 225-pounder has some of the same physical traits but, like Mahomes, didn't have the greatest final college season—Mahomes went just 5-7 as Texas Tech's starter in 2016.
"So you probably see Love's stat line—20 touchdown passes, 17 interceptions—and think this pick doesn't make sense, but you need to know the context around this Utah State team," Kiper wrote. "Love lost his top five pass-catchers from his breakout 2018 (32 TDs, six INTs), along with a few starters along the offensive line."
Many NFL decision-makers will look past Love's struggles in 2019 and instead focus on his stats the year before and his physical potential.
While LSU quarterback Joe Burrow could develop into an NFL star, he's likely to land with a downtrodden franchise like the Cincinnati Bengals. He isn't likely to have his team in Super Bowl contention within the first couple of years.
However, Love could be in a position where he lands with a franchise ready to compete right away, much like Mahomes did with the Chiefs with the 10th overall pick. If so, he could be prepping for big games a couple of Januarys from now.