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5-for-5: 2020 NFL Draft edition

While the 2020 NFL Draft is rapidly approaching, there is still much guesswork regarding where players will get drafted.

As we approach draft week, most sportswriters, myself included, are developing our mock drafts. Our shot in the dark, one in a million, scramble for answers predictions of what is happening inside the heads of GMs, coaches, scouts, and players. While some analysts, those whose full-time jobs are to study the draft and the NFL, have the insight and the resources to get a much clearer understanding as to what will happen on the night of April 23rd, this edition of my 5-for-5 can all be summed up in one indisputable, irrefutable, 100% correct statement:

NO ONE KNOWS.

No one knows what will happen two weeks from now. No one knows who will make the mind-blowing trade offer, including four first-round picks to jump up and grab a top spot, as the Redskins did in 2012. No one knows who will be this year’s Daniel Jones, the third- or fourth-ranked QB that goes in the top 10, or Clelin Ferrell, projected in the mid-first round and ends up at #4, ahead of consensus top-5 pick Josh Allen. No one knows who will be the Aaron Rodgers or Tim Tebow, projected to go in the top few picks and fall into the 20s. No. One. Knows.

That’s why this article isn’t about the most likely picks or a projection of who is going where. Sure, my Mock Draft 1.0 was that type of article. My Mock Draft 2.0, to be unveiled next week, will also be that type of article. But this article is about the first five picks; the picks that even the casual fans will tune in to watch. These picks, as it stands today, will be made by the Cincinnati Bengals, the Washington Redskins, the Detroit Lions, the New York Giants, and the Miami Dolphins. And, while many of these picks seem to be set in stone, if you read 90% of the mock draft articles out there today, we return to that one almighty fact:

NO ONE KNOWS.

These five possibilities for each of the top 5 teams are not ranked based upon the future success of the franchise. They are not ranked based on what I would do at GM. They are not ranked based on likelihood due to my knowledge of the team’s thoughts. They ARE ranked based merely on what I believe is most likely to happen. Without further ado, let’s begin.

1. Cincinnati Bengals

Draft Joe Burrow

Draft Chase Young

Draft Another Quarterback

Trade Back

Draft someone else

The Bengals are most likely going to draft Joe Burrow. It’s all but a foregone conclusion. But like I’ve said- well, you know.

Chase Young is the top-rated player on my draft board. I think he should be the first player drafted, regardless of position. Yes, the Bengals need a quarterback, but there are two very talented free agent QBs still available in Cam Newton and Jameis Winston. The Bengals could sign a veteran QB and bolster their weak defense with Young.

Tua Tagovailoa is the top-rated quarterback on my draft board. He has fallen off of the top spot in mock drafts due to injury concerns and Burrow’s meteoric climb to the Heisman trophy this season. The Bengals always have the option to take Tua, or another quarterback — like Justin Herbert or maybe even Jordan Love? — at #1 overall, should they decide he is the man that they choose to lead their team for the foreseeable future.

A trade is always an option at number 1 since a trade for this spot typically results in a king’s ransom. The Bengals could see multiple first-round picks come their way, which could allow them to build their core over the next few years.

Finally, the Bengals could look elsewhere on the draft board. Derrick Brown from Auburn is a game wrecker who could help bolster the Bengals’ interior defensive line. Jeff Okudah from Ohio State could give their secondary a boost. Isaiah Simmons could become the Swiss army knife that he’s projected to be, running around Cincinnati’s defense.

In the end, it will likely be Joe Burrow at #1.

2. Washington Redskins

Draft Chase Young

Draft a Quarterback

Trade Back

Draft a top Defensive Player 

Draft a Wide Receiver

Do these options look familiar? That’s because they’ll be similar to the options presented to Cincinnati at #1, except for one player, whomever that may be. Chase Young, as I’ve said, is my top-rated player in the draft. He should be the first non-quarterback drafted.

However, we’ve seen this one before: new coach comes in and decides to take a quarterback of his choosing to start his regime. It worked for Kliff Kingsbury, could it work for Ron Rivera in Washington?

The first overall pick is the most valuable in terms of return, but that doesn’t mean the second pick is without value. Just look at what the Rams got in the above mentioned 2012 trade. Could the Redskins reverse the field and take in a haul like they gave up then to another QB-needy team?

There is always the option of passing on Chase Young and drafting a top player at a different position on defense. The Redskins have plenty of holes that could be filled, so could they choose to fill one of those? There’s top DT Derrick Brown, top LB Isaiah Simmons, or top CB Jeff Okudah, should the Redskins decide to punt on the best player in the draft.

The draft class this year consists of possibly the best group of wide receivers to enter the NFL in history. There are at least a half-dozen immediate-impact, future all-pro candidates at the wide receiver position. The Redskins have no true top wide receiver to speak of, so could they fix that in this spot? Unlikely, considering the abundance of talent in the class, and the likely availability of such talent in later rounds.

The Redskins would be foolish to pass up on Chase Young at the second overall pick.

3. Detroit Lions

Draft Jeff Okudah

Trade Back

Draft a top Defender 

Draft a Quarterback

Draft someone else

The Lions may have signed Desmond Trufant, but they traded their star cornerback Darius Slay to the Eagles. Trufant is a solid corner, but he’s nearing that age 30 hump, and Okudah could fit in as a perfect pupil who could become a top corner in the league once Trufant moves on.

