Kyle Yates’ 2020 NFL Mock Draft (1.0)
We’re now at the time of year where all NFL attention has turned towards the 2020 Draft. Rumors are starting to circulate, while the hot takes are out in abundance on Twitter.
It’s officially draft season, which means that it’s time to release a NFL Mock Draft. For those who are unfamiliar with my work, I primarily focus on the NFL Draft and Dynasty Fantasy Football specifically. Up to this point of the offseason, I’ve watched over 300 games of film on these prospects and I’m only scratching the surface. It’s a grind, but when you enjoy something as much as this…it’s not work.
With all that being said, it’s time for my first NFL Mock Draft of the year.
1. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow (QB – LSU)
This one’s not a difficult pick to make. Joe Burrow absolutely obliterated College Football this year and went on to win the Heisman Trophy and the National Championship. He’s an incredibly intelligent and accurate QB who thrives at navigating the pocket. While he doesn’t have an elite arm, he makes up for it in so many other categories. Burrow will be a Cincinnati Bengal for a very long time.
2. Washington – Chase Young (EDGE – Ohio State)
Chase Young is a monster off the edge. He gave CFB OTs nightmares all season long and he’ll do the same thing to NFL OTs very soon. While Washington doesn’t have a huge need for EDGE, especially after their transition now to a 4-3 defense, Young is the best player available on the board. If Washington doesn’t go EDGE here, watch for an OT or them to possibly trade out of this spot for a king’s ransom.
3. Detroit Lions – Derrick Brown (IDL – Auburn)
The thing to keep in mind when selecting for the Detroit Lions is: they need to win now. Matt Patricia is out next season if the Lions don’t make a serious run, which means that they need to take a high impact player here. Selecting a developmental prospect doesn’t work when you won’t be there to see them develop. Derrick Brown is about as a high impact of a player as you can find in this draft, especially for the Lions scheme. The Lions got gashed on the ground consistently last year and Brown specializes in stopping the run. He’s a mammoth of a man at 318 pounds and has enough in the lower half to require multiple people to move him. However, Brown also carries some interior pass rush upside. A’Shawn Robinson is going to be a free agent, which leaves an opening here at the iDL spot. Brown can slide right in and help solidify that interior front along with Damon Harrison.
4. New York Giants – Mekhi Becton (OT – Louisville)
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network shocked the draft world recently when he put little-known prospect, Mekhi Becton, all the way up at No. 4 overall in his latest mock draft. I was stunned, until I went and put on Becton’s tape. He belongs here. Becton is a large human being at 6’7/370, but he moves better than I do. (I’m not going to dwell on that fact…moving on!)
Becton’s smooth, long, and powerful, which gives him an advantage on nearly every EDGE rusher in the NFL. Dave Gettleman loves building through the trenches and the Giants need a solid RT (or even an upgrade over Nate Solder at LT) and Becton would give them just that right out of the gates.
5. Miami Dolphins – Tua Tagovailoa (QB – Alabama)
Tua’s evaluation all revolves around his health. When healthy, he’s in competition with Joe Burrow for QB1 in this draft class. He’s surgical. He’ll dice a defense up with his accuracy, touch, and anticipation, but the health causes him to drop here to No. 5 overall. For the Miami Dolphins, they’re in a long-term rebuild and are not looking to compete for a Super Bowl next season. They can afford to take Tua here, let him rest for an entire season, and let Ryan Fitzpatrick start for another year. The upside that a healthy Tua presents is too much to pass up here for the Miami Dolphins and I would be shocked at this point to see them go any other direction.
