2020 NFL mock draft: Three-round projections

©The San Diego Union-Tribune

Clemson's Isaiah Simmons (11) celebrates a defensive stop against LSU during the College Football Playoff National Championship game at Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans on January 13, 2020. - Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America/TNS

Time to shuffle the deck.

The NFL scouting combine is in full swing with the prospects gearing up for on-field drills to close out the week.

We’re three weeks away from free agency altering (or solidifying) team needs.

It’s as good a time as any to deviate from the path I’ve been laying out for the past four months and exercise my imagination to formulate an alternative theory.

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THE PREAMBLE

The NFL draft has become a nice appetizer before our main course in September. A mock version of said draft is meant to educate, and even entertain. At very least, it helps you pass the time.

The closer we get to draft day, the more I attempt to match what teams will actually do with their draft picks as opposed to what I believe they should do.

Last season, I was the fifth most accurate (out of 101) — most accurate in print — NFL draft prognosticator according to The Huddle Report. I’m 18th over the past five years.

Follow me on Twitter @UTEddieBrown so we can continue the conversation.

Here’s an updated version of my 2020 NFL mock draft, now through three rounds:

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FIRST ROUND

1. Cincinnati (2-14) — Joe Burrow, QB, LSU, Sr.

His “tiny” hands likely won’t change anything (Patrick Mahomes’ hands are about the same size). It’s probably best not to overthink this if you’re the Bengals. Burrow just finished a silly statistical season, was an almost unanimous Heisman Trophy winner and led the Tigers to a national title. He’s very talented, but I don’t consider him on par with Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning or John Elway as a prospect coming out of college. Top needs: QB, OL, LB

2. Washington (3-13) — Chase Young, Edge, Ohio St., Jr.

I imagine in an actual alternative universe, Young would be selected first overall. However, in our world, the only way he falls past No. 2 is if a team pays a king’s ransom to the Redskins in order to draft a quarterback. The actual existence of alternative universes is more probable. Top needs: OL, CB, LB

3. Detroit (3-12-1) — Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn, Sr.

It’s much more likely teams attempt to deal with the Lions to secure their quarterback-of-the-future. Ideally, I believe GM Bob Quinn would prefer to deal with the Dolphins or Chargers. He could still land an elite prospect in Brown, Jeffrey Okudah or Isaiah Simmons while adding more draft capital. It would be an executive-of-the-year type move. Top needs: DL, DB, WR

4. N.Y. Giants (4-12) — Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio St., Jr.

GM Dave Gettleman would prefer to trade down, but this is a likely scenario if he stays put. Gettleman has invested heavily in the offense since he arrived in 2018 and he’ll certainly address a mediocre offensive line this off-season, but the elite prospects that deserve to be drafted in the top five reside on the defensive side of the ball. Okudah would pair nicely with DeAndre Baker. The consensus All-American is an elite athlete who has proven proficient in man coverage and is only scratching the surface of his potential. Top needs: OT, S, DL

5. Miami (5-11) — Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama, Jr.

Everyone is waiting with bated breath for the results of Tagovailoa’s medical exams in Indy. He expects to receive full medical clearance on March 9, and will then begin preparing in earnest for his pro day on April 9. A healthy Tagovailoa compares favorably to Russell Wilson. Top needs: QB, OL, Edge

6. L.A. Chargers (5-11) — Jordan Love, QB, Utah St., Jr.

Demand ALWAYS overrules supply when it comes to quarterbacks in the draft. According to The Athletic’s Daniel Popper, Love has already confirmed meeting with the Chargers in Indy. His arm talent and mobility is exactly what head coach Anthony Lynn wants in a quarterback. Top needs: OL, QB, RB

7. Carolina (5-11) — Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson, Jr.

This almost makes too much sense after Luke Kuechly retired. The only defensive position Simmons’ ill-equipped to play is nose tackle. He’s an athletic unicorn who can rush the passer, patrol sideline-to-sideline and make an impact in coverage. Top needs: OL, DB, DL

8. Arizona (5-10-1) — CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma, Jr.

The Cardinals extended D.J. Humphries (three-years, $45 million) to guard Kyler Murray’s blindside, so GM Steve Keim can utilize this pick for more offensive weaponry. Murray’s former teammate with the Sooners has elite hands and ball skills (he’s special with the ball in the air). He can also contribute as a blocker. Top needs: OL, DL, DB

