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Ben Volin’s mock NFL Draft: Patriots will pick Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa

Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa had 11.5 sacks last season.Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

How will the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft shake out?

Patriots beat writer Ben Volin makes his predictions.

1. Cincinnati Bengals

Needs: QB, TE, LB, G, WR, S

Pick: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

Joe Burrow appears to be the likeliest choice for the No. 1 pick.Michael Democker/Associated Press

Outlook: There’s still a small nag in my mind that the Bengals will trade a disgruntled Burrow to the Dolphins for a Herschel Walker-like haul. But most likely Burrow will become the Bengals’ first first-round quarterback pick since Carson Palmer in 2003. Next they need to get him help at offensive line, tight end and receiver.

2. Washington Redskins

Needs: DE, G/C, WR, TE, LB, CB

Pick: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State


Outlook: The Redskins need a lot of help up and down the roster, and a trade down wouldn’t be a bad idea. But there is no need to overthink this one. Young is an elite edge rusher (and a hometown kid) who would be a perfect fit in Ron Rivera’s new defense.

3. Detroit Lions

Needs: CB, G, DE, QB, OT, WR

Pick: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

Outlook: The Lions appear to be a prime candidate to trade back, and I think a team may want to jump up here to draft Tua Tagovailoa. But if a market doesn’t develop, the Lions should take Okudah, who will be an immediate starter and replace the departed Darius Slay.

4. New York Giants

Needs: OT, G, OLB, ILB, TE, CB, S

Pick: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

Outlook: The Giants are another trade-back candidate, but they should keep the pick and beef up the offensive line. Several mocks have them taking do-it-all defensive star Isaiah Simmons, but their No. 1 mission is protecting QB Daniel Jones, and they have career backup Cam Fleming penciled in at right tackle. Wills played right tackle at Alabama and is a perfect fit.

5. Miami Dolphins

Needs: QB, OT, TE, S, LB, G/C

Pick: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama


Outlook: It’s hard to get a read on Tua’s situation. The Dolphins have given no indication they are in love with him. His injury history is scary, and there’s some buzz that he could drop into the teens (I still think there’s a chance the Patriots end up with him). But Tua is a much better prospect than Justin Herbert, and my gut says the Dolphins make the move to get him, even if it means a trade up.

Is Tua Tagovailoa bound for Miami?John Bazemore/Associated Press

6. Los Angeles Chargers

Needs: QB, OT, LB, WR, CB

Pick: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Outlook: The Chargers are very much in the hunt for Tua or Herbert. But the brass may not have the job security to invest this pick in a developmental QB, and they have Tyrod Taylor in their pocket. They have a hole at offensive tackle and love massive linemen, and Becton (364 pounds) fulfills both needs. The Chargers can always take a QB at No. 37 or with a trade up.

7. Carolina Panthers

Needs: TE, DE, G, C, LB, CB, QB

Pick: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

Outlook: The Panthers’ offensive needs don’t match up with the draft board; the seventh pick is too early for a tight end or interior lineman. But they could have their pick of defensive stalwarts, and if Simmons makes it past the Giants, he would be a terrific fit as a replacement for Luke Kuechly, who retired.

8. Arizona Cardinals

Needs: OT, TE, RB, DE, CB

Pick: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

Outlook: The Cardinals look like another trade-down candidate, since they dealt their second-round pick (for DeAndre Hopkins) and must wait until 72 for their next pick. But grabbing Wirfs would make a lot of sense; he can play guard or tackle, and they can plug him in at right tackle as a rookie and instantly upgrade the protection for QB Kyler Murray.


9. Jacksonville Jaguars

Needs: QB, DE, G, TE, DT, WR, CB

Pick: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

Outlook: My gut says the Jaguars want a veteran QB such as Andy Dalton or Cam Newton instead of spending this pick on one. They need another edge rusher as they look to trade Yannick Ngakoue, and LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson is tempting here. But Brown is still on the board, and the Jaguars would love to add a disruptive force to the middle of their defense.

10. Cleveland Browns

Needs: OT, G, S, LB, DT, WR

Pick: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

Outlook: The Browns have a talented roster, outside of a glaring hole at left tackle. There’s a chance they trade for Redskins tackle Trent Williams (same with the other tackle-needy teams ahead of them), but getting the younger, healthier, and cheaper Thomas makes more sense.

