Foxworth’s 2020 NFL mock draft: The one trade and 32 picks that need to happen
This is not a prediction mock draft — it’s a prescription mock draft
Football is the sport where the cliché, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link,” rings most true. And the NFL draft is the most efficient way to strengthen those links. It’s the event that will decide whether you, as a fan, will enjoy the next few seasons or spend them filled with disappointment.
No one knows exactly how the draft will play out, but I know how the first round should go down. This is not a prediction mock draft. It’s a prescription mock draft.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
It’s simple. Joe Burrow is really good at the most important position in football, and the Cincinnati Bengals really need a good quarterback.
Bengals fans shouldn’t raise their expectations too high for 2020; the Tiger King could find himself under a lot of pressure with a subpar O-line. But with Joe Mixon in the backfield, A.J. Green returning from injury and Tyler Boyd as the other receiver, Burrow will have a good group of weapons to help launch his career.
2. Washington redskins
Defensive end, Ohio State
Much is made of the importance of building a team around a quarterback on a relatively cheap rookie contract. The same principle doesn’t often apply to other positions unless the non-quarterback performs at an All-Pro level. Chase Young has that type of ability.
Think about what Von Miller did for the Denver Broncos when he entered the league. There are several reasons that the team went to the playoffs every season from 2011 to 2015 and advanced to two Super Bowls, but none more significant than having Super Bowl MVP Miller on a rookie deal. His production at his salary allowed Denver the cap space to sign proven stars such as Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and, oh, Peyton Manning. If Washington wants to emulate that type of success, it’ll need to make a series of savvy roster moves. But the first one is easy: Draft Chase Young.
3. detroit Lions
Cornerback, Ohio State
The Detroit Lions will probably get some trade offers from quarterback-thirsty teams such as the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers, who are looking to secure Alabama All-American quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. But Detroit should stay put unless it gets blown away by an offer. Okudah is exactly the player the Lions need.
One of the best cornerback prospects in recent memory, Okudah can do it all: play man or zone, press or off, outside or slot. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds with a 41-inch vertical leap, he can match up against big receivers. He also plays faster than his 4.48 time in the 40. In my view, his floor is a dependable do-it-all starting cornerback and his ceiling is a legit shutdown corner.
MOCK DRAFT TRADE: The Miami Dolphins move up to the No. 4 pick in a swap with the New York Giants, who move down to No. 5 and also acquire the No. 18 pick.
4. Miami Dolphins (via mock trade)
The Dolphins have 14 picks in this draft, three of which are in the first round. So they have the capital to move up one spot (via the Giants) to get their franchise quarterback.
Much has been made of the risky nature of drafting a quarterback with the injury history of Tagovailoa. Drafting him without the ability to physically inspect and test the hip he fractured and dislocated in his final season at Alabama only adds to the concern. But then there is the risk of not taking Tagovailoa and watching some other franchise thrive for a decade-plus with a quarterback the Dolphins were too scared to draft.
5. New York Giants (via mock trade)
The Giants need to upgrade at just about every position on defense, so why not draft a player who can play every position? Simmons is listed as a linebacker but played hundreds of snaps for the Tigers at safety, defensive end and even nickel corner. He is comfortable in coverage against receivers and tight ends, which will give the Giants’ scheme unusual flexibility. And he ran a 4.39 40 at the combine at 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds. No one on the field will be able to run away from him.
6. Los Angeles Chargers
Offensive tackle, Georgia
The Los Angeles Chargers have a strong roster. Even Tyrod Taylor, their stopgap quarterback, is more than passable as a starter. So L.A. shouldn’t reach for any of the remaining quarterbacks at this spot.
Instead, the team should continue to address an issue from last season: protection. The Chargers signed right tackle Bryan Bulaga this offseason, and they should shore up the other side with Thomas. Of the four top-tier tackles in this draft, Thomas is the only one with extensive experience on the left side. I assume the other guys are capable of making the switch, but I know Thomas is comfortable protecting the quarterback’s blind side.
