With just one week until the 2020 NFL Draft, rumors are surfacing, NFL teams are solidifying their draft boards and targets and everyone is guessing how it will all unfold. Here are my latest first round projections as we enter the home stretch of draft season.
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Burrow made the largest jump of any prospect this past season, as he went from being virtually off the radar to the consensus number one pick. There’s no explaining needed for this selection.
2. Washington: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
Chase Young is my top ranked player in the class. I think Washington would be smart to hold onto this pick as Young is an elite prospect at a premium position.
3. [TRADE] Miami Dolphins (from DET): Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
This is where the draft begins. The Lions are probably going to take Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah if I had to guess, but they don’t need the third overall pick to do it. Detroit would be wise to move out of this pick and give it to a team with multiple assets looking to secure their franchise QB, a team like the Miami Dolphins. The Lions can acquire a pick or two and remain in prime position to draft the player most expect they covet.
In terms of the Dolphins, it’s an easy trade to make if they’re convinced they like one QB over the other (Herbert or Tagovailoa). With a portion of the pre-draft process being scrapped, the medical red flags are going to play a bigger factor and teams are not going to have the luxury of swinging for the fences. Safe picks and high floors are what I expect to be the tale of the first round and that’s why I have Miami going with Justin Herbert over my second ranked QB, Tua Tagovailoa.
4. New York Giants: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Simmons is my second ranked player in the class. Everyone loves to talk about his position versatility, but I think it’s a safe assumption to say that he’ll be a linebacker at the next level. A freak athlete with 4.3 speed and the coverage skills of a defensive back. Simmons is a can’t-miss prospect and easy pick for the Giants in the first round.
5. [TRADE] Detroit Lions (from MIA): Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
I already explained the logic behind moving back to this pick for Detroit. The Lions grab a replacement for Darius Slay with the best cornerback in the class. Okudah is an elite man coverage corner with ball skills and an obvious pick for the Lions.
6. [TRADE] Las Vegas Raiders (from LAC): Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The Raiders have Derek Carr under contract, signed Marcus Mariota and now they have moved up six spots to grab the biggest question mark in this class, Tua Tagovailoa. Like the Dolphins, they have the draft capital to come up for a player and still have another first round pick, but why does this make sense?
Las Vegas is looking to move on from Derek Carr, and by bringing in a guy like Mariota on the contract they gave him, it’s clear they’re trying to create some competition in the QB room. Tagovailoa, if healthy, may have been making his case for the first overall pick, but in this situation he can sit and learn the Raiders offense, learn how to be a pro from two respected veterans and despite his impressive progress on his hip injury, be in no rush to take the reigns as the starting QB in Vegas.
The Raiders have the luxury of bringing Tua along slowly while trying to compete in 2020 and still have a chance to get an instant impact player with their other first round pick. It’s a risk worth taking for Gruden and Mayock.
7. Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
The Panthers grab the best interior defensive lineman in the class with Auburn’s Derrick Brown. Brown has arguably the top film of anyone in this class and he is far and away the most complete prospect among the defensive tackle position. He is an instant plug and play for the Panthers.
8. [TRADE] Atlanta Falcons (from ARZ): C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
The Falcons have been rumored to be looking into trading up. Some say it could be for a pass rusher, but they upgraded there by replacing Vic Beasley with Dante Fowler in free agency and they have bigger needs at cornerback and linebacker. With teams like the Jaguars and 49ers also in need of a cornerback, I think it’s safe to say that this is the position Atlanta is looking at closely as the draft nears.
I’m not as high on C.J. Henderson as others, I think he has the traits to be successful in man coverage but has trouble getting off blocks and is a poor tackler. In press coverage, Henderson can be a bit aggressive when pressing at the line which may cause him to be heavily penalized or burned at the next level. However, the upside of a number one corner is there and if he’s the player the Falcons covet, it makes sense for them to jump other CB needy teams to secure him.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
Javon Kinlaw is a distruptive player with great strength and good tools as an interior pass rusher. The Jaguars are in need of help along the defensive line that traded away Calais Campbell and will eventually move on from Yannick Ngakoue. Kinlaw would be an instant upgrade on the defensive line that is in the midst of re-tooling.
