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Thursday, 23 April 2020

NFL Mock Draft First Round 2020 (April 23rd)

So how is everyone doing?

This is without a doubt the strangest period of time I have lived through and I am sure many others are feeling the same. Everything we have taken for granted in the Western world has ground into a halt and that includes the things we love.

I have missed sports in general and it is a sad time to think this is when the NBA PlayOffs should be days from beginning, the Major League Baseball season would have been well underway and the European Football Leagues would have been entering the portion of the season when hopes are dashed and dreams are achieved.

The Tennis Tour would have begun the run to the French Open and we would have been plenty occupied from those who love any form of sport that is usually played in April.

Of course it all pales into insignificance when it comes to protecting those we love around us and so I have been taking the advice from governments very seriously- stay home, protect those around us and hopefully we will return to some level of normality in the weeks and months ahead.

Make no mistake, things will eventually get better but for now we have to follow the advice being given to make sure no one unnecessarily loses loved ones. I have already felt that impact around me so this is not an overblown message from the media, but a serious concern we all have to take on head on by making sure we are keeping our distance from others.

The same goes for the NFL where Free Agency was conducted in an unfamiliar way, but that is nothing compared to how the 2020 Draft is going to be run. I just hope all the teams have invested in top broadband providers in what is hopefully going to be the one and only time we have to see the NFL Draft in the manner it will be conducted this year.

Free Agency has already bared its teeth with the biggest move being Tom Brady's decision to join the NFC and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after spending two decades with the New England Patriots.

On the face of things you may think it is a backwards step, but the NFC looks much more open than the AFC (avoiding facing Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes before the Super Bowl is a boost in anyone's language) and the Buccaneers are loaded Offensively which makes them one of the favourites in the Conference.

And I would sign up to see Tom Brady versus Drew Brees twice this year all day long!

There is work for the Buccaneers to do if they are going to use the two years with Brady to win another Super Bowl, but the team is in a 'win now' position and I really like their chances to at least make the big game once in that time.

That was the big move, but as a Miami Dolphins fan I was mostly interested to see how the next stage of redeveloping this team would go.

Before the 2019 season the Dolphins were actively shipping away the majority of their assets which meant having a big Draft arsenal and plenty of cap space going into this off-season. Overachievement in the season meant a team who were expected to end with between 0-2 wins had 5 on the season, but a top five Draft position is not going to harm them at all.

Importantly they have gotten some big deals over the line in Free Agency with the standout signing being Byron Jones from the Dallas Cowboys. Along with Xavien Howard the Dolphins have locked down the Corner positions, while I am pleased with the Kyle Van Noy and Emmanuel Ogbah signings too which go along with Shaq Lawson to give Miami some punch up front on the Defensive side of the ball.

It all points to Miami taking an increased focus on fixing the Offense in the Draft and they have the capital to do that which automatically makes the team a much better prospect in 2020, especially if the Coaching staff can get more out of the team as they did in 2019.

With the Patriots weakened, the Dolphins and Buffalo Bills will be looking to take advantage, but like much of the League, it is all about getting it right in the Draft.

So a Mock Draft- usually I don't have the time to write this out with work and sports being run, but it is something that we all love to speculate on. I have to make some 'mock trades' just for the fun of it, but the Draft is regularly one which springs a lot of surprises so trying to second guess teams is not an easy thing to do.

Like many, this is going to look so dumb after the first five Picks are made on Day 1 with the surprises we see in the NFL Draft, but it is just a bit of fun and nothing to take too seriously.

1. Joe Burrow (QB)- go back twelve months and I was reading previews for the upcoming College Football season which had written they expected a big improvement from Joe Burrow as he moved into the starting spot as Quarter Back of the LSU Tigers.

However in the same preview he was rated as the fifteenth best QB prospect that would be eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft.

2019 proved to be a huge season for Burrow who led the Tigers to the National Championship and at the same time greatly improved his own stock to the point he is an obvious Number 1 Pick. Barring the house being given to Cincinnati for this position in the Draft, Burrow will be the new franchise Quarter Back for the Bengals.

