Alex Hale’s Mock Draft 1.0

I swore for the longest time I wasn’t going to do this, but in the words of Michael Corleone, “Just when I thought I was out, THEY PULL ME BACK IN.” 

So here we are, the 2020 NFL Draft where the whole process has changed due to the Coronavirus pandemic here in the United States.  Most Pro Days are now cancelled because of the stay at home orders in numerous states and players can’t travel for visits with teams. 

We’re at a point in draft history where teams won’t be able to get the full evaluation of players that they’re used to.  They have to go off of combine medicals, not having their staff do medicals or their coaches running their drills.  This draft is completely going to be unlike any draft we’ve had before to the point where GMs will be having virtual conferences in a virtual draft Conference. 

But the one constant is Mock Drafts.  So with the where we are in the world today, I feel the best distraction for not just myself, but for draft fans everywhere is to return to writing and release Mock Draft 1.0.

1. Cincinnati BengalsQB Joe Burrow – LSU

Literally the easiest selection and worst kept secret in the draft.  The Bengals need a QB, Burrow is from Southeast Ohio and had an outstanding year showing the poise and passing ability that make him a potential Franchise QB.  His passing vision is elite, his accuracy has taken major steps forward since his days at OSU, his leadership is infectious.  The only concern is he’s a breakout QB, my rule states to see at least 2 years of this success.  For Bengals sake, they better hope he’s the QB from 2019-2020 going forward and doesn’t regress to the QB from 2018-2019.

2. Washington Redskins – EDGE Chase Young – Ohio State 

Washington literally cannot screw this up.  No matter where you stand on Dwayne Haskins, you don’t pass on Chase Young here.  Chase Young is as explosive as Myles Garrett, but technically as sound as Nick Bosa.  He’s going to transform Washington’s defense into a monster.  At that point, you bet on Haskins to develop and worst case, you bet everything on a QB next year.  Bottom line, Chase Young is the best player in this draft, you don’t pass on him.

3. Los Angeles Chargers (from Detroit) – QB Tua Tagovailoa – Alabama
TRADE: Los Angeles trades #6 overall pick, a 2020 4th Round pick and a 2021 1st Round pick to Detroit for #3 overall pick

The Chargers will have to battle with the Dolphins for this pick, but the Dolphins have the luxury of not needing to worry about the Lions or Giants taking a QB.  The Chargers normally don’t pay this price, but with new stadium and a team built to win, the Chargers pay up for the pick and take Tua.  Tua is a born leader who was the leader of Alabama the past 2 years, as well as their National Championship victory when he threw the winning TD pass.  His accuracy and anticipation are outstanding, but his arm strength leaves more to be desired.  His injury history is a major concern as well, especially with his hip injury leaving teams to wonder can he fully recover and regain his mobility.  The talent is all there, he can be a Franchise QB, but can he stay healthy long enough to fully realize it?

4. New York Giants – LB Isaiah Simmons – Clemson 

Recent rumors have the Giants to be locking in on Simmons and honestly why shouldn’t they?  Simmons is a unique talent, who plays as a LB, but has the experience at Safety and CB with the athletic ability to play there.  His was outstanding at Clemson being the heart of their defense this past year.  He should make an immediate impact at the next level as one of those players who plays all over the field and for the Giants a leader for their defense.  Although if I’m Daniel Jones, I’m demanding them find a way to get a young LT for him in Round 2.

5. Miami Dolphins – QB Justin Herbert – Oregon 

The Dolphins were once thought to be the favorite to land the Top QB in the draft and now they’re picking the 3rd best QB in the draft.  In recent weeks there’s been confusion on who there target is and although some may point to Tua being their target, the bringing in of Jordan Love casts doubt on who they like.  Add to that rumors to trade up to #1 are buzzing to get Joe Burrow.  If anything I think they’re fine with settling for the big arm, prototypical QB in Herbert.  Justin Herbert is that prototypical QB, but what makes him stand out is his continued success and development in turning around Oregon.  While he might need to work on his mechanics, he should turn into a QB a team can build around, and boy the Dolphins need to get this right.

6. Detroit Lions (from LAC) – CB Jeffrey Okudah – Ohio State

For the Lions, this is a perfect scenario for them.  They can get their ransom for the #3 pick and still get the top CB they’ve targeted.  While the Lions should’ve gotten more for Darius Slay, they did get a solid replacement in Desmond Trufant and now can pair him with Okudah.  Okudah might be the most polished and talented corner coming out since Patrick Peterson.  He has the size, the athletic ability and natural skills that make him an immediate shutdown corner.  Add to that OSU’s recent success in churning out CBs, the Lions have a potential shutdown duo to build their defense around.  Wouldn’t shock me if they look at O-Line as well.

