2020 NFL Mock Draft 2.0: Patriots go for high-upside QB
If indeed the Patriots are diving into the 2020 NFL Draft with Tom Brady scheduled to play his home games in a city other than Foxboro, the course of the franchise will have shifted. Their focus, too, perhaps. Because unless they land a quarterback in free agency they think can get them to the Super Bowl, their offseason goal may transition from building a championship-contending roster to finding The Next Guy.
Perhaps they feel as though Jarrett Stidham has a shot to be the answer. But if there's any doubt, it'd make sense to continue to invest at that position until something sticks. In our latest mock draft, they roll the dice on a flawed prospect who has the tools to turn into a game-changer if all goes according to plan.
1. Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
This year's Heisman Trophy winner had other-worldly statistical production in 2019. But his record lacks that kind of production over a long period of time. Will the Bengals be buying despite the relatively small sample size of throws we've seen from Burrow? They should.
2. Redskins: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
With Ron Rivera now running the show in Washington, there's no doubt they have someone in the fold who understands the importance of a franchise-altering pass-rusher. Could Young be the next Julius Peppers, who Rivera coached in Carolina? He’s the most talented player in the class.
3. Lions: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Matt Patricia has coached Darrelle Revis. He’s coached Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler. He’s currently coaching one of the best corners in football in Darius Slay. But landing Okudah would give an at-times porous secondary one of the best cornerback trios in football.
4. Giants: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Wills has been a late-riser among draft experts, but he's polished as both a run-blocker and pass-protector, and it’s never a bad idea to invest top-end draft collateral on large humans who’ll protect your franchise quarterback.
5. Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Tagovailoa suffered a potentially devastating hip injury and was hobbling around Radio Row this week at the Super Bowl. If he’s cleared and good to go, though, he may go even higher than this. The Redskins or Lions could auction off their pick to a quarterback-needy team, placing the No. 2 passer in the class inside the top-three.
6. Chargers: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
The Chargers, I think, will land their next quarterback in free agency since this class of passers is loaded with question marks. Becton is too talented — his combination of size and skill is rare — to let slide here.
7. Panthers: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
The 6-foot-4, 325-pounder is a physical force who has shown the ability to play in all situations in the SEC. For a Panthers team that's solidly in rebuild mode under new head coach Matt Rhule, Brown would provide them a foundational piece for their defense for years to come.
8. Cardinals: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
The Cardinals need to protect their franchise quarterback, Kyler Murray, with reinforcements up front. While the Cardinals love to spread it out, they aren’t afraid to run from those looks, making someone with Thomas’ experience as both a run-blocker and pass-protector extremely valuable.
9. Jaguars: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
Kinlaw put together a monster Senior Bowl that should only help his draft stock. What’s not to like with this guy? His size (6-foot-6, 300 pounds) makes him an intimidating presence on the interior, and he’ll help Jacksonville’s talented edge rushers get one-on-ones outside.
10. Browns: Tristan Wirfs, Iowa, OT
Wirfs will be 21 on draft night, but he's been a man among boys in the college game. A true-freshman starter two years ago, Wirfs set a school record for power-cleaning 450 pounds for four reps back in March. The Browns need all the help they can get up front.
11. Jets: CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma, WR
This receiver class is incredibly deep, and the Jets land what looks like a future star in Lamb. He might not be the fastest in the class, or the most nuanced route-runner, but he has length (6-foot-2, 189 pounds) and he'll serve as a difficult-to-handle complement to the raw-but-enticing skills Sam Darnold is working to hone as a passer.
12. Raiders: Jerry Jeudy, Alabama, WR
Whether it’s Derek Carr or someone else in 2020, the Raiders quarterback is going to need more in the way of weapons. They were 21st in yards per pass attempt this year, but with Jeudy added to the mix they'll have an explosive threat who might be the best separator in the class. If Tom Brady someone finds himself in Vegas, adding the draft’s best route-runner would be a dream come true.
13. Colts: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Is he an athletic linebacker or a massive safety? Simmons has a 40-inch vertical and an 11-foot broad jump, according to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman. He should run a 40 in the 4.4-second range. Oh, and he was one of the best players on one of the best defenses in the country the past two seasons. The Colts continue their hot streak in the draft with a player who could be a steal at No. 13.
14. Buccaneers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
This feels like the perfect match between quarterback and offensive scheme. Bruce Arians wants to stress defenses vertically and push the ball down the field. There might be no quarterback in this class better equipped to handle those responsibilities than Herbert and his big arm.
15. Broncos: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
Another 'Bama receiver here. Ruggs is the fastest of the bunch and could end up going higher should he blow away the combine the way many expect. According to Feldman, Ruggs landed on his annual "Freaks List" thanks in part to the 40-yard dash time he ran during Alabama's junior pro day last offseason. It supposedly landed on some stopwatches in the 4.2-second range. Sheesh. Pair him with Courtland Sutton and the Broncos could have one of the best young receiving groups in football.
16. Falcons: K'Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
Atlanta has been unafraid to pluck edge rushers in the first round in recent years. Vic Beasley was their guy. So was Takk McKinley. Chaisson is a tremendous athlete and should solidify a position group that could still use a boost despite the high-end investments of the past.
17. Cowboys: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Stefon Diggs' brother is widely considered among the elite at this position, and he'll be highly coveted by one of the most popular defensive schemes in the NFL. The Seattle-style Cover 3 — run by former Seattle assistant Kris Richard — can be found all over the league, and Diggs' size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds), would be a perfect fit in Dallas. Particularly if they lose Byron Jones to free agency.
