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NFL

2020 NFL mock draft (Version 8.0): Eight trades shake things up in first round — for the Ravens, too

On Thursday, NFL teams will conduct their draft from the comfort of their homes. Commissioner Roger Goodell will announce picks from his basement. It will all be very weird.

The coronavirus pandemic has shifted the draft to the virtual world, and among the many questions for teams and viewers alike is how trades will be conducted. Rest assured, they’ll happen — of last year’s 32 first-round picks, only 20 were made by the original team holding the selection — but the frequency of deals might be affected by the unusual nature of this year’s event.

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With that in mind, here are The Baltimore Sun’s final first-round projections, with a few trades sprinkled in:

1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

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You can pick some nits with Burrow: He’ll turn 24 as a rookie, he had just one standout season in college, and his arm strength is just about average. But his innate pocket awareness, poise, passing touch and decision-making make him the best quarterback prospect in this class. Cincinnati, after spending in free agency for the first time in a while, can start building a competitive roster around its franchise QB.

2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State

Washington coach Ron Rivera recently said of the team’s draft plan: “I’d like to believe in the back of my mind I know what we want to do.” It sure seems like the Redskins aren’t deviating from drafting Young, who looked like a potential perennial All-Pro after posting 16½ sacks and 21 tackles for loss as a junior. It’s going to take quite a trade haul for Washington to consider moving this pick.

3. TRADE! Los Angeles Chargers (Detroit Lions get picks Nos. 6, 37, 112): Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

The first big splash on opening night happens here, with the Chargers ignoring all the skepticism surrounding Tagovailoa’s health and making an aggressive move to jump the Miami Dolphins and land their quarterback of choice. The Chargers have a talented roster, and Tyrod Taylor can be a serviceable starter if Tagovailoa needs more time to get ready. After an efficient and productive college career, Tagovailoa is worth the risk.

4. New York Giants: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama

The Giants are also in position to trade down and stockpile picks, but Dave Gettleman has been reluctant to do so in his tenure. And with reports that his job is on the line, a win-now pick on a much-needed tackle could be in store. Wills doesn’t have the eye-popping athletic traits of Mekhi Becton and Tristan Wirfs, but he’s the most technically sound of the bunch and a ferocious run blocker.

5. Miami Dolphins: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

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It’s hard to know just what the Dolphins think about this year’s quarterback class. Maybe they’ll be disappointed by losing out on Tagovailoa, or maybe his medical red flags scare them off and they end up with the quarterback they wanted all along. Herbert, despite being a four-year starter in college, will need time to develop, with flashes of brilliance overshadowed by some head-scratching decisions and poor throws. He can sit behind Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Dolphins fill out their steadily improving roster.

6. Detroit Lions (via Chargers): Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson

If the draft breaks this way, the Lions are faced with a choice between Simmons and cornerback Jeff Okudah. While Okudah fills an immediate need — replacing Pro Bowl corner Darius Slay — Simmons’ potential as a versatile chess piece on all three levels of the defense might be more valuable.

7. TRADE! Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Carolina Panthers get picks Nos. 14, 45, 117): Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

Another trade comes courtesy of the Bucs, who are in win-now mode with 42-year-old quarterback Tom Brady signed for two years. Tampa Bay needs depth on the offensive line to protect its new investment, and Wirfs, while not the ready-made prospect Wills is, can be a starter in Year 1 and perhaps grow into an elite player.

8. TRADE! Atlanta Falcons (Cardinals get picks Nos. 16, 47, 119): Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

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If Okudah slips this far, there’s sure to be a team ready to pounce. In this case, it’s Atlanta. The Falcons need a starting corner after cutting veteran Desmond Trufant, and Okudah can be that and then some, with elite physical traits and tone-setting competitiveness.

9. TRADE! Denver Broncos (Jacksonville Jaguars get picks Nos. 15, 46, 118): Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

The Broncos are reportedly trying to trade up, likely with the Browns at No. 10. Here, the rebuilding Jaguars gladly accept Denver’s offer, giving the Broncos their pick of a loaded receiver class. Jeudy is the most polished of the bunch, but don’t be surprised if Denver opts for speedster Henry Ruggs III or playmaker CeeDee Lamb instead.

