2020 NFL Mock Draft 4.0: Patriots invest in protecting Jarrett Stidham
The Patriots have an issue right now. This year's draft is deep into the second and third rounds, and yet they don't currently have a pick between selections No. 23 and No. 87 at the bottom of the third. That's arguably where the meat of this year's class resides. How do they bridge that gap? They'll no doubt be open be doing what they always do on draft weekend: wheeling and dealing. And that's exactly what we have them doing in this mock draft.
While trading down tends to induce eye-rolling across our six-state region, it might be the ideal scenario for the Patriots this year. Particularly if they can add a cornerstone talent in the lower end of the first round while adding a pick that'll give them the capital to move way up from the bottom of the third if they want.
Let's see what's available to them...
1. Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Don't overthink this one, Bengals.
Burrow put together one of the best seasons we've ever seen at the college level. No one had more deep passing yards (1,711) or big-time throws (43) last season, according to Pro Football Focus. And in the process, he accumulated only 11 turnover-worthy plays. Not bad.
2. Dolphins (from Redskins): Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The Dolphins hit the fast-forward button on their rebuild this offseason with what they did in free-agency.
They made Byron Jones the highest-paid corner in the game. They inked Kyle Van Noy to a lucrative deal. But they're not quite there yet. They need offensive tackles. They need more help along their defensive front.
Trading up (giving Washington No. 5 and 18) gets them the quarterback they want — even if he's a year away from playing as he overcomes a hip issue. By the time Tagovailoa is good to go, they'll be in better position to keep him upright.
3. Lions: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
The Lions looked to be in prime position to be sellers if Washington was willing to sit tight and draft Chase Young. They didn't.
And now Detroit's consolation prize is to have maybe the most talented player in the draft fall in their laps. His 75 total pressures as a sophomore is still mind-blowing, and he was in on 18 sacks last year. He's as safe as it gets in this class.
4. Giants: Mekhi Becton, OL, Louisville
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman loves him some "hog mollies." Especially ones who have the rarest of traits in terms of size and movement skills.
That's Becton, who may be the freakiest of a freaky group of tackles available this spring. His 5.1-second 40 time at 6-foot-7, 364 pounds simply shouldn't be possible.
5. Redskins (from Dolphins): Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
The Redskins are making out just fine in this draft so far. Sure, they could've had a sure-thing starting quarterback. But they'll roll with Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen for now.
Instead, they've locked up the No. 2 non-quarterback in the class. Okudah may even end up being more valuable than Young, given that competent secondary play is with each passing year looking more critical than pass-rush. Okudah allowed a passer rating of just 45.3 when targeted last year, per PFF.
6. Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The Chargers should make a play for Cam Newton, but they haven't yet. Even if they do, that shouldn't stop them from rolling with Herbert here.
There are valid questions about his processing ability, but in terms of raw traits, Herbert has what you'd want in a franchise passer. Perhaps adding Newton — or going with Tyrod Taylor for a year — would allow Herbert to develop into a real starting-caliber player. All the while, the Chargers will give their fans something to look forward to. They need it.
7. Panthers: Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
Another in a long line of big, powerful bodies in this year's class who look like can't miss types. Brown was simply a man among boys as a collegian. And he was working against SEC competition on a weekly basis. Impressive.
He may not wow anyone with his abilities as a pass-rusher, but he's a cornerstone player for a rebuilding roster.
8. Cardinals: Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa
If Becton didn't light up his 40-yard dash at the combine, we'd be talking more about Tristan Wirfs as a physical specimen. He landed in the 99th percentile with his performance in the vertical (36.5 inches), broad (121 inches) and 40 time (4.85 seconds). Ridiculous.
And he's polished, coming from a pro-style system under offensive line guru Kirk Ferentz. Wirfs will allow the Cardinals to protect with only five, allowing Kliff Kingsbury to open up his offense the way he'd like.
9. Jaguars: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
For the second consecutive year, Jacksonville has a monster front-seven defender fall to them in the draft. Last year it was Kentucky pass-rusher Josh Allen. This year it's a linebacker with ridiculous length who tested out as an athletic CORNER.
Simmons is a special physical talent who can be deployed in a variety of ways — whether in coverage or as a rusher — in a pass-dominated NFL.
10. Browns: Jedrick Wills, OL, Alabama
The Browns are starting to look like more of a complete offense in making this pick. They're set at wideout. They paid Austin Hooper big bucks to serve as their top tight end. They now need someone to protect and pave the way for their running game.
Wills will do more of the latter than the former right now, but he might be the best run-blocker in the class. He's also athletic enough to refine his protection skills. Not that it matters, but Baker Mayfield will be just fine with this choice.
11. Jets: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
It's time to get Sam Darnold some help.
The Jets have done their best to derail their young franchise quarterback's career before it's even started, but they'll try to reverse course with this selection. Investing in some weaponry is more important than ever this season as last year's lackluster group of pass-catchers lost its best player, Robby Anderson, to the Panthers via free agency.
Lamb played in the coverage-averse Big 12, but no matter how you slice it his 21.4 yards per reception number in 2019 was insane.