7. Carolina Panthers
Wide receiver, Alabama
Not surprisingly, the Panthers have been focused on improving their offense this offseason under new offensive-minded head coach Matt Rhule. There’s no reason to stop now. The offensive players I like most at the No. 7 slot, Jeudy and tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., are at positions the Panthers already addressed through free agency (wide receiver Robby Anderson) and trade (offensive tackle Russell Okung). But neither Anderson nor Okung appear to be a long-term answer in Carolina.
Choosing between Jeudy and Wills, both Alabama products, is tough. But the Panthers should go with the guy who can create separation with his precision routes. Jeudy will make life easier for new Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
8. Arizona Cardinals
Jedrick Wills Jr.
Offensive tackle, Alabama
Last season, Kyler Murray proved his height (5-foot-10) was not a concern. But protecting him was an issue. There’s no question the Cardinals need a tackle at this spot, and Wills is an explosive player who protected the blind side of lefty Tagovailoa at Alabama.
Wills will be steady in traditional pass-blocking situations in the NFL and has the quickness to be an asset on screen plays (Arizona led the league with 91 such plays in 2019). But his run-blocking could be the biggest boon to the Cardinals’ unexpectedly run-heavy version of the Air Raid offense.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
Wide receiver, Oklahoma
The rebuilding Jacksonville Jaguars could take one of the remaining quarterbacks here, but none of them appear to be worth it at this spot. Although Gardner Minshew, the surprisingly productive 2019 sixth-round pick, doesn’t figure to be the long-term answer in Jacksonville, the Jags can use this season to find out for sure. And they can give him some help by drafting CeeDee Lamb.
Years from now, Lamb might be viewed as the best receiver from this draft. If so, it’ll be because of his ability to break tackles. For the 190-pound Lamb, the catch is just the beginning of the play.
10. Cleveland Browns
Offensive tackle, Iowa
This might be the second-most obvious pick of the draft after Burrow to the Bengals. The Cleveland Browns need another offensive tackle, and lucky for them this draft is full of them. For many scouts, Tristan Wirfs grades as the best tackle in the draft, so if he is still available at No. 10, the Browns had better snag him.
Assuming Jack Conklin, the Browns’ prized free-agent tackle acquisition, will stay at right tackle where he earned All-Pro honors in 2016, Wirfs will have to protect Baker Mayfield’s blind side at left tackle despite playing almost all of his college snaps on the right side.
11. New York Jets
Wide receiver, Alabama
Henry Ruggs III is the best choice for the New York Jets, who are low on offensive playmakers. Outside of Le’Veon Bell, the Jets don’t have a player who will stress defensive coordinators. Ruggs’ 4.27 40 time will make defenses think twice about loading the box to stifle Bell for fear of leaving their cornerback isolated against Ruggs. Unlike many speedy receivers, Ruggs is a good intermediate route runner and is not intimidated by physical play.
12. Las Vegas Raiders
This is a good, low-risk opportunity for the Las Vegas Raiders to explore a replacement for Derek Carr. Carr has been a good quarterback, but head coach Jon Gruden has never really committed to him. The Raiders also signed Marcus Mariota, the second overall pick from 2015, so this is going to be a crowded quarterback room. But it is important to get this position right. With two first-round picks this year, the Raiders can snag the big-armed Justin Herbert here and address their more glaring deficiency later in the round.
13. San Francisco 49ers
I’m torn between C.J. Henderson and South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. The Niners acquired this pick by trading 6-foot-7 defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts. Using this pick on the 6-foot-6 Kinlaw would not only be satisfyingly symmetrical, but it would be a smart way to keep the strength of their Super Bowl team strong. But I’d rather they select Henderson, addressing a team need and a higher value position. Henderson is a ball-hawking man coverage cornerback with the skills to excel in the 49ers’ zone-heavy defense.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Offensive tackle, Louisville
This season is about Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. The Bucs can only go as far as he can take them. So they had better protect him. Mekhi Becton has the highest upside of the remaining tackles on my board. The Bucs should add him and do all they can to ensure he reaches his ceiling.
