NFL Mock Draft 2020 Post-Combine: Isaiah Simmons Jumps Up Board


South Park viewers no doubt recall the episode when Cartman, pushed to the brink of insanity in his relentless anticipation for the release of Nintendo Wii, froze himself to avoid waiting. While Cartman’s plot was ultimately foiled—he overshot his mark, waking up 500 years in the future—in this instance, we can all relate to his predicament. Even with temporary distractions like March Madness and the NBA stretch run to tide us over, the next month and change promises to be an agonizing slog for sports fans awaiting the 2020 NFL Draft. Since freezing ourselves apparently isn’t an option, football diehards and their insatiable appetites will instead have to settle for a steady diet of mock drafts, gorging on the fruits of rampant speculation in the days leading up to April 23 in Las Vegas.

March mocks aren’t meant to be gospel—even with the Combine in the rearview, a lot can change in 52 days with team visits and Pro Days still factoring into each player’s draft calculus. But hopefully this first-pass mock provides at least a baseline for where each of the 32 teams stand in their current talent searches.

Ohio State's Chase Young looks on during the Fiesta Bowl

1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, Edge, Ohio State

3. Detroit Lions: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

4. New York Giants: Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa

5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

You’ll see that I played it pretty safe with my top five. It’s all chalk here with reigning Heisman winner Joe Burrow heading back to his home state to quarterback the rebuilding Bengals, who appear to have washed their hands of longtime signal-caller Andy Dalton. Some feared Burrow might pull an Eli and refuse to play for Cincy, though the rocket-armed 23-year-old seemingly put that notion to bed with his emphatic Combine remarks. Since I was already driving down Narrative Street, I figured I’d also forecast a homecoming for Maryland native Chase Young, whose inevitable union with the Redskins may be the lock of this year’s draft.

Linebacker isn’t Detroit’s biggest need but after obliterating the Combine with his 4.39 wheels, I can’t see Simmons slipping past the Lions—helmed by defensive-minded bench boss Matt Patricia—at No. 3. There are many ways the Giants can attack the fourth pick, but with Simmons already off the board (at least in my invented scenario), look for GM Dave Gettleman to fill his hog molly fix by nabbing sturdy 320-pound Tristan Wirfs to shore up New York’s leaky O line.

Tua’s medical check-in at the Combine went about as well as it could have, keeping him in contention for a top-five selection. With shrewd veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick under contract for another season, Tagovailoa could conceivably red shirt in 2020 to allow his surgically-repaired hip more time to heal. That makes the Dolphins, who arguably overachieved under first-year coach Brian Flores last season (their upset of New England in Week 17 altered the entire playoff landscape), an ideal fit for the hobbled southpaw.

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert keeps it himself

6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

7. Carolina Panthers: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

8. Arizona Cardinals: Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mekhi Becton, OL, Louisville

10. Cleveland Browns: Jedrick Wills, OL, Alabama

Herbert helped his cause immensely with a superb Combine, turning on the jets with a 4.68 forty (third-fastest among quarterbacks) while also acing the drill portion of last week’s festivities in Indy. The Chargers could work the phones in free agency to address their quarterback void (declining vet Philip Rivers was already told he won’t be brought back) or simply stay in-house by promoting Tyrod Taylor to headliner status. But with so much star power available in this year’s draft, I’d be surprised if the Bolts left Round 1 without adding a fresh arm to their QB stable.

I could envision a scenario where Okudah, the unquestioned torchbearer of this year’s DB class, comes off the board as early as third overall, though I think he’d be a strong fit for the Panthers if he makes it to them at No. 7. Impending free agent James Bradbury is reportedly seeking $15 million annually, which is probably a bit rich for the Panthers’ blood.

I admittedly don’t have a great read on this year’s O line crop as the top four of Wirfs, Becton, Wills and Thomas appear to be more or less interchangeable. Regardless, Louisville monstrosity Becton (6’7”/364) would be a nice get for the Jags while Wills would add some much-needed stability in front of Baker Mayfield, who absorbed an embarrassing 40 sacks last season (seventh-most).

Utah State's Jordan Love fires off a pass

11. New York Jets: Andrew Thomas, OL, Georgia

12. Las Vegas Raiders: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

13. Indianapolis Colts: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina

15. Denver Broncos: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

The Jets, who face long odds of re-signing downfield staple Robby Anderson, could entertain the idea of drafting a receiver at 11th overall, but instead, I envision them bolstering the O line with Georgia stud Andrew Thomas in hopes of better protecting their golden goose, Sam Darnold. Coming off arguably his worst season (career-worst 3.2 yards per carry), expensive workhorse Le’Veon Bell could also stand to benefit from improved play in the trenches.

