2020 NFL Mock Draft 5.0: Patriots stock up on offensive, defensive leaders with first two picks
You're not going to like this. I can tell. But you should.
The Patriots have, remarkably, traded back in the draft almost the same number of times they've traded up. Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower? Those were both trade-up scenarios. In the same draft. Bill Belichick isn't as opposed to that approach as his reputation might suggest.
But this year is a good year to go in the other direction. The one fans typically don't like. With the top tier of players in this class looking like they're in the top 20 or so -- maybe even closer to the top 15 -- that puts the Patriots, at No. 23 overall, just on the outside looking in. Now, consider that the second tier of talent in this draft runs deep...and that the Patriots aren't scheduled to make their second pick until No. 87.
Yup. Makes sense to trade back, which is exactly what they do in this scenario, executing a swap with their friends in Detroit. Let's get to it.
1. Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
This is a perfect marriage. The Bengals have been bitten by the injury bug lately -- their top picks from recent drafts missing significant time due to injury -- but if they can stay healthy, right away they should have a strong offensive line to protect the best quarterback in the class.
2. Redskins: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Washington has a first-round quarterback already on its roster. They don't want to mess around here. They have a shot at the most talented and NFL-ready player in the draft, and they snag him.
3. Chargers from Lions: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Detroit isn't in the quarterback market. They are in the market to get much better very quickly. If they don't their coach and GM could be on the outs. What do they do? They trade No. 3 for a haul, getting the Chargers to give up No. 6, No. 37 and a future first-rounder. The Chargers get their guy, Tua Tagovailoa, injury concerns be damned.
4. Giants: Mekhi Becton, OL, Louisville
It's hard to imagine Becton's 5.1-second 40 time at 6-foot-7, 364 pounds simply being broken by anyone his size any time soon. The Giants look like an old-school team with an old-school approach, and Becton will give their old-school run game some serious punch.
5. Dolphins: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Maybe they'll take Justin Herbert here, but they probably don't have to. They have two more first-round picks. Instead of forcing a quarterback with question marks onto the roster, they build up front. They're a mess along the offensive line. Thomas is the best in the class. It fits. Whenever they get a quarterback, they'll be more ready thanks to his presence.
6. Lions from Chargers: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
The Lions could trade back here again if there's a team willing to deal up to take Justin Herbert. But if they do that and drop too far, they might risk losing out on the second-best player in the draft. That's Okudah, who plays a premium position and fills an immediate need on the Lions roster.
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.
8. Cardinals: Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa
Wirfs -- a physical specimen who had a more complete and almost equally jaw-dropping combine performance as Becton -- will allow the Cardinals to protect Kyler Murray with only five moving forward, allowing coach Kliff Kingsbury to open up his offense the way he'd like.
9. Jaguars: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
The Jags pass on Justin Herbert here and decide to roll with Gardner Minshew as their quarterback of the future. Instead, for the second consecutive year, they get a monster front-seven defender that falls to them in the draft. Last year, it was Kentucky pass-rusher Josh Allen. This year, it's a freaky linebacker with ridiculous length, who can be used in a variety of ways.
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're set at tight end with Austin Hooper. Wills will help reinforce Baker Mayfield's protection, and he'll absolutely maul people in the running game.
11. Jets: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
The Jets might be best-suited by taking an offensive lineman here. They need to give Sam Darnold a chance. But they spent on mediocre talent along the line in free agency and now opt to give Darnold a weapon. Ruggs isn't the best receiver in the class, but he's the fastest and that gets him taken first here.
12. Raiders: Ceedee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
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. He'll give Derek Carr a legitimate No. 1 wideout for 2020 and a red-zone threat, both of which he was lacking last season.
13. Niners: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Javon Kinlaw would work here and fit in with the Niners' draft approach of recent years, which is to bulk up along the line of scrimmage. But imagine Jeudy, a route-running savant, paired with Deebo Samuel? Scary.
14. Bucs: Josh Jones, OT, Houston
Would the Bucs ever go with Herbert here, knowing Tom Brady can't be the long-term option? Hell no. They invest in protecting Brady with a large and athletic -- if unrefined -- young player to take over one of their vacant starting tackle jobs.
15: Broncos: Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
This is a case of a team seeing a superior player sliding down the board, and snatching him up before anyone else can. Kinlaw dominated at the Senior Bowl and has the physical tools to make an impact against both the run and the pass.
16. Falcons: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
The Falcons have a scheme that favors length, and Henderson isn't the longest corner in this year's class. But he's the second-best cover man available after Okudah, and he'll succeed in any scheme that's looking to play tight coverage on the outside. It'll work out. The Falcons know it, and they pull the trigger.
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. McKinney is the kind of do-it-all type defenses covet in 2020.
18. Dolphins: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Good thing the Dolphins didn't pounce on this guy in the top-five, huh? He may be more of a 4.0 student than "Jeopardy!" champ as a processor of information -- great line from The Athletic's Dane Brugler he dropped on The Next Pats Podcast earlier this offseason -- but he's a bundle of intriguing traits. He can sit a year behind Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Dolphins continue to build around the position and teach him the pro game.
19. Raiders: K'Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
Jon Gruden famously explained how difficult it is to find quality pass-rushers in the NFL after trading away Khalil Mack. Well, he just found another. Chaisson's game is far from fully-developed, but with the right coaching, he could turn into a monster opposite Clelin Ferrell very quickly.
