Let’s just be clear right away. This is an extremely early projection of the first round of next year’s NFL draft. I haven’t even studied tape on most of these players yet; I start in on that next week, so these evaluations are based on watching players in person or on TV last season. The names on this list will change quite a bit even by the start of the 2019 college football season, so take the following 32 predictions for what they are: a premature look at the 2020 NFL draft.
I didn’t decide on the draft order. It was generated by Football Outsiders, using its early projected records for the 2019 season. They forecast a range of possibilities for each team’s offense, defense and special teams based on numerous factors including personnel changes, three-year performance, standard regression toward the mean and schedule strength.
This exercise is typically a good introduction to the draft class. Last year’s way-too-early mock featured 13 prospects who ultimately ended up going in the 2019 first round. Three top-10 picks remained as such and a bunch of second-round talents littered the field, while five players decided to stay in school another season (four of them are on here again this year). But again, this is 12 months out. Boston College safety Lukas Denis, coming off a seven-interception campaign, was also on my list last year, but he ended up going undrafted. It happens this early. And that’s not even to mention injuries, which caused running backs Bryce Love and Rodney Anderson to slide to Day 3. Regardless, let’s have some fun here.
Note: Underclassmen are noted with an asterisk. And since the Raiders will officially be in Las Vegas at draft time, they are referred to as the Las Vegas Raiders in this mock.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama*
Josh Rosen gets bumped by yet another No. 1 overall pick. Tagovailoa completed 69 percent of his passes last season, and he threw 43 touchdowns and only six interceptions. His 93.1 Total QBR trailed only Kyler Murray. The 6-foot-1, 218-pound lefty looks as if he could be the Dolphins’ long-term answer at quarterback — but most other teams likely to land the first overall pick would also take Tagovailoa without a second thought. He’s that good.
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama*
The Cardinals certainly don’t need a quarterback. But they could definitely use a shifty, talented receiver like Jeudy. Tagovailoa’s favorite target caught 68 balls for 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, averaging nearly 20 yards per catch. He is dangerous with the ball in his hands, and Kliff Kingsbury would love to have another dynamic player in his offense.
Grant Delpit, S, LSU*