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2020 NFL Draft: 12 bold predictions that could become reality

2020 NFL Draft: 12 bold predictions that could become reality
Dec 29, 2018; Arlington, TX, United States; Clemson Tigers safety Isaiah Simmons (11) warms up prior to the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the 2018 Cotton Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we made it. The 2020 NFL Draft is here. Soon, we will be able to say the Cincinnati Bengals are officially on the clock. But, before then, let’s look at some bold yet possible predictions that have the chance of becoming a reality tomorrow night.

Every NFL Draft season is unpredictable, you never know what to expect. One move could have every roster scrambling to grab “their” guy. Throw in the virtual factor this time around, and we can expect a crazy and potentially long draft night.

The PFN Mock Draft Simulator features over 350 prospects, free trades (including future year picks), the option to control any number of teams, and the ability for you to choose your own draft speed. Build your favorite team into a winner – click here to enter the PFN Mock Draft Simulator!

Bold predictions for the 2020 NFL Draft

With GM’s hunkered down in homes instead of war rooms, each pick will become crucial, while every trade must be precise. This could lead to one team’s top player leaving early while a star perhaps following to a contender. And without a full staff helping them make the call, one person’s last-second pick could become a top priority.

We usually see a bizarre move that shakes up the draft early. Sometimes it’s a blockbuster trade, while other times GMs reach on some players causing ripples throughout the rest of the process. While not all these predictions can come true, these dozen draft scenarios could cause mayhem on Thursday evening.

Isaiah Simmons falls out of the top five

Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons might be the top prospect from this class when all is said and done. The linebacker-hybrid exploded off the charts in his final year with the Tigers, then wowed scouts with his blazing 4.39 40-time and other measurables in Indianapolis.

But will he be selected in that top-five range? Perhaps not anymore.

Joe Burrow and Chase Young will likely go No.1 and No.2 overall. After that, Detroit could swing a trade with either Miami or Los Angeles for a quarterback. If not, the Giants are in the market to move down.

Despite being “enamored” by his talent, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman will listen to offers before making the selection at pick No.4. If so, that leaves the No.5 slot either taking a quarterback or Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah. Still able to land in the Big Apple, the Giants could add a few more picks then stop Simmons’ skid around the No.6 selection.

Simmons is a do-it-all player for any defense — give him a job and watch him explode. With a high-run on quarterbacks, that likely takes him out of the top-five range. 

Cleveland adds a tackle, but not the way you think

The Browns have needed tackle help since the retirement of Joe Thomas in 2018. Greg Robinson was serviceable for about 20 snaps before rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield was running for his life. In a prove-it year for the former No.1 overall pick, Cleveland will add as much protection as possible to merit the former Heisman’s selection.

Without a doubt, the Browns will be adding a tackle for the left side this draft season. Here’s the thing; why not add a veteran one?

With Trent Williams wanting out of Washington, Dan Snyder and staff will need to find a way to bring something back to D.C. in return. A first-round pick will likely be out of the question, but Cleveland could package together the 41st and 97th selection to bring in the All-Pro protector.

When active, Williams is perhaps the top left tackle in the sport. And with $38 million in cap space, Cleveland would be able to sign the seven-time Pro Bowler to an extension near his $16 million asking price. The team could then trade down and address other positions of need while picking up a pick they just lost — say Denver?

Berry needs to add a left tackle, and a proven one could be the way to get over this hump. After a busy offseason, why not make one final move that could take your franchise to the next level? Williams is getting traded, so let Cleveland be his new home.

Denver pulls a Pittsburgh

Remember last year when the Pittsburgh Steelers needed to move up to grab Devin Bush Jr.? Denver was the trade partner sitting inside the top-10. This year, it’ll be the Broncos “steeling” a player away from No.11 by working their way into that range to select a wide receiver.  

Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III has been linked to the franchise since the draft season began in January. His rise over the past month, plus 4.27 40-time, will have the 188-pound wideout a hot commodity just outside the top-10. Trading with either Jacksonville or Cleveland, the Broncos would likely have their pick for a prime target to pair with Noah Fant and Courtland Sutton in the second season of Drew Lock.

If perhaps Ruggs was already gone, Denver would have little concerns still taking either Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb or Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy. The Sooner is best known for his hands and yards after the catch while Jeudy is a polished route runner and touchdown machine. 

It’s time to take the next step with Lock. Adding a homerun threat will help enable the cannon of the second-year quarterback. If you’re looking for speed, Ruggs is your man.