6. Los Angeles Chargers – Tristan Wirfs (OT – Iowa)
The Chargers are moving in a new direction, which does not involve long-time starting QB, Philip Rivers. While the Chargers could be looking at QB, there’s not one that I like well enough to draft here at this point. Therefore, the Chargers can plan on addressing the QB position in Free Agency (hello, Cam Newton?) and focus on solidifying a weak spot on their team here: the OL. Tristan Wirfs is an extremely well-coached OT prospect, who has great hand technique coming out of Iowa. While he doesn’t possess elite athleticism for his size, he moves well enough and excels in maintaining a solid base. Even when knocked off his mark, he’ll quickly reset and recover to give his QB time to get the ball out. Wirfs also presents versatility as his best position may actually be at Guard. For the Chargers, they need to get the best starting 5 Offensive Lineman on the field. Wirfs gives them that versatility and addresses a huge need for this team early on.
7. Carolina Panthers – Isaiah Simmons (LB – Clemson)
The Carolina Panthers are cleaning house and will be nearly an unrecognizable team in 2020. Luke Kuechly’s retirement, in particular, leaves this team in a tough spot and they need to do their best to fill the hole his absence will have on this defense. Isaiah Simmons is my No. 3 ranked prospect on my NFL Big Board currently. He’s a freak athlete who can line up all over the field. When you watch Clemson tape, you’ll see Simmons lining up everywhere from Middle Linebacker to Slot Corner to Free Safety. New defensive coordinator, Phil Snow, will be drooling to get his hands on Simmons and get him into his defense. The Panthers need a high impact player to build this new team around…Simmons is their guy.
8. Arizona Cardinals – Jedrick Wills (OT – Alabama)
The Arizona Cardinals showed enough promise in the latter half of 2019 to have fans excited. However, if they’re going to make any significant strides, they need to shore up their putrid Offensive Line. While many mock drafts have the Cardinals going wide receiver here, I believe they can get a high impact player later on in this draft if they would like…for now, it’s about adding talent that can help protect Kyler Murray. Jedrick Wills is as solid as they come. If it weren’t for guys like Becton or Wirfs, Wills would be going much higher than No. 8 overall and the Cardinals are extremely thankful to get him here. Wills is quick out of his stance, intelligent, and constantly works to keep his shoulders square to the defender. He’s technically sound, but yet still has room to grow. Wills is a perfect fit here in Arizona and the Cardinals add a valuable building block as they work to revamp their Offensive Line.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jeff Okudah (CB – Ohio State)
The Jacksonville Jaguars traded away Jalen Ramsey mid-season…but yet somehow still walk away from the NFL Draft with a top-tier CB here at No. 9 overall. Okudah is as fluid and smooth of a CB prospect as you’ll find coming out of college and he’s going to become a household name quickly in the NFL. The Jaguars need to replace Ramsey as they look to add talented players to this defense and hopefully get back to what they were only a few short years ago. Okudah’s the first step to getting there.
10. Cleveland Browns – Andrew Thomas (OT – Georgia)
The Browns fell apart last season and we are now seeing yet another HC/GM combination in Cleveland. The first order of business though for this team will be to retool this Offensive Line. Baker Mayfield simply didn’t trust the guys who were blocking for him last year and this led to a lot of early bailouts that put plays off schedule. Andrew Thomas isn’t the top-tier prospect that some initially made him out to be, but he’s still a darn good football player. The Browns “reach” a bit here to ensure they get the last of the top Offensive Tackles as they work to make sure Mayfield’s comfortable in the pocket in 2020.
11. New York Jets – Jerry Jeudy (WR – Alabama)
Joe Douglas is furious at this point. The Jets have a glaring need at OT, but the Browns just snagged the last remaining viable option at this point in the draft. The Jets are forced to look at their big board again and there’s one name that should be clearly above all the rest remaining at this spot: Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy is a complete wide receiver and specializes in creating separation. His route-running is crisp and clean and his release off the line of scrimmage is something to behold. With Robby Anderson most likely leaving in free agency, the Jets need to do everything they can to surround Sam Darnold with pieces. Adding a bonafide WR1, instead of reaching for another position of need, is the right call here for the Jets.
