If declarations continue to go as planned, there is no better position at the top of the 2020 NFL Draft than wide receiver. That’s even after Alabama’s DeVonta Smith and Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace announced they were returning to school for another season.
In this week’s mock draft, seven wide receivers go in the first round. That would be the most since seven were taken in Round 1 in 2004. That year saw three wide receivers drafted in the top 10, starting with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald going third to the Arizona Cardinals.
Although the first round this year should feature a load of pass catchers, we might not see them going quite as high as they did in 2004. Still, we could see big runs at wide receiver, starting with Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III of Alabama.
Here’s how the wide receivers could fall in the first round, and where they could go:
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
In their history, the Bengals have taken five quarterbacks in the first round. Other than Carson Palmer in 2003, they’ve all been disastrous. Will Burrow be Palmer, or will he be a bust like Akili Smith in 1999 and David Klingler in 1992? The Bengals don’t have an option other than to find out.
2. Washington: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
With Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio, Washington could run an interesting 4-3/3-4 hybrid that will rely on Young and Montez Sweat being versatile rushing the passer. That should give the team quite the dangerous duo to help mask some of its flaws in the secondary.
3. Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
One of the biggest things to monitor with the Lions this offseason is the future of cornerback Darius Slay. He has one year left on his contract, but voiced his displeasure when the team shipped Quandre Diggs to the Seahawks. If Slay is out, Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah will be in play with the third pick.
4. New York Giants: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
With it being so early in the draft process, there is no consensus on who is the top offensive tackle prospect. Some like Andrew Thomas of Georgia or Jedrick Wills of Alabama, while others prefer Wirfs. For the Giants, right tackle Mike Remmers is a free agent. If he departs, New York could bolster that side of the line with Wirfs and have a dominant side with guard Kevin Zeitler.
5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Miami caught a break on Monday with Tagovailoa announcing that he will enter the draft. That gives the quarterback-needy Dolphins an option with the fifth pick. The key, of course, will be getting comfortable with Tagovailoa’s extensive injury history.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
The Chargers go into the offseason in a standoff with longtime quarterback Philip Rivers. Do they let the free agent walk after a 20-interception season? Does Rivers even want to return? For the sake of this mock draft, let’s say Rivers is back with the Chargers. If he is, they could finally add talent on the offensive line with a player like Thomas.
7. Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Kawann Short went on injured reserve in October, and one of Carolina’s biggest strengths became a weakness. When he comes back, the Panthers could pair him with a dominant player like Brown in the draft.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
The Wills-to-Arizona pick again this week might be boring, but it’s impossible to ignore the Cardinals badly needing offensive line help. Wills is in the first tier of offensive tackles in this class, and then it’s a drop-off to players like Austin Jackson of USC, Josh Jones of Houston and Isaiah Wilson of Georgia.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Although it would be fun to give the Jaguars a wide receiver, the team’s need in the front seven is apparent. Simmons can man the middle of Jacksonville’s defense to help the run game, but he has the athleticism to roam the entire field.
10. Cleveland Browns: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
The Browns could be in trouble if Thomas, Wills, and Wirfs are all gone when they pick. But if that’s the case, they could still add a difference maker in Delpit to the back of the defense. The LSU standout is comfortable playing single-high safety, but has the physical prowess to come down against the run.
11. New York Jets: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
The Jets need to get some weapons for Sam Darnold, especially given that wide receiver Robby Anderson is a free agent. Jeudy is the draft’s best receiver, even if he isn’t the biggest or the fastest.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
There’s just something that makes sense about the Raiders taking a speedy receiver like Ruggs. Now it’s just a matter of having the right quarterback to get him the ball.
13. Indianapolis Colts: Austin Jackson, OT, USC
It seems like the Colts finally figured out their offensive line, just in time for left tackle Anthony Castonzo to enter free agency as he ponders retirement. Oof. If he’s not back, the Colts could maintain a good line with an athletic blocker like Jackson.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The Buccaneers have an interesting quarterback situation this offseason. Jameis Winston is fresh off a 30-interception season, and will still carry a hefty price tag as a free agent. Head coach Bruce Arians hasn’t minced words about Winston, and could seek a young passer like Herbert. Don’t forget, Arians is something of a quarterback whisperer, having helped build up players like Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger. Herbert has tools, but needs the right coaching. He can get it from Arians.