A late trade for Jordan Love

Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert. Put them in whatever order you want, but they will be the first three quarterbacks taken on Thursday. That leaves Utah State’s Jordan Love as the next quarterback available on the table — and he’s going to be waiting a while.

Love possesses all the tools to be a quarterback that merits near skills to that of Patrick Mahomes. That said, his improvisation skills aren’t backyard football like the former MVP, but rather panic on the run though behind a thin offensive line. The former Aggie had all the traits teams want in a starter, but not enough to select him early.

The Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders, and Green Bay Packers all have the capital to move up late to select their future quarterback. Even the Dolphins could pass on a top-caliber pocket-passer early and take him later on Thursday night. 

In the end, expect Love to find himself in a similar situation to that of Lamar Jackson — look how that turned out.

Detroit Lions stay at number 3 and shock everyone

After the consensus top two picks are gone, the rest of the draft is up for grabs. And with multiple holes for the Lions, GM Bob Quinn has made it well known he wants out of the No.3 selection.

Sometimes the asking price is too much. That could force teams to bow out and figure out another way to address their top position of need. Who knows, maybe a team will draft someone too early and let a talent begin to slide.

If Detroit stays at No.3, they’ll help another team when they select Auburn’s, Derrick Brown. Yes, Brown is certainly in play and could be the selection that stumps us all.

Detroit addressed their cornerback needs with Desmond Trufant during free agency. It’s still a priority, but the depth on the defensive line will be one of the worst in the NFL, so this could be a bold prediction but possible for the 2020 NFL Draft. Brown has the pass-rushing ability to cause havoc up the middle while also solidifying the run game with multiple stops behind the line.

Detroit is a wild card, much like their season last year. Sometimes, its the safer picks that keep coaches and GMs off the hot seat. If Quinn isn’t sold on Okudah or Simmons, Brown would certainly be in play should they stay put. 

Seven offensive tackles will go in the first round

Offensive tackles are a hot commodity in the NFL. The top four players at the position each have traits to become OT1 and solidify a first-round pick. By the top-15, expect Jedrick Wills Jr., Andrew Thomas, Tristan Wirfs, and Mekhi Becton to all be gone.

That will be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a run for pass protectors.

Houston’s Josh Jones has seen his name penciled in with Miami after an impressive final season and Senior Bowl outing. The 6-foot-6 tackle graded out as one of the top pass protectors in all of football last season. Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland is raw, but his measurable traits were praised highly in Indianapolis.

Fellow Georgia tackle, Isaiah Wilson owns the frame and the raw potential to play either side of the ball with proper coaching. Meanwhile, USC’s Austin Jackson played well down the stretch on the Trojan’s average offensive line.

We already know four tackles will be gone early. After that, there are at least four more rosters that need help on their offensive line. Expect three of them to be called Thursday evening late. 

XFL star drafted day two

While the league ceased operations due to the current pandemic, several players will have the chance to continue their playing careers a little while longer. One, however, will have an opportunity to become the first professional football player selected in the draft since others were supplemental picks.

Kenny Robinson of the St.Louis Battlehawks chose to take this direction following his dismissal from West Virginia. It paid off as the safety excelled in coverage, collecting 21 total tackles and two interceptions in five games. But Robinson could have an advantage over colligate prospects as most of the talent in the now-debunked league spent at least time on an NFL practice squad.

The 2018 All-Big 12 has faced professional players, making him more NFL ready than most day two options. Teams like the Jaguars, Rams, and Eagles all have pressing needs at free safety this season, likely putting Robinson higher on their boards. With experience against veteran talent, don’t expect the youngest player in the league to be waiting that long to hear his name called.

The XFL might have failed, but they did produce a unique talent worthy of a top-100 draft selection.

Antoine Winfield Jr. = first safety drafted

LSU’s Grant Delpit was expected to be a first-round lock heading into the season. He still could go in that range, but more scouts are concerned for his glaring issues, pushing him down draft boards.

If a team would like a bonafide safety ready for snaps from the start, they should be looking at Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield Jr. The former Gopher brings the NFL pedigree to the table already after growing up with Antoine Sr. tearing it up with the Vikings. Winfield can play both positions in coverage, while his size will allow him to make plays against the run and in the open field.

https://twitter.com/Mostly_Always/status/1197636737092243456

There’s nothing extraordinary about Winfield’s overall game — tell him to play, and he’ll do it. That being said, his combination of ball tracking skills and the ability to make contact could make him the safest prospect on some boards. Any team needing help at both positions could take him early and find out where he fits best.

There likely won’t be a safety worth taking in the first round, but Winfield Jr. in the right system will flourish earlier than the likes of Delpit or Alabama’s Xavier McKinney. So this could be another bold prediction for the 2020 Draft, but it won’t be shocking when he’s taken off the board before the SEC boys. 

