2020 NFL Draft: 1 Surprise Prospect Each Team Could Target in the Top 10
Despite access to game film, information from draft experts and countless mock drafts from beat reporters, we don't see the surprises coming in April.
Last year, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the Oakland Raiders were going to make an unexpected pick. A few days later, the Silver and Black selected Clelin Ferrell with the fourth overall selection—by far the biggest shocker in the top 10.
Critics questioned the Raiders' pick, but Ferrell filled a need after the team had traded Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears in September 2018.
Some may categorize surprises as "reaches," but none of the 32 teams' big boards are the same. As clubs prepare for the NFL Scouting Combine, we'll take realistic guesses at potential shockers within the top 10 of the 2020 draft.
There's one guideline: Other than the first two picks, these projections exclude top-10 prospects from Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller's most recent big board.
Because the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins seem likely to pick Joe Burrow and Chase Young, their surprise choices were any players other than those two.
Here's a final note: This isn't a mock draft—view each selection as an isolated option.
No. 1 Cincinnati Bengals: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
During an interview with Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Joe Burrow mentioned his "leverage," which raised some questions about his willingness to play for the Bengals.
"I do have leverage," Burrow said. "They have their process, and I have my process. We haven't even gotten to the combine yet. There's a lot of things that happen leading up to the draft and a lot of information gathered."
Burrow works out with Jordan Palmer, the younger brother of Carson Palmer, who forced his way out of Cincinnati. The presumptive top draft pick hasn't discussed the organization with his workout partner or the former Bengals quarterback yet.
"If we do have the conversation, it'll happen down the road," Burrow said. "We're super focused. I've only been there a week. It's all ball right now."
Burrow could do what Eli Manning did to the San Diego Chargers in 2004, refusing to play for them. In that scenario, the Bengals could call his bluff and pick him or go to plan B.
If Tua Tagovailoa hadn't fractured his hip in November, he may have been in the running for the No. 1 overall spot. The Alabama product throws an accurate ball (69.3 career completion percentage), shows mobility without losing sight of his pass-catchers and reads the field, going through his progressions like a pro.
Tagovailoa has the arm talent and mindset, as a two-year starter at a prestigious program, to lead a franchise out of the basement. Durability is the biggest concern for his career outlook.
Tagovailoa received positive news from a CT scan earlier this month, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The 21-year-old has healed from the fracture and may be cleared for football activities in March.
If Burrow gets cold feet about going to Cincinnati or conversations between him and the team go awry, the Bengals can put their faith in Tagovailoa to lead their rebuild.
No. 2 Washington Redskins: CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State
Most mock drafts have edge-rusher Chase Young going to the Redskins. Before writing that in ink, keep in mind that the Washington defense has four-time Pro Bowler Ryan Kerrigan and 2019 first-rounder Montez Sweat on the edge.
Though Young would be the best player available at No. 2, there's room for a shocker.
The Redskins released cornerback Josh Norman on Feb. 14, and cover man Quinton Dunbar, who started 11 games last season, is in a contract dispute, per ESPN's Josina Anderson.
According to Doc Walker of Doc and Galdi (h/t NBC Sports Washington's Tyler Byrum), Dunbar denied he wanted to move on. Nonetheless, there's a matter of concern between the five-year veteran and the organization.
Cornerbacks Fabian Moreau, Greg Stroman and Jimmy Moreland would play prominent roles if the Redskins part ways with Dunbar, but the group needs a lead playmaker.
Jeff Okudah has the build (6'1", 200 lbs), man coverage skills and experience at a title-contending program to step in as the No. 1 corner.
At Ohio State, Okudah was a two-year starter and progressed during that period. In 2018, he didn't pick off a pass, but he snagged three interceptions last season with improved ball-tracking skills. The former Buckeye isn't the fastest athlete, so footwork and hand usage will be important for him when defending quicker wideouts. The Texas native made strides in both areas as a junior.
