Will Roger Goodell’s home setup for Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft include some canned audio of vociferous booing?
Given that the draft is — like many things these days — being conducted remotely, it seems the least he can do. Because viewers will be deprived of the usual pomp and circumstance of the draftees’ slow walk out to the venue stage, being handed a team ballcap and personalized jersey, and a handshake photo op with the commissioner, Goodell could provide the tiniest modicum of normalcy by pushing the play button on a digital file encompassing the sounds of righteous disdain and loathing.
As for the draft itself, well, let’s try to figure out who might be going where in those first 32 picks. Projected trades have been included, because when’s the last time the draft occurred with zero deals? So then, without further ado, The Salt Lake Tribune’s 2020 NFL Mock Draft …
1. Bengals • Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
You want to change the trajectory of your franchise? Find a game-changing quarterback. During his Heisman-winning senior season, Burrow completed 76.3% of his passes for 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns, and just six INTs. He also led his team to an undefeated record and a national championship vs. a stacked schedule. That’s pretty good.
2. Washington • Chase Young, Edge, Ohio State
Not buying the chatter that Washington is legitimately considering trading down. Given how pass-oriented the NFL is now, it would be foolish to give up a shot at a guy who is considered not merely the most talented player in this draft, but a generational pass-rusher. Remember the recent impact of fellow Buckeyes DEs Joey and Nick Bosa … and consider that Young is thought to be superior.
3. Lions • Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Detroit would love to trade down and pick up some extra assets, but the requisite quarterback bidding war doesn’t seem to have materialized. And so, Detroit will pivot by filling one of its myriad defensive holes with one of the draft’s preeminent defensive players. Okudah should slide right into the spot recently vacated by former secondary staple Darius Slay.
4. Giants • Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Offensive line or defensive playmaker? Offensive line or defensive playmaker? I personally like the wicked versatility of Isaiah Simmons, but GM Dave Gettleman recently has seemed to telegraph his preference for protecting Daniel Jones and opening holes for Saquon Barkley. Opinions on which tackle is best vary wildly, but the Hawkeyes’ program is highly-regarded in NFL circles.
5. Dolphins • Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Yeah, yeah, yeah — all the recent buzz has Miami allegedly preferring Oregon’s Justin Herbert. I can’t talk myself into it. I know Tagovailoa is a big risk given his injury history — some hip injuries like the one he suffered never fully heal. But we’re talking about a guy the Dolphins were allegedly set to tank their season for. If Tagovailoa is right, he is potentially special.
6. Chargers • Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Not buying the notion that L.A. is perfectly fine rolling with Tyrod Taylor — that doesn’t wash given the veteran acquisitions they made in free agency. But does Philip Rivers’ replacement come via the draft, or might it be, say, Cam Newton? Or Jameis Winston? Herbert underwhelmed a bit with the Ducks, but he’s an “attributes” guy that front offices seem to have talked themselves into in recent weeks.
7. Panthers • Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson
Whether Carolina opts for Simmons or Derrick Brown in this scenario, they can’t really go wrong either way. The Panthers have a laundry list of holes to fill on defense, and both those guys are considered among the elite talents in this class. Simmons’ versatility — he’s played ILB, OLB, SS, CB, slot corner, and edge rusher for the Tigers — ultimately makes him too enticing.
8. Falcons • CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
(Projected trade with Cardinals)
Despite having only six draft picks, Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff is rumored to be desperate to move up and acquire one of the draft’s top cornerback prospects. The Falcons did allow 28 passing TDs and a 66% completion rate, so the need is there. But they’ll likely need to pay a heavy price to get ahead of Jacksonville to pull it off. See what getting in win-now mode does to you?
9. Jaguars • Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Many consider the Auburn D-lineman a top-3 talent in this draft; other execs, meanwhile, cooled on him a bit after a so-so Combine performance. Regardless, considering how thoroughly decimated Jacksonville’s formerly stellar defense now is, they need upgrades pretty much everywhere. He should make an instant impact with his ability to penetrate.
