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WR/CB Matchups to Target and Avoid - Week 7

The CB Matchup Chart has been a helpful resource all season, specifically in Week 6Last week's article was predictive in forecasting boom games for Julio Jones, Justin Jefferson, and Christian Kirk. It also predicted let-downs from Robby Anderson, Cooper Kupp, and Mike Evans. This week's chart will give the most accurate landscape of CB matchups yet, as I have continued to update it with new data and left and right alignment splits.

The chart below is a snapshot of each team's cornerback group as it relates to allowing fantasy points. There are inherent flaws within the data compilation of cornerback play. The first being the fact that quantifying a 1-on-1 matchup in an NFL game is unfair because of zone coverages, mental errors, certain passing concepts, and a million other things. Assigning fantasy points against a cornerback isn't a perfect science. The purpose of this chart is to give more of a general sense of how defenses are handling opposing WR groups, rather than identifying exactly where, when, and how every single encounter happened.

The "Rtng" column is the rating of each cornerback based on film study and analytics. The lower a player is graded, the easier the matchup for the WR, so low ratings are green and high ratings are red. The "PPGA" is the number of fantasy points per game that the player has given up. A name in blue means the corner could possibly shadow the WR1. A name in red means that the player is dealing with an injury. WRs highlighted in yellow have an easy matchup. WRs highlighted in pink have a tough matchup.

 

Cornerback Ratings and Matchups - Week 7

 

WR/CB Matchups to Target

The analysis below will help contextualize the chart, as in most cases a receiver did not score 100% of his points against the same player. However, the chart is a useful tool in getting a sense of the weakest links among corners. This weekly process has made it clear to me that the WR talent and his target share are more important than his opposition.

It’s become a tradition to start this space each week with attacking Atlanta. Kenny Golladay could have his best game of 2020 this Sunday. All of Atlanta’s outside CBs are below average, so the fact that Kenny G and Marvin Jones Jr. split time on the right and left shouldn’t matter much. Jones has had a down year so far. If he fails to produce against Atlanta, it might be time to drop him in fantasy leagues.

I highlighted both A.J. Green and Tee Higgins because they play right and left side just about evenly.  Whoever gets more snaps on the left side will have the easier matchup against Terrance Mitchell. Denzel Ward is a completely different story.  It would make sense to attack Mitchell with Higgins, but we can’t be sure until game day. Ward plays exclusively LCB.

Denver’s secondary didn’t give up much to the New England passing attack last week. Prior to their win against the Patriots, they were one of the most frequently burnt units in the league. Mecole Hardman and Tyreek Hill are in bounce-back spots after Buffalo chose to play their safeties 20 yards deep in Week 6.

Detroit has been dominated by outside WRs, so in a game with a 56.5 total, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley are both potential slate-breakers.

Stefon Diggs is in a good spot against the Jets. They move him around the formation and he has a plus matchup against two bad outside CBs.

The chart projects a very favorable matchup for DeAndre Hopkins as the LWR against Seattle. The Seahawks have been gashed by LWRs all year, and Hopkins lines up on the left side the majority of the time. However, it’s important to note that Tre Flowers has been responsible for a lot of fantasy points against that position. Quinton Dunbar hasn’t been good this year, but he’s better than Flowers. I’ll be watching that matchup very closely, especially after Hopkins inexplicably flopped against Dallas.

In the slot, Jamison Crowder gets a Bills Defense that he exposed in Week 1.  Meanwhile, Greg Ward gets a matchup with Giants rookie Darnay Holmes, who has been abysmal.  Finally, the underwhelming JuJu Smith-Schuster gets another easy matchup against Tennessee’s Kristian Fulton. Fresh off a disappointing outing against the Browns, anything other than a breakout game could mean JuJu simply isn’t a priority target for the Steelers anymore.

Finally, Tyler Boyd does not have as easy a matchup as the chart indicates. Kevin Johnson has been a much better slot corner in recent weeks compared to who the Browns used earlier this season.

 

WR/CB Matchups to Avoid

James Bradberry is having an amazing season and probably deserves some DPOY consideration at this point.  I expect him to shadow and severely limit Travis Fulgham in Week 7.

In that same game, I expect Darius Slay to match up against Darius Slayton and limit him as well.

Jaire Alexander is one of the best corners in the league and may shadow Will Fuller.  Alexander had Deshaun Watson's number in college so I wouldn't be surprised if Watson tried to avoid him.  The bad news for Brandin Cooks is that even if Alexander moves off his home at LCB and shadows Fuller, Cooks will have a tough matchup with Green Bay's other outside corners.

Tre’Davious White is back for the Bills, so Breshad Perriman is not an advisable start this week.

D.J. Chark plays both right and left, but the bad news for him is that both Chargers’ outside corners are outstanding. Laviska Shenault Jr. is going to have a game with an explosive touchdown sooner or later, but this not a good matchup for him either.

The Saints have done a terrific job against RWRs this year, so downgrade Robby Anderson a bit for the second consecutive week.

The Washington Football Team's pass defense has been well above average at limiting fantasy points to opposing WRs. With Andy Dalton at QB, all three of the top Dallas WRs should be downgraded a bit.  I especially don’t love Amari Cooper’s matchup against Kendall Fuller.

Similarly, Kyle Fuller and the Bears have done a great job against WRs all year.  This might not be the best week for the Rams’ WR group, especially Robert Woods.

As far as slots go, there are a lot of good players in bad spots.  Randall Cobb, Jerry Jeudy, Cole Beasley, Julian Edelman, and Hunter Renfrow have the most difficult slot matchups in the league this week.  I would like to specifically highlight Brian Poole, who has been stellar as the Jets’ slot corner.  The Jets have been atrocious, but Poole deserves All-Pro consideration at this point.  Nickel backs are no longer just sub-package players.

Thanks for reading and good luck this week.



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WR/CB Matchups to Target & Avoid - Week 6

It's Week 6 and with a larger sample size, the CB Matchup Chart is becoming even more meaningful. This week's chart will give the most accurate landscape of CB matchups yet, as I spent time reviewing alignment percentages for WR and CB groups and updated the chart accordingly.

The main idea of the chart was previously to assign points based on defenses scheming to take away their opponent's "WR1." This was somewhat arbitrary and didn't take into account where that "WR1" was lining up. Or the "CB1" for that matter.

I'm excited to present this week's chart which reflects actual alignments in terms of LWR vs RCB and RWR vs LCB. All the numbers are updated accordingly.

 

WR/CB Matchups Chart

The chart below is a snapshot of each team's cornerback group as it relates to allowing fantasy points. There are inherent flaws within the data compilation of cornerback play. The first being the fact that quantifying a 1-on-1 matchup in an NFL game is unfair because of zone coverages, mental errors, certain passing concepts, and a million other things. Assigning fantasy points against a cornerback isn't a perfect science. The purpose of this chart is to give more of a general sense of how defenses are handling opposing WR groups, rather than identifying exactly where, when, and how every single encounter happened.

The "Rtng" column is the rating of each cornerback based on film study and analytics. The lower a player is graded, the easier the matchup for the WR, so low ratings are green and high ratings are red. The "PPGA" is the number of fantasy points per game that the player has given up. A name in blue means the corner could possibly shadow the WR1. A name in red means that the player is dealing with an injury. WRs highlighted in yellow have an easy matchup. WRs highlighted in pink have a tough matchup.

The analysis below will help contextualize the chart, as in most cases a receiver did not score 100% of his points against the same player. However, the chart is a useful tool in getting a sense of the weakest links among corners. This weekly process has made it clear to me that the WR talent and his target share are more important than his opposition.

 

Cornerback Ratings and Matchups - Week 6

click image for full-screen view

 

WR/CB Matchups to Target

Each week, this space starts with attacking Atlanta's terrible CB play. Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson should feast against the Falcons.

Chase Claypool is an example of why gathering CB data is tricky. Last week, he scored from various alignments, including the slot matched up with a linebacker despite his primary home for stat-gathering being at RWR. James Washington subbed in at LWR when Diontae Johnson left with an injury. So, while Claypool was the beneficiary in terms of targets and designed plays, he did not actually slot in Johnson’s position. In Week 6, Claypool at RWR has an on-paper matchup versus the highly-skilled Denzel Ward, who has played almost exclusively at LCB for Cleveland. The better matchups for the Steelers are actually at LWR and in the slot. It would make sense for Claypool to play more on the left side to take advantage of Terrance Mitchell. Whoever plays LWR - whether it’s Claypool, Diontae Johnson, or James Washington – has an easy matchup.

