Every year, news outlets from USA Today to CBS Sports make mock drafts guessing where college football’s biggest stars will end up. These mock drafts begin before the NFL season ends. As team needs begin to become clear, so too does the picture of where Joe Burrow and Chase Young will be drafted. Still, when the draft comes around, fans should expect surprises. From trades to head-scratching picks, the NFL Draft rarely goes how we expect it to. This is where we think the best players will end up, and we’ve made sure to throw some curveballs in our picks!
Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB
There is a zero percent chance the Cincinnati Bengals select anyone other than QB Joe Burrow with the first pick of the draft. The team is desperate to find their next franchise star. Andy Dalton was benched during the 2019 season, signaling that the team will either trade or release the veteran
Coming off a National Championship and a Heisman Trophy win, there is no prospect more tantalizing in 2020 than Burrow. If the Bengals go in another direction, it could be a franchise-fracturing move that will take years to recover from.
Washington Redskins – Chase Young, DE
The Washington Redskins made two franchise-altering moves during the 2019 NFL Draft by taking QB Dwayne Haskins and WR Terry Mclaurin. With those pieces in place going forward, the team can take the 2020 NFL Draft to focus on defense, making DE Chase Young an easy choice.
The old saying goes “defense wins championships” and the most important games are often won and lost in the trenches. Adding an elite talent like Young will give the Redskins an overpowering defensive line that opposing QBs will fear for years to come.
TRADE: Los Angeles Chargers – Tua Tagovailoa, QB
The Los Angeles Chargers and Philip Rivers officially broke up at the end of the 2019 season. Having failed to groom a QB behind their franchise starter, the Chargers will look to draft one before moving into their new shared stadium with the Rams.
Currently, the Chargers hold the sixth overall pick in the draft. After Joe Burrows, Tua Tagovailoa is the most promising prospect at the position. The Dolphins, who hold the fifth pick in the draft, are reportedly in love with Tua. This will lead the Chargers to trade up, swapping picks with the Lions to get their man.
NY Giants – Andrew Thomas, OT
The New York Giants have two glaring needs to address in the 2020 NFL Draft: their WR core and their defense. Unfortunately for fans of the team, GM Dave Gettleman will ignore both those needs in order to take offensive tackle Andrew Thomas out of Georgia.
Gettleman believes in old school football, and he’ll want to get a player who can keep his QB standing while also opening holes for Saquon Barkley to run through. Thomas is regarded as a raw but potential-filled draft pick with length. Luckily, the 2020 Draft class is deep at WR, so another one can be grabbed later.
Miami Dolphins – Just Herbert, QB
Having lost out on Tua Tagovailoa the Dolphins take Justin Herbert here. Having almost led the Oregon Ducks to a College Football Playoff spot, Herbert is hot QB prospect among pro scouts. He might not be the Dolphins’ first choice, but he’s a fine consolation prize for head coach Brian Flores.
With three QBs off the board in the first five picks, the field will be wide open for other teams to take other positions. There might even be a run of WRs coming!
Detroit Lions – Jeff Okudah, CB
The Detroit Lions’ defense was terrible in 2019. The team couldn’t stop the pass, allowing a league-worst 284.4 passing yards per game. The secondary’s combined seven interceptions also tied for the lowest number in the league.
All that poor play will lead the Lions to grab cornerback Jeff Okudah with the sixth overall pick. Okudah has elite size and speed for his position and should make a great stablemate for Darius Slay, the only competent defensive back currently on Detroit’s roster.
Carolina Panthers – Jacob Eason, QB
The Carolina Panthers likely will file divorce papers with Cam Newton this offseason, leading new head coach Matt Rhule to reach for Jacob Eason in the draft. The big-armed QB could be the perfect compliment for elite running back Christian McCaffrey, but does Carolina need to take him this early?
We’re betting the early run on QBs forces the issue here, even if the Panthers might be better suited to trade down and compile more draft stock.
Arizona Cardinals – Jerry Jeudy, WR
With the eighth pick in the draft, it probably makes the most sense for the Arizona Cardinals to take an offensive lineman. We don’t think that happens, though. Instead, head coach Kliff Kingsbury gets to add another piece to his air-raid offense: Jerry Jeudy.
Jeudy is the best WR prospect in the draft and has some scouts comparing him to Julio Jones. This might not be the smart pick, but it is the pick that’s just too darn good to pass up!
Jacksonville Jaguars – Jedrick Willis, OT
Doug Marrone loves running the ball, and grabbing Jedrick Willis with the ninth overall pick will help immensely. Willis is strong and fast and should be keen to open up plenty of running lanes for Leonard Fournette.
Willis should also help protect whichever QB the team starts under center next season. Pass blocking was generally abysmal in 2019, so any upgrade in 2020 is good. If the Jaguars don’t go OT here, then expect them to look to replace Jalen Ramsey with a defensive back.