12. Las Vegas Raiders – Kristian Fulton (CB – LSU)
The Oakland Raiders…wait, no. The Las Vegas Raiders need help at all levels of the defense. While they got some production out of their defensive line this year, they need to build up the back half of their unit and Mike Mayock is going to absolutely fall in love with Kristian Fulton‘s game. Fulton’s a strong, man-cover corner who loves to engage and press at the line of scrimmage. He’s quick and will be an immediate upgrade over the other players they currently have on the roster. Fulton will also bring a championship mindset to the team, as well, which certainly can’t hurt. The Raiders have other needs, but they’ll look to address those with their other picks. Fulton’s too good to pass up at this spot.
13. Indianapolis Colts – CeeDee Lamb (WR – Oklahoma)
Jacoby Brissett did not look like the long-term answer for the Colts in 2019. However, we need to keep in mind who he was throwing to for the majority of the year. T.Y. Hilton was in and out of the lineup, rookie Parris Campbell barely played, and Zach Pascal led the team in receiving yards. I’m in the camp that believes Brissett deserves another year of starting and trying to surround him with quality weapons versus drafting a QB in round one. The Colts do just that here by selecting CeeDee Lamb. Lamb is a possession style receiver who has incredible hands and a wide catch radius. While he has enough speed to pull away from defenders, I don’t believe that’ll be his calling card in the NFL. With the presence of Hilton and Campbell, who have more than enough speed, Lamb is a perfect compliment to round out this receiving trio.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – K’Lavon Chaisson (EDGE – LSU)
The Buccaneers found something amazing with Shaquill Barrett last season, but they still need to continue to revamp that defense under Todd Bowles. Jason Pierre-Paul is a UFA and is also 31 years old at this point. If the Bucs do bring him back, it will be on a short-term contract. They need to plan for the future of the position and K’Lavon Chaisson answers that for them. Chaisson is a long and lean speed rusher off the edge. He’s quick, twitchy, and can also contribute well in the run game. While he’s best at rushing the passer, he also possesses the ability to fluidly drop back in coverage, which is perfect for Bowles’ 3-4 defense. Opposing QBs simply won’t know who’s coming after them on the edge…will it be Barrett or Chaisson? That possibility should get Bucs fans very excited.
15. Denver Broncos – Javon Kinlaw (IDL – South Carolina)
Right now, the Denver Broncos have a ton of unanswered questions at iDL (Interior Defensive Line). Shelby Harris and Derek Wolfe are both currently UFA’s and Fangio’s defense needs interior pressure in order to open things up for Von Miller and Bradley Chubb off the edges. Javon Kinlaw fits the bill…while I believe Kinlaw’s best fit would be in a 4-3 defense, he’ll still slide in perfectly here. Kinlaw’s at his best when he’s rushing the passer and he still has a ton of room to grow in this area. While he doesn’t have the most solid base, which causes him to get moved backwards occasionally in the run game, he’ll be a perfect compliment to Chubb and Miller on the outside.
16. Atlanta Falcons – A.J. Epenesa (EDGE – Iowa)
The Atlanta Falcons have already announced that they’re moving on from Vic Beasley in Free Agency, which creates a gaping hole in this defense at the EDGE position. Running a 4-3 defense, the Falcons need someone who can contribute heavily in both the run and pass game. AJ Epenesa’s a perfect fit for this defense and he immediately brings an attitude and mindset to this defensive line that needs to maximize its potential. Epenesa’s been a terror for Offensive Lineman in the Big Ten for the past two years and he projects to continue that immediately at the NFL level. The Falcons need help on defense…Epenesa’s a great starting point.
17. Dallas Cowboys – Trevon Diggs (CB – Alabama)
A lot of talk this offseason will be focused around the Cowboys attempting to resign both Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott. However, the Cowboys also have to think about resigning Byron Jones. The likely scenario is that the Cowboys won’t be able to resign all of them and Jones is the one who is left to walk. If that’s the case, the Cowboys need to act quickly to replace him and Trevon Diggs will be waiting with open arms. Diggs, a converted WR who has only been playing the position for two years, has an extremely high ceiling at the next level. He’s long, strong, and is able to easily cover the larger receivers that the NFC East has to offer. Jones may leave in Free Agency and get paid handsomely, but the Cowboys can turn to the draft and find a competent replacement that fits with their salary cap restraints.