18. Dolphins: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
McKinney was our choice for the Patriots in our first mock. No surprise here that he lands with a Patriots-influenced coaching staff in Miami. If Brian Flores is looking for a sure-tackling safety who can cover in the slot and be comfortable at the linebacker level — a Patrick Chung type, potentially — this pick would make a ton of sense.
19. Raiders: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Jon Gruden is going all-in on this year’s talented group of receivers in the draft. Smart... especially if you have a new quarterback you’re trying to keep happy. Reagor’s track speed makes him an explosive play waiting to happen and will allow him to be a fine pairing with the route-running skills possessed by Jeudy.
20. Jaguars: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Would the Jags double-up on defense when their offense is still loaded with question marks? It’s fair to wonder. But after adding a line-of-scrimmage terror in Kinlaw, getting a corner who might make opposing quarterbacks hesitate even from a clean pocket would be incredibly valuable. Fulton should be good to go on Day 1 after matching up with some of the best wideouts in the country in SEC play.
21. Eagles: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
Would the Eagles want multiple big-bodied (Higgins is 6-foot-4, 215 pounds) receivers who have trouble separating? They drafted JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the second round last year, and he is coming off a disappointing rookie season. But there's no doubt the Eagles need receiving help. Alshon Jeffery and Deean Jackson were banged up in 2019, leaving Carson Wentz throwing to receivers signed off the street for large chunks of the season.
22. Bills: Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
He might not be the most nuanced route-runner available, but Shenault is among the most versatile pass-catchers in the class. Buffalo can put Cole Beasley in the slot, John Brown outside and Shenault can be their Swiss Army knife time round out their starting group. Now only if they had a consistent passer to deliver them the football...
23. Patriots: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
After speaking with some brilliant football minds throughout the week in Miami, my primary takeaway about the state of quarterback play in the NFL was this: The pocket passer isn’t extinct, but having a mobile athlete behind center who can buy himself time and make throws from any angle sure makes life a lot easier. Those guys are out there, now more than ever. Jordan Love is one.
He isn’t Patrick Mahomes — the ultimate example the modern-age passer who can move and throw accurately on the run — but Love has the tools to usher the Patriots into a new era at quarterback so long as he can clean up some worrisome decision-making tendencies he exhibited at Utah State. Love does fit the mold of a Prototypical Patriot in many regards, as we pointed out here, and he’d be an enticing dart-throw at a position that will need The Next Guy in relatively short order.
Perhaps with the addition of a bridge quarterback via free agency who could handle things in 2020, Love and Jarrett Stidham could compete to be the answer in 2021 and beyond. That scenario would at least give the Patriots a couple of physically-gifted players on whom to gamble in a post-Tom Brady world. This pick, of course, would hinge on a Brady departure. If the 43-year-old was back for another go-round in New England, surrounding him with a first-round weapon at receiver or tight end would make more sense.
24. Saints: AJ Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
The Saints could use a wideout to take some of the load off of Michael Thomas’ shoulders, but Epenesa is too talented to pass up. Pairing him with Cam Jordan off the edge would terrorize quarterbacks in the NFC South for years to come.
25. Vikings: Cesar Ruiz, OL, Michigan
Tackle Austin Jackson is still on the board here, but the Vikings — in need of offensive line help on the interior and on the edge — go with a player considered to be the top interior lineman in the class. It’s been a long process to make the Minnesota line a respectable group, but they’re on their way.
26. Dolphins: Austin Jackson, OT, USC
Didn’t take long for Jackson to linger. The 6-foot-6, 310-pounder has the size and movement skills to protect Tua effectively for the foreseeable future. Jackson has started every game at left tackle the last two seasons and has the athleticism to man that spot at the next level.
27. Seahawks: Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
Yet another Cover 3 scheme in need of corner help. Diggs might be the preferred option, but he's off the board. Hall will work within the Seahawks system at 6-1, 200 pounds. An ankle injury limited Hall to just six games this season, but that'll make him a value pick at this stage of the first round.
28. Ravens: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
At 6-5, 264 pounds, Gross-Matos already has an NFL-ready frame. Good thing. The Ravens could use some immediate help in their front seven. Effective as their defense was in 2019, they blitzed more than any team in the NFL out of necessity because they had so few rushers who could generate pressure one-on-one.
29. Titans: D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
Derrick Henry is a free agent. There’s a chance he gets big money on the open market. If he’s gone, the Titans will need an all-purpose runner to help fill that void. Swift would give them just that. With enough size and plenty of wiggle, he'd be a fine replacement behind that offensive line in Tennessee.
30. Packers: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy has said that Aiyuk is widely considered to be a better prospect than Aiyuk’s former teammate N’Keal Harry, who this time last year was seen as a borderline first-rounder. Aiyuk’s explosive athleticism and long arms will quickly make him a friendly target for Aaron Rodgers.
31. Niners: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
One of the top safety prospects in this year's class, Delpit is a well-rounded talent who can make impact plays against the run and the pass. He hasn't always been the best tackler at that position this season, but he'd make an immediate impact. Niners safety Jimmie Ward is set to hit free agency and this could be his replacement.
32. Chiefs: Lloyd Cushenberry, OL, LSU
If Patrick Mahomes is going to get $40 million per year with his next contract, it makes sense to keep him protected. The interior of the line in Kansas City has had its issues, but Cushenberry’s size, strength and football character could make him a foundational piece for an offense that looks like it’ll be among the league’s best for a long time.