7. Carolina Panthers – OT Meckhi Becton – Louisville

Ideally if you’re the Panthers, you’re looking to replace the loss of Luke Keuchly, but settling for a LT to protect Teddy Bridgewater isn’t a bad idea.  Meckhi Becton stood out with his athleticism to go with his massive size that make him projectable as a blindside protector at the next level.  He plays nasty with an edge that clearly shows when he’s bulldozing defenders over.  He relies heavily on his size and ability to bully defenders, which can work against some in the NFL, but he’ll have to learn against the top tier defenders of the NFL who can match his pure athletic ability.

8. Arizona Cardinals – OT Jedrick Wills – Alabama 

The Cardinals somehow, someway got DeAndre Hopkins without having to trade the #8 overall pick to Houston.  Now they don’t need to take one of the top WRs and focus on other needs.  So now the Cardinals will add to the O-Line to protect Kyler Murray.  Wills may not have the most upside in the class like Mekhi Becton, but he is one of the safer picks who can easily start on the right side for Arizona.  He’s not flashy or dominant, but he consistently gets the job done blocking.  He has the size and athletic ability to move to the left side as well.  The Cardinals should focus on building the line for Kyler Murray because they’re on the verge of having a truly dynamic offense.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars – DT Derrick Brown – Auburn

The Jaguars are a Franchise once again heading towards a roster in a state of flux.  From being one win away from the Super Bowl to now rebuilding.  They’ve decided to roll the dice with Gardner Minshew and see what they got in him at QB.  They traded away Calais Campbell and probably would look to find a replacement for him.  Derrick Brown has been a force at Auburn who looks to be one of the safer picks in the draft.  He’s a plug and play DL who should be an impact player from his first day.

10. Cleveland Browns – OT Tristian Wirfs – Iowa 

The Browns luck out and get the O-Lineman they wanted all along.  While Wirfs was primarily at RT at Iowa, the talent is purely there, especially as a Right Tackle.  He needs to improve in some footwork areas and his consistency, but the Browns have Bill Callahan, who should easily develop him over time.  The key for Wirfs is his SPARQ score, which rated among the highest at his position, which showcases his pure athletic ability.  The Browns with Andrew Berry, will probably rely more on this than in the John Dorsey era.  Buying on his athletic ability and betting on Bill Callahan to develop him may give the Browns the replacement for Joe Thomas they’ve desperately missed and giving Baker the O-Line to protect him.

11. New York Jets – WR Jerry Jeudy – Alabama

I gotta ask, what is the Jets plan?  They missed out on Jack Conklin and signed multiple lesser, but solid additions to the line that will improve it.  What they haven’t done is address the problems they have at the WR position.  They let Robby Anderson walk to Carolina and haven’t filled the void with anyone.  Fortunately they’re sitting at 11 with all 3 WRs available on the board.  The question is which one do they take?  Jeudy has been the top WR since preseason and has done nothing to dissuade that opinion.  It’s plausible they could go Ceedee Lamb here who is more physical of a WR, but Jeudy is a polished receiver as a route runner and should be a perennial Pro Bowl WR in the NFL, a perfect weapon for Sam Darnold to utilize.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (from Las Vegas) – WR Ceedee Lamb – Oklahoma
TRADE: Philadelphia trades #21 Overall pick, a 2020 3rd and 2021 3rd and 5th Round pick to Las Vegas in exchange for #14 overall pick and 2021 6th Round pick

The Eagles have tried to sign a top WR for Carson Wentz and have failed.  They also tried to get Wentz an explosive playmaking WR early in the draft, but reached.  The Eagles have to get Carson Wentz a true #1 WR and if it costs them, it shouldn’t matter.  Ceedee Lamb is part of a trio of WRs who each can claim they’re the top WR.  Ceedee is the best mix of size, athleticism, and ball skills of the 3.  He’s more physical than Ruggs and Jeudy, which should be a factor playing in NFC East.  He’s been a playmaker at OU for years and should without question be an immediate impact WR from his first snap.