10. Broncos • Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
(Projected trade with Browns)
Once definitively considered this class’s top wideout;, Jeudy has subsequently found himself neck-and-neck with — or perhaps even a smidge behind — CeeDee Lamb, and even a lesser option than teammate Henry Ruggs in the estimation of some. Whatever. Denver GM John Elway is said to be smitten with Jeudy’s exceptional route-running, and willing to trade up to add him.
11. Jets • Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Does New York go for a receiving weapon for young quarterback Sam Darnold, or does the team go for someone who can actually keep Darnold upright? Given that this class is so deep with receiving talent, the latter seems more prudent. At 6-foot-7 and 365 pounds, Becton’s not only a mass of humanity, but an incredible athlete as well.
12. Raiders • CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
A year after lighting ablaze a couple picks to bring in Antonio Brown, Las Vegas (that still sounds weird, right?) expends some high-level draft capital now in yet another attempt to solve its WR problem. While Lamb perhaps lacks exceptional speed, he is nevertheless regarded by many as the most complete receiver in the draft — including, apparently, by GM Mike Mayock.
13. 49ers • Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
San Francisco got this pick in exchange for dealing DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis. Whether they keep it (or their No. 31 selection) remains to be seen, as the Niners do not have a pick in the second, third, or fourth rounds. If they do pick here, taking a wideout with a 4.27-second 40-yard dash to replace the impactful-but-departed Emmanuel Sanders would make sense.
14. Buccaneers • Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Remember that opinions on the four top O-linemen in this draft vary wildly, so it’s just as possible that Wills is the first among them off the board. Many actually think he’ll wind up being the best among them when all is said and done. While he manned the right tackle spot for the Crimson Tide, he may well be plug-and-play on either side as Tom Brady’s newest protector.
15. Dolphins • Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
(Projected trade with Broncos, Browns)
In this scenario, after the Broncos and Browns swap picks, Cleveland moves down once more, while Miami swoops in to grab the last of the four top-tier tackles. With a new QB on board, the Dolphins take care of him by putting in front of him two-year starting left tackle, who dominated SEC competition en route to First Team All-American status.
16. Cardinals • Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
(Projected trade with Falcons)
Should Arizona have stayed put and taken one of the tackles? After re-upping D.J. Humphries, the Cards may feel they can go the best-player-available route, while augmenting their starting stockpile of just six picks. It pays off here, as they come away with a guy widely regarded as the best pass-rusher among all interior linemen.
17. Cowboys • K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU
With All-Pro center Travis Frederick retiring due to a nerve disorder, Jerry Jones could seek his replacement here, but the value doesn’t seem right at this spot. The value for the second best edge rusher, however … While Chaisson’s production wasn’t outstanding, the hope is his raw, explosive ability translates into a long-term bookend for Demarcus Lawrence.
18. Browns • Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
(Projected trade with Broncos, Dolphins)
Cleveland to Cleveland? It could happen. While the Browns took care of one tackle spot in free agency by adding Jack Conklin, many suspect they’d like to further bolster their line in the draft. Staying at No. 10 would be a surefire way to do that; but here, trading down with Denver, then again with Miami would get them extra assets, plus a lineman they’re reportedly enamored with.
19. Eagles • Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
(Projected trade with Raiders)
Carson Wentz became the first QB in NFL history last year to throw for 4,000 yards without a single wide receiver hitting the 500-yard mark. Alshon Jeffrey is injury-prone and reportedly does not get along with Wentz. DeSean Jackson is always hurt. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside disappointed as a rookie. So Philly moves up two spots to jump the Jags and get a productive wideout with deceptive speed.
20. Jaguars • Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Possible that Jacksonville considers a QB here? Maybe, though they do seem committed to giving Minshew-mania another whirl. And while cornerback would certainly make sense, as they’re just months removed from dealing both Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, adding McKinney — the consensus top safety — would also go a ways toward reinforcing the secondary.
21. Raiders • A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
(Projected trade with Eagles)
Seems like the Raiders are perpetually trying to lock down a couple guys who can lock down opposing receivers. Which could prompt Mayock to tap the Clemson pipeline once more. For one, big corners are now in vogue, and Terrell stands 6-1. More importantly, though, after starting 30 games for for the Tigers, he’s got the big-game experience that Jon Gruden loves.
