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Cynthia Frelund 2020 NFL mock draft 2.0: Analytics-based picks

Now that many big moves have been made in free agency, I re-ran my analytics-based mock draft ... I guess that makes this my Analytics Mock 2.0, which reflects personnel adjustments from free agency but is still based solely on a contextual, data-driven model that aims to do one thing:

Maximize each team's potential to win as many games as possible in 2020.

Just like my Mock 1.0, take note: I am NOT attempting to predict or divine what teams will ACTUALLY DO on draft day. This is not meant to predict how the draft will play out in reality. Rather, I am using this model to, again, examine what teams should do if winning the most games in 2020 is the only goal. The exercise I am taking you through here considers current rosters and the overall market of remaining free agents.

Here's how my mock works: I use my draft prospect model to create a numerical value for each player. These ratings can be compared across years. Then I use my NFL production model, which considers the market of free agents at each position, to create a projected win-contribution metric by player, position group and side of the ball. These get added up to forecast win totals for the season. The results quantify strengths and weaknesses of current NFL rosters. My model also factors in as many known elements of coaching philosophies (of the current staffs) as possible, and of the 2020 opponents. Then my model "selects" the draft prospect that would yield the highest win total for each team next season.

Here's the part that's extra: I have projections and results for all teams and the draft prospects they selected over the past 15 seasons. I examine each season's on-field results, objectively analyzing what happened, along with the trends and strategies that led to success or failure. I also ask coaches, front office executives and even players to help me understand why results occurred. These subjective inputs help shape the results, meaning the model gets "smarter" with each passing season.

Lastly, there are a lot of real-life efficiencies that could be realized via draft-pick trades. I can't help myself but to note them in certain cases, but for the sake of this mock, there are no trades allowed. If I worked for an individual team, an analysis like this could aid in creating a strategy for identifying potential trade partners as well as vulnerable spots where other teams are most likely to scoop up targeted players.

Note: Remember to refer back to Mock 1.0 for more information.

Pick
1
Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals
2020 ·
Chase Young
Washington Redskins · DE

School: Ohio State | Year: Junior

With some surprise high-value free agents still on the market -- namely edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney and quarterback Cam Newton -- the mathematical decision translates to win-share value of more-known quantity at edge (Clowney) plus rookie quarterback ( Joe Burrow) versus more-known quantity at quarterback (Newton) plus rookie edge (Young). With the Bengals' subpar O-line -- and the rules of this mock narrowing our focus to 2020 wins only (disregarding future years) -- Young, who is my model's highest-rated player, barely edges out Burrow. In Mock 1.0, there was a much bigger gap in win-share increase between Young and Burrow. Now, that margin is razor thin.

Pick
2
Washington Redskins
Washington Redskins
2020 ·
Andrew Thomas
New York Giants · OT

School: Georgia | Year: Junior

Assuming Washington moves on from seven-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams ( per his very vocal desires), adding a left tackle affords the Redskins the best opportunity to get the most from second-year QB Dwayne Haskins. There are four high-ceiling tackles in this draft class, of which Thomas is my top-ranked, meaning my model thinks he will have the biggest impact from Day 1.

Pick
3
Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions
2020 ·
Jeff Okudah
Detroit Lions · CB

School: Ohio State | Year: Junior

Trading away Darius Slay leaves Detroit with a massive question mark at corner, and Okudah is my model's top-rated prospect at the position. While the No. 3 overall pick could be a prime trade target for a team looking for a quarterback -- especially now that the Giants, who pick fourth overall, added cornerback James Bradberry*in free agency*, which could allow Detroit a better chance to trade down a few picks and still land Okudah -- trades aren't allowed in this mock, so Okudah's fit offers a high ROI.

