This article is part of our NFL Draft series.
Here is my first attempt at projecting the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. I projected one trade, between the 49ers at the 13th pick and the Dolphins at the 18th pick.
1. Cincinnati – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU (6-3, 221)
Chase Young is the better prospect, but Cincinnati is all but compelled to take a quarterback now that they find themselves in position to, hopefully, settle the matter for the long term. Andy Dalton served admirably enough, but they need better and this is their best chance to get it.
2. Washington – Chase Young, DE, Ohio State (6-5, 264)
If Washington selects Young, that defense has the surrounding front seven personnel to make a jump not unlike the 49ers defense did from 2018 to 2019. The secondary personnel isn't nearly as good as the San Francisco example, but a front seven of Young, Jonathan Allen, Matthew Ioannidis, DaRon Payne, Ryan Kerrigan, and Montez Sweat could form the league's best pass rush. Don't laugh.
3. Detroit Lions – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State (6-1, 205)
Okudah is one of the more impressive cornerback prospects of recent years, and with Darius Slay's long-term standing uncertain the Lions are fortunate to have Okudah as an option with the third pick.
4. New York Giants – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa (6-5, 320)
The Giants' primary objective is to make Daniel Jones a hit, and a lineman prospect like Wirfs should be helpful. He was well regarded going into the combine, then he posted one of the more insane OL workouts since Bruce Campbell, posting a 4.85-second 40-yard dash, 36.5-inch vertical, and 121-inch broad jump.
5. Miami – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon (6-6, 236)
Herbert is a better prospect than I initially thought, and importantly for fantasy football he projects well for rushing upside after logging a 4.68-second 40-yard dash, 35.5-inch vertical, and 123-inch broad jump at the combine. The Dolphins could prefer Herbert over Tua Tagovailoa not so much for the hip but for the fact that Herbert has a more prototypical frame and tool set.
6. Los Angeles Chargers – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama (6-0, 217)
If Tua goes to Miami then just place Herbert here.
7. Carolina – Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson (6-4, 238)
Simmons is a crazy athlete (4.39-second 40, 132-inch broad jump) who might be something like the next Julian Peterson with a little luck.
8. Arizona – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia (6-5, 315)
Thomas generally isn't projected this high but John McKechnie's endorsement convinced me to match Thomas with the Cardinals here. Thomas is shorter than most standout tackles but possesses elite reach anyway due to 36 and 1/8-inch arms, and he tested well across the board as an athlete.
9. Jacksonville – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama (6-4, 312)
Wills is smallish for an offensive tackle but offsets that with elite athleticism (5.05-second 40, 34.5-inch vertical, 113-inch broad jump), and he too would be a totally reasonable pick for the Cardinals at the previous pick.
10. Cleveland – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville (6-7, 364)
Jack Conklin accounts for one tackle spot in Cleveland, but his contract is only for three years and the remaining spot could be a problem too without adding a viable starter in the draft. Becton has one of the most insane size-adjusted speed variables in the league's history with a 5.1-second 40.
11. New York Jets – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma (6-2, 198)
There might be room for a wide receiver pick here even if Robby Anderson re-signs with the Jets, but if Anderson leaves then their receiver rotation would be especially thin. I have no strong opinion whether it's Lamb or Jerry Jeudy who goes first – I would guess the Jets would love to have either – but I deferred to Lamb since I would guess Jeudy's functions are more likely to overlap with those of Jamison Crowder.
12. Las Vegas – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama (6-1, 193)
Like Lamb, Jeudy doesn't fit the WR1 prototype in terms of tools but his skill set is highly convincing, to the point that it's easy to imagine him as an eventual top-15 wideout in the NFL. With Tyrell Williams pushing downfield and Hunter Renfrow playing the slot, Jeudy would offer balance in the Raiders wideout rotation by threatening all three levels.
13. Miami Dolphins (from IND via SF) – Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama (5-11, 188)
The Dolphins would trade up from the 18th pick in this scenario to get ahead of Denver or other teams that might want Ruggs and his 4.27 speed. It's not an obvious need, but when you have three first-round picks it's easier to justify indulgence. Let's say they trade the 18th pick and 70th pick for the 13th.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – K'Lavon Chaisson, (3-4) OLB, LSU (6-3, 254)
Even if Tampa keeps Shaq Barrett for the long term, they have little behind him at the moment. If not Chaisson then I'd probably identify Jonathan Taylor as the next best option for Tampa, but this is probably too early to take him, especially if Chaisson is on the board.
15. Denver – Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma (6-2, 241)
Highly athletic and productive, Murray gives Vic Fangio what will hopefully be his rough Denver equivalent of Roquan Smith.
16. Atlanta - CJ Henderson, CB, Florida (6-1, 204)
It would be reasonable if Henderson went a bit earlier than this, and he ought to be an easy call for Atlanta if he should fall to the 16th pick.
