Congratulations to the Cincinnati Bengals for being best at being the worst.
The Bengals officially wrapped up the top overall pick in April’s NFL draft with an epic overtime loss at Miami. The pick will likely be a quarterback, but for now I will continue gifting them Ohio State sack artist Chase Young, the best player in this draft class.
I’d like to see if Alabama signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa ends up declaring (we’ll know something by Jan. 20) and if some of the shine comes off Heisman winner Joe Burrow during the draft process.
In all likelihood, Young will be selected with the No. 2 overall pick and that’s the only drama that remains in settling the draft order during the NFL’s final weekend of its 100th regular season. Either the Redskins, Lions or Giants would count their blessings to have a shot at drafting the best pure pass rusher in the nation.
The NFL draft has become a nice appetizer before our main course in September. A mock version of said draft is meant to educate, and even entertain. At very least, it helps you pass the time.
This is an early attempt at identifying the best players available in this season’s draft class, and which teams they match up well with considering the updated draft order (according to NFL.com).
The closer we get to draft day, the more I attempt to match what teams will actually do with their draft picks as opposed to what I believe they should do.
Last season, I was the fifth most accurate (out of 101) — most accurate in print — NFL draft prognosticator according to The Huddle Report. I’m 18th over the past five years.
Follow me on Twitter @UTEddieBrown so we can continue the conversation.
Here’s my updated 2020 NFL mock draft first round:
1. Cincinnati (1-14) — Chase Young, Edge, Ohio St., Jr.
It’s clear Andy Dalton isn’t the answer at quarterback. Reaching for a prospect with the top overall pick isn’t the answer either. Free agency or the trade market could be a potential stopgap solution while owner/GM Mike Brown upgrades the rest of the roster. Young is the best pass rusher in this draft class (he has 16.5 sacks this season and 30.5 sacks in three years at Columbus). The Bengals currently have 25 through 15 games. Only the Dolphins (22) have fewer. Top needs: QB, OL, LB
2. Washington (3-12) — Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia, Jr.
It’s clear All-Pro offensive tackle Trent Williams will be traded this offseason. You’d get the first team All-SEC selection if you could Weird Science an offensive tackle. He’s a big, powerful, athletic lineman with springy footwork and quick hands who’s a dynamic closer in both the run and pass game. He’s also decided to skip the Sugar Bowl against Baylor to begin preparation for the draft. Top needs: OT, WR, CB
3. Detroit (3-11-1) — Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio St., Jr.
There’s a better than 50-50 chance the Lions trade two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay in the spring. The consensus All-American is an elite athlete who has proven proficient in man coverage and is only scratching the surface of his potential. Top needs: DB, OL, RB
4. N.Y. Giants (4-11) — Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa, Jr.
Starting right tackle Mike Remmers is an unrestricted free agent after this season. Wirfs is the best pass protector in this class. Top needs: Edge, DB, WR
5. Miami (4-11) — Joe Burrow, QB, LSU, Sr.
Barring a move to land Teddy Bridgewater in the offseason, it’ll be hard for the Dolphins to pass on a signal-caller here. Burrow’s draft stock is powered by rocket fuel. The nearly unanimous Heisman Trophy winner has 4,715 passing yards (second in the nation), 48 touchdowns (first in the nation) against only six interceptions and a QBR of 93.7 (second in the nation). He’s the type of quarterback that aces the intangible checklist, but doesn’t feature any physical qualities I’d consider elite. Top needs: QB, OT, Edge
6. Jacksonville (5-10) — Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn, Sr.
The Jaguars run defense has been laughable, allowing almost 155 yards on average and 11 total touchdowns the last seven games. Brown would have been a first-round selection had he left school last year. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year (and consensus All-American) is the most talented interior defensive lineman in this draft class, by far, and this is probably approaching the ceiling for his draft stock. Top needs: CB, LB, OT
7. L.A. Chargers (5-10) — Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama, Jr.
Back-to-back seasons with an ankle injury and a dislocated hip will give us something to talk about until April (and the Bengals an excuse for passing on him). Mostly, because people will tire of talking about how prolific and precise the southpaw is. Some will try to compare Tagovailoa to Mike Vick, but he’s closer to a lefty (and taller) version of Russell Wilson. Top needs: OT, OG, QB
