NFL Draft 2020: Possible “Surprise” Picks
The Super Bowl has been played, the confetti has been dropped, and the clock has begun to tick. It is official draft season baby! Turn off your “sad vibes” playlist if you’re any of the 31 teams that didn’t win it all this year and if you’re a Kansas City fan then… SNAP OUT OF IT! It is again time to focus on next year!
While most are dropping their mock drafts, I will be going in a different direction.
It happens every year on draft day, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell approaches the podium and reveals a team has selected a player that almost no one saw coming. It happened last year with selections such as Clelin Ferrell to the Raiders with the fourth pick or Darnell Savage at 21 for Green Bay.
Now it’s 2020’s turn. Will the fireworks start as early as the first pick? Probably not, but let’s light a match, set fire to the wick, and watch the show.
Let me just make this clear: This is not a mock draft, the picks do not correlate, and I do not entirely expect these to happen. Just going for some selections that may come on draft day that many do not expect at the moment. Enjoy!
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Will it happen? I doubt it, but you never truly know until Goodell announces the pick. Since November, Joe Burrow has seemed like the cemented number one pick and has continued to build on that with each performance he gives. So why would the Bengals pick Herbert? The Senior Bowl could play into it as Herbert put up an incredible week and if he connected with Coach Taylor maybe it cause a lean in preference. Herbert no doubt has some really nice tools and an arm that could entice a number of coaches, while the “McVay passing offense” is pretty friendly to QB’s reading defenses and that is one of the biggest knocks on Herbert. While it is certainly a possibility Taylor loved what he saw out of Herbert, it is likely that Burrow will be the Bengal’s pick come April.
2. Washington Redskins: Jedrick Wills Jr, OT, Alabama
The Washington Redskins enter the 2020 off-season with a lot of questions. The biggest is likely what happens at left tackle with Trent Williams? The Redskins like the Bengals likely are set in stone with their selection: It will be Chase Young. However, Jedrick Wills has soared up draft boards and if he improves his stock anymore he could be viewed by teams in a similar regard as Chase Young, and adding protection for Haskins is a good move in terms of helping his longevity and chance of success in the league. While the pick is likely Chase Young, the Redskins should definitely be interested in adding to their offensive line in order to strengthen their young offensive core.
3. Detroit Lions: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Not necessarily a huge “surprise pick” but Simmons has not been a common mock choice from what I’ve seen. We know one thing about Patricia, he loves versatility. The Lions defensive talent has not offered much of it. Simmons is the ultimate chess piece as he not only provides capabilities as a linebacker, but he is also more than capable of playing safety, nickel, and rushing the passer. The Lions defense isn’t producing to the expectation set when they brought in former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, and a lot of that I believe is due to talent outside of the defensive line. Bringing in the Swiss army knife, Isaiah Simmons, could go a long way for Detroit as they look to push their unit into contending for the NFC North.
4. New York Giants: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Is this cheating? Maybe a little, but as of late Andrew Thomas has seemed to have dropped value in the eyes of the media. I truly don’t get it, he is my clear cut OT1 and probably the best tackle prospect I have watched since I got into scouting. The Giants likely pick an offensive tackle but based on reports it seems as though the top of the class is becoming Jedrick Wills and Tristan Wirfs in a class of their own. I don’t think that’s the case and I truly believe that at least one other team will feel the same and it very easily could be the Giants.
The Giants continue to build their offense around their young key pieces in Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. Thomas has natural strength and movement perfect for the Giants strong belief in the run game and if the Giants bring in Thomas, it will definitely be a great add for years to come.