10. [TRADE] Philadelphia Eagles (from CLE): CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
There are rumors that the Eagles are interested in moving up to select CeeDee Lamb. There has also been some talk that the Browns like Boise State tackle Ezra Cleveland and would welcome a trade back to acquire assets while staying in prime position to take the offensive lineman. So, this trade seems like it’s pretty likely to happen.
Obviously the Eagles are attempting revamp their receiving core and Lamb has strong hands, elite ball skills and body control to stay on his feet after breaking tackles. He’d provide the Eagles with the true No. 1 receiver they desperately need.
11. New York Jets: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
With the Cardinals and Browns trading out of their picks the Jets are now in a position they may not have seen coming. They can have any of the top 4 tackles they want. Perhaps the Jets entertain moving back a few picks here, but for now, I have them taking my top tackle in the class, Alabama’s, Jedrick Wills. He has strength, elite foot speed and good hand placement. I think he’s best suited to stay on the right side of the line, giving the Jets a major upgrade for their new-look offensive line.
12. [TRADE] Los Angeles Chargers (from LVR): Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
The Chargers moved back and have the chance to complete their offensive line by grabbing an upgrade at right tackle. Tristan Wirfs is an athletic freak and one of the most impressive prospects in this class. He’s an upgrade over current right tackle Sam Tevi, and would protect Tyrod Taylor as the Chargers seem pretty confident in rolling with him as their starter for the 2020 season.
13. San Francisco 49ers (from IND): Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
The 49ers offense is missing a No. 1 receiver and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy makes a ton of sense for them with their first pick. Jeudy is an elite route runner who has elite speed and is great after the catch. He should have no problem getting open and becoming a reliable target for Jimmy Garoppolo in the Niners offense.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
The Buccaneers scored big time by adding Tom Brady for the next two seasons. They’ve got some weapons to work with in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, but Tampa Bay needs to invest on upgrading the offensive line to help give an aging Brady some time to throw. I like Andrew Thomas for the Bucs with this pick, as he has some experience playing on the right side and he would probably be a more natural fit for Tampa Bay than Mekhi Becton.
15. Denver Broncos: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
The Broncos add another weapon for Drew Lock. Alabama’s Henry Ruggs is the fastest receiver in this class and productive after the catch. An easy choice for the Broncos at this point in the draft.
16. [TRADE] Arizona Cardinals (from ATL): Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
After trading for DeAndre Hopkins this offseason, the Cardinals should look to invest in rebuilding their offensive line. Mekhi Becton is the best player on the board at the tackle position and should provide a boost to Arizona’s offensive line.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
McKinney is the top safety on my board. He’s a dynamic and versatile safety, a reliable tackler and smart player who has the potential to be an elite defensive back at the next level. The Cowboys need help in the secondary and McKinney’s versatility could help Dallas in a multitude of ways.
18. Miami Dolphins (from PIT): Josh Jones, OT, Houston
The Dolphins’ offensive line is atrocious and after moving up to secure a QB with their first first round selection, Miami’s next move should be to protect him. Jones is an athletic tackle who has great strength and footwork, which is evident when he drives defenders and moves into the second level. Jones is a bit raw at the position, but his upside suggests he can be a successful left tackle in the NFL.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (from CHI): Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
The Raiders continue to rebuild their linebacker room by adding LSU’s Patrick Queen. Queen is a smart and instinctual player who has the ability to read the quarterback and patrol the middle of the field. He also has elite short area quickness and burst to come downhill causing TFLs and blown up screens. He and Cory Littleton will make for a nice duo in Vegas.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from LAR): K’Lavon Chaisson, DE/LB, LSU
The Jaguars are going to move on from Yannick Ngakoue before the season begins, so it would be smart for them to look to get his replacement as we hit what I anticipate to be the beginning of a run on edge rushers in the 20s. K’Lavon Chaisson has a great first step and shows elite quickness which causes chaos off the edge. He needs to get a bit stronger and refine his technique by adding some more moves to his arsenal. However, his explosiveness and freak athleticism are intriguing enough to warrant a top-20 selection.
