The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine is quickly approaching, so we turned to NFL.com analyst and former NFL general manager Charley Casserly to give us some insight on this year’s prospects. Who should your team be studying at the event? Casserly identifies one player for each franchise to keep close tabs on in Indianapolis.
NOTE: Click on each prospect’s name for a full scouting report.
MIAMI DOLPHINS: J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa would be the ideal player in this spot, but he’s not cleared for the physical portion of the combine after having hip surgery. That said, the Dolphins also need a running back.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: K’Lavon Chaisson, OLB, LSU. The quarterback question should be answered before April’s draft, and I think the Patriots won’t find a good value at TE or OL later in the first round. They could use a pass rusher and this class is deep with talent.
NEW YORK JETS: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia. The Jets‘ offensive line struggled throughout the 2019 season and hindered Adam Gase’s unit. Who better to focus on in this pre-draft process than a reliable tackle?
CINCINNATI BENGALS: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU. It’s lining up for Burrow to be the building block of the franchise. We already know what he can do on the field. The interview and profile testing are what Cincy should be most interested in.
CLEVELAND BROWNS: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama. The Browns need to shore up the O-line and Wills would certainly help. NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein lists Wills’ pro comp as Jason Peters, which gives him exciting upside, but the Browns need him to play A LOT. That’s the question Cleveland needs answered.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS: K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State. The Steelers need a speed receiver to alleviate some of the attention on JuJu Smith-Schuster. Hamler is the guy, as a dynamic speedster who could excel in the slot. He’s expected to register a sub-4.4 40-yard dash in Indy, which could boost his stock.
HOUSTON TEXANS: Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah. Houston has a major need at cornerback and Johnson could fix some of the issues. The Utah product is best as a press corner at this point in his career.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma. If the Colts can solve their quarterback question in free agency, they could quickly have an explosive offense by adding a top-tier receiver from this draft class. They need a wideout to pair with T.Y. Hilton. Lamb’s playmaking ability could fit the bill and be available when they draft at 13th overall.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson. Any player on the second and third levels will help this Jaguars defense. Simmons is versatile and could fill a number of roles. What is his best position? No matter — he will immediately make this unit better.
DENVER BRONCOS: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama. After trading Emmanuel Sanders away, the Broncos must find a complement to an on-the-rise Courtland Sutton. With this deep receiver class, they should have several options. Ruggs would add another playmaker to the offense and his elite speed could help Drew Lock stretch the field.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama. The Raiders have lacked a No. 1 receiver since trading Amari Cooper away in the middle of the 2018 season. (Remember the Antonio Brown fiasco?) Jeudy is the top player at his position and would fit in well with Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon. The Chargers‘ starting quarterback won’t be Philip Rivers for the first time since 2005. There’s a lot weighing on their QB decision this offseason. Could Herbert be the future?
DALLAS COWBOYS: Xavier McKinley, S, Alabama. With Byron Jones hitting the open market, the Cowboys need a playmaker on the back end. McKinley is a guy who can play man and zone, make an impact right away and fill this need that Dallas has had for quite some time.
NEW YORK GIANTS: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville. The Giants are in the process of rebuilding their offensive line, and the tackle position is essential to protecting Daniel Jones. Becton could be a good addition, and the combine will give Big Blue answers as to what kind of shape he’s in.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU. The Eagles were extremely thin (and, to be fair, injury-riddled) at wide receiver last season, so expect them to look at this receiver class as a whole. Jefferson could pique their interest.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State. Young is the best player in the draft. Period. He would be a perfect fit in Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio’s 4-3 defense.
CHICAGO BEARS: Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame. The Bears‘ biggest need on offense is tight end. There are several guys who would fit well in Matt Nagy’s scheme, including Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins, but why not aim for the best TE in his class in Kmet?
DETROIT LIONS: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn. The Lions desperately need to improve their pass rush and could find the answer in Brown, who often beat opponents with his quickness and strength at Auburn. Brown also has the skill set to boost Detroit’s 21st-ranked run defense.
GREEN BAY PACKERS: Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama. The run defense needs a lot of help and Davis boasts elite physical traits that could dominate in the interior.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Austin Jackson, OT, USC. The offensive line must improve this offseason, specifically at tackle. Jackson is a top-five O-line prospect and could give the unit a boost.
ATLANTA FALCONS: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa. The Falcons need to bring in some defensive help. They are really going to need to study defensive ends in Indy to ensure they get a solid pass rusher in the first round, especially with Vic Beasley hitting the market this offseason. Epenesa could be the biggest new threat on the D-line.
CAROLINA PANTHERS: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina. The Panthers have a lot of defensive needs to fill with Luke Kuechly retiring and others hitting free agency. There are a number of great defensive prospects in this class; Kinlaw is one who could contribute from Day 1.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado. The Saints need a player to complement Michael Thomas and this year’s class features a ton of options. Shenault’s physicality and ball skills could add to an already-explosive offense.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa. The Bucs have several holes, but the offensive line is the one they must focus on in the draft. Wirfs provides versatility along the line; he could play right tackle or guard at the next level.
ARIZONA CARDINALS: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State. The Cardinals have bigger needs than cornerback, but they need to be ready if Okudah falls to them at No. 8. They will most likely spend a lot of time looking at defensive tackles in Indy, though Okudah playing opposite Patrick Peterson is intriguing.
LOS ANGELES RAMS: Cesar Ruiz, OL, Michigan. The Rams‘ interior line struggled last year and Ruiz would be an upgrade at center. Can he play guard at the next level? That’s a question that will be explored at the combine.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State. Their pass rush covers up a lot of weaknesses in the secondary. Arnette can play inside or outside and would immediately improve the back end of Robert Saleh’s defense.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State. Jadeveon Clowney is a free agent and the Ziggy Ansah experiment did not work. The success of Seattle’s defense starts with having a good pass rush. The athletic Gross-Matos is a playmaker, as evidenced by his 17.5 sacks and 35 tackles for loss as a two-year starter at Penn State.
Follow Charley Casserly on Twitter @CharleyCasserly.