Every year, certain NFL draft prospects start to rise the month before the draft. Sometimes, this is because of stellar performances at the scouting combine or at pro days. Sometimes, prospects appear to rise because the media's view of the player begins to catch up with how teams actually view him.
Things are a bit different this year, though. With the NFL banning travel, pro days and predraft visits due to COVID-19 concerns, most rises have been more of a slow build than a rapid ascent.
Take the rise of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, for example. His draft stock took a significant hit when he suffered a dislocated and fractured hip during the 2019 season. His stock has been improving ever since as his health has improved, though.
At the combine in Indianapolis, the 22-year-old's medicals were "overwhelmingly positive," according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport. The former Crimson Tide star more recently posted videos of himself going through passing drills with impressive fluidity and footwork.
"He's moving really, really well," Tagovailoa's agent, Chris Cabott, said, per AL.com's Mike Rodak. "He's really turned the corner. To this point, we don't have any medical concerns. Obviously in any given situation, it's a day-by-day situation, but his road to return has not been interrupted."
A few months ago, Tagovailoa appeared to be a major gamble in the first round. Now, he's likely to be one of the first few players off the board in April.
2020 NFL Mock Draft
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, Edge, Ohio State
3. Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
4. New York Giants: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama
5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
7. Carolina Panthers: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
8. Arizona Cardinals: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
10. Cleveland Browns: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
11. New York Jets: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
12. Las Vegas Raiders: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
13. San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis): Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
15. Denver Broncos: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
16. Atlanta Falcons: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
17. Dallas Cowboys: K'Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU
18. Miami Dolphins (from Pittsburgh): Josh Jones, OT, Houston
19. Las Vegas Raiders (from Chicago): CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Rams): Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
22. Minnesota Vikings (from Buffalo): Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
23. New England Patriots: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
24. New Orleans Saints: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
25. Minnesota Vikings: Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State
26. Miami Dolphins (from Houston): A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa
27. Seattle Seahawks: Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
28. Baltimore Ravens: Curtis Weaver, Edge, Boise State
29. Tennessee Titans: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
30. Green Bay Packers: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
31. San Francisco 49ers: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State
Isaiah Simmons, LB, LSU
Teams that love versatility in a defensive prospect were likely high on Clemson linebacker-safety hybrid Isaiah Simmons long before the scouting combine. He spent time at nearly every position on defense in 2019, finishing the year with 102 tackles, three interceptions, 15.0 tackles for a loss, 8.0 sacks and a forced fumble.
The 21-year-old can bring schematic versatility to a defense, and he can also bring legitimate playmaking ability. Identifying the best position for him might be the key to unlocking it.
A tremendous athlete, Simmons proved as much in Indianapolis. After measuring in at 6'4" and 238 pounds, he then ran the 40-yard dash in a mere 4.39 seconds. He also produced a 39-inch vertical and a 132-inch broad jump.
From a physical standpoint, Simmons has the tools to be a premier off-ball linebacker, a centerfield safety or even an aggressive edge-rushing presence. His NFL employer will likely experiment with all of these roles, though specialization could allow him to quickly become an All-Pro-type talent.
Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
Baylor wideout Denzel Mims is another prospect who has gained draft momentum after the 2019 season. Though he was plenty productive in 2019—he had 1,020 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns—he really started to rise in January at the Senior Bowl.
"Mims was dominant throughout multiple practices, illustrating more diverse route running abilities than what many of his reps at Baylor involved," Kyle Crabbs of the Draft Network wrote. "Add in Mims' high point ability and length and suddenly he's made enough noise to potentially separate himself in a crowded crop of receivers."
In Indianapolis, the 22-year-old further raised his draft stock. He produced a 4.38-second 40 at 6'3" and 207 pounds. He also put up 16 reps on the 225-pound bench press, logged a 38.5-inch vertical and a 131-inch broad jump.
Mims has a tremendous combination of size, strength and speed, and he is now likely to be one of the first wide receivers off the board.