With the NFL Draft on Thursday night, we divided the 32 teams among our writers and tasked them with picking the first round. Here is the 2020 alligatorSports Mock Draft:
1. Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow, LSU
Dylan O’Shea: Joe Burrow is coming back to Ohio. For me, this was the biggest no-brainer pick of the past few drafts. The Bengals are hungry for a fresh start at quarterback after the Red Rifle wore out his welcome in Cincinnati. Head coach Zac Taylor, who went 2-14 with the orange and black in his first season, is getting the most highly-touted quarterback prospect since Stanford’s Andrew Luck in 2012.
Burrow, who set a litany of SEC and NCAA records en route to the 2019 Heisman Trophy and a national championship, is coming from a pro-style Joe Brady offense and should transition from being a Cajun Tiger to a Bengal tiger quite well.
A healthy AJ Green and Tyler Boyd at wide receiver, along with bell cow Joe Mixon, is not a bad supporting cast for a No. 1 overall pick. Expect Burrow to start out of the gate and shine early.
2. Washington Redskins: EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State
Brendan Farrell: The Washington Redskins were a broken football team in 2019. They fired the head coach just a few weeks into the season, won just three games, lost whatever fan support was still left after years of baffling ineptitude and rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins struggled for much of the season.
But there is hope in the nation’s capital. The team fired general manager Bruce Allen, whose miserable tenure lasted far too long, brought in an established head coach in Ron Rivera and Haskins looked significantly better at the end of the season as the team opened up the playbook a little more.
Along with Haskins, Chase Young will be pivotal in turning the Redskins around. New defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will be having a field day with a wealth of young talent on the defensive line as Washington finally secures an elite talent in Young after he dominated the college level last season. The Redskins haven’t had a first-team All-Pro in my lifetime, but I think they’ve got one here.
3. Detroit Lions: CB Jeffrey Okudah, Ohio State
River Wells: It’s the expected pick for the Lions, and I wasn’t about to go against the grain. With the departure of Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Lions’ secondary is a barren wasteland, and it's only natural for them to jump at the chance of drafting a playmaker like Okudah to fill the void.
At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, Okudah is the perfect size for a shutdown corner. In 2019, the former Buckeye had 29 solo tackles, two forced fumbles and three interceptions, and his 4.48 speed is more than enough to hang with the NFL talent at wide receiver.
Okudah is the best corner in the draft, and he could well be the Band-Aid Detroit desperately needs to place over its secondary for a run in the vaunted NFC North.
4. New York Giants: OT Jedrick Wills, Alabama
Joseph Salvador: The New York Giants need help at virtually every level of its football team that went a putrid 4-12 in 2019. One of the spots that needs to be addressed quickly is the offensive line.
In order to build around Pro Bowl running back Saquon Barkley and second-year quarterback Daniel Jones, the G-Men will need to protect the future of the franchise first and foremost.
Look no further than Jedrick Wills Jr.
The 6-foot-4 right tackle out of Alabama ended his career with the Tide after 28 straight starts and has a slew of accolades under his belt ahead of draft day — including a 2019 SEC First-Team selection.
Every good offense starts with its offensive line, and Wills should be a solid pick to rebuild a unit that ranked 23rd in the NFL this past season.
5. Miami Dolphins: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Noah Ram: In my opinion, this was one of the easiest picks to make in the whole draft. The Miami Dolphins have been looking for a quarterback of the future since Dan Marino hung up his cleats in 2000. They haven’t had a Pro Bowl quarterback since Marino in 1996.
But now, they have a potential one right at their fingertips.
Tua Tagovailoa is the total package. His accuracy is off-the-charts, he has excellent playmaking ability and he’s a leader. As a freshman, he stepped in, down 13-0 at halftime, during the biggest game of Alabama’s season and led the Tide to a title. He can come to Miami and give the Fins a much-needed culture change.
The concerns about his health are valid, but the talent is well worth the potential risk. He is vastly more talented than Justin Herbert, and, when healthy, can give Joe Burrow a run for his money. Tua has been the target for the Dolphins since day one, and on draft night, it will finally come to fruition.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
Zachary Huber: The Chargers were hoping that Tua Tagovailoa’s injury concerns would scare the Dolphins off. Los Angeles would’ve pounced at the opportunity because Burrow and Tagovailoa are two of the best quarterback prospects the league has seen in several years. However, that didn’t happen. And Los Angeles needs to find a replacement for its former franchise quarterback Phillip Rivers, who signed with the Indianapolis Colts this offseason. Herbert may not be a future star like Tagovailoa or Burrow. But, he still has the makings to be a solid quarterback in the NFL. The time to win is now for the Chargers because they have a solid roster led by Joey Bosa, Keenan Allen, Melvin Ingram and Derwin James. Most of them, with the exception of Allen, are entering their prime and Los Angeles can’t let their best years go to waste.
