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Mel Kiper mock draft 4.0: Giants land LB Isaiah Simmons and OT Austin Jackson

Kiper addresses the Giants offensive line and linebacker positions

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The 2020 NFL Draft is almost upon us, with a little more than nine days to go until the first round is underway and the New York Giants will be on the clock at fourth overall.

Draft boards are set and teams are finalizing their plans and contingency plans for draft night. This is also the time of year when the smokescreens are at their thickest. Reporters and draft experts in the national media are combing through their sources to try and find the glimmers of truth about teams’ intentions through the smoke.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. released his Mock Draft 4.0 (Insider content) Tuesday morning, this time expanding to simulate the first two rounds of the draft.

We should be taking mock drafts with a definite grain of salt at all times, but they can also be useful now as multiple sources might agree on some facts and those could give us insight into what teams are thinking.

Here are Kiper’s picks for the Giants:

4th Overall - Isaiah Simmons (LB, Clemson)

The Giants should take an offensive tackle with one of their first two picks, but I wouldn’t pass on Simmons, who has rare athleticism and versatility. Stick him at outside linebacker and let him chase down ball carriers, rush the passer and cover tight ends. Simmons never has to leave the field. New coach Joe Judge will love him.

36th Overall - Austin Jackson (OT, USC)

I wrote earlier that the Giants needed to take an offensive tackle early, and Jackson could fall into their lap at No. 36. He played 1,680 straight snaps at left tackle for the Trojans over the last two seasons, but he is still a developmental project in my eyes. He’ll take some time to adjust, but he could New York’s long-term starter at either tackle spot.

Raptor’s Thoughts

Kiper is completely correct that the Giants need to address their offensive line early in the draft, and the Giants have been signaling pretty strongly that that’s where their intentions lie.

That being said, I do believe the “Planet Theory” applies to Isaiah Simmons. While he isn’t some 360-pound behemoth that has his own constellation of satellite in orbit around him, there are precious few humans walking the Earth who can do what Simmons can at any size, let alone at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds. He is simply a rare athlete and a very good football player.

I can’t help but be fascinated by the options Simmons would give the defense — my personal favorite is the ability to run what is, essentially, a Stack Dime defense out of a base personnel grouping. Defenses like the Patriots have used elements of those concepts, but nobody has been able to field a defense that fast and flexible at the NFL level.

Of course, the question as to whether or not the Giants can, or would, use Simmons to his fullest will persist, but the fact remains that he gives them the option to run a (potentially) revolutionary defense.

Taking Simmons and passing on one of the Big 4 tackles presents a risk. We have no clue whether a starting-caliber offensive tackle will fall to the Giants at 36th overall.

In this case, one does for Kiper, though I’m not sure he drafted him.

I’m not in love with drafting Austin Jackson at 36th overall (I have him graded as a late-third round prospect), not with Ezra Cleveland, Lucas Niang, and Prince Tega Wanogho still on the board. Cleveland is a more advanced player with Lane Johnson like athleticism, while Niang and Wanogho are very good athletes in their own right, as well as experience playing the right tackle position.

Jackson has all the tools to eventually be a starting offensive tackle, but he isn’t there yet. Despite playing as many snaps as he has, he is still a raw and inconsistent player. And none of the options surrounding Jackson are appetizing. The Giants could start Jackson at the familiar left tackle position, but he would still be raw and inconsistent, while also asking career left tackle Nate Solder to learn right tackle without a proper offseason. The Giants could leave Solder at left tackle but then would have to ask the developmental rookie to learn a whole new position without a proper offseason. Or, the Giants could feel that Cameron Fleming is a viable starter in the short term, something he has never been in his career.

I probably would have just taken Cleveland — who just needs to improve his play strength — or one of the players with right tackle experience to shorten the learning curve as much as possible.