NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah fielded questions on Thursday afternoon from reporters around the country regarding his impressions of the players hoping to see their name flash across the screen during the 2020 NFL Draft.
Among the topics discussed during the lengthy conference call were the draft plans of the Las Vegas Raiders, who sit (for now) at Nos. 12 and 19 in the first round. These picks have the distinction of being the first selections the franchise will make in its new city.
Drafting a go-to wideout, something that was a glaring need for the Raiders last season, has stood out as the most likely outcome at No. 12, but, based on conversations he's had with people around the league, Jeremiah feels they might not have their pick of the litter at the position.
"I think any of those top receivers would arrive and be the most talented player at the position for the Raiders, so they can go a lot of different directions there. I am fascinated to see what happens in front of them, though, because, as it stands, we look at that wide receiver run, potentially could start with the Jets at [No.] 11 then the Raiders follow that right up at 12," he said when asked about how the team might approach the situation. "So, as we stand a week out and say, 'Well, the Raiders are probably gonna get their first or second choice at receiver,' if that's what they elect to do but I think when it's all said and done, I would not be shocked at all to see Jacksonville trade out of 9."
As Jeremiah noted, the Jets are also in the market for a wideout and could use their first selection on one of the top-rated WRs in CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III or Justin Jefferson. Should they, and the team drafting at No. 9, take one, that means that GM Mike Mayock would likely miss out on the projected top two of Lamb and Jeudy, possibly forcing the Raiders to go elsewhere at 12 and grab a wideout at 19.
"[The Raiders] would have to judge, 'Would we rather have the third receiver?' For them, let's say it Ruggs, or would you rather take a corner in [Florida's] CJ Henderson, whose, to me, clearly the second corner," Jeremiah said. "Some teams think he's right up there with [Jeff] Okudah. So, that would be the decision a make."
Las Vegas is not yet on the clock, but the ticking and tocking will only get louder as April 23 approaches.
Here are other key takeaways from Jeremiah's Thursday conference call:
Speaking of Okudah, it seems likely the Detroit Lions will draft the Ohio State product third overall but there's still a chance it's not as much of a lock as the first two selections.
"I would put Okudah down as the safest for me," Jeremiah said. "I know exactly what position he plays. I've seen him play that position against elite competition, and I've seen him play at a very high, consistent level. The most upside I would say is Simmons because of all the different things he can do. He's a special athlete and gives you so much flexibility as a defensive coordinator.
"There's a little bit of risk there just because he does so many different things. You got to hope that you can get him to be comfortable before you start really expanding his role. ... I think Derrick Brown is a dominant player against the run. He can collapse the pocket, he impacts the game on a down by down basis but he's not an elite pass rusher so I haven't dropped him far down my list but I think I might have him began with him at no. 2 or 3 and I think I have him now at no. 5. I think he'll be a confident, good pass rusher but he's gonna be more pushing the pocket than a double digit sack guy."
»*Versatility is the key?*
Simmons' versatility is what has helped push his name to the front of the line for the 2020 class, and it speaks volumes as to why a player with his skillset is so sought after in today's game. Jeremiah addressed how the evolution of the game has made versatility so valued.
"It's never been more important. When you talk about positionless players, and that's where it's headed. You're not going to be labeling these guys anymore as a receiver, a running back, well no, they're offensive weapons," he said. "Defensively, you got to find a way to match up with those. You see guys like Derwin James, you see what we see here with Isaiah Simmons where it allows you to keep your guys on the field and not get manipulated. Where they can sub and get you in a look and once they get you in a look, they're gonna crank tempo and they're gonna isolate the guy that's at a position and go at 'em."
"I look at the coaching staff and their familiarity with Nick Foles and I just think it makes more sense to have that competition to see if Trubisky, what can he do under this type of pressure and you know what you have in Nick Foles," he said. "I would not use one of those two picks on a quarterback. If you wanted to trade back at some point and time and look for a guy in the middle rounds, like a guy like Jake Luton from Oregon State, I'd rather take somebody like that later on down in the draft and use those other two picks to try and help your football team right now."
»*Difficulty of evaluating wideouts*
Much attention has been paid to the receiver position entering the draft and there will likely be much more to come in the days that follow.
Jeremiah offered his take on how much goes into the evaluation process for wideouts.
"If you look over the last several years, that second, third round receiver group has arguably been better than the first round group. The challenge in scouting the position is that it's almost like two different games with college and the NFL in terms of what route you're asked to run which are very limited at the college level...it's very limited in terms of what they ask them to do," Jeremiah said. "So, now when you bring them to the NFL, you're asking them to get off press coverage, you're asking them to think on the move, you're asking them to run a lot of routes they've never run before. There's a lot of adjustment there but I give the NFL because I think the last couple years, we're seeing the NFL be a little smarter with the transition period for these guys ... simplifying it a little bit while they're young before they can grow and evolve into everything you want them to do."
»*Match made in heaven for Pats at 53?*
After having had the spotlight placed on them all offseason, the New England Patriots will again be the center of attention when they are on the clock at No. 53.
The team can go a number of different routes with the pick, but Jeremiah believes he's found the perfect fit, citing a 1991 presentation from then-Browns coach Bill Belichick on what he expects from players at every position as the inspiration.
"To me, if you're drawing up a description of [defensive end] AJ Epenesa, it was literally what they were looking for," Jeremiah said, noting that Belichick emphasized size over speed and an ability to collapse the pocket and hold the point of attack as must-haves. "Now, that was 1991, that was a long time ago, but those Patriot defenses seem to all feature this type of a player."
Factor that in with Epenesa playing under the tutelage of Iowa coach and Belichick's close friend Kirk Ferentz for three years, and Jeremiah says the pick "just makes too much sense."