7. Carolina Panthers: DT Derrick Brown, Auburn
Declan Walsh: The 5-11 Panthers faced a wide variety of problems last year, and I think in a complete draft it would make sense for Carolina to trade down and continue rebuilding. However, the most pressing concern seems to be shoring up the defensive line. Carolina had the fourth-worst run defense in the NFL last season, and drafting Derrick Brown would go a long way in addressing those problems after an outstanding senior season. Questions have been raised about his mobility following a subpar combine performance, but Brown’s block shedding and run defense are unmatched in this draft class and prioritizing the Panthers’ awful run defense over their somewhat average pass defense led me to take the Auburn lineman.
8. Arizona Cardinals: OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
Zachary Huber: The Cardinals are not going to take a quarterback in the first round for the third-straight year. They came into this year's draft looking for prospects who could beef up their defense or help protect second-year quarterback Kyler Murray. Their biggest need on defense is along the defensive line. If the Panthers passed on Brown, he would’ve been the clear choice for them at No. 9. Instead, they settled for one of the best offensive tackles in the draft to help keep their franchise quarterback off his back. Tristan Wirfs was a three-year starter for the Hawkeyes who should improve their offensive line play from a year ago.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
Payton Titus: Last season, Jacksonville had just about the worst linebacker corps in the NFL. Simmons is the top-rated linebacker in the 2020 draft class. At Clemson, Simmons registered 104 tackles (16.5 for a loss), seven sacks and three interceptions. He was all over the field in Death Valley, taking snaps at three different positions — safety, cornerback and linebacker — all three positions that need nurturing in Jacksonville.
At the combine, Simmons only bolstered his draft stock, posting a 4.39 40-yard dash time and a 39-inch vertical.
If he falls to No. 9, the Jags would be wise to scoop him up.
10. Cleveland Browns: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia
Noah Ram: This was an easy pick for the Browns and one that should make the Dawg Pound happy. Thomas was a two-time All-American at Georgia and has experience playing with Browns running back Nick Chubb. Most importantly, Thomas will help protect QB Baker Mayfield. Mayfield’s play last season was not nearly as stellar as expected, and part of that was because he was under constant pressure. He was sacked 40 times, tied for seventh in the NFL in 2019. Thomas, one of the best offensive linemen in the draft, should help alleviate that problem.
11. New York Jets: OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville
Dylan O’Shea: Third-year quarterback and 2018 third-overall pick Sam Darnold needs help. The Jets’ two biggest holes are at offensive line and receiver, which has stunted Darnold’s growth over his first two seasons as a pro. While both classes are deep in the 2020 draft, the Jets’ pickings of big men will thin out faster than at receiver. Cleveland snatched the apple of New York’s eye at tackle in Andrew Thomas, so the Jets will have to settle for Mekhi Becton out of Louisville. The 6-foot-7, 368-pound lineman presents a size and athleticism the Jets have lacked at left tackle since D’Brickashaw Ferguson. The Jets have not drafted an offensive lineman in the first round since Ferguson and center Nick Mangold were selected at No. 4 and No. 29 in 2006, respectively. It’s time to change that.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
River Wells: Honestly, I was shocked that Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb were still available at this point in the draft, and I don’t see it going down this way on Thursday. The Raiders may have moved to the fabulous Las Vegas, but this pick was anything but a gamble.
Las Vegas is hurting at wide receiver. Former Philadelphia Eagle Nelson Agholor is currently the centerpiece of its corps, and as any Eagles fan would tell you, that’s far from an ideal situation for quarterback Derek Carr.
In 2019, Jeudy caught 77 passes for 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns, and at 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, he has a prototypical build. This draft class is filled to the brim with great wideouts, and Jeudy may just be the best of them.
13. San Francisco 49ers: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Christian Ortega: Alright, let’s be honest here. Nobody knows what they’re doing when they’re drafting players because there’s no science to this process. At the end of the day, it’s a gut decision, and it tells me CeeDee Lamb couldn’t be passed on. The 49ers need wide receivers. With Jerry Jeudy, who barely beat Lamb for No. 1 on my big board, drafted, it was natural that the receiver from Oklahoma would be the choice at 13th. He’s a big-play talent who can create separation and make plays with the ball in his hands. He will give quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo a reliable target after tight end George Kittle. Last season, the 49ers were second in points (29.9) and fourth in yards (381) but 13th in passing yards per game (237). It’s hard to imagine one of the league’s best offenses not improving with Lamb catching passes.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Evan Lepak: In this scenario, with all four of the top offensive tackles off the board, the Buccaneers take a risk and pick running back Jonathan Taylor at No. 14.
