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2020 NFL mock draft: A final 1st round projection

The drama is nearly over. Here’s where Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, and more will land on draft night.

An art collage of NFL Draft QBs Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert, superimposed on a white background with black squiggly lines
Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert will be first-round picks in the NFL Draft.

The drama in the 2020 NFL Draft is nearly over. Much of the lead up to the draft has been centered around where Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will land.

In this mock, my final first-round variety for the 2020 NFL Draft, Tagovailoa is the third quarterback taken. He could just as easily be the second quarterback taken. A lot will depend on how comfortable teams are with his health.

Here’s one last look at how the first round could shake out on Thursday night:

1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

2. Washington: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

When is the last time we’ve known for so long who the first two picks of the draft would be? It was probably 2010, the last year before the NFL introduced a rookie wage scale. That draft ended up seeing quarterback Sam Bradford go first and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh second. Will the careers of these two follow a similar trajectory? We’ll see.

3. Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

I’ve liked the pick of Okudah for the Lions for quite a while now, but I’m just not sure it will happen at the No. 3 pick.

4. New York Giants: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

It’s understandable why Clemson defensive weapon Isaiah Simmons has been considered here. But I just can’t get past the Giants trying to protect young franchise stars Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley with the offensive line they have currently.

5. Miami Dolphins: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

If the Dolphins are split between Herbert and Tagovailoa, the latter’s injury background might be the decider. This would be a risky move by the Dolphins, but Herbert has an impressive skillset.

6. Los Angeles Chargers: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Even though Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn loves Tyrod Taylor, he will be hard-pressed to pass on Tagovailoa. He can be the face of the franchise the Chargers need to build around. And if it works out, the Chargers should push for a playoff spot next season.

7. Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

Carolina’s run defense last season was abysmal, and a monstrous player like Brown can only help make it better. The team was 29th last year in run defense in the NFL, and Brown can occupy blockers up the middle to let Carolina’s linebackers find the ball cleanly.

8. Arizona Cardinals: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

There’s been a lot of buzz about this pick being Brown, Isaiah Simmons, or even yet another wide receiver. But Arizona’s dire need at right tackle should trump all of those things.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

Up until the last minute, I kept flip-flopping Simmons and Brown between Jacksonville and Carolina. They are two of the elite players in this draft.

10. Cleveland Browns: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

This might be the safe pick for the Browns. Thomas is a traditional left tackle with the footwork to handle speed rushers on the edge. He has some technical balance things to fix, but he’s as pro-ready as any tackle in this draft. That’s the kind of player the Browns need. A trade down is highly possible too.

11. New York Jets: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

The Jets are another team with a young franchise quarterback they can’t seem to protect. Whether it is Becton or Thomas, it would be smart for the Jets to grab the best left tackle available at No. 11. They can fill their massive need at wide receiver later in the draft.

12. Las Vegas Raiders: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

With the big run on offensive tackles, it could put the Raiders in position to take whomever they view as the top wide receiver in the draft. Matching a yards-after-catch monster (Lamb) up with a checkdown master (Derek Carr) would be perfect.

13. San Francisco 49ers (via Indianapolis Colts): Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

It feels like this pick could be down to Jeudy or Florida cornerback CJ Henderson. On a team with offensive-minded head coach Kyle Shanahan, I’m going with Jeudy. Cornerback can wait until later for the 49ers.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Jones, OT, Houston

Will the Buccaneers trade up to the offensive tackle they covet? That was the buzz in the final day before the start of the first round. If they stay at 14, Jones is arguably the fifth-best offensive tackle in this class. And in this group, taking the fifth-best one isn’t such a bad thing.

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

Has a pick in the middle of the first round ever been this commonly mocked for, like, four months straight? I’ve been doing these mock drafts for SB Nation since the 2009 draft and can’t recall it.

16. Atlanta Falcons: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

The Falcons are another team rumored to be keen to trade up. General manager Thomas Dimitroff does have a deep history of moving up, most famously for wide receiver Julio Jones. If the Falcons really want Henderson, they may have to do just that.

17. Dallas Cowboys: K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU

It seems like this pick will either be Chaisson, Henderson, or one of the defensive backs from Alabama. Which means it probably won’t be any of those four. Chaisson is the type of pass rusher the Cowboys have needed for years.

18. Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh Steelers): Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

At this stage, Kinlaw would be too good for a team like Miami to pass on. The Dolphins allowed 135.4 rushing yards per game last season. Kinlaw can help that, and give the team a versatile pass rusher.

19. Las Vegas Raiders (via Chicago Bears): A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

If the Raiders use their first pick on a wide receiver, they should take a cornerback with this one. Terrell and former college teammate Trayvon Mullen would give the Raiders a nice pair of outside cornerbacks.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars: (via Los Angeles Rams): Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State

Again, this is the Yannick Ngakoue replacement pick. It will be made even better if the Jaguars can move Ngakoue for a pick in this draft.

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

If the Eagles get antsy, they could try to move up some spots to get a wide receiver. They certainly need one. But how high will they have to go? The Eagles could conceivably jump all the way up to No. 10 to get ahead of the other teams that need a receiver.

22. Minnesota Vikings (via Buffalo Bills): Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah

The Vikings’ need for a cornerback has been obvious all offseason. Johnson, a bigger cornerback who can press at the line, would be a nice fit in Mike Zimmer’s defense.

23. New England Patriots: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

I’m doing it. In my final 2020 mock draft, I’m pushing the Love to New England theory. In the last couple of days, few are predicting this will happen. But it’s just impossible to feel that confident in Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham.

24. New Orleans Saints: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

The Saints have few needs going into the draft, so maybe they trade out of this pick to get something in 2021. If they stay here, Murray would be a good player to pair with Demario Davis and give the linebacker unit an injection of youth and athleticism.

25. Minnesota Vikings: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

After trading Stefon Diggs to Buffalo, the Vikings need a wide receiver who can keep the pressure off of Adam Thielen. Mims is a big, fast receiver who can win jump balls and be an asset in the red zone.

26. Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans): Austin Jackson, OT, USC

Originally, I had this being Alabama safety Xavier McKinney. But the Dolphins’ need at offensive tackle only grows if they take a quarterback in the top 10.

27. Seattle Seahawks: Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State

Chances are the Seahawks are going to trade out of this pick. It’s just what they do. But this mock isn’t including trades, as is tradition. Basically, I think Cleveland lands somewhere in the first round.

28. Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

The Ravens could badly use a linebacker, whether it is Queen or Murray. Whichever one is available should be the choice for Baltimore. The Ravens have done well building up their defensive line this offseason, but need a linebacker who can chase the ball carrier down.

29. Tennessee Titans: Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia

This became my pick for the Titans about three weeks ago, and I’m not getting off it in my final 2020 first-round mock draft. Wilson would help the Titans maintain a strong run offense.

30. Green Bay Packers: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

Green Bay’s wide receivers after Davante Adams are suspect. Aiyuk is a versatile receiver who could be a big-play weapon for the Packers.

31. San Francisco 49ers: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

Diggs is raw coming out of Alabama, but he can learn from Richard Sherman and eventually replace him.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan

Stefen Wisniewski departed Kansas City in free agency, leaving the Super Bowl champions with Austin Reiter as the projected starting center. That’s not good enough. Ruiz is the consensus best center in the draft, and is stellar in pass protection.