Cleveland Browns – Javon Kinlaw, DT
The Cleveland Browns almost looked like a decent football team in 2019. If they could have stopped the run, they might have even been respectable. By grabbing defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw here, the Browns put a stop plug smack in the middle of the trenches.
While we like this pick for the Browns, CBS Sports currently has the team taking an offensive lineman, addressing another major concern for the team. The defense is more concerning to us, though.
NY Jets – CeeDee Lamb, WR
The New York Jets will look to give QB Sam Darnold a new wide receiver to throw to in the draft to compliment Robby Anderson. The best WR after Jerry Jeudy in the draft is CeeDee Lamb out of Oklahoma.
Lamb was a receiving machine in college, eclipsing 1,300 yards in 2019 while reeling in 14 TD receptions. Production like that is hard to pass on, and the Jets give head coach Adam Gase the greenlight to grab an elite looking player.
Las Vegas Raiders – Henry Ruggs III, WR
Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock go Al Davis with this pick and snag one of the fastest wideouts in the draft. Davis valued speed more than almost any other asset, and Henry Ruggs III has it in spades.
Grabbing a top receiver at this spot will also help fans get over the Antonio Brown debacle from the previous season. Some analysts believe the Raiders take a QB here, ending the Derek Carr era, but we think if they get rid of Carr it’s because Tom Brady is coming to town.
Indianapolis Colts – Jordan Love, QB
The Colts were stunned in 2019 with the early retirement of Andrew Luck. At the start of the season, it looked like everything was going to okay as Jacoby Brissett started coming into his own. Then Brissett got hurt and it all went downhill.
Will the Colts take the 2020 NFL Draft to reach for a QB then? Jordan Love has been compared to Patrick Mahomes by some scouts, making him a perfect target for a team looking to make a big splash.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mekhi Becton, OT
With the best QBs taken already, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers choose to shore up their offensive line here with Mekhi Becton. That way, if they do decide to keep Jameis Winston, they don’t have to worry about keeping him upright.
Becton should also help with the run game, which head coach Bruce Arians should lean on more in 2020. This could also be a good spot for a team to trade up to and take another top need.
Denver Broncos – Brandon Aiyuk, WR
The Denver Broncos need to bring playmakers to the offensive side of the ball to help support QB Drew Lock. After trading Emmanuel Sanders to the 49ers in 2019, the Broncos take this spot in the draft to replace him with Brandon Aiyuk.
Still a raw prospect, Aiyuk has been noted for his speed and agility. Will that translate to the NFL? With the right coaches, it will. If the Broncos don’t take a WR receiver here, look for them to trade back into the bottom of the first round to grab one later.
Atlanta Falcons – K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE
The Atlanta Falcons’ offense wasn’t the problem in 2019, it was their defense. Look for them to round out their trenches here and take K’Lavon Chaisson. He’ll provide a burst off the edge the team desperately lacked a season ago.
If they don’t take an edge defender, look for the Falcons to fill out their secondary, possibly with Grant Delpit out of LSU. At one point, Delpit was seen as a top-flight draft pick, but his stock has slipped more recently.
Dallas Cowboys – Grant Delpit, S
The Dallas Cowboys go high risk, high reward here by taking safety Grant Delpit out of LSU. We already told you about his plummeting draft stock, but the Cowboys only intercepted seven passes last season and need reinforcements in their secondary.
If Delpit isn’t the pick, we can also see the Cowboys grabbing a WR here. There will still be plenty available, and they might lose Amari Cooper in free agency, turning it into a position of need.
Miami Dolphins – Josh Jones, OL
The Miami Dolphins reach for offensive lineman Josh Jones here, but it’s a pick they need to make. After taking a QB earlier, they need to make sure they can protect him. Trading away Laremy Tunsil to start 2019 didn’t do Ryan Fitzpatrick any favors, after all.
The good news for Dolphins fans is that even though they reach here, they have another first-round pick coming up. Trading away so many assets in 2019 will prove to be quite helpful heading into the 2020 season.
Las Vegas Raiders – Patrick Queen, LB
The Raiders drafted Clelin Ferrell in 2019 to help win the battle in the trenches. That means in 2019 they add a much-needed piece to the middle of the field with Patrick Queen.
Queen is a bit of a luxury pick right here for Las Vegas, but one they don’t hesitate to make. The team wants to win right away in their new home, and strengthening their defense is one way to do exactly that.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Cole Kmet, TE
When Cole Kmet, the best tight end in the draft, drops to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 20th pick, they have no choice but to take him. He would instantly provide a safety blanket for their quarterback and would see plenty of targets his rookie season.
If for some reason they pass on Kmet here, it’s probably for defense. Maybe a defensive lineman to round out their trenches, or a defensive back if a good one is still available.