clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2020 NFL Draft Standouts: 1-5

First segment in a series

Chris Mortensen And Mel Kiper Working At ESPN Photo by John Atashian/Getty Images

The NFL Draft has come and gone, but you know that is not the end of things. Teams made their picks, but how well did they do? Each NFL team market has a media member who will exalt picks as the greatest selections in the history of man. You will also have the guy who thinks every pick was a mistake. So where does the truth lie?

Fortunately you have me to set you straight and give you the truth. I am at a disadvantage as I don’t get to watch the coaches video, see the medical reports on prospects, or get to interview them. Because of that I am only supremely above average in my Draft assumptions. If I had more info I would be incredible.

I am not going to nitpick every selection but instead give you the 5 players I liked most from watching tape and additional research. These players are the guys I think have the highest ceiling relative to where they were drafted. I love Joe Burrow, but he didn’t make my list because he was the #1 overall dude. These are not the 5 best players. They are players I really liked while I scouted and think will be successful.

1) Isaiah Simmons LB Clemson 6’ 4” 238 lbs (Arizona Cardinals; Round 1; Pick 8)

Simmons was a Combine darling when he ran 4.39/40, had a 39.0” vertical and broad jumped 132.0”. Those are incredible numbers for a player of his size, but they are not the reason he is on this list. His tape shows a multi-talented player who can do most anything on a football field. If he were to play on offense he would in my estimation be just as dynamic.

This is a player who can play anywhere and everywhere. How many inside linebackers have the speed and quickness to plays as a slot corner? Well Simmons does. He can also play as a safety with huge range or a as “Joker,” a linebacker who plays all over the field. He can cover any TE, RB or slot WR. He also can blitz the QB from anywhere on the defensive line.

On this play he is the edge contain as the outside linebacker on the end of the line. He needs to crash down on any running play inside so he can’t just stay outside.

He is really doing this from a defensive end position, but you see the speed, the quickness and the agility to follow the RB and still break off to tackle a very mobile QB in Malik Cunningham. Cunningham had 482 rushing yards despite getting sacked numerous times which in college football comes off your rushing total.

Simmons is a smart kid who learns fast but also can adapt as the play is happening. He will be a coach on the field when he learns the defense. He can play all over as a ILB, a safety, a slot corner, a defensive end, or a joker who can be moved around by an inventive defensive coordinator. He is my pick to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Now some of you will say that this is unfair that I just picked a top flight player to be one of my special players. You would be right in your assumption as Simmons was loved by many. The difference is I had Simmons as my #1 player while a lot of NFL executives were saying Simmons was overrated which is why he went #8 instead of top 3.

In my estimation Simmons will be a outstanding NFL player, but his usefulness will be determined by his defensive coordinator. A quality coordinator will be able to move Simmons into advantageous situations to fully utilize his immense skillset. Simmons has double digit sack and 5+ interceptions ability. I view Simmons as a Jamal Adams type of player but is taller, faster, and stronger with more length. If he is allowed to play the same way as Jamal Adams he will be an All Pro also.

The thing to remember about Simmons is that he never had a chance to just stay at one position where he could learn to dominate. Instead he was moved around to take advantage of his diverse talents. Once he starts as a WILL LB for a while he will start to rise. The only danger is if Arizona struggles and he gets lost in the desert as merely a very good player on a bad team.

2) Malik Harrison ILB Ohio State 6’ 2 5/8” 247 lbs (Baltimore Ravens; Round 3; Pick 98)

The second prospect who I think will develop into a great player is another linebacker. My apologies. It’s just the way things fell, not an intentional move on my part. Harrison never played as a linebacker before coming to Ohio State. It took a while to acclimate to his new position which was further delayed as he was made to play each LB spot. Once he settled in as a fixture at middle linebacker he started to really develop.

Harrison took a huge step forward in development in the 2019 season, and there’s still plenty of room to grow for the prototypical MIKE linebacker. Harrison began to trust his eyes more to believe what he was seeing which led to him shooting gaps and making plays in the backfield. His 17 TFLs more than doubled the total from his first three years combined. He also began to trust himself in coverage more by staying in short zones and making plays on RBs and crossers. He is a tremendous athlete with excellent lateral agility and the size coaches like on the second level of the defense. He is a smart kid. Harrison was a QB for 3 years in HS. He sees screen developing and gets there before the blockers do.

He is like Isaiah Simmons in a way as he has played each LB position, offering some versatility as a scheme fit. He brings a charge when he hit a ball carrier and is a solid wrap tackler. He doesn’t get stuck on blocks. He is a stack and shed machine who finds the ball then makes the play. He is tall and lean with good length. He is always coming downhill to make a stop. He has unappreciated coverage skills in man and zone schemes.