Dallas’ corner situation is a mess as they have been shredded by all three receiver spots at different times this season. Odell Beckham Jr. dominated Trevon Diggs in Week 4, while Darryl Worley was assigned zero points due to no Browns WR2 recording a catch. Last week, Darius Slayton torched Worley, but the Giants' non-existent WR2 situation assigned a zero to Diggs. This is a perfect example of what has become abundantly clear to me doing this work – the WR matters more than the matchup. In the case of Dallas’ secondary, start all your WRs against them regardless of position. DeAndre Hopkins is in line for a monster game, and all of the other Arizona WRs have the potential to put up good numbers. I wouldn't mind taking a flier on Christian Kirk this week.

Detroit has been terrible against outside WRs. Laviska Shenault Jr. let managers down in Week 3, but he might be worth a look again. If D.J. Chark is out, that could mean even more targets. If Chark is in, Shenault is still not a bad play because the offense just seems to be better with their No. 1 healthy. Chark is a fine play if he starts.

D.K. Metcalf just torched the Vikings' outside corners, who have been consistently terrible since Week 1. Julio Jones (if healthy) and Calvin Ridley are in boom spots.

The RCB spot in San Francisco has been a problem for a defense decimated by injuries. Whether it's Akhello Witherspoon or Brian Allen, the Rams should have no issue taking advantage on Sunday night. Robert Woods is in a great spot.

DeVante Parker also has a cake matchup against the New York Jets. He and Preston Williams play both right and left, so we don't know exactly who will draw more of RCB Bless Austin's subpar coverage. The good news for both is that Pierre Desir is arguably worse than Austin.

As for slot WRs this week, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Randall Cobb get upgrades. The chart lists Tyreek Hill as the primary slot for Kansas City, but they use all of their receivers in the slot in different formations. Buffalo has been gashed by slots all year, so Hill and Mecole Hardman get a boost.

 

WR/CB Matchups to Avoid

A.J. Green has looked like a shell of himself and will likely see a lot of Xavier Rhodes in Week 6. If Green is out, or the Bengals choose to use Tee Higgins as the LWR, the rookie would have to deal with Rhodes. Regardless, T.J. Carrie has been stellar as the LCB, so Higgins has a tough matchup no matter what.

The Rams' pass defense has been terrific at limiting wide receiver production. Jalen Ramsey is a household name, but both Darious Williams and Troy Hill have also been excellent this season. Downgrade all the 49ers receivers, including Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne, and Deebo Samuel. One of them may have a decent game based on volume, but it's going to be tough.

Darius Slayton just enjoyed some success against the pitiful Dallas secondary, but this week he's up against Kendall Fuller. Washington's shutdown RCB has been outstanding this season.

Kendall's brother Kyle will face off against the red-hot Robby Anderson in a very interesting matchup of two guys having great years. Anderson has been tremendous for Carolina but this could be his worst game as a Panther.

Finally, there are three possible shadow situations that aren't highlighted in the chart. First is with Arizona's Patrick Peterson who would cap Amari Cooper's upside if the Cardinals choose to shadow with Peterson. If Peterson stays at LCB, Michael Gallup gets a downgrade. The second is with Jaire Alexander in Green Bay. The Packers could choose to stick him on Mike Evans. Using one of their bigger corners on Evans might make sense. It's a tough matchup for Evans regardless. The third shadow situation to look out for is Darius Slay on Marquise Brown. The Ravens' speedster finally scored a touchdown last week but may have a tough assignment in Week 6.

Thanks for reading and good luck this week.



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WR/CB Matchups to Target and Avoid - Week 5

The chart below is a snapshot of each team's cornerback group as it relates to allowing fantasy points. There are inherent flaws within the data compilation of cornerback play. The first being the fact that quantifying a 1-on-1 matchup in an NFL game is unfair because of zone coverages, mental errors, certain passing concepts, and a million other things. Assigning fantasy points against a cornerback isn't a perfect science. The purpose of this chart is to give more of a general sense of how defenses are handling opposing WR groups, rather than identifying exactly where, when, and how every single encounter happened.

The "Rtng" column is the rating of each cornerback based on film study and analytics. The lower a player is graded, the easier the matchup for the WR, so low ratings are green and high ratings are red. The "PPGA" is the number of fantasy points per game that the player has given up. A name in blue means the corner could possibly shadow the WR1. A name in red means that the player is dealing with an injury.  WRs highlighted in yellow have an easy matchup.  WRs highlighted in pink have a tough matchup.

The analysis below will help contextualize the chart, as in most cases a receiver did not score 100% of his points against the same player. However, the chart is a useful tool in getting a sense of the weakest links among corners.

 

Cornerback Ratings and Matchups - Week 5

click image for full-size view

 

WR/CB Matchups to Target

This is an interesting week in the fact that some of the most beneficial matchups for WRs are players who aren’t realistic fantasy options. For example, Kendrick Bourne, David Moore, and Chad Beebe have three of the easiest matchups in the NFL, but obviously can’t be started in the majority of fantasy leagues. Moore deserves a look in deep leagues, but he’s not getting enough targets to start over established WRs.

There are multiple smash spots that could define the slate this week. First is Justin Jefferson against Tre Flowers or Quinton Dunbar in Seattle. Jefferson has been fantastic, and both Dunbar and Flowers have been horrid. On the other side, D.K. Metcalf gets Minnesota’s terrible outside CBs.

Darius Slayton and Golden Tate are also in great spots against Dallas.  The Cowboys have been atrocious against wide receivers this year, unable to cover WR1s or slots.  Daniel Jones has had tough matchups all season but I expect him to have his best game of 2020 in this spot.

Another intriguing spot is in that same game with the Cowboys receivers against the Giants corners.  Amari Cooper gets a tough draw with James Bradberry, but both Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb have plus matchups.

Offenses have game-planned to take advantage of slot matchups against Dallas, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Tennessee. In addition to CeeDee Lamb, Cole Beasley, Adam Humphries (if he plays), and Zach Pascal have great matchups.

Finally, the disappointing D.J. Moore gets possibly the easiest WR spot in all of football against Atlanta.  Robby Anderson has been more productive, but I expect Moore to explode against the Falcons. Dan Quinn’s defense is disturbingly bad.

 

WR/CB Matchups to Avoid

Many of the top WRs are matchup-proof for the most part, as Allen Robinson proved once again last week. So, while Tyreek Hill has a tough matchup on paper against Lamarcus Joyner, he is still obviously a fine play.

However, there are a handful of WR1s with tough matchups that you might want to downgrade. Diontae Johnson coming back from injury against Darius Slay is a tough spot. Odell Beckham Jr. just had his best game in years but gets a rejuvenated Xavier Rhodes and the stingy Indy pass defense. Mike Evans is banged up and has to deal with Kyle Fuller and the Bears. If Tennessee does return to action this week, A.J. Brown will have to deal with arguably the best corner in the game in Tre’Davious White.

I wouldn’t downgrade Will Fuller because Jacksonville’s PPGA WR1 stat is misleading. They’ve faced off against Corey Davis, DeVante Parker, and underachievers in T.Y. Hilton and A.J. Green. As far as Amari Cooper goes, you probably aren’t sitting him regardless, but I would not be shocked to see more work go to Gallup and Lamb.

Fringe fantasy WRs in tough matchups this week include Jamison Crowder, Hunter Renfrow, Larry Fitzgerald, Scotty Miller, Preston Williams, and John Brown.  Hopefully, you have better options.

Thanks for reading and good luck this week.



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WR/CB Matchups to Target and Avoid - Week 4

Three weeks into the NFL season, the PPGA (points per game against) stat is beginning to stabilize and give us a better understanding of CB matchups. The truth is that defensive performance against a position is mostly driven by the receiver. For example, WR2s are only averaging 2.7 PPG against the Bengals. That is more because they’ve played three of the worst WR2s in the league during their first three weeks rather than the shutdown play of Darius Phillips. On the other end of the spectrum, Shaquill Griffin is not as bad as his PPGA would suggest. He just had to face off against Julio Jones and Amari Cooper in shootouts. With that said, some of the statistics appear to be meaningful and will hopefully turn out to be predictive as we gather more data (a lot of the predictive analysis from Week 3's article turned out to be true).

