AJ Mast/Associated Press
It’s a busy weekend in the football world.
Saturday night, the NFL will hand out the 2019 season’s biggest individual awards at the NFL Honors ceremony. Then on Sunday, the league will crown a new champion after the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs battle it out in Super Bowl LIV.
But we’re thinking a little longer term than these events. We’re focused on the future with our latest 2020 NFL mock draft, assigning teams to the top prospects who could one day collect their own NFL hardware or even help take home the title.
In the spirit of Super Bowl Weekend, we’ll follow our mock first round with a closer look at the fits of our projected picks for the Chiefs and 49ers.
NFL Mock Draft 2020
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, Edge, Ohio State
3. Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
4. New York Giants: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
7. Carolina Panthers: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
8. Arizona Cardinals: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
10. Cleveland Browns: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama
11. New York Jets: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
12. Las Vegas Raiders: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
13. Indianapolis Colts: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
15. Denver Broncos: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
16. Atlanta Falcons: A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa
17. Dallas Cowboys: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
18. Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh Steelers): Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State
19. Las Vegas Raiders (via Chicago Bears): Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams): CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
22. Buffalo Bills: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
23. New England Patriots: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
24. New Orleans Saints: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
25. Minnesota Vikings: Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma
26. Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans): D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
27. Seattle Seahawks: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
28. Baltimore Ravens: Terrell Lewis, Edge, Alabama
29. Tennessee Titans: Julian Okwara, Edge, Notre Dame
30. Green Bay Packers: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
32. San Francisco 49ers: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Kansas City’s 27th-place ranking in total rushing attempts seems perplexing.
On one hand, the Chiefs have the league’s most dynamic quarterback in reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes. Add an elite tight end in Travis Kelce and a small army of speedy receivers to the equation, and you can understand why Kansas City would air it out early and often.
Then again, wouldn’t this passing attack be even more dynamic if a top-level ground game could complement it? And shouldn’t Chiefs rushers have ample running room since defenses have to account for such explosive passing weapons?
Perhaps, then, this is a personnel-based decision, and not just because of who is under center. Damien Williams is fine, LeSean McCoy is on his last leg, Darwin Thompson didn’t do much as a rookie and both Darrel Williams and Spencer Ware were stuck on injured reserve. There’s talent in that group, but probably not a potentially elite rusher.
That title could easily fall on Jonathan Taylor, though, as he collected the last two Doak Walker awards for the best running back in college football. His career stats border on unfathomable (6,174 rushing yards, 55 total touchdowns), and adding him to this offense could make it truly unstoppable, as the Draft Network’s Trevor Sikkema explained:
“Jonathan Taylor put up some of the best numbers in college football history, will run a 4.4 at the combine, and will ace team interviews in an offense with Patrick Mahomes. Do y’all need a PowerPoint presentation to understand this or can we just go home under the agreement that the Kansas City Chiefs are winning a title with this duo at some point?”
Giving Taylor a ticket to Kansas City puts all opposing defenses in pick-your-poison scenarios, as if this offense wasn’t hard enough to handle already.
San Francisco 49ers: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
In all the pre-Super Bowl coverage, you may have heard once or twice (or a thousand times) that the 49ers have barely utilized the forward pass this season. Turns out, when your rushing game can supply 471 yards and six touchdowns over two games, you don’t really need to deviate from the plan.
Jimmy Garoppolo is more capable than most talking heads would have you think. He threw for 3,978 yards (12th overall) and 27 touchdowns (tied for fifth) this season, which was the first of his career with more than seven starts. Oh, and he also went to New Orleans and outdueled Drew Brees, which seems like kind of a big deal.
The 49ers can pass it, in other words, but they just sometimes choose not to. That’s mostly a reflection of their incredibly potent rushing attack, but this is also isn’t the greatest receiving group you’ve ever seen. It has some good pass-catchers (particularly tight end George Kittle and rookie wideout Deebo Samuel), but it isn’t super deep, and that’s especially true if Emmanuel Sanders leaves in free agency.
Maybe Brandon Aiyuk can become what they hoped Dante Pettis (the 44th pick in in 2018) would become. Like Pettis, Aiyuk was a huge play waiting to happen in college, whether he was running after the catch, returning kicks or stretching the defense vertically.
“The one trait of Aiyuk’s skill set that scouts are most intrigued with is his playmaking ability after the catch,” Jonah Tuls wrote for the Draft Network. “… His lethal speed makes him a threat on any given play. But it’s also his ability to make defenders miss in the open field with quickness and physicality.”
In Kyle Shanahan’s offense, Garoppolo usually doesn’t waste much time getting the ball out of his hands. That would give Aiyuk the opportunity to create after the catch, when he’s not sprinting on go routes to either free up Kittle and Samuel underneath or make defenses pay for giving those two too much attention.