Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Shock Trades That Could Dictate 2020 NFL Draft

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterMarch 27, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - FEBRUARY 25: Tua Tagovailoa #QB17 of Alabama interviews during the first day of the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 25, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
Alika Jenner/Getty Images

We all think we know how the 2020 NFL draft will go. The Bengals get Joe Burrow. The Redskins take Chase Young. It's becoming boring plotting out mock drafts because they are, for the most part, set in stone for the top 10. Which team takes a quarterback, which team takes an offensive tackle...there's little change in the order or outcomes at this point.

That's what makes the actual NFL draft awesome: There will be a surprise trade up or selection that will turn every mock draft upside down. Usually, it's a team selecting a quarterback that shocks us all.

Who will it be this year? NFL insiders think two teams have the potential to surprise us: the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars.

       

Las Vegas Raiders

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Even after adding Marcus Mariota to work behind Derek Carr (or compete with him), many insiders around the league believe head coach Jon Gruden might not be able to help himself with this quarterback class.

"I would say it's unlikely, but you can't ever rule anything out when it comes to Jon," one longtime scout who has worked with Gruden before said. "He loves quarterbacks and thinks he can get the best out of all of them. Would it surprise me if he fell in love with Jordan Love or Justin Herbert and made a move to get them? Not one bit."

The Raiders, who own picks Nos. 12 and 19 in the first round, have plenty of capital to move up if they so desire. One rival general manager summed it up like this: Is Carr good enough to win games?

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

"At some point, they have to look at the cost-benefit of Carr. He's not a bad quarterback, but he's not a great quarterback. You're paying him $21 million, but do you really think you're winning a ring with him? If you think you have a chance with one of these rookies, you have to try."

    

Jacksonville Jaguars

"Remember when [Dave] Caldwell shocked everyone and drafted Blake Bortles? Obviously it wasn't a good pick, but this is one of the most secretive GMs in football. If he wants a quarterback—and I think a lot of their moves point to that—then no one will know until he executes a trade up to get one."

That's how a rival general manager explained the moves of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he's right. In 2014, there was a belief the Jaguars needed a quarterback, but no one expected Bortles to be the pick at No. 3 overall. Caldwell held his cards close to the vest and made a splashy (albeit wrong) move. He could do that again in 2020.

After trading key building blocks like Jalen Ramsey, Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye, the Jaguars are set to rebuild. Again. That could start with second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew after the team traded away Nick Foles one year after signing him to a monster free-agent deal, but if Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone fall for a quarterback, a team that owns picks Nos. 9 and 20 overall—plus an extra first-rounder in 2021 from the Los Angeles Rams—definitely has the draft capital to make a move up the board.

"They're rebuilding that team in a completely different image," one scout said. "I wouldn't be shocked if they call Detroit at No. 3 overall and land Tua [Tagovailoa]."

                             

The Scout's Report

—As mock drafts begin to come together, many NFL scouts believe the New York Giants will select Clemson linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons at No. 4 overall. One scout said: "They kept Nate Solder and added an OK right tackle in [Cameron] Fleming. I think they're set up to wait on a tackle."

Brandon Aiyuk's draft stock could be falling in comparison with where most media evaluators have him. One NFL head coach asked me this week if Aiyuk could be had in Round 3. Another lead scout, when asked where they expected Aiyuk to be drafted, also replied with a "late 2, early 3" grade.

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Aiyuk currently ranks at No. 40 overall on my board, but he could fall victim to an absence of pro days and private workouts after missing out on the Senior Bowl and then running a 4.50-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.

—Team offensive tackle rankings are all over the map. In talks with scouts over the last two weeks, you are hard-pressed to find a consensus for the top tackle spot. On top of that, there is little consensus on how the top four looks.

One top scout said: "There's an obvious group there—call it Tier 1—and you can rank them however you want. Then there's Tier 2, with Josh Jones and Austin Jackson, and even there you can't get a big agreement."

—Former No. 1 overall picks Jameis Winston and Cam Newton are both free agents and may end up competing for a job. Newton, released this week, is coming off roughly one-and-a-half seasons worth of injuries and could struggle to find a gig without being able to take a physical and prove he's healthy.

Winston, who led the NFL with 30 interceptions, was deemed replaceable in Tampa Bay when the team signed Tom Brady. Now both quarterbacks need work.

Mike McCarn/Associated Press

The obvious fit for Newton is the Los Angeles Chargers—a team moving into a new stadium and needing to compete in a major market—but there is a belief they don't want to add a veteran at this stage.

For Winston, he's still young (26) and has likable traits, but by the time Tampa moved on from him, there weren't many jobs available. The Pittsburgh Steelers make sense from a scheme fit and need, but word around the league is they're unlikely to bring him in.

One team not yet reported as interested in either quarterback that should be is the Seattle Seahawks. Currently, Russell Wilson is the only quarterback under contract. Going to Seattle and working under Pete Carroll is a great way to get back on top.