5. Miami Dolphins: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Brian Flores fired Chad O’Shea to move on from his Patriot routes on the offensive side of the football for an offense better built for the development of rookies. However, I don’t think he is changing his defensive ways. The Patriots defense under Flores excelled on man coverage with a talented secondary allowing for them to stack the box and not only pressure the passer but also stop the run. Okudah is the most well-rounded cornerbacks in this class from my point of view and I believe that Xavien Howard and Okudah could make an excellent tandem for the Dolphins to build a foundation on. If say Tua’s medicals don’t come back clean and the Dolphins don’t love Herbert, then I encourage them to wait, don’t force a position of need if you don’t believe in the player. If the Dolphins do find themselves in this spot, fans should still be excited for the potential of their secondary and future of their defense with a talent like Okudah.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Are you mad at me? I feel like you’re mad at me. Look, I get it, right now Love is not here in terms of draft value. However, it could be similar to Daniel Jones: Love performs well enough to where teams are comfortable to take him mid first, but the fact of the matter with prospects is that teams don’t say, “I’m willing to draft this guy at 16 but not 5,” or at least teams shouldn’t. You either believe in who your picking and think they can become a top talent or you don’t. So now, like Jones, Love could very easily continue to rise and find himself being an early pick. Unlike Jones, this would crowd the top 10 with QB picks as the assumption would be that Burrow, Tagovailoa, and Herbert all went in the top five (health permitting) but if teams do find themselves captured by Love’s raw talent, they could easily buy into developing him too.
7. Carolina Panthers: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
The need isn’t necessarily huge as I think DJ Moore is well on his way to becoming part of the league’s top receivers. Not to mention Curtis Samuel is quite the receiver as well. Wide receiver is fine in Carolina, but when I watched LSU this season it was such an unstoppable force because they had weapons everywhere easily stepping up to the plate contributing big games. A trio of Moore, Jeudy, and Samuel with McCaffrey at running back, and the rotation of Olsen and Thomas at tight end, a Panther offense with Jerry Jeudy could be insane and Cam Newton healthy to take part in it could not only push them to a good year, it could make them contenders.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Josh Jones, OT, Houston
If last year’s draft was any indication the Arizona Cardinals seem to put a lot of value similar to how PFF rates players. Josh Jones is highly regarded by PFF after allowing just four pressures on 325 pass-blocking snaps. The Cardinals do have DJ Humphries and Marcus Gilbert on roster but bringing in an athletic high upside offensive tackle like Jones not only benefits their future if he pans out, but Kliff’s offense is built for great pass blockers and Jones did well during his time as a pass blocker at Houston and if Arizona feels the same don’t be shocked if they swoop in and pick him. However, I think it is more likely they just trade back into the first for him if they do value him.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: AJ Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
In terms of value this isn’t very surprising but another defensive line pick for the Jaguars may get on the nerve of fans. But the idea of pairing Epenesa and Allen on the edge for Jacksonville has to be extremely enticing for this team. If Ngakoue does leave in free agency, Epenesa could step right in and the duo could develop into one of the best EDGE duos in the league. Epenesa does an excellent job of combining his power and athleticism into production. A lot of people didn’t like his lack of production but on Iowa’s defense he was largely game-planned for and would receive double teams often. With Allen on the other side, NFL teams won’t be able to do that, and the possibility of “Sacksonville” returns.
10. Cleveland Browns: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Becton has been flying up draft boards due to his enormous size and improved athleticism in comparison to last year. The Brown have one of the most complete rosters in the league but need help on the offensive line, most importantly at the tackle spots. The Browns likely will be going tackle in this draft, but what’s most important is getting someone who they view as a long term talent for the team. Becton has to remind teams of Trent Brown in terms of his sheer size (6’7 369 pounds) and strength allowing him to overpower players and protect his side. Assuming he is developed well and effectively, Becton will be a great grab, and that very well could be for the Cleveland Browns.