13. San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis) – WR Henry Ruggs – Alabama

If Kyle Shanahan’s perfect world he gets his OBJ clone in Jerry Jeudy, but I don’t think he’ll mind taking his more explosive teammate in Henry Ruggs.  Ruggs evolved at Alabama as more than just a deep threat, he showcased his route running ability and soft hands that prove he can be a true #1 WR in the NFL.  For the 49ers, they need to get another weapon for Jimmy Garoppolo to target.  George Kittle is already a top TE in the league and Deebo Samuel showed he’s a reliable target for 49ers.  Adding Ruggs to that duo would give Shanahan all the options needed to take his offense to the next level.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – OT Andrew Thomas – Georgia

If you’re the Bucs, how lucky can you get?  You get Tom Brady to be your QB and now you improve your line by getting the safest OT prospect in the draft.  Andrew Thomas isn’t the most powerful blocker, he’s not the most athletic, but he’s the most polished and experienced OT in the draft.  Playing in the SEC he’s faced the best pass rushers around and been the anchor for one of the best Offenses in the country that has one of the best rushing attacks around.  For a team that’s “all-in”, Thomas is the perfect guy to play right away and make that impact to help the Bucs not just return to the playoffs but compete for a Super Bowl.

15. Denver Broncos – DT Javon Kinlaw – South Carolina

The Broncos ideally would look to add another weapon for Drew Lock or someone to protect him, but unfortunately at this pick with what is on the board, it would be a reach.  CJ Henderson would make sense to add another CB, but Javon Kinlaw is too great of a talent to pass on and the Broncos need interior pass rush.  The Broncos have Von Miller and Bradley Chubb (Chubb returning from injury), but with the addition of Kinlaw would give them 2 outside pass rushers and an explosive interior pass rusher that will give defenses nightmares.  Kinlaw is a raw talent, but he more than makes up for it with his size and athleticism for the position.  On paper he’s a Top 10 pick and the Broncos shouldn’t pass to add him.

16. Atlanta Falcons – CB CJ Henderson – Florida

The Falcons have a ton of problems facing them, especially once again on the Defensive side.  They cut Desmond Trufant, leaving a major gap at the CB position.  Fortunately for them, CJ Henderson slips to this point.  The question going into the combine was his 40 time, and he wowed everyone running a 4.39, silencing the critics.  Henderson is another CB coming from the pipeline in Florida, who was a lockdown corner for the Gators and should be that at the next level.  He’s great in man coverage, showcasing the ability to chase down and play the ball.  Henderson should be a CB who can take on Top WRs in the NFL.

17. Dallas Cowboys – EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson – LSU

The Cowboys have lost a lot on the defensive side, especially in the secondary.  But the Cowboys can’t get CJ Henderson and probably can’t solve all their problems in one pick.  So instead the best pass defense is sometimes a dominant pass rush.  Chaisson is just disruptive and explosive as a pass rusher, he has great speed off the edge that will beat tackles to the corner easily.  There’s two concerns, one is his lack of power that will make him liability in rushing game, but also he’s had an ACL tear and had an ankle injury last year, so the durability factor will be a problem.  He’s a high character player that any team would want, for the Cowboys, adding Chaisson opposite DeMarcus Lawrence and the returning and hopefully redeemed Aldon Smith, Chaisson will walk into a situation that allows him to develop, but also plays off his strengths.

18. Miami Dolphins – OT Austin Jackson – USC

The Dolphins after adding Justin Herbert would need to find a LT to protect him.  While it’s plausible they could move up to get one of the Top 4 OTs, sitting back and waiting for Austin Jackson wouldn’t be a bad idea.  He’s got a long, athletic frame and has solid footwork that uses his agility well to keep him on the left side.  On the down side, he needs to improve his technique that can properly utilize his power and agility that will make him a dominant blocker.  If the Dolphins are patient and can develop him, the trade of Laremy Tunsil for the kings ransom of picks they got will look like a steal with replacing Tunsil with Jackson to protect Herbert.

19. Las Vegas Raiders – CB Jaylon Johnson – Utah

The Raiders after trading down would love to see CJ Henderson fall, but will settle for the Utah star defender.  Johnson has the size you want in a corner at 6’0’’, 195lbs, but he’s aggressive at the line and has the athletic ability to keep up with receivers.  The downside is he tends to be overaggressive which can lead to penalities.  If he can play with more poise and lower the amount of overaggressive errors he can make, he’ll be a steal at #18 and making it worth the trade down to #21 and passing on Henderson.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars – CB Trevon Diggs – Alabama

The brother of Bills star WR Stefon, Trevon looks to continue his family’s success in the NFL.  He has the build you want for the position, but unlike other CBs has elite ball skills because he can see the field like a WR.  His build also makes him able to handle bigger receivers and he’s had returning experience as well.  He’s a unique talent, but he still needs work, just go watch Ja’Marr Chase dominate him.  The talent is there and for the Jaguars needing to replace Jalen Ramsey, this could be a perfect match.

