With only a few days until the draft, rumors and team interest have really begun to spread across the league this past week. Some rumors and interests seem to be true, but most seem to be smoke screens. This is what I refer to as lying season. Teams put out information to fool other organizations into thinking a team is cold on certain guys. A good example of this is when Kansas City was pushing the rumor that they wanted a linebacker in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Instead, they moved up to #10 and drafted reigning Super Bowl MVP, Patrick Mahomes. So, as you can see, this is a time where teams leak rumors to cool other teams on the players they like. In an effort to stop Chiefs’ Kingdom from being misinformed, I want to take a deeper dive and make a final first round projection list that includes trades. This should give everyone a better idea of what I truly believe will occur in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
- Cincinnati Bengals- Joe Burrow, QB, LSU- This pick in my eyes is a no-doubt lock heading into the draft Thursday, April 23, 2020 at 8:00pm ET. All indications point to the #1 pick being Joe Burrow. He had a great national championship campaign at LSU and now he will look to bring that championship swagger to his home state of Ohio. He is my number one QB in this class and I see him as a safe pick for the Bengals at the #1 selection. My pro comparison for Burrow is Tony Romo.
- Washington Redskins- Chase Young, DE, Ohio State- New Redskins head coach Ron Rivera is adding an elite level player to his already talented front seven in Washington. Chase Young is the best player on my board and it isn’t particularly close. He is a guy who is a game changer week 1, like we saw last year with his former Buckeye teammate, Nick Bosa. I expect Young to plug into the Jack Del Rio system and elevate that Washington defense to a whole new level.
- Detroit Lions- Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State- In Detroit, there have been a ton of issues as of late. The team ultimately had to trade disgruntled star CB, Darius Slay, to Philadelphia. Detroit has a real need at the CB position and I think Okudah is the most pro ready CB in this class. He has a very high floor and I look at him as a guy who could reach a Jalen Ramsey-type ceiling. There is real uncertainty about what the Lions plan to do here, but with the CB need, they would be crazy to pass on Okudah.
- NY Giants- Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa- The key to this pick will be who has real control now in New York. If the team takes Wirfs, an athletic guy with the highest ceiling in the class, it will show me that General Manager David Gettelman still has the last say. That’s my expectation out of the Giants organization. Don’t be surprised if the Giants go with a safer guy that HC Joe Judge can check up on at Alabama. He has a good relationship with Nick Saban, and if he has final say, I think they will go with the Alabama product instead.
- Miami Dolphins- Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama- Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen a lot of rumors out of Miami that the team likes Justin Herbert over Tua Tagovailoa. I believe these leaks and rumors are an attempt to fool teams into thinking they don’t have to trade up to get Tua. This will allow Miami to keep their draft picks, and get Tua at five. This is smart on Miami’s part and I expect it to work out well for them.
- LA Chargers- Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon- This pick is quite simple to me, as I expect the Chargers to take the best QB on their board that is still available at the sixth pick. I expect them to jump at a chance to get Herbert, since reports have stated that Herbert is one of their favorite QBs in the class. It seems that, with the way the board fell, it’s a win win for both Miami and LA. They both get their guy at their original picks and don’t have to give up any draft picks to do so.
- Carolina Panthers- Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson- In Carolina, they have begun a full reload. With the surprising retirement of star LB Luke Kuechly, the Panthers are in need of high level talent on defense. Simmons gives them someone mentally capable of being the field general early on. He also has extreme versatility, and can play Mike LB, Will LB, dime LB, and slot corner at the NFL Level. A guy with that many plug and play positions at number seven is a real steal for Carolina.
- Atlanta Falcons (Trade via ARI)- Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn- As recently as Tuesday, it has been rumored that the Falcons have real interest in trading into the top 10. I think they will in order to land a star DT. Derrick Brown is my top DT prospect, and lining him next to Grady Jarrett on the inside for ATL would be deadly. Moving out of the pick helps Arizona; a team trying to build a playoff roster secure more draft capital for 2020.