Flush with draft capital from the Khalil Mack trade, the Raiders boast a pair of first-rounders this year, one of which will assuredly be spent on a top-flight receiver.
Perhaps they’ll address another need here and circle back to wideout at 19th overall, but I think 2018 Biletnikoff winner Jerry Jeudy would be tough to pass on at No. 12.

The Colts have emerged as early front-runners in the burgeoning Philip Rivers sweepstakes. But even if the 38-year-old hitches his wagon to Indianapolis, he’d merely be a bridge quarterback for whoever the Colts end up drafting in April. Despite regressing in 2019 (his 17 picks led the nation), Jordan Love’s other enticing attributes—prototypical size and above-average athleticism for the quarterback position—should have him squarely in the Colts’ crosshairs.

Florida's CJ Henderson eludes a defender

16. Atlanta Falcons: K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU

17. Dallas Cowboys: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

18. Miami Dolphins: Josh Jones, OL, Houston

19. Las Vegas Raiders: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

20. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

With Byron Jones looking like the odd man out in the Cowboys’ free-agent Rubik’s Cube, I see Dallas taking a swing at cornerback in Round 1. After checking all the Combine boxes (4.39 forty, 127-inch broad jump), the ball-hawking Henderson would be a splashy pick for Big D at No. 17.

The Dolphins own three first-round picks and it would be an upset if one of them isn’t an offensive lineman. This is earlier than Jones has been going in most mocks but the hulking 320-pounder would certainly fill a need at left tackle for the Fins following Laremy Tunsil’s trade to Houston last summer.

Jacksonville’s once-dominant secondary hasn’t been the same since Jalen Ramsey’s mid-season trade to Los Angeles in 2019. Trevon Diggs (younger brother of Vikings star Stefon Diggs) obviously isn’t in Ramsey’s stratosphere from a talent perspective, but he wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize should the Jags miss on the more polished likes of Okudoh and Henderson.

LSU's Justin Jefferson hauls in a catch at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama

22. Buffalo Bills: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

23. New England Patriots: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

24. New Orleans Saints: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

25. Minnesota Vikings: Austin Jackson, OL, USC

All the cool kids are mocking Ruggs to the Eagles, so why fight it? The question is whether Ruggs actually makes it to 21 or if he goes sooner after blazing an otherworldly 4.27 at the Combine. I wanted Jefferson to land in New Orleans at 24 so he could stay in Louisiana, but unfortunately I don’t think the receiver-needy Bills will allow that happen. Jefferson largely played the slot at LSU and while that role in Buffalo currently belongs to Cole Beasley, the ex-Tiger has the size (6’1”/202) and requisite versatility to line up anywhere the Bills need him.

Higgins’ stock arguably took a hit with his no-show at the Combine (he attended but didn’t partake in any testing) but he’s still a proven asset and would be a strong complement to perennial All-Pro Michael Thomas in the Big Easy. I could see the Patriots taking the plunge at quarterback if Love is still available, but Washington’s Jacob Eason would seem to be a reach at 23 (same goes for Georgia product Jake Fromm). Knowing Bill Belichick’s draft MO, this may very well be a situation where the Patriots trade back. New England could also be eying tight end after getting zero from that position in 2019 (bizarrely, Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse weren’t able to offset the loss of Rob Gronkowski), though we’ll have to see if the Pats address that shortcoming in free agency first. Difference-makers Hunter Henry and Austin Hooper are both available.

Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor stiff-arms a defender

26. Miami Dolphins: D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

27. Seattle Seahawks: Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State

28. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Braun, LB, Wisconsin

29. Tennessee Titans: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

30. Green Bay Packers: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

31. San Francisco 49ers: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

Swift still appears to be the consensus RB1 and would be a marked improvement on Miami’s current starter Kalen Ballage, who plodded to a lethargic 1.8 yards per carry last season. But it also wouldn’t shock me if the Dolphins landed on decorated Wisconsin alum Jonathan Taylor, whose draft stock has soared in the wake of his behemoth Combine showing (4.39 forty at 5’10”/226). He’d make all the sense in the world for the speed-obsessed Chiefs. The defending champs don’t have a ton of holes to plug up, but they could certainly stand to improve at running back after trotting out an underwhelming committee of Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson and LeSean McCoy in 2019.

I’m torn on who the Packers will select at 30th overall, though I’d imagine they’ll address receiver after seeing minimal production from that position (Davante Adams not withstanding) in 2020. Aiyuk would seem to have a leg up on the competition, but don’t be so quick to dismiss late risers Denzel Mims or Chase Claypool. I think we can safely rule out Laviska Shenault (reportedly headed for core surgery) and Jalen Reagor, who bombed the Combine with a disastrous performance in the three-cone drill (7.31), among other failures.

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