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2020 NFL Mock Draft: Mel Kiper releases first projection of year

Alabama v Mississippi State Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The first Mel Kiper, Jr., 2020 NFL Mock Draft has been released. ESPN typically trades back and forth between Kiper and Todd McShay throughout the build up to the Draft, though it has been a minute since McShay released his first mock of the year back in December. Kiper, with all the underclassman declared for the Draft, now brings us his first projection of the first round.

He starts with what is becoming a consensus first-overall pick, projecting the Cincinnati Bengals to select LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. He then follows that pick with the Washington Redskins adding Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, the Detroit Lions selecting Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, and the New York Giants picking Clemson outside linebacker Isaiah Simmons.

Which brings us to the Miami Dolphins’ first of three picks on the opening night of the Draft. Kiper projects Miami to use the fifth-overall pick on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. He writes of the pick:

Let’s rewind: Back in 2006, the Nick Saban-coached Dolphins passed on signing a quarterback coming off a serious injury and instead traded draft picks to acquire Daunte Culpepper and Joey Harrington. Things didn’t work out, and Saban moved on to Alabama the next year. The quarterback Saban and Miami could have had? Drew Brees. Now, Saban has a talented quarterback with injury questions, and things have come full circle. The Dolphins shouldn’t pass on this one. Tagovailoa, who still needs to pass medical checks on his injured hip, is a super-talented passer with elite accuracy. With three first-round picks and two second-rounders, Miami has to build its talent base, and it can start with a franchise quarterback.

The Dolphins selecting Tagovailoa is nearly consensus around the web right now, with nearly ever mock draft making that selection. It seems like a perfect situation for the Dolphins, who were believed to be “tanking for Tua” this year, but ended the season with the fifth-overall pick. Meanwhile, Tagovailoa was injured during the season and could be sitting on the board still after the first-round picks. Everything could fall into place as Miami lands the quarterback they appear to want.

Miami comes back on the clock with the 18th pick, which Kipers sees them using to select K’Lavon Chaisson, outside linebacker, LSU. Kiper writes:

The Dolphins this season had the fewest sacks on defense (23) and also allowed the most sacks on offense (58), so they have huge holes on both sides of the trenches. And while they would probably love to grab an offensive tackle with their second first-rounder, my top four are all off the board here. The ascending Chaisson makes a ton of sense with this pick, as Miami can bet on the upside of a twitchy pass-rusher with elite quickness who ended his college career with just 9.5 sacks. Now, that includes a season lost to injury, but there is still some risk here. At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, Chaisson has room to grow on his frame.

Adding a pass rusher with the second of three picks makes sense for Miami. Charles Harris did not have the season the team would have wanted as he freed up into a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end last year, playing a role more similar to his college career than the pure 4-3 defensive end Miami had played him early in his NFL career. As Kiper said, the Dolphins did not have an effective pass rush last year, so Chaisson makes sense.

Finally, the Dolphins use the 26th pick to add an offensive weapon for Tagovailoa. The Dolphins traded away Kenyan Drake last season and expected Kalen Ballage to step up into a more-featured role. He was unable to do that prior to his injury, so running back becomes a need for Miami, with Kiper using this pick to address it with the selection of Georgia’s D’Andre Swift. Kiper explains:

I mentioned the Dolphins’ need at offensive line earlier, and this is certainly a spot to watch for linemen who rise at the combine, but I just don’t have one graded this highly at this point. So I’m going to follow my board and go with the No. 1 running back in Swift, who would be a good value pick for a team that really doesn’t have a clear running back starter. Swift is a big-play threat and all-around back who will contribute in the passing game, and he’d make life easier on Tagovailoa (or whoever starts under center in 2020). I actually have a higher grade on Swift than Josh Jacobs, who went No. 24 a year ago. Again, though, this team has several positions it could target, so this is fluid.

The Dolphins head into the second round looking for offensive line help, while potentially looking to add to the defensive secondary, under Kiper’s projection.