2020 NFL Draft pivot points: Will a team trade up for Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa?

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The 2020 NFL Draft is now just two days away, with the growing excitement for football fans providing a welcome distraction amid the coronavirus pandemic.

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is expected to be the first overall pick when the Cincinnati Bengals make the virtual draft's opening selection on Thursday.

From there, much of the first round remains uncertain with an impressive class of players to select from and significant variations between teams in many of their pre-draft assessments.

The QB position, as ever, is one that is producing intrigue and debate.

There is a historic group of offensive tackles and wide receivers, while many of the key defensive positions have just one standout leader before a notable drop off.

With teams finalising their evaluations and embarking on draft simulations while reporters, analysts and fans submit their final mock drafts, it is almost time for the real action to begin.

Here, we look at the key storylines to watch and the pivot points that should determine the shape of a dramatic first round.

Herbert or Tua? Will teams trade up?

Oregon's Justin Herbert has seen his stock rise during the draft process amid continued debate over the fitness of Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa.

In terms of on-field ability, Tagovailoa was, in the eyes of many, on a par with or at least a very close second to Burrow in the QB rankings.

The impressive Tagovailoa topped Burrow and Herbert when it came to yards per attempt (11.27) and the percentage of passes resulting in a touchdown (13.1 per cent) last season.

But his three surgeries in a 12-month period, on both of his ankles and a dislocated hip he suffered in November, have prompted a wave of speculation over how far he will drop.

His case has likely not been helped by the COVID-19 crisis, which has limited teams' ability to conduct their own injury assessment or meet with prospects face-to-face.

Neither the Detroit Lions nor New York Giants, picking at three and four respectively, have an obvious need at QB, though each team has indicated a willingness to move down.

The Washington Redskins have been strongly linked with Ohio State's pass-rusher Chase Young at number two, but reports on Tuesday suggested even their spot could be up for grabs.

With the Miami Dolphins, who boast three first-round selections, due to pick at five, and the Los Angeles Chargers at six, the biggest pivot point will be whether either of those teams push themselves up into the top four to land their favoured QB.

The growing speculation is that man for Miami could be Herbert, but we will not know which reports were just smokescreen until draft day and there remains a chance Tagovailoa has been their preference all along.

Either the Lions or Giants would love to assume extra draft capital in a trade with Miami or LA, and they may be able to do that while still selecting the player they want, cornerback Jeffrey Okudah in Detroit's case and a top offensive tackle for New York.

With a potential face of the franchise on the board, will the Dolphins or Chargers really have the patience to sit back and hope their QB remains available, or will the draft order get its first big shake-up?

After the top three options, Jordan Love and Jalen Hurts are other QBs tipped to go before the end of round two.

Historic tackle class could lead to early run

The offensive tackle class is so strong that even the second-tier of options, which is headed up by Houston's Josh Jones, is expected to have multiple first-round selections.

In the top tier is Tristan Wirfs, Andrew Thomas, Jedrick Wills and Mekhi Becton, all of whom have received top-10 buzz over recent months.

With the Giants, Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all picking in the top half and in need of urgent offensive line assistance, trades have again been mooted and a rapid run of selections should not be ruled out.

Such is the desire to land a top tackle, the best options in a magnificent WR class all have a chance of dropping.

Will Jeudy, Lamb and Ruggs all drop out of top 10?

As the offseason started and a detailed analysis began on a historic group of wide receivers, few would have thought there was a realistic chance of none being taken in the top 10.

But that is now a possibility which has teams picking in the middle of the round relishing the opportunity to land a dominant pass-catcher.

The class is headed up by all-round talent CeeDee Lamb out of Oklahoma, Alabama's superb route-runner Jerry Jeudy and his college teammate, the rapid deep threat Henry Ruggs.

Lamb's YAC ability was highlighted by his 21.4 yards per reception last year, making him the top receiver in college football in that category, while he also had no drops all season and averaged 102.1 yards per game.

But due to the depth of the class, many teams will be confident of landing a starting wideout in the second or third rounds.

That and the potential flurry for QBs and tackles above, could mean Lamb, Jeudy and Ruggs fall into the grateful arms of the Jets, Las Vegas Raiders and San Francisco 49ers.

They are all picking between 11 and 13, while the Denver Broncos have been tipped to trade up from 15.

Star defensive names amid the offensive noise

When it comes to other key position groups, many have one clear leader likely to be picked towards the top.

Young looks poised to go at number two, unless Washington trade out of the spot, and he is far and away the leading edge option, with Okudah the top CB.

When it comes to linebackers and safeties, the versatile Clemson phenom Isaiah Simmons is good enough to top the list of prospects at both positions, while at defensive tackle, Auburn’s Derrick Brown is not expected to remain on the board for long.

If those stars all go in the top 10 as expected, even more value should be created for those teams needing tackles and receivers.

Alternatively, if Simmons or Brown get lost in the noise around trades or a run on those competitive position groups, teams further down could get a steal.

New England pick at 23 is key

Later on in the first round, all eyes will be on what the New England Patriots do in their first draft since the departure of Tom Brady.

With free agent and trade options still available - despite claims they are happy to roll with last year’s fourth-round pick, Jarrett Stidham - there are a range of possible selections outside of the QB position.

However, if Bill Belichick has fallen in love with a prospect or if Tagovailoa begins to slide, this could be the draft where Brady's successor is selected.

If the Patriots opt to be aggressive, their situation is complicated by a limited number of premium picks.

After 23, they do not select again until number 87 and their roster is already lacking in offensive firepower, a situation which frustrated Brady prior to his departure.