2020 NFL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions Ahead of Free Agency

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IMarch 16, 2020

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow watches a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

The 2020 free-agency period figures to be the only thing that can drastically shuffle how NFL teams will approach filling their needs once the draft is scheduled to begin on April 23.

ESPN's Adam Schefter was told by "multiple team officials" that there is skepticism the new league year will begin on Wednesday as planned due to the coronavirus outbreak:

However, the free-agency window is still set to open at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Free agency won't deter some teams' first-round draft targets—the most prominent example being the expectation that the Cincinnati Bengals will take Heisman Trophy-winning LSU quarterback Joe Burrow at No. 1 overall.

Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and potential future Hall of Famer Philip Rivers are expected to hit the free-agency market, along with the likes of 2015 No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston and 2014 first-rounder Teddy Bridgewater, to help quarterback-needy teams address the most important position on the field.

However, prospects such as Burrow and 2018 Heisman finalist Tua Tagovailoa—injury history and all—have too much upside to pass up if you're within the first five picks.

Burrow is headlining this draft class, and the quarterback position as a whole will greatly impact how the first round shakes out.

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The next deepest position appears to be wide receiver, with several prospects holding the ability to completely change a team's vertical attack, but some teams can't afford to overlook the trenches.

Below is a first-round mock draft that takes into account each team's needs at its current draft position prior to the inevitable draft-day trades.

         

1st-Round Predictions

1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

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

3. Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

4. New York Giants: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

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: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

10. Cleveland Browns: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

11. New York Jets: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

12. Las Vegas Raiders: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

13. Indianapolis Colts: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jacob Eason, QB, Washington

15. Denver Broncos: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

16. Atlanta Falcons: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

17. Dallas Cowboys: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

18. Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh Steelers): Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

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

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams): CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

22. Buffalo Bills: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

23. New England Patriots: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

24. New Orleans Saints: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, ASU

25. Minnesota Vikings: Josh Jones, OL, Houston

26. Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans): A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

27. Seattle Seahawks: K'Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU

28. Baltimore Ravens: A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa

29. Tennessee Titans: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

30. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

31. San Francisco 49ers: Grant Delpit, S, LSU

32. Kansas City Chiefs: D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

     

Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

It feels like a foregone conclusion at this point that Burrow will suit up in orange and black in 2020.

The 23-year-old set numerous LSU, SEC and NCAA records while leading the undefeated Tigers to a national championship in 2019. He finished his senior campaign with 5,671 passing yards, 60 touchdowns and six interceptions on a staggering 76.3 percent completion percentage across 15 starts.

Those numbers are just the tip of what is fueling Burrow-mania:

He only helped his case at the NFL combine in Indianapolis in February—his nine-inch hands aside. The Ohio native reportedly aced his meeting with the Bengals during combine week, with Geoff Hobson of the team's official website providing details:

"During the 18-minute interview session, Burrow, looking more and more like he could be the Bengals' next franchise quarterback, reportedly had an engaged give-and-take with everybody from Bengals president Mike Brown, head coach Zac Taylor, director of player personnel Duke Tobin and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. One club official not among that group said it was the best interview he had ever attended."

The Bengals have every reason to snag Burrow with Andy Dalton entering the final year of his six-year, $96 million contract. Beyond that, the 32-year-old was benched last season for poor performance in favor of 2019 fourth-rounder Ryan Finley, who did not impress, either.

Before taking over as head coach in Cincinnati in February 2019, Taylor proved he can get the best out of a quarterback while serving as quarterbacks coach for the Los Angeles Rams in 2018. The Rams made the Super Bowl as 2016 first overall pick Jared Goff enjoyed his best statistical season as a pro.

Burrow is a much better prospect than Goff was coming out of California.

The last quarterback to be taken in the first round by the Bengals was Carson Palmer, selected first overall in 2003. Cincinnati has not made the postseason since 2015 and has not won a playoff game since 1990.

          

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

It is still very much up in the air where the Miami Dolphins will have to be positioned in the draft to land Tagovailoa.

The Dolphins are slated to pick at No. 5 overall, but there has been chatter that the Detroit Lions could steal the 22-year-old at No. 3 overall.

Miami has the draft capital to move up to No. 3—or even No. 2 if it is true that Washington wants to bring him in to compete with 2019 15th overall pick Dwayne Haskins, as the Sun Sentinel's Safid Deen reported during the combine.

The Dolphins own three first-round picks. The 18th overall pick is courtesy of the trade last September that sent safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 26th overall pick belongs to Miami after trading left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills to the Houston Texans last August.

Tagovailoa allegedly wants the Dolphins to do whatever they have to to secure him. The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero reported Jan. 31 that the player "would love for the Dolphins to trade up to No. 3 to select him" instead of the Lions.

Long story short: The Dolphins can't afford to get this wrong. While 37-year-old journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick can handle the quarterback role for the remaining year on his contract in 2020, this team is starving for longevity under center. Miami has not had a true franchise quarterback since Dan Marino, who retired in 2000.

Tagovailoa has all the upside in the world:

But there are injury concerns. Chief among them being a season-ending dislocated hip in mid-November. The Alabama product received a positive update on March 9, though:

Tagovailoa left the Crimson Tide having thrown 7,442 yards, 87 touchdowns and 11 picks on 69.3 percent completion across 32 collegiate games.

         

Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

Keeping with the quarterback theme, Love's stock skyrocketed during February's NFL combine.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport relayed on Feb. 27 that the 21-year-old's name was buzzing in Indianapolis "much more so than any" other quarterback prospect among general managers, assistant GMs and coaches:

An anonymous NFL head coach even described Love to NFL.com's Kimberly Jones as a "poor man's [Patrick] Mahomes"—even if a slightly backhanded compliment, it still says something that the Utah State product was compared at all to the 24-year-old Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, who has already racked up the 2018 AP NFL MVP and Super Bowl LIV MVP.

Prior to the combine, though, Love was linked to the Indianapolis Colts.

On Dec. 6, 2019, The Athletic's Dane Brugler disclosed on the Locked On Colts podcast that the team's general manager, Chris Ballard, has been high on the player:

Love also confirmed to reporters during the combine that he has been in touch with the Colts, calling them a "great team, great organization."

Ballard, and the Colts at large, have been pretty noncommittal to Jacoby Brissett, who was thrust into the starting quarterback job when 2012 top overall pick Andrew Luck abruptly retired last August. Brissett was subsequently signed to a two-year, $30 million contract.

Ideally, Indy drafts its quarterback of the future here and allows him to sit behind Brissett next season before letting the 27-year-old walk as a free agent in 2021. Love is a perfect candidate for that.

The 21-year-old California native was underwhelming in 2019 with 3,402 yards, 20 touchdowns and 17 picks. But his sophomore campaign in 2018 is what perked up NFL teams: 3,567 yards, 32 touchdowns and six picks on 64 percent completion.

Love's 4.74-second 40-yard dash time ranked seventh among quarterbacks at the combine. He measured in at 6'4" and 224 pounds.

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