2020 NFL Mock Draft: Dolphins land Tua, Saints take Drew Brees' successor, Patriots find a tight end

Think mock drafts this early are an exercise in futility? If you want to know exactly what's going to happen a little less than a year from now, sure. I can tell you this isn't going to be incredibly accurate. Certain players will go back to school rather than declare early, others will come out of nowhere to enter Round 1 discussion, and still others could suffer devastating injuries that push them down to the later rounds.

But super early mock drafts like this are interesting exercises to see which prospects you should be keeping your eyes on when the college season kicks off. And it's not like we're going to be 100 percent wrong with these picks either; last year, I had Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 and Rashan Gary at No. 12, Drew Lock to the Broncos (see how perfect that fit was?), Greg Little on the Panthers, the Steelers getting an inside linebacker, the Falcons going guard with their first pick and other close calls. So while you shouldn't mark these picks down in pen on your 2020 draft boards, I think there's plenty here worth considering 50-some weeks before the 2020 NFL Draft.

A note about the draft order before you send your angry tweets and emails: It's based off the current SportsLine projections coming out of the 2019 draft. We started with projected win totals, made sure both conferences put six teams into the playoffs, then advanced the better team through each round. If you think we have your team picking too high, just take comfort in knowing this is the best projection we have this early in the process, and the final results are sure to differ.

NFL Mock Draft
Round 1
Round 1 - Pick 1
Tua Tagovailoa QB
Alabama - Soph - 6'1 / 218 LBS
Projected Team
Miami Dolphins
If the Dolphins have the No. 1 pick in 2020, the trade for Josh Rosen shouldn't preclude them from grabbing a franchise quarterback. Tua is the odds-on favorite to be the top quarterback selected, so he's the logical pick to be the Dolphins' savior.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Andrew Thomas T
Georgia - Soph - 6'5 / 320 LBS
Projected Team
Arizona Cardinals
Thomas enters 2019 as the favorite to be the first offensive lineman off the board, and for all the great players the Cardinals might have found in the 2019 draft, they didn't do much to address the weakness of the offensive line.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Chase Young DE
Ohio State - Soph - 6'5 / 265 LBS
Projected Team
Oakland Raiders
The Raiders picked up one starting edge rusher at the top of the 2019 draft, and they go back to the well here with Ohio State's next elite player at the position. With Young and Clelin Ferrell starting and Arden Key providing depth, the Raiders should feel great about their future.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Jerry Jeudy WR
Alabama - Soph - 6'1 / 192 LBS
Projected Team
Buffalo Bills
It's going to be a great receiver class next year, and if the Bills end up with a top-five pick, they'll be able to get the No. 1 passing-game option they currently lack. Jeudy should be a top-five player overall on every list heading into the year.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Justin Herbert QB
Oregon - Jr - 6'6 / 233 LBS
Projected Team
Cincinnati Bengals
The selection of Ryan Finley this year shouldn't stop the Bengals from going after one of the top QBs in 2020 if they wind up with a high pick. Herbert was in the mix to be the top QB drafted in 2019 before heading back to school.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Laviska Shenault Jr. WR
Colorado - Soph - 6'2 / 220 LBS
Projected Team
Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars added a QB this offseason, but they still lack weapons for Nick Foles to live up to the big contract he landed from the team. Shenault had a big sophomore year, and another should solidify him as the top option behind Jerry Jeudy.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Jake Fromm QB
Georgia - Soph - 6'2 / 220 LBS
Projected Team
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If the Bucs end up with another high pick, I can see the front office moving on from Jameis Winston (provided an extension isn't signed before the 2019 season) and going with one of the top options in the 2020 draft. Fromm could force himself in the conversation for No. 1 overall.
