NFL Network and ESPN will combine for a singular presentation of the draft this year.
The 2020 NFL Draft, which takes place April 23-25, will serve as a three-day virtual fundraiser benefitting six charities that are battling the spread of COVID-19 and delivering relief to millions in need. The NFL, ESPN and ABC hope the draft will bring fans a small but welcome diversion in the middle of a difficult and unprecedented time, the league said in a statement.
In anticipation of the event, NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah, who will contribute remotely all three days, held a pre-draft conference call with the media late Thursday afternoon. Before he got down to the nitty-gritty, he opened with the following remarks.
"It has been a wild run up to this draft," he said. "I've never seen anything like it in terms of the intensity and the attention that's focused on this. It's going to be fun. I'm glad that we were able to figure out a way to get this thing on schedule and to launch this thing on Thursday night is going to be a fun event.
"Before we get to questions, I also want to just say how excited I am to work with so many close friends over at ESPN. I've known Mel Kiper for 20 years since I was right out of college. He's always been so kind to me, so I'm looking forward to working with Mel. Known Todd [McShay] forever. He's a good buddy. Trey Wingo is a pro. I worked with Louis Riddick with the Philadelphia Eagles, so we go way back, and I've also had a nice friendship with Booger McFarland over the last few years. So it's going to be fun to join together with them and hopefully put on a good show for everybody."
Now for the draft talk. Here were the highlights from the 21,481-word transcript, with questions from reporters around the country covering both the NFL and NCAA.
On the top defensive prospects behind Ohio State DE Chase Young:
DANIEL JEREMIAH: "I would say the safest, I would say I would put [Ohio State CB Jeff] Okudah down as the safest for me. I know exactly what position he plays. I've seen him play that position against elite competition, and I have seen him play at a very high, consistent level. To me, Okudah would be the safest.
"The most upside I would say is [Clemson LB Isaiah] Simmons because of all the different things he can do. He's a special athlete and gives you so much flexibility as a defensive coordinator, and that's why when I'm stacking those guys how I've graded them, I have it Isaiah Simmons, Okudah and then Brown in my next list that I think is coming out here pretty soon. I think Simmons has the most upside, but there's a little bit of risk there because he does so many different things, you've got to hope you can get him to be comfortable before you start really expanding his role.
"And then [Auburn DT] Derrick Brown to me, I think Derrick Brown is a dominant player against the run. He can collapse the pocket. He impacts the game on a down by down basis but he's not an elite pass rusher. I haven't dropped him far down my list, but I think I might have began with him at No. 2 or 3 and I think I have him now at No. 5. I think he'll be a competent, good pass rusher, but he's going to be more pushing the pocket than a double-digit sack guy."
Q. One, just generally speaking, how difficult do you envision trades being this year? Do you see less of them with all the technology that'll have to go into one? And then specifically to the Giants, obviously we've talked about offensive line quite a bit with them, but would it be a mistake for them as desperate as they are for defensive playmakers not to take one with at least one of their first two picks, if not both?
DANIEL JEREMIAH: "Yeah, sure. Let's kind of start with whether or not they should go defense. I absolutely think they should go offense there in the first round. I think they should go tackle. They've got to get better up front. I know all the holes on the defense. I can spout out all the numbers about where they rank, and it's not good. But they need to protect Daniel Jones, and they can get a two-fer, and that you can get a player that's going to help him continue to develop, and it's also going to be a big benefit to the best player on your team in Saquon Barkley.
"I think tackle is the place they go there in the first round, but I would not be surprised at all to come right back in the second round at pick 36 and maybe make a pick there or try and do something different and try and collect some more picks in that range because you're going to have a bunch of really good defensive players that can come in and help that team in a lot of areas there in the second round. That would be what I would expect, and when you look at who that would be in the first round, I think I've said [Iowa OT Tristan] Wirfs for a long time is what I've heard, and as we come down the home stretch here, I'm beginning to think it's going to be [Alabama OT] Jedrick Wills. That's what I expect to happen there in the first round, and then in the second round maybe they come back and they can get a corner like a [Utah's] Jaylon Johnson. They could go get one of the top linebackers would be there off the ball would be interesting, as well. They'll have options there in the second round."
Q. It seems like you ask four different scouts and evaluators who the top offensive tackle is and you get four different answers. I was wondering if you could go through them and rank them in your mind. I know you get Wills and Wirfs for the Giants. That's probably what you project is their opinion, not necessarily yours, and to follow up on that, is it strange to have four so tightly packed in terms of their evaluation?
DANIEL JEREMIAH: "Good question. The way I see it, I have it as -- we've been saying the big four. I have three guys up there and then I have a little bit of a gap. I'll give you the numbers. So [Louisville OT Mekhi] Becton is my seventh player overall, Wills is my tenth. I view that as kind of the top tier for me, those two guys. Then I think right behind him is Wirfs, he's my 13th player, and then Andrew Thomas is my 18th player.
