The 2020 NFL draft will be on the Strip in 111 days and counting and, even though the entire draft order won’t be determined until after Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2, draft season is in full swing with the winding down of the college bowl season.
Underclassmen have until Jan. 18 to declare for the draft, but it’s never too early to break down who will go where.
While the Raiders could jump up to select the successor to Derek Carr at quarterback because of their ample draft capital — two first-round picks (12th and 19th) and three third-rounders in the first 90 picks — the timing doesn’t seem right for that. It’s more likely the Raiders attempt to identify a developmental passer in the later rounds and continue to build off the success they found in general manager Mike Mayock’s first draft last year.
The Raiders were in playoff contention until the very last game, but they’ll need playmakers on both sides of the ball to take the next step.
In the first edition of the Review-Journal’s mock draft, we found those players in Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons and Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs III.
Simmons isn’t a perfect fit for the Raiders’ 4-3 scheme — he’s a converted safety who would be a better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker — but at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds with blazing speed, he’s just a freak athlete and you figure out a way for him to make plays. He won the Butkus Award in 2019 as college’s best linebacker after posting 9.5 sacks, 19 pass breakups, three interceptions and five forced fumbles.
It was just his second year at the position and he’s not close to his ceiling. The Raiders desperately need a weakside linebacker who can cover and make plays, and Simmons fits the bill.
The Raiders obviously lacked a playmaker at receiver after the Antonio Brown circus left town, and Ruggs has that kind of potential. He’s one of the fastest players in college football and is a threat to score on every play from any place on the field. Ruggs averaged a team-high 18.9 yards per catch to rank 24th nationally, with 26 of his 38 receptions going for a Tide first down or touchdown.
A receiver like Ruggs playing alongside tight end Darren Waller and running back Josh Jacobs would give Gruden three dynamic playmakers who would rank among the NFL’s best trios.
Here’s the rest of the Review-Journal’s mock draft (* – denotes underclassman):
1. Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Andy Dalton can easily be released and Ryan Finley obviously isn’t ready. Burrows follows Carson Palmer (2003) as the Bengals’ No. 1 overall picks at QB.
2. Washington Redskins
Chase Young, DE, Ohio State*
This pick would have been different before Ron Rivera was hired, but he’s already hired former Raiders coach Jack Del Rio and Young is a perfect fit for his vanilla 4-3 scheme.
3. Detroit Lions
Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State*
The Lions were terrible on defense down the stretch. so they can use help anywhere, but a lockdown corner is the best way to start.
4. New York Giants
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama*
The coaching hire could swing this, but for now we’ll go with the best player on the board. He’s a true No. 1 receiver.
5. Miami Dolphins
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama*
The hip surgery is a big concern — if he turns pro with his announcement Monday — but Ryan Fitzpatrick is the perfect bridge quarterback.
6. Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert, QB Oregon
The run on quarterbacks ramps up as Chargers get the heir apparent for Philip Rivers while also leaving a spot open for a bridge veteran (hint: Tom Brady — go get Brady).
7. Carolina Panthers
Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Will depend on who the coach is, but the Panthers might not have Dontari Poe, Gerald McCoy or Vernon Butler by the draft, so it’s time to restock the middle of the line.
8. Arizona Cardinals
Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia*
Both tackles could be free agents and the protection around Kyler Murray needs to be much better.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma*
A big (6-2, 191) receiver with good speed and great yards-after-the-catch ability would be a good fit.
10. Cleveland Browns
Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa*
A bit of a reach here, but the Browns’ tackles were awful while the inside is set with J.C. Tretter and Joel Bitonio.
11. New York Jets
Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford*
Long and fast with elite ball skills, Adebo will be a Day 1 starter because he comes out of pro defense with the Cardinal.
Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson*
Receiver is definitely tempting here, but the defense, especially a poor linebacker corps, needs serious attention. Simmons is a playmaker.
13. Indianapolis Colts
Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson*
The Colts have spent a lot of draft capital on defense, and they need some weapons. Higgins is a huge (6-4) red-zone target.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida*
The Bucs have swung — and missed — at more draft cornerbacks than most teams, but they really need the help there.
15. Denver Broncos
Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Garrett Bolles, the 2017 first-round pick, is not a starting left tackle and Drew Lock needs blindside protection.
16. Atlanta Falcons
Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State*
Both Vic Beasley and Adrian Clayborn are set to be free agents this year, so the Falcons need edge rushing help.
17. Dallas Cowboys
Grant Delpit, S, LSU*
The Cowboys desperately need a consistent playmaker in the middle of the defense as Jeff Heath gets hurt a lot.
18. Miami Dolphins (via Steelers)
Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
When you need as much help as Miami, you go with the best player on the board. The 6-6 Kinlaw would fit as a Richard Seymour-type in this Patriots scheme.
19. Raiders (via Bears)
Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama*
His elite speed, crisp route running and toughness in the middle of the field make him the outside weapon the Raiders sought with Antonio Brown.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Rams)
Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama
The Jaguars’ interior run defense is porous. Davis, at 6-6 and 315 pounds, is a freak who can rush the passer and stop the run.
Order to be determined by postseason results:
Miami Dolphins (via Texans)
New England Patriots
Kansas City Chiefs
Green Bay Packers
New Orleans Saints
San Francisco 49ers