Three Tigers projected in NFL draft top-25 picks

by - Staff Writer -
Tee Higgins may wear purple in a different jersey.
Tee Higgins may wear purple in a different jersey.

We're a day away from the NFL draft's start (8 p.m. Thursday/ESPN and NFL Network) and the start to a professional dream for a number of former Tigers.

There are no shortage of mock drafts out there in these strange times, and looking beyond the ESPN and CBS Sports picks, there are some noteworthy prognostications.

Former longtime Sports Illustrated writer Peter King says Isaiah Simmons will go with the No. 8 pick to Arizona.

"This is a first in Peter King Mock Draft History. I’ve never before labeled a player 'defensive player,'" King writes. "Simmons has played strong safety, cornerback, slot corner, inside linebacker and outside linebacker, and he’s likely going to be a hybrid safety/linebacker/edge player in the NFL. Could be an instinctive pass-rusher too, which the Cardinals lack in a big way; he had 23 pressures on 70 pass-rushes. Now, the Cards have other needs, and Simmons doesn’t have a singular position. But he was a great and instinctive college player."

King also projects first-round selections for AJ Terrell (No. 24 to New Orleans) and Tee Higgins (No. 25 to Minnesota).

Longtime NBC analyst and Pro Football Focus owner Cris Collinsworth has Simmons going the highest -- at No. 4 to the New York Giants -- Terrell to the Las Vegas Raiders at 19 and Tee Higgins to the Vikings at No. 22.

"Yes, the Giants need a right tackle and an edge rusher, but Dave Gettleman also loves great athletes," Collinsworth said. "And watching this 238-pound man who runs 4.39 and covers slot receivers makes it hard to take your eyes off this shiny object.

"New head coach Joe Judge coached for both Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, so a defense-first approach here shouldn’t surprise anyone. Versatility is the key in today’s NFL, and no defensive player in this draft comes close to possessing Simmons’ versatility. He could almost play almost any defensive position on the field. New offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will probably be pounding the table for a tackle here, but he will just have to wait."

Former ESPN senior writer John Clayton has provided his services for the Washington Post lately and pegs Simmons as going local to the Carolina Panthers at No. 7 overall.

"Coach Matt Rhule and the Panthers will consider (Derrick) Brown, the defensive tackle," Clayton writes, "but in Simmons they would get a positionless defender who can thrive at linebacker or in the secondary."

Clayton also has Terrell in the top-20 to the Raiders (No. 19).

"Terrell checks all the boxes for Mayock, whose team has a desperate need at cornerback," said Clayton. "He is taller and faster than Trevon Diggs and Kristian Fulton, and he also comes from a big-time college program."

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