Sicoli’s Draft Selections

A final look at the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft

Michael Sicoli, Associate Opinion Editor

With the NFL draft just two days away, it’s time for the last mock draft you will need to consult. Keep in mind no draft day trades will be a part of this mock draft, as trying to predict that is nearly impossible. After months of news, combine results, virtual Pro Day tape and speculation, let’s get into it.

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1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, quarterback, LSU

No surprises here. The 2020 national champion and Heisman-Trophy winner has been linked to Cincinnati for months, as quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Ryan Finley are not the answers to the team’s four-year playoff drought. I love the fit as well, given that running back Joe Mixon and wide receiver Tyler Boyd should be able to replicate the success Burrow had when targeting the slot and running back. Having seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green on the perimeter doesn’t hurt. 

2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, defensive end, Ohio State

The team may not need a defensive end, but realistically, the Redskins’ biggest need is talent. Young is a generational player with a ridiculous burst off the line, and after tallying 16.5 sacks as well as six forced fumbles, defensive-minded head coach Ron Rivera won’t be able to resist taking a talent like Young.

 3. Detroit Lions: Jeffrey Okudah, cornerback, Ohio State

I should preface this pick with the belief that this selection will be traded to a team looking to move up for one of the top quarterbacks. But if Detroit retains this pick, Okudah is the right fit. The team shipped out star cornerback Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles, leaving a weak secondary even weaker. His 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame and technique allows him to cover almost any target. In a division featuring wide receivers Adam Thielen, Allen Robinson II and Davante Adams, that is critical.

 4. New York Giants: Isaiah Simmons, linebacker, Clemson

I say “linebacker” with massive quotation marks. The Butkus Award-winning “linebacker” lined up at every single defensive position with Clemson outside of defensive tackle and nose tackle. Ten years ago, not having a defined position would be viewed as an issue. Today, with the success of versatile players like Derwin James and Tyrann Mathieu, it is a gift. The Giants need a defensive playmaker like Simmons who can play all over the field. That’s easy to do when you can run a 4.39-second 40-yard dash time.

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 5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback, Alabama

I don’t buy the negative news Tagovailoa has been hit with since the beginning of April. News broke that some teams failed the Alabama star due to the hip injury he suffered against Mississippi State in November. However, Tagovailoa has been medically cleared according to several sources including the firm that represents the young quarterback. His talent is undeniable and while his health is a risk, the Dolphins have been heavily invested in the Alabama product. Choosing to believe that the recent reports are simply draft season smokescreens to lower his value, the Dolphins will stay true to their 2019 “Tank for Tua” mantra.

 6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, quarterback, Oregon

Head coach Anthony Lynn can be “legitimately bullish” all he wants about quarterback Tyrod Taylor, but the 30-year-old quarterback — who has played for three different teams over the last three years — is not the future for the team. Herbert has a prototypical quarterback build and a solid stat line to back up his draft position. His 4.68-second 40-yard dash time, as well as game film, is proof of an under-utilized rushing ability. Sitting behind Taylor, a veteran quarterback, will allow Herbert to take his time in his development — ideal for any rookie quarterback.

 7. Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, defensive tackle, Auburn

A disruptor if there ever was one, Brown is a beast on the line. It’s rare to find a defensive tackle that is more than a run stuffer, and Brown has that ceiling. The Panthers allowed the fourth most rushing yards of any team in 2019 and tied for the second most rushing touchdowns allowed of all time in a single season (31). Not the second most in 2019. The second most of all time. Brown is a perfect fit for what this team needs.

 8. Arizona Cardinals: Tristan Wirfs, offensive tackle, Iowa

This offensive tackle class is excellent and figuring out which one is going off the board first is a challenge. The honor goes to Wirfs, who can solve a much-needed question the Cardinals have been asking for some time: who is the best option at right tackle? Marcus Gilbert has struggled with injuries, missing all of 2019 and is now 32 years old. Fill-in starter Justin Murray recorded a mediocre 62.9 player grade according to Pro Football Focus. The Cardinals allowed 50 sacks in 2019, an unsustainable number especially with an undersized quarterback like Kyler Murray under center. Wirfs can be a Week 1 starter for this team in desperate need of pass protection.

 9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mehki Becton, offensive tackle, Louisville

Becton is a mountain of a man, crushing the combine in February. People measuring in at 6-foot-7, weighing 364 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan should not be able to run a 5.10-second 40-yard dash time or record 1.80 and 1.77 second 10-yard split times. He is rawer as a prospect than most of the top tackles in the class, but his ceiling is through the roof. Getting a tackle would be the right move to support young sophomore quarterback Gardner Minshew and boost the running game led by running back Leonard Fournette (if he isn’t traded). It’s worth noting that Becton had his drug test at the Combine flagged for illegal substances, but the new Collective Bargaining Agreement allows Becton to return to normal status provided he does not fail another drug test within 60 days. Teams love players with a high ceiling, and so Becton is still a top-10 selection.

