In the first two weeks of the season, the Miami Dolphins were outscored 102-10, making them the early favorites to secure the No. 1 pick, which, at the time, seemed likely to end up with them selecting Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
The Dolphins' front office attempted to further gut their roster - to assure they would finish with the worst record in the sport - by trading second-year safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept 16. Trading arguably the best player on the team, just weeks after jettisoning left tackle Laremy Tunsil, seemed like a pretty sure way to set the Dolphins up to go 0-16.
The only thing is that someone forgot to tell first-year head coach Brian Flores about the plan. Flores' team, led by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and wide receiver DeVante Parker, won five of their final nine games, including upsetting the playoff-bound Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots.
After an 0-8 start, the Dolphins finished 5-11, leaving them with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Additionally, the aforementioned Tagovailoa suffered a dislocated right hip in a November win over Mississippi State, ending his season and putting his short and long-term future in doubt. In fact, he's even hinted at potentially returning to Alabama for his senior season and attempting to rebuild his draft stock, an idea that would have seemed unfathomable just a couple months ago.
While Tagovailoa won't announce his decision on whether to enter the 2020 NFL Draft until Jan. 6, we're going to assume for the sake of this exercise that he's going to forego his senior season. Here's RADIO.COM's 2020 NFL Draft mock version 3.0:
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow - Quarterback, LSU
Barring something unforeseen, Burrow, the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner, is going to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He went to high school in Ohio and began his college career at Ohio State, and while he needed a detour to Baton Rougue, it appears Burrow is likely to head back to the buckeye state.
Through the first 14 games that Burrow has played in 2019, he has 55 touchdowns and 5,208 passing yards. In 478 passing attempts in 2019, Burrow has been picked off just six times. He's had one of the most dominant individual seasons that a college quarterback has ever had.
After defeating Oklahoma 63-28 in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Burrow and company will play Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 13.
His most impressive performance remains his Nov. 9 triumph in Tuscaloosa, when the 23-year-old led LSU to a 46-41 win over Alabama, then the No. 2 ranked team in the country. Burrow, whose heartbeat never seemed to increase in speed, completed 31 of 39 passing attempts for 393 yards and three touchdowns. For good measure, he added 64 rushing yards.
If Tagovailoa hadn't suffered a dislocated hip, there would be been a legitimate debate to be had about which of the two should be the top overall quarterback taken. As is, Burrow is the overwhelming favorite to be taken with the top selection.
2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young - Defensive End, Ohio State
Even in what was a very weak NFC East, the Redskins are probably a few years away from realistically contending. Still, for an organization that's normally the picture of dysfunction, the Redskins have had a pretty encouraging start to the offseason.
Long-time team president Bruce Allen was fired after a 3-13 season, nearly three months after head coach Jay Gruden was dismissed. Thursday, the Redskins introduced Ron Rivera, who had previously been the Carolina Panthers head coach, as their new head coach. In addition to Rivera - who led the Panthers to four playoff appearances in eight plus seasons - the Redskins tabbed Jack Del Rio (the former head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders) as their new defensive coordinator.
With a defensive-minded coaching staff, the Redskins shouldn't have to think too hard about what they do with the No. 2 pick, if we assume that Burrow will be taken No. 1 overall. Ohio State defensive end Chase Young is the most highly-touted player to enter the draft in some time, and by losing to the division-rival New York Giants in Week 16, among other losses, the Redskins will have the right to select the 20-year-old.
Despite a two-game suspension in 2019 for an NCAA rules violation, Young was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy after setting a new Ohio State record with 16.5 sacks in 2019. In 34 career college games, Young has 30.5 sacks and 40.5 tackles for a loss.
A new coaching staff - and ultimately, a new front office - will have to decide just how keen they are on the idea of moving forward with Dwayne Haskins, the team's 2019 first-round pick, as their quarterback. But even if they have some reservations, it would be a major mistake to select anyone but Young with this pick.
3. Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah - Cornerback, Ohio State
The NFC North will continue to be tough to navigate through, but it stands to reason that the Lions have the offensive pieces to be competitive in 2020.
Before fracturing a back muscle that limited him to just eight games, quarterback Matthew Stafford seemed to have strong chemistry with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay and T.J. Hockenson make up an exciting young trio of pass catching options. There was even a lot to like about second-year running back Bo Scarbrough, who averaged 4.2 yards per carry in 2019.
Ultimately, though, the buck is going to stop on defense in 2019. Yes, the Lions had bad luck with injuries on the offensive side of the ball. They also lost a pretty remarkable amount of close games, which suggests they were better than their 3-12-1 record would lead you to believe. None of that erases that the Lions lost their final nine games, thanks in large part to fact that they finished the season with the No. 31 ranked defense.
The Lions' standing defensively reflects especially poorly on head coach Matt Patricia, who had previously been the New England Patriots' defensive coordinator. Patricia will return for a third season, but virtually the entire staff that he brought with him just two years ago has been cleaned out. If things don't drastically improve in 2020, he's probably next.