18. Miami Dolphins – Henry Ruggs III (WR – Alabama)
The Miami Dolphins snagged Tua Tagavailoa with their first pick and turn right back to the Alabama well for their second pick here. If Henry Ruggs does run a 4.2 40-yard dash, there’s no way he lasts this long in the NFL Draft. While Ruggs is known for his speed, he’s not another clone of John Ross. Ruggs is still raw, but he shows the tools to be a dynamic receiver at the next level. He’s fluid in and out of his breaks, tough as nails, and has great hands. For Miami, they need to add playmakers and talent at all levels of the field. Ruggs is a high impact rookie with his threat to take any play to the house, but he also has ample room to develop and continue growing. This is a home run selection for the Dolphins at No. 18…pairing him with Tua again is just the cherry on top.
19. Las Vegas Raiders – Justin Herbert (QB – Oregon)
Disclaimer, I’m not a huge Justin Herbert fan. While he has tremendous size for the position, is a great athlete, and has a rocket arm, he struggles with the more subtle nuances of the position. His mechanics can be sporadic, he has difficulty progressing through his reads quickly, and rarely throws with anticipation. He’s primarily waiting for his receivers to be completely open before releasing the ball. There could be extenuating factors for all of those negatives, but I also see why NFL teams reportedly are very high on him. A head coach like Jon Gruden is going to be chomping at the bit to get him in the building and see if they can “iron out the kinks” and get Herbert playing to the level we saw in his tape against Stanford in 2018. The high level play is there, but there’s risk that you may never get it out of him in the NFL. That’s why Herbert drops here in this mock, but yet why the Raiders are willing to gamble and pull the trigger here with their extra first round pick.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars – Patrick Queen (LB – LSU)
At the time of writing, we don’t know if Telvin Smith is ever going to play football again. Dave Caldwell and Doug Marrone have to assume that he’s not coming back at this point, so Linebacker becomes a pressing need here for the Jaguars with their extra first round pick. Currently, Myles Jack and Quincy Williams are the only players at the position under contract for 2020. Patrick Queen steps right in and gives Jack another running mate in the middle of the field. Queen is a quick and rangy linebacker who is still learning the nuances to the position. He’s instinctive though and has all the tools to be developed into a great starter in the NFL. Queen works best in space, so having the big boys up front that Jacksonville does is a perfect fit here. Calais Campbell, Taven Bryan and Marcell Dareus (if he’s back) will be able to occupy multiple blockers, which will allow Jack and Queen to roam freely and make plays. That’s a set of cards I’d love to have at my disposal as a defensive coordinator. (I’ll be here all week)
21. Philadelphia Eagles – CJ Henderson (CB – Florida)
The Philadelphia Eagles desperately need good cover corners. CJ Henderson is the best one remaining on the board. It’s that simple.
22. Buffalo Bills – Tee Higgins (WR – Clemson)
The Buffalo Bills are building something with that offense, but they still desperately need WR help. More particularly, they need size at the position. John Brown and Cole Beasley are both under 5’10 and have their particular roles carved out in the offense. The Bills need a big-bodied receiver who can work the intermediate levels of the field and can also be a Red Zone Threat. Higgins is a dream fit here for Buffalo with his catch radius, but also his speed. Higgins is an underrated athlete at 6’4/210 and I expect him to run well at the NFL Combine. The Bills don’t need another Kelvin Benjamin, but they need someone with size who can also run and help stretch the field for Josh Allen. With Higgins’ speed, ball tracking ability, and contested catch ability, this pick makes too much sense to not make it repeatedly this offseason.
