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2020 NFL mock draft: How each team can address a major need in the 1st round

Here’s a look at the top needs for each team, and how those can impact the draft’s opening round.

NFL Draft prospect Javon Kinlaw (South Carolina) bows his head and holds up his right arm, superimposed on a gray background with yellow and black lines and the words “MOCK DRAFT”
South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw is one of the top DT prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Although the NFL Draft is about adding talent, it’s also about addressing team needs. While every team will preach taking the best player available, that’s not always the case.

Each team will go into the 2020 NFL Draft with the idea of rounding out its roster. Here’s how the teams picking in the first round could do just that, and what those needs are:

1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

Offseason needs: Quarterback, wide receiver, offensive tackle, linebacker

The Bengals have few building blocks. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green could be gone this offseason, and the team has no stars beyond defensive tackle Geno Atkins. The Bengals need to find several franchise players the next couple of years, and that should start with taking Burrow No. 1 overall.

2. Washington: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

Offseason needs: Offensive tackle, pass rusher, wide receiver, cornerback

There’s been some scuttlebutt lately about Washington taking Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the second pick. A year after taking Dwayne Haskins 15th, that would be an unwise move. Washington needs to play Haskins more before dumping him. Besides, the combination of Young and Haskins is much better than two quarterbacks.

3. Detroit Lions: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

Offseason needs: Cornerback, defensive tackle, pass rusher, wide receiver

As it’s been said numerous times this offseason, this is where the draft should really start. The Lions could easily trade down a few spots and still fill a need with a stellar player. And obviously, they could just stick at No. 3. Things could get really interesting if the Lions throw a curveball, take Tagovailoa, and move on from Matthew Stafford.

4. New York Giants: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

Offseason needs: Offensive tackle, pass rusher, linebacker, cornerback

Although the Giants badly need to rebuild their terrible defense, the team’s first priority needs to be making sure Daniel Jones is put in a position to succeed. That means taking an offensive tackle to shore up the offensive line. Wills is a natural right tackle and may get moved to the left side in the NFL. His athleticism should make it an easier transition than it would be for other players.

5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Offseason needs: Quarterback, pass rusher, offensive tackle, running back, cornerback

Despite shocking everyone and going 5-11 last season, the Dolphins’ roster is pretty bare in terms of talent. That should give them some optimism considering they go into the offseason with three first-round picks and nearly $90 million in salary cap space.

6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Offseason needs: Quarterback, offensive tackle, cornerback, guard

Usually when a franchise needs a new starting quarterback, it’s sort of like hitting the reset button. That doesn’t have to be the case for the Chargers. While they did struggle through last season, the Chargers still have a playoff-caliber roster with stalwarts like Keenan Allen, Joey Bosa, and Melvin Ingram. That makes hitting on a quarterback — whether it’s in the draft or free agency — critical.

7. Carolina Panthers: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

Offseason needs: Linebacker, defensive tackle, cornerback, quarterback

Simmons isn’t exactly a one-for-one replacement for Luke Kuechly, but no one could be. Still, you can’t fault the Panthers if they take him. For me, he’s the second-best player in the draft after Young. He can do just about anything for a defense and should make an impact early in his career.

8. Arizona Cardinals: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

Offseason needs: Offensive tackle, defensive tackle, wide receiver, pass rusher

The Cardinals are in a similar position as the Giants. They badly need to fix their defense, but first they need to protect their young franchise quarterback. At the NFL Scouting Combine this week, we should get some insight into how teams really feel about this year’s stacked offensive tackle class.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

Offseason needs: Cornerback, wide receiver, linebacker, safety

If Okudah slides to the bottom of the top 10, he should be a slam-dunk choice for the Jaguars. He’s an elite talent and fills arguably Jacksonville’s biggest need. Okudah may have only started one season at Ohio State, but he was a star the moment he set foot on campus. He’s good in man and zone situations, and has a nice combination of size and athleticism.

10. Cleveland Browns: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Offseason needs: Offensive tackle (both sides), safety, linebacker, slot cornerback

On the surface, it can be hard to envision the 370-pound Becton fitting into Cleveland’s new outside zone rushing offense. But after watching Becton move around in Louisville’s stretch zone offense, the fit seems more natural. The Browns need two starting offensive tackles, so it’s hard to see them taking a different position in the first round. The one player who could make them go a different direction is Simmons.