10. Cleveland Browns: Andrew Thomas, offensive tackle, Georgia

The Browns geared up for 2019 and gained plenty of shiny toys, but without a good offensive line they crumbled. With the team’s current left tackle, Greg Robinson, serving time in a federal prison for possessing over 157 pounds of marijuana, it’s safe to say the team needs a replacement. Adding Thomas, who was a first-team Associated Press All-American as a left tackle at Georgia, will make quarterback Baker Mayfield’s life much easier.

 11. New York Jets: CeeDee Lamb, wide receiver, Oklahoma

The first wide receiver in an extremely talented and deep class goes off the board to a team in desperate need of receivers. The Oklahoma product was a monster in college, racking up over 2,000 receiving yards and 33 touchdowns on just 98 receptions, not to mention his three punt return touchdowns. According to Bleacher Report’s lead NFL Draft Writer Matt Miller, Lamb is the top wide receiver on the team’s board. Meanwhile, the Jets ranked 28th in passing yards in 2019 before replacing No. 1 wide receiver Robby Anderson (3,059 career receiving yards in three years) with wide receiver Breshad Perriman (1,561 career receiving yards in four years) in free agency. Lamb is the type of playmaker quarterback Sam Darnold needs in order to take the next step before his career goes off the rails.

 12. Las Vegas Raiders: Jerry Jeudy, wide receiver, Alabama

Las Vegas Raiders. Still sounds weird. Anyway, Jeudy, my personal favorite wide receiver in the class, was the best route runner in college football. Put on any Jeudy film and you will see incredibly sharp cuts and hip twists that remind me of Odell Beckham Jr. The Raiders have been looking for a No. 1 wide receiver since Amari Cooper was traded. Tyrell Williams is a good option but has proven he is not a No. 1. The Antonio Brown trade turned out to be … a mistake. In a conference call with reporters, general manager Mike Mayock said “there’s no secret we need to get better at wideout.” Adding a weapon like Jeudy is a good way to do just that.

 13. San Francisco 49ers (from IND): Javon Kinlaw, defensive tackle, South Carolina

Kinlaw is the perfect fit for the 13-3 49ers. The team doesn’t have many holes, but after shipping out defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Colts for this pick due to Buckner’s contract demands, the team could use a replacement. Kinlaw flashes a similar ceiling to Derrick Brown and should work well on a team that has dominant edge rushers like Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa and five-year veteran Arik Armstead. With Kinlaw being one of the best players available and filling a position of need, the 49ers should rush to the virtual chat podium and take him.

 14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jedrick Wills, offensive tackle, Alabama

Wills is a great pick for the Bucs who need to help protect former Patriot and all-time great, quarterback Tom Brady. Tampa Bay has officially flipped the switch to win-now mode and keeping Brady upright at age 43 is the way to do that. Wills is regarded as the one of the most pro-ready tackles in this class. Allowing 47 sacks like they did in 2019 is a good way for the Buccaneers to waste the small championship window that has now been blown open.

 15. Denver Broncos: Henry Ruggs III, wide receiver, Alabama

Back-to-back Alabama products go off the board here as the Broncos take the fastest wide receiver in the draft. His field-stretching ability will give quarterback Drew Lock another deep threat option as a legitimate No. 2 wide receiver. General manager John Elway always loves to make a splash in the draft and adding a wide receiver as talented as Ruggs to pair with a big-armed Lock is something Elway won’t pass on.

 16. Atlanta Falcons: C.J. Henderson, cornerback, Florida

Henderson has been rising on draft boards for some time now. The Falcons are bare at cornerback after seven-year starter Desmond Trufant was a salary cap casualty, leaving 2018 second-round pick Isaiah Oliver and not much else in the secondary. Henderson would be an immediate upgrade for a depleted defense, which ranked 21st in passing defense with Trufant on the roster. There have been rumors that Atlanta could be moving up from No. 16, but unless Jeffrey Okudah begins to slide, taking Henderson is the right move.

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 17. Dallas Cowboys: Kristian Fulton, cornerback, LSU

Drafting for need is not always the right way to go, but with the last top tier cornerback on the board, the Cowboys should pull the trigger on the national champion who led LSU in pass breakups with 14. After letting cornerback Byron Jones walk in free agency, the team needs to add a piece to that secondary. It may be tempting to take a pass rusher like Fulton’s college teammate K’lavon Chaisson but adding Fulton will support a secondary that just lost its top coverage player.