The following chart is a snapshot of each team's cornerback group as it relates to allowing fantasy points. There are inherent flaws within the data compilation of cornerback play. The first being the fact that quantifying a 1-on-1 matchup in an NFL game is unfair because of zone coverages, mental errors, certain passing concepts, and a million other things. Assigning fantasy points against a cornerback isn't a perfect science. The purpose of this chart is to give more of a general sense of how defenses are handling opposing WR groups, rather than identifying exactly where, when, and how every single encounter happened.

The "Rtng" column is the rating of each cornerback based on film study and analytics. The lower a player is graded, the easier the matchup for the WR, so low ratings are green and high ratings are red. The "PPGA" is the number of fantasy points per game that the player has given up. A name in blue means the corner could possibly shadow the WR1. A name in red means that the player is dealing with an injury. The analysis below will help contextualize the chart, as in many cases a receiver did not score 100% of his points against the same player. However, the chart is a useful tool in getting a sense of the weakest links among corners.

 

Cornerback Ratings and Matchups - Week 4

WR/CB Matchups to Target or Avoid

WR1s against Atlanta have the best matchup in football right now. Davante Adams is in a dream spot in Week 4 if he's able to suit up. WR1s against Minnesota are also in a great spot. Will Fuller could go off as well.

The best matchup for WR2s so far has been against Seattle. The Dolphins' Preston Williams should take advantage against Tre Flowers this week. Shaquill Griffin is better than his stats suggest, but Seattle has been gashed by slot receivers too. Isaiah Ford is listed on the chart, but the more exploitable strategy could be using tight end Mike Geseiki in the slot against the smaller Ugo Amadi.

Buffalo has been shredded by slot receivers for three straight weeks. Taron Johnson is not having a good year and gets the sneaky Hunter Renfrow in Week 4. On the other side, Lamarcus Joyner has been shutdown against opposing slot receivers this year. Cole Beasley is not a great play this week.

Speaking of Jefferson, he gets an easier draw against the slot defenders of Houston while Adam Thielen has to deal with the shadow coverage of Bradley Roby, who has played well so far this season.

The Dallas-Cleveland game features a big-time matchup of Amari Cooper versus Denzel Ward. Cooper might be somewhat matchup proof, but Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, and possibly Cedrick Wilson have easier draws. On the other side, Dallas is fresh off giving up 100 yards and three touchdowns to Tyler Lockett. Jarvis Landry could have his best game of 2020 this week.

It looks like Xavier Rhodes has regained his top form after a disastrous 2019. Allen Robinson gets a boost with Nick Foles at QB, but it’s a tough matchup.

In New York, James Bradberry has been lockdown this year for the Giants, which has led to WR2s getting fed against them. Robert Woods plays different alignments, but Josh Reynolds or Van Jefferson could be sneaky plays. The Giants haven’t been exposed by slot receivers since JuJu Smith-Schuster and Pittsburgh in Week 1. However, they’ve faced two below-average slot receivers since then. Cooper Kupp could have another huge game.

Jason Verrett is back for San Francisco and performed well last week. He was one of the best CB prospects of his draft class but has struggled with injuries throughout his career. WR2s and slots have it tough against the Niners because of Verrett and slot corner K’wuan Williams.  I wouldn't feel great about a Hail Mary John Hightower play this week.

The Los Angeles Chargers CBs continue to stifle opposing receivers, most recently shutting down the talented trio in Carolina. Casey Hayward presents a problem for Mike “Jerome Bettis” Evans. However, Chris Harris Jr. could miss the game due to injury and Evans has played a lot in the slot this year. Whoever gets those slot targets will have an easier matchup than the outside receivers against the Bolts. It could be Justin Watson.

Thanks for reading and good luck this week.



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WRs to Target or Avoid - Week 3 Cornerback Matchups

After two weeks, NFL defenses are starting to round into form. This article will take a look at each team's cornerback group in an effort to find the best matchups to attack in fantasy.

The following chart is a snapshot of each team's cornerback group as it relates to allowing fantasy points. There are inherent flaws within data compilation of cornerback play. The first being the fact that quantifying a 1-on-1 matchup in an NFL game is unfair because of zone coverages, mental errors, certain passing concepts, and a million other things. Assigning fantasy points against a cornerback isn't a perfect science. The purpose of this chart is to give more of a general sense of how defenses are handling opposing WR groups, rather than identifying exactly where, when, and how every single encounter happened.

The "Rtng" column is the rating of each cornerback based on film study and analytics. The lower a player is graded, the easier the matchup for the WR, so low ratings are green and high ratings are red. The "PPGA" is the amount of fantasy points per game that player has given up. A name in blue means the corner could possibly shadow the WR1. A name in red means that player is dealing with an injury. The analysis below will help contextualize the chart, as in many cases a receiver did not score 100% of his points against the same player. However, the chart is a useful tool in getting a sense of the weakest links among corners.

 

Cornerback Ratings - Week 3

click image to view full-screen

 

WR/CB Matchups to Target or Avoid

Miami's secondary was torched by Buffalo in Week 2 after Byron Jones went down. The Jaguars WRs all have easy matchups in Week 3.

The most intriguing matchup of Week 3 is Bears standout rookie Jaylon Johnson versus Falcons WR Calvin Ridley. Both have been stellar through two games. It would not shock me to see Ridley have a down game.

In that same game, Allen Robinson should get the squeaky wheel treatment against Atlanta's terrible corners. Anthony Miller burned fantasy players last week, but whoever plays the slot will have a hilariously easy matchup as well.

Another pressure point is the Bills talented receiving corps versus the solid cornerback group of the Los Angeles Rams. Darious Williams has been terrific so far and is becoming a problem for opposing WRs. John Brown might be in for a letdown.

Jerry Jeudy has a tough matchup with Tampa Bay's Sean Murphy-Bunting. K.J. Hamler gets a boost dealing with the weakest link in the Bucs secondary.

Jeff Okudah struggled in his debut, but the Lions chose to be gashed via the run rather than the pass. DeAndre Hopkins is obviously matchup-proof but it will be interesting to see if the rookie looks more comfortable in his second game.

Speaking of rookies struggling, both Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler have been exposed in Minnesota. Whoever the Titans give targets to at WR should be in for a big game in Week 3.

Baltimore's secondary took a hit in losing Tavon Young for the season. The Chiefs mix and match with their WR alignments, but Tyreek Hill plays the slot most frequently. Look for them to attack Young's replacement, Anthony Averrett.

One of the curious two-week trends has been the performance of slot receivers against the Bills. Cooper Kupp could have a breakout game.

Carolina's receivers get the stingy Chargers defensive backs in Week 3. I would give a slight downgrade to both D.J. Moore and Robby AndersonCurtis Samuel may see more work out of the backfield, but in the slot versus Chris Harris Jr. will be tough. CHJ's numbers are skewed because Tyreek Hill scored a long touchdown last week.

The following WRs are borderline Week 3 plays that get a boost based on matchup:

Thanks for reading and good luck this week.



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Exploiting Defensive Matchups with Predictive Analysis - Week 3

With two weeks of data we can start to see which defenses the Predictive Defensive Matchup Chart may have underrated. Keep in mind that two games is a small sample size, so adding in preseason predictive data should help give a more complete picture. Below is the updated chart including Week 3 opponents.

There are many ways to measure "pass defense" and "run defense." These rankings are for fantasy purposes only. The more green you see, the easier the matchup.

The "20 P Proj" column is projected pass defense, which was formulated through personnel ratings, coaching tendencies, and 2019 statistics. 32nd-ranked is the worst, so it's green for the offense. The "20 PA" column is QB fantasy points against. 32nd-ranked is the toughest, so it's red for the offense. The "20 R Proj" column is projected run defense and "20 RA" is RB fantasy points against.

 

Updated Pass Defense Rankings for 2020

The model projected the Atlanta pass defense to be the worst in the NFL and after two weeks they've been just that. Keep streaming QBs against the Falcons and their anemic pass rush.

Seattle's pass rush has been unbelievably terrible and they just lost Bruce Irvin for the season. Everyone wanted to Let Russ Cook, and the quicker the pace, the more the Seahawks pass defense will be exposed.

Similarly, Miami doesn't have much of a pass rush and will likely be missing stud corner Byron Jones this week. Fire up Gardner Minshew on Thursday night.

