2019-04-30 by W.M.
2020 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Miller’s Way-Too-Early Predictions
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The dust has barely settled on the 2019 NFL draft, and already we’re looking ahead to the 2020 class. Let’s have some fun.
Using recent Super Bowl odds to project the draft order and looking at updated team needs after the end of seven rounds of player selections, it’s time to unveil our first mock draft for 2020.
Many of these picks will not be right. If one is, that’ll be a win. But this should serve to entertain and to inform about some of the players NFL teams will be watching during the 2019 college football season.
In a class that looks to be loaded at quarterback and wide receiver, there are some surprises waiting.
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The Pick: EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State
Even after selecting Montez Sweat in the first round of the 2019 draft, the front office in Washington will quickly realize the best player in the 2020 class is an edge-rusher.
Chase Young took over right where Nick Bosa left off and might actually be a better prospect given his lack of injuries and his speed-to-power conversion coming off the edge.
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The Pick: OT Walker Little, Stanford
Tackle was one of the few needs the Jets didn’t fill in the 2019 offseason, and that can be fixed quickly with the addition of Walker Little from Stanford. An athletic blocker with a much higher upside than mid-round pick Chuma Edoga from USC, Little is a plug-and-play blindside protector.
The Jets can’t afford to keep protecting Sam Darnold with non-premium players. Little solves that problem.
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The Pick: EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
After adding quarterback Josh Rosen in a trade, the Miami Dolphins are free to fill other needs with the No. 3 overall pick. Getting a top-tier power pass-rusher on the edge for Brian Flores’ defense is a must.
Epenesa is 6’6″, 280 pounds and a dominant right-side defensive end for the Hawkeyes. He can play with the power Flores wants and is versatile enough to line up anywhere on the defensive line. Plug Epenesa in next to this year’s first-rounder Christian Wilkins, and this is a high-character, high-impact duo.
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The Pick: QB Jake Fromm, Georgia
The Cincinnati Bengals have Andy Dalton and did draft Ryan Finley in the fourth round, but neither is good enough to get the team out of quarterback purgatory. Jake Fromm is.
He isn’t a great athlete like Kyler Murray and doesn’t have a Patrick Mahomes arm, but like a Jared Goff or Mitchell Trubisky, he’s smart, accurate and can carve up a defense. He’s a perfect fit in what we expect Zac Taylor’s offense to look like in Cincinnati.
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The Pick: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia
The Arizona Cardinals didn’t load up to protect Josh Rosen, and it showed on the field. Even now with the more mobile Kyler Murray in the backfield, the Cardinals still must think long term about the offensive line.
Andrew Thomas is a brute at left tackle and has the power and mobility to also line up at right tackle if the team can get a healthy, productive season from D.J. Humphries.
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The Pick: S Grant Delpit, LSU
The Buffalo Bills have done a masterful job drafting since hiring Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott, and this pick is no different. LSU safety Grant Delpit is a Derwin James-like prospect with excellent athleticism, instincts and leadership. He’s a true “best player available” on the board at No. 6 overall.
Like James, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jamal Adams, this is about team-building but also about getting the right culture in place.
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The Pick: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
The top wide receiver in the draft comes off the board, and the Detroit Lions have to be excited about pairing him with Kenny Golladay to open up an offense that could be flat-out dangerous.
Jerry Jeudy is a great route-runner with top-notch hands and good speed. He’s one of the most complete wide receivers to come out of college football in quite some time.
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The Pick: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Is Jameis Winston the future of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? No one can know that right now, as he’ll get one more chance to prove himself in 2019 under Bruce Arians, but the smart money is on Winston’s next season looking a lot like his first four. That could open the door for a quarterback in 2020.
Tua Tagovailoa is the most well-known player in the nation, but there are concerns about arm strength and his pocket presence. If he answers those questions in his junior season, NFL teams could be lining up to draft him early in Round 1.
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The Pick: LB Dylan Moses, Alabama
After a monster draft class that featured Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs and Johnathan Abram, the Oakland Raiders filled most of their needs in Mike Mayock’s first year as general manager. The biggest need left on the board is at linebacker, where Brandon Marshall and Vontaze Burfict aren’t long-term answers.
Dylan Moses is a lot like 2019 first-rounders Devin Bush and Devin White in that he’s an elite athlete with rapidly improving play. He’s likely to shoot up the board and become a top-10 player this season.
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The Pick: WR Tee Higgins, Clemson
The New York Giants lost Odell Beckham Jr. in a trade and are betting hard on an aging veteran in Golden Tate to fill in at the wide receiver position. Tate should be on the way out with Eli Manning soon, which is why the Giants must give Daniel Jones a young receiver he can grow with on the job.
Tee Higgins is an electric wide receiver with the speed, hands and route-running ability to become a star on the outside of the formation.
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The Pick: DL Derrick Brown, Auburn
The Broncos added Noah Fant and Dalton Risner and somehow still got Drew Lock in the second round. John Elway now has his young foundation for the future, but more help is needed, especially on defense, after the team focused heavily on offense in the 2019 draft.
