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LSU/Clemson 2020 Draft Prospects

NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Virginia vs Clemson Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s NCAA Championship game is loaded with many of the top 2020 NFL Draft prospects, some of whom could be of great interest to the Arizona Cardinals.

Of course, by now it is a forgone conclusion that QB Joe Burrow (6-4, 226, LSU) will be the Bengals’ #1 pick. Burrow has shown uncanny accuracy and leadership this season. Plus, he brings attractive mobility to the position.

Potential Options for the Cardinals at #8 or trade down:

  1. LB/S Isaiah Simmons (6-4, 225, Clemson) is the ultimate hybrid 2nd and 3rd level defender in the draft. His versatility as a run and chase linebacker and cover man on TEs and RBs will intrigue virtually every NFL DC. Of course, if the Cardinals believe Simmons could be the GUY to alleviate the team’s chronic problems in covering TEs, then selecting Simmons at #8, providing he is still on the board, could be a no brainer.

The Draft Network has this to say: “Man to man abilities are through the roof and has the ability to play press man or turn and run coverage on almost all TEs. Unicorn level athlete that moves with fluidity and mobility that shouldn’t be possible for a player of his stature. Hip looseness is tremendous to flip and carry route stems in tight coverage at the LOS. Lateral lean to carry speed through corners is excellent.”

They list his greatest improvement area as “zone coverage anticipation.” But, an athlete of Simmons’ caliber should be able to turn this area into a strength, given time and reps.

Could the Cardinals view Simmons at WILB as a faster, lighter version of Karlos Dansby?

2. CB Kristian Fulton (6-0, 190, LSU) is a supremely talented and fundamentally savvy cover CB who will likely be the 2nd CB taken in the first round behind Ohio St.’s Jeffrey Okudah. Vance Joseph loves his CBs to play press man and zone coverage which is Fulton’s forte. His biggest improvement area: forcing the run and tackling.

3. S Grant Delpit (6-3, 203, LSU) is the highest rated FS in this class. He is a classic storm the alleys centerfielder who attacks the ball. Has good range and instincts over the top and is a perfectly timed blitzer. Occasionally tries to arm tackle and despite his length and speed, he’s been inconsistent in man coverage.

4. OLB/DE K’Lavon Chaisson (6-4, 238, LSU) is likely to skyrocket up the draft boards, particularly if he has a big game versus Clemson. Has bounced back this season from the ACL injury that sidelined him in 2018. He would be an ideal choice for the Cardinals at SOLB because his first step as a pass rusher is tremendous and he is good setting the edge, containing QBs and RBs, and dropping off into coverage. Check out his performance versus Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl:

5. RB Travis Etienne (5-10, 200, Clemson) is arguably the most explosive and ball-secure RB in the 2020 NFL Draft. The old adage is you don't draft a RB in the 1st round—-but that philosophy is becoming moot because of the recent impact of 1st round RBs like Ezekiel Elliot, Christian McCaffrey (All-Pro RB and FLEX in 2019), Saquan Barkley and Josh Jacobs—-all of whom won or were at the the top of the voting for NFL-ROY. Etienne brings a superb blend of speed and slippery quickness on handoffs and receptions, plus an uncanny ability to break or bounce off of tackles—-and best of all, in three years at Clemson has never fumbled the football—-which for a player who fights to break tackles as hard as he does, is extraordinary.

Prospects Potentially Available on Day 2 or Day 3:

  1. WR Tee Higgins (6-4, 215, Clemson)—-long WR with big catch radius and a penchant for coming down with 50/50 balls. Excellent red zone target. Has 1st round ability in deep WR draft.

2. WR Justin Jefferson (6-2,185, LSU)—-this kid thrives in the slot and can beat you deep on the perimeter. Had 4 TD catches versus Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl. Check this out:

3. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (5-8, 209, LSU)—-described as the heart of the LSU offense, Edwards-Helaire is a short, but thick and quick legged RB who jump cuts, spins and pierces through holes into daylight. Nick Bromberg of Yahoo Sports writes; “No LSU player has more combined rushing and receiving yards than Edwards-Helaire. The junior has rushed 199 times for 1,304 yards and 16 touchdowns. That’s nearly 1,000 more than Burrow, the team’s second-leading rusher. He also has 50 catches for 399 yards.” A backfield of Kyler Murray and Clyde Edwards-Helaire would be fascinating to watch and very difficult to defend.

4. CB A.J. Terrell (6-2, 190, Clemson)—-long cover CB who plays a physical style. Good in both man and zone coverage. Fits Vance Joseph’s press CB profile exceptionally well.

5. G John Simpson (6-4, 330, Clemson)—-some scouts have Simpson rated as one of the top 3 guards in the draft. Plays with power and generates a good push in the running game. Solid pass protector. Did a solid job blocking highly rated DT Javon Kinlaw of South Carolina and then played well in the semi-final win versus Ohio St., as you can see here:

6. DT Rashard Lawrence (6-2, 317, LSU)—-stocky gap-buster who has produced 119 tackles and 9 sacks in his career. Could be a good rotation player and goal-line gap slpitter. Likely a 3rd or early 4th round pick.

7. G Damien Lewis (6-3, 322, LSU)—-has been a stalwart at RG for the Tigers. Plays with good leverage and a strong base. Good zone blocker and fan blocker is pass pro. Likely a 4th round pick.

8. S K’Von Wallace (5-11, 211, Clemson)—-classic dime, slot safety who had the 5th best slot coverage grade (82.7) in the FBS. Should be used in this game to try to slow down WR Justin Jefferson when he aligns in the slot. Day 3 pick.

9. ILB Jacob Phillips (6-4, 229, LSU)—-another Karlos Dansby type of long, athletic ILB, Phillips is going to steadily rise up the draft boards. Here’s what Jonah Tuls of the Draft Network had to say: “As you may already know, cover skills and the ability to move in space are of high importance at the linebacker position in today’s NFL. This is a great example of two things with Phillips: 1) His range in coverage; 2) His 6’4 length, going back to my previous point. Having this kind of athleticism and length in coverage can make a linebacker extremely disruptive at the catch point, and in turn, extremely valuable to a defense. Phillips’ athleticism and cover skills allow for him to be an asset on all three downs.” Tuls describes Phillips as the “complete package” at ILB. if the Cardinals can’t or don’t take Isaiah Simmons. Phillips would be a nice pick in the 3rd or 4th round.

10. TE Stephen Sullivan (6-6, 240, LSU)—-OK, let’s end this on a Hail Mary! Sullivan is an impressive athlete who is flying under the radar.

As well as Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim have gotten to know Clemson HC Dabo Swinney and the Clemson program over the years by virtue of watching Clemson’s practices for the Fiesta Bowls—-it’s very odd that the Cardinals have not drafted a single Clemson player of note—-nor any Clemson player at all over Keim’s tenure as GM.

There is not one Clemson Tiger on the Cardinals’ roster.

We now know (according to BA) that the Cardinals were planning to take QB Deshaun Watson with the #13 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. As you might recall, Dabo Swinney was telling everyone back then that “passing on Watson would be like passing on Michael Jordan.”

There is only one LSU Tiger of the Cardinals’ roster—-CB Patrick Peterson.

Steve Keim did draft consecutive LSU defenders in his first draft (2013) in LB Kevin Minter and CB Tyrann Mathieu.

Steve Keim attended Clemson’s practice prior to this year’s Fiesta Bowl. He had a good conversation with Coach Swinney. Wonder what Swinney told Keim about Isaiah Simmons..hmm...