Am I convinced about Burrow? Not completely with the potential of him being a one season wonder, but his character isn't in question and Cincinnati have to take him here.

2. Chase Young (DE)- there has been some suggestions from the Washington Redskins that they are doing their due diligence about the Quarter Backs in the 2020 Draft, but I do think that is smoke and mirrors.

It would take plenty of Draft capital for a team to move into this spot and I am not sure any team will want to offer what Washington will consider.

With that said Washington are getting the chance to pick a potential star at the next level- there is a recovery job being done in the nation's capital, but Chase Young is a great piece to add to the Defensive Line. Perhaps trading away Trent Williams will give Washington more resources to add the Draft, but with this many holes on the roster you have to take the best possible player on the board and that is Young.

Justin Herbert (QB)- I would be more surprised if the Detroit Lions were to pick Number 3 in the Draft than if they were able to pick some additional Draft capital and see either the Miami Dolphins or the Los Angeles Chargers move into this position.

It makes little sense for the Lions to do anything else, especially as they won't be slipping that far down the Day 1 Draft spots and in my Mock I have the Chargers being the team to pull the trigger.

Miami have the potential to do the same, but I think they seem happier in the Number 5 spot barring yet another team moving ahead of them. The Chargers seem to be more convinced about Justin Herbert than the Dolphins and at Number 6 in the Draft I think there is more urgency for them to move into the Number 3 or 4 spot than the Dolphins.

There is a chance that Detroit still pick here with the Giants looking to trade out of the Number 4 spot, but my feeling is that someone will just get a touch twitchy and make the move.

I am not at all sure about Herbert and am desperate for Miami to avoid him- he hasn't played away from Oregon and looked very inconsistent in 2019 against teams that are perhaps a tier below the very elite in College Football. His stock has risen in the weeks leading to Draft day, and I think that will see him picked high, with the Chargers supposedly very keen on him.

4. Jedrick Wills (OL)- the stories coming out of New York that the Giants have been scouting up Justin Herbert seem to be completely designed to produce a trade that will add Draft capital for the team.

If the Detroit Lions are not able to make a deal, it would not surprise me if the Giants are able to move down a couple of spots and still pick up the player I have registered for them here.

For this mock I have the Giants unable to make a deal, although I do think there is a potential for someone like the Jacksonville Jaguars to offer enough compensation to skip ahead of the Miami Dolphins if they feel they want to take a Quarter Back here.

That wouldn't surprise me at all, especially if they can deal away Yannick Ngakoue for what the Jaguars have been looking for. If they do that, I would expect them to trade above the Miami Dolphins, but for this Mock I have the Giants upgrading the Offensive Line and also someone who can pave the way for Saquon Barkley for years to come.

5. Tua Tagovailoa (QB)- any news story you read at this time of the year is designed to scramble what other teams are thinking and I think that is the case with the Miami Dolphins looking at other options in the Draft.

In a perfect world they don't have to move from this spot to take the Quarter Back that has been high on the agenda for a long time and ever since the 'tanking' was put in place last season. Injuries to Tua Tagovailoa are a concern, but in this day and age it is not a selection that is going to hinder Miami for years to come if they get this wrong.

Tagovailoa went into the 2019 season as the clear Number 1 Quarter Back and I think that will still be the mindset for the Dolphins despite the injuries he has suffered. Another year of 'Fitz Magic' can see Tagovailoa get healthy, and worst case scenario for the Dolphins is they are picking very high again in twelve months time and can change the direction of the team if Tua is shown to be too banged up for the next level.

I am not sure how I feel about Tua, especially the lack of athleticism that seems to be the way forward for players in this position in the NFL. However I think Miami have targeted him for some time and they can select him without losing any of the other host of early selections they have in the next two Drafts.

Jeff Okudah (CB)- in this Mock Draft the Lions are able to move down and add some additional capital as well as being able to pick the player they are most likely to take in the Number 3 spot if they stand pat.