15. Denver Broncos
Defensive tackle, South Carolina
Javon Kinlaw is too good to pass up at this point in the draft. It takes a lot to be an impactful interior lineman, and Kinlaw has it all. As a pass rusher from the defensive tackle position, he has rare quickness, strength and size, which translated to outstanding production in college. It will work on the next level, too. Adding Kinlaw inside, next to Jurrell Casey, with Bradley Chubb and Von Miller rushing from the outsides, will be unblockable with just five offensive linemen.
16. Atlanta Falcons
In the NFC South, the Atlanta Falcons will have to face All-Pro receivers and future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. They released their best cornerback, Desmond Trufant, so they need cornerbacks as badly as any team needs anything in this draft. At 6 feet, 2 inches, Diggs has the size to battle this division’s big receivers. He alone won’t rectify Atlanta’s issues at corner, but picking him will be a step in the right direction.
17. Dallas Cowboys
Outside linebacker, LSU
K’Lavon Chaisson is the right player for the Dallas Cowboys at 17. A defensive end at LSU, Chaisson’s pass-rush highlights are impressive. He will be able to beat starting NFL tackles on day one. The question is how consistently. If he can develop a few counters to his speed rush, Chaisson will be a problem for opponents on passing downs.
18. New York Giants (via mock trade)
Offensive tackle, Houston
The Giants have been trying to address their offensive line for the past few offseasons. It has improved, and adding Jones will keep this unit headed in the right direction. Jones needs some refining, but he has all the tools needed to be a stable NFL tackle.
19. Las Vegas Raiders
Now is the time for the Raiders to tend to one of their areas of need, cornerback. Last season the Raiders were 30th in pass defense efficiency, with minus-129 expected points added. For context, league average is minus-32 EPA. To be fair to the Raiders corners, their defensive front barely irritated opposing quarterbacks. The Raiders were 29th in the league in both pass rush win rate and quarterback hurries. They need last year’s fourth overall pick, defensive end Clelin Ferrell, to produce.
But drafting Kristian Fulton, who is capable in zone but is most comfortable in man, can help. Against top-tier receivers, Fulton is calm in press and confident down the field. Though no single player can completely fix the Raiders’ pass defense, Fulton will add much-needed depth to a vital position group.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars
Quarterback, Utah State
Coming off an impressive 2018, Jordan Love had a disappointing 2019 season. Some of his backslide can be attributed to having a weaker supporting cast, but that doesn’t explain the bad decisions. He is the definition of a boom-or-bust prospect, so the Jags, who aren’t built to win now, can bring Love in and see what he looks like in an NFL offense. If it doesn’t work out, the Jags can move on without too much of a setback.
21. Philadelphia Eagles
Wide receiver, Clemson
The Philadelphia Eagles have one of the league’s best young quarterbacks in Carson Wentz. Now they need to pair him with the right young receiver. Tee Higgins’ routes aren’t going to shake many NFL corners, but at 6 feet, 4 inches and 205 pounds, with elite ball skills and the speed to go deep, the routes don’t need to be that sharp. As long as Wentz can learn to trust him even when the coverage is tight, they could grow into one of the best combos in the league.
22. Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings are very thin at corner after losing both of last season’s starters, Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, to free agency. Even if they get starter-level play out of both 2018 first-round pick Mike Hughes and 2018 undrafted free agent Holton Hill, they’ll need a nickel and some depth at this important position.
Their top-tier safeties, Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith, can take some pressure off of the corners, but a talent infusion would be better. Enter Terrell, who uses his long arms well in press man, but also recognizes and reacts well to route combinations in off zones. He will get comfortable fast in this Vikings defense.
23. New england Patriots
Last season, the strength of this team was its secondary. If the New England Patriots are going to have success in 2020, a season where their mediocre offense is expected to take a step back, they’ll need to continue to invest in the secondary who made them the NFL’s best defense by EPA.