*Trade= Atlanta Receives (via ARI)- 2020 1st-#8
- Jacksonville Jaguars- C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida- Since the current staff in Jacksonville has been in place, they have always had an elite level CB. After trading both Jalen Ramsey, and A.J. Bouye. The team is in a spot where they can land an elite talent at a position of need in C.J. Henderson at number nine. Why not try and start where you did with the last era. Build from the CB, and try to get back to previous defensive form.
- Philadelphia Eagles (Trade via CLE)- Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama- We saw last year what can happen when a team doesn’t have the depth they need at wide receiver. The team was pulling guys off of the practice squad to play meaningful snaps. Despite this fact, they were able to make the playoffs. The Eagles need someone to take the top off of a defense, and give Carson Wentz a complete weapon who does it all. That guy is Henry Ruggs III out of Alabama, and he is a perfect fit for what Philadelphia has needed for some time now.
*Trade= Philadelphia Receives (via CLE)- 2020 1st-#10
- NY Jets- Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama- The New York Jets have had a vacancy at both Tackle spots since they drafted Sam Darnold, their QB of the future back in 2018. They brought in George Fant from Seattle, but I don’t see him as a starting caliber OT. Jedrick Wills is a technician and an elite pass blocker. He is a plug and play starter, with Pro-Bowl caliber upside. I have him ranked as my number one Tackle, and he would be a massive steal for the Jets at the eleventh pick.
- Las Vegas Raiders- Ceedee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma- The Raiders play in a division with an elite offense in Kansas City. Mike Mayock needs to find a way to bridge that offensive gap, and be able to compete with KC. To do so, they need to add an elite level weapon for QB Derek Carr. The best fit, and overall best offensive weapon on the board is CeeDee Lamb. Lamb has a great all around game, that allows him to do everything that would be asked of him in Gruden’s offense. He is an elite weapon, and will give the offense and fans something to celebrate in their new city of Las Vegas.
- San Francisco 49ers- Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama- The San Francisco 49ers were just a few minutes away from being crowned Super Bowl Champions last February. At the end of the day, they didn’t have the firepower to score with the Chiefs at the end of the game. Their main focus should be adding a weapon in their scheme that will take their offense to the next level. Adding a guy like Jerry Jeudy will give them that extra edge they need to get back to the Super Bowl in 2021. He thrives in gaining separation with his route running ability, and has the top end speed to produce after the catch. In Kyle Shannahan’s offense, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Jeudy be the most productive WR in year one.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina- With the addition of the GOAT Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, I think many people expect an OT here. I understand that, but I also see that the Bucs had a much improved defense late in 2019. Really the only thing missing was a versatile guy who could wreck the play from the interior. You pair that with their outside pass rush duo of JPP, and Shaq Barrett, with Suh on the inside. This would be one of the most potent defensive line groups in the league with the addition of what Javon Kinlaw can bring to the interior. I love what Kinlaw brings to the table, and I think he is the missing piece to Todd Bowles’ puzzle. I can’t see them passing on Kinlaw’s talent, especially since it’s a big positional need.
- Denver Broncos- Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia- The Broncos have been consistently linked to a WR here at pick fifteen overall. There is a need there, but it’s pointless to add great pass catchers, if Drew Lock is gonna be on his back once the WR is open down field. That’s why Denver needs to go tackle here, and replace Garret Bolles who has never been what they thought he could be. I think this is a pick that Elway has to knock out of the park for Denver to compete in the AFC West. Look for him to take the best tackle available at #15. To me that guy is Andrew Thomas, he in my opinion is the safest option behind Wills in the class. He may not have a ceiling as high as guys like Wirfs, or Becton, but at this stage. Elway needs to look to consistency and reliability opposed to pure potential. He went pure potential with Bolles a few years back in the first, and it hasn’t gone well. Look for him to go get a guy in Thomas who can keep his QB upright, bring consistency to that offensive front, and ease the pain of the Garrett Bolles’ era in Denver.