9. Jacksonville (6-10) — Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina, Sr.

The Jaguars plan to decline All-Pro defensive tackle Marcell Dareus’ option for the 2020 season, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, saving $20 million against the salary cap. Kinlaw has the potential to be a force against the pass and run at the next level. Top needs: DT, WR, LB

10. Cleveland (6-10) — Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa, Jr.

The Browns must upgrade their offensive line if Baker Mayfield has any hope in improving on a porous sophomore campaign in the pros. Wirfs is the best pass protector in this class, and talented enough to play multiple positions on the line. Top needs: OT, S, LB

11. N.Y. Jets (7-9) — Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia, Jr.

Thomas is an investment in the future of Sam Darnold. He’s a big, powerful, athletic lineman with springy footwork and quick hands who’s a dynamic closer in both the run and pass game. Top needs: OL, WR, Edge

12. Las Vegas (7-9) — Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama, Jr.

Antonio Brown’s breakdown left a sizable hole in the Raiders depth chart at receiver. Jeudy is an upgrade and the crown jewel of what is shaping up to be a special 2020 class of receivers. Top needs: WR, LB, CB

13. Indianapolis (7-9) — Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon, Sr.

A quarterback is realistic here with the top two defensive tackles off the board. Herbert has all the physical attributes (prototypical size and elite arm talent) most coaches require, but consistency has been his bane. Still, his performance during Senior Bowl week and something similar in Indy could catapult him into the top 10. Top needs: DT, WR, Edge

14. Tampa Bay (7-9) — Jedrick Wills, OL, Alabama, Jr.

The offensive line needs upgraded regardless if the Buccaneers retain Jameis Winston or pursue Philip Rivers in free agency. Wills is a powerful upgrade who is versatile enough to play guard and has shown some serious growth this season. He only allowed one quarterback pressure in his last five games, according to Pro Football Focus. Top needs: QB, OL, DL

15. Denver (7-9) — A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa, Jr.

The Broncos could see wholesale changes occur on the defensive side of the ball this off-season, especially on the defensive line. The AP All-American racked up 11.5 sacks and forced four fumbles despite facing persistent double-teams all season. Top needs: OL, DB, DL

16. Atlanta (7-9) — K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU, Soph.

The Falcons recently announced they wouldn’t pursue negotiations with their own free agent pass rusher, Vic Beasley. Chaisson features one of the highest upsides at any position in this draft class. He’s a natural speed rusher who is capable of dropping into coverage and can be an asset in defending the run. The one knock is his durability. Top needs: Edge, OG, LB

17. Dallas (8-8) — Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama, Jr.

It’s well documented how the Cowboys have attempted to upgrade the safety position over the past couple of seasons, plus All-Pro cornerback Byron Jones will be one of the most sought after free agents in March. McKinney is an elite athlete with prototypical size (6-1, 200) who can play every position in the defensive backfield. Top needs: S, DL, TE

18. Miami from Pittsburgh (8-8) — Mekhi Beckton, OT, Louisville, Jr.

The Dolphins feature the worst offensive line in the NFL. You can’t teach Beckton’s size (6-7, 369) and he’s surprisingly nimble, especially as a run blocker. Top needs: QB, OL, Edge

19. Las Vegas from Chicago (8-8) — Patrick Queen, LB, LSU, Jr.

The Raiders find a quarterback for their defense. Queen is a three down, sideline-to-sideline terror with an elite football mind. Top needs: WR, LB, CB

20. Jacksonville from L.A. Rams (9-7) — Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU, Sr.

The Jaguars will seek a replacement for All-Pro Jalen Ramsey (Tre Herndon certainly isn’t). Fulton is an elite athlete who was the top cornerback prospect coming out of high school in 2016, and has lived up to the hype (for the most part). Top needs: DT, WR, LB

21. Philadelphia (9-7) — Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama, Jr.

The Eagles wide receiver corps is in shambles. The inconsistent Nelson Agholor faces free agency while DeSean Jackson isn’t getting any younger (or healthier). Ruggs is pure electricity with the football in his hands. He scored 25 total touchdowns on 100 touches in his Crimson Tide career. Top needs: WR, DB, LB

22. Buffalo (10-6) — Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado, Jr.

An offense featuring Josh Allen, Devin Singletary and Shenault would be a creative nightmare for opposing defenses. His size (6-foot-1, 227 pounds), speed (he could run a sub-4.5 40 at the combine) and nose for the end zone (he had 10 receiving and seven rushing touchdowns the past two seasons) could catapult him into the top-20 discussion. Top needs: WR, OG, LB