10. Cleveland Browns: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Even with the Bucs trading up for a tackle, the Browns are still able to land one of the top linemen. Becton is considered a bit of a project, but he’s a freak athlete who can dominate in the running game and help solidify an unsteady offensive line.

11. New York Jets: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

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Unless there’s a big run of receivers in the top 10, the Jets are likely to come away with one of the draft’s top three pass-catchers. Lamb is an explosive athlete who can give the Jets the dangerous, physical threat on the outside they’ve been searching for.

12. Las Vegas Raiders: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

The Raiders made some strong moves in free agency to solidify their defense, including signing linebackers Corey Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski. Now they can turn their attention toward the offense, which has talent but lacks a big-play threat. In steps Ruggs, who offers game-breaking speed and will be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.

13. San Francisco 49ers (via Colts): Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn

The 49ers lose out on a top receiver to replace Emmanuel Sanders in this scenario, but Brown isn’t a bad consolation prize. A run-stopping dynamo, Brown bolsters what’s already the league’s scariest front four by stepping in for DeForest Buckner, who was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in return for this pick.

14. Carolina Panthers (via Buccaneers): Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina

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Like he did at Temple and Baylor, coach Matt Rhule is looking to build a tough, physical team that dominates up front. Kinlaw isn’t the run-stopper Brown is, but he offers a bit more upside as a pass rusher and can use his length and strength to create havoc in the backfield.

15. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Broncos): Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

The Jaguars could go several directions here after trading away defensive lineman Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and quarterback Nick Foles. The defense needs help at every level, and a top-tier receiver or offensive lineman wouldn’t hurt, either. But how about a quarterback? Though Gardner Minshew showed promise as a rookie, the Jaguars don’t have much invested in the former undrafted free agent. Jacksonville is going nowhere fast, so it might as well take a chance with one of its first-round picks.

16. Arizona Cardinals (via Falcons): Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

The Cardinals could take this opportunity to improve one of the league’s worst defenses, but if an elite tackle prospect is still on the board, it’s a safe bet Arizona will grab him. Offensive Rookie of the Year Kyle Murray is ready to take the next step, and he needs a solid line in front of him for the passing game to reach its potential with superstar trade acquisition DeAndre Hopkins.

17. Dallas Cowboys: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

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It’ll be interesting to see what new coach Mike McCarthy prioritizes with the team’s first pick. The Cowboys need an edge rusher, and a slot receiver such as LSU’s Justin Jefferson could take the offense to the next level as the team decides what to do with franchise-tagged quarterback Dak Prescott. Instead, in an attempt to replace Byron Jones, Dallas takes Henderson, a twitchy athlete who can be a lockdown press-man corner.

18. Miami Dolphins (via Steelers): K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU

The Dolphins have a serious need for an offense tackle, and they risk losing out on Houston’s Josh Jones if they don’t take him here. But Chaisson’s upside as a quick, bendy pass rusher is worth taking a chance on as Miami looks to build a formidable defense after spending heavily in free agency.

19. Las Vegas Raiders (via Bears): Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

Gladney might be considered a reach with this pick, but after a deal with free agent Eli Apple fell through, the Raiders need a cornerback badly. Gladney is a bit undersized at 5 foot 10 and 191 pounds, but his quickness, awareness and toughness make him a much-needed upgrade in the secondary.

20. TRADE! Baltimore Ravens (Jaguars get picks Nos. 28, 60): Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

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Though much more likely to trade down than trade up over the years, the Ravens haven’t been in this position before: coming off a 14-2 season with a Most Valuable Player quarterback and few holes to fill on the roster. If there’s a first-round prospect they really want, they have the assets (four picks in the top 100) to trade up for him. Queen’s instincts, athleticism and toughness would be a welcome addition to the middle of the defense.