- Arizona Cardinals (Trade via ATL)- Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville- I see them taking a similar approach to what Elway is doing in Denver. Go out and get the foundational piece to your offensive line for years to come. Kyler Murray was running for his life last year in Arizona. With the addition of a guy like Becton at sixteen, the team can protect their franchise QB. This pick also adds a second layer to their offense, as he has the versatility to be an elite level run and pass blocker down the road. In my eyes Becton has an incredibly high ceiling in this league. You combine his massive size at 6’7”, 369 lbs, and his athleticism, and it makes him a lethal combo lineman. He ran a 5.1 40-yard dash at that size, and his biggest strength is his power. If he is able to control his weight, I see him being a guy that is a steal at 16. He reminds me of a more polished Orlando Brown out of Baltimore. This is a big need for Arizona, and he appears to be the guy to fill the void at LT.
*Trade= Arizona Receives (via ATL)- 2020 1st-#16
- Minnesota Vikings (Trade via DAL)- Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU- The Vikings made a big move this off-season, and sent star WR Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills. In turn, they received the #22 pick in the 2020 draft. I expect them to use that extra draft capital, packaged with later picks and make a move up the board in an attempt to grab the best WR available. That guy at this stage is Justin Jefferson, who is a great all around player. My only concern with Jefferson is his long speed. Everything else seems like a strength with this player, he has solid hands, is a great route runner, and thrives after the catch. He doesn’t have top end speed, but I think that’s okay when you consider what is under center in Minnesota in Kirk Cousins. He thrives on short to intermediate throws, and is best over the middle in my eyes. I think Jefferson is the perfect fit to replace Diggs production, but in a way that fits their current QB better than we saw with Stefon Diggs.
*Trade= Minnesota Receives (via DAL)- 2020 1st- #17
- Miami Dolphins- K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU- The Dolphins are in a good spot here at #18, there is value on the board at multiple positions of need currently. Above all else, I expect them to get the best player available who can contribute to the team immediately in 2020. The best fit here in my eyes is K’Lavon Chaisson, who is viewed by myself and many others as the second best pass rusher in the class to Chase Young. He reminds me of a mix of two guys last year who went high in the first round. When I look at Chaisson I see both Josh Allen and Brian Burns from the last draft. Considering they were both top 15 picks, this is great value this late in the draft for the Dolphins.
- Las Vegas Raiders- Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU- The Raiders are currently in a division with guys like Tyreek Hill, Keenan Allen, Courtland Sutton, and Sammy Watkins. Looking at that group of WR’s, I can’t help but think that Mike Mayock understands the importance of consistent CB play on a week to week basis. Enter a consistent, safer pick at the CB spot in LSU’s Kristian Fulton. He is in my eyes the safest corner pick outside the top two. He doesn’t have the high potential of some of the guys in this class, but I think you need an immediate contributor in Las Vegas. He thrives in man coverage, and will be someone you can put on a number one receiver at let work. He is a tough player, who only needs to improve his tackling and ball hawking ability.
- Jacksonville Jaguars- Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama- The Jaguars have seen a big decrease in the quality of their secondary over the last year. They really have lost every piece from the AFC Championship secondary, but with the addition of C.J. Henderson at #9 and Xavier McKinney at this spot; The team is well on their way to rebuilding a solid group on the back end, that can change games for this team. I expect them to jump at a chance to get the top safety on the board at twenty. He has great versatility at the DB positions, and I really only see him struggling at FS trying to play center fielder. He lacks deep range at times, but I think what he brings in the box is special, and he has solid coverage skills in both man and zone.
- Cleveland Browns (Trade via PHI)- Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State- The Browns at this point seem to only have one real offensive need remaining after a great off-season. They added Jack Conklin and Austin Hooper to an already stacked group on offense. Their biggest issue last year was the OL, mainly the tackle position. With the addition of Conklin on one side, and a potential plug and play LT in Ezra Cleveland at the #21 selection this would be the final piece to the Browns puzzle. He’s got the movement skills to eventually become a starter, but is currently too raw to offer consideration for early playing time. That being said, I expect the Browns to see him a bit different and give him a shot to be the starting LT in 2020.