23. New England (12-4) — Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma, Jr.

The Patriots need for speed at the second level of their defense has been apparent for a few seasons now. Murray is an explosive athlete who has developed elite instincts during his three seasons in Norman. His draft stock should benefit from Alabama’s Dylan Moses returning to school. Top needs: TE, OG, LB

24. New Orleans (13-3) — Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona St., Sr.

Michael Thomas is in desperate need of a sidekick and Drew Brees is returning for his 20th season. Aiyuk is a playmaker capable of scoring from anywhere on the football field. His addition would make the Saints offense lethal. Top needs: WR, LB, OG

25. Minnesota (10-6) — C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida, Jr.

Trae Waynes is an unrestricted free agent and something is clearly wrong with Xavier Rhodes. It’s nitpicking to say Henderson is a shy tackler in the run game. Shutdown corners aren’t charged with shutting down running backs. They’re supposed to shutdown wide receivers and Henderson has no problem doing that. Top needs: CB, OG, WR

26. Miami from Houston (10-6) — D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia, Jr.

The Dolphins backfield has been a mess all year. A quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick) led them in rushing yards (243) and rushing touchdowns (four) while a wide receiver (Albert Wilson) had their longest rush from scrimmage (28 yards). Swift is a shifty back able to bounce it outside or handle the rigors of running between the tackles. He’s also a weapon out of the backfield (he had 56 receptions and four touchdowns the last two seasons). Top needs: QB, OL, Edge

27. Seattle (11-5) — Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn St., Jr.

The Seahawks need an edge rusher who can take advantage of Jadeveon Clowney’s presence, assuming he returns. Gross-Matos needs to add some strength to his frame, but he’s a gifted pass rusher with elite athleticism and a nose for the ball. Top needs: Edge, OL, TE

28. Baltimore (14-2) — Terrell Lewis, Edge, Alabama, Jr.

One of the Ravens key priorities is boosting their pass rush (their 37 sacks ranked 21st in the NFL). Lewis showcased an impressive power/speed combo in Mobile during Senior Bowl week. Top needs: Edge, LB, WR

29. Tennessee (9-7) — Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama, Sr.

Logan Ryan is a free agent and Malcolm Butler is a cut candidate, leaving Adoree Jackson as the only cornerback worthy of starting on the roster. Diggs (Stefon’s little brother) is still raw, but he features elite size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) and a physicality that burdens receivers. Top needs: Edge, OT, RB

30. Green Bay (13-3) — Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU, Jr.

The Packers wide receiver corps was a disappointment last season outside of Davante Adams. Reagor is one of the most impressive athletes at any position in this draft class. Top needs: WR, LB, OT

31. San Francisco (13-3) — Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson, Jr.

The 49ers will likely trade this pick to the highest bidder, considering they won’t be on the clock again until the fifth round. If they stand pat, Higgins is a big-play machine with elite size (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) and speed. He has an “above the rim” mentality as a former basketball player and would be a steal this low in the first round. Top needs: OL, DB, WR

32. Kansas City (12-4) — Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU, Sr.

Both Beshaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller are set to become free agents. Gladney is a burner who doesn’t shy away from the physical stuff. Top needs: CB, RB, OG

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SECOND ROUND

33. Cincinnati — Josh Jones, OT, Houston, Sr.

34. Indianapolis from Washington — Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma, Sr.

35. Detroit — Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah, Jr.

36. N.Y. Giants — Austin Jackson, OT, USC, Jr.

37. L.A. Chargers — J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio St., Jr.

It’s quite possible both Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler are lost in free agency. Dobbins’ elite vision, breakaway speed and elusiveness make him one of the most difficult open-field tackles in this draft class. Top needs: OL, QB, RB

38. Carolina — Grant Delpit, S, LSU, Jr.

39. Miami — Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin, Jr.

40. Arizona — Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU, Jr.

41. Cleveland — Ashtyn Davis, S, California, Sr.

42. Jacksonville — Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame, Jr.

43. Chicago from Las Vegas — Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue, Sr.

Neither Trey Burton or Adam Shaheen have proven durable and the tight end is a focal point of this offense. Hopkins is a supersized wide receiver who can line up anywhere and is dangerous after the catch. Top needs: OG, TE, Edge