21. Las Vegas Raiders (from Philadelphia) – LB Patrick Queen – LSU

After selecting Fulton to add to their secondary, the Raiders now sit at 21 after our trade with Philadelphia.  The Raiders could look at WR, but it’s better waiting until Round 2.  At this point, continue to build the Defense.  They would love to get Javon Kinlaw at either pick to bolster interior D-Line, but they don’t lose out here.  Patrick Queen is arguably the best LB after Isaiah Simmons.  He was outstanding and a huge part of why LSU won the National Title.  Queen is athletic as all get out, but has great field vision that goes with his ability to get from sideline to sideline.  Putting him on the Raiders would give them a LB that would be the heart and soul of the defense.

22. Minnesota Vikings (from Buffalo) – WR Justin Jefferson – LSU

So the Vikings refuse to pay Stefon Diggs and ship him to Buffalo.  Interesting move to say the least, but leaves a huge gap behind Adam Theilen as the Vikings have almost no depth at WR.  Justin Jefferson comes from a Football family who played at LSU and kept up the LSU WR tradition by being their leading receiver for Joe Burrow.  His route running is among the best in the class, has good hands with clutch ability to make big catches.  He’s not the fastest, but he’s slippery and can separate from defenders.  He’s a perfect replacement for Diggs and gives Kirk Cousins a weapon he can rely on early on.

23. New England Patriots – EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos – Penn State

Look…I know the Patriots need a QB.  But if there’s one thing you bet on with Bill Belichick, he doesn’t draft by need, he drafts by best player available.  That would mean either Kenneth Murray, Jeff Gladney, or Gross-Matos.  After the loss of both Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy the Patriots will look to get a high upside pass rusher.  Gross-Matos has the prototypical size at 6’6’’ 265 and has the athletic ability that Belichick will like to use in multiple sets.  He just had a nose for the backfield at Penn State wrecking havoc.  Belichick always develops these types of players and will see Gross-Matos as an immediate impact starter.  As for QB…he’s going Stidham folks.

24. New Orleans Saints – QB Jordan Love – Utah State

No one might suffer more from the loss of the Draft process than Jordan Love, who was trending to be a Top 10 pick for a team with a QB need.  But for Love, he goes to the perfect situation for him.  Love has all the tools you’re looking for in a QB, but he’s still raw.  Who better to sit and learn behind than Drew Brees?  Love has the arm, he has the size, he even has the mobility.  It’s his decision making that leaves people wondering if he’s truly one of the best QBs in this draft.  In the wrong situation, he could bust, but in New Orleans they pick the successor for Brees.

25. Minnesota Vikings – CB Jeff Gladney – TCU

The Vikings have totally overhauled their secondary and it’s an easy conclusion they’re going to look at CB early in the draft.  After replacing Stefon Diggs, they’ll look to get a new CB to build their defense back up with.  Jeff Gladney could easily be the 3rd CB taken in this draft, but the problem is his inconsistency on tape.  Add to his slender build might scare off teams.  When he’s on, he’s arguably the best press cover corner in the draft.  He’s great at anticipating the pass and is a willing tackler.  He’s your typical ball hawk CB who could be a starting CB in the NFL if he can fix his consistency.

26. Miami Dolphins – LB Kenneth Murray – Oklahoma

So you’re Miami and you’re walking out with Justin Herbert, Austin Jackson, and Kenneth Murray?  That’s how you do a rebuild.  The Dolphins could very well go and add a RB here, but I can see them waiting until Round 2 to take one.  So if they won’t take a RB, why not find a leader for your Defense.  Murray gets lost in conversation because he was on Defense for Oklahoma, but the kid was a playmaker for the Sooners.  He’s athletic, can get from sideline to sideline easily, good instincts and truthfully if he was in the SEC where there is better defensive play, he’d be a Top 15 pick.  He’ll need to improve his play recognition, but that can be coached, his other talents can’t be.  He’ll quickly be a leader for the Dolphins defense.

27. Seattle Seahawks – OT Josh Jones – Houston

If you’re the Seahawks, this is a dream come true.  For years the Seahawks have been looking for a young OT they can build with to protect Russell Wilson.  Jones is a monster of a man who has the look of a LT who can anchor a line.  But he’s raw talent wise and needs more polish.  Granted he was playing at Houston, but he continued to show improvement and promise he can stay on the left side in the NFL.  He has the agility you need to handle the elite pass rushers and has a bit of an edge he plays with that makes him play with a nasty edge.  For the Seahawks, Jones can be a guy that can finally fill the rotating door of players at LT.