The Los Angeles Chargers 2020 ranking is skewed by the greatness of Patrick Mahomes and the fact that their game went into overtime. Their pass defense personnel is top-notch.

It looks like Baltimore and Chicago will be tough matchups for QBs going forward. Be careful with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh as well. Both teams have solid defensive back groups.

Cincinnati and Carolina are the two worst run defenses in the league, so I don't think their stingy ranking against QBs is evidence that they have a good pass defense. I do expect teams to continue to pound the rock against them, so they may not be the best teams to attack with streamers.

 

Updated Run Defense Rankings for 2020

Carolina and Cincinnati are by far the two worst run defenses in the NFL. It's good news for Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, and Miles Sanders in Week 3.

The model has been accurate in regards to Detroit and Arizona, so look for Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds, and the Lions RBs to put up some points this week.

The model predicted that Houston would be poorer against the pass than the run. It looks like they may be a bottom-five run defense based on the first two weeks of the season. James Conner could have a big game this week.

Tampa Bay has been a much easier matchup against RBs than they were last year, but part of that is skewed by facing Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey in the first two weeks. It will be interesting to see how Melvin Gordon does this week, especially without Drew Lock.

Jacksonville did a great job against Derrick Henry in Week 2 and stuffed the rushing attack of Indianapolis in Week 1. Their ranking would be a lot tougher if they didn't give up so many receptions to Colts RBs.

Finally, the key matchup of the week is Clyde Edwards-Helaire taking on Calais Campbell and the stingy Baltimore run defense. CEH was involved more in the passing game in Week 2 and may need to make his impact as a receiver on Monday night. The Ravens Defense is unforgiving.

Thanks for reading and good luck this week.



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Cornerback Matchups Chart - Week 2 Analysis

With Week 1 in the books, there is now 2020 data for all 32 teams.  This article will take a look at each team's cornerback group in an effort to find the best matchups to attack in fantasy.

The following chart is a snapshot of each team's cornerback group as it relates to allowing fantasy points.  There are inherent flaws within data compilation of cornerback play.  The first being the fact that quantifying a 1-on-1 matchup in an NFL game is unfair because of zone coverages, mental errors, certain passing concepts, and a million other things.  Assigning fantasy points against a cornerback isn't a perfect science.  The purpose of this chart is to give more of a general sense of how defenses are handling opposing WR groups, rather than identifying exactly where, when, and how every single encounter happened.

The "Rtng" column is the rating of each cornerback based on film study and analytics.  The lower a player is graded, the easier the matchup for the WR, so low ratings are green and high ratings are red.  The "PPGA" is the amount of fantasy points that player gave up in Week 1.  The analysis below will help contextualize the chart, as in many cases a receiver did not score 100% of his points against the same player.  However, the chart is a useful tool in getting a sense of the weakest links among corners.

 

Cornerback Ratings - Week 2

click image to view full-screen

 

WR/CB Matchups to Target or Avoid

The breakout star in Week 1 was C.J. Henderson.  The Jags' rookie dominated T.Y. Hilton, making him someone you probably want to avoid going forward.  It's only been one game, but I wouldn't feel great about A.J. Brown in Week 2.  Henderson showed shutdown potential on his college film.  UPDATE: A.J. Brown could be out, which could mean Corey Davis sees more of Henderson depending on gameplan. Davis might be a worthy play due to volume, but don't be surprised if he disappoints against Henderson.

Another key takeaway from Week 1 is to attack Minnesota.  Davante Adams going nuts is one thing, but they allowed touchdowns to both the WR2 and slot in Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard.  All three Colts WRs have blow-up potential in Week 2.

The San Francisco data is skewed and can probably be ignored.  Kyler Murray targeted DeAndre Hopkins all over the field.  Richard Sherman may be on a decline, but we need more games to know.  UPDATE: He was dealing with an injury Week 1.

The New York Jets have a solid slot corner in Brian Poole, but will likely be susceptible at outside receiver all year.  If Brandon Aiyuk plays, he could have a surprise game.

Houston's corners went up against the Chiefs in Week 1, so we shouldn't overreact.  However, it's likely they'll give up a bunch of big games.  Bradley Roby isn't terrible but whoever he's not on will have an extremely easy matchup.

Jaire Alexander did not give up all 28 points to Adam Thielen.  He did give up the last touchdown, however.  I view Alexander as a tough matchup but it's a situation to monitor.

Washington's corners dominated the weak Philadelphia receivers, but they get DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and Larry Fitzgerald this week.  I buy their defensive line dominance, but I'm not sold on their secondary just yet.

The New York Giants don't have a good secondary, but they will be especially exposed by slot receivers.  Anthony Miller is a great play in Week 2.

Indianapolis has one of the best slot corners in the league in Kenny Moore, but very burnable outside corners.  Adam Thielen played mostly outside in Week 1, so expect him to have another good game, while Justin Jefferson gets stuck with Moore.

The following teams are tough matchups for all WRs including WR1s, WR2s and slots:

  • Baltimore
  • Buffalo
  • Cincinnati
  • Dallas
  • Los Angeles Chargers
  • Los Angeles Rams
  • New England
  • Pittsburgh
  • Tampa Bay

The following WRs are borderline Week 2 plays that get a boost based on matchup:

Thanks for reading and good luck this week.



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Exploiting Defensive Matchups with Predictive Analysis - Week 2

Week 1 is in the books and we have new data to add to preseason predictive analysis.  A reader asked me if we can expect this chart to be updated every week.  The plan is to update the chart for at least the first five weeks of the regular season.  By Week 6, five games of 2020 data will render the preseason predictive data irrelevant.

There are many ways to measure "pass defense" and "run defense."  These rankings are for fantasy purposes only.  The more green you see, the easier the matchup.

The "20 P Proj" column is projected pass defense, which was formulated through personnel ratings, coaching tendencies, and 2019 statistics.  32nd-ranked is the worst, so it's green for the offense.  The "20 PA" column is QB fantasy points against.  32nd-ranked is the toughest, so it's red for the offense.  The "20 R Proj" column is projected run defense and "20 RA" is RB fantasy points against.

 

Updated Pass Defense Rankings for 2020

The model projected Atlanta would be the worst pass defense in the NFL and in Week 1 they were just that. The model also suggested targeting both New York teams and the Browns. Cleveland simply doesn't have the defensive backs to cover WR2s and slot receivers.

Two of the most surprising Week 1 performances were by the San Francisco and Minnesota pass defenses. Aaron Rodgers carved up Minnesota, but they should be an easy matchup without Danielle Hunter and with arguably the worst cornerback group in the league. San Francisco gave up a lot of rushing production to Kyler Murray which is reflected in this chart. Their ranking may be misleading. However, keep an eye on the 49ers possibly regressing in the secondary.

As far as tough matchups go, it looks like Baltimore and New England will be a headache for passers again this year. Buffalo feasted on a weak Jets passing attack, but they should remain solid as well.  A team to watch out for is Cincinnati. They have decent personnel and their Week 1 performance was encouraging, even if it was against Tyrod Taylor.

The model may have underrated the Dallas secondary personnel after losing Byron Jones. Aldon Smith was also basically unaccounted for. They could be a tougher matchup than we thought.

 

Updated Run Defense Rankings for 2020

Arizona's ranking here may be misleading due to the long TD reception they gave up to Raheem Mostert and playing the 49ers without their two best WRs. Still, it's a reminder that they don't have many plus run defenders.

It looks like Carolina will be atrocious against the run again this year. Target the Panthers with RBs.

Jacksonville's ranking is so poor in large part due to Philip Rivers throwing so many passes to his RBs. Still, the model was accurate at the top in Week 1.

Dallas lost Leighton Vander Esch due to injury and has some lighter players along the defensive line. It's looking like they will be a stiffer pass defense than run defense.

Tampa Bay had to deal with the hyper-efficient Saints running game in a blowout. They will be better going forward.

Miami's ranking doesn't tell the whole story as they were gashed by Cam Newton rather than Patriots RBs. The model predicts they will struggle more going forward.

Finally, it's looking like you want to stay away from New Orleans, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh when considering RBs. All three have personnel and coaching tendencies that make them top-end run defenses.

Thanks for reading and good luck this week.