Safety isn’t an area of need for the Patriots, but McKinney’s smarts and versatility ensure he will get on the field and make plays in key situations. And he’ll be ready to inherit a starting role in 2021 when the Pats move on from one of their aging safeties.
24. New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL, which means they can take a chance on an undersized linebacker. Queen’s best plays are faster and better than any other backer in this class. While he also can be inconsistent, maybe he will grow into a reliable difference-maker in New Orleans.
25. Minnesota Vikings
Wide receiver, LSU
After trading away Stefon Diggs, the Vikings signed Tajae Sharpe, who is an underrated receiver. But signing Sharpe to just a one-year deal makes it clear the Vikings don’t believe he is the solution at receiver. But Justin Jefferson could be the answer.
At LSU, Jefferson was most effective from the slot, which will be immediately valuable on third downs in the NFL. But if he’s going to have an impact in Minnesota, he’ll have to show he can produce from the outside. Last season, the Vikings ran fewer three-receiver sets than any team in the league.
26. Miami Dolphins
This offseason, the Dolphins signed Byron Jones, the best available free agent cornerback, to play opposite Xavien Howard, their high-priced Pro Bowl corner. Dolphins head coach Brian Flores appears to be following the defensive blueprint he learned when he was coaching in New England: build a strong man coverage secondary. Grant Delpit is the man for the job. Adding Delpit’s ability in man coverage will give the Dolphins flexibility to confidently blitz on any down.
27. SEATTLE Seahawks
Defensive end, Iowa
The Seattle Seahawks have yet to sign a long-term deal with Jadeveon Clowney, the game-wrecking defensive end they acquired in a trade with the Houston Texans in 2019. Seattle should move on as if it’s not going to be able to re-sign him and instead draft A.J. Epenesa. Epenesa won’t provide the pass-rush boost the Seahawks’ defense would get from Clowney, but he will be a stable starter who can occasionally produce big plays.
28. BALTIMORE Ravens
In the past two drafts, the Baltimore Ravens have drafted four Oklahoma Sooners – all on the offensive side of the ball. This year it’s time to extend their Sooner love to the other side of the ball and address their only defensive weakness: linebacker. Kenneth Murray isn’t a perfect prospect, but he could be perfect for the Ravens’ blitz-happy scheme. Murray has a great feel when blitzing and has the speed to cover most backs if isolated in coverage. In the Ravens defense, he will rarely be asked to do things with which he struggles.
29. Tennessee Titans
Defensive tackle, Auburn
Derrick Brown is a major presence in the middle. At 6-foot-5, 325 pounds, he has the size to play nose in a true 3-4 defense, but he also has the quickness to be more than just a run-stuffer. If the Tennessee Titans are lucky enough to grab him this late in the draft, they shouldn’t hesitate. He will go a long way to soften the loss of Jurrell Casey.
30. GREEN BAY Packers
Laviska Shenault Jr.
Wide receiver, Colorado
Laviska Shenault Jr. is a weapon who would add new dimensions to the Green Bay Packers’ offense. At 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, Shenault plays with the power of a running back but still runs routes like a receiver. His diverse skill set would allow for more creative packages, which would alleviate pressure on Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams.
31. San Francisco 49ers
Wide receiver, TCU
After the Niners traded for Emmanuel Sanders last season, the 49ers’ offense went from about league average in weeks 1-6 to among the best in the league in weeks 7-17. Sanders is now in New Orleans, so the 49ers need to replace the element he brought to their offense. Jalen Reagor, who is almost guaranteed to have a few big play-action touchdowns, could keep this offense performing at a championship level.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
You can never have too many corners. That’s especially true for the Kansas City Chiefs, who have a high-powered offense that will force opponents to throw the ball often to try to keep up. Gladney is a cornerback with a short memory. In college, receivers found it almost impossible to get away from him. That’ll be different in the NFL, but he will make more plays than he gives up.