Okudah's collegiate resume doesn't show gaudy pass coverage numbers, but he blanketed wide receivers. Quarterbacks preferred not to throw in his direction. In Washington, he could become a cornerstone.
No. 3 Detroit Lions: DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
In his latest mock draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. projected Tua Tagovailoa to the Detroit Lions. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the team has discussed potential trades involving Darius Slay. If the front office deals the 2017 All-Pro cornerback, Jeff Okudah would be a logical fit. Early predictions slotted Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown into the No. 3 spot as well.
At the Senior Bowl, Javon Kinlaw boosted his draft stock with impressive practice performances before he pulled out of action with a knee ailment.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks viewed Kinlaw as the best prospect that week:
"If NFL scouts conducted a draft with only the 2020 Senior Bowl participants, Kinlaw would be the consensus No. 1 pick. The 6-5, 315-pound defensive lineman has been a one-man wrecking crew in drills, displaying an exceptional combination of strength, power and athleticism while pummeling blockers in one-on-one and team exercises."
Dane Brugler of The Athletic compared Kinlaw to a Pro Bowler.
"Overall, Kinlaw won't live up to his draft spot if he doesn't improve his consistency from a technical standpoint, but his combination of length, raw power and gap quickness creates flashes of Kansas City Chiefs' Chris Jones, projecting as a high-upside NFL starter," Brugler wrote.
Kinlaw's show of dominance combined with his physical tools and upside could push him into the top 10. If he shines at the combine, watch out.
The Lions could use an athletic big man in the middle of the defensive line. A'Shawn Robinson's contract is about to expire. Last offseason, Detroit signed Mike Daniels to shore up the interior, but he played only nine games because of foot and arm injuries—and the 30-year-old is set to hit the open market again. The team released Damon Harrison Sr. on Thursday.
Detroit would draw criticism for picking Kinlaw at No. 3, but he would fill a need and has the potential to develop into a building block for the front line.
No. 4 New York Giants: EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU
The New York Giants hired head coach Joe Judge to replace Pat Shurmur. In an effort to reshape the roster, he will likely turn over some personnel in spite of promising production.
In 2019, Markus Golden reunited with James Bettcher, who served as his defensive coordinator during their time with the Arizona Cardinals from 2015 to 2017. The five-year veteran started all 16 contests and led Big Blue in sacks with 10.
With a new regime in place, Golden may look to suit up elsewhere. He could command a significant pay raise after signing a one-year, $3.8 million contract with the Giants last year.
New defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will continue to develop 2018 third-rounder Lorenzo Carter and 2019 third-rounder Oshane Ximines, but the front office can take a big swing at a first-round talent in K'Lavon Chaisson.
Chaisson, a redshirt sophomore in 2019, is one of the rawest prospects expected to be picked in the first round, but the LSU product has shown uncanny athleticism off the edge.
Chaisson can speed rush, twist and contort his body to take down quarterbacks. According to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, the 20-year-old pulled out of combine workouts. Still, he should test well at LSU's Pro Day, showing off fluidity in his lower body and the ability to change direction with a 6'4", 250-pound frame.
At No. 4, Chaisson would be labeled a bit of a reach, but he could become a dominant player because of his pass-rushing skill set, long arms and ability to help out against the run.
In 2018, Chaisson suffered a torn ACL, but he seems well beyond the injury. The Giants have holes at cornerback, safety and inside linebacker, but a high-upside edge-rusher could make an immediate impact.
No. 5 Miami Dolphins: LT Andrew Thomas, Georgia
At No. 5, the Miami Dolphins could pass on a quarterback, which would stand out as a surprise. Most mock drafts have Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert connected to the AFC East club. There's a slight chance both may come off the board within the top four if teams offer intriguing trade packages to the Lions and Giants.
Perhaps general manager Chris Grier is a bit apprehensive about Tagovailoa's durability, like owner Stephen Ross. Maybe the team's reported interest (h/t the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero) in Herbert is a smokescreen.