Derrick Brown is an ideal player for Vic Fangio’s defense. He can play as a 5-technique in the 3-4 defense or slide inside to 3-technique when the team runs a four-man front on passing downs. Brown’s stock is on the rise with teams aware of his upside.
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The Pick: WR Laviska Shenault, Colorado
After adding pass-rushers and an offensive tackle through the 2019 class, the Carolina Panthers can look back to the skill positions and try to give Cam Newton some help at wide receiver.
Colorado’s Laviska Shenault is a big-time playmaker with excellent ability after the catch. With D.J. Moore working underneath, Shenault is the dude over the top for Newton and the Panthers.
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The Pick: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
Marcus Mariota is on the last year of his rookie deal, and the Tennessee Titans must decide now if he’s the long-term answer. The play on the field points to Mariota not being the quarterback Mike Vrabel needs to win in the playoffs.
Justin Herbert is a bigger player with a better arm and arguably more athleticism coming out of Oregon. He’s accurate and smart, with teams thinking he would have been a top-10 pick had he entered the 2019 draft. Instead he went back to Oregon to improve his game, and he should still be an early pick in 2020.
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The Pick: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Another explosive wide receiver is coming out of the Oklahoma offense in the 2020 draft, and CeeDee Lamb might be better than 2019 first-rounder Marquise Brown was.
Lamb is fantastic after the catch and much tougher over the middle. He’s quick in and out of his breaks while also coming to the NFL without the injury history that pushed Brown down the board. Lamb, in a loaded draft class of wide receivers, has a chance to emerge as the best in the nation.
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The Pick: DL Raekwon Davis, Alabama
The defensive line gets a major boost next to Grady Jarrett with the addition of Raekwon Davis to the front. Davis, who has the size and power to play as a 5-technique in the 3-4 defense, has the athleticism to also slide down and play in a four-man front at multiple alignments.
With Jarrett locked up and the team having invested in Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley as first-rounders, adding Davis makes this a dynamic front.
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The Pick: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama
The San Francisco 49ers need to start getting younger in the secondary while also focusing on finding defensive backs who can take the ball away from the opposing team. Trevon Diggs can do that with excellent technique and the athleticism and quickness needed to be a starting cornerback in the NFL.
Diggs’ total package of coverage skills and athleticism are ideal to be matched up against starting NFL receivers.
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The Pick: EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU
An injury ended K’Lavon Chaisson’s chance of becoming a household name in the 2018 college football season, but scouts are already excited about his potential as an outside linebacker prospect crashing off the edge of the LSU defense.
Chaisson needs to prove he’s healthy, but his burst and ability to make big plays bending around the edge could make him a first-rounder in 2020. That’s perfect for the Baltimore Ravens, who could use more athleticism on the edge even after drafting Jaylon Ferguson.
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The Pick: WR Henry Ruggs, Alabama
The uncertain future of Doug Baldwin makes wide receiver a need in Seattle even after drafting D.K. Metcalf and Gary Jennings in 2019. Neither were first-rounders, which still opens a possibility for the Seahawks to add a go-to receiver for Russell Wilson.
Henry Ruggs is an explosive route-runner at 6’0″ and 185 pounds with the full route tree that Metcalf and Jennings don’t bring to the table as highly athletic but limited receivers.
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The Pick: EDGE Terrell Lewis, Alabama
Jadeveon Clowney’s future in Houston could be limited, which opens the door for an edge-rusher. Alabama’s Terrell Lewis, if healthy, has the kind of tools to slide right into an NFL defense and make a huge impact as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Lewis is a fiery, athletic, strong pass-rusher with the goods to replace Clowney. The only question is his health after he missed the 2018 season with a knee injury. If healthy, keep an eye on him as a potential riser.
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The Pick: CB CJ Henderson, Florida
The future of cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes might be limited in Minnesota, which is the only reason the team is going after a defensive back in Round 1 of the 2020 draft. Even after adding Kris Boyd late and drafting Mike Hughes in the 2018 first round, Mike Zimmer needs more cornerbacks.
CJ Henderson is Florida’s best prospect with the speed and length to get a long look as a starting outside cornerback in the NFL. If Rhodes and Waynes are out in Minnesota, he’s a plug-and-play answer at one corner spot.
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The Pick: QB Jacob Eason, Washington
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger signed an extension to remain the Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback for three more seasons, but what happens after that? The team needs an option and an answer for life after Big Ben.
The smart move is drafting a quarterback in the first round to secure a fifth-year option as opposed to waiting until the second round or later and getting a four-year deal.
Jacob Eason is a big-armed quarterback with the traits to become a first-rounder. He needs to back that up on the field in his first season starting at Washington after transferring from Georgia, and in conversations with scouts and coaches, they believe he has the tools to be great.
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The Pick: WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan
The Green Bay Packers made a ton of picks in the 2019 draft but never helped Aaron Rodgers by adding go-to pass-catchers who can take this offense over the top. That should change in 2020 as the team’s front office looks at a loaded wide receiver class.