*Trade= Cleveland Receives (via PHI)- 2020 1st-#21
- Minnesota Vikings- Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU- The Vikings are another group that since the current staff has been in place, they have always prioritized a number one CB. With the departure of a lack luster Xavier Rhodes from 2019, and Tre Waynes. The Vikings have a real need at corner, and I look for them to go out and grab a solid man cover guy with some versatility. That is what Jeff Gladney brings to the table here, he is an under sized guy but plays with a chip on his shoulder. His versatility in man and zone coverage alike will serve him well, and will allow him to be a fairly universal prospect. I really like Gladney’s fit with the Vikings, and I see HC Mike Zimmer loving his competitive approach and his physicality. He’s a guy that is smaller, but will hit you in the mouth. That is a trait I think the Vikings will love, and his versatility makes it a no brainer at pick #22.
- New England Patriots- A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa- The New England Patriots are in a transition year for the first time since the early 2000’s. With the departure of Tom Brady, things will look a bit different in Massachusetts next season. The one thing that will remain the same is Bill Belichick, and his tough nosed, disciplined defenses. I think a player of A.J. Epenesa’s size and potential is a perfect fit for the New England defense. A.J. projects as a true 4-3 DE, and I think he will be able to reach his full potential in the New England scheme. Combine that with the coaching staff with the Patriots, and I expect them to get great value out of a player with immense talent.
- New Orleans Saints- Jordan Love, QB, Utah State- With franchise QB and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees in what appears to be his last season. The Saints feel like the perfect situation for a developmental QB, who has all the traits to be great. Jordan Love is the most intriguing QB prospect in the class for me. He has a very high ceiling, but also a low floor.
- Dallas Cowboys (Trade via MIN)- Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota- The Dallas Cowboys have had a rough off-season, and have dealt with some obstacles. They have struggled to get their franchise QB Dak Prescott’s deal done, and also weren’t able to retain their best DB in Byron Jones. Here they add a top end versatile talent that can play all over the secondary. His dad was a great player in this league, and you can see his love for the game on his film. He is a guy who seems to know how to be a pro, and you combine that with what he can do all over the secondary and this is a home run for the Cowboys this late in the first. My pro comparison for him is Tyrann Mathieu, who like Winfield has extreme versatility. He can play both safety spots, dime LB, and slot CB from what I have seen, and that is a welcome sight if you are a Cowboys fan. He will give the team the chess piece needed, to solidify the back end. Pair that with the young linebackers in Dallas, and the team has a great young core on defense.
*Trade= Dallas Receives (via MIN)- 2020 1st-#25
- Miami Dolphins- Austin Jackson, OT, USC- With the addition of Tua Tagovailoa at pick #5, the Dolphins must make 1st round tackle a priority. With the looming injury concerns with Tua, you have to build an offensive line group that can keep him as clean as possible in 2020. They have a vacancy at both Tackle spots, so they must get a guy early to ensure that Tua is somewhat protected from day one. To be able to get a player of Austin Jackson’s talent at twenty-six is a real steal. He is a versatile guy, who I think can play both OT positions.
- Seattle Seahawks- Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State- The Seattle Seahawks have always been a team under Pete Carroll, who thrive when they have a stout pass rushing group. The team has been willing to spend on the position early in recent drafts, and I expect that trend to continue in 2020. With the potential departure of Jadeveon Clowney, the team has a need at the Edge rusher position. They need a plug and play rusher, who they can pair with second year man L.J. Collier out of TCU. I think Yetur Gross-Matos is the best rusher available at this point. I expect him to plug and play in any system. He has an explosive first step, with smooth hips, a massive tackling radius, and his length makes him solid in the run game as well. He is a great fit for not only what Seattle does, but what they currently need defensively. He is underrated in my eyes, and could one day be the steal of this draft.
- Baltimore Ravens- Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma- The Baltimore Ravens have always been a team with elite level Linebacker play. For the first time in a long time though, they are thin in the linebacker talent department. I expect them to make LB their biggest need in this draft, and when you think of what a perfect Baltimore linebacker would look like. He is a linebacker who has a nose for the big plays. He is a big frame LB with solid explosiveness, he has a huge tackling radius, and his burst allows him to make big plays in coverage, as well as deliver big hits. He has elite cover skills, but at times he is a bit over aggressive and puts himself in bad positions. This happens, because he over pursues angles, and gets out of position to make plays on some occasions. I think this is an easy fix with some NFL experience, and a coaching staff in your ear telling you your wrong. With his leadership and talent, I don’t think he was ever scolded for his aggressiveness at OU. That will change in the NFL, so i’m not worried about it much. He is a top 20 player to me, but with the concerns of over pursuit, and decision making. I expect to see him fall this far down the board to Baltimore at #28.
