NFL mock draft: Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa will go early

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa throws confetti into the air after beating Oklahoma to win the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30, 2018.
(Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)
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The NFL has moved the draft out of Las Vegas and into a different kind of casino.

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the league has ordered all team facilities closed. Players cannot make in-person visits to clubs. Lots of medical reports are incomplete.

Typically, this is high season for gathering every shred of information about prospects. Tens of millions of dollars ride on these decisions. But in this strange reality, scouting departments are having to rely more on game video, as opposed to being swayed by a pro-day performance or a compelling sit-down with the head coach.


Everybody is in the same boat, so this could lead to a more pure process, one that hinges on film study. Some evaluators are better than others in that regard.

But in the case of teams looking to draft a quarterback, and particularly those picking in the top 10, this makes the process more nerve-racking.

The NFL’s insistence to stick with the dates for next month’s draft could be problematic, giving some teams an unfair advantage and leaving some lesser-known players out in the cold.

March 23, 2020

Consider the Miami Dolphins and Chargers, who pick fifth and sixth, respectively. Both are looking for quarterbacks. Both are considering Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, who is coming off hip surgery. Do they know enough about him to bet their immediate future on his full recovery?

Then again, they might not have a chance to draft him.

All signs point to Cincinnati taking Louisiana State quarterback Joe Burrow with the first pick, but it’s entirely possible someone falls in love with Tagovailoa and takes him second. Maybe Washington stays there and selects him, even though the Redskins took Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins 15th overall last year. Haskins didn’t make a convincing case as a rookie that he’s the answer.

Maybe the Dolphins swap positions with the Redskins, seeing as Miami has plenty of trade-up ammunition with three first-round picks. Or maybe the Chargers find a way to trade up to No. 2.

When a potential franchise quarterback is on the line, teams will go to extremes to get him.


In The Times’ mock draft 2.0, it doesn’t go that way. Questions about Tagovailoa’s health, and an inability to completely quash them, has him tumbling to the Chargers at the sixth spot. The Dolphins opt for Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, whom some evaluators have compared to Buffalo’s Josh Allen.

Rams great and current team employee Eric Dickerson was sitting at his computer when the new logos were unveiled. His reaction mirrored that of many fans.

March 26, 2020

Here’s one way the first round could unfold:

1. CINCINNATI: QB Joe Burrow, Louisiana State — Andy Dalton is still under contract with the Bengals, so it’s conceivable the team could keep him to avoid a rushed transition to a rookie.

Louisiana State quarterback Joe Burrow celebrates after a touchdown against Clemson during the College Football Playoff National Championship game on Jan. 13.
(Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

2. WASHINGTON: Edge rusher Chase Young, Ohio State — Some see Young as a generational talent. Others don’t see him as the type of do-everything talent Nick Bosa was, but certainly worthy of the second pick.

3. DETROIT: CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State — The Lions traded cornerback Darius Slay to Philadelphia — and signed free agent Desmond Trufant — but still intend to make moves at the position.

4. N.Y. GIANTS: LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson — Simmons has Derwin James-type versatility, and the Giants could move him all over the place. The Giants also could take the top offensive lineman here.


5. MIAMI: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon — The Dolphins attended Herbert’s workout in Oregon earlier this month and reportedly liked what they saw, particularly his arm strength.

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert throws a pass against Utah during the Pac-12 Conference championship game on Dec. 6.
(Tony Avelar / Associated Press)

6. CHARGERS: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama — They don’t have a complete picture on his health at this point, but the upside is so promising with Tagovailoa, the Chargers swallow hard and take him. He can learn behind Tyrod Taylor.

7. CAROLINA: DT Derrick Brown, Auburn — The Panthers have lost a ton of talent on the defensive front, and Brown would be a steal for them here.

8. ARIZONA: OT Jedrick Wills, Alabama — Wills is a true right tackle, and the Cardinals need one. He gave up only one sack last season.