8. Carolina (5-10) — Jedrick Wills, OL, Alabama, Jr.
The offensive line has become a full-on liability for the Panthers. Wills is a powerful tackle who is versatile enough to play guard and has shown some serious growth this season. He’s only allowed one quarterback pressure in his last five games, according to Pro Football Focus. Top needs: OG, C, DB
9. Arizona (5-9-1) — A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa, Jr.
The Cardinals need some help up front to compliment Chandler Jones after releasing veteran pass rusher Terrell Suggs. The AP All-American has racked up nine sacks and forced three fumbles despite facing persistent double-teams all season. Top needs: OL, Edge, CB
10. N.Y. Jets (6-9) — Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama, Jr.
Wide receiver Robby Anderson is facing free agency. Jeudy is an upgrade and the crown jewel of what is shaping up to be a special 2020 class of receivers. He’s the best prospect at the position in almost a decade. Top needs: OT, WR, Edge
11. Denver (6-9) — Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU, Sr.
All-Pro cornerback Chris Harris will certainly test the free-agent market in March. Fulton is an elite athlete who was the top cornerback prospect coming out of high school in 2016. Top needs: OT, DB, LB
12. Cleveland (6-9) — Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson, Jr.
I expect GM John Dorsey to continue his pursuit of disgruntled Redskins All-Pro offensive tackle Trent Williams in the offseason to confront this team’s biggest weakness. Here, Dorsey adds another impact player to an already talented group of defensive players. The Butkus Award winner (best linebacker) is an athletic unicorn (equally adept at safety or linebacker) with incredible range and instincts. Top needs: OT, OG, LB
13. Atlanta (6-9) — Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma, Jr.
De’Vondre Campbell hasn’t been cutting it at linebacker and happens to be a free agent after this season. Murray is an explosive athlete who has developed elite instincts during his three seasons in Norman. Top needs: Edge, OG, LB
14. Las Vegas (7-8) — CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma, Jr.
Antonio Brown’s preseason antics left a huge hole in the depth chart at wide receiver. Lamb has elite hands and ball skills (he’s special with the ball in the air). He can also contribute as a blocker. Top needs: WR, LB, CB
15. Dallas (7-8) — Grant Delpit, S, LSU, Jr.
All-Pro cornerback Byron Jones is an unrestricted free agent after this season and Jerry Jones can’t resign everyone, plus the safety position is in desperate need of an upgrade. His first two seasons in Baton Rouge, the Jim Thorpe Award winner (nation’s top defensive back) had 134 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, six interceptions, five sacks and 17 passes defensed. He’s both a dangerous center fielder and capable blitzer. Top needs: S, DT, TE
16. Las Vegas from Chicago (7-8) — Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon, Sr.
Demand ALWAYS overrules supply when it comes to quarterbacks in the draft. I’d be surprised if the Derek Carr era continues past 2019 despite another adequate season. Herbert has all the physical attributes (prototypical size and elite arm talent) coach Jon Gruden requires, but consistency has been his bane. Top needs: WR, LB, CB
17. Indianapolis (7-8) — Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina, Sr.
The Colts are only a few pieces away from fielding a dominant defense. An interior wrecking ball like the AP All-American gets them pretty close. Top needs: DT, Edge, WR
18. Tampa Bay (7-8) — Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama, Jr.
Safety Andrew Adams is free agent this offseason and not worth pursuing. McKinney is an elite athlete who can play every position in the defensive backfield. Top needs: QB, OT, CB
19. Miami from Pittsburgh (8-7) — D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia, Jr.
The Dolphins backfield has been a mess all year. Swift is a shifty back able to bounce it outside or handle the rigors of running between the tackles. He’s also a weapon out of the backfield (he has 56 receptions and four touchdowns the last two seasons). Top needs: QB, OT, Edge
20. Jacksonville from L.A. Rams (8-7) — Austin Jackson, OT, USC, Jr.
It has to be an offseason priority for the Jaguars to add talent to a mediocre offensive line. Jackson is the prototypical athletic specimen who will have most NFL offensive line coaches salivating. The only knock is his strength at the point of attack. His matchup with Epenesa in the Holiday Bowl will answer those questions. A “win” against the All-American would likely turbo-charge his draft stock. Top needs: CB, LB, OT