11. New York Jets: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

Offseason needs: Pass rusher, offensive tackle, wide receiver, cornerback

If the offensive tackles get drafted in this fashion, the Jets should still take a hard look at Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Houston’s Josh Jones, and USC’s Austin Jackson. But as good as the offensive tackle class is this year, wide receiver is arguably just as good. For many, that class starts with Lamb, the big-play pass catcher from Oklahoma. He can help take third-year quarterback Sam Darnold to the next level.

12. Las Vegas Raiders: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Offseason needs: Wide receiver, cornerback, linebacker, quarterback

We could see a little run on wide receivers in this part of the first round with Lamb, Jeudy, and Alabama teammate Henry Ruggs III. Even if it isn’t Derek Carr throwing the passes, the Raiders need someone who can catch them. Jeudy is the most dependable pass catcher in the draft, and he could run in the 4.3-second range in the 40-yard dash.

13. Indianapolis Colts: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

Offseason needs: Quarterback, wide receiver, offensive tackle, defensive lineman

Everyone seems to think the Colts will sign a free agent quarterback to improve on Jacoby Brissett. But don’t forget, the Colts went light in free agency last year despite having a ton of cap space. If general manager Chris Ballard sticks with his philosophy of building through the draft, he could go after a quarterback in the first round.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

Offseason needs: Quarterback, pass rushing defensive tackle, pass rusher, offensive tackle

The Buccaneers are another team with a confounding quarterback situation. That could be eased if they re-sign Jameis Winston. Regardless of who is taking snaps in Tampa, the team needs to upgrade its offensive line.

15. Denver Broncos: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Offseason needs: Wide receiver, offensive tackle, cornerback, linebacker

I may have put some money on Ruggs breaking the combine’s 40-yard dash record. Imagine Drew Lock launching bombs to a wide receiver with 4.21 or better speed. It’s just plain fun.

16. Atlanta Falcons: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

Offseason needs: Edge rusher, interior pass rusher, cornerback, offensive tackle

If there’s one defender who could get the Falcons off Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa, it’s Kinlaw. If he slides due to the offensive tackle and wide receiver runs, the Falcons could get a playmaker in the middle of their defense.

17. Dallas Cowboys: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa

Offseason needs: Safety, cornerback, defensive tackle, pass rusher

Epenesa checks so many boxes for the Cowboys. He fills the team’s long-standing need for a pass rusher opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, and he can kick inside in certain situations. While Dallas needs to address the secondary, the depth at safety and cornerback in this draft is good.

18. Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh Steelers): Austin Jackson, OT, USC

Offseason needs: Quarterback, pass rusher, offensive tackle, running back, cornerback

There’s some buzz behind Jackson after NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said on a conference call he could be a fit for the Browns with the 10th pick. Jackson’s play was a little inconsistent last season, but he has everything teams look for in a starting left tackle.

19. Las Vegas Raiders (via Chicago Bears): Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

Offseason needs: Wide receiver, cornerback, linebacker, quarterback

This is a repeat pick from last week’s mock draft. Murray may not be a conventional linebacker right now — he’s more of an edge player — but he has the tools that can be developed into a starting NFL linebacker. He should be one of the standouts of the combine.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars: (via Los Angeles Rams): Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado

Offseason needs: Cornerback, wide receiver, linebacker, safety

It’s true that Shenault didn’t have the season a lot of people expected in 2019, when he finished with just 764 receiving yards on 56 catches. But Colorado’s quarterback play was shaky, and Shenault was relied on to be much more than just a receiver. His games against USC and Washington showed he’s capable of being a legitimate lead receiver for an NFL team.

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

Offseason needs: Wide receiver, cornerback, linebacker, safety

Is there a team in the NFL with more obvious offseason needs than the Eagles? Philadelphia’s wide receiver play in 2019 was downright putrid. The team is relying on older players like Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, and that doesn’t provide much long-term hope. Jefferson is a fast wide receiver who can stretch the field and further open things up for Philadelphia’s impressive tight ends.