"So I have four top 20 guys in my opinion, but I think there's a little bit of separation between those top three and then Andrew Thomas. But Becton is my top player. God didn't make many like this. I mean, he is the definition of a freak. To be that big and to still be able to move the way he does is incredible, and he dominates in the run game and the pass game, even though he's still working through some things technically, he's so big and so long you can't get through him and you can't get around him, and I've had a chance to see some of the training stuff he's been doing down there. He's training with one of the best offensive line guys in the country with Duke Manyweather and the job he does out of Dallas, and you can see that in the video, just this kid getting more and more comfortable and getting better and better.
"I think Jedrick Wills on day one, the first day of practice, is going to be ahead of Becton, but I think Becton, the upside is what puts him over the top for me. So he's my top guy. Jedrick Wills is just a natural knee-bender who's very explosive. He can get himself in bad positions and find ways to recover with his athleticism. He played the right tackle spot there at Alabama. You've got a left-handed quarterback so that makes sense, put your best guy over there. I think he's got left tackle ability. I think he can kick over there no problem, and he's somebody in the run game that can uproot players. Again, just very explosive, very athletic player who I think he's a top-10 pick in just about any year in my opinion.
"Tristan Wirfs, when I first watched him, I thought he was going to be a guard, just because he has some issues oversetting. He got beat on a bunch of up-and-under moves which worried me and concerned me a little bit, but I thought he got better as the year went along. And then obviously the show that he put on at the combine, you see the athleticism there, and you say, okay, I know this guy is -- he's got the ability to play better at tackle. That's where I moved him back out, kept him at tackle. He's somebody that can really move people in the run game. But he's just got to be a little bit more patient in pass protection and continue to work in developing that area, but again, he's somebody with tremendous upside.
"Andrew Thomas, he's just a big, powerful run blocker. He creates a lot of movement when he gets his hands on you. He can really move you. He uproots guys, but I thought he was more of a one-track player. He struggled to adjust a little bit in space and pass protection. If he can get out in front of you and stay square, he's fine. I did not see that elite level of foot quickness, and I thought when he sees some of the better speed rushers in the NFL, that could give him a little bit of trouble, so that's why I had him as the fourth guy."
Q. The Giants have that 36th pick high in the second round. Who are likely to be the top three offensive tackles at that spot and the top three edge rushers who might be left, and of those two positions, which do you think has the better value at that slot?
DANIEL JEREMIAH: "Well, I think you're going to like the players better at the tackle position that are going to be there. I think at 36 you're more than likely going to either see one of these guys, either Austin Jackson from USC, Josh Jones, Ezra Cleveland, the hope is one of those guys is still there. I think you're going to see a couple of those guys end up going in the first round, but the hope is at 36 maybe there's one left. I think you'd feel good about any of those players at that point in time. I know Isaiah Wilson we talked about earlier from Georgia has been mentioned in that range. That would be a little bit early for me.
"And then when you look at edge rushers at the top of the second round that could be there, I don't feel great about that group. I love Josh Uche from Michigan, but again, he's a unique player because he's an undersized kind of a 3- 4, he's going to be a speed rusher coming off the edge who's got a real knack and a lot of ability there, but he's somebody that on run downs, he's going to have a little bit of an issue there. By the way, one of the side notes with him is I think he only played like 13 snaps against Ohio State, which I still have yet to get a good answer on why they didn't use him more in that game, but that's a side note. But he's a good player."
Q. I'm wondering if you could speak to the value of versatility nowadays as opposed to some years ago with guys like Simmons and McKinney. They're multiple, and is this kind of a reaction to the up-tempo offenses? What do you think plays into this evolution of the versatility being so valued nowadays?
DANIEL JEREMIAH: "Yeah, it's never been more important. We use the phrase in scouting, we talk about position-less players, and that's where it's headed, where you're not going to be labeling these guys anymore as an offense -- some of these guys are receiver or running back, no, they're offensive weapons. I watched Austin Ekeler every week with the Chargers calling those games and you see what he does as a receiver. We've seen obviously Christian McCaffrey and what those guys do. Deebo Samuel, who's a wide receiver who can also play running back, that's where the value is and defensively, you've got to find a way to match up with those.
"You see guys like Derwin James, you see what we see here with Isaiah Simmons where it allows you to keep your guys on the field and not get manipulated where they can sub and get you in a look, and once they get you in a look they're going to crank the tempo and they're going to isolate the guy that's out of position and go at him. Well, when you've got players with versatility they have that ability to be able to cover at tight end but yet somebody that can also hold up at the point of attack if you want to try and run it down their throats, somebody that can cover in the slot, somebody who can drop back and play the deep pass, it allows you to disguise your looks defensively, allows you to confuse quarterbacks and allows you to match up with the athletes you're going to see.
"Those guys have never been more valuable, and one of the conversations that I've had over the last few years and really even more so this year is with the linebackers, it doesn't matter if you are an unbelievably instinctive player and you're tough and you're physical. If you cannot run, they can't hide you anymore. You're going to get exposed. At that position you just have to lean towards athleticism. You sacrifice some size for a guy like Patrick Queen because he can run and cover backs all day long. You can blitz him, he can make plays sideline to sideline. Same with Kenneth Murray. That's why those guys are at a premium when you get those linebackers that can really run and make plays."
To read the full transcript, CLICK HERE.