 18. Miami Dolphins (from PIT): Josh Jones, offensive tackle, Houston

To protect their new quarterback, that offensive line needs to improve. The line was downright offensive last season, allowing a ridiculous 58 sacks, tied for the most in the league. That cannot continue, especially if the Dolphins roll with Tagovailoa and his injury history. Adding Ereck Flowers, who should line up at offensive guard, is not enough. With neither of the 2019 starting tackles playing up to par last season, Jones can be a much-needed Week 1 starter.

 19. Las Vegas Raiders (from CHI): Jordan Love, quarterback, Utah State

After years of speculating that head coach Jon Gruden would replace starting quarterback Derek Carr with a hand-picked quarterback, it finally comes to fruition. Make no mistake — Love is a project. After a solid 2018 campaign, his top three wide receivers as well as his starting running back (coincidentally also his fourth best receiver) and coaching staff all moved on. As a result, he struggled in 2019, making him the definition of a boom-bust prospect. Sitting him behind Carr for a year to develop is a smart decision to give the Raiders, and their fan base, a new face of the franchise as they head to Sin City. Carr, while signed through 2022, can be released in 2021 with a mere $2.5 million dead cap hit, saving the team a fortune.

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 20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from LAR): A.J. Epenesa, defensive end, Iowa

Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has publicly announced via Twitter that he has no interest in signing a long-term deal with the Jaguars. Team captain and defensive end Calais Campbell was traded to Baltimore for a fifth-round pick. That’s a combined 14.5 sacks walking out the door, assuming Ngakoue gets traded. It’s safe to say Jacksonville needs to add an edge rusher to pair with sophomore linebacker Josh Allen. Epenesa’s draft value has dipped slightly with a somewhat underwhelming 2019 campaign, but he offers good versatility on the line, with the ability to move inside if packages demand it. His adaptability is similar to Campbell, the guy he is being drafted to replace, and with the right coaching, Epenesa can make an immediate impact for a team that allowed the fifth most rushing yards and the second most rushing touchdowns in 2019.

Tammy Anthony Baker, via Flickr

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson, wide receiver, LSU

Talk about a perfect fit. The Eagles wide receiver corps was absolutely decimated in 2019, with tight end Zach Ertz leading the team in receiving yards. Next up? Tight end Dallas Goedert. After that? Running back Miles Sanders. Jefferson deserves plenty of credit for Joe Burrow’s excellent season, and his dominance from the slot will provide quarterback Carson Wentz with the reliable slot receiver that Nelson Agholor never could be.

 22. Minnesota Vikings (from BUF): K’Lavon Chaisson, linebacker, LSU

A highlight-tape machine, watching Chaisson blitz is a beautiful thing. His movements are fluid enough to beat most offensive linemen, although he could improve against more physical players. The Vikings just lost Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen to free agency, resulting in eight sacks and 11 tackles for a loss, walking away. Replacing that production with a good edge rusher will help the Vikings retain the dominant run defense the league has faced for years.

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 23. New England Patriots: Zach Baun, linebacker, Wisconsin

Baun may be a surprise pick to some over other prospects like LSU linebacker Patrick Queen or Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray, but Baun is the perfect fit for the Patriots. The team’s linebacking corps got decimated in free agency, with Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts all leaving. With no clear replacement on the roster, Baun has the ability to rush the passer (12.5 sacks last season, 19.5 tackles for a loss) and drop into coverage (one interception, 2 pass breakups and 2 forced fumbles). Baun did have a diluted drug test at the Combine, although between his claims that he drank too much water and the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Adam Schefter reported that it should not impact his draft stock. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein gives all prospects NFL comparisons, and Baun’s was to Van Noy. Who better to fill the void?

 24. New Orleans Saints: Patrick Queen, linebacker, LSU

With Love off the board, a successor to Drew Brees will have to wait. The Saints are still Super Bowl contenders, and with the offense looking as strong as ever with the addition of veteran slot receiver Emmanuel Sanders, the team should address the defense here. Linebackers Kiko Alonso and Alex Anzalone are hardly locked-in starters, and 2019 starting inside linebacker A.J. Klein was signed by the Buffalo Bills in free agency. Next in line from a school with a long history of producing star linebackers like Deon Jones, Kwon Alexander and Devin White is Queen who can help give the team a helpful push towards the Super Bowl.

