Three-round 2020 NFL mock draft 2.0: Trades shake up Round 1

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I love the NFL Scouting Combine and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Not just because it’s a week-long convention of NFL coaches, front office managers, scouts and media members — though I do like seeing old and new friends in wonderfully compact downtown Indianapolis.

I actually enjoy watching the superb athleticism of the young men trying to impress hundreds of evaluators sitting in Lucas Oil Stadium. Call it the “Underwear Olympics” if you must, but I appreciate the effort given by these prospects reaching for their dreams.

It’s always interesting to create a mock draft before the event and then get to see how certain individuals improve their draft stock. Yes, prospects should primarily be graded on their game film and how they were viewed by their teammates and coaches, but that shouldn’t discount the impact their performance in Indy has on their overall evaluation.

The combine is great at providing tiebreakers for prospects with similar film grades. And remember, college football players do not play against equal levels of competition. Viewing their athleticism (as well as interviews, medicals and other tests to which we do not have access) helps teams sort out similarly talented prospects who might not have many common opponents. Players might also be asked to perform different tasks on an NFL field (within different schemes) than they did in college, so comparing their relative movement skills helps sort them into different tiers.

So below is one scenario of how the first two days of the 2020 NFL Draft could play out in April prior to the knowledge gained at the combine. (I’ll have my mock 3.0 for you shortly after the event).

I have included a few first-round trades and projected compensatory picks for the third round (Picks 97-104) based on free agent departures last spring. The NFL usually awards comp picks in late February.

Round 1

PICK

1

Joe Burrow – QB

School: LSU | Year: Senior (RS)

The Ohio native comes home to provide the leadership required to lift this franchise out of the doldrums.

PICK

2

Chase Young – Edge

School: Ohio State | Year: Junior

The shocker here could be Washington giving away Dwayne Haskins after one year like the Cardinals did with Josh Rosen. Barring that move, Ron Rivera and Co. pick Young to attack opponents’ quarterbacks.

PICK

3

Tua Tagovailoa – QB

School: Alabama | Year: Junior

PROJECTED TRADE WITH LIONS. Tua wants to play in Miami and the Dolphins should want Tua’s accuracy from the pocket. If his medical checks are satisfactory, it would not be a surprise to see Miami trade up to avoid losing the young passer to the Chargers, Panthers, Raiders or Colts.

PICK

4

Justin Herbert – QB

School: Oregon | Year: Senior

PROJECTED TRADE WITH GIANTS. In the 2016, ’17 and ’18 drafts, three teams pulled off trades to get a future signal-caller. Philip Rivers’ departure means the Chargers are in the market, and there are multiple teams also in the hunt for Herbert’s services.

PICK

5

Jeff Okudah – CB

School: Ohio State | Year: Junior

PROJECTED TRADE WITH DOLPHINS. Detroit, at No. 3 overall, is in a great spot to grab multiple quality draft picks because several QB-needy teams could be looking to move up to get their guy. In this mock, I see the Lions moving down to No. 5 in exchange for a first- and second-rounder from Miami this year as well as an early-round 2021 pick. Detroit gets a hefty bounty and still lands Okudah, the outstanding corner the franchise might’ve taken in the original draft slot.

PICK

6

Mekhi Becton – OT

School: Louisville | Year: Junior

PROJECTED TRADE WITH CHARGERS. GM Dave Gettleman moves down two spots to re-gain the third-round pick he sent to the Jets for Leonard Williams, plus a 2021 second-round selection. An additional asset could be included in this deal, as well, like in the Bears- 49ers trade from three years ago, when Chicago gave up two third-rounders and a fourth to move up one spot and select Mitchell Trubisky. The Giants’ choice between Becton, Jedrick Wills and Andrew Thomas will be one of the more interesting storylines in the early part of the draft.

PICK

7

Derrick Brown – DT

School: Auburn | Year: Senior

Brown would meet a great need for the Panthers up front, as fellow big men Vernon Butler and Gerald McCoy are set to be free agents.

PICK

8

Javon Kinlaw – DT

School: South Carolina | Year: Senior

Extending D.J. Humphries allows the team to focus on its offensive line later in the draft. The Cards can now pick the top defender on the board to play the 5-technique.

PICK

9

Isaiah Simmons – LB

School: Clemson | Year: Junior (RS)

The Jaguars really missed Telvin Smith in 2019. Simmons is a similar player who could fill multiple linebacker spots.

PICK

10

K’Lavon Chaisson – Edge

School: LSU | Year: Sophomore (RS)

PROJECTED TRADE WITH BROWNS. GM Thomas Dimitroff is willing to make a deal for a player he covets. If Chaisson looks fluid in linebacker drills at the combine, the Falcons could consider him a replacement for Vic Beasley or De’Vondre Campbell.

PICK

11

CeeDee Lamb – WR

School: Oklahoma | Year: Junior

PROJECTED TRADE WITH JETS. It’s unclear whether GM John Elway will prefer Lamb or Jerry Jeudy with his top pick, but either way, I could see him jumping ahead of his division rival to land his explosive wideout of choice for Drew Lock.