21. Philadelphia (8-7) — Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama, Jr.
The Eagles wide receiver corps is in shambles. The inconsistent Nelson Agholor faces free agency while DeSean Jackson isn’t getting any younger (or healthier). Ruggs is pure electricity with the football in his hands. He’s scored 25 total touchdowns on 97 touches in his Crimson Tide career. Top needs: DB, LB, OG
22. Tennessee (8-7) — Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn St., Jr.
The Titans find a running mate to pair with Harold Landry. Gross-Matos needs to add some strength to his frame, but he’s a gifted pass rusher with elite athleticism and a nose for the ball. Top needs: DL, OG, QB
23. Buffalo (10-5) — Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado, Jr.
An offense featuring Josh Allen, Devin Singletary and Shenault could get really creative. His size (6-foot-2, 225 pounds), speed (he could run a sub-4.4 40 at the combine) and nose for the end zone (he has 10 receiving and seven rushing touchdowns the past two seasons) could catapult him into the top-15 discussion. Top needs: WR, OG, Edge
24. Minnesota (10-5) — C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida, Jr.
Trae Waynes is an unrestricted free agent after this season and something is clearly wrong with Xavier Rhodes. It’s nitpicking to say Henderson is a shy tackler in the run game. Shutdown corners aren’t charged with shutting down running backs. They’re supposed to shutdown wide receivers and Henderson has no problem doing that. Top needs: DT, CB, OG
25. Miami from Houston (10-5) — Alex Leatherwood, OL, Alabama, Jr.
The Dolphins raid the SEC for an entire new offense, addressing quarterback (Burrow), running back (Swift) and the offensive line with their three first-round selections. Leatherwood needs to sharpen his technique, but his elite athleticism and strength usually carries the day. The former five-star recruit is a natural left tackle who excelled at right guard his sophomore year. Top needs: QB, OT, Edge
26. Seattle (11-4) — Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama, Sr.
The Legion of Boom hasn’t been the same for a few years. Diggs (Stefon’s little brother) is still raw, but he features prototypical size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) and elite athleticism. He plans on skipping the Citrus Bowl against Michigan to focus on preparation for the draft. Top needs: CB, OG, TE
27. Kansas City (11-4) — Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia, Sr.
Kendall Fuller is an unrestricted free agent after this season. Hall led the nation in passes defensed his junior year with 21 (a testament to his elite ball skills), but missed most of this season with an ankle injury. Top needs: OL, CB, RB
28. Green Bay (12-3) — Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson, Jr.
The Packers wide receiver corps has been a disappointment this season outside of Davante Adams. Higgins is a big-play machine with elite size (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) and speed. He has an “above the rim” mentality as a former basketball player and would be a steal this low in the first round. Top needs: DE, LB, OG
29. New England (12-3) — Curtis Weaver, Edge, Boise State, Jr.
Jamie Collins has resuscitated his career and will surely test free agency. The Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year is a productive pass rusher (34 sacks in three seasons for the Broncos) who has also shown the ability to drop and play in space. Top needs: OL, TE, LB
30. San Francisco (12-3) — Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin, Jr.
Despite a deep roster, there’s pressure to get this pick right considering the 49ers won’t be on the clock again until the fifth round. The interior offensive line has surpassed expectations this season, but is still in need of a talent infusion. Biadasz, the Rimington Trophy winner (nation’s best center), has been the heart and soul of one of the nation’s perennially top offensive lines. Top needs: WR, OG, CB
31. New Orleans (12-3) — Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU, Jr.
Veteran speedster Ted Ginn Jr. will be a free agent this offseason. Reagor is one of the most impressive athletes at any position in this draft class. He’s special with the ball in his hands. Top needs: WR, LB, TE
32. Baltimore (13-2) — Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama, Jr.
The 2018 Butkus Award finalist suffered a torn ACL during an August practice. Moses will likely be a day two selection, but he would have been a top-fifteen pick had he not hurt himself and the Ravens are a team to watch when it comes to securing his services. This mock features an unprecedented eight Crimson Tide players, which would be two more than Miami’s record six first-round selections in 2004. Top needs: LB, SS, OG
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