44. Indianapolis — Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU, Jr.

45. Tampa Bay — Jacob Eason, QB, Washington, Jr.

46. Denver — K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn St., So.

47. Atlanta — Jonathan Taylor, RB Wisconsin, Jr.

48. N.Y. Jets — Zach Baun, Edge, Wisconsin, Sr.

49. Pittsburgh — Julian Okwara, Edge, Notre Dame, Sr.

Sack artist Bud Dupree is an unrestricted free agent. A broken left fibula suffered in November will likely keep Okwara, a very talented pass rusher, out of the first round. He’s a potential steal here. Top needs: OL, Edge, TE

50. Chicago — Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia, Sr.

51. Dallas — Jordan Elliott, DT, Missouri, Jr.

52. L.A. Rams — Trey Adams, OL, Washington, Sr.

The Rams offensive line needs an overhaul if the offense hopes to return to its lofty stature of 2018. There are durability concerns, but Adams features the size (6-8, 314), power and athleticism the NFL requires in a starting left tackle. Top needs: OL, DL, LB

53. Philadelphia — Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne, Sr.

54. Buffalo — Lloyd Cushenberry, OL, LSU, Jr.

55. Atlanta from New England — Cesar Ruiz, OL, Michigan, Jr.

56. Miami from New Orleans — Curtis Weaver, Edge, Boise St., Jr.

57. Houston — Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia, Sr.

The Texans recently released Vernon Hargreaves, while Bradley Roby and Johnathan Joseph face free agency. Hall is a physical ball hawk and future team leader. Top needs: DT, OT, RB

58. Minnesota — Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M, Jr.

59. Seattle — Isaiah Wilson, OL, Georgia, So.

60. Baltimore — Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian St., Sr.

61. Tennessee — Josh Uche, Edge, Michigan, Sr.

62. Green Bay — Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota, So.

63. Kansas City from San Francisco — Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU, Jr.

64. Seattle from Kansas City — A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson, Jr.

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THIRD ROUND

65. Cincinnati — Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama, Sr.

66. Washington — Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio St., Sr.

67. Detroit — Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn, Sr.

68. N.Y. Jets from N.Y. Giants — Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor, Sr.

69. Carolina — Lucas Niang, OT, TCU, Sr.

70. Miami — Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn, Jr.

71. L.A. Chargers — Troy Dye, LB, Oregon, Sr.

Thomas Davis can’t play forever and it’s clear GM Tom Telesco has an affinity for drafting linebackers. Dye features the elite range/athleticism to make plays all over the field and in coverage. He’s a high-energy player who will contribute on special teams day one. Top needs: OL, QB, RB

72. Arizona — Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State, Jr.

73. Jacksonville — Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio St., Sr.

74. Cleveland — Netane Muti, OL, Fresno St., Jr.

75. Indianapolis — Bradlee Anae, Edge, Utah, Sr.

76. Tampa Bay — Marlon Davidson, DL, Auburn, Sr.

77. Denver — Lamar Jackson, CB, Nebraska, Sr.

78. Atlanta — Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington, Jr.

79. N.Y. Jets — Robert Hunt, OL, Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr.

80. Las Vegas — Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas, Sr.

81. Las Vegas from Chicago — Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame, Sr.

82. Dallas — Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU, So.

83. Denver from Pittsburgh — Matt Hennessey, OL, Temple, Jr.

84. L.A. Rams — Darrell Taylor, Edge, Tennessee, Sr.

Dante Fowler Jr. is a free agent. Taylor features prototypical size (6-4, 255) for an edge rusher and showcased a power/speed combo that had scouts talking during Senior Bowl week. Top needs: OL, DL, LB

85. Philadelphia — Ben Bredeson, OG, Michigan, Sr.

86. Buffalo — Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan, Jr.

87. New England — Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton, Sr.

88. New Orleans — Solomon Kindley, OL, Georgia, Jr.

89. Minnesota — Logan Stenberg, OL, Kentucky, Sr.

90. Cleveland from Houston — Jason Strowbridge, DL, North Carolina, Sr.

91. Las Vegas from Seattle — Ben Bartch, OT, St. John, Sr.

92. Baltimore — Terrell Burgess, S, Utah, Sr.

93. Tennessee — Zack Moss, RB, Utah, Sr.

94. Green Bay — Jack Driscoll, OL, Auburn, Sr.

95. Denver from San Francisco — Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise St., Jr.

96. Kansas City — Davon Hamilton, DL, Ohio State, Sr.

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