11. New York Jets: Lloyd Cushenberry III, iOL, LSU
The Jets need to do all they can to make the most of their offense. While the tackles seem to be the prized possession, don’t be surprised to see some of the interior line fly up as the draft nears. Cushenberry showed out to end the season and continued his play at the Senior Bowl. Cushenberry would likely slot in at guard for the Jets but adding in an efficient blocker to both help establish protection for Darnold and help out Bell in the run game. Cushenberry has the base strength to withstand interior pressure and the movement skills to open up holes in the run game. If the Jets do go Cushenberry even as early as 11, fans will question it and may even riot about it, but I think they would definitely appreciate his ability in the long term.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: K’Lavon Chaisson, LB, LSU
“Hold on, Chaisson isn’t a linebacker, he’s an EDGE rusher,” I know, but in this class the top linebacker is Simmons and it is unlikely he falls, the next option is Kenneth Murray who I do like as a prospect, but I don’t think he would go here at 12. However, I could see a scenario where the Raiders bring in Chaisson and love his versatility to step in at linebacker and fill a huge need while also helping boost their developing pass rush.
Chaisson is no doubt an incredible athlete and he even said himself that he is not just an EDGE rusher. He (much like Simmons) offers incredible flexibility as a defensive player and the Raiders or any other team in search of a linebacker could very easily become enamored with his ability. I for one, would be very intrigued to see it play out, and don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibilities.
13. Indianapolis Colts: Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU
The Colts have no fear of drafting outside of people’s expectations, just look at two seasons ago when they shocked fans by picking Darius Leonard much earlier than expected. I believe they very easily could surprise again and Ross Blacklock would be a huge get. Blacklock is an extremely athletic defensive lineman who does well at converting that athleticism into power which he has plenty of as well. He stands 6’4 305 pounds and will likely gain more hype after an expected stellar combine performance, but for now he seems to be mocked in the second to third round range.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
Maybe to those following the Bucs this pick doesn’t come as much of a surprise but for those who don’t follow them let me fill you in. There is speculation that Arians is a big fan of Jacob Eason and his seems to be their potential next QB. While it is likely they would bring in someone as a bridge quarterback, Eason has a lot of potential to excite fans. He definitely still has a lot to work through but Eason has one of the most electric arms and his ceiling is sky high, he needs to improve his footwork and accuracy in order to be more efficient but if the Bucs do choose to move on from Winston; Eason could be the new project that Arians brings in to mold.
15. Denver Broncos: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
Vic Fangio came into Denver with a clear desire for aggressive defensive backs who are willing tacklers. Gladney is both with added extreme athleticism. At 6’0 183 pounds, Gladney offers a solid frame with great twitch and athleticism to entice ball clubs with his potential. He needs to work on his discipline as he can be caught biting on routes early and shifting his hips too much giving up too much space. However, with Fangio able to work with him and his already aggressive attitude, Gladney seems like a perfect fit for the new direction the Broncos secondary is heading.
16. Atlanta Falcons: Tyler Biadasz, iOL, Wisconsin
In terms of the media, Biadasz has seemed to tumble down draft boards. I am still a big fan of his so I feel like I’m cheating a bit with this selection. However, most mock drafts every year we tell ourselves how badly the Falcons need edge rushers and it doesn’t happen. So it’s another surprise! They pick Biadasz instead. Biadasz will likely slot into left guard his first year but he also offers the possibility to take over center whenever Mack decides to hang his cleats. Biadasz is versatile enough that he should be able to excel at any position the Falcons play him on the line and he could be a major piece to something they’ve heavily invested in lately. While Biadasz will need to improve his play against speedier defensive tackles, he has shown a lot of strength and consistent play for one of the best lines in college football, and I think he continues to prove himself in the NFL.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State
A lot of defensive picks are scheme based. With Mike Nolan, the last corner he was a part of drafting was Desmond Trufant. Who similar to Arnette, was expected to go Day 2 prior to the draft. Arnette flashes ability to work both inside and out at the corner position with a lot of athleticism and consistent tackling ability. The Cowboys will likely choose Byron Jones as the star they wave goodbye to this off-season and the entire secondary will be revamped flipped from Kris Richard’s scheme of aggressive big corners back to a more traditional defense. That being said, expect Jourdan Lewis to have a nice season for the Cowboys as their CB1, but the need still exists and Arnette could come in and fill that spot quite quickly.
