The NFL Draft is one of the most unpredictable events in all of sports. Just when you think your mock draft is perfect, a wild trade happens. Or Aaron Rodgers nearly free falls completely out of the first round.
But the fun of the league’s annual selection process is making predictions, and the 2020 NFL Draft will be no different.
Below, I’ve assembled an all-star draft roundtable featuring writers from SB Nation NFL and several team sites, asking them to submit their favorite draft prediction this year. Let me start things off with my own first-round guess.
The 49ers make two first-round picks
After trading defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Colts, the 49ers now have pick Nos. 13 and 31 in the first round. The belief by many is that the team will trade down at least once to acquire more picks. After No. 31, San Francisco isn’t scheduled to pick until the fifth round.
Trading back is plausible. But what if it doesn’t happen? Coming off a Super Bowl run last season, San Francisco’s roster is loaded up pretty well. The 49ers go into the draft with few needs, wide receiver and cornerback chief among them. They could find starters at both positions in the first round. Maybe it’s a combination of cornerback CJ Henderson at 13 and wide receiver Jalen Reagor at 31. Or maybe it’s wide receiver Jerry Jeudy at 13 and cornerback Trevon Diggs at 31.
The fact is, more impactful players are found in the first round of the draft. Accumulating draft capital is fun, but getting instant starters to make another Super Bowl push is more so. — Dan Kadar
The Dolphins trade up, but not for Tagovailoa
When the Miami Dolphins trade up to the third overall selection, everyone will know that it is to take Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Everyone will be wrong.
In the first shocker of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Dolphins will select Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert.
Herbert has some critics in the media, but big, tall quarterbacks with cannon arms still get NFL execs all hot and bothered. Herbert’s arm talent is what made him a top prospect all along, and nothing has changed.
This may not have been Miami’s plan nine months ago, but at the end of the day, the Dolphins will not be willing to risk drafting Tagovailoa without being able to have him on site and examined by their medical staff.
The Dolphins will be thrilled to get their guy, but the fans who have coveted Tagovailoa will not be happy and will complain that if they wanted Hebert, they could have stayed at No. 5.
— Matt Minich, Cincy Jungle
The Dolphins end up with the QB they wanted all along
To say this NFL offseason has been unordinary would be a grave understatement. Free agents were unable to visit team facilities, and draft prospects have put their NFL fate into virtual interviews.
Sure, this impacts every team. But for the Dolphins, things have turned bizarre, during the most critical offseason in franchise history.
By the time you’re reading this, the Dolphins have now been linked to every QB under the sun. And what once seemed like a forgone conclusion — they would try to move heaven and earth to land Tagovailoa — has slowly shifted to Herbert and Jordan Love by the masses.
No one knows what Chris Grier’s master plan is. But when all is said and done, I think Tagovailoa will still be the Dolphins’ pick. And whether they need to trade up a few spots to make it happen, or they stay at No. 5 and let him fall mercifully into their lap. Miami will get the QB it’s always desired.
Tagovailoa, no matter what.
— Josh Houtz, The Phinsider
Tagovailoa gets drafted in the top three
Of all the interesting storylines and surprises that are sure to unfold at the 2020 NFL Draft, Tagovailoa’s landing spot may be the most fascinating one.
Much has been made of Tagovailoa’s medical status. The spread of Covid-19 has made this draft process the most unique in NFL history. NFL teams just haven’t had many chances to get up close and personal with the prospects, and they certainly haven’t been able to get their doctors to form an opinion on the long-term medical outlook of these young players
It’s no secret that Tagovailoa suffered three lower-body injuries during his time at Alabama, and there are still questions surrounding his recovery from last year’s hip surgery. Of all the rumors and speculation circulating around this year’s top prospects, a slide for Tagovailoa has been the most popular projection.
My bold prediction is that we will not see that happen. In fact, I am predicting that Tagovailoa will be selected within the first three picks of the 2020 NFL Draft. I believe that the need for a franchise quarterback always wins out, and a desperate team like the Miami Dolphins or Los Angeles Chargers will complete a draft-day trade with either the Detroit Lions or Washington in order to secure Tagovailoa’s services.