As much as the Lions probably hope that the Redskins make the mistake of not selecting Chase Young with the No. 2 pick, that's probably unrealistic, and they'll be happy to select Young's former Ohio State teammate Jeff Okudah, the top overall defensive back expected to be available in the 2020 NFL Draft. Okudah will help fix what was the 21st-ranked pass defense in 2019, in a division where there are proficient passing attacks in Green Bay and Minnesota.
4. New York Giants: Andrew Thomas - Offensive Tackle, Georgia
If a team or two feels confident about Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's health or falls in love with Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, it may behoove general manager Dave Gettleman and the Giants to consider trading down a few picks. Whether Gettleman is willing to move down in the NFL Draft remains to be seen.
If the Giants stay at No. 4, they could go one of two routes.
Sterling Shepard has had trouble staying healthy and the Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr. last offseason, so it would be hard to fault them if they considered taking one of the top two wide receivers - Alabama's Jerry Jeudy or Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb - with this pick. Either, when added to Saquon Barkley, Evan Ingram and Darius Slayton would give the Giants a pretty exciting young core of skill-position talent around quarterback Daniel Jones.
More likely, though, is that the Giants find Jones' long-term left tackle in Georgia's Andrew Thomas, a unanimous All-American in 2019.
With Thomas in the fold, the Giants would have optionality with Nate Solder, who Gettleman inked to a four-year/$62 million deal before the 2018 season. There is an out in the former New England Patriots' contract this offseason, though releasing him would still leave the Giants with $13 million in dead cap for 2020. More likely is that they weigh trade offers for the 31-year-old or shift him elsewhere on the offensive line.
5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa - Quarterback, Alabama
These aren't the circumstances that Dolphins' brass hoped to have the chance to select Tagovailoa in, but if he does ultimately declare for the NFL Draft, you have to think they would still be intrigued by the possibility of selecting the 21-year-old.
In parts of three seasons at Alabama, Tagovailoa tossed 87 touchdowns and ran for nine more. He led the Crimson Tide to the 2018 National Championship. He has some qualities that remind you of Russell Wilson or Kyler Murray, but he's 6'1.
There's a lot to like about Tagovailoa, but certainly his health gives you pause. In addition to the surgery that he had to correct his hip fracture - which certainly isn't something that should be glossed over - he's had "tightrope" surgery on both of his ankles. That's a pretty extended injury history for someone that played in just 32 college games.
The Dolphins may be the right fit for Tagovailoa, though. They'd likely be willing to be as patient as possible with him, even if his rookie season turned into a redshirt season. Ryan Fitzpatrick could return for another season, and the Dolphins would be set up well to secure another high draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. At that point, they could reassess how they feel about the likelihood of Tagovailoa being able to have a full, healthy career.
The idea of taking that much of a risk with a top-five pick might seem like a bit much, but the Dolphins haven't had a franchise quarterback since Dan Marino retired following the 1999 season. If they are convinced Tagovailoa would be a superstar in the NFL, they have five first-round picks and four second-round picks over the next two years. They could afford to take the risk for the potential on Tagovailoa.
It's possible that they are a team that falls in love with Oregon's Justin Herbert and simply select him. However, it's hard to talk about the Dolphins and not bring up the "what if" on whether the team's doctors had cleared Drew Brees in his physical prior to the 2006 season, allowing the organization to sign what ended up being one of the most accomplished players in the sport. Even if it's subconscious, you have to wonder if the fear of not taking a chance on Tagovailoa and him ending up being an elite quarterback elsewhere will hit home in Miami more than other places.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert - Quarterback, Oregon
After throwing 20 interceptions in his age-38 season, it does feel like the Chargers will part ways with franchise icon Philip Rivers, who isn't under contract for 2020.
Exactly how they will proceed at the quarterback position is less clear.
In the RADIO.COM offices earlier this season some of our staff half-jokingly wondered if the Chargers, trying to gain traction before moving into SoFi Stadium, would consider making a push for Tom Brady, if he wants to play in 2020 and doesn't return to the New England Patriots. Peter King and Rich Eisen recently had a similar discussion, and also threw the name of Drew Brees, who began his career with the Chargers, into the mix. So, as the Chargers try to gain any semblance of fandom in Los Angeles, either of those possibilities is at least something to keep in mind.
From a purely team-building perspective, the Chargers could find themselves in position to select their next franchise quarterback in April's NFL Draft.
The aforementioned Tagovailoa may still be on the board, which could pique the interest of Los Angeles. If he's gone, Oregon's Justin Herbert would be the best quarterback prospect still remaining.
Herbert did rush for three touchdowns in Oregon's Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin, but he also only threw for 138 yards and one interception. Bleacher Report's David Kenyon called Herbert's performing "a fitting end" to his college career, one that's left NFL evaluators unsure of what the 6'6, 237 pound quarterback will be at the next level.