18. Miami Dolphins (via PIT): Cesar Ruiz, iOL, Michigan
The Dolphins return to the podium ready to shock fans and by golly they do it! Cesar Ruiz is a young 20 year old with some pretty solid Big 10 OL experience, along with strong production to go with it. He is well rounded, Ruiz offers both impressive tools in the pass and run game. He is nice blend of strength and athleticism that can handle defensive linemen in the first level, and also quickly make way to the second level to open up space in the run game. He does a good job of resisting rushes to keep a clean pocket for his QB as well. Miami is definitely going to want to invest in their offensive line and the young yet impressive Cesar Ruiz is a great piece to add for the future of the offensive line.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (via CHI): Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
GM Mike Mayock discussed the lack of speed on the outside at the wide receiver position and Denzel Mims is the perfect guy to fix that. Mims was sitting in the range of second to third round pick at the seasons end and seems to have boosted himself to a second round pick after he put on a show during the senior bowl week. Now it is his time to catapult himself into the first round with an outstanding combine. At 6’3 205 pounds Mims offers great size, speed, and catch radius perfect for any team seeking a boost of production from the outside. There were questions surrounding his route work but he seemed to come out a lot stronger at the senior bowl in that regard. While there will be some consistency concerns and worries about his ability to work himself open in traffic, Mims could be a great pick and potential star for the black and silver.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (via LAR): Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
The Jaguars secondary isn’t what it used to be and not just because Jalen Ramsey is gone but because Bouye isn’t the same as he used to be. The Jaguars converted to a lot more zone coverage to start the season and after trading Ramsey their usage of zone only went up. Hall was an excellent cornerback who ended up missing the season with an ankle injury. He is one of the best zone coverage defensive backs and if he had the season to play he very likely could’ve proved it. He has a knack for getting his hand on and deflecting passes and in the right system, which I believe Jacksonville could be) he could be a star.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn
An underrated need of the Eagles is cornerback. A lot of the attention of the media is on their receiving core, but the secondary needs help. Igbinoghene went under the radar of most throughout the course of the season but he has been some of the most enjoyable cornerback film I’ve watched. His biggest issue is route discipline as I saw Devonta Smith get him on occasion with a double move. However, Igbinoghene seemed to win every match-up consistently with excellent fluidity, sticky man coverage, and pure speed. The Eagles will no doubt be needing help at both wide receiver and corner this offseason, but I think bringing in this Auburn product could do wonders for the Eagles defense as they focus in on trying to win the NFC East again.
22. Buffalo Bills: Lucas Niang, OT, TCU
Cody Ford currently holds the right tackle spot for the Bills, and he showed some good promise. However, the Bills will likely let Spain walk in free agency, and Ford may be better suited to move inside. Niang then could go into right tackle and hopefully solidify the Bills rebuild of their offensive line. Dawkins took a big step forward at left tackle, Feliciano was reliable at right guard, Morse was a great signing at center. Now if Ford becomes left guard and Niang comes in at right tackle the Bills could be well on their way to having a young yet reliable offensive line. Niang is a high potential tackle and working with Daboll could help him reach stardom.
23. New England Patriots: Leki Fotu, DL, Utah
The Patriots will be losing a lot of pieces this offseason and possibly the most underrated loss could be Danny Shelton who was a key part in the Patriots stopping the run up the middle. If Shelton does leave, the Patriots may be pressed to find another talent who can clog the center to avoid teams controlling the interior. Insert 6’5 337 pound Leki Fotu who is the perfect Patriots fit. While most draft analysts knock his pass rush ability, the Patriots often look for guys who can maintain the push and contain runs that are between the tackles. Fotu is perfect for that, as often when lining up at defensive tackle for Utah, he never lost ground and was consistently forcing runners outside or to minimal gain. Bill loves his defense and more importantly he loves size, Fotu could step in and immediately offer both.