Donovan Peoples-Jones took off in 2018 in a breakout season, and now his chemistry with Shea Patterson will pay off in an even bigger year. At 6’2″, 210 pounds with great route-running skills, he should be the best receiver in the Big Ten.
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The Pick: TE Colby Parkinson, Stanford
Jason Witten left the Monday Night Football booth and returned to the field for the Dallas Cowboys, but this is a one-year Band-Aid and not a long-term answer at a key position in the team’s offense. Drafting a tight end early in the 2020 draft is the best way to keep the offense rolling into the future.
Colby Parkinson is another in a line of very good Stanford tight ends, and heading into the 2019 season, he’s the best prospect at the position in the nation. His size (6’7″, 240 lbs) is ideal, and his ability to dominate at the catch point will make him a red-zone favorite.
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The Pick: EDGE Anfernee Jennings, Alabama
Another Alabama player comes off the board in the first round—yes, they’re loaded again this season—and this one has the perfect ability to play as a pass-rusher in the Indianapolis Colts defense.
Anfernee Jennings, at 6’3″ and 260 pounds, has battled some injuries at Alabama, but the traits are there for him to have a breakout season and push his stock to the first round. He’s a high-impact rusher with the power and size to play either with his hand down in the dirt or standing up in space.
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The Pick: CB Asante Samuel Jr., FSU
A familiar name returns to the Philadelphia Eagles defense.
The Eagles don’t have many obvious needs on paper, but getting younger and faster at cornerback is always a need for every team. Asante Samuel Jr. brings that in a small package at 5’10” and 180 pounds heading into his junior season.
He might get tabbed as a nickel cornerback in the NFL, but the Eagles can use him if Sidney Jones doesn’t get back to the play that made him a second-rounder or once Ronald Darby moves on from the team.
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The Pick: OT Trey Adams, Washington
Were it not for a back injury, Trey Adams could have heard his name called in the first round of the 2019 draft.
He was tabbed as a future first-rounder before the 2018 college football season, but limited starts kept him from getting there. He opted to return to school, and it could be a major benefit to his draft standing.
The Los Angeles Chargers must get younger and also upgrade at left tackle in the near future. Adams, if healthy, can be that player from the first day of training camp as a rookie.
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The Pick: S Richard LeCounte, Georgia
The Cleveland Browns have few needs on paper after a strong offseason that saw Odell Beckham Jr., Kareem Hunt and Olivier Vernon added to the roster. One area that could be seen as a need after the 2019 season is safety next to Damarious Randall.
Richard LeCounte would give the Browns another rangy safety at 5’11” and 190 pounds who can play in various positions and alignments. He can be an over-the-top safety or he can come down and attack in the run game. He has immediate NFL value.
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The Pick: OC Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
As part of the Khalil Mack trade, the Oakland Raiders will once again own the Chicago Bears’ first-round selection in 2020. They use that to replace Rodney Hudson at center.
Tyler Biadasz is a fantastic run-blocker with excellent power and mechanics at the point of attack. He fires out of his stance, can handle nose tackles up front and is very good when asked to down-block and reach defenders away from the center.
He won’t reach a grade of Garrett Bradbury or Billy Price most likely, but Biadasz is an easy projection as a future first-rounder.
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The Pick: LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
With Teddy Bridgewater in place as the successor to Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints can focus on continuing to add help on defense with their first-round pick.
Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray is one of the most productive linebackers in college football and a clear-cut Day 1 impact guy with his range, tackling ability and power when locking down the gaps between the hashes. Murray needs to prove his speed when testing next spring, but his tape looks “first round.”
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The Pick: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
The first running back off the board comes late in the round, which is a surprise given the immense talent and depth at the position in this class. But team needs push Travis Etienne and his cohorts down the board.
The Chiefs could add a cornerback here, but running back is a need after Kareem Hunt was released and the team decided to patch together a depth chart through free agents and late-round picks in the 2019 offseason. Etienne’s speed and ability as a receiver out of the backfield are perfect for Andy Reid’s offense.
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The Pick: LB Paddy Fisher, Northwestern
Drafting starters in the middle of the field is key for the Los Angeles Rams as the roster starts to get more expensive at quarterback, running back and defensive tackle. Rookies are cheap, which is what the Rams need. They also need an impact starter at linebacker.
Paddy Fisher is a rock-solid linebacker battle-tested in the Big Ten and well-coached after playing under Pat Fitzgerald, one of the greatest college linebackers of all time. Fisher’s ability to come downhill and play in coverage will make him a favorite among NFL scouts.
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The Pick: EDGE Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
A big pass-rusher to replace losses like Trey Flowers is a need for the Patriots after they opted to add a smaller, more athletic rusher in Chase Winovich in the 2019 draft. Kenny Willekes, at 6’4″ and expected to be close to 270 pounds, gives the Patriots the size they need opposite Winovich on the edge.
Turn on any Michigan State tape from 2018, and Willekes was unstoppable when he was on the field. The Patriots should fall in love with his pass-rushing moves and power at right defensive end.