Mel Kiper Jr.

Mel Kiper NFL mock draft 2020: Raiders get C.J. Henderson, Tee Higgins

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Mel Kiper NFL mock draft 2020: Raiders get C.J. Henderson, Tee Higgins

The Las Vegas Raiders addressed both sides of the ball with their three first-round picks last year. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. expects them to do the same next month.

Kiper released his Mock Draft 3.0 on Tuesday, projecting all 32 first-round selections without factoring in trades. The ESPN analyst addressed two of the Raiders' biggest positions of need, predicting coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock would draft a cornerback and a wide receiver, respectively, with the No. 12 and No. 19 overall picks.

The Raiders drafted a cornerback first in Kiper's mock, selecting Florida's C.J. Henderson with the No. 12 overall selection. That's right around the range where the draft's most talented receivers are projected to be picked, but Kiper is high on Henderson.

"[Since] Las Vegas has two first-round picks and this class of receivers is much deeper at the top than the cornerback group," Kiper wrote, "let's give Jon Gruden and Co. a potential No. 1 corner in Henderson here. He had an up-and-down 2019 season, but he cemented his standing as the second-ranked cornerback in this class at the combine, where he ran a 4.39 40. The Raiders get to grab a receiver at No. 19."

NBC Sports Bay Area's Josh Schrock and Dalton Johnson projected the Raiders would select Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy in their latest mock draft, factoring the Raiders free-agency additions on defense at myriad positions. Las Vegas still needs help in the secondary, though, and Henderson would provide a strong option to pair with Trayvon Mullen moving forward.

Receiver arguably is a more pressing need than cornerback, so Kiper projected that the Raiders won't wait to add an offensive weapon. He predicted that Las Vegas would draft Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins.

"They can't go into the season with Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow and Nelson Agholor as Derek Carr's top wideouts," Kiper wrote. "So how about (Hunter) Renfrow's college teammate, Higgins, a 6-foot-3 pass-catcher with elite ball skills. Higgins isn't a speedster -- he didn't work out at the combine, but he ran a 4.54 40 at his pro day -- but he could be an instant red zone threat for Carr."

The Raiders love Clemson's culture, so it's easy to envision them going that route again if they wait to draft a wide receiver. Higgins isn't as dynamic as the consensus top three receivers in CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, but he likely also won't be on the board when the Raiders select next at No. 80 overall.

[RELATED: Raiders in perfect position to draft receiver they desire]

Schrock and Johnson had the Raiders selecting South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw, who would add some much-needed pass-rushing ability to an improving defensive front. Alabama safety Xavier McKinney (No. 20 overall) and Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell (No. 22 overall) were the two defensive backs the pair mocked following Kinlaw's selection, so the Raiders conceivably would still have options in the secondary if they drafted a wide receiver with their first of two first-round picks.

The Raiders once again have the ability to bring in offensive and defensive talent in the first round this year. We don't yet know which side of the ball they'll address first, but the flexibility can't  hurt in their inaugural season in Sin City.

Mel Kiper NFL mock draft 2020: 49ers land Jerry Jeudy, pick cornerback

Mel Kiper NFL mock draft 2020: 49ers land Jerry Jeudy, pick cornerback

Attention, other 15 teams in the NFC: Do not let Jerry Jeudy make his way to the 49ers.

That essentially was ESPN NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky's take when it came time to discuss San Francisco's selection during Mel Kiper Jr.'s televised mock draft Tuesday.

Kiper released his NFL Mock Draft 3.0 earlier Tuesday -- his first since before the NFL Scouting Combine and first since the opening of free agency -- in which he projects all 32 first-round picks of the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. The 49ers picked up an additional first-round selection in the DeForest Buckner trade with the Colts, and Kiper has San Francisco using it on the same player that would create a nightmare scenario for the rest of the NFC in Orlovsky's estimation.

While Buckner's departure creates a hole in the middle of San Francisco's defense, Kiper believes Jeudy would fill a more pressing need.

"San Francisco could use the pick for a straight replacement for Buckner at defensive tackle -- if [South Carolina defensive lineman] Javon Kinlaw drops out of the top 10, he could do damage in the middle of its defense -- but I see wide receiver as a higher priority, particularly after Emmanuel Sanders walked in free agency," Kiper wrote. "Adding Jeudy, who caught 77 passes for 1,163 yards and 10 TDs last season, to a group with Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne makes this a really exciting (and young) trio of wideouts for Jimmy Garoppolo."

