2020 NFL Draft

Bengals To Consider Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Chase Young

While favored to take Ohio native Joe Burrow at No. 1 overall, the Bengals are considering three other players for the top pick. The LSU standout is, of course, among this group. But the team is also studying Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Chase Young for the pick, Albert Breer of SI.com reports.

The Bengals have stepped back from a report indicating they will not trade the No. 1 pick, but Breer notes the team is not expected to move down. Bengals brass praised the Heisman winner recently, and while it would be a borderline shock if they did not draft Burrow, the team plans to conduct on-campus visits and bring in each player for pre-draft workouts. Burrow, however, is still believed to be the frontrunner, per Breer.

Young is regarded by some as the best pass-rushing prospect available in years, and both Tagovailoa and Herbert entered the 2019 season with much higher profiles than Burrow. Young remains a strong bet to go to the Redskins at No. 2, and if the Bengals do draft Burrow, there could be some jockeying for position at the Nos. 3-4 slots (held by the Lions and Giants) for Tagovailoa and Herbert.

After throwing 16 touchdown passes in 13 games as a junior, Burrow tossed a record-setting 60 in the Tigers’ national championship season. Zac Taylor asked Burrow’s father, Jimmy — who, like Taylor, played at Nebraska — to see if Joe would go to the Senior Bowl, Breer adds. But Joe Burrow declined to attend the Mobile, Ala., showcase.

It is interesting as well to see a pecking order emerge before the Combine, though the Bengals’ top need is not exactly a secret. As such, Young may be trailing the three passers.

We know what Joe is on tape; we know what Tua is on tape; we know what Justin is on tape,” Bengals player personnel director Duke Tobin said, via Breer. “Our role right now is to try to find out what we don’t know — how his leadership works, how his football mind works, how quickly he adapts to different situations, what his overall personality is, what it’s like being around him on a regular Tuesday. How much passion do they have for the game? … We’re trying to get at those types of things, with every player we do, but particularly the quarterbacks.

“… I feel like I’ve got a long way to go, because I’m just now starting the process of asking people close to them what they think of them.”

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Dolphins Prepared To Move Up In Draft?

If the Dolphins want to move up to the No. 1 pick for LSU’s Joe Burrow – or to another pick for any other player – they’ll have the ammunition to get a deal done. This week, GM Chris Grier, who has a bevy of picks this year, publicly acknowledged the potential for a big jump on the board. 

At the same time, Grier pointed out what we all know – around this time of year, teams are eager to spread information that benefits them in order to drum up leverage. In other words, the Dolphins almost certainly want to come away with their quarterback of the future in this year’s draft, but their eagerness to land Burrow or any of this year’s other signal callers might be overstated.

Alabama star Tua Tagovailoa is among the prized QBs in this year’s crop and many have connected the dots between him and the Fins. For what it’s worth, Grier says he doesn’t feel pressured to roll the dice on the one-time consensus top prospect who has serious question marks due to his hip injury.

We’ll evaluate him just like every player,” Grier said. “When people were talking about [us taking him], we said we weren’t tanking. We were trying to win and build. And so to say one player was attached to us, you can’t control what fans and people in the media say. So there’s no pressure for us. The pressure for us is to find the right guy to be the quarterback for the Dolphins, whether it’s him or someone else. That’s the pressure. Finding the right guy to lead the organization.”

For now, the Dolphins are slated to pick at No. 5 where Tagovailoa and other top QBs besides Burrow will be available. After that, they’re up again at Nos. 18 and 26.

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NFC North Notes: Lions, Stafford, Packers

Will the Lions select a quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick? Many have pondered the possibility, but GM Bob Quinn says he’s “totally comfortable and happy Matthew Stafford‘s our quarterback,” (Twitter link via SiriusXM).

He’s going to be in full health once the offseason program starts its course, he’s pretty much in full health right now,” Quinn said. “To see him in coach mode has been pretty cool because he really cares about, not only our team, but his teammates and helping those other young quarterbacks. I feel great about Matthew he’s going to come back strong and we’re ready to go for next year.”