Here is is playing as a spy against a very mobile QB in Adrian Martinez. Once Martinez breaks the pocket he is on the run with Harrison in pursuit. Harrison plays this as well as you can as he doesn’t force things staying on the outside shoulder of the QB as he approaches. This gives only a single direction for the QB to flee. Once he commits to that line Harrison swoops in for the kill shot. He comes in with a shot just under the right shoulder of the QB which slightly picks him up off the ground. This allows Harrison to drive him into the dirt forcibly.

You can see the speed, the fluid movement in space, the lateral agility, and the solid wrap tackle of the QB. This is near textbook way of making the sure tackle.

Harrison is also a film junkie who looks for any advantage he can get. He will also study film of his own team, looking at footwork of the DBs or the hand usage of defensive linemen that he can incorporate into his own game. He has 4.6/40 speed as a 247 poune LB with agility so he has the type of skill set that lends to good coverage abilities once he learns the correct technique.

When you have a hard working prospect with near elite physical tools (77.2 SPARQ score) for his position with great intelligence, you have the makings of a top 5 player as an ILB.

3) Jeremy Chinn Safety S. Illinois 6’ 3” 221 lbs (Carolina Panthers; Round 2; Round 64)

Jeremy Chinn is a safety with tremendous size, speed, athleticism, and solid tackling ability. Chinn has the skillset to play near the line of scrimmage or as a single high safety who can roam the length and width of the field. With his height and solid length he can handle most any tight end in man on man coverage. He was a team leader, a consensus All American, and an All Academic Team member with a 3.55 GPA.

He had 13 interceptions, 31 passes defended, and 6 forced fumbles along with 243 tackles and a blocked field goal in his college career. He is a sure wrap tackler who can lower the boom on opponents. He is smart and tries to force turnovers whenever he can. His catch radius is impressive. He also uses his hands well to get between the arms of pass catcher to dislodge any balls they try to catch. He could sub as a 3rd down linebacker that can cover in space but also be stout against draw plays and screen passes. He is adept at playing in zone coverage both near and far away from the LOS. He is a tough player both physically and mentally. He is an aggressive player with the ability to stack and shed blockers on run plays when needed.

On this play Chinn is playing as the right side in a two deep safety look. When the WILL LB doesn’t get enough depth in his drop he leaves a throwing lane open for the slot receiver to take the pass on a skinny post play. That is A. J. Brown who now plays for the Tennessee Titans and has top end speed.

Chinn is no slouch in the speed department (4.45/40). He is able to come from the opposite side of the formation to make a sure tackle. Chinn has sideline to sideline coverage ability with the size to play anywhere on the field. He will need to develop his instincts, but with his intelligence he should improve quickly.

Chinn was a relative unknown until he went to the Combine and showed elite athleticism. His 4.45/40 at 6’ 3” 221 lbs was an eye opener, but his 41.0” vert and 138.0” broad jump made everyone sit up and take notice.

As a safety his ascension will be determined by his defensive coordinator and how they use him. The Carolina Panthers have little ahead of him on the depth chart. His head coach (Matt Rhule) and his DC (Phil Snow) are smart enough to use Chinn where he will be most useful. Chinn has Pro Bowl ability and could be there within 3 years.

4) Denzel Mims WR Baylor 6’ 2 7/8” 207 lbs (New York Jets; Round 2; Pick 59)

Mims is a dynamic playmaker who has only scratched the surface of his talents. A former high school QB who injured his arm throwing a baseball, Mims has only played receiver since he was a sophomore in high school. He has slowly built his frame gaining 35 lbs of muscle since his freshman year at Baylor. He has long arms 33 1/2” with a large catching radius.

He is exceptional at making contested catches. A natural hands catcher, he will catch nearly every ball away from his body. He is too powerful for press coverage, and his hand usage is elite, knocking down the hands of corners and using his length to keep defenders from impeding him. He is fast. He won his 200 meter state championship in Texas by over 20 meters. He ran 100 meters in 10.88 seconds when he was in high school.

He is a vertical receiver who can run by most defenders and attack all three levels of the defense. Of his 24 receiving TDs at Baylor, 16 came within 22 yards of the endzone showing he is not just a vertical threat. He has tremendous leaping ability and could be a demon in the red zone. He is said to be very coachable, a team player who just wants to win. He has worked hard to change himself from a QB to a game changing receiver in a short period of time.

He was said by some scouting reports to have poor hands, but I think those were erroneous. As a senior Mims had 66 receptions for 1,020 yards and 12 TDs in 13 games despite being the obvious threat on the field. He had a total of 5 dropped passes. (By the way he played the majority of the year with a broken hand.) He didn’t make it known because he didn’t want to make excuses. He is a tough kid who has a super high ceiling and got better every year in college.

