NFL mock draft 2020: How trades could drastically reshape first-round outlook

Nate Davis

Though the gears of the sports world have largely ground to a halt, the offseason business of the NFL continues forward.

Even as the COVID-19 outbreak worsens, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the league's member clubs that the draft, which will no longer be held in Las Vegas, will still commence as planned from April 23-25.

That means general managers must assess their needs while weighing the risks and rewards of selecting certain players stripped of the opportunity to work out at pro days and/or receive medical re-checks that might clarify their physical status.

And though Jadeveon Clowney, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston are still seeking jobs, the aftermath of free agency has generally crystallized draft boards for most of the 32 teams. Reshuffled rosters could also mean some positions, running back once again potentially among them, might not be in heavy demand in Round 1.

It all serves to set the stage for what could be one of the most compelling – and hardest to read – drafts in recent memory. Don't be surprised if the trade market is more active than usual, given some clubs might be seeking a "sure thing" – to the degree that exists in evaluating incoming players – more than ever. Others could be more desirous of 2021 draft picks, when the annual "player selection meeting" will theoretically occur under less uncertain conditions.

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To that end, this mock draft will incorporate a few proposed trades even though many teams have already swapped first-round picks, some in recent weeks.

1. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU: The record-breaking Heisman Trophy winner still seems the obvious top pick, perhaps more so now that Tua Tagovailoa won't be able to hold the kind of workout that could convince Cincy his injured hip is sufficiently healed to make him part of the conversation. Going to the Queen City could suddenly be a rosier situation for Burrow, who'd be joining a team that was atypically active in free agency, franchised WR A.J. Green and still has QB Andy Dalton on the roster, which – assuming that remains the case – would mean the Athens, Ohio, native wouldn't need to be rushed into the lineup.

2. Washington Redskins – Chase Young, DE, Ohio State: He might also be suiting for a team that plays near his boyhood home. Many draft analysts consider Young the premier player available in 2020. He comes off a year when he broke the Buckeyes' single-season record for sacks with 16½ even though he was suspended two games for an NCAA violation. He would appear an ideal fit for a team switching back to a 4-3 front.

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) celebrates after a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA football game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

3. Los Angeles Chargers [TRADE with Detroit Lions] – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama: It's widely expected that the Lions will have a golden opportunity to maneuver down, likely with a team that covets Tagovailoa's services. In this scenario, that means the Bolts, who would surely need to make a bold move up from the No. 6 spot, which would enable them to jump Miami. The Chargers have a lot of key players in place but need a long-term solution under center after letting Philip Rivers leave before whiffing in the Tom Brady sweepstakes. Coach Anthony Lynn and GM Tom Telesco seem comfortable with Tyrod Taylor, who will be 31 in August, as the starter in 2020, the veteran's final year under contract. Such an arrangement would permit Tagovailoa a season to heal, if needed, before taking over a potential contender. Two years ago, the Jets and Colts swapped the third and sixth overall selections, a trade that cost New York three additional second rounders. The Chargers might be able to get this done by packaging their Round 1 pick, second-rounder (No. 37 overall) and next year's first.

4. New York Giants – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville: GM Dave Gettleman has openly communicated that this spot is for sale, but it won't be easy to peddle if Tagovailoa is gone. And given the need to protect second-year QB Daniel Jones while giving RB Saquon Barkley more room to run, the 6-7, 364-pound Becton seems like a suitable option anyway.

5. Cleveland Browns [TRADE with Miami Dolphins] – Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson: The Chargers/Tagovailoa trade could throw a wrench into the Fins' plans given how widely they've been connected to the Alabama star. GM Chris Grier, who revealed himself as an aggressive spender in free agency, might also make Detroit a sweetheart deal for No. 3, especially considering Miami has three first-round choices. But if he has to make a Tagovailoa contingency plan, dropping down and collecting more ammo for the Dolphins' rebuild would be sensible. The Browns are exceptionally thin at linebacker after losing Joe Schobert in free agency and surrendering their first- (No. 10 overall) and second-rounder (No. 41) might just be worth the climb for a potential superstar like Simmons, the draft's most versatile defender. He can rush the passer, set an edge, roam the middle of the field and even cover the slot.

6. Lions [TRADE with Chargers] – Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn: Despite descending three spots, Detroit still gets a premium player. And though GM Bob Quinn shored up his linebacker corps (Jamie Collins, Reggie Ragland) in free agency and offset the trade of CB Darius Slay by signing Desmond Trufant, the Lions remain perilously thin up front – even with the arrival of massive Danny Shelton. Brown can play all three downs, able to tie up blocks, rush the passer and destroy running lanes.

7. Carolina Panthers – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State: He's clearly the top corner coming out in 2020, and there may not be a team more desperate for one than Carolina after the Panthers lost James Bradberry in free agency.

8. Arizona Cardinals – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa: One of the combine's stars – Wirfs' broad (10-1) and vertical jumps (36½ inches) are all-time event standards for offensive linemen – this exceptional athlete would plug in nicely to an Air Raid offense designed for a quick pace. And though Wirfs clearly has the goods to play tackle, Arizona could start him inside after re-signing OTs D.J. Humphries and Marcus Gilbert.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars – C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida: It didn't take a year for the Jags to offload the once imposing corner tandem of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Then their free agent deal with Darqueze Dennard fell apart. There appears to be a significant drop-off at the position after Okudah and Henderson, a gifted athlete who can guard receivers outside or in the slot.

10. Dolphins [TRADE with Browns] – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon: After missing out on Tagovailoa, Miami would probably still be able to both deal down and get Herbert, who provided a great account of himself at the Senior Bowl and combine after capably leading the Ducks for four years. Ryan Fitzpatrick remains on this roster if Herbert is slow to make the NFL transition, though intelligence is one of his many great attributes.