Five WRs and CBs will be drafted in RD1

When looking at the wide receiver position, certainly Oklahoma’s Lamb and Alabama’s Jeudy and Ruggs III will be taken early. Defensively, Jeffery Okudah and CJ Henderson are the two standout cornerbacks that possess the traits to become top cover men for their respective rosters.

After that, any wide receiver could be taken at any given moment. With that in mind, that could hurt the stock for other pass catchers, and the cornerback need will become more prevalent to team’s looking to address their secondary. Temas will overdraft every year, and a run at cornerbacks could be coming Thursday.

Utah’s Jaylon Johnson has the size and cover skills to become a standout corner, while Auburn’s Noah Igbinoghene is the most physical defender at the line of scrimmage. TCU’s Jeff Gladney has mixed tools of both man and zone coverage that makes him deadly should a ball head his direction.

Johnson and Gladney should be considered fringe first-rounders. Trevon Diggs and Igbinoghene both have traits that could have teams moving up to select them. TCU’s Jalen Reagor and LSU’s Justin Jefferson are perfect options inside for any offense looking for a third option in the passing game. 

Depending on the run of defensive linemen and tackles, there’s a chance we see the same number of pass defenders go as we do pass-catchers.

New England adds a franchise QB on day two

When Tom Brady left Foxborough, all of us were like Bill Belichick – we had nothing to say. A new era in the AFC East will begin, meaning a new quarterback will take control. Former Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham is, for now, the starter, but he can’t be considered the immediate solution to TB12.

Right?

The 23rd selection might provide an opportunity to select Jordan Love if he’s still on the board. If not, Belichick loves to trade down, adding more picks and keeping in mind, which should be used to find his next signal-caller. From there, expect Washington’s Jacob Eason or Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts to be the selection somewhere in the second round.

Hurts and Eason both transferred from the SEC to grab the starting gig somewhere else. They both had renaissance style season, with the former Alabama starter leading his team to the College Football Playoff and a Heisman Trophy finalist. Hurts improved as a passer and could be a molding clay for Josh McDaniels to tweak minor flaws. Eason, a more prototypical pocket-passer, would likely learn a season behind Stidham while the franchise looks to add pieces around him.

Even if Love is on the board, there’s no set answer on if he’s New England’s man. Expect the Patriots to add the heir of Brady, but let’s not say it’s happening at No.23.

Four trades happen inside the top-10

There’s no telling what could happen after the No.1 pick. One thing that we all can expect is at least one team will be trading either in or out of the top-10.

Last season, the first top-10 trade came when the Steelers snagged Devin Bush from Denver. This year, expect the Giants to become sellers. The Chargers need a franchise quarterback and could be forced to move up before Miami has a chance to grab their top target. And with rumors that Gettleman has done his homework on the Oregon signal-caller, that could force the Dolphins to jump to No.3 if they think the Duck fits their bill.

Both Denver and Atlanta have been recorded of wanting to move for a wide receiver and cornerback, respectively. The Jaguars and Browns could move back several spots and still be in play for a top tackle or defensive lineman while picking up extra selections. And let’s not forget that the Raiders could be interested in a quarterback should Tagovailoa begin to fall.

It’s not often you see this many trades happen early, but then again, this draft will be the craziest one we’ll ever see. For now, expect Los Angeles, Denver, Atlanta, and a surprise team to move up and grab their guy before it’s too late.

Less than ten non-FCS players will be selected

This one hurts to write, but it’s also true. Multiple non-FBS schools make or break their top talent’s with Pro Day numbers after being overlooked for the combine.

This year, there were roughly 30 Pro Day’s before the world was forced to shut down due to the current pandemic. That means most of the players selected will be based on their tape and measurables from Indianapolis — thus hurting the small-school prospects.

Southern Illinois’ Jeremy Chinn, Lenoir-Rhyne’s Kyle Dugger, Dayton’s Adam Trautman, and St. John’s Ben Bartch should be early selections after participating in both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine. Only 13 small-school players were able to strut their stuff down at Lucas Oil Stadium. And unless they flashed on film, it’ll be hard to justify their draft selection.

Teams will always look at the competition when Pro Day film is unavailable. Non-FCS schools could be considered lesser talent due to rosters they face any given Saturday. Expect most of the lesser-known players to become top priority free agent signings rather than draft selections.

Cole Thompson is a lead NFL writer for PFN. You can follow him on Twitter @MrColeThompson and follow PFN @PFN365.

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