Pick
4
New York Giants
New York Giants
2020 ·
Tristan Wirfs
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · OT

School: Iowa | Year: Junior

This pick remains the same from Mock 1.0 in part because of the value of Wirfs' right tackle production projection, and also because the team's signing of free-agent corner James Bradberry helps address a big need on the defensive side of the ball. Further, bolstering the O-line very slightly edges out the potential value Isaiah Simmons could bring to the Giants' defense. (The addition of linebacker Blake Martinez in free agency also drives more value to increasing the O-line impact.)

Pick
5
Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins
2020 ·
Joe Burrow
Cincinnati Bengals · QB

School: LSU | Year: Senior (RS)

Again, an unchanged projection from Mock 1.0. One note on the QB that adds context from the last mock: On both passing attempts from a clean pocket and under pressure, Burrow had the highest percentage of throws that came within three feet of his intended receiver for any draft-eligible quarterback this season. I also compared his mark with the consensus top 10 QBs from last season ... and the 10 from the season before ... and his percentage tops all of them. Let that sink in, because I did a lot of coding to get here. Not one consensus top-10 draft-eligible QB from the last few classes had a higher percentage of on-target passes than Burrow.

Pick
6
Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers
2020 ·
Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins · QB

School: Alabama | Year: Junior

Considering the increased likelihood of Tyrod Taylor being a major part of the team's 2020 effort and the Chargers' improvements at left tackle (Bryan Bulaga) and on defense (CB Chris Harris) in free agency, Tagovailoa's blend of quick- and deep-passing potential gives the Bolts the best chance for the most wins in 2020. Should Tua not be available, Mekhi Becton would be my model's next-best selection here.

Pick
7
Carolina Panthers
Carolina Panthers
2020 ·
Isaiah Simmons
Arizona Cardinals · LB

School: Clemson | Year: Junior (RS)

After Young, Simmons offers the highest win-share impact to an "average" team for the 2020 season in my model. That's not to say that QBs aren't valuable as rookies, but rather that players at the position typically take a bit more time to realize true gains. As for Simmons' specific fit on the Panthers, his extreme versatility in college (he played meaningful reps as a slot corner, safety, off-ball linebacker and edge defender, as well as some snaps as an outside corner) makes his potential production as a pro more impactful in the competition-elevated NFC South.

Pick
8
Arizona Cardinals
Arizona Cardinals
2020 ·
Mekhi Becton
New York Jets · OT

School: Louisville | Year: Junior

Adding ( stealingDeAndre Hopkins and then drafting Becton increases the Cardinals' win-total projection by more than two Ws in my model. That's a really big jump. Becton's athleticism fits the projected pace of play in this Kliff Kingsbury/ Kyler Murray system very well.

Pick
9
Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars
2020 ·
Derrick Brown
Carolina Panthers · DT

School: Auburn | Year: Senior

In my last mock, I had the Jags adding to their interior pressure potential by selecting Javon Kinlaw. Brown was off the board by the time Jacksonville was picking in that exercise. Not today! Brown would be an upgrade over Kinlaw, per my model, as his production against the run and pass at Auburn project for quicker potential development and impact as a pro than any other defensive tackle in this draft.

Pick
10
Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns
2020 ·
Jedrick Wills
Cleveland Browns · OT

School: Alabama | Year: Junior

I've already praised the free-agent acquisition of right tackle Jack Conklin, calling the signing one of my top three best moves so far in free agency. One other reason the Conklin signing is so clutch, along with the Browns' other free-agent dealings, is that it gives them a lot of trade leverage with the 10th overall pick. Left tackle is certainly a need, and Wills creates the most value in this projected situation. However, depending on how the draft plays out in reality, the Browns could snag their tackle and add to their overall draft equity.