11. New York Jets – Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama: GM Joe Douglas did his best to cobble together a passable offensive line in free agency, yet the unit still lacks a bona fide linchpin. That could be Wills, who looked after Tagovailoa's blind (right) side for the Crimson Tide.

12. Las Vegas Raiders – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama: Even after adding Nelson Agholor, this team appears to have a bunch of No. 2 receivers. Jeudy, who's explosive (4.45 40 time at the combine), precise and productive (145 catches for 2,623 yards and 24 TDs since 2018), would fix that.

13. San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis Colts) – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma: The Niners plucked this pick after sending DT DeForest Buckner to Indy. Lamb would be a far more dynamic option than departed WR Emmanuel Sanders and, alongside super soph Deebo Samuel, would provide coach Kyle Shanahan a young and formidable 1-2 punch for years.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia: With Brady now aboard, it will be incumbent on the Bucs to bolster the blocking around their prized (but ancient and immobile) quarterback.

15. Denver Broncos – Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina: Better D-line play makes OLBs Von Miller and Bradley Chubb more dangerous. Nice moves re-signing Shelby Harris and trading for Jurrell Casey, but both could be gone in a year. Kinlaw has the goods to anchor this group for a long time.

16. Philadelphia Eagles [TRADE with Atlanta Falcons] – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama: Agholor is gone, while DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery are aging and unreliable physically. With sub-4.3 speed, Ruggs is an elite deep threat who opens the field the way Jackson used to – the type of player aggressive GM Howie Roseman could target ... even if it costs No. 21 and a second-rounder to move up five spots.

17. Dallas Cowboys – K'Lavon Chaisson, DE/OLB, LSU: The defection of DE Robert Quinn leaves DeMarcus Lawrence, who managed just five sacks last season, as the defense's only accomplished pass rusher. Chaisson is a bit raw but oozes potential. Still, limit him to mostly passing downs as a rookie, and he might just have double-digit sack potential while learning nuances of the position.

18. Dolphins (from Pittsburgh Steelers) – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU: Gotta start getting Herbert weapons, and Jefferson could be a capable complement to DeVante Parker.

19. Raiders (from Chicago Bears) – Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU: After drafting DEs Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby last year, time to get a stud inside given GM Mike Mayock spent on linebackers in free agency.

20. Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams) – Austin Jackson, OT, Southern California: The pick procured in the Ramsey trade, the Jags would be wise to upgrade their blocking after watching LT Cam Robinson struggle with injuries and performance. Jackson, who won't be 21 until May, exudes high-end potential.

21. Falcons [TRADE with Eagles] – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama: Atlanta could use help at safety, where Keanu Neal is trying to return from another injury, and linebacker ... and McKinney should be able to help in either area depending on down and distance.

22. Minnesota Vikings (from Buffalo Bills) – A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa: The Vikes picked up Buffalo's first-rounder in the deal centered on Stefon Diggs, whom they don't necessarily have to replace with this selection. Epenesa, however, might be a worthy candidate to take over as a base end now that Everson Griffen's tenure in the Twin Cities has come to an end.

23. New England Patriots – Kenneth Murray, LB Oklahoma: The void at quarterback is apparent ... unless second-year man Jarrett Stidham manages to justify the confidence his teammates seem to have that he can competently replace Brady. However the Pats also have a glaring hole at linebacker after getting raided in free agency. Rangy Murray would fill a spot and have a much quicker payoff than a developmental passer.

24. New Orleans Saints – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State: They were poised to take Patrick Mahomes three years ago and may be running out of time to slowly groom a successor – apologies, Taysom Hill – for Drew Brees. Love has some Mahomes-like traits but probably isn't ready to play at the NFL level yet.

25. Vikings – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU: After parting with Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander this month, Minnesota desperately needs to reload at corner.

26. Dolphins (from Houston Texans) – Josh Jones, OT, Houston: Miami obtained this pick a year ago in the Laremy Tunsil deal. Time to replace him, especially with a young quarterback likely bound for this roster.

27. Seattle Seahawks – Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State: Whether or not Clowney returns, this pass rush (NFC-low 28 sacks in 2019) needs more juice.

28. Baltimore Ravens – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU: Starting with C.J. Mosley's surprising exit a year ago, the off-ball linebacker position has been in constant flux for this team. Queen is on the small side (6-0, 229) yet in the mold of contemporary 'backers who cover receivers well and defend sideline to sideline.

29. Tennessee Titans – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama: With Logan Ryan unsigned, the AFC runners-up appear to need reinforcements for their nickel defense.

30. Green Bay Packers – Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State: Excellent with the ball in his hands (18.3 yards per catch last year for the Sun Devils), he might be the optimal player to supplement QB Aaron Rodgers' top target, Davante Adams, particularly when the three-time Pro Bowler is doubled.

31. Jets [TRADE with 49ers] – Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson: New York needs a receiver after losing Robby Anderson. The Niners, who have no picks in Rounds 2, 3 or 4, could use extra selections and might be willing to part with this one for the Jets' second-rounder (48th overall) and one of their choices in the third.

32. Kansas City Chiefs – Grant Delpit, S, LSU: You could argue for a running back (you'll notice none have been taken in this mock) given Damien Williams is entering his walk year. But Delpit, a highly regarded player who struggled with tackling and a high ankle sprain in 2019, might really blossom playing alongside Tyrann Mathieu – both wore LSU's prized No. 7. And though S Juan Thornhill was a second-rounder last year, might be some time before he's ready in the wake of January ACL surgery. DB Kendall Fuller returned to Washington, too.


Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

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