NFL Mock Draft 2020: Projections for Top Prospects in 1st-Round Discussion

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, FL - NOVEMBER 24: Cornerback CJ Henderson #5 of the Florida Gators in action during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on Bobby Bowden Field on November 24, 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida. The #11 Ranked Florida Gators defeated the Florida State Seminoles 41 to 14. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

At this point, the names at the top of the NFL draft are all but solidified. Names such as Joe Burrow, Chase Young and Jeff Okudah are branded into the minds of anyone who has looked at more than one mock draft. 

The entire first round is vital, though. Every year there are multiple eventual Pro Bowlers taken in the back half of the opening round. The 2018 draft already has two. Derwin James (17th overall) and Leighton Vander Esch (19th) have made their presences felt. The 2017 draft has produced two stars in Tre'Davious White (27th) and T.J. Watt (29th). 

The guys in the conversation to be taken between picks 17 and 32 could wind up being just as important as those taken in the top five. Especially with so many contenders choosing in the back half of the round. 

Here's a complete rundown of projected picks and a closer look at some of the key players to watch. 


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, LB, Clemson

5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

6. Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

7. Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn

8. Arizona Cardinals: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina

10. Cleveland Browns: Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa

11. New York Jets: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

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

13. San Francisco 49ers (via Indianapolis Colts): Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

15. Denver Broncos: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

16. Atlanta Falcons: K'Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU

17. Dallas Cowboys: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

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

19. Las Vegas Raiders (via Chicago Bears): Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams): Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

22. Minnesota Vikings (via Buffalo Bills): CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

23. New England Patriots: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

24. New Orleans Saints: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

25. Minnesota Vikings: A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

26. Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans): J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State

27. Seattle Seahawks: Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State

28. Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

29. Tennessee Titans: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

30. Green Bay Packers: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

31. San Francisco 49ers: Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Cesar Ruiz, IOL, Michigan


The Many Cornerbacks of the First Round

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 01: Defensive back Jeff Gladney of TCU looks on during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 29, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Projections for the top cornerbacks are all over the map once you go beyond Ohio State's Okudah. 

C.J. Henderson is most often the second corner off the board. Many mock drafts have the Florida product going in the first half of the round, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report projects Henderson to the Falcons at 16. 

Even Henderson has questions, though. As CFB Film Room noted, he was one of the worst among the corners being considered in the first round against explosive routes:

CFB Film Room @CFBFilmRoom

How did the top cornerbacks in the 2020 draft class fare versus the most dangerous routes, compared to first-round corners in recent years? https://t.co/zBCjXoGT7Z

This class of cornerbacks has questions, yet it is one of the most in-demand positions, and plenty of teams will be looking to add one to their roster in the first round. 

That makes projecting the each to the correct teams difficult. This mock features Kristian Fulton, Henderson, Jeff Gladney and A.J. Terrell. 

Jaylon Johnson, Trevon Diggs and Noah Igbinoghene are also potential first-rounders. Including Okudah, that's eight cornerbacks who could hear their name called in the first 32 picks. 

Which of those get chosen will tell us a lot about what each team prefers in their corners. Gladney and Igbinoghene are the only two under six foot, so teams looking for size at the position may shy away from them. 

Diggs and Johnson were graded in the top five among the draft class in single coverage by Pro Football Focus. Fulton, Gladney and Diggs were in the top five when it came to covering throws in a clean pocket, indicating they succeeded even when they weren't helped by the pass rush. 

There are all sorts of ways to break down the corners, and with so many getting first-round hype, at least one of them is going to provide a great value to the team that chooses them. 


Kenneth Murray to the Patriots Could Be Dangerous

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 07: Kenneth Murray #9 of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrates after stopping the Baylor Bears offense in the first quarter of the Big 12 Football Championship at AT&T Stadium on December 7, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenki
Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Patriots are being written off by most with the departure of Tom Brady. That's understandable, but it also ignores the team's ability to build elite defenses. 

The Pats were dominant on the defensive side of the ball last season. With Brady gone and Jarrett Stidham the presumed starter, building out that defense is going to be crucial if they aren't going to be in full-on rebuild mode. 

With Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins' departures, Kenneth Murray could be the perfect fit. 

Here's what Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network has to say about Murray:

"He struggles when he has to play off blocks and locate the football through the trash inside, as he doesn't use his hands and gets swallowed up. He has had some success dipping and slipping blocks. He is very athletic in coverage versus running backs, easily mirroring them in space. He is also a very dynamic blitzer."

So, Murray is an athletic linebacker with strong coverage skills and the ability to disrupt with blitzes but struggles to shed blocks on the inside. No one is better at playing to the strengths of a linebacker and getting the most out of them than the Patriots. 

Bill Belichick and company will find ways to utilize Murray that play to his strengths, and the pairing could be mutually beneficial. 


Xavier McKinney Could be the Steal of the First Round

Isaiah Simmons is undoubtedly one of the most hyped prospects in the draft. He's the quintessential jack of all trades who can be a foundational piece of a defense. Once he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine, he likely cemented his status as a top-10 pick. 

Xavier McKinney, on the other hand, came out of the event running a 4.63 and didn't do much to raise his stock or profile. 

But once you look at what the two can do on the field, McKinney is a great consolation prize for anyone not in a position to nab Simmons. As Pro Football Focus noted, McKinney lined up all over the field for Alabama and produced in a variety of ways:

Evan McPhillips @emcphil

Last season at Alabama, Xavier McKinney logged 285 snaps in the box, 227 at slot CB and 271 at FS. He finished with a @PFF grade of 89+ in coverage AND pass rushing. Maybe the #Bengals can address need for help at linebacker, corner & safety at pick 33? https://t.co/tQUOOH4Qv1

With nickel and dime personnel seeing more playing time, having someone who can seamlessly transition from linebacker to slot corner to safety is a huge boon. McKinney can be that for someone and is being projected somewhere in the mid-to-late first round. 

In this mock, he winds up with the Jaguars' rebuilding defense. With the departure of Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye and possibly Yannick Ngakoue, the team could use an infusion of talent. McKinney and defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw would be a great start. 


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