Jeff Okudah looks to be the best Corner in the Draft and the Lions have lost Darius Slay who has been moved to the Philadelphia Eagles.

This looks a no brainer for a team who are rebuilding the Defensive unit in a 'make or break' season for the Coaching staff.

7. Isaiah Simmons (LB)- the Carolina Panthers are clearly in rebuilding mode with a first year staff, but the biggest holes are on the Defensive side of the ball. They did do some work to address the Offense in Free Agency, so anything but a Defensive player being picked in the First Round would be a surprise.

Adding more Picks by trading down is a possibility, but the way my Mock is unfolding I think the pressing needs begin to be addressed here.

The retirement of Luke Keuchly means there is a gaping hole to be filled by Isaiah Simmons and it would be surprising if the Panthers pass on someone who can be effective from a number of positions on the field

Derrick Brown is a possibility here too, but Simmons looks the more obvious choice.

Jerry Jeudy (WR)- the Broncos have some Draft capital which helps them move ahead of other rivals who will be looking to upgrade their Wide Receiver corps.

I really was at loggerheads with this selection in the Draft as the Cardinals could easily select Derrick Brown here, but with a General Manager who is used to making moves and the lack of selections in the Draft I do think they can drop down and still fill a need.

Adding selections will help the Cardinals and the Broncos should be keen with the capital they have to offer in a trade as they get their first choice Receiver. That helps Drew Lock and Courtland Sutton going forward and I do think the Broncos have identified Jeudy as the best Receiver in the Draft.

9. Derrick Brown (DL)- there are plenty of Draft selections for the rebuilding Jacksonville Jaguars so I don't think there will be much interest in dropping down here.

With as many holes as the Jaguars have, I do think they will select the best player available for them and that is the monstrous Derrick Brown on the Defensive Line.

Both Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus are gone, and the Jaguars struggled to stuff the run last season so Brown makes the most sense. CJ Henderson is another they could target, but I think Brown is the selection here.

10. Tristan Wirfs (OL)- the Right Tackle position has been dealt with in Free Agency, but the Cleveland Browns protect Baker Mayfield a little more by taking the second Offensive Lineman off the board.

Like many teams as you move down the Draft positions there is a chance the Browns will trade down to add to their selections, but I don't think they find a willing partner here and take a player to fill a real position of need.

Things could change if Odell Beckham Jr is moved on in a trade prior to the Draft and Cleveland could go for a Wide Receiver ahead of the Jets and the Raiders, but right now I think they go with an Offensive Lineman to give their Quarter Back the best chance of success in 2020.

11. CeeDee Lamb (WR)- the Jets have a number of positions to address in the Draft, but the loss of Robby Anderson makes this an easy choice for a First Round selection.

With Jerry Jeudy off the board in my Mock, the Jets go with CeeDee Lamb as the gift for Sam Darnold.

There is a chance the Jets go with an Offensive Lineman to offer their Quarter Back better protection, but Darnold needs someone to throw to and I think that might be the more pressing concern in this position.

12. Henry Ruggs (WR)- it would be a big surprise if the Las Vegas Raiders do not take a Wide Receiver in the First Round and I think they can do that without moving up the Draft positions.

With both Jeudy and Lamb off my board in the Mock Draft, the Raiders pick up Henry Ruggs and don't have to give away any further Picks. There is a chance Las Vegas think about doing this earlier if they like one of the other two Receivers a lot more, but I think they will be happy with any of the three leading players at that position and give Derek Carr a chance to prove he is the franchise Quarter Back going forward.

CJ Henderson (CB)- in my Mock Draft the top three Receivers are off the board ahead of the San Francisco 49ers who are in the thirteenth spot thanks to a trade made with the Indianapolis Colts.

With a lack of Draft selections, the 49ers find a willing partner to see them move down a few spots and pick up an extra Pick.

I have the Atlanta Falcons making the trade as they look to move ahead of the Arizona Cardinals who may also be looking to upgrade the Defensive Back positions. This is a big season for the Falcons Coaching staff and I think they will be looking to pick up the clear second best Corner in the Draft with Jeff Okudah already off the board.