The Dolphins can look toward the 2021 draft, which may include quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. In the meantime, Miami can bolster a putrid offensive line that ranked 32nd in run blocking and 29th in pass protection, per Football Outsiders.
At Georgia, Andrew Thomas started for three terms. Because of his collegiate experience, he should be able to handle a first-string job right away. The former Bulldog can be a bit stiff and doesn't compare in athleticism to projected top-10 pick Jedrick Wills Jr., but his size (6'5", 320 lbs), long arms and strong hands will give pass-rushers issues.
Regardless of whom the Dolphins tab as their quarterback of the future, he will need a better line—or else that signal-caller could get off to a rocky start. Miami would stun everyone by making a boring move for a left tackle so it can compete in the trenches.
If Thomas refines his footwork and shows good anticipation out of snaps, he can make up for the lack of fluidity in lower body. And the Dolphins would have an anchor on the edge.
No. 6 Los Angeles Chargers: LT Mekhi Becton, Louisville
Over the last few weeks, Mekhi Becton has crept into the conversation about the top tackles in the class. For perspective, Matt Miller listed him as the 99th overall prospect in January. Now, he's slotted as a near-lock to be picked in the first round.
Becton is 6'7", 369 pounds, which has probably driven some of the excitement around him leading up to the combine. He is also an experienced starter on both ends of the offensive line but took snaps on the left side for his entire junior term.
Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn views Tyrod Taylor as a potential starter next season, but the team may have major issues at offensive tackle.
In 2019, Sam Tevi and Trent Scott took almost all the snaps at tackle. They allowed a combined 10.5 sacks, per STATs (via the Washington Post). According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, left tackle Russell Okung has questions about the Chargers' future and his standing with the organization.
If Okung requests his release or a trade and the Chargers grant it, general manager Tom Telesco will have to find quality help for the line. Pending whether Trey Pipkins plays on the left or right, Becton can start on the opposite side.
Since taking over for Joe Barksdale, Tevi has struggled in pass protection, allowing 11.5 sacks over the last two seasons, per STATs (via the Washington Post). He should take a backseat in a reserve role next season.
As a top-10 pick, Becton would probably continue to start on the left side. While he can devour defenders and drive the strongest pass-rushers backward, the Louisville product must watch his pad level against stout defensive linemen with a low center of gravity.
No. 7 Carolina Panthers: QB Jordan Love, Utah State
Most of the quarterback buzz has focused on Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert. Because of health concerns and inconsistent ball placement for the latter two, the Carolina Panthers could select Jordan Love.
It would be a huge risk for the Panthers because a quarterback selection within the top 10 suggests a franchise-altering choice. Owner David Tepper wants to see how Cam Newton recovers from a Lisfranc injury before making a decision on the signal-caller's future with the team.
Yet with a new coaching staff in place, the Panthers are in a good spot to turn the page. The 30-year-old Newton has finished the last two seasons with injuries, to his shoulder and foot, and he's headed into the final term of his contract.
Rather than delay a major quarterback decision until next offseason, the Panthers can part ways with Newton and go all-in on Love. The Utah State prospect had an impressive sophomore campaign, throwing for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns and six interceptions—then he lost his coaching staff and several senior playmakers.
Head coach Gary Andersen replaced Matt Wells. Love also had to build a rapport with a new set of starting wide receivers. That's not an excuse. He had his fair share of poor performances. The 6'4", 225-pound signal-caller struggled with ball placement downfield and showed some instances of happy feet in the pocket.
Nevertheless, some of Love's mistakes can be attributed to a lack of trust in the supporting cast around him or discomfort within a new system.
On a fresh seven-year deal, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule won't have the pressure of pushing for a playoff berth next season or rolling out a rookie quarterback before he's ready for pro-level competition. The staff can work on Love's mechanics while Kyle Allen or another veteran such as Philip Rivers or Andy Dalton (acquirable via trade) starts the 2020 campaign.
No. 8 Arizona Cardinals: RT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
If quarterback Kyler Murray made draft decisions, CeeDee Lamb might be the pick for the Arizona Cardinals at No. 8.