Taylor dominated college football for three seasons with Wisconsin, rushing for 6,174 total yards to go along with 50 rushing touchdowns.
At 5-foot-11, 219 pounds, Taylor fits the build of a prototypical bruising NFL running back.
But he's not just a workhorse, Taylor also has breakaway speed.
His 4.39-second 40-yard dash was the fastest of any running back at this year's NFL Combine.
Adding to his versatility, Taylor caught 26 passes for 252 yards and five touchdowns in 2019.
If you combine all of that with his ability to stay healthy (played in 41 games with the Badgers) Taylor is a no-brainer pick to be the first running back taken in the 2020 NFL Draft.
15. Denver Broncos: WR Henry Ruggs, Alabama
Ainslie Lee: Drew Lock as a starter in Denver is coming to fruition. And I believe the Mile High’s front office is really looking to build an offense around its young quarterback — and it can do so by giving Lock a nice target out wide. And lucky for them, this year’s draft is receiver-heavy. Despite talks of trading up to secure CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy, John Elway isn’t known to trade up. And I’m not sure he even needs to. It seems people forget that Ruggs was the quickest guy on the Crimson Tide’s roster last season. Ruggs is lethal and can score from anywhere on the field.
16. Atlanta Falcons: CB CJ Henderson, Florida
Tyler Nettuno: My coworkers can call me a homer all they want, but this is a pick that makes a ton of sense for the Falcons, who desperately needed a boost in the secondary. With his elite cover skills, Henderson brings just that. The team may have had bigger needs, notably at pass rusher, but taking a player like K’Lavon Chaisson didn’t match the value of an athlete like Henderson. The top corner in the draft, Jeffrey Okudah, went third overall, and Atlanta couldn’t pass on the chance to take the second-best prospect at the position at 16th.
17. Dallas Cowboys: S Xavier McKinney, Alabama
Kyle Wood: Dallas was a mid-tier defense against the pass in 2019. But the main issue in the secondary was a lack of defensive playmakers. The Cowboys were tied for dead last in the NFL with the lowly Cardinals and Lions with seven interceptions a season ago. McKinney, a junior from Alabama, can shore up the secondary in Dallas and force turnovers. He was tied for second on the Crimson Tide in 2019 in interceptions (3) and led the team in force fumbles (4). McKinney also has a knack for getting to the quarterback on safety blitzes, having recorded three sacks in each of the past two seasons. For Dallas, this is a combination of addressing a need in the secondary and taking the best available.
18. Miami Dolphins: S Grant Delpit, LSU
Noah Ram: With Xavier McKinney off the board, the Dolphins made it two safeties in a row and selected Thorpe Award winner Grant Delpit. As everyone knows, Miami spent A LOT of money on their cornerbacks and have two of the three highest-paid CBs in the league in Byron Jones and Xavien Howard. However, Miami's secondary also needs help at safety. Eric Rowe had an alright season, but the Dolphins need another safety, and Delpit is a great choice. He is the latest of the great safeties to come out of LSU and was a huge piece on an LSU defense that improved mightily by season’s end. And maybe most impressively, he isn’t just a one-hit wonder. He put up equally, if not more stellar numbers, in 2018.
19. Las Vegas Raiders: CB A.J. Terrell, Clemson
River Wells: This was a tough one. The Raiders can go with LSU’s Kristian Fulton or Virginia’s Bryce Hall here, too, but A.J. Terrell’s 24 solo tackles and two interceptions were certainly a contributing factor in bringing the Clemson Tigers back to the national championship game. A 4.42 40-yard dash doesn’t hurt, either.
The Raiders had an almost entirely new cornerback corps last season, and it is in desperate need of improvement. With Terrell, Las Vegas gets another player from Clemson (though not picked nearly as high as Clelin Farrell) and gives a jumpstart to a secondary still trying to find its identity.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Justin Jefferson, LSU
Payton Titus: Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew won seven Rookie of the Week accolades with a painfully thin receiving corps last season. Imagine what he and the Jags would be able to accomplish with Justin Jefferson, DJ Chark and Dede Westbrook in position.