11. New York Jets

Needs: OT, G, C, DT, OLB, CB

Pick: K’Lavon Chaisson, DE/OLB, LSU

Outlook: The Jets are another team in the offensive tackle/Trent Williams mix, and probably would take a tackle if one of the top four falls to them. But they also need depth in the defensive front seven, particularly at edge rusher. Chaisson is an elite athlete who had 9½ sacks last year and also can drop into coverage.


12. Las Vegas Raiders

Jerry Jeudy could be the receiver the Raiders never had in Antonio Brown.Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

Needs: WR, DE, CB, QB

Pick: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Outlook: The Raiders never replaced Antonio Brown last year, and they need some buzz as they head to Vegas, so having them draft a receiver is one of the easiest predictions in the draft. In our mock, they get the pick of the lot, taking Jeudy over CeeDee Lamb in a coin flip.

13. San Francisco 49ers

Needs: WR, DT, G, OT, CB, S

Pick: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

Outlook: The 49ers are a serious trade-back candidate, as they have picks 13 and 31 and don’t select again until 157, in the fifth round. If they do pick here, it’s tempting to take DT Javon Kinlaw to replace DeForest Buckner. But the Niners lost Emmanuel Sanders in free agency and will trade or release Marquise Goodwin. Lamb will be an explosive addition.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Needs: WR, OT, RB, CB

Pick: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

Outlook: The Bucs filled most of their needs with veteran free agents. But I see two glaring holes on the roster — at right tackle and cornerback, which the Bucs can fill with picks 14 and 45. I think they would rather draft a tackle at 14, but Henderson is a solid fit, and a tackle can be had in the second round.

15. Denver Broncos

Needs: WR, DE, DT, OT, G

Pick: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

Javon Kinlaw could be bound for the Broncos.Sean Rayford/Associated Press

Outlook: The Broncos badly need help at wide receiver, and it’s tempting to take Alabama’s Henry Ruggs or LSU’s Justin Jefferson here. But the receiver class is loaded, and the Broncos really need to beef up their defensive line after losing Derek Wolfe.


16. Atlanta Falcons

Needs: TE, DE, G, CB, RB, LB

Pick: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

Outlook: The Falcons have generated a lot of buzz that they could trade up, and I could see it if they want to grab one of the two cornerbacks, Okudah or Henderson. But they need help at all three levels of the defense, and could use a speedy tackling/blitzing machine in Queen.

17. Dallas Cowboys

Needs: WR, TE, DT, LB, CB

Pick: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

Outlook: The Cowboys need another receiver to pair with Amari Cooper, and definitely need another cornerback to replace Byron Jones. But their linebacker corps has major question marks, and Murray would be a terrific addition as a three-down standout and future centerpiece.

18. Miami Dolphins

Needs: QB, OT, TE, S, LB, G/C

Pick: Josh Jones, OT, Houston

Outlook: I don’t believe the Dolphins will use all three of their first-round picks, and almost certainly won’t use all of their six in the top 70. But if you’re going to draft a quarterback, you’d better protect him. Jones was a four-year starter at Houston and could help immediately.

19. Las Vegas Raiders

Needs: WR, DE, CB, QB

Pick: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

The addition of Justin Herbert could mean a quarterback battle in Las Vegas.Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

Outlook: The Raiders really could use another edge rusher or cornerback, but the value doesn’t match up at this pick. Instead they shock the world and end the slide for Herbert, sticking him behind Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota on the depth chart and taking all the pressure off Herbert from having to play right away.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars

Needs: QB, DE, G, TE, RB, LB, CB, S

Pick: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

Outlook: The Jaguars thank the Raiders for taking Herbert off the board, because that’s a decision I don’t think they want to make. They really need to rebuild their defense, and after taking Brown at No. 9, they snag Diggs, a 6-foot-1-inch cornerback, to replace the departed Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye.

21. Philadelphia Eagles

Needs: WR, LB, DT, DE, G

Pick: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

Outlook: The Eagles are a trade-up candidate and join the Raiders as the two obvious teams looking for a wide receiver. But they may be able to sit back at 21 and land a potential star in Jefferson, who has a great combination of size and speed and will be a great understudy to Alshon Jeffery.

