The 2020 NFL Draft is nearly here so that means this is my final chance to make predictions. There are three things I want to note before we get into my one and only 2020 first-round mock. First, as it relates to draft-day trades, I believe teams will want to exchange capital only if it's from this year's draft. You'll see a top-five trade below where including a 2021 pick can't be avoided. But for all the other trades, it's all about this year's selections. Why?
All trades that are made need to end with each participant feeling they got a fair deal. Think of it like four $5s for a $20. But because of how unique this year's draft is, next year's draft will be like trading a different currency. No one will want to figure out an exchange rate because no one will know what's fair. How can you value a second-round pick in 2021 against a second-round pick this year with a predraft season that was cut off by two-thirds? Because of those unknowns, I see most draft trades being done almost entirely with 2020 capital.
Secondly, top-100 picks will be at a premium this year more than usual. We don't need to hear any more about how unique/difficult/unfair this draft is for personnel chiefs. People are afraid of eventually losing their jobs over this draft, and the later-round picks are going to be estimations like never before. I can envision teams treating top-100 picks like gold this year, and it'll be difficult and costly for teams to part with them.
Finally, players from major programs will have an even greater leg-up on the field. Players who aren't immediate Pro Bowl talents from programs like Clemson, Alabama, LSU and Ohio State could all get drafted higher than they normally would based off their school's pedigree. NFL teams know more about those coaches and programs because scouts have seen those prospects since they were freshmen while scouting older players. Small-school prospects will get the short end of the stick this year because teams can't do their usual homework, and I think we'll see more teams lean on players from the top schools over some of the lower Power 5 schools.
On to the picks.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Joe Burrow QB
LSU • 6'4" / 221 lbs
Once he put any potential draft-day drama to bed at the combine, Burrow to Cincinnati has been 100% locked in. Short of a team giving Cincy its first-round picks for the next four years (at least), the Bengals cannot move out of this slot. They get their quarterback of the future, and Andy Dalton will be traded for something around the fourth or fifth round.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Chase Young EDGE
Ohio State • 6'5" / 264 lbs
As I've reported since the combine, it'll take a Ricky Williams-like haul for Washington to move out of this pick if Burrow is off the board. Washington would love to have more picks between now and No. 66, but not at the risk of losing the top player on its board. It's a no-brainer here, and there will be no fireworks in the first two picks this year.
Mock Trade from Detroit Lions
Round 1 - Pick 3
Oregon • 6'6" / 236 lbs
Lions receive picks 6, 37, 112 and LAC's second-round pick in 2021 in exchange for No. 3. The Chargers stood pat at this position in free agency because they were intent on drafting a QB and using capital in order to get their guy. All that Detroit-interviewing-QBs nonsense is just smoke, and L.A. knows it needs to get ahead of Miami if the Chargers want the most sure-fire quarterback remaining. GM Tom Telesco watched Herbert closely at the Senior Bowl and his pro day, and the Chargers get the QB without medical concerns in this trade up.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Alabama • 6'4" / 312 lbs
The Giants ranked 25th in run blocking last season and Dave Gettleman knows this type of tackle class doesn't come around often. Though Isaiah Simmons is sitting there for the G-Men, G-Man gets the top tackle in the draft to protect his franchise quarterback and improve the blocking for his franchise back in a make-or-break 2020 season for the general manager.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Georgia • 6'5" / 315 lbs
Wait ... no Tua? Nope. Sadly, there are too many medical questions around the former Alabama quarterback during a time where team doctors can't get their hands on him. The Dolphins can't afford to pull the trigger on such an unknown this high in the draft. Thomas can play either tackle position after playing the last two seasons at left tackle against the best competition in the country.
Mock Trade from Los Angeles Chargers
Round 1 - Pick 6
Jeff Okudah CB
Ohio State • 6'1" / 202 lbs
This is essentially the Colts-Jets trade from two years ago, except the Chargers don't give up three second-round picks like the Jets did because that was ridiculous. The Lions move back to get the guy they were all mocked at No. 3 to get anyway, replacing Darius Slay with the draft's best cornerback.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Clemson • 6'4" / 238 lbs
The Panthers aren't planning for Simmons to fall to them and are fully prepared to take Derrick Brown here (or C.J. Henderson if both are unavailable.) The Matt Rhule era has begun with a new-look offense for Joe Brady but a defense that will get boat-raced in most games this season. Getting the most versatile defender in the draft to fill as many needs as the Panthers have is the obvious move based on how the board falls.