En route to a national championship at LSU, Jefferson made potential No.1overall pick Joe Burrow look good. He finished the season with 1,540 receiving yards, averaging 13.9 yards per reception, and scored 18 touchdowns for the Tigers.
That’s another thing Jacksonville needs help with: scoring. As a team, the Jags had 29 total touchdowns last season. Only three teams had fewer touchdowns than Jacksonville.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: EDGE Curtis Weaver, Boise State
Christian Ortega: Listen, I get it. The Eagles don’t have a receiver. Carson Wentz can’t go another season preparing to throw passes to himself because every pass catcher in Philadelphia is either on injured reserve or questionable to return. But there’s no benefit in reaching for a position that can be addressed in the next round. Not when there’s better talent available.
Worst-case scenario, the Eagles trade for Nick Foles. He’s done well catching passes for them in the past. But, the Eagles were 14th in the league in sacks (43) and 15th in sack percentage (6.82 percent). Weaver will be an instant upgrade for a unit whose best pass rusher is 32 and was 27th in the league in sacks (8.5). Pro Football Focus gave Weaver a pass-rushing grade over 92 for the second-consecutive season (he’s good at football); he’s the only player to have multiple such seasons (okay, he’s pretty good). With the fact that he’s PFF’s No. 17-ranked player, it was an easy decision drafting the edge rusher from Boise State.
22. Minnesota Vikings: CB Kristian Fulton, LSU
Brendan Farrell: Considering that the Vikings just hit the reset button in their secondary, I felt that Minnesota needed to do something in the draft to address it. With Fulton, the Vikings have what some consider to be the second-best cornerback prospect in the draft. In today’s pass-heavy league, taking the best cornerback prospect on the board is the smart move here.
23. New England Patriots: LB Zach Baun, Wisconsin
Most of the talk surrounding the Patriots throughout this hectic offseason has been about the departure of quarterback Tom Brady. New England brought back Brian Hoyer in March, a signal-caller with five years of experience under the Patriots’ offensive system. But early signs are pointing toward second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham getting the nod under center for the 2020-21 campaign.
A viable defense can work wonders for a young quarterback, so coach Bill Belichick would be wise to use New England’s first-round pick on linebacker Zach Baun out of Wisconsin. Baun’s explosiveness off the line and knack for setting the edge made him a pivotal part of the Badgers’ 3-4 defense. During his time at Wisconsin, he registered 30.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks among his 152 total tackles.
Baun’s versatility resembles that of former Patriots great and All-Pro linebacker Mike Vrabel, a key piece to the start of New England’s dynasty in the early 2000s. It’s not the flashiest of picks, but Baun has the upside to contribute immediately with linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts leaving the team in free agency.
24. New Orleans Saints: LB Patrick Queen, LSU
Payton Titus: The Saints are in need of a linebacker, and what better way to use the No. 24 pick then to draft in-state talent at that position?
During the offseason, veteran inside linebacker A.J. Klein signed with the Buffalo Bills, consequently ending his three-year run in New Orleans.
Patrick Queen would help fill the hole Klein left behind and also alleviate the pressure in Louisiana with Kiko Alonso, Alex Anzalone and Demario Davis heading into the final year of their contracts. In 15 games last season, Queen notched 85 tackles, three sacks and one interception for the Tigers.
And the bonus: he already lives in the area.
25. Minnesota Vikings: WR Laviska Shenault, Colorado
Brendan Farrell: I remember in 2017 when Kirk Cousins was in Washington and the Redskins parted ways with Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, Cousins’ two favorite targets. He didn’t play as well that season, and the Vikings will have to address the wide receiver position to prevent the same thing from happening after trading Stefon Diggs to Buffalo.
Shenault is a bit of an injury risk and is maybe a little too raw, but his pure athleticism is difficult to pass up. With Shenault, Cousins will have another receiver he can rely on other than Adam Thielen.
26. Miami Dolphins: RB D’Andre Swift, Georgia
Noah Ram: Was this pick a little bit of a reach? Yes of course it was. However, I had no interest in trading down, and Miami is in dire need of running back. Last season, Miami’s leading rusher was QB Ryan Fitzpatrick with a whopping 243 yards. While the signing of Jordan Howard will help, Miami still needs another back and Swift fits the bill. He is, in my opinion, the best running back in this draft and will be a nice offset to the running style that Howard brings. He was named first team All-SEC in 2019 and was a huge focal point of highly-ranked Georgia’s offense. Swift has Offensive Rookie of the Year potential and will greatly help a Fins rushing attack that far and away ranked last in the NFL. Finally, he will be a good security blanket for either Fitzpatrick or rookie Tua Tagovailoa.