22. Minnesota Vikings

Needs: WR, G, DE, LB, S, CB

Pick: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State

Outlook: The Vikings have a glaring hole at receiver after trading Stefon Diggs, but they can address that later in the draft. They badly need to add youth to an aging defense, and need an edge rusher to replace Everson Griffen. Gross-Matos is a lengthy edge rusher who had two productive college seasons.

23. New England Patriots

A.J. Epenesa is a run-stopping defensive end.Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Needs: QB, TE, LB, WR, OT, DE, S, FB, K

Pick: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa

Outlook: I still think there’s a chance they land Tua. There’s also a good chance they try to trade down and collect more picks. If they stay at 23, they have needs across the board and can just take the best player available — in this case, a sturdy, run-stopping defensive end who played for Kirk Ferentz, one of Bill Belichick’s trusted friends.

24. New Orleans Saints

Needs: QB, TE, LB, CB, DT

Pick: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

Outlook: The Saints look loaded for 2020, giving them the flexibility to go all-in on a successor to Drew Brees in the draft. I think they are in the Tua hunt, and are crazy enough to give up next year’s first-round pick to get him. If not, they go with Love, who has a ton of room to grow and will have the luxury of sitting behind Brees for a year.

25. Minnesota Vikings

Needs: WR, CB, G, DT, LB, S

Pick: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

Outlook: The Vikings can find a receiver in the second round. They need to keep restocking the defense, especially at cornerback, where they lost Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes this offseason. Gladney was a four-year starter at TCU with the physicality and competitiveness that should fit well in Minnesota.

26. Miami Dolphins

Needs: QB, OT, TE, S, LB, G/C

Pick: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

Outlook: After taking a quarterback and an offensive tackle, the Dolphins can go best player available at 26. McKinney is a versatile weapon who can play deep center field, man coverage, and up in the box. He’d replace the departed Reshad Jones and would be a terrific fit for Brian Flores’s defense.

27. Seattle Seahawks

Needs: OT, G, DE, WR, LB, CB

Pick: Cesar Ruiz, G/C, Michigan

Outlook: The Seahawks usually trade their first-round pick, so here’s betting they trade down again. They need help on the defensive line, but their offensive line has been subpar for years. They need a tackle and a guard, and snag the draft’s top interior player in Ruiz.

28. Baltimore Ravens

Needs: G, RB, TE, OLB, ILB, S

Pick: Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin

Zack Baun could provide a boost for the Baltimore defense.Butch Dill/Associated Press

Outlook: The Ravens just lost guard Marshal Yanda to retirement, and I think they would love to get Ruiz in this draft. But they also have a sizable hole at linebacker, and Baun is an explosive and versatile defender who had 12½ sacks and 75 tackles last year.

29. Tennessee Titans

Needs: TE, WR, OT, QB, OLB, CB

Pick: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama

Outlook: The Titans could use another edge rusher, but free agent Jadeveon Clowney might make more sense than reaching for one at 29. They also need another weapon for Ryan Tannehill, and adding Ruggs’s world-class speed to A.J. Brown could make this offense tough to stop.

30. Green Bay Packers

Needs: G, WR, LB, CB, DE, QB

Pick: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

Outlook: The Packers have more needs than you’d expect from a team that reached the NFC Championship game. But they really need another receiver to complement Davante Adams, and have several good options here. Mims’s production (28 TDs in the last three seasons) gives him the edge.

31. San Francisco 49ers

Needs: WR, DT, G, OT, CB, S

Pick: Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State

Outlook: The 49ers need to find a nose tackle, but the board doesn’t fit the need here. More pressing is getting a left tackle for the future. They hope to get Joe Staley back for one more season, giving them the luxury of bringing Cleveland along slowly.

32. Kansas City Chiefs

Needs: G, OT, CB, TE, RB, LB

Pick: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

Outlook: The Super Bowl champs don’t have many glaring holes, but there are needs on the interior offensive line and in the secondary. Terrell is a big (6-1), physical cornerback who gives them much-needed depth at the position. They can find a guard or tackle later in the draft.

Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com.