NBC Sports' Dalton Johnson and Josh Schrock recently released an updated mock draft in which San Francisco ended up with a different wide-receiver prospect, Henry Ruggs, who just happens to have been Jeudy's teammate at Alabama. In that mock, both Jeudy and Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb had each come off the board in the two picks prior to the 49ers'. 

As things currently stand, San Francisco would not pick again until the fifth round following its second first-round selection -- No. 31 overall -- and for that reason, Kiper has the 49ers as potential trade-down candidates. He doesn't project trades in his mock drafts, however, so at No. 31, Kiper has San Francisco addressing the secondary with the selection of Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene.

"With DeForest Buckner gone, I thought about defensive tackle, but they still have some talent there with former top-five pick Solomon Thomas moving inside permanently," Kiper wrote. "[Texas A&M defensive lineman] Justin Madubuike could be an option. But corner is a more pressing need, and you only have to watch Super Bowl LIV to see that. Richard Sherman, who turns 32 later this month, is only signed through 2020, and the Niners don't have a set No. 2 corner. Igbinoghene, a track athlete who is still raw, is my third-ranked corner, and he could also help as a return man."

Ahkello Witherspoon and Emmanuel Moseley each served as San Francisco's No. 2 cornerback at different periods of last season, but just like Sherman, neither of them are signed beyond 2020. As such, Igbinoghene would provide the 49ers with both youth and some long-term security at the position -- provided that he lived up to his selection.

[RELATED: 49ers, Colts approached Buckner trade with opposite logic]

While Kiper has San Francisco foregoing Buckner's position with both first-round draft picks, Johnson and Schrock didn't afford the 49ers that luxury. At No. 31 overall, they had the Niners selecting Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore, who ran a 4.79 40-yard dash at 304 pounds at the combine.

Which prospects the 49ers select -- and when -- remains to be seen. But, in the meantime, it would appear a consensus as to which positions they're targeting is being formed.

2020 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. explains his two Raiders selections

2020 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. explains his two Raiders selections

In an offseason full of Tom Brady-to-Las-Vegas rumors, one thing is for certain: The Raiders must find upgrades at receiver and linebacker. 

With two first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Raiders can do exactly that in slightly over two months. They're sure to look at the free-agent market as well, but finding instant contributors on rookie contracts is a must for a team looking to make the leap next season. 

This is especially true with the Raiders reportedly willing to offer Brady a two-year, $60 million contract.

Still, Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock can shore up their two biggest positions of need right away in the draft. That's exactly what ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. did in his latest mock draft. Kiper gave the Raiders receiver Jerry Jeudy at No. 12 and linebacker Kenneth Murray at No. 19. 

The longtime draft expert explained his selections in a conference call on Wednesday. 

"I have Kenneth Murray going there at 19, linebacker from Oklahoma, and have them taking Jerry Jeudy from Alabama at 12," Kiper said. "So you get the linebacker -- whether it's Murray or Patrick Queen from LSU at 19, then you get the receiver. I think it's CeeDee Lamb from Oklahoma or it's Jeudy from Alabama at No. 12." 

In an ideal world for the Raiders, Clemson's do-it-all hybrid linebacker Isaiah Simmons would fall right in their lap. But Kiper said he can't see that happening without a major trade from Mayock. He has the Jacksonville Jaguars selecting Simmons with the No. 9 pick. 

Josh Schrock and I, however, have Simmons going even higher at No. 4 to the New York Giants in our latest mock draft. We do agree with the positions Kiper has the Raiders targeting, but gave the Silver and Black his second options. 

While Kiper has Lamb going to the New York Jets at No. 11 and Jeudy to the Raiders one pick later, we sent Lamb to Las Vegas and Jeudy being taken by the Indianapolis Colts with the next pick. The two are that close and either one would instantly boost the Raiders' receiver corps. 

[RELATED: How Raiders' 2019 rookies are laying bedrock for success]

Murray originally wound up as a Raider in our first two editions of our mock draft, but Queen seems like he has more upside and is a better fit for the modern NFL. Murray is a fine athlete in his own regard, but Queen is much more explosive and better in coverage.

Queen's side-to-side range is what truly sets him apart. 

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Either way, the consensus is out that the Raiders likely will target receivers and linebackers in this year's draft. Any combination of Jeudy, Lamb, Murray or Queen will be huge for the Raiders' rise after a seven-win season.