The 49ers can still pick a player of need a few spots down so this looks to make sense for both teams.

14. Andrew Thomas (OL)- I know there are some suggestions that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be moving up the Draft positions to take their Offensive Lineman earlier, but I think they can land one even if they stay where they are.

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have arrived in this part of Florida and that means the Buccaneers are in a 'win now' spot. The Offensive Line is the obvious weakness on this side of the ball and being able to land Andrew Thomas here is a huge boost for the team.

Any potential trade could depend on what the Arizona Cardinals do with the Number 8 Pick in the Draft- if they stay there and pick up an Offensive Lineman I do think Tampa Bay will look to move up behind them to take one, but in this Mock things work out perfectly for the Buccaneers who look a real power in the NFC already.

Mekhi Becton (OL)- Kyler Murray has asked for some more Offensive help to take the next step in his career.

DeAndre Hopkins has been signed from the Houston Texans, but Murray will need time to make plays for his Receivers and Arizona get fortunate.

They are able to trade down in my Mock and still pick up a top Offensive Lineman in Mekhi Becton who has perhaps been overlooked by some teams due to the flagged drug test which recently hit the press.

He might be the fourth Lineman off the board, but the Cardinals have additional Draft capital and fill a big need in this Mock.

Javon Kinlaw (DE)- the San Francisco 49ers have traded away DeForest Buckner for the Indianapolis Colts First Round selection, but they use that to add some Draft capital as well as being able to take the player they likely would if they stayed in the thirteenth spot.

In this Mock Draft they are able to make the trade with the Atlanta Falcons and select Javon Kinlaw who will come in and fit Buckner's vacated spot.

17. K'Lavon Chaisson (DE)- I think the Dallas Cowboys have a number of options here and all make some sense.

There is the obvious need at Corner Back and Defensive End which can be filled here or they can choose to move down the Draft board and still have a very good chance of being able to fill positions of need.

One team I toyed with moving into this spot was the New England Patriots who could be keen on picking up Jordan Love as the potential Quarter Back of the future, but the way my Mock has worked out means they could stay at Number 23 and still be able to pick Love if they wanted.

This is a spot in which AJ Epenesa, AJ Terrell, Kristian Fulton, Jaylon Johnson could all fill, but I think the Dallas Cowboys might be encouraged by the upside K'Lavon Chaisson brings as they look to play him opposite DeMarcus Lawrence in the position vacated by Robert Quinn.

18. Josh Jones (OL)- after picking the Quarter Back of the future, the Miami Dolphins have to make sure they are able to protect him and I think that is why they will use the second First Round Pick on an Offensive Lineman.

Some Mocks have Cesar Ruiz settled in here, but Miami did sign Ted Karras for that position and instead may choose to upgrade the Tackle positions with Josh Jones from Houston.

Jones looks very capable at the next level and I would not be surprised if Miami are targeting at least one more Offensive Lineman in the Draft with the amount of selections through the first two Rounds. Ezra Cleveland is another name being linked with the team, but may be able to be picked in the Second Round so I think they go with the superior graded talent in Jones here.

19. Kristian Fulton (CB)- Eli Apple was supposed to sign with the Las Vegas Raiders in Free Agency but seemingly has changed his mind.

That might just strengthen the mind for the Raiders when it comes to the second Draft selection in the First Round and I think they could pick Kristian Fulton here as the Corner Back to slot in where Apple was expected to go.

With Henderson and Okudah off my board, the Raiders pick the third Corner Back here.

20. Xavier McKinney (S)- the Jaguars have lost a lot of pieces on what was a stellar Defensive unit just a couple of years ago and I think their second First Round Draft Pick will also be used on that side of the ball.

In my Mock Draft Derrick Brown has already been selected to help the Defensive Line, but the Jaguars back that up by picking arguably the best Safety in the Draft.