24. New Orleans Saints: Shane Lemieux, iOL, Oregon
For the Saints, a successful offensive line has been a large part of the team’s success for years. While Lemieux hasn’t gotten the draft attention yet that I believe he deserves, he definitely has proved his worth on film. Andrus Peat has struggled and the Saints will likely want to continue building their line in order to take advantage of their dominant offense. Lemieux has great hand placement and uses them quickly to get a strong position and then takes advantage of that to win matchups on the inside. Oregon was one of the best offensive lines in college football and Lemieux was a major part of that, if the Saints bring him in I believe that success will only continue.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Antoine Winfield Jr, S, Minnesota
Anthony Harris, Andrew Sendejo, and Jayron Kearse all head towards free agency. That leaves only Harrison Smith on roster as a safety. Winfield could be brought in to fill the free safety spot, and truly I think he would be a stud. Darnell Savage was a consensus R2/R3 mock pick despite seeming to be well liked across boards. I believe Winfield is similar in that regard, and his playmaking ability is going to make a team fall in love. It seems most logical that the team with a huge hole at safety AND located in the same state would bring in the ballhawking safety and former Viking legend.
26. Miami Dolphins (via HOU): Jonathan Greenard, EDGE, Florida
Come on Dolphin fans what do you want from me, I’m a hard working man but three surprises? THREE!?! Whatever…here you go: Jonathan Greenard is an incredible fit at EDGE for the Dolphins and there is no doubt they certainly need it. While I think they could likely go after someone a la Jadeveon Clowney in free agency, the additional help would still be needed. Greenard fills out his 6’4 262 frame and in it he has excellent resistance, disciplined containment, a strong pass rush, and solid bend. Greenard can set the edge to stop the run and get to the passer and Miami needs much more production on the defensive line, while Greenard is a bit older than the ideal edge rushing prospect; he is still an excellent get and will have no hate from me if they ultimately nab him at 26 come draft day.
27. Seattle Seahawks: Hakeem Adeniji, OT, Kansas
Knowing the Seahawks draft history they will dive even deeper than me to shock fans with their pick. However, in terms of draft fit, Adeniji is who I like them grabbing. Adeniji is someone that I think could play all around the offensive line and for Seattle I believe that spot would be right tackle. Seems to do a good job of getting in the first step and uses that to his advantage to win match-ups regularly on the line. Germain Ifedi has been rumored as likely will not be back and if the Seahawks do decide to move on they will want to invest in their offensive line both for Wilson and the rest of their offense. Adeniji isn’t a well known name in draft talks right now but I think whatever franchise ends up with him will enjoy the production out of him for many years. It very well could be the Seahawks, given they can think of enough quality twitter clues to drop before the draft about him.
28. Baltimore Ravens: Joshua Uche, EDGE, Michigan
After an impressive week at the senior bowl I think a lot of teams are less concerned about Uche’s size which is one of the biggest knocks on him at 6’1. In the Ravens 3-4 defense allowing him to be a stand up rusher would let Uche get more momentum into his rush attacks. The Ravens will likely try to make the money work to bring back Judon but if they do find themselves being outbid they will have to find edge talent they like in order to continue what was an incredible past season.
29. Tennessee Titans: Ben Bredeson, iOL, Michigan
2 seasons ago we saw a random burst in draft stock for the interior lineman on draft day. I think again we could see something similar. The Tennessee Titans have one of the more complete rosters and any need they have I don’t see the later prospects as a surprise pick. Insert Bredeson though who is a dominant force on the inside and an excellent blend of both strength and athleticism, perfect to fill the spot for the Titans at left guard. While Nate Davis played better the second half of the year, there were certainly still struggles and despite his young age, I think the Titans could look into finding someone to take his spot, Bredeson would be an excellent choice to do so and continue improving what was one of the more dominant offenses in the second half of the season.