There is an added bonus as he comes to New York with a chip on his shoulder as you can see in this video: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gww0eDuHy00).

Mims has excellent body control as you can see here. This was in the waning seconds of the game that Baylor was able to eventually win. This catch would have been good in the NFL as he was able to get both feet in bounds during the catch.

Mims is still developing, but he has a skillset that is near unmatched by any other receiver in this class. I did extensive scouting on Mims. He was a standout performer all season with a suspect QB who ran the ball himself over 10 times a game. Mims was dinged because he played in the Big XII which tends to increase receiving production. Still I was really shocked that 13 receivers were selected before Mims. I am sure this infuriates him to no end.

I had Mims much higher on my big board than #59 where he was selected. I am fairly confident that in 5 years people will be wondering how the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Chase Claypool over Mims in the 2020 NFL Draft.

If Sam Darnold is given time in the pocket to throw, I think Mims will have a monster year. Even though practice time and training camp may be shortened I believe that with Mims’ physical abilities he will shine.

Everyone is gifting the Offensive Rookie of the Year award to Joe Burrow because he is in the best position to start and lead his team, but I think the Bengals will still be awful this year which could open the award up to someone else. That someone could be the 13th receiver taken in the draft. People will be wondering how or why did he drop that far.

5) K’Lavon Chaisson Edge LSU 6’ 3” 254 lbs (Jacksonville Jaguars; Round 1; Pick 20)

Chaisson is an enigma to me as he is an elite athlete who seemingly no one likes as a prospect. Chaisson is an uber-talented player who has some elite tools but is also wise beyond his years. He will not turn 21 until the first week of NFL training camp, but he already has an elite skill set that can help any NFL team. His first step explosiveness is on a par with Von Miller who Chaisson most resembles as a player. Chaisson is a smart kid with a voracious appetite to learn. He’s enthralled with the mental part of the game.

Despite being lean, he uses great leverage in his game to uproot players who are over 100 lbs heavier than him. His quickness/speed ratio is near elite. He is near impossible to stop around the edge if he times the snap correctly. Even as he does he rarely ever is called for offsides on a play. He is a sure wrap tackler who rarely misses a tackle on a player he catches up to. As the last man on the line he is very stout holding the edge despite his lean frame. His get off at the snap makes him a human holding penalty against offensive tackles. Chaisson is a student of the game, a film room junkie who will study teams’ offensive sets and tendencies looking for anything to give him an advantage. He played only 24 games at LSU, but he played in more big games than most 4 year starters in college.

Even when Chaisson was in high school he would study opponents in his coaches’ offices. When he was deciding on which college to play for (He had an oral agreement to attend U of Texas at the time.) he was in the office studying the offensive alignments of Alabama. Since he was still considering LSU as a possible school to attend, he wanted to study the team he would have to beat to win the SEC.

On this play Chaisson is off balance at the snap as he tries to time his jump. Even as he is not fully able to get a huge jump he easily beats his man around the edge for the sack. Chaisson was not your ordinary rush LB as he dropped into coverage or held the edge more than he rushed at LSU. Against Alabama in 2019 he rushed only 18 times in the game getting one sack and drawing a facemask penalty on another sure sack.

Chaisson is a very smart kid who was an engineering major at LSU. He is also an elite athlete who was offered six Division I football scholarships before he ever played a single down of varsity football. His offers came from Houston, Texas, Baylor LSU, Colorado, and UCLA. He was considered a physical freak, and the coaches at LSU raved about his elite athleticism. This is a school that boasts some of the greatest athletic talent in the country yet Chaisson was considered the elite talent at a school of elite talents.

Chaisson injured his knee in his first game as a sophomore and missed the rest of the season. He played sparingly as a freshman so he is a little raw as a prospect. He will need some time to work into his surroundings, but it shouldn’t take long for him to become a dominant force for the defense. He is going to Jacksonville who should have a stacked defense so I expect Chaisson to really be star in the 2nd half of the season.

Summary

There are many quality players in this Draft bound to surprise the experts and outperform their Draft status. The players I mentioned were just a few of those I really liked.

When you have an elite athlete who will put in the time to study his craft and watch tremendous amounts of film on their opponents, you can’t help but get excited about their future. Gifted players who go above and beyond the norm is a recipe for greatness. I am not saying that all these players will become great, but I will say they have a better chance than most because of their work ethics.

This Draft is so deep that I have another 5 players just below these players who I also will shine as prospects. Those players will be revealed in my next installment in this series on the 2020 NFL Draft.

That is what I think.

What do you think?