17. Dallas – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU (6-0, 197)
Fulton is less toolsy than Henderson but was arguably the better college player, and Dallas has a need at corner with Byron Jones gone.
18. San Francisco (from PIT via MIA) – Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn (6-5, 326)
You can't replace DeForest Buckner, but Brown can at least offer San Francisco some gap-eating resources to hopefully free up more disruption opportunities for others.
19. Las Vegas (from CHI) – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU (6-0, 229)
Queen is similar to Murray from Oklahoma as a highly-athletic standout linebacker, but I'm projecting him later than Murray due to Murray's heavier frame and higher production at Oklahoma. Anyway, the Raiders could still use another linebacker even after signing Cory Littleton.
20. Jacksonville (from LAR) – Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina (6-5, 324)
The Jaguars signed Joe Schobert to account for one three-down role at linebacker, and Kinlaw at defensive tackle would be an additional measure to turn around last year's disastrous run defense.
21. Philadelphia – Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor (6-3, 207)
Justin Jefferson is often projected here and would be a totally solid pick for the Eagles, but Mims is the toolsier of the two and can offer Philadelphia a more convincing downfield threat to keep the safeties back from their two-TE base.
22. Minnesota (from BUF) – A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson (6-1, 195)
The Vikings might have considered Trevon Diggs at this spot, but some stuff happened.
23. New England – Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin (6-2, 238)
24. New Orleans – Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU (5-10, 191)
The Eli Apple thing might be over, and if so then the Saints have a problem opposite Marshon Lattimore. If Lattimore is shadowing Julio Jones, I figure Gladney is a better trait match against Calvin Ridley than a taller corner like Trevon Diggs.
25. Minnesota – Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State (6-5, 266)
It's unclear where the Everson Griffen situation is headed, and Minnesota could use a long-term replacement plan anyway. Gross-Matos was productive at Penn State and boasts a big wingspan (34 and 7/8-inch arms) to go with standout jumps (34-inch vertical, 120-inch broad jump).
26. Miami (from HOU) – Austin Jackson, OT, USC (6-5, 322)
Jackson is a superb athlete and could easily go higher than this. In fact, if I hadn't projected the trade up for Ruggs at 13, I would maybe project Jackson for that original 18th overall pick.
27. Seattle – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama (6-1, 205)
Outside of Shaquill Griffin the Seahawks had completely non-viable results at corner.
28. Baltimore - Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU (5-11, 206)
As much as Justin Jefferson wowed with his 4.43-second 40 time at the combine – notably faster than Reagor's 4.47 time – I think everyone still knows that Reagor is the much more athletic of the two. I also think Reagor's skill set is more easily implemented in Baltimore, where his burning speed poses a more convincing downfield threat and his superior open-field running makes him a better YAC and jet sweep threat.
29. Tennessee – Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn (5-10, 198)
The Titans don't really have many needs outside of cornerback, so it makes sense to take the toolsy but inexperienced Igbinoghene at this pick. As an athletic player whose development time was perhaps stunted by position switches, Igbinoghene's trajectory is somewhat similar to Tennessee CB1 Adoree Jackson out of USC.
30. Green Bay – Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame (6-4, 238)
I know this is the kind of pick that would make a lot of people mad but I think it might make some sense for Green Bay. As much as they could use a standout wideout prospect like Justin Jefferson, Laviska Shenault, Tee Higgins, or whoever else, the Packers more specifically need speed to push back the safeties from their otherwise slow offense. Claypool's 4.42 speed on a 236-pound frame can help on that front better than the other receivers I mentioned, and it's interesting to recall that before the combine Claypool was mentioned as a candidate for tight end reps in the NFL. The Packers were closely linked to Austin Hooper, who quickly signed with the Browns in free agency. If the Packers wanted Hooper badly, then Claypool might be their best candidate to provide the slot snaps that otherwise would have gone to Hooper. Hooper lined up in the slot or out wide on 40 percent of his snaps last year.
31. San Francisco – Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia (6-1, 202)
Hall's athleticism might be a bit of a question, but if he can run at all he might be a nice fit on the outside of San Francisco's defense. Richard Sherman is 32 this month, Ahkello Witherspoon was a mess last year, and the promising Emmanuel Moseley is a free agent after 2020, so a pick like Hall could make sense for a team without many needs. But the 49ers could try to trade back from this pick, too.
32. Kansas City – Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin (5-11, 226)
I'm a Damien Williams fan, but with the cornerback supply depleted and an absence of compelling linebackers I think Taylor would be the best pick for Kansas City in this scenario. If Andy Reid can turn Spencer Ware into a productive pass catcher then I think he can do the same with Taylor, and Taylor as an elite pure runner otherwise is all but a given.