21. [TRADE] Cleveland Browns (from PHI): Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
As I mentioned before, this is a trade I expect to happen and I believe the Browns will be targeting Ezra Cleveland with this selection. The Browns need to improve their offensive line. They added Jack Conklin in free agency and now they can plug Ezra Cleveland in at left tackle.
22. Minnesota Vikings (from BUF): Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
The Vikings traded away Stefon Diggs this offseason and could benefit from adding a receiver with one of their two first-round picks. Justin Jefferson is smooth athlete with strong hands and is productive after the catch.
23. New England Patriots: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
A.J. Epenesa is great fit for the Patriots, who are still looking for a replacement for Trey Flowers after he departed for Detroit last offseason. Epenesa plays with power and is successful when bull rushing the defender. His ability to set the edge and help in run support is also a positive. I think he slides because of his combine, but his on-field production warrants a first-round selection. The Patriots will arguably get the most out of him out of any other club that is considering spending a pick on Epenesa next week.
24. New Orleans Saints: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
The Saints need a linebacker and Murray is the best one on the board. Murray is a rangy player who has the ability to play sideline to sideline and is also a reliable tackler. He should be a good fit for New Orleans at this point in the draft.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
The Vikings released Xavier Rhodes and let Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes walk to the Cincinnati Bengals, decimating their cornerback room. They’re in need of corners and TCU’s Jeff Gladney is CB2 on my board. Gladney is quick, has loose hips and great ball skills. He can succeed in both man or zone coverage and has the traits to be solid corner at the next level.
26. Miami Dolphins (from HOU): Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Delpit is an exciting player Although he improved his all-around game from 2018 to 2019, his best attribute, attacking, can sometimes lead to him missing tackles or mistiming plays. Delpit has a quick trigger as he tries to make plays on the ball. His physicality and ball skills are elite and if his tackling continues to improve, Delpit should turn himself into an elite player at the position.
27. Seattle Seahawks: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE/LB, Penn State
The Seahawks may be the front runners to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney, but there’s no certainty he will be brought back. The Seahawks need edge help and Gross-Matos is the best player on the board. A long and athletic edge rusher, Gross-Matos is still improving at the position and offers immense value as a pass rusher in the NFL.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Zach Baun, DE/LB, Wisconsin
Baltimore adds an edge rushing linebacker to pair with Matt Judon. Zach Baun is an overall solid player and would give the Ravens some more pressure on the edge, making their front seven lethal.
29. Tennessee Titans: Austin Jackson, OT, USC
The Titans lost Jack Conklin to the Browns in free agency and USC’s Austin Jackson is the pick to be his replacement. An athletic and long tackle, Jackson lined up on the left side at USC. He’s a really smooth athlete with ideal strength for the NFL, but he needs to refine his technique, making him an ideal fit to begin his career on the right side and instantly fill a need for Tennessee.
30. Green Bay Packers: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
With Queen and Murray off the board, the Packers should look to go after an explosive playmaker that can be utilized in the return game and in the slot. If it’s not Penn State’s K.J. Hamler, I expect Jalen Reagor to be the guy Green Bay targets at receiver with this selection. Dropped passes and lapses in concentration have me lower on Reagor than most, but his upside and versatility as a receiver and returner is too good to pass up at this point in the draft.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Diggs is a physical corner who has elite size and strength at the position. Although I don’t know if he can be a true No. 1 CB at the next level, the Niners addressed a need earlier by grabbing a No. 1 receiver. Diggs is worth the risk at this slot to fill another huge hole for the 49ers.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
J.K. Dobbins remains my RB1 one for me. A complete back and explosive playmaker, Dobbins would be an upgrade to an already impressive offense in Kansas City.