JACKSONVILLE – It begins with the quarterbacks.
But while that's true of the 2020 NFL Draft, Daniel Jeremiah said it's nearly as true of another skill position.
"This is a really phenomenal group of wideouts," Jeremiah said.
Jeremiah, the NFL Network's top draft analyst, spoke Friday on a conference call in advance of next week's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Ind. He covered various topics, including a quarterback class that could include three players – Joe Burrow of Louisiana State, Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama and Justin Herbert of Oregon – in the Top 10.
"It's a fascinating group," Jeremiah said.
Jeremiah said wide receiver and cornerback are deep positions this year, calling the wide receiver class "as deep as I've seen" with 27 players at the position graded as potential Round 3 selections.
"Not all of those guys are going to go early," Jeremiah said. "They're going to end up spreading throughout the draft, but it's going to be a deep group."
Jeremiah said he ranked Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb as the class' top wide receiver, saying "What he gives you after the catch is outstanding."
Jeremiah also called this a good running back class, adding that tight end, edge rusher and linebacker are relatively shallow. He called Ohio State edge defender Chase Young – widely projected as the likely No. 2 overall selection to the Washington Redskins – the draft's best player.
*Jeremiah, who in his first mock draft on January 21 projected Clemson linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons to the Jaguars at No. 9 overall, discussed Simmons' versatility Friday. While some analysts wonder what position Simmons will play, Jeremiah said he considered the versality an asset in a changing NFL. "He can do anything," Jeremiah said. "We had this same debate about [former Florida State and current Los Angeles Chargers safety] Derwin James when he was coming out (in 2017). Some teams had him as a will (weakside) linebacker. Some teams had him as a strong safety. I've talked to a bunch of defensive coordinators in the offseason and posed this question: Are we going to start heading toward a position-less game? You see guys on offense like [San Francisco 49ers wide receiver] Deebo Samuel, who is playing in the slot but who can function as a running back. You see guys like Derwin James who can darned near play every single position on defense. When you have offenses trying to manipulate personnel and get certain groups on the field, you better have more versatile players who can do multiple things. With a guy like Isaiah Simmons, whether you want to list him as a linebacker or a safety … I just know you plug him into that defensive scheme and week by week you can deploy him in different ways depending on the strength of your opponent. That's why he has so much value." Jeremiah called corner and safety needs for the Jaguars. "Finding some real speed and athleticism in that back end, especially when you look at the division and you look at [Houston Texans quarterback] Deshaun Watson, you better get fast and more athletic at the second and third level," Jeremiah said. …
*Jeremiah discussed offensive tackle extensively Friday, calling Louisville left tackle Mekhi Becton "a freak" and projecting him to the New York Giants at No. 4 overall. "He's going to be that guy for the next 10 to 12 years, to protect your franchise quarterback," Jeremiah said. "He's so big and so long and so athletic … even when he's not perfect, it doesn't matter. Nobody can get through him. He's 6-feet-7, 370 pounds. You just don't see guys like that come around very often." Jeremiah called Jedrick Wills of Alabama the draft's No. 2 tackle, and praised Southern California left tackle Austin Jackson as a player who could rise into the Top 15 by late April. …
*Jeremiah talked extensively about the quarterback class, saying: "You've got tons of ability with these guys, but there are some question marks." While Burrow is projected by most analysts at No. 1 to the Cincinnati Bengals, Tagovailoa sustained two serious ankle injuries at Alabama and a hip injury ended his 2019 season in November. Jeremiah said a team considering trading up to get Tagovailoa must strongly consider the injury history. "It's a huge part of it," Jeremiah said. "If you're making the gamble to go up there and get him, you're betting your job. You better know that his health is 100 percent. If you are iffy on his health – if there are concerns there and there are major issues – it's one thing to take him and it's another thing to sacrifice a good portion of your draft to take him. I do think it's going to have a major impact." Jeremiah said he has Utah quarterback Jordan Love ranked ahead of Herbert. "That one's tricky; teams are split," he said. "There are some teams that really like Justin Herbert and there are some teams that are not high on Justin Herbert. I have him kind of outside that Top 10 range." …
*Jeremiah called No. 1-rated corner Jeff Okudah of Ohio State one of his highest-graded players at the position in recent memory. He also said he considered Xavier McKinney of Alabama the best safety in the draft and C.J. Henderson of Florida the second-best corner. "He's just really explosive," Jeremiah said of Henderson. "He can play press. He can play off. He's real loose and fluid. He showed the ability to play the ball down the field. The main knock on him is the tackling. He missed way too many tackles. That's the flaw, bit he'll put on a show in Indy. He's going to test very well. He's very athletic." …