Now that we finally know which underclassmen are entering the 2020 NFL draft, I feel comfortable wading into the mock draft waters with my first Round 1 projection of April’s class. You shouldn’t be shocked about pick No. 1, but there will be a few surprises along the way.
It’s worth noting that NFL teams are still in the early stages of their evaluations on this class, and what happens at the Senior Bowl this week, at the combine in a few weeks and at pro days in March really matters. Their draft boards won’t be set until right before the prospects start making their way to Las Vegas, and that’s not even mentioning free agency, where needs will change. So I’m making these 1-32 predictions based on a combination of my Big Board rankings, each team’s needs right now and how I see positions that could be upgraded.
The draft order for picks 1-30 is set, but we’re using ESPN’s Football Power Index to project pick Nos. 31 and 32. Let’s get into it, starting with the Bengals, who should run to the podium on April 23:
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Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Did you expect anything else here? The Bengals need a quarterback, and the Heisman Trophy-winning Burrow, coming off one of the greatest seasons in college football history, is the clear No. 1 quarterback in this class. Remember that the 2-14 Bengals can release former starter Andy Dalton with no dead-cap charge, so this can be a clean slate with Burrow — who went to high school in Athens, Ohio — taking over (and 2019 fourth-round pick Ryan Finley serving as backup). One more thing to remember: Cincinnati got zero snaps from last year’s first-round pick Jonah Williams, so he’ll help Burrow immediately. Now the Bengals have to get Burrow some weapons, starting with keeping free-agent receiver A.J. Green.
Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
If you scanned Washington’s depth chart, you probably wouldn’t pick out an edge rusher as its top need. It might not even be in the top three. And yet, the Redskins absolutely can’t pass on Young — unless they get bowled over with an offer from a team trading up. With 16.5 sacks in 2019, Young was truly dominant, and he’ll make an instant impact at the next level. Yes, Washington has veteran Ryan Kerrigan, who has one year left on his contract, and just took Montez Sweat (seven sacks as a rookie) in the first round, but Young has All-Pro talent and is my top-ranked prospect overall. New coach Ron Rivera will love him.