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Mel Kiper changes Giants' pick in Mock Draft 3.0

Much has changed since Mel Kiper Jr.'s last mock draft, including his first-round projection for the Giants.

The ESPN analyst released his third mock draft of 2020 on Tuesday and penciled in Clemson do-it-all linebacker Isaiah Simmons for Big Blue at No. 4 overall. Kiper originally had Simmons in his first mock draft, which he released exactly two months ago, but shook things up in his February edition leading up to the NFL Scouting Combine.

In that one, Kiper had the Detroit Lions taking Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa just before the Giants, whom he then had selecting Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah. Simmons dropped to the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 9.

Kiper chose a different adventure one month before the 2020 NFL Draft, which is still set for April 23-25 with no public events. He had Okudah to Detroit, Simmons to the Giants, and Tagovailoa to Miami to round out the top five.

"This is another spot to watch for a trade," Kiper wrote. "If the Lions stay put and take Okudah, could a team jump in front of the Dolphins to snag Tagovailoa? Because I can't project trades here, I'll mock Simmons to the Giants. He's a phenomenal athlete who ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at 238 pounds, but he has great film from the past two seasons, too. He and free-agent addition Blake Martinez would really strengthen the G-Men's linebacker unit. General manager Dave Gettleman has to think about an offensive tackle here, too, with Mekhi Becton, Tristan Wirfs or Jedrick Wills Jr. as possibilities."

View photos from the college career of Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons

According to Pro Football Focus, Simmons, who measured 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds at the combine, played more than 100 snaps at five different positions for Clemson in 2019.

He lined up 299 times at inside linebacker, 262 at slot cornerback, 132 at free safety, 116 at outside linebacker, and 100 at strong safety. He was asked in Indianapolis what position he plays. "Defense," said Simmons, who won the 2019 Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker, the first player to do so in Clemson history.

Analysts other thank Kiper have frequently projected Simmons to the Giants at No. 4 in mock drafts, a testament to the shift away from "positionless" as a pejorative term. In today's NFL, it is coveted.

"I think it's really beneficial for me," Simmons said last month. "I know years ago it wasn't good to be a positionless guy. But now it's become a benefit for me just because of all the versatility I'll be able to do, play linebacker, play safety, whatever it is, I feel like it just helps me out."

Simmons added, "I like an interception just as much as I like getting a sack. I don't really think I have a favorite."

Simmons credited Tyrann Mathieu as the turning point for players of their ilk. With similar speculation about what position he would play at the next level – safety or cornerback, in his case – the Cardinals drafted Mathieu in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He bounced from Arizona to Houston and to Kansas City, where he helped the Chiefs win a Super Bowl. Mathieu was named first-team All-Pro for the second time in his career in 2019.

"Personally, I model my game after a couple people," Simmons said. "If I have to go look at film of somebody to get something, it would be Von Miller just for pass rush, Jalen Ramsey for man techniques and Tyrann Mathieu just because he plays around everywhere as well. I take bits and pieces from all of them and kind of throw them into my game."

His game also includes the ability to cover tight ends, a necessity in the modern game.

"If you know who George Kittle and Travis Kelce are, then that explains it all," Simmons said. "Stopping tight ends and linebackers playing man on running backs is -- the game's no longer a 250-pound linebacker. It's more guys that are able to run side to side and are able to cover. It's just a necessity now with the tight ends and running backs."

Overcoming the mental aspect was naturally the most difficult part of playing five different positions. Thankfully at Clemson, the back seven of the defense all meet together, so Simmons wouldn't have to go from room to room to room to room to room.

"Having to know what everybody else has to do, that was the most complicated thing I had to deal with," he said. "But I learn everything very fast and I feel like that's what really benefitted me and helped me play at a high level."

NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah updated his ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Pick: Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson

Analysis: "He was a factor in every single statistical area in 2019 for the Tigers, and his blazing 4.39-second time in the 40, wild 39-inch vertical and ridiculous 11-foot broad jump took Indianapolis by storm. It was one of the best workouts we've ever seen from a linebacker. A converted safety, Simmons fits what NFL teams are looking for today and can affect so many areas of the game. New York handed 28.2 points per game to opponents last season, more than all but two other teams. Let's jump start the defensive rebuild with a true difference-maker."

Pick: Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa

Analysis: "Lots of good options here, but protecting QB Daniel Jones is the priority."