Mock Trade from Arizona Cardinals
Round 1 - Pick 8
Iowa • 6'5" / 320 lbs
Cardinals receive picks 14, 45 and 117 in exchange for No. 8. Tampa Bay has the GOAT for the next two seasons and a giant hole at right tackle. With two of the top four tackles already off the board and with the tackle-needy Browns looming in the draft order, GM Jason Licht makes a big play to get his Day 1 right tackle. The Bucs still have their third-round selection, which will be good value for the running back they need.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Florida • 6'1" / 204 lbs
With 12 picks in this year's draft, the Jags have the capital to move up anywhere and anytime they please. This could be too high for Henderson, but the need for corner help is real in Duval and the drop-off after Henderson is legitimate. Dave Caldwell has plenty more picks to fill plenty more holes for his team in a hot-seat year for him.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Mekhi Becton OL
Louisville • 6'7" / 364 lbs
I can see new GM Andrew Berry manipulating this draft to get more than just his seven current picks. But I keep the Browns here to fill their huge need with this huge player. Becton is going to maul AFC North defenders for years to come.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Round 1 - Pick 12
CeeDee Lamb WR
Oklahoma • 6'2" / 200 lbs
Las Vegas gets this YAC machine for Derek Carr. The Raiders have been in on Lamb since the combine, and it's difficult to imagine he makes it out of this small group of receiver-needy teams.
From Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 13
Javon Kinlaw DL
South Carolina • 6'5" / 319 lbs
Teams are going to have to rely on tape and their notes in this draft. San Francisco scouted WR Deebo Samuel last year in the pre-draft process, and they go back to the Columbia well with this pick to replace DeForest Buckner. Their biggest need remains receiver, and they'll fill that with a value pick later.
Mock Trade from Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Round 1 - Pick 14
Auburn • 6'5" / 318 lbs
Arizona gets a good haul from Tampa Bay and still gets a top-10 talent in Brown. Interior disruption is desperately needed in a division with Russell Wilson, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. Teams won't know who to double when the Cards pair Brown with Jordan Phillips.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Alabama • 6'0" / 190 lbs
This pair appears in most mock drafts for obvious reasons. Denver needs speed on its offense and Ruggs is the best option this year. John Elway is hopeful Courtland Sutton will take control of that X position with the help of Ruggs spreading the defense vertically.
Round 1 - Pick 16
K'Lavon Chaisson EDGE
LSU • 6'3" / 254 lbs
It'd make sense if Atlanta wants to be aggressive here and trade up. But as the board breaks the Falcons' way, and they get the LSU EDGE that could help Dan Quinn restore his defense to its former glory.
Mock Trade from Dallas Cowboys
Round 1 - Pick 17
Alabama • 6'0" / 217 lbs
Cowboys receive picks 23, 87 and 125 in exchange for No. 17. Madness! With his medicals, Tagovailoa sees his value drop to the middle of the first round. And whaddayaknow ... it's Bill Belichick. New England has to get ahead of Miami, Jacksonville and Las Vegas for the 'Bama QB, and Jerry Jones is willing to slide back six spots to pick up an extra third and fourth-round pick.
From Pittsburgh Steelers
Round 1 - Pick 18
Alabama • 6'0" / 201 lbs
With Tagovailoa off the board, the Dolphins draft an Alabama safety with the pick acquired after they traded away an Alabama safety. Miami's defensive backfield will rival the Patriots for best in the division in 2020.
Mock Trade from Las Vegas Raiders
Round 1 - Pick 19
LSU • 6'1" / 202 lbs
Raiders receive picks 21, 127 and 168 in exchange for No. 19. Since winning the Super Bowl, Howie Roseman has drafted only five players in each year's draft. He has eight picks this year, and he burns a fourth and fifth he probably wasn't using anyway to make sure he gets this championship playmaker.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 20
Denzel Mims WR
Baylor • 6'3" / 207 lbs
This Baylor product was fantastic at contested catches last season and has silly 4.38 speed at 6-foot-3. Again, the Jags have enough picks to manipulate this draft several times over, but I like them taking the best available corner (at No. 9) and receiver in the first round.