Round 1 - Pick 8
A.J. Epenesa DE
Iowa - Soph - 6'5 / 277 LBS
Projected Team
Carolina Panthers
The Panthers picked up Brian Burns in 2019, but with Mario Addison heading into FA and Bruce Irvin signing only a one-year deal this offseason, the need will be there for Carolina to double-dip at edge rusher in back-to-back drafts.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Grant Delpit S
LSU - Soph - 6'3 / 203 LBS
Projected Team
Washington Redskins
Washington opened up the checkbook for Landon Collins, and Delpit would be a nice complement as someone with great anticipation and range who can patrol the back end for the team's defense.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Walker Little T
Stanford - Soph - 6'7 / 313 LBS
Projected Team
New York Giants
The Giants still need another tackle opposite Nate Solder, who might not be worth his cap hit starting in 2020 anyway. Little will improve both the run and pass blocking immediately and has long-term potential at left tackle.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Derrick Brown DT
Auburn - Jr - 6'5 / 325 LBS
Projected Team
Detroit Lions
A'Shawn Robinson is scheduled for free agency in 2020 and there needs to be a long-term plan behind Damon Harrison, who carries a big cap number in 2020, the last year of his deal. Brown was a likely first-round pick in 2019 until deciding to return to school.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Trey Adams OT
Washington - Sr - 6'8 / 316 LBS
Projected Team
Tennessee Titans
After declining the option on Jack Conklin, the Titans should be in the market for a new tackle if one of the top options is available with their pick. Don't rule out moving up for a QB either if Marcus Mariota doesn't take the next step in 2019.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Raekwon Davis DT
Alabama - Jr - 6'7 / 316 LBS
Projected Team
Atlanta Falcons
If Grady Jarrett isn't signed to an extension, finding talent on the interior of the D-line will be imperative for the Falcons in 2020. But even if he comes back, a quality defensive tackle like Davis could be the pick to give the team a potentially elite tandem.
Round 1 - Pick 14
CJ Henderson DB
Florida - Soph - 6'1 / 191 LBS
Projected Team
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have done a lot to address their defense this offseason, but they need to get more top young talent at the corner position. Henderson should be in the mix to be the top corner in next year's draft and could be in for a breakout season at Florida.
Round 1 - Pick 15
CeeDee Lamb WR
Oklahoma - Soph - 6'2 / 189 LBS
Projected Team
Denver Broncos
The Broncos landed several key pieces for the future in the 2019 draft, but they could eye the receiver position in 2020 with Emmanuel Sanders heading for free agency. Lamb can be a No. 1 option, allowing Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton to stay in complementary roles.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Jonathan Taylor RB
Wisconsin - Soph - 5'11 / 221 LBS
Projected Team
Houston Texans
I can see the Texans being the first team to take a running back from this class, which has several potential first-round talents. With more than 4,000 yards rushing over the last two seasons, Taylor will be appealing for a team looking for a workhorse.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Nick Coe DL
Auburn - Soph - 6'5 / 282 LBS
Projected Team
Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings could move on from Everson Griffen after 2019, and Coe is a quality defensive end prospect with the size of Griffen who can also get upfield and rack up sacks.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Tee Higgins WR
Clemson - Soph - 6'4 / 210 LBS
Projected Team
New York Jets
Robby Anderson is slated for free agency after 2019, so the Jets will have an opportunity to dip into this class and find a new starter. Higgins was a big part of Trevor Lawrence's success in 2018 and should be a lock to go in the first round next year.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Isaiah Simmons S
Clemson - Soph - 6'2 / 230 LBS
Projected Team
Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys passed on some great talent at the safety position with their first pick in the 2019 draft, but they address the position here. Simmons is a safety/linebacker hybrid who the Cowboys can employ as their box safety.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Terrell Lewis LB
Alabama - Jr - 6'5 / 256 LBS
Projected Team
Baltimore Ravens
Sure, Lewis will need to prove he's healthy to earn a first-round grade after missing huge chunks of time with torn ligaments in his knee and elbow, but if he has a big 2019 I can see the Ravens targeting him to fill a void at edge rusher after this year's departures.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Dylan Moses LB