30. Green Bay Packers: Justin Madubuike, DL, Texas A&M
The Packers had issues on the defensive line containing the run. While Kenny Clark is a star there doesn’t seem to be much help there with him. Madubuike is one of the highest ceiling defensive tackles in the draft because his ability when he’s out in full force contends with the best of them. There are plays he seems to take off which hopefully a strong unit and locker room like the Packers can shake issues like that and get the great disruptive defensive lineman that he is. If the Packers can address some of their defensive woes in the front seven, they could easily return to the NFC Championship, and have a strong chance at going further.
31. San Francisco 49ers: Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State
The 49ers rotate corners a lot and I think they will continue to look to add talent to the group. If I didn’t feel like I was cheating using Bryce Hall I probably go with him for this pick. However, Dantzler is a big zone corner with fluid hips and ability to cover deep as well. He is really a great fit for the 49ers defensive scheme and while he may not come as a Round 1 value to most I think his best chance at success comes with the Niners. Sherman is still a great corner but his age is going up, and Moseley may get overpaid on the market to where the 49ers will have to wave goodbye to save their change. Regardless, San Francisco is still going to put together a unit strong enough to potentially make the super bowl and if Dantzler is a part of their plans I’ll trust that he pans out.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Laviska Shenault Jr, WR, Colorado
Value wise this doesn’t surprise many but receiver??? You kidding me??? In this hypothetical, the Chiefs decide to move on from Sammy Watkins in order to preserve some of the more key pieces of the roster such as Chris Jones. The Chiefs must also begin to prepare for life without Mahomes on a rookie deal where plenty of their large contracts will need to be gone. Shenault is an absolute playmaker who would be exciting to watch with Reid calling for him. While some worry he is a Cordarrelle Patterson type, I believe his Colorado utility type days were more on just a desire to ensure the ball got in his hands more than lack of his receiving ability. The Chiefs fresh off the Super Bowl victory will have some tough choices to make going forward, but bringing in Shenault is s one I think fans will be more than okay with.
Extra Extra: “Surprise” Picks for Non-First Round Teams
43. Chicago Bears: Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU
I love Thaddeus Moss and think he is the TE1 in this draft class. When given the opportunity he made outstanding plays time and time again while also being an efficient blocker as well. The Bears tight end position fell flat on its face this season with injuries and lack of production. Bringing in Thaddeus Moss could change that for the Bears and bring a new level of production to the team.
49. Pittsburgh Steelers: Davon Hamilton, DL, Ohio State
Davon Hamilton is one of the most talented pass rushing nose tackles I have seen in a while. Constantly disrupting and getting into the backfield the Steelers would love to bring Hamilton into their rotation. The Steelers have been having some struggles at the nose tackle position and while it may not need to be replaced, it could certainly use some help. Hamilton has been a consistent piece of the Ohio State defense for his 35 games started and if the Steelers bring him in I think they’ll be just as appreciative of his talent.
52. Los Angeles Rams: Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
The Rams are likely going to address pick 52 as a hopeful fill for a future need. Wide receiver will be an issue as they likely will have to either let go of their 2021 expiring contracts (Kupp and Reynolds) or part ways with their current ones such as Cooks. Tyler Johnson has been ultra productive at Minnesota and while there has been some widely varying speculation on where he will go, I could see him working wonders in McVay offensive scheme. Assuming the Rams will be having to pay big money to keep pieces like Ramsey around WR could soon become a need, I think it is best is the Rams jump to address it now rather than wait on it and pay for it later.
57. Houston Texans: AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College
AJ Dillon’s 6’0 250 frame is going to capture someone’s heart especially is it more likely to be a team that had to deal with a similar blend of speed and size like Derrick Henry this season. Don’t get me wrong, AJ Dillon is not Derrick Henry. However, any defense having to go against a talented 250 pound running back will wear down defenses which in turn should open up the pass game even more for the elite weapons of Hopkins and Fuller. While Hyde and Johnson were a very formidable duo for Houston, bringing in Dillon could be a game-changer.
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