Pick
11
New York Jets
New York Jets
2020 ·
K'Lavon Chaisson
Jacksonville Jaguars · LB

School: LSU | Year: Sophomore (RS)

The Jets' offseason has included a number of high-value contracts, per my model, in the sense that they are priced well for the potential production and create fits that seem to strategically align. Corner Brian Poole for $5 million is an example. The Jets added four O-linemen in free agency, yet the offensive front is still their most critical position area of need, per my model. However, my four highest-ranked offensive linemen are off the board. As is my highest-ranked corner. Therefore, addressing the pass rush adds most to the Jets' potential in 2020. There is only a small difference between Chaisson, fellow edge A.J. Epenesa and CB C.J. Henderson in my simulations.

Pick
12
Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders
2020 ·
Jerry Jeudy
Denver Broncos · WR

School: Alabama | Year: Junior

No change here from Mock 1.0. While my imaginary neutral-fit model has receiver CeeDee Lamb rated slightly higher than Jeudy, the fit within the Raiders' system -- given what we know about Las Vegas' QB situation and Gruden's play-calling tendencies -- edges the Alabama product ahead of Lamb.

Pick
13
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers
2020 ·
CeeDee Lamb
Dallas Cowboys · WR

School: Oklahoma | Year: Junior

With the departure of Emmanuel Sanders, upgrading the receiver position would add the most 2020 wins for San Francisco -- and Lamb is my model's highest-rated wideout, due to his route-running ability and yards-after-catch savvy. This is a strategic fit for the Niners, given Lamb's catch potential and his ability to open up spatial opportunity for others in Kyle Shanahan's offense.

Pick
14
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2020 ·
Javon Kinlaw
San Francisco 49ers · DT

School: South Carolina | Year: Senior

My model projects Kinlaw's production at interior defensive line would add more to Tampa's 2020 wins than any available O-lineman (adding right tackle Joe Haeg shifted this) or defensive back. Kinlaw's Day 1 impact in Todd Bowles' system forecasts to be most felt against the pass, which will help the Bucs' young defensive backfield, as the front and back of defenses complement each other.

Pick
15
Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos
2020 ·
Laviska Shenault Jr.
Jacksonville Jaguars · WR

School: Colorado | Year: Junior

Drew Lock will benefit from this pick, as will Courtland Sutton. Shenault's ability after the catch -- breaking tackles and turning shorter, scheme-based passes into big gains -- will complement both a developing quarterback and a receiver who broke out last season. Shenault has a less-certain projection than the two receivers picked ahead of him, but his potential is maximized in a scheme that can leverage his physical style early on.

Pick
16
Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons
2020 ·
A.J. Epenesa
Buffalo Bills · DE

School: Iowa | Year: Junior

Epenesa's projected value as an edge rusher adds the most wins to the Falcons. (CB C.J. Henderson would be next in line.)

Pick
17
Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys
2020 ·
C.J. Henderson
Jacksonville Jaguars · CB

School: Florida | Year: Junior

With corner Byron Jones now in Miami -- and receiver Amari Cooper signed to a long-term deal -- Henderson fills Dallas' most crucial need.

Pick
18
Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins
2020 ·
Joshua Jones
Joshua Jones
Jacksonville Jaguars · LB

School: Houston | Year: Senior (RS)

Fifth offensive tackle by Pick No. 18 ... Let's just say there will be trades, but don't underestimate the value at the position (I'm talking to teams here).

Pick
19
Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders
2020 ·
Trevon Diggs
Dallas Cowboys · CB

School: Alabama | Year: Senior

Even with the signing of free-agent corner Eli Apple, Las Vegas spending its second first-round pick on Diggs creates the greatest uptick in projected wins, especially considering the likelihood of facing high passing volume in the AFC West.

UPDATE:After the publishing of this mock draft,Eli Apple's deal with the Raiders fell through, thus making this pick even more relevant.

Pick
20
Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars
2020 ·
Xavier McKinney
New York Giants · SAF

School: Alabama | Year: Junior

Adding McKinney's versatility as a safety/nickel linebacker at Pick No. 20 gives the Jags a pretty big steal in terms of wins added for their new-look defense.