There are options at Corner Back too with AJ Terrell still on the board, but the Jaguars continuing to take the best player of need and that is Xavier McKinney.

21. Justin Jefferson (WR)- there is a chance that the Eagles will move up the Draft standings if one of either Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb or Henry Ruggs drops below Number 12 in the order, but in my Mock Draft all three are gone.

For a long time the talk about the Eagles has been taking Justin Jefferson and I think he will still be there if they are picking at Number 21.

More weapons for Carson Wentz are needed and I think this goes some way to addressing that without having to give up Draft capital.

22. Jaylon Johnson (CB)- this is a spot the Minnesota Vikings have picked up in trading Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills, but the choice looks to be replacing pieces on the other side of the ball.

All three top Corner Backs from 2019 have moved on and Mike Zimmer is a Defensive Coach who will want to pick up someone to at least fill in. With three Corners off the board, Jaylon Johnson looks like someone the Vikings can pick up here ahead of AJ Terrell.

Johnson is ranked pretty highly by Pro Football Focus and this fills an obvious need for the Vikings as their fans look to see how they convert the stock picked up in moving Diggs.

Patrick Queen (LB)- both the Patriots and Ravens have plenty of Draft Picks in 2020, but the Baltimore Ravens could entice a trade up with New England who don't have a Second Round Pick where Baltimore have two.

Maybe future considerations are given up as Baltimore look to get in front of the New Orleans Saints and take Patrick Queen who looks to be the clear Number 1 Linebacker in the Draft.

That would suit the Ravens and I also think the Patriots might be keen to drop down and add a Second Round Pick if possible assuming the rumours about not being overly convinced by Jordan Love is true.

If Baltimore are not able to make the trade, I would fully expect Queen to be gone in the next spot with the New Orleans Saints.

24. Grant Delpit (S)- this would be a popular choice in New Orleans if a loaded roster was able to give themselves another Defensive Back who played his College Football up the road at LSU.

Patrick Queen would be the obvious choice here if the Ravens haven't jumped ahead and taken him and I think if he is on the board he will be picked by the Saints.

Some are suggesting Sean Payton may be keen on Jordan Love, but I think Drew Brees signing for two years and Taysom Hill on the roster means they won't be picking a Quarter Back. This is a small window for success for the Saints with Brees at QB so they have to pick players who can play a part now, and adding a Defensive Back to the team can't be a bad thing when you think they have the Buccaneers sitting in the same Division.

Grant Delpit has some huge upside at Safety and he would be someone that may be able to match up with Rob Gronkowski.

However I think there is a potential for New Orleans to pick him up a few spots down so I would not be surprised if someone jumps back into the First Round to pick here and give the Saints some additional Picks having only five in the Draft in 2020 going into this one.

A trade down is most likely in my opinion, but for this Mock I will plug in Delpit here. Other options could be AJ Terrell or AJ Epenesa as New Orleans look to load up the Defensive side of the ball to compete with the talent Tampa Bay have put together.

25. Jalen Reagor (WR)- the Vikings might be in 'win now' mode, but this is a roster with a number of holes that need to be filled on both sides of the ball.

On Day 1 of the Draft I would expect the Vikings to select someone to help on both sides of the ball.

Having selected a Corner Back at 22, I have the Vikings looking to replace Stefon Diggs at 25 and the speedster out of TCU looks to be the player that fits the mould best. Laviska Shenault Jr will interest teams, but I think the Vikings go for the slightly shorter Jalen Reagor who has speed in abundance.

26. D'Andre Swift (RB)- the Dolphins have picked a Quarter Back and an Offensive Lineman in this Mock and there is every chance they pick another one here.

They might be reaching a little bit to do that and instead may want to pick up the first Running Back in the Draft before those coming up have a chance to do that.

D'Andre Swift could be the player to pair up with Jordan Howard in the backfield with Day 2 concentrating on strengthening the Line further. He looks to be the best Running Back in the Draft and may be the second part of the tandem in the backfield that Miami will be looking to turn the franchise around as Swift lines up behind Tua Tagovailoa.