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Exploiting Defensive Matchups with Predictive Analysis

The NFL season is underway, but fantasy managers still have decisions to make about their Week 1 lineups. There are many tools to help managers make start/sit decisions, and matchups are a key factor. Generally, you want to target bad defenses. You obviously want to start QBs, WRs, and TEs against poor pass defenses and RBs against poor run defenses. The challenge for Week 1 is that the only matchup data we have is based solely on 2019 numbers. Until now.

The following charts are predictors of the pass and run defenses of each NFL team in 2020. The rankings are based on the following factors:

  • Defensive personnel ratings.
  • Coaching statistics and tendencies from the defensive play-caller's last four seasons.
  • 2019 statistics.

 

Projected Pass Defense Rankings for 2020

The model predicts Atlanta will have the worst pass defense in the league this season. They project to have an anemic pass rush and subpar secondary.

Arizona has just one legitimate pass rusher and burnable defensive backs.  They'll also speed up the tempo on offense and play a high number of snaps on defense as a result.

The New York Giants lost DeAndre Baker but added a couple of previously solid veteran corners in Logan Ryan and James Bradberry.  Their front-seven personnel is much better suited to stop the run rather than rush the passer.  The model does not like DC Patrick Graham's chances of success after coordinating the exploitable 2019 Dolphins Defense.

Cleveland's low ranking is surprising but with Greedy Williams injured and Myles Garrett suspended, slot receivers and WR2s should feast early.

On the other end of the spectrum, both San Francisco and Pittsburgh have terrific secondaries and strong pass rushers.  I would also much rather attack Baltimore's defense on the ground than through the air.  The same goes for Green Bay.

 

Projected Run Defense Rankings for 2020

Jacksonville is projected to be the best matchup for RBs.  They don't have run-stuffers along the defensive line and DC Todd Wash's defenses have consistently done better against the pass.

Miami upgraded their secondary but the front seven is an obvious weakness.  The addition of Raekwon Davis could be a factor down the line, but for now they should be targeted.

Cincinnati added D.J. Reader to help sure up their run defense, but the linebackers are still weak and the model puts a lot of weight on DC Lou Anarumo's poor 2019 performance.

The New York Jets were the second-worst matchup for RBs last year but are projected to be 12th-worst this year. The losses of Jamal Adams and Leonard Williams are baked into the ranking.

As for the toughest matchups, it won't be easy to run on Tampa Bay this season.  Vita Vea is an elite run-stuffer, both off-ball linebackers are solid and Ndamukong Suh is still strong at the point of attack.

Finally, both Indianapolis DC Matt Eburflus and Philadelphia DC Jim Schwartz prioritize stopping the run before the pass.  The model would advise against starting borderline RB options against Indy and Philly.

Thanks for reading and good luck this season.



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Updated Running Back PPR Draft Rankings and Analysis

Hitting on the right RB can win you a league. Christian McCaffrey was a monster in 2019, rewarding fantasy players who took him over Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliot, and in some instances even Saquon Barkley. Sorting out this year’s RB landscape could be the difference between winning it all and missing the playoffs.

This year, McCaffrey is the consensus RB1, but Barkley is not far behind. There are a few highly-ranked runners with passing game concerns and a handful of talented rookies. Shooting for upside early and often might be the best strategy.

In this article, I will analyze the RotoBaller staff PPR RB rankings. In addition to the analysis of stats, I have watched college and/or pro film of every player I comment on.

 

Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings

The rankings table below was last updated on September 1st, to reflect changes related to Leonard Fournette being released by the Jaguars.

Position Rank Position Tier Player Name Overall Rank Overall Tier
1 1 Christian McCaffrey 1 1
2 1 Saquon Barkley 2 1
3 1 Alvin Kamara 3 1
4 1 Ezekiel Elliott 5 1
5 1 Dalvin Cook 6 1
6 1 Joe Mixon 10 2
7 1 Derrick Henry 11 2
8 2 Austin Ekeler 13 2
9 2 Clyde Edwards-Helaire 15 2
10 2 Miles Sanders 16 2
11 2 Kenyan Drake 17 2
12 2 Josh Jacobs 19 3
13 2 Nick Chubb 20 3
14 3 Aaron Jones 24 3
15 3 Chris Carson 27 3
16 3 Melvin Gordon 35 3
17 3 Todd Gurley 36 3
18 3 Le'Veon Bell 37 3
19 3 James Conner 39 4
20 4 Jonathan Taylor 48 4
21 4 Cam Akers 51 4
22 4 Mark Ingram II 52 5
23 4 David Johnson 55 5
24 4 D'Andre Swift 58 5
25 4 Raheem Mostert 59 5
26 4 David Montgomery 60 5
27 4 Devin Singletary 61 5
28 4 Kareem Hunt 62 5
29 4 James White 65 5
30 5 Jordan Howard 77 6
31 5 Ronald Jones II 82 6
32 5 Matt Breida 87 6
33 5 Ke'Shawn Vaughn 90 7
34 5 Ryquell Armstead 91 7
35 5 Tarik Cohen 93 7
36 5 Leonard Fournette 99 7
37 6 J.K. Dobbins 101 7
38 6 Marlon Mack 105 7
39 6 Sony Michel 111 7
40 6 Phillip Lindsay 112 8
41 6 Kerryon Johnson 114 8
42 6 Tevin Coleman 117 8
43 6 Latavius Murray 119 8
44 7 Zack Moss 129 8
45 7 Chris Thompson 136 9
46 7 Nyheim Hines 139 9
47 7 Duke Johnson 141 9
48 7 Darrell Henderson 142 9
49 7 Joshua Kelley 143 9
50 8 Alexander Mattison 163 10
51 8 Boston Scott 164 10
52 8 Adrian Peterson 170 10
53 8 Chase Edmonds 172 11
54 8 A.J. Dillon 173 11
55 8 Tony Pollard 175 11
56 8 Jamaal Williams 180 11
57 9 Giovani Bernard 195 11
58 9 Darrynton Evans 196 12
59 9 Damien Harris 207 12
60 9 Justin Jackson 211 12
61 9 Antonio Gibson 214 12
62 9 Ito Smith 216 12
63 9 Jalen Richard 217 13
64 9 Malcolm Brown 221 13
65 9 Anthony McFarland Jr. 225 13
66 9 Gus Edwards 230 13
67 9 Justice Hill 235 13
68 9 Carlos Hyde 237 13
69 9 Lynn Bowden Jr. 238 13
70 9 Rashaad Penny 241 13
71 9 Bryce Love 242 13
72 9 Dion Lewis 243 13
73 9 Lamical Perine 244 13
74 9 Devonta Freeman 245 13
75 9 Benny Snell Jr. 246 13
76 9 DeAndre Washington 247 13
77 9 Jaylen Samuels 249 14
78 10 Lamar Miller 258 14
79 10 Jerick McKinnon 259 14
80 10 Rex Burkhead 263 14
81 10 Royce Freeman 267 14
82 10 Darwin Thompson 276 15
83 10 DeeJay Dallas 281 15
84 10 Elijah Holyfield 293 15
85 10 Eno Benjamin 295 15
86 10 Peyton Barber 297 15
87 10 Darrel Williams 299 15
88 10 Dare Ogunbowale 307 15
89 11 Patrick Laird 326 16
90 11 Ryan Nall 329 16
91 11 Qadree Ollison 330 16
92 11 Mike Boone 331 16
93 11 Brian Hill 332 16
94 11 Josh Adams 334 16
95 11 Myles Gaskin 340 16
96 11 Reggie Bonnafon 342 16
97 11 Dwayne Washington 344 16
98 11 Devine Ozigbo 346 17
99 11 LeSean McCoy 347 17
100 11 Andy Janovich 348 17
101 11 Dalyn Dawkins 359 17
102 11 Buddy Howell 360 17
103 11 Frank Gore 377 17
104 11 Jeff Wilson 383 17
105 13 Rico Dowdle 389 18
106 13 Bo Scarbrough 390 18
107 13 Trenton Cannon 392 18
108 13 Raymond Calais 394 18
109 13 Jordan Wilkins 396 18
110 13 JaMycal Hasty 400 18
111 13 Ty Montgomery 401 18
112 13 T.J. Yeldon 402 18
113 13 Kyle Juszczyk 403 18
114 13 Trayveon Williams 407 18
115 13 Wendell Smallwood 410 18
116 13 Rodney Anderson 412 18
117 13 Wayne Gallman 413 18
118 13 John Kelly 417 18
119 13 Kalen Ballage 420 18
120 13 Jonathan Williams 421 18
121 13 Mike Davis 426 18
122 13 Karan Higdon 427 18
123 13 Travis Homer 428 18
124 13 Keith Smith 439 18
125 13 Dexter Williams 441 18
126 13 Trey Edmunds 445 19
127 13 J.J. Taylor 447 19
128 13 Devontae Booker 451 19
129 13 J.D. McKissic 455 19
130 13 Dontrell Hilliard 459 19
131 13 Ty Johnson 461 19
132 13 D'Ernest Johnson 467 19
133 13 Corey Clement 469 19
134 13 Tyler Ervin 476 19
135 13 C.J. Prosise 477 19
136 13 Kerrith Whyte Jr. 485 20
137 13 C.J. Anderson 496 20
138 13 Jordan Scarlett 498 20
139 13 Bilal Powell 500 20
140 13 Theo Riddick 502 20
141 13 Olamide Zaccheaus 504 20

