With just under a month to go the 2020 NFL Draft I wanted to jot down some quick takeaways on the issues each team faces which may help map out what they will do come draft day, specifically in round one. Starting at the top with Cincinnati, let’s look through the first 8 teams who, perhaps, have the biggest decisions to make in order to revive their fortunes.
Throughout this mock draft I’ve used the PFN Mock Draft Simulator to help work out potential trades and scenarios – https://www.profootballnetwork.com/mockdraft/
1. Cincinnati Bengals “Hey Joe”
Picks (7 in total) – top pick in each round
The pick for the Bengals is obvious. Select your franchise QB for the next decade, Joe Burrow, in the hope that his College numbers at LSU translate into NFL statistics in the years to come. The Bengals have made some moves in free agency (notably shoring up the secondary with Trae Waynes and Vonn Bell and placing franchise tag on AJ Green). There is a potentially nice supporting cast on offense with Green and Tyler Boyd to target, Joe Mixon to develop the play-action system with (and keep any defense honest) and a o-line which will hopefully stay healthy in 2020.
The other factor here is that there are very few teams with the sort of draft capital which could persuade the Bengals to drop from #1. Carolina have been mooted as a possible given the Joe Brady LSU connection with Burrow but the picks to offer just are not there, with Bengals unlikely to accept ‘jam tomorrow’ in terms of 2021 picks. So I think despite the potential for drama (could Bengals take Chase Young?) Cincinnati will open the draft with the blindingly obvious.
With the first pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Cincinnati Bengals select Joe Burrow, Quarterback, LSU.
2. Washington Redskins “Open for business?”
Picks (7) – 2, 66, 108, 142, 162, 216, 229
Washington look like a team in the midst of rebuild with new Head Coach Ron Rivera looking to overhaul a good portion of the roster. When it comes to the draft they have a real issue – 7 picks with only 2 of those picks across rounds 1-3. Unless they can pick up some real later round gems they may need to trade out of the second spot in order to secure additional draft capital in those early rounds. By doing so they would have to accept missing out on the player with the unenviable label of ‘the best player in the draft’, Chase Young.
The Redskins are also going to need the chatter around QBs to hit fever pitch in order to make a team with the draft capital to offer (e.g. Miami Dolphins) anxious enough to move up. For the purposes of this mock I’m going to propose that Miami do want to move up for Tua Tagovailoa and the additional early picks are too much for Washington to ignore.
TRADE! – WAS #2 for MIA #5 #18 #39
(NB for Trades I’m plugging it into PFN mock simulator to see what is accepted)
Therefore when they get to pick #5 the Washington Redskins select Tristan Wirfs, offensive tackle, Iowa.
Now, to explain, I think in this scenario the Redskins are going to prioritise protecting Dwayne Haskins, particularly in light of their inability to work things out with Trent Williams. The Redskins were no doubt hoping for a suitable trade, probably to get back a 2nd rounder, but that has not materialised. Getting their choice of first tackle off the board is a good result for the Redskins, with the ability to come back for another first rounder on defense at #18.
3. Detroit Lions “On the block”
Picks (8) – 3, 35, 67, 85, 109, 149, 168, 182
For me, the Detroit Lions war room is the one under the most pressure. Both the Head Coach, Matt Patricia, and the General Manager, Bob Quinn, have the words “we need to be playing meaningful football in December (from owner Martha Firestone Ford) ringing in their ears. The Lions sit in an NFC North where they could make a run with both the Bears and Vikings in varying states of roster flux (Vikings retooling much of an ageing defense and now without Stefan Diggs, and the Bears seeking to recover from a disappointing 2019). However, the Lions free agency was eye-catching for the wrong reasons with the acrimonious departure of star CB Darius Slay and some high $ moves for less than stellar acquisitions.
They need to knock the draft out of the park and have decent draft capital (4 picks in top 100). In this scenario they would have the luxury of defensive stars Chase Young, Jeff Okudah, Isaiah Simmons or Derrick Brown to choose from. I ran the scenario through PFN and TDN multiple times (as I am a Giants fan and wanted to remain impartial). The result was a very nice start for the Lions.
With the 3rd pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Detroit Lions select, Chase Young, defensive end, The Ohio State University.
4. New York Giants “The dilemma”
Picks (10) – 4, 36, 99, 110, 150, 183, 218, 238, 247, 255
Two glaring needs for the G-Men, both with equal weighting. They need to find the left tackle who will help keep QB Daniel Jones upright for the next decade and to open up running lanes for star running back Saquon Barkley. However, they also need high quality defensive talent, badly. Their free agency moves have been mainly to beef up depth on the roster, there was not the one marquee signing some were expecting.