12. Raiders: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
Like a proud papa, Al Davis nods from the great beyond in approval.
Just run fast, baby. That seemed to be the old Raiders boss' mantra for years. Ruggs matches up with that approach perfectly. But his game isn't all predicated on speed. He runs effective routes and he wins contested catches in the air.
For the Raiders to put more points on the board, they'll need to inject their receiver room with a shot of athleticism. That's Ruggs.
13. 49ers: Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
There's something to be said for building on strengths, and the Niners are in on that line of thinking with this selection.
No team has invested more in their defensive line in recent years than San Francisco, and now with DeForest Buckner in Indianapolis, this selection makes all kinds of sense. Kinlaw was so dominant at the Senior Bowl, he pulled out early and no one gave it a second thought. He had nothing left to prove.
14. Bucs: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Tampa Bay may not be adding Antonio Brown any time soon, but fret not, Tom Brady.
How does a short-area route-running marvel to add to the offensive huddle sound? Mike Evans and Chris Godwin (even if Godwin works from the slot) are explosive threats. Jeudy will complement them perfectly with his ability to create separation in a blink with his lightning quick change-of-direction skills.
15: Broncos: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
Chris Harris has moved on to the Chargers, meaning there's an opening at corner in Denver.
John Elway plucks the second-best of this year's bunch in Henderson, who in any other class that doesn't include Okudah might've been the No. 1 option. Henderson might not be the most physical player at the position, but he'll shadow with the best of 'em. Good skill to have when you have to cover Chiefs receivers twice a year.
16. Falcons: K'Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
The production wasn't always top-of-the-line for Chaisson, but the physical tools are so intriguing that it'd be hard for a team in need of a pass rush — like the Falcons, who just let Vic Beasley move on as a free agent — to let him slide.
Chaisson's more than just a pass-rusher, though. He'll attack blockers in the run game effectively, and he'll bring positive qualities to the locker room. He was recognized as one of the leaders of the Tigers with their No. 18 jersey in 2019.
17. Cowboys: Xavier McKinney, DB, Alabama
We're on a run of SEC talents (and it won't stop here) with the best safety in the draft headed to Jerry World.
The Cowboys have all kinds of position groups that need to be addressed, not to mention a quarterback who needs a new contract. Though new head coach Mike McCarthy would like to add offensively, getting a savvy and versatile player for the secondary is what makes the most sense here. McKinney is the kind of do-it-all type defenses covet in 2020.
18. Redskins (from Dolphins): Grant Delpit, DB, LSU
Washington might've been hoping McKinney would fall to them, but they get a close No. 2 at the position in Delpit, who was named the top defensive back in college football last year.
The tackling issues are real, and they're alarming, but what Delpit can do from a coverage perspective is still a first-round value.
19. Raiders: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden may attack their jobs with an old-school approach, but they have a new-school mindset when it comes to positional value. The passing game is where it's at.
They added Ruggs earlier in the first. Now they add one of the top cover men available in Terrell. His national championship game (five catches allowed for 143 yards and two touchdowns) was one to forget. Remember the 2018 national title game — a game from which the Raiders plucked multiple players last year? Terrell had a pick-six and was a force in the Tigers secondary.
PFF compares him to Darius Slay. That'll play at the next level.
20. Jaguars: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
The Jaguars are loading up on the types of pieces everyone seems to want defensively these days.
Simmons is an alien. Queen isn't quite that rare, but he's a rangy linebacker who loves the physical aspects of the game but has plenty of wiggle to be able to stick with backs and tight ends in coverage. He's on the lighter side — between 220 and 230 pounds — so he's not a fit for the Patriots. But the Jags (who employed Telvin Smith for years) will be just fine scooping him up here.
21. Eagles: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
This seems like an incredibly logical fit.
Carson Wentz is dying for dependable weapons in Philly. Why not give him a guy who has all kinds of route-running savvy and more than enough athleticism (4.44-second 40 time at the combine)? Jefferson might be more of a slot option than a true "No. 1." But who cares? He's one of the most talented wideouts in a loaded wideout class, he's productive, and beggars can't be choosers here.
22. Vikings: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Coach Ed Orgeron has to be beside himself at this point. The No. 1 overall pick and six of the last eight selections are Tigers? Makes sense. They were that loaded last season.
Fulton isn't going to be confused as one of the most athletic LSU players available, but he's one of the most polished defenders in the class. No one forced more incompletions last year (20), per PFF.
23. Seahawks (from Patriots): Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
The Patriots sat at No. 23 with five enticing options: Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas, Houston tackle Josh Jones, Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray and Baylor wideout Denzel Mims. Love has enough question marks — and Jarrett Stidham has enough promise — that it's worth holding off at that position for at least one more year, perhaps. Mims looks like a can't-miss type of athlete, but there's risk in going with a receiver here. Particularly since there's talent at that position in later rounds. Murray could be the team's next Jerod Mayo in terms of smarts and athleticism. But there's something about building with bigger bodies that feels safer, especially for a team that appears to be rebuilding to a certain extent.