Pick
21
Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles
2020 ·
Henry Ruggs III
Las Vegas Raiders · WR

School: Alabama | Year: Junior

Much more than just a speed merchant. According to Pro Football Focus, Ruggs dropped just five passes during his three college seasons. And he's a highly efficient route runner.

Pick
22
Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings
2020 ·
Tee Higgins
Cincinnati Bengals · WR

School: Clemson | Year: Junior

The departures of Stefon Diggs and Xavier Rhodes/ Trae Waynes create a big primary need on each side of the ball. My neutral model is slightly higher on Justin Jefferson than Higgins. However, pairing Higgins with Adam Thielen and Minnesota's tight ends adds the most wins in 2020.

Pick
23
New England Patriots
New England Patriots
2020 ·
Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Chargers · QB

School: Oregon | Year: Senior

I was fortunate enough to have the chance -- via Zoom, of course -- to track and code for Herbert's game with a coach from the Bill Belichick tree. While it would be better for any Pats quarterback if Dante Scarnecchia were still coaching the O-line, the potential for Herbert to execute in this system is higher than it might appear at first blush.

Pick
24
New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
2020 ·
Patrick Queen
Baltimore Ravens · LB

School: LSU | Year: Junior

I really liked my Justin Jefferson pick here in the last mock, but with the addition of Emmanuel Sanders, Jefferson's value was leapfrogged by the linebacker position -- especially since Queen is in the top 16 of my neutral-team player rankings.

Pick
25
Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings
2020 ·
Kristian Fulton
Tennessee Titans · CB

School: LSU | Year: Senior

This pick remains the same from last time, yet has a higher win impact now that Xavier Rhodes has departed.

Pick
26
Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins
2020 ·
Austin Jackson
Miami Dolphins · OT

School: USC | Year: Junior

The sixth offensive tackle off the board here. And he just so happens to go at No. 26, which is exactly his ranking on Daniel Jeremiah's big board.

Pick
27
Seattle Seahawks
Seattle Seahawks
2020 ·
Ross Blacklock
Houston Texans · DT

School: TCU | Year: Junior (RS)

Will Jadeveon Clowney stay on this team? Either way, boosting the D-line with Blacklock adds the most value here.

Pick
28
Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore Ravens
2020 ·
D'Andre Swift
Detroit Lions · RB

School: Georgia | Year: Junior

This pick also remains the same -- for now. However, depending on which defenders are available, this could shift. The next-closest wins-added fit? Oklahoma LB Kenneth Murray.

Pick
29
Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans
2020 ·
Yetur Gross-Matos
Carolina Panthers · DE

School: Penn State | Year: Junior

My model identifies edge rusher, defensive tackle (to fill the void left by the Jurrell Casey trade) and right tackle (after Jack Conklin's free agency departure) as the highest 2020 win-share uptick picks, with Gross-Matos leading the way in this simulation.

Pick
30
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
2020 ·
Justin Jefferson
Minnesota Vikings · WR

School: LSU | Year: Junior

My model rates this as a steal for the Packers, even though they already acquired Devin Funchess. Jefferson and Davante Adams' projected production = fantasy and reality gold.

Pick
31
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers
2020 ·
Jaylon Johnson
Chicago Bears · CB

School: Utah | Year: Junior

Johnson's potential overall production -- from the corner position and particularly as a slot defender -- addresses both a Day 1 need and depth against the pass. My model has Johnson slightly edging out LSU safety Grant Delpit.

Pick
32
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
2020 ·
A.J. Terrell
Atlanta Falcons · CB

School: Clemson | Year: Junior

Highest-rated corner available in this simulation. Boosting the CB group creates the most value for the Chiefs overall, and Terrell's Clemson resume projects for high value in a Steve Spagnuolo defense.

Follow Cynthia Frelund on Twitter @cfrelund.

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Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore (12) makes a deep catch as Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White (44) trails on the play during an NFL football game , Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif.

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