 25. Minnesota Vikings: A.J. Terrell, cornerback, Clemson

Cornerback is a desperate need for the Vikings who just cut cornerback Xavier Rhodes and watched both Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander sign contracts with the Bengals. The team is devoid of reliable starters, with 2018 first-round pick Mike Hughes as the No. 1 cornerback despite suffering injuries, starting a mere five games over two years and having a below-average Pro Football Focus player grade of 58.7. It’s safe to say that the Vikings need to add a cornerback, and Terrell is the best fit. The Clemson product has good size at 6-foot-1, which should work well with the undersized 5-foot-10 Hughes. Adding the first-team all-conference cornerback makes sense for a team with a deprived secondary.

 26. Miami Dolphins (from HOU): Xavier McKinney, safety, Alabama

The Dolphins finish their trifecta of first-round selections strong by selecting one of the more versatile players in the draft. Possibly the best player available as well as a position need, McKinney is a steal here at No. 26. McKinney can line up at cornerback or safety and drop into the box as a linebacker. Adding McKinney will finish the transformation for a defense that allowed 494 points per game (almost 31 per game) — the most points against in the 2019 season. A popular belief is that the Dolphins take a running back here, but with three more picks inside the top 75 selections, the team can address the position later.

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

A once fierce defense has become toothless as the trade for edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney did not pan out for the Seahawks. Now, Clowney is a free agent, and the defense that was tied for 31st in sacks with 28 is left without any semblance of a pass rush. Gross-Matos is a perfect fit for the 4-3 system that the Seahawks traditionally run. He is nowhere near his ceiling as well, with room to grow when facing linemen who can counter his “bull rush” ability. Head coach Pete Caroll can work wonders with the 22-year-old defensive end after a frustrating 2019 season with Clowney.

 28. Baltimore Ravens: Kenneth Murray, linebacker, Oklahoma

The rich get richer as the most athletic linebacker not named Isaiah Simmons goes to the Ravens. Murray can run sideline to sideline all game long and can chase down almost any player. The 241-pound linebacker ran a solid 4.52-second 40-yard dash time at the Combine, running through an injured hamstring. The Ravens are lacking an athletic linebacker who can close space and cover zones. Current projected starting linebacker L.J. Fort lacks the speed to effectively play in coverage. Murray may overshoot a few tackles, at least early on, but his athletic profile and ability to be wherever the team needs him to be makes him the best player on the board and someone the Ravens will be happy to have.

 29. Tennessee Titans: Jeff Gladney, cornerback, TCU

A personal favorite to watch, Gladney is an extremely hard-working cornerback with lockdown ability. His long arms and fluid technique allow him to cover most receivers with ease. “Most receivers” is why Gladney is not a higher pick — he can struggle with larger wide receivers as a 5-foot-10 cornerback. For example, Collin Johnson, the 6-foot-6 wide receiver from Texas, was able to get the best of Gladney back in October. With cornerback Malcom Butler underwhelming (65.5 Pro Football Focus player grade) and Logan Ryan a free agent, Gladney is an awesome pick for a team that should be led by a strong defense and a stronger running game.

 30. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Mimms, wide receiver, Baylor

At long last, the team selects a No. 2 wide receiver for Rodgers. Mimms is the traditional “combine riser” after his blazing 4.38-second 40-yard dash time shot him up the board. The team has been relying on wide receiver Davante Adams for too long, and the free agency addition of wide receiver Devin Funchess is hardly what the team needs. Mimms can fill a deep threat void that has not been consistently filled since the days of wide receiver Greg Jennings.

 31. San Francisco 49ers: Ezra Cleveland, offensive tackle, Boise State

The 49ers should trade out of one of their first round picks between No. 13 and No. 31, given that the team has a massive 125-pick gap between this selection and their next one in the fifth round. But in a mock draft with no trades, the 49ers take their tackle of the future. Left tackle Joe Staley will be 36 years old, and while Staley is still a good option, he cannot play forever. The 49ers have the fortune to not have a must-get position of need, especially when Kinlaw falls into their lap with their first pick. Cleveland excelled making outside zone blocks in college, which would be perfect for the zone blocking scheme that head coach Kyle Shanahan used to get to the Super Bowl in 2019.


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

With 91% of the NFL champions’ roster returning in 2019, the Chiefs are in a good position. Ruiz is an extremely talented offensive lineman, but since he is primarily a center, he falls farther than he should in terms of true talent. That fall is to the benefit of the Chiefs who have the opportunity to improve upon incumbent starter Austin Reiter, who committed eight penalties (fourth most among starting centers) and had a Pro Football Focus player rating of 63.0, which can be improved. Pairing Reiter’s expiring contract with his potential likely capped, the Chiefs can replace him with the best offensive lineman left on the board.