"Me and CeeDee have a great relationship," Murray told Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic (via Jeremy Cluff of the same publication). "That's one of my boys. I would obviously be very fond of that pick. Obviously, I don't make the choices. I'm here for whatever, but I'm looking forward to free agency and us adding some great players and adding more of them in the draft so we can continue to grow this thing."
While Lamb would make sense because of his 2018 Oklahoma connection with Murray, the Cardinals should look to protect the franchise centerpiece first and foremost. Arizona has already extended left tackle D.J. Humphries' contract. In the draft, general manager Steve Keim can shore up the opposite side of the line.
In 2019, the Cardinals ranked 26th in pass protection, per Football Outsiders, so it's fair to believe the unit needs help in addition to Humphries' return.
At Iowa, Tristan Wirfs started a majority of his games on the right side. With a wrestling background, he is more of a power blocker with above-average hand strength who uses leverage. Though speed rushers may beat him to a spot at times, the former Hawkeye's attention to detail and technique should even the playing field in the trenches.
If Wirfs lacks the agility to line up outside, he could make a successful transition inside because of his 6'5", 322-pound frame. Whether he plays on the perimeter or the interior, Arizona needs his physical style.
No. 9 Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama
The Jacksonville Jaguars' starting cornerback tandem for next season's opener could look completely different from last year's pair. Early in the 2019 campaign, the front office traded Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams. John Oehser of the team's official website "expect[s]" the club to release A.J. Bouye for salary-cap relief.
If that scenario plays out, the Jaguars could use one of their two first-round picks on a high-ceiling cornerback.
Trevon Diggs doesn't have a ton of starting experience at the collegiate level. Six games into the 2018 term, he broke his foot. The Alabama product bounced back with a solid senior campaign, registering eight pass breakups and three interceptions. The numbers don't jump off the screen, but the 6'2", 207-pounder flashed great ball skills.
As a freshman, Diggs played wide receiver like his older brother Stefon, who plays with the Minnesota Vikings. He caught 11 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. The big-bodied cornerback has carried his ball skills over to the defensive side.
Oftentimes, Diggs will run routes for the wideout and disrupt plays. He can also mirror receivers to close passing windows before the quarterback goes into his throwing motion.
Because of his size, Diggs will have to focus on winning at the stem of the route, though arm length should work in his favor when wideouts gain a step on him 15 or more yards downfield.
Diggs can't be Ramsey, but he has the ability to start as a rookie and flourish with press-man coverage skills on the perimeter.
No. 10 Cleveland Browns: LT Josh Jones, Houston
The Cleveland Browns should make a run at an offensive tackle within a strong class. If the team wants the best out of quarterback Baker Mayfield, he will need a new starter on his blind side.
Left tackle Greg Robinson has an expiring contract and was arrested for possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, per TMZ Sports.
Unless Indianapolis Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who also has an expiring deal, hits the open market, the Browns should look to the draft for offensive line help. Impending free agents Andrew Whitworth and Jason Peters are both 38 years old and would only serve as short-term bridge gaps.
Though the targeted position isn't a surprise here, the player is. Josh Jones doesn't rise to the top 10 in mock drafts. Matt Miller listed him fifth among offensive tackles.
Still, three or four offensive tackles may come off the board within the top 10 as teams fill their needs at the premium position. Some may call Jones a reach at No. 10, but he's capable of holding down a starting job right out of college.
Jones possesses agility and quickness but lacks refined technique, which drops him a tier below Jedrick Wills Jr. and Tristan Wirfs, who will come into the league with more polish. The Houston product could win scouts and coaches over with his traits, though.
In the coming week, Jones could be a big winner among combine participants because of his fluid movement. On film, he's shown the tendency to make second-level blocks to open lanes in the ground attack. The three-year starter also matched steps with quick-twitch edge-rushers.
Jones could provide cover on Mayfield's blind side and create bigger holes for ascending running back and 2019 Pro Bowler Nick Chubb.