Tee Higgins

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.

49ers' need perfectly timed with loaded 2020 NFL Draft receiver class

49ers' need perfectly timed with loaded 2020 NFL Draft receiver class

Timing is everything.

The 49ers were arguably the most well-rounded team in the NFL last season on their way to losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. San Francisco had the best defense in the NFC and the second-most productive rushing offense in the league. Jimmy Garoppolo finished 22 passing yards short of 4,000, and only five other teams finished the regular season with more takeaways than the reigning NFC champions.

When looking up and down the 49ers' 2019 roster, they were strong across the board. There weren't any holes, and certain areas were tremendous strengths. However, it goes without saying that some of San Francisco's position groups are stronger than others. While the defensive line arguably is the best of its kind, the wide-receiver group, for instance, isn't nearly as dominant or impressive.

Deebo Samuel had an exceptional rookie season, and Kendrick Bourne emerged as a consistent contributor. But if the position group was strong enough entering the season, the 49ers wouldn't have had reason to make a midseason trade for Emmanuel Sanders. The 10-year veteran hit the ground running as soon as he joined San Francisco and immediately became one of Garoppolo's go-to targets. However, Sanders, 31, is an unrestricted free agent, and while Samuel would like for his mentor to return, there is no guarantee that he will.

Whether or not the 49ers re-sign Sanders, they couldn't have asked for a better draft to beef up their receiving corps than the one upcoming in April. The 2020 NFL Draft is absolutely loaded at wide receiver, with NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah going so far as to call the draft class the "deepest" he has ever seen.

In addition to giving 27 receiver prospects a top-three-round grade, Jeremiah also has nine receivers ranked among his top 50 prospects overall. The cream of the crop includes Alabama's Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb, LSU's Justin Jefferson, Clemson's Tee Higgins and Colorado's Laviska Shenault, among others. Depending on what happens with Sanders, it's certainly possible one of those top prospects gets selected by San Francisco.

As things currently stand, the 49ers won't be on the clock again until the fifth round after picking No. 31 overall in the first round, partly the result of sending their own third- and fourth-round draft picks to the Denver Broncos in the trade for Sanders. While San Francisco's receiving corps could use a boost, the team has additional needs that would make it difficult to rationalize using a first-round draft pick on a pass-catcher, especially if Sanders is re-signed. 

[RELATED: Why 49ers could look to add Gabriel to wide receiver mix]

As such, a more plausible scenario is the 49ers trading back out of the first round to acquire more draft picks. With those additional selections, they would still stand a great chance of having a great receiver prospect fall to them, as there inevitably will be a greater supply of standouts than the demand. While every team in the league would love to get their hands on a big-time playmaker, almost all of them have far more pressing and numerous needs than San Francisco does, and each team only has so many picks.

If Sanders is re-signed, the 49ers' need for improvement in the receiving corps will be severely diminished. But, given his age, one could argue San Francisco needs to draft at least one more receiver this coming April, and probably more than one if Sanders isn't re-signed.

Lucky for the 49ers, the timing should work out quite well.

Clemson vs. LSU: Ranking six NFL draft prospects 49ers should watch

Clemson vs. LSU: Ranking six NFL draft prospects 49ers should watch

There were moments to hold your breath, but in the end, the 49ers made easy work of the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday in their NFC divisional-round playoff game. 

San Francisco now faces Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, and are one win away from Super Bowl LIV in Miami. And while The Faithful is dreaming of sunshine and palm trees already, the 49ers' front office will have their eyes on a talent-laden college game. 

When two undefeated Tigers look to tame each other Monday in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, there will be a plethora of NFL draft talent between Clemson and LSU. As the 49ers keep winning, however, their draft slot keeps sliding. 

For a team without many holes on its roster, the 49ers should still be able to find talent near the end of the first round. If prospects from this season's national championship fall to them in April, general manager John Lynch will be grinning from ear to ear. 

Here are six prospects, ranked by fit, that the 49ers should have their eyes on in this year's natty. 

6. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

Running back could actually be a bigger need than wide receiver for the 49ers in 2020. No, you didn't read that wrong. And no, this coffee isn't Irish. 

Tevin Coleman carried the 49ers past the Vikings, but the five-year veteran has no guaranteed money on his contract next season. Matt Breida is a restricted free agent and it sure seems likely the front office moves on from Jerick McKinnon, who has missed the last two seasons with injuries after signing a four-year, $30 million contract in March 2018.

That leaves just Raheem Mostert, who broke out this season at 27 years old. With his speed and versatility, Etienne could be a great compliment to Mostert, who still serves as a special teams star. 

Etienne has combined for 3,194 yards rushing yards the last two seasons and 48 total touchdowns. Oh, and he has game-changing speed. 

Shanahan could get the very best out of Etienne. Teams will vary their opinions on the explosive running back, but it's easy to see why he could thrive on the 49ers.

5. Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

The 49ers could have a really interesting decision to make if Jefferson is on the board at the end of the first round. With so much receiver talent in this year's class, that could easily happen, too. 

As a junior this season, Jefferson turned into an absolute star. He hauled in four touchdowns in the Peach Bowl and has 18 on the year. The 6-3 target can play inside or outside, though he really thrived when he turned into a long slot receiver. 

Does coach Kyle Shanahan tell Lynch to make Jefferson his newest toy? Or does Lynch tell the coach the 49ers have bigger needs? 

Jefferson's spot in the draft will be really interesting. Another big game against Clemson will only help his stock.

4. A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

Don't throw the ball to Terrell's side. Raiders second-round pick and former Clemson Tiger, Trayvon Mullen, looks like a quality starter for years to come. Terrell might be better. 

Terrell, 6-1 and 190 pounds, is rangy and knows how to use his hands as a physical corner in stride. He doesn't shy away from contact and invites QBs who wish to challenge him. 

There's no doubt Terrell should be mentioned with Kristian Fulton (see below). He might fall further than the LSU Tiger, but this Clemson corner is a stud.

3. Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

Richard Sherman is a baller. That was true five years ago, and still is today at 31 years old. But Sherman can only cover one side of the field. 

As 49ers fan saw the past two weeks, in the two biggest games of the year, Ahkello Witherspoon sure doesn't look like the answer in Year 3. Emmanuel Moseley is solid, but he also is far from a star. 

Fulton, however, could be a shut-down corner at the next level. He played a bit banged up this season, yet still had 13 passes defensed. 

It seems likely Fulton will be gone by the time the 49ers are selecting, but another top corner could still be on the board in Terrell.

2. Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

Stop me if you've heard this before, but the 49ers need help at wide receiver. 

Rookie Deebo Samuel already is a real weapon in Kyle Shanahan's offense and looks like a future, versatile star. Kendrick Bourne was the highest-graded 49ers offensive player in their playoff win over the Vikings, according to Pro Football Focus, but isn't a No. 1 option. 

Higgins can be. At 6-4, 215 pounds, Higgins has ideal NFL size as an outside threat. And he can make catches like this. 

And this.

The 49ers need a game-changer on the outside. In a deep receiver class, Higgins could be around late into Day 1. If he's there, Lynch needs to make him a Niner.

1. Grant Delpit, S, LSU

The draft always is unpredictable, but it seems highly unlikely if Delpit hasn't been taken by the time the 49ers are on the clock. That doesn't mean he isn't the best fit, though. 

Delpit is the top safety in the draft and a top-10 talent. The 2019 Thorpe Award winner is 6-foot-3, 203 pounds and has plenty of Derwin James in him. 

Now that we know Robert Saleh will return to the 49ers, the defensive coordinator could have a lot of fun with a player who can do this: 

[RELATED: 2020 NFL mock draft: 49ers, Raiders picks before national title]

Jimmie Ward will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The defense is completely different with Jaquiski Tartt. Pair him with Delpit, and the 49ers would have a dangerous duo at the back of their defense.