If the first two picks go Burrow-Young as most expect them to, then the third overall pick could be the perfect spot for a QB-needy team. Teams like the Dolphins, the Chargers, or even the Jaguars or Raiders, could jump up ahead of other interested teams and grab Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert.

Should they decide that Trufant is enough of a replacement for Slay for the time being, perhaps the Lions pass on a cornerback and take a defensive stud like Isaiah Simmons or Derrick Brown. The Lions could use help in many places on defense, so if they decide another position is a more significant need, or if they have another player ranked higher, they could surprise mock drafters everywhere and pick someone else.

Matthew Stafford is 32 years old, with 11 years of NFL experience and zero playoff wins to his name. There will undoubtedly be QB options available for the Lions’ taking, should they decide that Stafford is no longer their best chance to win, or that he needs an heir.

Wide Receiver? Offensive Tackle? There are other options here for the Lions. They let Rick Wagner walk to Green Bay with no apparent right tackle replacement in sight. Could they draft one at pick #3? And I’ve already mentioned the incredible talent at wide receiver this year, so perhaps the Lions see one of them as too good to pass up.

Despite the assumption that they draft Okudah, my prediction is that the Lions choose to trade back to a quarterback-needy team within the top 6, and draft Okudah — who will likely still be available — from their new slot.

4. New York Giants

Draft an Offensive Lineman

Draft Isaiah Simmons

Draft a Wide Receiver 

Trade Back

Draft someone else

This is the slot where the mock drafts most often begin to deviate. Analysts seem to be split on whether the Giants draft an offensive lineman — be it Tristan Wirfs, Jedrick Wills, Meckhi Becton, or Andrew Thomas — or an impact defender like Isaiah Simmons. Considering the core of the team is a young quarterback and running back, a stud offensive lineman seems to make the most sense.

The Giants’ defense struggled mightily last season, posting a bottom-five defense. They spent most of their available cap room on defensive players like Blake Martinez and James Bradbury this offseason. However, an impact player like Isaiah Simmons (or Chase Young, on the off chance that he slips to the #4 overall pick) could help to create a formidable group on that side of the ball.

The Giants traded Odell Beckham, Jr. before last season, even with a struggling offense and a young quarterback preparing to come in. They need to find a new top target for Daniel Jones at some point in the draft. As mentioned earlier, there is optimism that there will be impactful talent at receiver even on day 3.

Such as the Lions, the Giants will likely get offers from other teams looking to jump ahead of QB-needy teams, especially if the Lions decide to stay put, and if Tua Tagovailoa is still available. The Giants will likely have offers that can both improve the team and allow them to pick an impact first-round talent in their new position. Dave Gettleman has never traded back in the first round in his seven previous drafts, but perhaps Joe Judge will convince him otherwise, with the Patriots’ past success as evidence.

Any (fellow) Giants fans know that the Giants like to take surprising picks in the first round of the draft. Whether it’s drafting Ereck Flowers over Andrus Peat, Eli Apple over Vernon Hargreaves, or Evan Engram over Ryan Ramczyk, the Giants don’t appear to adhere to the accepted mock drafts. Maybe they decide that (yet another) defensive tackle is the best pick, perhaps we see Derrick brown in this spot. Maybe they agree with Todd McShay and decide that Daniel Jones isn’t the answer and draft a quarterback. The Giants can always find ways to make headlines, whether they’re positive or dumbfounding.

Like the Lions, I predict that Joe Judge will succeed in convincing Dave Gettleman to trade back, and the Giants will drop to somewhere in the top-10, and end up with an Offensive Lineman.

5. Miami Dolphins

Draft a Quarterback

Trade Up

Draft a top Defender 

Draft an offensive lineman

Trade Back

The Dolphins are in a rare position with three first-round picks going into the draft. With the 5th, 18th, and 26th picks at their disposal and needs at nearly every position on the roster, the Dolphins have plenty of options. Despite having two quarterbacks on the roster, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen, they still sit without a long term answer at the position. One of the top QBs could, should all parties ahead of them stay put, fall to them at 5.

While that possibility exists, it certainly isn’t the most likely. The Dolphins will likely have to trade up to nab whichever one of the top QBs they prefer. The Lions and the Giants both seem to be legitimate options to trade back to #5 overall. Trading up 1 or 2 spots may not even cost the Dolphins another one of their first-round picks.

Since I’ve said the Dolphins have needs everywhere, doesn’t that include the defense? Of course, it does. There will likely be at least one or two of the defensive studs remaining at #5 overall, with Chase Young, Isaiah Simmons, Jeff Okudah, and Derrick Brown unlikely to all be gone in the top 4 picks. The Dolphins would be able to improve their team by drafting one of these players, should they stick with #5.

The same can be said about the offensive linemen at the top of the draft. I find it highly unlikely that the top four picks are, in some order, Tristan Wirfs, Jedrick Wills, Meckhi Becton, and Andrew Thomas. Should the Dolphins choose to fill one of their most glaring holes at #5, they will likely have their pick of at least 3 of the top 4 linemen.

Finally, should the Dolphins decide to collect even more draft capital on top of their league-high 14 draft picks, they can trade back to a team hungrier than they are to get a top prospect.

I predict the Dolphins Trade Up to either the third or fourth pick and draft their latest Quarterback of the Future.

You’ll see these predictions and more laid out in my Mock Draft 2.0, which will be published next week. Until then, stay safe, stay home, and stay healthy. And, don’t forget, despite the confidence in my tone and whether you agree or disagree:

NO ONE KNOWS.

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