NFL Mock Draft 2020: Projections for Most Underrated 1st-Round Prospects

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 8, 2020

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Underrated NFL draft prospects have long ranked among the biggest head-scratchers in hindsight.

How were 31 players—four of them quarterbacks—drafted ahead of reigning MVP Lamar Jackson in 2018? How could nine different teams let Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes slip past them in 2017?

And how in the world did Tom Brady, a six-time Super Bowl champ and arguably the league's greatest quarterback ever, last until the 199th pick of the 2000 draft?

Teams don't always get it right, as history shows us time and again.

After our latest mock draft below, we'll spotlight three prospects who already look like they'll be undervalued bargains when the draft opens on April 23.

            

2020 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

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

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

4. New York Giants: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

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: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

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

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

12. Las Vegas Raiders: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

13. San Francisco 49ers (via Indianapolis Colts): Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

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

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

17. Dallas Cowboys: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

18. Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh Steelers): CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

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

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

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

22. Minnesota Vikings (via Buffalo Bills): Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

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

24. New Orleans Saints: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

25. Minnesota Vikings: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

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

27. Seattle Seahawks: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

28. Baltimore Ravens: Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State

29. Tennessee Titans: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

30. Green Bay Packers: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

31. San Francisco 49ers: A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

                

Most Underrated First-Round Prospects

Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

LSU's linebacker factory keeps rolling, as Patrick Queen looks poised to follow the footsteps of Devin White, Kwon Alexander and Deion Jones.

Because the position has been so stacked, the 20-year-old was only a full-time starter during his final season with the Tigers. During it, he recorded 85 tackles and added three sacks, two pass breakups and an interception. Clearly, we're looking at a quick learner here.

"He plays fast, physical and with impressive field confidence for a one-year starter," NFL.com's Lance Zierlein wrote. "His ability to diagnose and flow are both very rapid, and he operates with excellent body control and balance to gobble up runners as an open-field tackler. ... He's an early starter with a sky-high ceiling."

Queen looks close to a can't-miss contributor, and there's a chance he stars sooner than later. That's a tremendous value outside the top 20 selections.

              

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

"You could argue he is the best pure runner in this class."

ESPN's Todd McShay made that remark regarding Jonathan Taylor on the First Draft podcast (h/t 247 Sports' Clint Buckley). And those words came during a discussion of his worries about the Wisconsin running back.

The 21-year-old has some question marks going forward, but it's almost like the biggest worry is he was too good at Wisconsin.

The first back-to-back Doak Walker Award winner in over a decade, Taylor gets dinged for his mileage and the chance his numbers were a bit inflated by the Badgers' scheme and offensive line.

No matter how you slice it, though, a three-year run of 926 carries for 6,174 yards and 50 touchdowns is almost certainly the work of a superstar.

If you're investing a first-round pick in this position, shouldn't it be on "the best pure runner" in the draft? He needs to work on his ball security, but if he cleans that up, the lingering non-workload-related concern is his work in the passing game, and he took a big step there this season.

If Taylor is anywhere near as productive as he was at Wisconsin, he'll have everyone wondering how he wasn't a top-five pick.

              

A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa

There are bigger, stronger defensive linemen in this draft than A.J. Epenesa. Faster and more explosive ones, too. Several of them had better combine showings than the former Hawkeye.

But shifting the conversation to physical traits is the only reason the 21-year-old can qualify as underrated. Back in September, when the focus was football, scouts looked at him and wondered if they were seeing the next J.J. Watt.

Epenesa recorded 10.5 sacks as a part-time player in 2018. He did take a while to get rolling in 2019, but he finished the year on a dead sprint with eight sacks and four forced fumbles over his final five contests. That's the type of talent he possesses, but some have forgotten it because he didn't set the world on fire at the combine.

"He has legit pass-rush moves and a plan that will work on the next level as long as he continues to improve," former NFL defensive end Stephen White wrote for SB Nation. "If he goes in the first round, it will likely be because the team that took him largely ignored the testing stuff and focused on the film."

If teams want to invest early picks on unpolished physical specimens, someone should gladly take Epenesa as the superior football player and somehow discounted prospect.

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