27. Seattle Seahawks: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama
Graham Marsh: Trevon Diggs is arguably the best corner in the draft other than Jeffrey Okudah and CJ Henderson. With a glaring need at the position for the Seahawks, it makes too much sense to take him in the late first round. It is one of Seattle’s biggest needs, and while he may not be the plug-and-play caliber of Okudah and Henderson, he has the potential to be a reliable No. 1 or No. 2 corner, which is what the Seahawks need.
It may take a little time, but there is no reason Diggs can’t be a long-term, reliable corner for the year-in-and-year-out Super Bowl contenders. He also comes from a winning program like Alabama, winning a national championship in 2017 and making the College Football Playoff in 2018. He will fit right in with Pete Carroll’s franchise.
28. Baltimore Ravens: WR Tee Higgins, Clemson
Myles Herbert: After a disappointing end to the 2019 season with the loss to Tennessee at home, Baltimore will be cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season. When you have one of the best young QBs in the league in league MVP Lamar Jackson, it is important to give them as many options as possible so they can perform at their best. The Ravens need size out wide, and that is exactly what they are getting with Tee Higgins out of Clemson. He’s 6-foot-4, 218 pounds and has played at all receiver positions in college, catching 27 touchdowns along the way. Let’s hope that Lamar, ‘truzz’ Tee.
29. Tennessee Titans: DT Ross Blacklock, TCU
Joseph Salvador: Just over a month ago, the Tennessee Titans traded away their most consistent defensive presence in defensive end Jurrell Casey. Casey has appeared in five straight Pro Bowls and will leave a large gap in Tennessee’s defensive front.
That’s why Ross Blacklock is a must pick here.
The 6-foot-3 TCU product earned First Team All-Big 12 honors in 2019 after accumulating 40 tackles, nine for loss, and 3.5 sacks in 12 starts.
Although raw, he showed significant strides after a devastating Achilles injury in 2018 and has a big upside in the pros.
30. Green Bay Packers: LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
Evan Lepak: With some of the best wide receiver talent off the board, the Packers elect to bolster the defense by selecting linebacker Kenneth Murray.
Murray is arguably the most versatile linebacker prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft, and if you watch any of his tape, you'll see why.
The 6-foot-2, 241-pound former Oklahoma Sooner has elite speed and athleticism for a linebacker. He can cover very well for a guy at his position, and his ability to track down wide receivers and running backs from behind the line of scrimmage makes him a plug-and-play starter as a rookie next season.
Murray accumulated 325 total tackles and 9.5 sacks during three seasons with the Sooners.
The Packers added Christian Kirksey from the Browns but lost Blake Martinez and BJ Goodson to free agency.
Because of this, they'll be looking for a big-time pickup at linebacker and Murray certainly fits that description.
31. San Francisco 49ers: OT Josh Jones, Houston
Christian Ortega: Joe Staley allowed two sacks last season. He drew that many penalties as well. But he’s also 35, and the odds of him having a Tom Brady-like career are slim. It’s why you need to have a contingency plan in the event he retires sooner than expected or misses games to injury. It’s why you go with your gut (again). This draft lacks talent on the interior, so why waste a first reaching for that need when the available talent doesn’t justify doing so. Jimmy still has four years and, most importantly, $80.5 million, remaining on his contract. I don’t think Staley has four equally-productive years remaining in his career. So why risk the franchise quarterback spending the majority of his pass attempts ending on the ground as opposed to completing passes because his blindside’s protection suffered a dropoff in talent. It’s why you draft the best lineman from the Senior Bowl. It’s why you pick PFF’s 16th-ranked player who fell to the bottom of the first round. It’s why you draft Josh Jones.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: CB Damon Arnette, Ohio State
Declan Walsh: Even Super Bowl Champions have weaknesses, and Kansas City’s shaky secondary was further compromised with the departure of Kendall Fuller to the Redskins. The Chiefs will need someone to compete for a Day 1 spot at corner next season and Arnette fits that role nicely. The Ohio State grad has great instincts and is a good size for a corner, listed at 6-foot and 195 pounds. He also boasts quite a bit of experience, appearing 47 times across four seasons in Columbus. Arnette’s average athleticism has generated a lot of skeptics, with many arguing his game won’t be able to transition into the NFL. However, most draft experts believe he would perform serviciably in a zone defense and the Chiefs’ 4-3 scheme should be able to mask these deficiencies.