28. Baltimore Ravens- DE AJ Epenesa – Iowa

The Ravens have been bold in the offseason, targeting the D-Line and almost swung a deal to land Calais Campbell and had a deal with Michael Brockers that fell through.  That might effect who they target in the draft.  Epenesa seems to be that pure talent that fits perfectly into the Ravens defensive scheme.  He’s not flashy or overly athletic, but he’s effective in every aspect on the line.  He’s also perfect as his talents can make him versatile on the D-Line, which gives the Ravens possibilities on how to utilize all the lineman they’ll have up front for O-Lines to handle.

29. Tennessee Titans – OT Lucas Niang – TCU

The Titans could go numerous routes with the loss of numerous defensive people, but their biggest loss may have been Jack Conklin who held up the right side of the line and made life easy for Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry.  For the Titans to repeat their success, they must rebuild their biggest strength in their O-Line.  Niang has a lot of experience on the Left side at TCU and has the size and agility to stay there, but his lack of power and concerns to handle top tier pass rushers will move him to the right side to start his career.  If the Titans can work on his weaknesses, he can easily move to the left side when the Titans eventually move on from Taylor Lewan.

30. Green Bay Packers – WR Denzel Mims – Baylor

The Packers desperately need to get Aaron Rodgers another offensive weapon and the Packers could swing big on the fastest riser in the draft in Mims.  Denzel Mims is the definition of a physically gifted WR who dominates the combine to put himself into 1st Round talk, when he was a 3rd/4th Round talent.  But to think it was only his athletic drills that made him stand out, he was one of only 5 WRs to get an excellent grade in my Gauntlet drill ratings.  He’s a raw talent though, he needs to develop as route runner and being aggressive as a receiver.  If the Packers can develop him, he’ll be a dangerous #2 WR opposite Davante Adams that can prolong Aaron Rodgers career and put the Packers back into the Super Bowl.

31. San Francisco 49ers – TE Cole Kmet – Notre Dame

Now I know what you’re thinking…why would the 49ers take another TE?  I honestly believe they could move down, but if they don’t they could look to pair a top TE prospect to play with George Kittle as they lock him on on long term extension.  I wouldn’t be shocked if the 49ers even trade down, but this pick is up for grabs.  Kmet is a big, physical TE who is more of an all-around TE than just a receiving/vertical TE.  In Kyle Shanahan’s perfect system, he’ll need another TE weapon with Kittle.  After adding Henry Ruggs, if they add Kmet, the 49ers with their rushing attack might have the most unpredictable and explosive Offense in the league to go with a dominant Defense.  I’d go as far as to peg them as the Super Bowl favorites.

32. New York Giants (from Kansas City) – OT Ezra Cleveland – Boise State
TRADE: Giants acquire #32 overall pick and 5th Round pick from Kansas City in exchange for #36 overall pick, 4th Round pick and 5th Round pick

The Giants have to get above the Bengals and Lions to make sure they can get an OT and they get the one of the more intriguing prospects in the draft.  Ezra Cleveland entered the combine as more of a Guard prospect, who played LT at Boise State.  Ezra then proceeded to wow at the combine with his athletic ability and looked primed to be a Top 20 pick through the process.  Unfortunately the stoppage will cost him, but he should be a 1st/Early 2nd Round pick.  The Giants need to find a guy who can protect Daniel Jones going forward.  Ezra needs to work on his power in the blocking game, but with the right coaching, he has the size and athletic ability to anchor the left side and at the very least can easily slide inside.

Final Thoughts

I say this almost every year, but this year’s Draft has a different feel.  With the unpredictability of  what teams are going to be targeting with the abundance of needs in teams with the Top 9 picks, nothing is for certain outside of at least the #1 pick.  To add with the lack of Pro Days and Workouts, teams are truly going to be relying on the tape rather than their own evaluations more than ever.  This draft is historical for the level of uncertainty going in, it’s one that fans could either see complete chaos in the 1st Round unlike anything we’ve seen, or because teams aren’t in their war rooms, one of the more bland and boring drafts we’ll ever see with no big trades.  Only time will tell for us, in the meantime stay safe at home, please don’t go out and wash your hands and enjoy Draft season.  Who knows, maybe there’s a Mock 2.0 in our future…

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