"Herbert is a tough evaluation," NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah admitted in November. "[You] very rarely see him sit in the pocket and scan the field. [He makes] a bunch of first-read throws and quick hitters. [He makes] some wow throws and awful misses."
In Los Angeles, Herbert could potentially sit behind Tyrod Taylor (or any of the veterans mentioned, if signed) until he's ready. Whether Chargers' brass can be sold on Herbert - both as a prospect and the face of a franchise that desperately needs to make in-roads in their market - remains to be seen.
7. Carolina Panthers: Jerry Jeudy - Wide Receiver, Alabama
In three seasons at Alabama, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy has 159 catches for 2,742 yards and 26 touchdowns.
He's ready to make an impact in the NFL in 2020.
"I've never studied a college wide receiver with better route-running skills than Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy," ESPN's Todd McShay said in a gushing review of one of the 2020 NFL Draft's top prospects. "For young, aspiring wide receivers, Jeudy is a technique clinic!"
While the Panthers could theoretically be in the market for a quarterback, at this juncture it appears more likely that they'll retain former NFL MVP Cam Newton, who is under contract for 2020. The top three quarterbacks in the draft class could also be off the board by the time they're on the clock.
Regardless of who is playing quarterback in Carolina in 2020 and beyond, the Panthers have finally begun to build a talented group of skill-position players. Even in what turned out to be a disastrous season from a team perspective, Christian McCaffrey joined the exclusive 1,000/1,000 club, rushing for 1,387 yards and tallying 1,005 receiving yards. With a revolving door of quarterbacks, D.J. Moore had 87 catches for 1,175 yards in 2019. If you add Jeudy into the mix, the Panthers could have a dominant group of skill-position players.
8. Arizona Cardinals: CeeDee Lamb - Wide Receiver, Oklahoma
Certainly, there's an argument for the Cardinals using this pick to address their defense, which was ranked dead-last in the NFL in 2019. The idea of reuniting Lamb with Kyler Murray, who won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma in 2018, may be too good to pass up, though.
Lamb, who has already declared for the NFL Draft, had a monster junior season in Lincoln Riley's offense. In 13 games, Lamb caught 62 passes for 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns. In three collegiate seasons, Lamb racked up 3,292 yards, 1,158 of which came with Murray throwing the ball to him in 2018.
"He's one of the most natural receivers I have ever seen in terms of hands, ball skills and tracking," Joe Marino of The Draft Network said of Lamb.
It will take some time - especially if they use their top-10 pick on an offensive player - to fix the Cardinals' defense. But Kliff Kingsbury's offense allowed the Cardinals to stay competitive in some games that they had no business being in, namely two against the San Francisco 49ers, who ultimately secured the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Adding Lamb to an offense whose leading receiver was 36-year-old Larry Fitzgerald and re-signing Kenyan Drake would allow Murray to continue to ascend to being one of the league's elite young quarterbacks in 2020.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown - Defensive Tackle, Auburn
Just two years removed from riding an elite defense to a lead at halftime of the AFC Championship Game in Foxborough, the Jaguars' defense regressed to the 24th-ranked unit in the sport in 2019.
The Jaguars need to figure out how they plan to proceed at quarterback - they would take on $33.875 million in dead cap if they released Nick Foles - but they also need to retool their defense if they hope to compete in the AFC South in 2020.
Retooling the defense could take various forms. One could be Clemson outside linebacker Isaiah Simmons, but if Brown is still on the board, it's hard to imagine the Jaguars passing on him.
"Derrick Brown is a Day 1 candidate for a team looking for a potentially elite player at defensive tackle," said Benjamin Solak of The Draft Network. "Brown's blend of size, first-step explosiveness, and devastating power make him an absolute homewrecker on the interior. Brown is successful one-gapping or two-gapping from multiple alignments between the tackles, and should be moved around at the NFL level to maximize his impact."
For a Jaguars' team that finished with the 28th ranked rush defense in 2019, Brown would be a major addition as general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone look to save their jobs.
10. Cleveland Browns: Grant Delpit - Safety, LSU
The Browns could go in a bunch of different directions here.
In this mock, the aforementioned Isaiah Simmons would still be on the board. So would Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, who could become intriguing if the Browns were to trade Odell Beckham Jr. Their biggest need is offensive line help, but ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Iowa's Tristan Wirfs as the 20th best overall player, the second best offensive lineman. The Browns could trade down and take Wirfs, but it's also possible they address their need for offensive line help through a trade - Trent Williams and Nate Solder come to mind - and later on in the draft.
So, in this scenario, the Browns select LSU safety Grant Delpit, who can help them in both the pass and run game, rather than forcing a pick. Perhaps that's optimistic for the Browns, but owner Jimmy Haslam says that the Browns are "more determined than ever to get it right."
Delpit would be getting it right.
"He is a complete safety in the mold of former LSU star Jamal Adams," Kiper Jr. says. "Both can stick running backs in the hole on one play, cover the slot receiver on the next and play the deep middle of the field on the same drive."