20. Jaguars: AJ Terrell, CB, Clemson
Terrell's national championship game (five catches allowed for 143 yards and two touchdowns) was one to forget. But remember the 2018 national title game last year? Terrell had a pick-six and was a force in the Tigers secondary. He's one of the best at his position in this year's class, and the Jaguars will take him with an opportunity to continue to build up defensively.
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 at the combine)?
22. Vikings: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
With Everson Griffin gone, the Vikings could use another pass-rusher to pair with Danielle Hunter. Gross-Matos looks like a scheme-versatile edge defender with ridiculous length and flexibility to grow into a quarterback's nightmare.
23. Lions from Patriots: AJ Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
Here's where the Patriots get to wheeling and dealing. With a lengthy gap from No. 23 to No. 87, they bridge it effectively here by sending Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn their first-rounder in exchange for No. 35 and No. 67 (more on those picks at the end of this mock draft). The Lions take it because it gives them another premier talent who fits Patricia's scheme perfectly. Epenesa has long arms and NFL-ready power to bull-rush pro tackles. There's some Trey Flowers to his game. They also have a bevy of picks after dealing away No. 3 overall. From a Patriots perspective, they have a shot at a "tier two" type of player at No. 35 and then they don't have to wait until No. 87 to pick again. They'll grab another talented piece at the top of the third round. Not bad.
24. Saints: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
The Saints aren't scared. Their roster is already loaded. They need a quarterback of the future. And in this scenario, Love ends up in the perfect place. Because situation matters so much at the position, Love will have a chance to thrive. He'll get a year or two behind Drew Brees. Then, he'll step into the spotlight with a good line and good weapons all around him. He's not ready to carry a team right now. But in two or three years, with good players around him, he's talented enough to light it up as soon as he hits the field.
25. Vikings: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
That 4.38-second 40 and 6.66-second three-cone time -- at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, no less -- is the stuff of true No. 1s. With Minnesota's No. 1, Stefon Diggs out, Mims is a tremendous match.
26. Dolphins: Austin Jackson, OL, USC
Did they do it again? They did it again. The Dolphins are desperate for offensive line help, and in Jackson, they get a very young, very talented, high-character offensive tackle.
27. Seahawks: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
There may not be a better fit in this year's draft class. Even with LSU's Kristian Fulton still on the board, Seattle ends up going with the taller, long corner who represents a perfect fit within their scheme.
28. Ravens: Zack Baun, OLB, Wisconsin
He's undersized at just a shade under 240 pounds, but Baun can play off the line and rush the passer in sub situations. He's the kind of smart, tough front-seven defender the Ravens have become known for.
29: Titans: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Tennessee needs help in the secondary. Logan Ryan hasn't been re-signed. Maybe Amani Hooker will replace him in the slot. Maybe not. Even if he is the replacement, Malcolm Butler is getting older and Adoree Jackson is a year away from free agency.
30: Packers: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Reagor is on the shorter side (5-11), but he's a fiery competitor who's rocked-up, explosive, and a leaper. Is he Steve Smith? Probably not. But the Packers don't need him to be. They just need someone to complement Davante Adams as a down-the-field option. Reagor works.
31. Niners: Cesar Ruiz, OL, Michigan
It's not the sexy pick. The Niners accomplished that with their first first-rounder. But Ruiz gives them someone who could be a 10-year staple on the interior of their offensive line at guard or center.
32. Chiefs: D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
Taking a running back in the first round doesn't seem like the best choice for the long-term future of the team, but in a win-now window, Swift will make an already hard-to-defend offense even tougher.
35. Patriots: Marlon Davidson, DL, Auburn
In this scenario, the Patriots traded down a dozen spots and still landed a first-round talent. Davidson played in Derrick Brown's shadow for the Tigers, but he's an immense talent in his own right. Having played a great deal on the edge -- despite measuring 6-3, 303 at the combine -- he's a good athlete for his size and has some positional versatility. A four-year starter and a captain for Auburn, Davidson looks like the type of strong football character type who'll contribute immediately for Belichick as a big-time two-gapper opposite Lawrence Guy. He might not have the same value to other teams that he'll have to the Patriots, but they'll gladly take a run-stuffer after what happened to them in the Wild Card Round in January.
67. Patriots: Michael Pittman, WR, USC
Pittman checks a lot of boxes for the Patriots. At 6-4, 223 he's a rare combination of size and athleticism -- a don't-grow-on-trees type Belichick often refers to -- in this draft class. He ran a solid 4.52 40 to go along with a 4.14-second short-shuttle and a 6.96-second three-cone. Those are all solid numbers, particularly for someone with his frame. His hands are special, having dropped just five passes on 176 catchable balls sent his way in his career, per Pro Football Focus.
Any other year, he's probably a second-rounder sniffing first-round consideration. But in such a deep position group, he falls all the way to the top of the third here. A captain with special teams experience, Pittman looks like he'll have the type of buy-in the Patriots covet. That may be of even more value to the team this year as they look to build with leaders who can one day take the torch from Devin McCourty, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater and Dont'a Hightower.
Redundant? The Patriots added a big-bodied receiver early in the draft last year, of course, but Pittman and N'Keal Harry could work together. Neither is a true burner, but Pittman profiles as a strong "X" at the next level. While Harry could potentially fill that role as well, he performed well in some "Z" capacities last year, being used in motion, getting the ball in the short area, and making things happen after the catch. He played some slot at Arizona State and was effective and so perhaps an inside-out role will work for him moving forward while Pittman takes more of the boundary reps.