Pick: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

Analysis: "Dave Gettleman's affinity for the "hog mollies" could lead the Giants to add an edge blocker to protect their young quarterback."

Pick: Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson

Analysis: "Isaiah Simmons can play anywhere on defense, something he showed often at Clemson, and would give the Giants an athletic playmaker who can be a matchup problem for any type of offense. He's fast enough with a 4.39-second 40-yard dash to run with tight ends, cover slot receivers, chase down quarterbacks and generally make life miserable for offensive coordinators. While linebacker might not be the team's biggest need, Simmons is a position-less player with excellent ability to change a game defensively."

Pick: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Analysis: "Becton is a rare prospect with his impressive blend of size, strength and athletic traits."

Pick: Mekhi Becton, OL, Louisville

Analysis: "There will be a lot of sentiment to take Clemson's do-everything defender Isaiah Simmons here, and that would be a terrific selection. But after drafting QB Daniel Jones last year, protecting him is a priority."

Pick: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Analysis: "Of all the hog mollies in this draft, Mehki Becton is the hog molliest."

Pick: Jedrick Wills Jr., OL, Alabama

Analysis: "Wills was dominant last season for Alabama and he'll solidify the right side of the Giants' O-line, which is great news for Daniel Jones."

Pick: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Analysis: "Massive and athletic are descriptors we don't often see used in the same sentence, but the Louisville left tackle is that guy. The Giants could go with Isaiah Simmons or Jedrick Wills in this spot, as well."

Pick: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Analysis: "The Giants are committed to building through the trenches, and there's no larger building block in the draft class… literally. The 6-foot-7, 364-pound Becton scooted his way to a 5.1 second 40-yard dash over the weekend. While he hasn't been tested a ton in pass protection (73 true pass sets all year) and is raw as a prospect, Becton has rare physical tools to work with."

Pick: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Analysis: "Jeudy is a better prospect than every offensive tackle in this class. Rookies, especially rookie offensive linemen, don't fill pressing needs. Over the past five NFL seasons, only nine rookie offensive tackles have played 400-plus snaps and earned overall grades above 70.0. None have earned an overall grade above 82.0. Don't address pressing needs in the draft; just draft the best players available."

Pick: Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson

Analysis: "Having spent big to retain defensive lineman Leonard Williams and reel in cornerback James Bradberry and linebacker Blake Martinez, general manager Dave Gettleman might be drawn to one of his beloved "hog mollies" with this pick. As much as quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley would benefit from such an addition along the offensive line, Simmons has a strong case as the most valuable option for Big Blue. Defenders with his versatility and range don't come around often, and he could prove to be the catalyst the Giants have been lacking."

Pick: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

Analysis: "It pains me as a Jets fan to say it, but the Giants are building something pretty impressive. They'll have two young corners, the makings of a good defensive line, and lots of skill position talent."

Pick: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Analysis: "The top of the 2020 NFL draft board is becoming clearer by the day, with top underclassmen declaring for April's selection process. Ohio State's Chase Young and Jeff Okudah and Alabama's Jerry Jeudy are among the potential top-10 prospects who have already stated their intentions. Projected No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow is a senior. As is Oregon's Justin Herbert, who might be the second quarterback off the board."

Pick: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

Analysis: "A two-year starter at right tackle for Alabama, Wills is a dominant run blocker who also improved significantly as a pass blocker in 2019."

Pick: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

Analysis: "Dave Gettleman has an interesting decision to make: Does he draft the versatile, do-it-all chess piece that his defense desperately needs? Or does he invest in protection for quarterback Daniel Jones? It's a strong dilemma, but the New York Giants opt to protect their future under-center by adding Tristan Wirfs to plug-and-play right away at right tackle."

Pick: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

Analysis: "Jedrick Wills fits Gettleman's MO as a physical mauler up front. Wills can also be a plug and play starter on either side."

Pick: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

Analysis: "Tristan Wirfs is the best offensive tackle in this draft class and should be a lock to the Giants, who have been trying to figure out their offensive line for a couple of years. Wirfs is an athletic tackle who is good in pass protection."

View photos from the college career of Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy.

Pick: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Analysis: "While most casual fans are familiar with Tagovailoa by now, several may not be as familiar with Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. This isn't the case for fans who watched him in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl on New Year's Day. Jeudy destroyed the Michigan defense, catching six passes for 204 yards and a touchdown. While this stat line may lead fans to believe that Jeudy is primarily a deep threat, his biggest asset may actually be his ability to generate separation with precision route-running. Even before Alabama's bowl game, Jeudy was trending as the top receiver in this draft class. He had little to gain by even playing in it, but his drive and determination should resonate with prospective NFL employers."