- Tennessee Titans- Josh Jones, OT, Houston- In Tennessee, we have seen a real focus on the power run game this last year. The team is scrambling to find a long term answer for the RT position, after the departure of star RT Jack Conklin in the off-season. I think Josh Jones is the perfect fit for what they like to do in Tennessee. He is a powerful guy, who can move great, and has elite level athleticism at his size. He is a raw player overall, but with some coaching up he has real upside as a RT in a power run scheme. Josh Jones is a high ceiling, low floor offensive tackle prospect who is an Offensive Line coach’s dream. With his natural skills, Jones showcases dominant physical flashes on the field and possesses the athletic ability to be a dominant pass blocker and weapon in the run game. This is good value for Tennessee, and gives them their guy for the future at a big position of need.
- Green Bay Packers- Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor- The Packers over the last couple years outside of Devante Adams, have seen a real lack of production and long term talent at the WR position. At this point in Aaron Rodgers career, he needs a little bit of help at times. He isn’t the same guy who could put the team on his back, and will them to a playoff victory with subpar talent. So I expect the Packers to look at WR early, and take a guy, who offers a different skill set than Adams. Denzel Mims should offer more offensive flexibility in Green Bay, than they have had since the Jordy Nelson days.
- New York Giants (Trade via SF)- Patrick Queen, LB, LSU- We have heard that the New York Football Giants were interested in Isaiah Simmons at the fourth overall selection. So I assume that they would also make an effort to get the second best linebacker in the fold, who has elite coverage ability, and high upside like an Isaiah Simmons. This man is Patrick Queen out of LSU, Queen possesses elite physical traits, and since the Giants chose to go OL early. They still need to fill their LB need, and I think they would be more than willing to give up a few draft picks to do so. Queen for my money is the second best LB in the class, and you can get him at the back of the first. This trade up will also provide value to San Francisco by way of extra selections, so it’s a win win for both teams.
*Trade= New York Giants Receive (via SF)- 2020 1st-#31
San Francisco 49ers Receive (via NYG)- 2020 2nd-#36
- Indianapolis Colts (Trade via KC)- Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
The Colts are in need of a long term option at the QB position. They are in a rough spot to draft one though, with no 1st round pick. They traded away the 13th overall pick to the SF 49ers, to acquire up and coming pass rusher DeForest Buckner. With no pick, I believe the Colts will have to move up to get their guy in the first round. Looking at the board, Jacob Eason is the best QB available. He possesses Big play ability, and the strongest arm in the class. Not to mention the fact that he fits what the Colts and HC Frank Reich like to do. I think Eason is a great fit in Indy, because he projects best into an aggressive vertical passing offense to take advantage of his arm talent to the deeper levels of the field. Which I know is a triat that Colts HC Frank Reich will love to utalize in his offense in the future. I think the combination of the offensive minded head coach, and an ability to sit and learn behind Phillip Rivers. Will give Eason all the tools he needs to become a solid started in the NFL. This trade makes a ton of sense for both teams, giving the Chiefs more draft capital, and the Colts a chance to move up and get their Quarterback of the future at #32.
*Trade= Indianapolis Receives (via KC)- 2020 1st-#32
Kansas City Receives (via IND)- 2020 2nd-#44
Now with all of the above information in perspective, I expect the 2020 NFL Draft to be filled with multiple trades. I think the movement throughout the first round is going to make this draft one for the ages. With the virtual aspects, I expect teams to have most trades agreed upon prior to Thursday night. If not, teams might struggle to move around if they experience any technical issues. I look forward to seeing if these moves listed above come to be. I project these picks to be the final outcome of the first round, and if so. It is going to be a great draft for both the prospects and their new teams. Now let’s all sit back, relax, and enjoy the first and hopefully only virtual NFL Draft here in 2020.