                                   

The Big Board

1. EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State

2. QB Joe Burrow, LSU

3. CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State

4. LB/S Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

5. WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

6. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

7. OT Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama

8. DL Derrick Brown, Auburn

9. EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU

10. DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

11. OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

12. WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama

13. WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

14. CB CJ Henderson, Florida

15. RB D'Andre Swift, Georgia

16. OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville

17. LB Patrick Queen, LSU

18. OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia

19. LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma

20. WR Justin Jefferson, LSU

21. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

22. QB Justin Herbert, Oregon

23. S Xavier McKinney, Alabama

24. EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa

25. CB Jeff Gladney, TCU

26. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU

27. OC Cesar Ruiz, Michigan

28. WR Tee Higgins, Clemson

29. S Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota

30. RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

31. QB Jordan Love, Utah State

32. LB Zack Baun, Wisconsin

                                                 

Parting Shots

       

6. Draft Schedule

The NFL plans to go ahead with a three-day draft, starting April 23. It will no longer be a public event in Las Vegas, but instead a virtual event with cameras in team draft rooms and in the living rooms of prospects around the country.

This will be a draft unlike any other in history.

Multiple states are executing orders that nonessential businesses be closed. Others have not. The New York Jets or New York Giants could be prohibited from gathering even top-level executives and a few coaches in team facilities to handle the draft; other teams may be able to actually go into the facility in a small group to coordinate and select players.

This is, unfortunately, a competitive advantage the NFL must address. We all want the draft to happen, but it may need to be pushed back. One issue the NFL must figure out is trades and how teams will execute them.

Normally, one person in the draft room is designated to handle incoming and outgoing phone calls. The owner, head coach and general manager are all present to talk through options surrounding picks and also trades.

If the Miami Dolphins want to trade up from No. 5 overall to select Tagovailoa, who do they call from the Lions or Giants to get a deal done? If the Lions and Giants personnel are spread around the country on video conference calls as their virtual draft room, this could get messy.

A normal draft room designates one person to handle the phones—in many cases a VP of player personnel or similarly titled individual. This person is tasked with answering when trades are called in, and he often calls the player to let him know he's been selected.

Let's say you're the Giants and team facilities are closed, meaning you can't gather together in the draft room.

Now your GM, head coach, owner, VP of player personnel, director of college scouting and director of pro scouting are all communicating via video conferencing. We're not talking about millennials who are technology literate in many cases...just imagine Bill Belichick trying to Zoom meet with Josh McDaniels. Then you have those people tasked with trying to communicate with other teams, the NFL league office and players/agents.

It's definitely possible, but it will likely be a gigantic headache when you also consider the 10-minute window teams are given to announce picks in Round 1.

This is just one big issue general managers are raising to league officials when pressing for the draft to be pushed back, but so far the NFL is standing firm on the April 23 start date.

      

5. B/R GOAT Sim

New to Bleacher Report this coming Monday, the GOAT Sim is just one of the ways we're bringing you action while there are no other live sports. We'll be updating the event throughout, so be sure to check back regularly.

         

4. Sleeper of the Week: RB Javon Leake, Maryland

By this time, if you're a weekly reader, you've probably heard of most sleepers in the 2020 class. Here's one more. Maryland's big, strong, violent running back Javon Leake has the tools to be a surprise starter as a Day 3 pick from this year's class.

Leake didn't test particularly well, but turn on his game film and you see a punishing runner with off-tackle speed with a penchant for big plays. He needs to clean up some fumbling issues, and he hasn't produced in the passing game, but the athleticism is there for him to become a better contributor.

       

3. Riser of the Week: LSU linebacker Jacob Phillips

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The NFL is becoming a more spread out, fast game on offense. The result has been, to date, a smaller linebacker with better speed. But what we're seeing coming out of college in some cases are big linebackers with the athleticism to keep pace with fast quarterbacks and shifty slot receivers.

That's Jacob Phillips.

He's raw from an instincts perspective, but he has enough athleticism to project as a future starter. He's a junior entry from a loaded Tigers defense but still showed up as a playmaker against SEC and playoff competition.

Once you get past Isaiah Simmons, Kenneth Murray and Patrick Queen, you could make a case for Phillips as the linebacker with the most upside.

      

2. Faller of the Week: WR Laviska Shenault, Colorado

With pro days and private workouts canceled because of COVID-19, players who weren't able to test because of injury are likely to fall down the board when the draft starts. Laviska Shenault could be one of those players after a list of injuries throughout his career.

There's no doubt he is a talented playmaker, but he's a raw wide receiver and more of an offensive weapon who needs schemed touches. In a class of wideouts that is deep, Shenault's injury questions and lack of route-running skills could push him down the board.

    

1. Stick to Football is back in the studio this week with an updated 2020 two-round mock draft, with all three hosts making picks—plus an interview with Jedrick Wills Jr.

Check out all our podcast episodes, which are also available on YouTube as a video series, and subscribe if you haven't already. We will also post a ton of behind-the-scenes content on our Instagram page.

                                    

Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.

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