PICK

12

Jerry Jeudy – WR

School: Alabama | Year: Junior

Between Lamb and Jeudy, head coach Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock would be happy with whichever receiver is available to them at this pick.

PICK

13

Jacob Eason – QB

School: Washington | Year: Junior (RS)

Eason’s combine workout could really help him secure a first-round spot. If the ball comes out as well as expected, it will be tough for teams to ignore him.

PICK

14

A.J. Epenesa – Edge

School: Iowa | Year: Junior

Even if Shaq Barrett returns, as is expected, the Bucs could use another big body like Epenesa on the defensive line.

PICK

15

Jedrick Wills – OT

School: Alabama | Year: Junior

PROJECTED TRADE WITH BRONCOS. Wills lived up to the recruiting hype in 2019, showing nice athleticism in pass pro and destroying his man in the run game. The Jets pick up third- and fourth-round picks from the Broncos in this trade scenario.

PICK

16

Andrew Thomas – OT

School: Georgia | Year: Junior

PROJECTED TRADE WITH FALCONS. The Browns find a nice value at a position they need to upgrade even after moving down the board. The trade with Atlanta nets them a second-round selection and a late-round “sweetener” pick. I suspect they’ll use one of their second-round picks on a receiver if they decide to move Odell Beckham Jr. before or during the draft.

PICK

17

Xavier McKinney – S

School: Alabama | Year: Junior

Dallas needs to find a playmaker at safety, as the team averaged just over one takeaway per game in 2019 to finish among the lower third of the league in that category.

PICK

18

Tristan Wirfs – OT

School: Iowa | Year: Junior

Wirfs may get a shot at left tackle for the Dolphins, who traded Laremy Tunsil last year for a bounty.

PICK

19

Kenneth Murray – LB

School: Oklahoma | Year: Junior

Murray recognizes plays quickly and attacks with all-out effort. Gruden and Mayock will love his talent.

PICK

20

Cole Kmet – TE

School: Notre Dame | Year: Junior

Adding the pro-sized, athletic Kmet should aid Nick Foles, Gardner Minshew or whoever is Plan C at quarterback for the Jaguars.

PICK

21

Henry Ruggs III – WR

School: Alabama | Year: Junior

Ruggs could become the new DeSean Jackson-type deep threat for the Eagles’ offense.

PICK

22

Cesar Ruiz – OL

School: Michigan | Year: Junior

The Bills’ guard play was less than stellar in 2019. Ruiz started at guard early in his career at Michigan, but moved to center with Ben Bredeson and Michael Onwenu manning either side of him.

PICK

23

Jordan Love – QB

School: Utah State | Year: Junior (RS)

PROJECTED TRADE WITH PATRIOTS. If Matt Rhule liked Charlie Brewer — the passer who showed ability to make plays with his feet during Rhule’s three years at Baylor — he’s going to love Love. The Panthers could probably convince the Patriots to move out of the first round for a 2021 second-rounder, as Washington did with Indy last year in order to draft Montez Sweat.

PICK

24

Brandon Aiyuk – WR

School: Arizona State | Year: Senior

Drew Brees recently announced he’ll be returning in 2020. Giving him Aiyuk to pair with Michael Thomas would be dangerous for opposing defenses.

PICK

25

Trevon Diggs – CB

School: Alabama | Year: Senior

I just love the idea of the Diggs brothers battling in Vikings practices. (Of course, that would require big brother Stefon staying put.) The elder Diggs might win a bunch early, but Trevon will eventually learn his tricks.

PICK

26

Tee Higgins – WR

School: Clemson | Year: Junior

PROJECTED TRADE WITH DOLPHINS. With Higgins in the fold, Kenny Golladay should have more freedom downfield.

PICK

27

Ross Blacklock – DT

School: TCU | Year: Junior (RS)

Free agency could gut the Seahawks’ front four. Blacklock is an active player with a mean streak that would fit in right away.

PICK

28

Yetur Gross-Matos – Edge

School: Penn State | Year: Junior

If Matt Judon does not return to the Ravens, the team could replace one No. 99 with another.

PICK

29

Josh Jones – OT

School: Houston | Year: Senior (RS)

The Titans will want a tough-minded right tackle to replace free agent Jack Conklin if he changes addresses. Jones plays nasty and could easily swing to that side of the line.

PICK

30

Patrick Queen – LB

School: LSU | Year: Junior

Queen fills a big hole in the middle of the Packers’ defense, assuming they lose Blake Martinez in free agency.

PICK

31

Grant Delpit – S

School: LSU | Year: Junior

Delpit’s combine workout will be huge — a good performance may allow teams to overlook some of the missed plays that put a damper on his draft stock last year.

PICK

32

D’Andre Swift – RB

School: Georgia | Year: Junior

I don’t even want to think about how good the Chiefs’ offense will be with Swift in the fold.

Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @chad_reuter.

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