22. Buffalo Bills: K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU

Offseason needs: Pass rusher, big wide receiver, interior defensive lineman, cornerback

It’s tempting to pair Buffalo with Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins. However, Buffalo needs pass rush help more than anything. Chaisson didn’t have a ton of production in college — just 9.5 sacks in three seasons — but teams love edge players with his athleticism and first step.

23. New England Patriots: Curtis Weaver, Edge, Boise State

Offseason needs: Pass rusher, tight end, offensive tackle, quarterback

The Patriots tried to replace Trey Flowers last season with third-round pick Chase Winovich, third-year end Deatrich Wise, and veteran Michael Bennett. None of them were very effective. That could lead the Patriots to go after a productive edge rusher like Weaver in the first round.

24. New Orleans Saints: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

Offseason needs: Cornerback, interior offensive lineman, wide receiver, quarterback

Janoris Jenkins and Patrick Robinson could be salary cap victims for the Saints, opening cornerback up as a big position of need. If that happens, the Saints can dip into their backyard with Fulton.

25. Minnesota Vikings: Josh Jones, OT, Houston

Offseason needs: Cornerback, offensive line, defensive tackle, wide receiver

If a talented left tackle like Jones drops into the back part of the first round, the Vikings shouldn’t hesitate to take him. Veteran left tackle Riley Reiff has been average, and could be shifted inside to guard if Jones is the choice. He would give the Vikings an athletic tackle who can easily mirror pass rushers.

26. Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans): CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

Offseason needs: Quarterback, pass rusher, offensive tackle, running back, cornerback

Last season, Miami fielded one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses and gave up more passing touchdowns than any team in the league. Clearly the Dolphins need help in the secondary. Henderson may not have had an interception in 2019 for Florida, but teams rarely threw in his direction.

27. Seattle Seahawks: Julian Okwara, Edge, Notre Dame

Offseason needs: Pass rusher, wide receiver, interior offensive lineman, offensive tackle

If the Seahawks stay at No. 27 and go after a pass rusher, they’ll likely be picking based in part on how players test in drills. Rob Staton of the tremendous Seahawks Draft Blog explains what the Seahawks look for here. Namely, Seattle likes a good 10-yard split in the 40 and prefers length. We know Okwara has the length. If he can show his burst off in drills, the logic points to him fitting in Seattle.

28. Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

Offseason needs: Linebacker, wide receiver, pass rusher, cornerback

The linebacker group for the Ravens is looking pretty rough. Josh Bynes, Matt Judon, and Patrick Onwuasor are all free agents this offseason. Tyus Bowser is a decent linebacker who played more than 500 snaps in 2019, but there’s not much after him. If the Ravens look to the draft, Queen could remind people of C.J. Mosley.

29. Tennessee Titans: Terrell Lewis, Edge, Alabama

Offseason needs: Pass rusher, offensive tackle, quarterback, tight end

If highly sought-after right tackle Jack Conklin exits in free agency, the Titans could scramble to get his replacement. Of course, that’s assuming six tackles don’t get taken ahead of them. If the draft unfolds like this mock, the Titans could instead fill a different need with a pass rusher.

30. Green Bay Packers: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

Offseason needs: Wide receiver, linebacker, offensive lineman, tight end

Higgins is a better version of Packers receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling. He’s much more physical and will go up and attack the ball. If Queen is gone, the Packers could look to bolster their receiver group.

31. San Francisco 49ers: Grant Delpit, S, LSU

Offseason needs: Safety, cornerback, offensive lineman, linebacker

This is another repeat pick. It’s just hard to see a talent like Delpit falling out of the first round — especially considering he could step into the starting lineup for the 49ers. Delpit is an outstanding coverage safety who was slowed by injuries last season.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

Offseason needs: Linebacker, cornerback, running back, offensive lineman

It was tempting to go with a luxury pick for the Chiefs with Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins. But the need for cornerback talent is real for the Chiefs. Bashaud Breeland, Morris Claiborne, and Kendall Fuller are all free agents, and they may not all be back. Diggs is a big cornerback who excels in man coverage.