 

Tier 1

Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley are truthfully in a tier of their own due to receiving upside. Alvin Kamara being ranked over Ezekiel Elliott is noteworthy, as Elliott is being drafted as the RB3 based on ADP. I prefer Zeke because he has such a high floor and unquestionable touchdown upside. Many expect positive TD regression for Kamara, but it’s fair to wonder about his workload and durability after his injury-marred 2019. Latavius Murray is still there and Emmanuel Sanders should command more targets than previous Saints WR2s. I personally rank both Elliott and Dalvin Cook over Kamara.

Joe Mixon over Derrick Henry might raise some eyebrows, but in a PPR league, I would argue Henry should be ranked even lower. Last season from Week 1 to Week 9, Derrick Henry was RB14 in PPG. In the second half of the season, with Ryan Tannehill at QB, he was RB1. The issue with Henry is that the hyper-efficient second-half Titans offense simply will not exist this season. It was statistically one of the most efficient offenses of all time.

Tannehill may have turned a corner, but his second-half effectiveness would be unsustainable for an all-time great, let alone a player with his mediocre track record. Henry had a 72% rushing share last season after never eclipsing 50% in his first three seasons. I also expect his receiving TD rate, yards per carry, and yards per reception to drop closer to his career averages than the career highs they all were last year.

Mixon, on the other hand, is due for positive regression and an increase in target share. He finished as the RB6 in the second half of last season. His lack of production in the first half can be explained by a new offense, terrible offensive line, and a curious lack of action in the passing game. His 8% target share dropped from his 2018 target share of 12%, and because Giovanni Bernard’s did as well, Zac Taylor’s offense clearly did not emphasize utilizing RBs in the passing game. I expect that to change with a year of Taylor self-scouting and evolving his offense. The offensive line is also improved with the addition of Jonah Williams at left tackle. I agree with the RotoBaller ranking of RB6 and think he’s a bargain at his borderline 2nd-round ADP.

 

Tier 2

The top 10 concludes with Austin Ekeler, Miles Sanders, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. I personally rank Josh Jacobs and Nick Chubb over all of them, but I understand the reasoning in PPR. Ekeler, Sanders, and CEH project to receive much more work in the passing game.

The rankers at RotoBaller are high on Ekeler, but I think there’s a chance he underwhelms. Natural regression would be expected even if his situation remained the same, but the switch from Philip Rivers to Tyrod Taylor simply can’t be good for Ekeler. Rivers has always thrown to backs at a high rate, dating back to his days with LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles. He’s been as fantasy-friendly to RBs as any QB in the NFL. Tyrod Taylor could exceed expectations, which would probably mean just keeping the job, and still be a huge downgrade for Ekeler from a fantasy opportunity standpoint.

I project Ekeler’s rushes to go up, but not by much (remember Melvin Gordon missed the beginning of last season). I do not believe he’ll have a 19% target share again, or a 9% receiving TD rate, or an 85% catch rate, or a 10.79 yards per reception. Ekeler’s 993 receiving yards last year was the 6th-highest single-season total among running backs in NFL history. He’s RB15 in my personal rankings.

I have no issue with ranking Sanders or CEH in the top 10. Both have immense upside as pass-catching RB1s in good offenses. I prefer CEH over Sanders because I think he’s a better overall player, but there are always unknowns with rookies. Sanders has more bust risk than people realize. The RBBC concerns are well documented, but there’s also a chance he’s simply not that great of a player. I’ve been critical of his lack of vision since his days at Penn State.

Kenyan Drake at No. 11 is fair. Drake played a workhorse share of snaps in the Cardinals’ last seven games, parlaying that opportunity into fantasy greatness. Always a talented player, Drake was held hostage by Adam Gase and the putrid Dolphins offense for most of his career prior to his arrival in Arizona. An in-depth look into his film will reveal the same conclusions as watching this.

The issue with drafting Drake in the top 10 is projecting his workload in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. Chase Edmonds was an efficient backup to David Johnson in the first half of 2019 but was completely phased out of the offense when Drake was added and Johnson was healthy. His rushing share was still 24%, which I expect to increase based on being efficient and the clear backup to a guy who has handled a workhorse share for a grand total of seven games of his career dating back to Alabama. The good news is that Arizona’s offense will be better in Kyler Murray’s second year in Coach Kingsbury’s fast-paced system. Drake’s efficiency will likely take a dip, but he has a career 4.77 YPC for a reason.

Fantasy players have been burned by guys like Drake in the past - talented players who get hyped due to an unsustainable small sample, where drafters completely ignore an entire career worth of mediocre production. His upside is quantifiable - just look at the second half of last year - but there is risk here.

Josh Jacobs is my RB6 so I think he’s ranked too low here. I agree with RotoBaller rankings more than the general public, as his 18.7 ADP makes him an absolute steal. I wrote in-depth about Jacobs here. The bottom line is that he is one of the best backs in the league and will see more targets. The only concern with Jacobs is durability. He has league-winning upside.

Nick Chubb is also ranked appropriately. His limited involvement in the passing game underscores the only obstacle in his way from a top-five finish: Kareem Hunt. Chubb is still too good to rank outside the top 12, and he’s a steal at his 16th overall ADP.

 

Tier 3

The ranking that stands out the most is Leonard Fournette at RB15. I have him ranked at RB24. Fournette was one of my favorite prospects in the 2017 draft, but aside from a decent rookie year has done nothing but disappoint since entering the league. He has virtually no chance to repeat last year’s 20% target share with Chris Thompson coming to Jacksonville. The Jaguars might be the worst team in the league this year so he simply may not see that many rushing attempts.

Positive TD regression is possible, but I’m not counting on the Jags to score that much anyway. I think Fournette’s best path to fantasy value is somewhere other than Jacksonville. He makes sense as a low-cost trade acquisition for Bill Belichick as the Patriots’ new LeGarrette Blount.

UPDATE: After this article was written, Fournette was released by the Jaguars. The rankings table above has been updated to reflect this.

I don’t have a strong opinion on any of the rest of this tier as Chris Carson, Melvin Gordon, and Todd Gurley all have question marks. They have all been productive fantasy backs at various points, but all have flaws. Carson struggles to stay healthy and has a fumbling problem. Gordon is leaving a friendly situation to an unknown situation. Gurley looked washed up at times last year and has knee issues.

The one that intrigues me the most here is Bell, who looks to be in great shape. Still, it’s hard to ignore how putrid he was last year.

 

Tier 4

Jonathan Taylor is the single best value in fantasy drafts this year and has league-winning upside. I wrote more about him here, but the bottom line is that he’s an extremely talented runner on the team with the best offensive line in the league.

Cam Akers at RB22 may raise some eyebrows, but I love the ranking. Akers has upside as the most talented runner in a system that has produced big-time fantasy seasons from Todd Gurley. Akers might not be 2017 Gurley, but the Rams used their highest draft pick on him for a reason. I disagree with the common take that this is not a good year for rookies. Preseason game reps are being vastly overrated. Rookies will get plenty of reps in training camp. And more importantly, the 2020 Draft was loaded with skill-position talent.

I draft for upside, so I’m most interested in D’Andre Swift and Kareem Hunt in this tier. Swift could be a re-draft bust, but the talent is there to make an impact and Kerryon Johnson has always struggled with durability. Hunt is an injury away from being a top-five back, and might still catch enough passes to be a weekly RB2 in PPR leagues.