27. AJ Epenesa (DE)- a poor Combine day has affected his stock, but this could be a god chance for the Seattle Seahawks to pick up a replacement for Jadeveon Clowney.

This is a spot from which the Seahawks may decide to trade down and pick up some extra Draft capital and it would not surprise me if that is the case.

But if the Seahawks do stay here I think they could decide to take an edge rusher who has better game tape than the Combine showing and has slipped into a good position.

Jordan Love (QB)- there have been rumours both ways regarding New England's interest in Jordan Love and in this Mock they are able to trade back and still able to pick the player they might have gone with in their original position.

The Patriots do have Jarrett Stidham on the roster and he would have spent a year learning under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. That can't be discounted and perhaps the Patriots pick up more Draft selections by trading out of the First Round and having enough to stock up the front of the Defensive unit which has lost some key players.

However for this Mock Draft I will have Love landing here as the selection to take over from Brady.

29. Curtis Weaver (DE)- the Tennessee Titans would love for someone to trade in with the Seattle Seahawks in this Mock scenario and have AJ Epenesa land with them here.

It is clear that the Defensive Edge needs addressing and in this spot I slide in Curtis Weaver even if he was dominant at a level in College that was not against Power 5 opponents.

Yetur Gross-Matos is another potential selection for the Titans and they can address the Offensive Line on Day 2.

30. Tee Higgins (WR)- the Aaron Rodgers window for success at the Green Bay Packers is closing rapidly and there is no doubt the Quarter Back looks to have declined in recent seasons.

Last season the team did win thirteen games, but I can't count too many that were on Rodgers' back but rather an improved Defensive unit which kept the team in games.

The two heavy losses to the San Francisco 49ers shows a team that needs more Offensive weapons as teams continue to double Davante Adams. While Tight End will be addressed in later Rounds, the Packers do have some intriguing choices at Wide Receiver at the end of the First Round.

I have placed Tee Higgins here, but Green Bay could easily go Brandon Aiyuk, Denzel Mims, Laviska Shenault Jr or Michael Pittman Jr.

I think Higgins may be the best fit with his size as a big target in the End Zone.

31. Michael Pittman Jr (WR)- the 49ers are able to pick a Defensive End with their first Pick in the First Round and this time they help the other side of the ball.

Losing Emmanuel Sanders means there is room to bring in a Wide Receiver and they may go for a big body in Michael Pittman Jr to play opposite Deebo Samuel.

Jimmy Garroppolo is not the most accurate, but he can throw the ball up and let Pittman Jr use his size to make some plays and it might give the 49ers one of the best Receiving corps in the NFL when you add George Kittle to the cause.

The 49ers could choose to let someone high in the Second Round move in with the potential to take a Wide Receiver there and add Draft selections.

32. AJ Terrell (CB)- the Kansas City Chiefs look like a loaded team going into the 2020 season as they look to defend as Super Bowl Champions, but that doesn't mean there aren't any holes to still fill.

As good as the team are, losses in Free Agency in the Secondary means the Chiefs are in a position to bring in AJ Terrell here in my Mock.

At the back end of the First Round I would expect some teams to trade out of position to add Draft stock and that is the case with the Chiefs too. But I also think if the Draft lands like this they can pick up one of the better Corner Backs in the 2020 Draft and fill a real need for now and years to come.

That's the way it rolls in my Mock Draft, but as I said from the very beginning it could look very foolish just an hour into the real Draft on Thursday evening.

Rumours are running rampant with teams looking to move up and down the positions so things can get messy very quickly.

Players like Trent Williams and Yannick Ngakoue could both be moved for First Round selections with the latter being linked to the Las Vegas Raiders who have two selections in the first thirty-two on Thursday. That will again change the entire outlook of the Draft and make a mockery of any Mock you read.

It will be fun as always and fans are going to both love and hate selections made throughout the evening. The virtual setting will be weird to say the least, like playing Madden in real life, but it is a big moment for the thirty-two names that will be called.

Enjoy it.