Pick: Mekhi Becton, OL, Louisville

Analysis: "Did you SEE this dude? He looks like Andy Reid in Punt, Pass and Kick out there playing football with other people. Dave Gettleman loves big bodies and no one is bigger than Becton, with the added bonus of it happening at a position of need for the Giants."

Pick: Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa

Analysis: "This should be a no-brainer for the Giants given Wirfs supreme athletic gifts and two stellar seasons of play at left and right tackle for Iowa."

Pick: Jedrick Wills Jr., OL, Alabama

Analysis: "They take Wills and can address the other spot later in the draft."

Pick: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Analysis: "After landing three defensive starters in free agency, the Giants can turn to right tackle with someone who can eventually take over for Nate Solder on the left side. Becton (6-7, 364 pounds) has gotten more attention for his strong and powerful frame, and he has shown he can be smooth in his movements. He is willing to work hard to become as good in pass protection as he is overwhelming defenders when sealing the edge in the running game."

Pick: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

Analysis: "Thomas played both left and right tackle at Georgia. He will help fix Big Blue's O-line issues."

Pick: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

Analysis: "I like to draw a parallel between Isaiah Simmons and Saquon Barkley when it comes to Dave Gettleman making the pick at fourth overall. Both played positions that shouldn't be valued this early in the first round, both are truly unique athletes for those positions and both have an extremely high floor because of their athletic ability. If Gettleman valued Barkley, why shouldn't he value Simmons?"

Pick: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

Analysis: "Daniel Jones showed promise as a rookie, but he was sacked on 7.6 percent of his dropbacks and fumbled a whopping 18 times in 12 starts. As he enters his sophomore season, fortifying the offensive line in front of him should be a priority for general manager Dave Gettleman and Jedrick Wills' is a prospect I can see him falling in love with. Wills is an exceptional pass blocker with the power needed to generate vertical push in the run game. He can help Jones and star running back Saquon Barkley perform at their best."

Pick: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

Analysis: "The best pass protector in this class for a young quarterback? I think so. In fact, that will do quite nicely."

Pick: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

Analysis: "Tristan Wirfs was the biggest winner of the combine and jumps into the fourth-overall spot in this scenario. He's agile, athletic and powerful from the tackle position and can slide in right away on the right side to help protect Daniel Jones."

Pick: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Analysis: "Despite being 6-7, 364 pounds, he's not only a remarkable athlete – he managed a 5.1 40-yard dash – but also a mauler with experience at both tackle spots. GM Dave Gettleman said at the combine the Giants are "open for business" at No. 4, yet they might be pretty hard to surrender the opportunity to enlist a player who could both protect QB Daniel Jones and blow open holes for RB Saquon Barkley. We all know Gettleman loves nothing more than a "hog molly" ... and Becton projects as Hogzilla."

Pick: Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa

Analysis: "After Wirfs blew the combine out of the water with his testing, he appears the favorite to be the first tackle off the board. His versatility should allow the team to start him at right tackle and plan to kick him to the blind side eventually, or inside to guard if he disappoints on the outside."

Pick: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama

Analysis: "Here's where it gets interesting. I strongly considered Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons here but couldn't quite pull the trigger. GM Dave Gettleman has never traded down in running seven drafts for two teams, so there's no little to expect that to happen here either. And in taking Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones in this range the past two seasons, Gettleman has cast his die. For those two players to be effective, the Giants need more effective blocking."

Pick: Andrew Thomas, OL, Georgia

Analysis: "The draft-niks might not be as high on Thomas as the teams are, which is why I have him in this spot. The Giants need to improve their offensive line and he could play a couple of spots."

Pick: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Analysis: "It's tough to see GM Dave Gettleman passing on a 364-pound tackle who can solidify the offensive line in front of the team's two previous top picks, QB Daniel Jones and RB Saquon Barkley."

Pick: Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa

Analysis: "My model slots Wirfs as a right tackle on the Giants' roster, though he projects well on either side of the line (despite more college reps as an RT than LT). What stands out and drives his selection as my model's highest-rated offensive lineman? Wirfs combines a high probability of stopping edge pressure on passing downs and creating running-lane space on rushing downs from Day 1."

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