23. New England Patriots – Jake Fromm (QB – Georgia)
Let’s get crazy for a minute and assume that the New England Patriots go into 2020 without Tom Brady at QB. If that is the case, the Patriots are smart enough to know that they need high level QB play in order to continue their success. While Bill Belichick can take castaways and turn them into something special on the defensive side of the ball, the QB position is one that requires an extremely intelligent and fast processor to maintain the scheme that the Patriots have run for so long. Jake Fromm fits that bill. Fromm is not going to be every NFL team’s cup of tea, but for an offense that thrives on diagnosing a defense, making the correct read, and getting the ball out quickly, Fromm is the perfect fit. He’s a high IQ player and an incredible leader. For the Patriots, they want to make sure that they don’t fall off a cliff if Brady leaves…Fromm would be more than an adequate replacement and to get him here at No. 23 overall seems unfair.
24. New Orleans Saints – Justin Jefferson (WR – LSU)
When I watched Justin Jefferson’s tape back in early January, I wrote down the phrase, “He’s a separation artist.” This guy is good. He’s open on nearly every play and he’s a complete mismatch out of the slot on linebackers or safeties. He has great size for the position at 6’3, but moves like a player that’s 5’10. He has incredible hands and if you want to see what type of player he is, simply go watch the CFB Playoff game against Oklahoma. The Saints may very well lose Drew Brees to retirement this offseason, so whoever is playing QB next season for the Saints needs more weapons than Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and a 32-year old Jared Cook. Jefferson can come in and give opposing defenses nightmares as they see all the high quality receiving weapons lined up across from them.
25. Minnesota Vikings – Grant Delpit (S – LSU)
Yes, the Minnesota Vikings need CB help. However, they also need to think about the Safety position. Anthony Harris played extremely well for them last year, but he’s a UFA and may have priced himself right out of town. The Vikings need a Safety that can excel in the run game, which would allow Harrison Smith to do what he does best and roam around the entire field. There are concerns with Delpit’s game, but at No. 25 overall it’s worth pulling the trigger to hope you can get him playing to the level he was in 2018. The Vikings can seek to address the CB position in Free Agency and hopefully move on from Xavier Rhodes, but they need to make sure they don’t forget about the Safety position in the process. Delpit in this Vikings defense is a great fit.
26. Miami Dolphins – Yetur Gross-Matos (EDGE – Penn State)
The Dolphins addressed two major needs on the offensive side of the ball earlier in this draft. Now, they focus on the defensive side and select a bully off the edge in Yetur Gross-Matos. He’s incredibly long and is as strong as an ox. For the Dolphins, they need tone setters on the defense and Gross-Matos will be able to step in and provide that with his motor and toughness off the edge. Chris Grier is trying to take all these assets and put together a beautiful puzzle, which is going to take some time. Assets like Tua, Ruggs, and Gross-Matos are putting together the edges before you start filling out the middle of the puzzle. If the Dolphins walk out of the first round with a draft like this, that puzzle might be finished sooner rather than later.
27. Seattle Seahawks – Thaddeus Moss (TE – LSU)
At this point, I’ve resigned to the notion that we have no idea what the Seahawks are going to do in the first round of the NFL Draft. They take players that draft media simply just does not see coming, so I’m going to simply give them players that make sense to me. Thaddeus Moss is currently not a favorite of the NFL Draft media as a whole, but I’m a huge fan of his game. He’s a mauler in the run game and consistently moves players backwards or puts them on the ground. He’s fluid in and out of his breaks and carries his weight extremely well for 250 pounds. He’s also an insanely talented receiver, which makes sense given that his dad is Randy Moss, that can make ridiculous catches look easy. The Seahawks value the Tight End position in this offense, but they haven’t been able to keep guys healthy. Will Dissly showed flashes at times over the past two years, but they simply can’t go into 2020 with him as the No. 1 option at the position. Moss gives them an immediate upgrade and would satisfy Russell Wilson‘s plea for weapons around him. This is one of my favorite fits in the entire draft.