— Justin Melo, Music City Miracles
The Patriots shock everyone and trade up for a quarterback
The New England Patriots have done nothing outside of bringing back Brian Hoyer to help replace the major void that Tom Brady left at positions after he signed with the Buccaneers. They have to be eyeing one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft and calling around seeing how much it would cost to move up. Picking 23rd will make it tough, but some team looking to trade back and acquire 2020 and 2021 picks could be enticed to make this deal.
My crazy prediction is New England trading up with the Cleveland Browns to 10th overall and selecting its new franchise quarterback. That quarterback will be Tagovailoa. Teams will feel iffy about his medicals and Bill Belichick will pounce.
— Scotty Payne, Mile High Report
The Falcons trade up to draft Jeff Okudah
It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Falcons traded up from the No. 16 pick. After all, there’s been lots of speculation lately about them jumping up to get cornerback. It also wouldn’t be a surprise if the Lions — the most projected landing spot for Okudah — traded out of the No. 3 pick.
The Falcons have been tied to CJ Henderson, who is a very good player in his own right and widely considered the second-best cornerback after Okudah. If they’re going to give up valuable draft capital to fix one of their biggest needs, though, why not go with the guy who’s elite?
Okudah was in coverage for 865 snaps in his three years at Ohio State, and per Pro Football Focus, he gave up only two touchdowns. TWO. When opposing quarterbacks dared to throw his way during Okudah’s All-American season in 2019, they had just a 45.3 passer rating.
That kind of lockdown ability might remind the Falcons of another cornerback from Ohio State: Marshon Lattimore, who is currently a thorn in their side with the Saints. Building a secondary out of Buckeyes has worked out well in New Orleans. Maybe the Falcons have taken notice and want to do the same with Okudah and his former college teammate Kendall Sheffield.
— Sarah Hardy
The Bills trade up on Day 2
The Buffalo Bills will trade up on Day 2 of the draft. Their roster is filled with quality depth, but do they have enough high-end playmakers to run to the Super Bowl? That’s part of the logic that led the Bills to trade a first-round pick and change for Stefon Diggs last month. I expect the pattern to continue when they begin picking on Friday — packaging picks outside the top 100 to move up in Rounds 2 or 3 and snatch falling talent.
— Dan Lavoie, Buffalo Rumblings
The Chiefs trade out of the first round and select a RB in the second
It’s not what I would do, but it’s what I think will happen. There is simply too much buzz surrounding the Chiefs’ affection for this running back class and their desire to get Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes another talent in the backfield with an early selection.
With limited assets, the Chiefs should be active in looking to move out of the first round to gain additional picks. If they do trade back and wind up with their first selection in the late 30s/early 40s, there is likely to be a talented running back available. A player like Clyde Edwards-Helaire would be a high-floor, low-ceiling move but would likely provide production in a year that will not have the same kind of offseason program to catch most rookies up to speed.
— Kent Swanson, Arrowhead Pride
Laviska Shenault Jr. lands in Round 3 — or later
Shenault, the hard-running, do-anything wideout and offensive weapon, may shrug off the pain from his numerous injuries at Colorado, but football staff, deprived of reassuring medical exams, won’t.
At one point Shenault was considered maybe the best receiver in this draft, but now has a long list of injuries. Let’s review: turf toe and a torn labrum in 2018, both needing surgery. A core muscle injury in 2019, requiring surgery and hampering his combine workout. The stats, talent, and character all suggest a potential star, but I can’t see him getting drafted early given those ailments.
— Dan Lavoie, Buffalo Rumblings
Something wacky happens during the first round
The coronavirus has obviously impacted the way we live our daily lives as well as the 2020 NFL Draft. Teams will be attempting to go through the draft from their homes and communicating via Zoom or whatever route they decide to go. Even commissioner Roger Goodell will be announcing the picks from his basement. So things are going to be much different than we are used to.
I think some teams are going to do something wacky. Maybe we’ll see someone’s internet crash, computer freeze up, or something crazy to cause shenanigans while a team is on the clock (looking at you Cleveland). Maybe, we’ll even see a Goodell pet (does he have pets?) do something funny in the background. Either way, I think we’ll come out of Day 1 of the draft talking about something unforeseen happening.
— Scotty Payne, Mile High Report