15. Denver Broncos: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
Denver is another team in which it will be worth monitoring what happens to the roster. If defensive lineman Derek Wolfe departs, the Broncos could find a ready-made replacement in Epenesa.
16. Atlanta Falcons: Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
If the Falcons miss on Epenesa, they could fall back on Kinlaw, a versatile defensive lineman with skills to rush the passer from the inside.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State
Robert Quinn could fetch a big contract in free agency after a strong season for Dallas. If he signs elsewhere, the Cowboys could find another good end from Boise State like they did with DeMarcus Lawrence.
18. Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh Steelers): Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia
What better way to protect a new franchise quarterback than with a 6’7, 340-pound behemoth of a right tackle? Wilson, who went pro after just his redshirt sophomore season at Georgia, engulfs defenders and leaves a clean pocket.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (via Chicago Bears): Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
The Raiders have a keeper in rookie cornerback Trayvon Mullen but could add a quality prospect opposite him in Diggs. That would give the Raiders a pair of big corners who can stick with receivers.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: (via Los Angeles Rams): Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
Maybe the Jaguars will go with Gardner Minshew as their quarterback of the future. Maybe they won’t. What they need regardless is weapons on offense. DJ Chark is a good receiver, but Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook are solid role players.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Throughout much of this season, it was obvious the Eagles need talent at wide receiver. Lamb has No. 1 potential and averaged an incredible 21.4 yards per reception this season.
22. Buffalo Bills: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
While Cole Beasley and John Brown are a good system fit for Buffalo, it was clear in the postseason this year why the offense needs a star receiver. Fortunately, this is the draft to get one. At 6’3 and just over 200 pounds, Higgins has good size at the position and knows how to use it. No longer will Josh Allen have to throw deep passes to fullbacks in playoff games.
23. New England Patriots: K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State
As expected, Hamler entered the draft and could fly up the board faster than he flies up the field. Although the Patriots took N’Keal Harry in the 2019 draft and traded a second-round pick for Mohamed Sanu, a quick receiver like Hamler would be a big upgrade over Phillip Dorsett.
24. New Orleans Saints: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
That’s right, another wide receiver! While it might be improbable to see five in a row get picked in the first round, it might not be a shock if seven get taken in top 32. Reagor and his deep speed would be a nice foil for the ultra dependable Michael Thomas.
25. Tennessee Titans: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE/OLB, Penn State
The Titans will be fortunate if a player like Gross-Matos drops down to their pick in the first round. Pass rusher is the team’s biggest need — that is, if Derrick Henry doesn’t bolt after the season.
26. Minnesota Vikings: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Drafting for need is always a gamble, but when you’re a playoff team like the Vikings, it can make sense. Fulton, who started the last two seasons on an excellent LSU defense, could plug into the starting lineup straight away.
27. Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans): A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
Cornerback Xavien Howard faces legal issues, and if the Dolphins release him it would open the position up as a big need in South Beach. Terrell was an all-conference player for Clemson this season despite rarely getting tested.
28. Seattle Seahawks: Terrell Lewis, DE/OLB, Alabama
Seattle had the second-fewest sacks in the NFL this season, so if there’s a good pass rusher, the team should pounce. Lewis bounced back this season after injuries plagued him early in his college career.
29. Kansas City Chiefs: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
The Chiefs could let linebacker Reggie Ragland walk after this season and find his replacement with a linebacker like Murray. He showed improved range for Oklahoma this season, and would give the Chiefs a linebacker who can get after the passer.
30. Green Bay Packers: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Bryan Bulaga is a free agent this offseason, and the Packers could find his successor with Becton. He’s another mountainous tackle who easily overpowers defenders.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn
The 49ers will probably move down after trading their second- and third-round picks already. But if they stick, they could find Joe Staley’s eventual replacement with left tackle Tega Wanogho.
32. Baltimore Ravens: Julian Okwara, DE/OLB, Notre Dame
Okwara isn’t the best run stopper up front, but he’ll be drafted for his ability to get after the passer. He could develop into Baltimore’s next Za’Darius Smith, who they missed this season after he went to Green Bay.