Nothing else in this range stands out much. David Johnson’s ceiling isn’t high enough to take him over the receivers in this range, and Raheem Mostert could lose the hot hand at any moment. Mostert’s lack of pass-game upside means he’s only worth his ADP if he’s as efficient as he was last year or gets way more volume. I worry about the other backs in San Francisco.

 

Tier 5

The Miami backfield is a quagmire, and I agree with ranking Jordan Howard above Matt Breida. Howard is somewhat of a plodder, but he’s good enough near the goal line to have some value.

Tarik Cohen is one of my favorite values in this range. His efficiency numbers took a nosedive in his third season, but he showed explosiveness and speed in his first two seasons. While he might not ever handle enough touches per game to be an RB1, he’s a solid value with a higher floor than most RBs in this range.

J.K. Dobbins was my No. 1 RB in the draft and wants to challenge for the RB1 job right away in Baltimore. I don’t think he’ll get there this year given Mark Ingram’s recent durability, but I don’t mind taking a chance at this price. If you count Lamar Jackson, there are four other quality rushers in the Ravens backfield. If you want to take a chance on Dobbins be prepared for a possible complete bust at this ADP due to lack of opportunity.

My take on the Bucs backfield is that neither Ke’Shawn Vaughn or Ronald Jones will live up to their ADP. I think the addition of LeSean McCoy is telling. Bruce Arians and Tom Brady are going to play the back they trust the most. I’d give the rookie a better shot because Jones makes too many mistakes (PFF's No. 35 graded RB in 2019) and doesn’t have the receiving skillset to mesh with Brady. He’s an avoid for me.

 

Tier 6

There is still some value in the early 40s. Kerryon Johnson was a third-round pick last year and busted, but he still has some talent. He’s a fine pick as RB41 as a probable starter who can catch passes. Sometimes players with the injury-risk label make for great values. Every player is an injury risk.

Tevin Coleman is a cheap way to get a piece of the 49ers rushing attack and is fairly ranked at RB42. Latavius Murray’s upside makes him a tremendous value at RB43. He’s an injury away from being an RB1 and I think he’ll get more carries regardless. The Saints will run the ball more and he’ll get more than his 35% rushing share of 2019.

Keeping with the rookies-are-actually-undervalued-this-year theme, I love Zack Moss. Moss was drafted in the third-round to replace Frank Gore, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him earn more touches than Devin Singletary. From a film perspective, Moss is a better player. Moss is constantly banged up, but at RB44 there is huge upside for a currently healthy possible starter.

 

Tier 7 & lower

RotoBaller's preseason staff rankings have Antonio Gibson much lower than the consensus at RB61 and I agree with the idea that Gibson is overvalued. Much has been made about Gibson’s low number of touches in college (77), but I’m not concerned with that number as much as his lack of experience playing the running back position. Gibson primarily lined up at slot receiver at Memphis. Many are expecting Gibson’s transition to RB to be as smooth as Tony Pollard’s was. I don’t think it’s that easy. And while Adrian Peterson, Peyton Barber, and Bryce Love are on the roster, Gibson may see most of his work on special teams.

Adrian Peterson will likely have some nice moments, but I don’t expect him to be trustworthy in fantasy on one of the worst offenses in the league.

Duke Johnson’s usage has never made sense, so perhaps this is the year he’s used enough to matter. It’s worth a shot in this range. Darrell Henderson couldn’t beat out Malcolm Brown as a rookie, so I’m not interested unless he falls way past his ADP. The RotoBaller staff loves Joshua Kelley at RB49. I wouldn’t take him that high, but a Chargers back other than Ekeler will be relevant. Alexander Mattison, Chase Edmonds, and Tony Pollard are three of the most valuable handcuffs in fantasy. Dalvin Cook has had the most trouble staying healthy, whereas Kenyan Drake and especially Ezekiel Elliot have proven to be durable.

The most striking discrepancy between ranking and ADP in this range is DeAndre Washington. I think RotoBaller is ranking him way too low at RB77. The Chiefs offense is the best for RBs and Washington has been effective as a runner and pass-catcher throughout his career. CEH owners may end up hating him this year.

In this range, I'm buying the following as late-round fliers:

  • Ryquell Armstead because I think Fournette will be traded.
  • Carlos Hyde because I don’t think Carson can stay healthy.
  • Lynn Bowden Jr. because I believe in the talent and can see him getting Wildcat snaps.
  • Benny Snell Jr. because of James Conner’s durability issues.
  • Devonta Freeman because if he fired his agent that means he’s unhappy he’s not signed yet.
  • DeeJay Dallas because he’s the best receiving RB on the Seahawks roster.
  • Eno Benjamin because he was undervalued in the draft and is an injury away from a role.
  • Dare Ogunbowale because there is a chance he’s Tom Brady’s preferred passing-down RB.
  • Qadree Ollison because he scored four TD in the second half of last season.

And finally, my favorite sleeper is ranked RB98 currently, but will most likely shoot up draft boards in the weeks to come.

It is not very often you can draft a former Heisman runner-up in the 100s. Bryce Love is healthy and has a great opportunity to earn a role in the Washington backfield. Love was one of the best players in college football in 2017 and struggled with injuries in 2018, tearing his ACL in his final game. Washington took him in the fourth-round and redshirted him last season. Love worked his butt off to come back healthy and he now has a chance in a wide-open backfield. I expect his ADP to creep closer to RB70 in the coming weeks.



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Be sure to also check out all of our other daily fantasy football articles and analysis to help you set those winning lineups, including this new RotoBaller YouTube video:

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Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.




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Andrew Lalama's Bold Predictions for 2020 Fantasy Football

I love bold predictions articles because I hate chalk. Preseason ADP is never anywhere near accurate when predicting the season, yet many fantasy drafters have trouble differentiating from the consensus.

Last year I predicted that Lamar Jackson would break the QB rushing record, Chris Godwin would have a big season, and David Johnson would struggle. I saw through the Baker Mayfield and O.J. Howard hype, predicted Aaron Rodgers' regression, but missed on JuJu Smith-Schuster and Dede Westbrook. The purpose of this article is to nail some of these predictions and help you win your league.

A general bold prediction I have is that this will be an extremely productive rookie class. There is a common thought that the lack of preseason games will impact rookie production in a negative way. I believe that vastly overestimates the value of preseason game reps. Rookies will get plenty of reps during camp in live team periods and simulated game-like scrimmages. Fair warning: some of these predictions may seem crazy. Just remember - it’s 2020.

 

1. Jonathan Taylor finishes in the top-10 RBs

This isn’t even that bold to me. He’s one of the great college backs of all time and is running behind the best offensive line in the NFL on the Indianapolis Colts. You can read more about my thoughts on Taylor here.

 

2. Diontae Johnson finishes in the top-15 WRs

Ben Roethlisberger has loved feeding his WR2 since the days of Antwaan Randle El. Most recently, JuJu Smith-Schuster broke out opposite Antonio Brown. I expect Diontae Johnson to make a second-year leap with the help of a healthy Big Ben. Johnson was one of the best separators in all of football last season and showed above-average RAC and route-running skills in limited work. He was impressive despite terrible quarterback play. Big Ben’s return will coincide smoothly with Johnson’s improvement as he takes the next step.

 

3. Cooper Kupp finishes above DeAndre Hopkins

I went back and watched some Cooper Kupp film from last season. His quickness and explosiveness after the catch surprised me. While he’s somewhat of a possession receiver from the slot, his ability to gain extra yardage and find the end zone with his legs was encouraging. Kupp was WR7 in PPG last season, averaging 16.9 PPR PPG. He averaged exactly 16.9 PPR PPG the year before also. Jared Goff will assuredly experience positive TD pass regression after last year, and Kupp will continue to produce at a high level.

While Kupp’s expected volume will either increase or remain the same, DeAndre Hopkins’ targets will almost surely regress in the desert. Hopkins drew 150 targets from Deshaun Watson last year on the Texans and averaged over 160 targets per year from 2016-2018. Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury is expected to lead the league in 10 personnel this year, which means more receivers on the field. Christian Kirk is a promising young talent who drew a 26% target share last year. Larry Fitzgerald is 36 years old, and all-time greats Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, and Cris Carter all commanded more than 100 targets during their age-36 seasons. The Cardinals also have two talented running backs and a young QB who is a rushing threat.

I don’t care for the too-many-mouths-to-feed argument when it relates to a player earning a baseline level of opportunity. But with the upper-echelon receivers, it matters due to the huge number of targets it would take for them to return value at their ADP.