22. Vikings • Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Yeah, it would be funny if the top pick Minnesota got from Buffalo in the Stefon Diggs trade wound up getting used on his little bother. Thing is, though, the Vikes lost not one, not two, but three cornerbacks in free agency. So adding a big corner (6-1, 205) with excellent ball skills coming out of a premier program would be enticing enough to risk the awkwardness.
23. Packers • Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
(Projected trade with Patriots)
Since purging Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Green Bay has been trying (and largely failing) to find effective complements for Davante Adams. Forgive me for not thinking Devin Funchess is it. So while trading up seven spots to land the fifth wideout off the board may seem weird, it would provide Aaron Rodgers with a guy who’s 6-3, ran a 4.38 in the 40, can jump out of the building, and is already used to wearing green and yellow.
24. Saints • Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
After New Orleans tried to land Patrick Mahomes as the successor to Drew Brees a couple years back, might the Saints go for Jordan Love here? Perhaps. Then again, with Brees maybe in his final season, Sean Payton & Co. seem to be all-in on finally making it back to the Super Bowl. Though he’s a little slight, and he only started for one season, Queen is a rangy and athletic playmaker.
25. Vikings • Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
Two corners? OK, it’s probably unlikely, given that Minnesota does have other needs, like, say, replacing Stefon Diggs, or maybe one day getting a competent offensive line. Still, while Johnson is coming off a torn labrum and ran a pedestrian 40 at the Combine, his size and his ability to play press coverage will make him an appealing option.
26. Dolphins • D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
It’s honestly not out of the realm of possibilities that zero running backs go in the first round. And Miami might actually be better off further building the O-line with a guy like Michigan center Cesar Ruiz. But for the sake of adding some playmakers to the Dolphins’ mix, we’ll give them Swift, a guy with excellent field vision who’s a solid receiver out of the backfield.
27. Colts • Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
(Projected trade with Seahawks)
Is this forcing it? Could be. Love is all over the map — some still have him as high as the top-10. Others have him dropping into the second or even third round. He has talent, but all those INTs in 2019 weigh heavy on GMs’ minds. As for why Indy and why here? Well, Seattle always seems to trade down; also, Philip Rivers is a short-timer, and if the Colts were all that impressed with Jacoby Brissett, then Rivers wouldn’t be there.
28. Ravens • Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
With the retirement of Marshall Yanda, it’s tempting to give Baltimore an interior offensive lineman. But aren’t the Ravens kinda synonymous with linebackers? They are. And yet, counterintuitively, they’re a little light there at the moment. Murray is regarded by many as the best pure linebacker in this class, so if he lasts this long, it’s hard to see Baltimore passing on him.
29. Titans • Joshua Jones, OT, Houston
After re-upping Ryan Tannehill to a lucrative deal and bringing back Derrick Henry, Tennessee clearly believes itself to be within a window of contention. And so, with right tackle Jack Conklin jettisoned for monetary reasons, finding a replacement becomes paramount. Jones was a four-year starter at left tackle for Houston, and blew teams away with an outstanding Senior Bowl performance.
30. Patriots • A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa
(Projected trade with Packers)
New England might actually be more likely to trade out of the first round entirely than to simply trade down in the first, but let’s just roll with it. These Pats have plenty of needs, but which one to fill first? QB? Maybe if Tagovailoa slips. TE? It’s a pretty mediocre group. Center? LB? Instead, Bill Belichick rolls with a pass-rusher who put up 22 sacks and 31 TFL the past two seasons.
31. Giants • Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
(Projected trade with 49ers)
As previously mentioned, San Francisco is looking to grab up a few Day 2 picks, so New York happily swoops in to fill the spot it neglected with its first pick. While Baun got flagged for a diluted sample at the Combine, he’s not considered a character risk. Though primarily a linebacker for the Badgers, he also sometimes lined up as an undersized edge rusher, giving the Giants some needed versatility.
32. Chiefs • Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
K.C. is said to be intrigued by trading up for Ruggs and having a set of wideouts that literally no one can keep up with. But they have legitimate holes that should be priorities. O-line is one. The most pressing is corner, where they are decidedly short-handed. And so the pick is Fulton, who has bounced back from a 2017 drug suspension. Pro Football Focus graded him as the 12-best player in the draft.