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

After trading for Darius Slay, the Eagles don’t have a glaring hole at cornerback anymore. That allows them to pursue upgrades at receiver, linebacker and safety. Jefferson, who put up some eye-popping testing numbers at the scouting combine (4.43-second 40-yard dash, 126-inch broad jump) after a productive career at LSU, can make an immediate impact.

22. Minnesota Vikings (via Bills): A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

Minnesota has some big holes to fill after losing key defensive players this offseason, including linemen Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph and cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, and trading star receiver Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills. Epenesa is a strong, productive pass rusher with the ability to defend the run and disrupt inside.

23. TRADE! Detroit Lions (New England Patriots get picks Nos. 35, 85, 112): Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU

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With the top quarterbacks off the board and no second-round pick, the Patriots elect to trade down and get an offer from old friend Matt Patricia. The Lions need a physical presence on the interior of their defensive line, and Blacklock has been a steady riser because of his tantalizing skill set as a pass rusher and run defender.

24. New Orleans Saints: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

If the Saints have any holes on their roster, it’s at linebacker. Murray isn’t a perfect prospect — he has problems locating the ball and fighting off blocks — but his sideline-to-sideline speed, athleticism and ability to win one-on-one matchups as a blitzer make him an intriguing addition to any defense.

25. Minnesota Vikings: Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah

The Vikings desperately need a replacement for Diggs, but when they pick again at No. 58, chances are that there’s going to be some pretty good receivers still available. The same might not be true for cornerback, which is why they elect to take Johnson, a tall, fluid and physical prospect.

26. Miami Dolphins (via Texans): Josh Jones, OT, Houston

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The Dolphins are able to come away with a quality tackle in the first round in Jones, who still needs some refinement in his game but can look dominant at times. Expect Miami to invest a whole lot more in its offensive line in the middle rounds.

27. TRADE! Indianapolis Colts (Seattle Seahawks get picks Nos. 44, 75): Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

In each of the past four drafts, the Seahawks have either traded down a few spots or traded out of the first round completely. It’s a safe bet to happen again, though Seattle’s need for an edge rusher might convince general manager John Schneider to stay put. For the Colts, trading up for a receiver in a loaded class might not be the best use of resources, but Higgins’ incredible catch radius and ability to make people miss after the catch would be valuable for new quarterback Philip Rivers.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Ravens): Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

With the haul of picks the Jaguars got from the Broncos and Ravens in this scenario, Jacksonville can completely reshape its roster. McKinney is an instinctive, fluid and versatile player and brings some added value as a reliable tackler in the box.

29. Tennessee Titans: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State

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The Titans traded Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey to the Broncos to shed salary and used that money to sign Vic Beasley, who has had just 18 sacks in three seasons after recording 15½ in 2016 with Atlanta. So the Titans still need upgrades at edge rusher and the defensive line. Gross-Matos can line up anywhere on the line of scrimmage and use his athleticism, length and a wide array of moves to beat blockers.

30. Green Bay Packers: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

If Reagor played like he did as a freshman and sophomore at TCU, he’d be a top-15 pick, especially after lighting up the combine with the second-best vertical jump and broad jump among receivers. His 2019 tape leaves much to be desired, but his acceleration and ability to win contested catches despite his small frame (5-11, 206 pounds) make him a big-play threat.

31. TRADE! Cleveland Browns (49ers get picks Nos. 41, 97): Zack Baun, LB/EDGE, Wisconsin

After some big free-agent signings, including tackle Jack Conklin and tight end Austin Hooper, the Browns are shaping up to be offseason winners. Here, they move up 10 spots to land a player at one of a few remaining positions of need. Baun not only is an excellent pass rusher but also has experience in pass coverage and can hold up against the run. His versatility would go a long way toward improving Cleveland’s defense.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

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The Chiefs lost cornerbacks Morris Claiborne, Kendall Fuller and Beshaud Breeland from their championship roster, leaving the secondary perilously thin. Terrell’s length, quickness and awareness and his ability to play multiple coverages should help him contribute early in Kansas City.


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