That's why it might be a welcome sight if a team like the Seahawks came calling with a trade-down opportunity. Seattle might want 4-3 edge player Yetur Gross-Matos since they're moving forward without Jadeveon Clowney. Plus, they probably know that the Vikings — who aren't bringing Everson Griffin back — will also be interested in Gross-Matos at No. 25. What if Pete Carroll then offers up No. 27 and No. 101 to leapfrog Minnesota and get to No. 23?
Makes sense for the Patriots. Not only are they guaranteed to get one of their five best available at No. 27, they're also likely to get one of the two best big-bodied blockers still around, since the only other team between No. 23 and No. 27 really looking for tackle help is the Dolphins. Pulling the trigger would give the Patriots four third-rounders, two (or three) of which can be flipped to get them into the top of the third round or the bottom of the second. That's the meat of the draft. Makes almost too much sense. Let's have them make that deal in this scenario.
24. Saints: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
That 4.38-second 40 time and 6.66-second three-cone time — at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, no less — is the stuff of true No. 1s.
He won't have to be that in New Orleans, where Michael Thomas has that gig locked down. But Mims' speed will complement Thomas' more physical skill set perfectly.
25. Vikings: A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
Unable to land Gross-Matos, Minnesota goes with the next best thing.
Epenesa has long arms and NFL-ready power to bull-rush pro tackles. He may be viewed as a bit of a 'tweener because at 275 pounds he's not the athletic edge that many teams — including the Patriots these days, as they employ more outside linebacker-types — are looking for. Still, he'll work out just fine in Mike Zimmer's system.
26. Dolphins: Andrew Thomas, OL, Georgia
Well, can't say this comes as a surprise.
The player left on the board for the Patriots who looked like the best option for their offensive line happens to be the best fit available for "Patriots South" in Miami, too. With the ability to play either left or right tackle and plenty of athleticism to make himself a respectable starter early in his career, Thomas would've been a nice fit in New England.
27. Patriots (from Seahawks): Josh Jones, OL, Houston
Even if they missed out on Thomas, the Patriots are still coming away with one of the best offensive line prospects in this draft class if they go with Jones.
He may not be as ready to go on Day 1 as Thomas or some others, but the Patriots may not need him that early. He'll have the ability to go onto the Nate Solder plan — remember they drafted Solder in the first when Matt Light was still on the roster — and take a year to develop before he's thrust into a key spot. He'll learn behind Marcus Cannon and then have the chance to take over that right tackle job in 2021. With a year of seasoning, Jones — who had several different offensive line coaches during his time as a four-year starter in Houston — could end up being an even better player than the more pro-ready Thomas.
Jones, at 6-foot-5, 319 pounds and with 34-inch arms, has plenty of length and mass on his frame. He's also an explosive athlete at that size (109-inch broad jump) and has plenty of tape that shows he's more than "athletic enough," which is how Dante Scarnecchia used to describe the movement skills required for players in his meeting room.
2020 NFL Draft Highlights: Josh Jones
28. Ravens: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
The Ravens don't have to do any kind of angling to get a player who'd fit their scheme snugly.
A starter since he set foot on Oklahoma's campus in 2017, Murray is an outstanding athlete with NFL size at 6-foot-2, 241 pounds. Just as was the case for him in college, he'll be a starter as soon as he makes the leap to the next level.
29: Titans: Austin Jackson, OL, USC
Tennessee needs a tackle. They don't pick until No. 29. Lucky for them, there are a half-dozen first-round tackles available this year.
They get the last of the bunch in Jackson to replace Jack Conklin on the right side. Not yet 21 years old, Jackson has plenty of upper-body power (27 bench-press reps, 79th percentile) and he's a tremendous athlete. His 115-inch broad jump (96th percentile), 5.07 40 time (88th), 1.73-second 10-yard split (93rd) and 31-inch vertical (84th) made him one of the "winners" of combine week.
30: Packers: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Reagor's physical profile is one of the most unique we've seen at the receiver position. He's rocked-up at 5-foot-11, 206 pounds. And yet he's a high-flyer with a 138-inch broad jump (99th percentile) and a 42-inch vertical (98th).
He didn't run quite as fast as we thought he would in Indy, but his 4.47-second 40 is fast enough to give Aaron Rodgers a legitimate deep threat to pair with Davante Adams.
31. 49ers: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
One of the best fits in the first round, Diggs is the ideal corner for San Francisco's scheme.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, a former Seahawks assistant who's all in on the long-and-strong corner movement on the outside, will be licking his chops if Diggs falls all the way to No. 31. He may not be the next Richard Sherman, but the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder is sure built like Niners vet.
32. Chiefs: Cesar Ruiz, OL, Michigan
The big-time investment in Patrick Mahomes is coming. He's going to be worth $40 million per year or more very soon. Might as well start investing a little more in his protection, too.
They're set at tackle with 2013 first-rounder Eric Fisher and 2012 second-rounder Mitchell Schwartz. Their interior, though, has gotten by with Day 3 types. That changes with the addition of Ruiz, who might be the most talented interior option in the draft.