28. Baltimore Ravens – Laviska Shenault Jr. (WR – Colorado)
Laviska Shenault is a Swiss Army Knife type of player, but he’s not like gadget players that have come out in previous years. First off, Shenault is 6’2/220 and may run a 4.4 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Additionally, he’s a well-rounded wide receiver who possesses top-notch contested catch ability. He was used all over the formation at Colorado and did everything from lining up out wide as the X-receiver to running the wildcat. For the Ravens, this fit makes too much sense. A speed/size combination with a wide catch radius is exactly what the Ravens need for Lamar Jackson. Plus, he provides enough versatility that the Ravens can continue being super creative with their scheme and keep opposing defenses guessing. How fun would it be to watch the Ravens offense with Jackson, Shenault, and Mark Ingram lined up in the backfield?
29. Tennessee Titans – D’Andre Swift (RB – Georgia)
I’ll say this as delicately as I can…there’s no way that the Tennessee Titans are going to resign Derrick Henry to the contract that he wants. While his play may dictate it, Henry has had a total of 2,803 carries from high school to this point in the NFL. A 26-year old RB that has carried the ball as much as Henry has is not going to be paid more than the 6 year/$90 million contract that Ezekiel Elliott signed this past offseason. (At least he shouldn’t be…) The Titans are a smart franchise and they let Henry walk in this scenario, only to draft the best RB in the 2020 NFL Draft: D’Andre Swift. Swift is the complete package as a RB…he’s powerful, has great burst, and has incredible change of direction ability. His receiving ability may be the best in the class and his vision is outstanding. The Titans can pivot from Henry to Swift and not lose any momentum as an offense. All the while, they free up that money to use at addressing other needs via Free Agency.
30. Green Bay Packers – Kenneth Murray (LB – Oklahoma)
Right now, the Packers have some question marks at Linebacker. Blake Martinez and BJ Goodson are UFA’s, which leaves Oren Burks as the only one still on the roster. Martinez and Goodson aren’t exactly All-Pro LBs either, so the Packers could stand to upgrade at the position. They add the speedy LB from Oklahoma here at No. 30 overall. Murray’s an explosive athlete and has a great build for the position. He’s a sure tackler and has incredible range. He’d step into that Mike Pettine defense and be a valuable asset right out of the gates. The Packers have other needs, but they’ll look to address those with their later picks and take advantage of the depth of this class…
31. San Francisco 49ers – Jeff Gladney (CB – TCU)
The San Francisco 49ers go into 2020 with very few needs on their roster. Because of that, they can look to the future with this pick and plan for life after Richard Sherman. Sherman certainly didn’t play well in the Super Bowl, but he was outstanding for the majority of the 2019 season. However, he’s 31 now and the 49ers need to start grooming a top-tier replacement for him. Jeff Gladney can be just that…Gladney has tremendous footwork and has more than enough speed to keep up with the receivers in the NFC West. While Gladney can excel in man coverage, he’s best sitting in zone coverage where he can read and react to the QB. He has the ability to step in and contribute right away, but yet also hasn’t reached his ceiling. With solid coaching from that 49ers defensive staff, Gladney could be a home run pick sooner rather than later. If the 49ers don’t go corner with this pick, look for them to trade back. The 49ers only have one total pick in the top four rounds.
32. Kansas City Chiefs – A.J. Terrell (CB – Clemson)
The Kansas City Chiefs have the best QB/HC combination in the NFL…that’s how they won this Super Bowl. However, their roster still has tons of holes all over it. While the talent of Patrick Mahomes can make things look better on the offensive side of the ball than they are, the Chiefs need help on defense. Since the Chiefs only have Charvarius Ward and Rashad Fenton under contract at CB for 2020, this becomes a huge pressing need. AJ Terrell is an explosive athlete with a great understanding of how to professionally play the position. While he did not look great in the National Championship game, he played phenomenally well all CFB season long. The Chiefs fill a position of need here with a great player.