9. JACKSONVILLE: DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina — With Marcell Dareus gone, the Jaguars have big cleats to fill on the defensive line. Kinlaw can line up at any spot on that front.


10. CLEVELAND: OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville — More than one tackle could be off the board at this point. If Becton is around, the Browns would be delighted to take him.

Louisville offensive lineman Mehki Becton (73) throws some blocks during a game against Western Kentucky on Sept. 14.
(Mike Strasinger / Associated Press)

11. N.Y. JETS: OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa — The Jets need a receiver, but this draft is flush with them. If there’s a run on tackles, they have to strongly consider that.

12. LAS VEGAS: QB Jordan Love, Utah State — Jon Gruden has to appreciate the raw ability of the lightly experienced but talented Love, who could ultimately replace Derek Carr.

13. SAN FRANCISCO: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma — The 49ers just lost Emmanuel Sanders to the Saints. They haven’t had a homegrown No. 1 receiver since Terrell Owens.

14. TAMPA BAY: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia — The Buccaneers got quarterback Tom Brady. They need to buy him some more time by building a wall.


15. DENVER: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama — The Broncos let Sanders go midway through last season. Jeudy would be a great bookend to Courtland Sutton.

Alabama receiver Jerry Jeudy is chased by Clemson's Isaiah Simmons during the College Football Playoff National Championship game on Jan. 7.
(Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

16. ATLANTA: S Xavier McKinney, Alabama — Keanu Neal is coming back from a torn Achilles, and the Falcons need to fortify their secondary.

17. DALLAS: S Grant Delpit, Louisiana State — The Cowboys need to shore up the back end of their defense. Delpit is talented, but his tackling is in question.

18. MIAMI: WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama — Receiver isn’t a glaring need for the Dolphins, but there’s no telling if DeVante Parker can maintain last season’s pace.

19. LAS VEGAS: LB Patrick Queen, Louisiana State — Adding Cory Littleton reduced the pressure on the Raiders to grab a linebacker in the first, but Queen is good value here.


20. JACKSONVILLE: OT Josh Jones, Houston — The Jaguars beefed up their defensive front with their first pick, and now grab a tackle whose stock is climbing.

21. PHILADELPHIA: WR Justin Jefferson, Louisiana State — Jefferson caught 111 passes from Burrow last season. Carson Wentz needs another reliable target.

22. MINNESOTA: DT Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma — Linval Joseph is now with the Chargers, leaving a big gap on Minnesota’s defensive front. Gallimore has quickness and size.

23. NEW ENGLAND: Edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State — Could this be the next Trey Flowers for the Patriots? Bill Belichick’s batting average is off the charts in the first round.

24. NEW ORLEANS: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama — The Saints need a bookend to Marshon Lattimore, and Diggs would be a good fit.

25. MINNESOTA: CB C.J. Henderson, Florida — Henderson ran the 40 in 4.39 seconds and would give a big boost to a team that can get a receiver later.

26. MIAMI: LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma — Linebacker isn’t a top area of need for the Dolphins, but Murray would be good value here and help solidify the middle of the defense.


27. SEATTLE: Edge rusher A.J. Epenesa, Iowa — Epenesa could be the cornerstone of Pete Carroll’s next wave of young pass rushers.

28. BALTIMORE: C Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin — With Marshal Yanda retiring, the Ravens probably are going to need to reshuffle their offensive line.

29. TENNESSEE: OLB K’Lavon Chaisson, Louisiana State — Vic Beasley helps the Titans ramp up their pass-rushing prowess, but there’s more help needed there.

30. GREEN BAY: WR Laviska Shenault, Colorado — The tough and versatile Shenault could be a Randall Cobb type for the Packers.

31. SAN FRANCISCO: DT Ross Blacklock, Texas Christian — With his ability to penetrate, Blacklock would fit right into that aggressive, one-gap defensive line that lost DeForest Buckner.

32. KANSAS CITY: RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin — The Chiefs could use a center, but this might be a bit early for LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry. Best value could be at running back.