NFL Mock Draft 2020: 1st-Round Projections and Safest Prospects Available

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 2, 2020

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young (2) during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game against Clemson, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri).
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

The safest pick in the 2020 NFL draft likely will not be the first. 

With so much focus on the quarterbacks in the draft class, LSU's Joe Burrow, Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon's Justin Herbert will be in high demand. 

But none of those players are deemed the best prospect in the class. That title belongs to Ohio State defensive end Chase Young.

Young could be the safest choice for teams at the top of the selection process because of his pass-rushing ability and the good track record Ohio State defensive ends have in the NFL. 

Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons could also fit into the safest prospect category because of the versatility he brings to all three levels of the defense. 

Simmons may not be selected as high as Young on April 23, but he could be as valuable to whichever team lands him.   


2020 NFL 1st-Round Mock Draft

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: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

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

7. Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

8. Arizona Cardinals: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

10. Cleveland Browns: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama

11. New York Jets: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

12. Las Vegas Raiders: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

13. San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis): CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

15. Denver Broncos: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

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

17. Dallas Cowboys: K'Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU 

18. Miami Dolphins (from Pittsburgh): Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

19. Las Vegas Raiders (from Chicago): Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU 

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams): Austin Jackson, OT, USC

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU 

22. Minnesota Vikings (from Buffalo): Josh Jones, OT, Houston

23. New England Patriots: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

24. New Orleans Saints: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

25. Minnesota Vikings: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State

26. Miami Dolphins (from Houston): D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

27. Seattle Seahawks: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa

28. Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU 

29. Tennessee Titans: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

30. Green Bay Packers: Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin

31. San Francisco 49ers: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU 

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama


Safest Prospects Available

Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Young is in line to become the eighth Ohio State defensive end taken in the first round of the NFL draft.

Joey and Nick Bosa have set a high standard for defensive draft picks in recent years, as they combined for 19.5 sacks in their rookie seasons. The former is up to 40 career sacks, with three 10-sack seasons, for the Los Angeles Chargers, while the latter had nine sacks in his first year with the San Francisco 49ers. 

Will Smith, Alonzo Spellman and Cameron Heyward carved out strong careers for themselves after playing for the Buckeyes.

Young is coming off one of the most dominant defensive seasons in recent memory, as he produced 16.5 sacks and six forced fumbles during Ohio State's run to the College Football Playoff. 

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah listed Young as the No. 1 prospect in his latest draft rankings, and ESPN.com's Todd McShay called him "the most talented player in the draft class and one of the best pass-rushing prospects I've ever seen." 

While he is No. 1 on most draft boards, Young is expected to fall to No. 2 due to the Cincinnati Bengals' need for a young quarterback.

With Burrow likely headed to the Bengals, the Washington Redskins are the front-runner to land Young. 

That selection would give head coach Ron Rivera a strong interior core to work with in his first season with the team. 

The three players with the most sacks on the roster in 2019 were all 25 or younger. Matthew Ioannidis led the team with 8.5 sacks, Montez Sweat had 7.0 and Jonathan Allen earned 6.0. 

If Washington keeps the No. 2 pick and ends up with Young, it could have a formidable pass rush for quite some time. 


Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

Richard Shiro/Associated Press

Simmons is listed as a linebacker, but he brings much more to the field than a prowess in the second tier of defense. 

In the national championship game alone, Simmons lined up in seven positions in Clemson's defense, per The Draft Network's Jordan Reid

Jordan Reid @JReidNFL

#Clemson LB/S Isaiah Simmons final position snap counter against LSU (per @PFF_College): • ILB: 27 • OLB: 21 • D-Line: 9 • Strong Safety: 8 • Slot CB: 7 • Free Safety: 6 • Outside CB: 6 6 tackles, 2 QB hurries, 2 pass breakups, and 1 sack.

Pro Football Focus' Michael Renner went into further detail on Simmons' snap counts and listed four positions where he lined up for more than 100 plays. 

Simmons will likely make linebacker his home in the NFL, but his ability to line up in other positions could help fit him more into some defensive schemes. 

Since he has experience starting plays on the defensive line, he could play in multiple roles in either a 4-3 or 3-4 setup.

His coverage abilities could also allow him to stay on the field in passing downs as a better option in coverage than other linebackers. 

The most natural fit for Simmons could be the Carolina Panthers at No. 7, as they look for a long-term replacement for the retired Luke Kuechly.

However, there is a chance Simmons does not last until No. 7, as McShay and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller have him landing at No. 4 to the New York Giants. 

Miller said Simmons "isn't like anything we've seen before." 

The Giants could go in a few directions, including offensive tackle, and if they turn away from Simmons, he could fall into Carolina's lap since the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers are expected to go after quarterbacks. 

No matter which way the draft goes, Simmons should not last longer than No. 7. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference and ESPN.com.


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