Alabama - Soph - 6'3 / 233 LBS
Projected Team
Green Bay Packers
The Packers gave their defense an overhaul this offseason, but one spot they didn't boost is at inside linebacker next to Blake Martinez, who's scheduled to be a free agent next offseason anyway. That puts the Packers in the mix for the top linebacker in next year's draft.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Yetur Gross-Matos DE
Penn State - Soph - 6'5 / 259 LBS
Projected Team
Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks needed edge rusher help even before trading Frank Clark to the Chiefs, so consider them a candidate to double-dip at the position in back-to-back drafts. Gross-Matos had 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 2018, putting him on track for first-round status with another great year.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Travis Etienne RB
Clemson - Soph - 5'10 / 200 LBS
Projected Team
Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have done a great job finding young talent the last few years, and that leaves them without many needs heading into the 2020 draft. That could put them in play for a home-run threat at running back like Etienne, who averaged 8.1 yards per carry in 2018.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Anfernee Jennings ILB
Alabama - Jr - 6'3 / 266 LBS
Projected Team
Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers made their move up the draft this year to land a stud inside linebacker, but they'll need to find someone to pair with T.J. Watt on the edge next offseason. Jennings had a nice performance in the national championship game and could be in for a big 2019 season.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Trevon Diggs CB
Alabama - Jr - 6'2 / 199 LBS
Projected Team
Philadelphia Eagles
The seventh Alabama player off the board in the first round goes to the Eagles, who are set to lose Ronald Darby next offseason and have done well enough setting up the future at other positions to jump on a top corner if one is available.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Tyler Biadasz C
Wisconsin - Soph - 6'3 / 319 LBS
Projected Team
Oakland Raiders
This assumes the Raiders aren't able to retain Rodney Hudson going into next offseason. Biadasz is the clear top draft-eligible center entering 2019 and should find a spot somewhere in the first round.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Kenny Willekes DE
Michigan State - Jr - 6'4 / 260 LBS
Projected Team
Cleveland Browns
Willekes topped 20 tackles for loss last year but still decided to return to Michigan State rather than jump to the NFL after breaking his leg late in the season. A healthy, productive 2019 will put him on the first-round radar, and he's an intriguing piece for the Browns, considering Olivier Vernon's big cap number.
Round 1 - Pick 28
J.K. Dobbins RB
Ohio State - Soph - 5'10 / 214 LBS
Projected Team
Los Angeles Chargers
Will the Chargers be able to strike a new deal with Melvin Gordon considering the price tag he likely has in mind? If it's not in the cards, the team could grab a quality No. 1 option late in the first round like Dobbins.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Kristian Fulton CB
LSU - Jr - 6'0 / 192 LBS
Projected Team
Los Angeles Rams
Even if the Rams agree to a deal with impending free agent Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib's contract is up after 2019 as well, and at his age the team could eye the first round of the 2020 draft to find a young corner like Fulton.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Bryce Hall CB
Virginia - Jr - 6'1 / 200 LBS
Projected Team
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs made finding personnel for their switch to a 3-4 defense a priority this offseason, but they still have a collection of unknowns at the cornerback position. Hall might have been the best corner in the 2019 draft had he declared, so this would be great value here.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Jacob Eason QB
Georgia - Soph - 6'6 / 227 LBS
Projected Team
New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees is heading into his age-40 season, so the time is now to find his successor if it's not Teddy Bridgewater. If Eason wins the starting job after transferring to Washington, he seems likely to play well enough to get into the first-round mix.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Albert Okwuegbunam TE
Missouri - Soph - 6'5 / 255 LBS
Projected Team
New England Patriots
Okwuegbunam decided to return to school rather than join a deep 2019 tight end class after battling a shoulder injury last season, and he's the best bet to be the first tight end drafted in 2020. The Patriots could still be looking for Gronk's replacement by next year's draft.
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