Here is where the Giants are also going to need to rely on the QB market heating up. They need to try and work in an additional day 2 pick from somewhere. The loss of the early 3rd rounder for Leonard Williams hurts the Giants and is often quoted as another of Dave Gettlemen’s questionable roster moves (alongside, I would argue, getting into a situation where Janoris Jenkins gets cut for nothing as opposed to an earlier mid-season trade for an additional pick).
In this scenario the Dolphins have already moved up and the teams below them in need of a future QB (Chargers and Panthers) may simply wait to see if Justin Herbert and Jordan Love (the likely next 2 QBs off the rank) fall to them without giving up picks. I’m expecting that no trade is forthcoming here and the Giants have to pick at #4. With that in mind I think Gettlemen may go against the ‘hog-mollie’ instincts to select a defensive icon the franchise has been crying out for since the days of Strahan, Tuck, Umenyiora and JPP.
Therefore, with the 4th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the New York Giants select, Isaiah Simmons, linebacker, Clemson.
5. Miami Dolphins “Plenty to offer”
Picks (14) – 5, 18, 26, 39, 56, 70, 141, 153, 154, 173, 185, 227, 246, 251
The Dolphins are in a full blown roster reboot and part 1 of the overhaul has seen several high profile free agents arrive, most notably on defense with Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy and Shaq Lawson.
As already noted above the Dolphins do have the draft capital to trade up to #2 in order to secure Tua Tagovailoa as their QB, with the ability to sit him behind Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2020 (a very capable placeholder for 12 months). The cost of trading up (picks 5, 18 and 39) still leave the Dolphins with enough picks across the first two days (26, 56, 70) to add potential day 1 starters to the roster. They also have a further 8 day-3 picks which they could package up to dip back into the 4th round to secure more good value rookies.
So, with the 2nd pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Miami Dolphins select, Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama.
6. LA Chargers “Stick or twist”
Picks (7) – 6, 37, 71, 112, 151, 186, 220
The LA Chargers are moving on in 2020. Moving on from Philip Rivers and moving into the new SoFi stadium in LA. They made nice moves in free agency, adding Bryan Bulaga at right tackle and Linval Joseph (DT) and Chris Harris (CB) on to the defense. Their draft capital is okay with one high pick in each round so they should be able to secure 3 or 4 very promising rookies. But where to start?
This may depend on how much they like Justin Herbert as their long-term QB. They appear to be happy to stick with Tyrod Taylor for 2020 but they will need that decision to pay off quickly with wins next season, particularly in an increasingly competitive AFC West with the Super Bowl winning Chiefs, the ever-busy and upward trending Raiders and a Denver Broncos franchise which looks like it has its act together in terms of roster-building.
I think this is a nice spot for the Chargers to take Herbert and I believe they can let the draft come to them and still pick him up without giving up any additional draft capital. The situation is well set with Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry and Austin Ekeler, giving Herbert plenty of targets as and when he steps up to lead the offense.
With the 6th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the LA Chargers select, Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon.
7. Carolina Panthers “Rhule Revolution”
Picks (8) – 7, 38, 69, 113, 148, 152, 184, 221
Matt Rhule and company have been tearing it down in Carolina since his appointment as Head Coach. It has been like a revolving door with the Panthers – the most notable position change has been that Cam is out and Teddy Bridgewater is in as the starting QB. This may mean that the Panthers pass on selecting a QB in this draft.
It is clear this is a long haul project for Rhule (with the security of a 7-year contract) and he has a mantra of taking fast, athletic, tough young prospects in the knowledge that he backs his coaching staff to hone their skills.
Like the Chargers, the Panthers have one pick in each of the first four rounds, and I think they can sit tight at #7 in the knowledge that they will still be able to draft a very good starting piece on either side of the ball. With the way the first 6 picks have panned out they could have the choice of CB Jeff Okudah or DT Derrick Brown. Either would be great picks and I think on balance using the mantra of building back-to-front they would go for Okudah.
With the 7th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Carolina Panthers select Jeffrey Okudah, cornerback, The Ohio State University.
8. Arizona Cardinals “Upwardly mobile”
Picks (6) – 8, 72, 114, 131, 202, 222
The Arizona Cardinals are going places. This message was exemplified in their free agency capture of star wide receiver Deandre Hopkins from the Houston Texans. Kyle Murray had a very impressive rookie campaign and their 5-10-1 record suggested, at times, that Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury has the franchise headed in the right direction.
Now that Murray has numerous targets to throw to, I think the Cardinals will focus on keeping him well-protected so I’d look for them to go offensive tackle and to take the biggest guy of the lot!
With the 8th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Arizona Cardinals select Mekhi Becton, offensive tackle, Louisville.
The wrinkle here is that the Cardinals could look to trade back in order to obtain an additional day 2 pick but the most likely partner, the Las Vegas Raiders, is unlikely to be able to offer the necessary draft capital. In using the PFN simulator it took offering #12 and #19 to trade up which is probably too rich for Mayock and Gruden.
Next up – picks #9 through #16 – any more trades in the offing?