Mock Trade from Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 21
LSU • 5'11" / 197 lbs
Mike Mayock winds up turning Khalil Mack into his starting running back (Josh Jacobs) and top cornerback with this pick. Fulton is the third corner off the board because his ball skills, age (22 at the start of the season) and championship pedigree will help him assimilate faster to a Raiders team wanting to contend in 2020 season that may very likely have a truncated preseason.
From Buffalo Bills
Round 1 - Pick 22
Yetur Gross-Matos EDGE
Penn State • 6'5" / 265 lbs
Minnesota opted against bringing back Everson Griffen and need to fill that pass-rush vacancy. Enter Gross-Matos, who in his last 24 games has 18.5 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss. (I would also expect Rick Spielman to do what needs to be done and deal his second-round pick to Washington for Trent Williams.)
Mock Trade from New England Patriots
Round 1 - Pick 23
Jeff Gladney CB
TCU • 5'10" / 191 lbs
Remember that teams are going to pick who they know the best. Well, the Cowboys trade down and still get a fantastic cornerback prospect out of Texas Christian in Gladney, who loves to play physically and has a swagger about him that demands he wear the star.
Round 1 - Pick 24
LSU • 6'0" / 232 lbs
If the Saints don't turn this pick into more top-100 capital, this is the no-brainer selection. He's a homegrown talent with unreal sideline-to-sideline speed at the position of greatest need for a team looking for a four-peat in the NFC South.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Jalen Reagor WR
TCU • 5'11" / 197 lbs
I'm not sure I believe this Horned Frog went from a 4.47-second 40 at the combine to a true 4.22-second 40 at his pro day, but I believe in his on-field speed. Minnesota has to replace Stefon Diggs with someone of equal speed explosiveness, and they get that here with Reagor.
From Houston Texans
Round 1 - Pick 26
Jordan Love QB
Utah State • 6'4" / 219 lbs
Love's value has always been at the end of the first round, and the Dolphins finally get a quarterback with their last pick in the first. This selection outside the top-20 means Miami can go into Week 1 starting Ryan Fitzpatrick, easing the pressure on the first-round QB and giving Love the necessary time to develop.
Round 1 - Pick 27
A.J. Epenesa EDGE
Iowa • 6'6" / 280 lbs
Epenesa was productive both as a backup and as a starter. He's a high-motor player who will set the edge with his size. Even if the Seahawks and Jadeveon Clowney reunite, I still like Seattle going defensive end here.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Oklahoma • 6'2" / 241 lbs
With two second-round picks already the Ravens don't need to trade back. Eric DeCosta let the board come to him and he gets a much-needed linebacker with great speed whose deficiencies can be covered up with a great rush and secondary while improving throughout his rookie season. Murray won't be C.J. Mosley immediately but it's the move Baltimore has to (finally) make.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Josh Jones OL
Houston • 6'5" / 319 lbs
Tennessee needs to fill the hole left by Jack Conklin after the Titans opted against paying him. I'm split on Jones or Cesar Ruiz here, but I think the reward of what Jones can be with some NFL coaching is too good to pass up for Jon Robinson.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Tee Higgins WR
Clemson • 6'4" / 215 lbs
The Clemson product gives Aaron Rodgers a massive target. Not only that, but Higgins comes from a receiver factory in Clemson that prepares wideouts for things like playoff games at Lambeau. Green Bay's offense outside of Rodgers and Devante Adams wasn't good enough to even compete with the 49ers in two games last year and Higgins gives the Pack an instant lift.
Mock Trade from San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 31
A.J. Terrell CB
Clemson • 6'1" / 195 lbs
49ers receive picks 48 and 79 in exchange for No. 31. The 49ers turn this pick into an auction and the Rams are excluded from getting back into the first here. The Jets make a move to get a corner opposite Pierre Desir while maintaining their high third-round pick. The Niners, who previously weren't selecting again until No. 156, get more picks in the meat of this draft after having the best draft in the league last year.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Georgia • 5'9" / 215 lbs
The rich get richer here. The best offense in the league gets the best running back in the draft at the end of the first round. The Chiefs kept most of their Super Bowl-winning team intact, and this move will have the rest of the league wondering why they didn't step in and stop Andy Reid from getting the Georgia Bulldog.