The Lions, at least publicly, are committed to Stafford as their Week 1 starter. That won’t stop speculation about an early QB selection, however. Stafford, in theory, could be tasked with going into “coach mode” for one of this year’s top signal callers – every QB not named Joe Burrow should be there for Detroit to consider.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • Packers tight end Marcedes Lewis says he wants to continue playing next year. “I felt like I got into a groove with my role in this offense,” said the 35-year-old (via Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel). “It was really fun. I love the game. I knew I still had more football to give. Being in this offense and having [Matt] LaFleur and conceptually what he wanted and then having (former Jaguars offensive coordinator) [Nathaniel] Hackett here, it all went hand in hand. I just think it was a good situation. Mentally, you were coming to a place where guys cared about you, you know?” Lewis, who played in every regular season game, is ticketed for unrestricted free agency in March.
  • Ditto for Packes tackle Bryan Bulaga, who is ticketed to reach free agency just before his 31st birthday in March. The 6’5″ bulldozer says he plans to continue playing in 2020, regardless of how the offseason shakes out.

Bengals On Possibility Of Trading No. 1 Pick

The Bengals, according to one report, will not trade the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, regardless of what they’re offered. Even though all signs continue to point to LSU’s Joe Burrow, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin says no decision has been made with regard to who they’ll pick, or whether they’d be willing to trade down. 

I don’t know that any decision has been made for what we’re going to do in April,” Tobin told the team website. “We’re early in the process. We certainly haven’t had any meetings to determine that at this point. Those will be meetings we’ll have as we go through the process.”

Burrow might not be the best overall talent in this year’s class (that designation has been widely bestowed on Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young), but he is viewed as the very best quarterback in this year’s crop and the Bengals’ need for a signal caller is glaring. It would be a shock to see the Bengals take anyone other than Burrow, or sacrifice their chance at the LSU star, but Tobin is playing it cool.

We’ll have a lot of opportunity to get to know him through the process,” Tobin told Bengals.com. “We feel very comfortable by the time we have to make a decision in the draft on him and the other players as well.”

If the Bengals keep their minds and phone lines open, they may find the Panthers among several interested trading partners.

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Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons Declares For NFL Draft

Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons has officially declared for the NFL Draft, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. While the move will not come as a shock to anyone familiar with this year’s draft class, the news confirms that Simmons will indeed be available to teams in just a few months.

Simmons is considered a consensus top-ten, potentially top-five, prospect in this year’s draft class. An incredible combination of size, strength, athleticism, and football IQ, Simmons has been one of the most lethal switch-army knives in college football over the past three years.

While his size, 6’4”-230lbs, makes him an obvious fit at linebacker, many have opined that he has the speed and coverage abilities of an NFL safety. Earlier this year, a video of Simmons racing Clemson running back Travis Etienne in a 40-yard dash led many to speculate that Simmons should produce times below 4.45 and maybe even 4.4 at the NFL Scouting Combine. Both would rank among the best performances by a linebacker in the events history.

Simmons completes his collegiate career with 238 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 20 passes defended, 6 forced fumbles, and 4 interceptions. While Clemson was unable to win back-to-back National Titles, Simmons had his most productive season this year, recording 104 tackles, 16.5 for loss, 8 sacks, 8 passes defended, and 3 interceptions.

LSU’s Thaddeus Moss Declares For Draft

Thaddeus Moss just became a national champion, and now he’s ready to take the next step in his career. The LSU tight end declared for the 2020 draft on Friday, he announced on Twitter.

Moss initially was well-known for being the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss, but he quickly made a name for himself. After starting his career at N.C. State and playing sparingly, he transferred to LSU and enjoyed a breakout season this past year. He ended up catching 47 passes for 570 yards and four touchdowns, and had the 14th-most yards of any tight end in the nation. In the title game against Clemson this past week he played a pivotal role, reeling in two touchdowns from Joe Burrow.

Matt Miller of Bleacher Report recently wrote that he “is an accomplished run-blocker and physical player over the middle of the field,” as well as a “three-down talent.” Moss isn’t going to go in the first round like his father did back in 1998, but he has the chance to rise up some draft boards as he wasn’t known to too many before this season. As a previously unknown prospect with some intriguing tools, he has the potential to be a late riser in the process.

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Clemson RB Travis Etienne To Return For Senior Season

After losing top wide receiver Tee Higgins, Clemson can continue to build around its Trevor LawrenceTravis Etienne backfield. A junior running back, Etienne made the unexpected decision to stay in school, announcing the decision Friday (Twitter link).

Running backs typically declare early to avoid another year’s worth of college carries, but Clemson’s starter will take a different route to the NFL. Etienne has stacked multiple 1,600-yard rushing seasons together and could well end up as a 2021 first-round pick like Lawrence.

Etienne finished as a top-10 Heisman vote-getter in each of the past two seasons, which featured a combined 49 touchdowns and 3,782 scrimmage yards. Scouts Inc. slotted Etienne as a second-round talent this year, ranking the production dynamo as this class’ would-be No. 5 running back.

Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, Florida State’s Cam Akers and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins rate as other top backs in this class. All had years of eligibility remaining, but each entered the draft early. But Lawrence’s Clemson running mate will instead focus on helping the Tigers to another national championship game, after having started in the past two, and becoming a 2021 first-rounder.

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LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson Enters Draft

Another big name is on the board. On Friday, just before the deadline for underclassmen to declare, LSU linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson announced he’s going pro. 

[RELATED: LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry, Jacob Phillips Declare For Draft]

Chaisson is the latest in a line of LSU stars to declare early entry. Quarterback Joe Burrow (the expected No. 1 overall pick), center Lloyd Cushenberry III, linebacker Jacob Phillips, and safety Grant Delpit are among the eight pros that decided to skip their remaining eligibility in order to kickstart their NFL careers.

Chaisson may be one of several Tigers called in the first round. The imposing edge rusher finished out his final collegiate season with 60 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. It was a big year and one that erased any questions about the 2018 season which was mostly loss due to a torn ACL.

Chaisson stands at 6’4″ and weighs in at 250 pounds, but he’s tremendously athletic for a player of his size. Some evaluators might have him slotted behind the likes of Alabama’s Terrell Lewis or Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him shoot up the boards after the February combine.

Ohio State’s Chase Young is the undisputed gem of this edge rushing class (and, perhaps, the entire draft class). Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa also seems likely to come off the board early.

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Latest On Joe Burrow, Bengals

We’re months away from the NFL Draft, but there’s little doubt about who the Bengals will select with the No. 1 overall pick. All signs are pointing to quarterback Joe Burrow and the Bengals aren’t hiding their affinity for the LSU star. 

He’s got natural pocket feel. He feels it,” Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. “It seems like he never takes his eyes off down the field. He extends the play really, really well. He’s a lot faster than you might assume when you see him running away from all those SEC guys. He’s got incredible up-field accuracy. The ball hardly ever hits the ground in a game, which is rare. He just naturally puts the ball in places where those guys can make plays.”

And, despite the Bengals’ struggles in recent years, Burrow’s father says the QB would be honored and delighted to be their signal caller.

He’s excited to even be in that conversation and if the Bengals do draft him, he’s going to be happy,” Jimmy Burrow told TSN 690 (via Ben Baby of ESPN.com). “He’ll look at it as a challenge, but he’ll be confident that eventually, they can win a lot of games there in Cincinnati.”

Burrow put himself on the national recruiting radar at Ohio’s Athens High School, where he led the program to three straight playoff appearances. After that, he attended Ohio State and spent the next two years as a backup to J. T. Barrett. Then, when he was told that Dwayne Haskins would be the team’s new starting quarterback, he transferred to LSU and won the top job.

After a strong 2018 season, Burrow shattered all expectations with a 76.3% completion rate, 5,671 passing yards, and 60 (yes, 60) touchdowns through the air. He also added another five rushing TDs for good measure.

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USC’s Austin Jackson To Declare For Draft

USC offensive lineman Austin Jackson is heading to the NFL. The junior announced that he’ll forgo his final season at USC and declare for the NFL Draft (via Ryan Kartje of the Los Angeles Times).

“USC has truly been such a special place to call home for the last three years,” wrote Jackson. “Thank you to the boys on this team. I couldn’t imagine a better group to have played with. It’s been an honor to be a part of this incredible Trojan brotherhood and to go to war with you guys every day.

“With that shared, I will be foregoing my senior year to pursue my lifelong dream of playing in the NFL.”

Despite undergoing offseason surgery, Jackson earned All-Pac-12 first team honors during his final season at USC. This performance helped boost his draft stock, as the left tackle is expected to be selected at some point during the first two rounds. Kartje notes that some scouts consider Jackson a bit of a project, but his size and athleticism will make him a commodity.

Kartje writes that USC is still awaiting word on the status of junior wideout Tyler Vaughns, who’s been debating staying or declaring. Vaughns finished this past season with 74 receptions for 912 yards and six touchdowns.

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