 

4. Deshaun Watson finishes above Lamar Jackson

Watson has finished as the QB1, QB4, and QB2 in PPG over his first three seasons. He’s losing his best receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, but it’s not like the Texans don’t have solid veteran pass-catchers. He also has two capable pass-catching RBs and has always utilized TEs well. On third downs and in the red zone where Hopkins was a primary option, the Texans may choose to run Watson more, which would enhance his value further.

Lamar Jackson is obviously fantastic, but I have two concerns with his output this year. The Baltimore offense will regress in terms of touchdowns, and they surely won’t run Jackson as much as they did last year in an effort to keep him healthy for the long haul. The Ravens now know they have an MVP-level investment that must be protected. They also added J.K. Dobbins and now have four capable RBs. Jackson also did not protect himself as much as he should have last year. There were way too many instances in which he took a hit instead of sliding or running out of bounds. I love Lamar Jackson, but I don't see him re-capturing last year's magic.

 

5. Laviska Shenault Jr. finishes inside the top-30 WRs after a breakout second half

Rookie WRs are usually not great re-draft targets because it takes them some time to acclimate to the NFL. In the second half of their rookie seasons, they can be very valuable though. Drafting rookie WRs might not be a great strategy, but picking them up off waivers in the second half of the season has historically been a good way to find value. Those who added Deebo Samuel and A.J. Brown last year were rewarded down the stretch. And last year, only one rookie WR was drafted in the first round.

This rookie class is historically talented, and Laviska Shenault was actually right at the top of most draftnik lists prior to an injury-marred senior season at Colorado. By all accounts, he’s looked good in camp, and he will undoubtedly have the opportunity to ball out with Gardner Minshew in Jacksonville. I don’t think the Jags will have many positive game scripts or an effective running game and I expect to see some YOLO ball from their young gunslinger. It is not bold to predict that a Jags receiver or two will smash value. D.J. Chark Jr. has a year of solid production under his belt, but Shenault was a better prospect coming out. I expect the Jags to manufacture touches for Viska, and he will prove to be an explosive RAC weapon from various alignments.

 

6. Tee Higgins finishes inside the top-30 WRs after a breakout second half

Higgins was one of the most underrated WR prospects in the 2020 class. He was overlooked in part due to a 4.59 40-yard dash. At 6-4, 215, Higgins used his size in combination with masterful ball skills en route to being the most productive receiver in the history of Clemson football. Former Tiger DeAndre Hopkins and Saints WR Michael Thomas both ran a 4.57. I do not have confidence that A.J. Green or John Ross can stay healthy and when Higgins’ opportunity comes, I expect him to run with it.

 

7. A.J. Brown finishes as a top-7 WR

But regression! Brown will not repeat his 20.21 yards per reception average or his 15% TD rate. However, his 21% target share will certainly go up. He is by far the Titans' best receiver, so I project that number to be above 25% at least. The Titans love to run the ball and the hyper-efficient second-half Ryan Tannehill will regress, but the WR1 on a decent NFL offense is always a valuable fantasy asset. Brown is as natural a receiver as there is in the league. He was actually the number one ranked college fantasy WR before his senior season at Ole Miss. I like drafting elite players when the general public has not caught on to the talent yet.

 

8. Marquise Brown finishes as a top-12 WR

Similar to A.J. Brown, Hollywood’s lack of hype is due to the run-first nature of the Ravens offense. Marquise Brown is still the unquestioned WR1 on a great NFL offense with an MVP-caliber quarterback. The only concern I have with Hollywood is his durability as it relates to his small size. The good news is that he’s put on 23 pounds and will reportedly play the season at 180 pounds. The Ravens almost assuredly won’t run Lamar Jackson as much, so an uptick in targets is expected. If he can stay healthy, Hollywood can put up star-studded numbers with over 120 targets.

 

9. Mark Andrews finishes outside the top-10 tight ends

A lot has been made about Andrews’ 41.36 snap percentage last season. Most believe it’s bound to increase, possibly by a lot, due to the departure of Hayden Hurst. While his snap percentage will likely go up, I find it odd that so many people are willing to invest a third-round pick on a player who may play about 50% of his team’s snaps. Tight end Nick Boyle played 69.59% of snaps, even with Hurst on the roster. The Ravens have four usable running backs and an above-average fullback. They also return their three starting wide receivers in addition to adding two more talented wideouts in the draft.

Andrews has a path to being the most targeted Raven, but if Marquise Brown surpasses him or the ball is simply spread out more, he will have trouble returning value at his pricey ADP. I do not think his 16% TD rate is sustainable, and Lamar Jackson will likely throw fewer TDs anyway.

 

10. Josh Jacobs finishes as a top-5 RB

I wrote more about Jacobs here. He was one of the best pure runners in the NFL last year despite playing with a banged-up shoulder. With more projected work as a receiver, Jacobs should be among the league leaders in touches. He was a solid receiver in college and the Raiders are already talking about increasing his role in that department. The Raiders are strong along the offensive line and both their GM and head coach want to prove that drafting an RB in the first round was the right move.

 

11. Zack Moss takes control of the Buffalo backfield, out-touching Devin Singletary 2-1 during the second half of the season.

After scouting both these prospects coming out of college, it is clear to me that Zack Moss is a better runner. Moss was only a third-round pick due to durability questions, a lack of elite athleticism, and of course the devaluing of the RB position. Devin Singletary is a nice player, but the only thing he possibly does better than Moss is catching passes. With reports that Moss is impressing as a receiver and Singletary is having fumbling issues, the rookie is arguably the single best value in fantasy drafts right now. Get him in the mid to late rounds while you still can.

 

12. Tom Brady throws for 4835 yards and 33 touchdowns but Ronald Jones finishes outside the top-24 RBs

When I went back and looked at historic seasons, one common theme was a perfect storm of situation and talent. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady had tremendous receiving groups during their record-breaking seasons. Todd Gurley II exploded thanks to Sean McVay and improvements along the Rams' offensive line. Not enough people are talking about how amazing the situation in Tampa Bay is for Tom Brady in 2020. He has an excellent receiver group and one of the best offensive coaches of this generation. The pass-happy Bruce Arians loves to stretch the field vertically, and there is no statistical evidence that Brady has regressed as a passer. He simply hasn’t had many weapons in New England in the past few years. The Bucs' defense is better against the run, which will lead to more shootouts. You want pieces of this Tampa Bay passing game.

On the flip side, Ronald Jones II will have to improve drastically to return value at his ADP. Jones showed flashes last season, but his career has been marred by dropped passes, poor pass-blocking, and an inability to beat out uninspiring RBs to earn touches. Tom Brady is going to prefer better receiving backs, and the Bucs have three on the roster. I don’t care what Arians says about Jones. His actions will speak louder than words and drafting Ke’Shawn Vaughn and then signing LeSean McCoy is not exactly a vote of confidence for RoJo.

 

13. Irv Smith Jr. finishes in the top-10 TEs

Breakout tight ends frequently finish at least second on their team in targets. That’s what helped both Darren Waller and Mark Andrews break out last year. Looking into this year’s group, Irv Smith Jr. has a path to being the second-most targeted Viking behind Adam Thielen. Justin Jefferson is just a rookie and Bisi Johnson is not the most talented WR in the world. Smith has also been working as an outside receiver in addition to inline TE. The presence of Kyle Rudolph is a concern, but I expect a lot of 12 personnel with a possibility of Smith simply jumping ahead of Rudolph on the depth chart. Even with the TE rookie learning curve, Smith played over 59% of snaps in 2019. After the Vikings' Week 12 bye, Smith out-snapped Rudolph in all but one game. Smith has the talent and a path to the opportunity required to break out.

 

14. T.J. Hockenson finishes in the top-8 TEs

We know that TE is historically one of the most difficult transitions for rookies. T.J. Hockenson did not play well while acclimating to the NFL last year with Detroit and had to deal with nagging injuries and terrible quarterback play. I expect a second-year jump in large part thanks to the return of Matthew Stafford. I also expect growth from Hockenson himself, as he was one of the best TE prospects I’ve ever scouted. The Lions have good wide receivers, but if one of them goes down, Hockenson would get a huge bump. The Lions will likely be pass-heavy and I expect a lot of underneath targets for Hockenson.

 

15. Odell Beckham Jr. does not play the final half of the season

Beckham has already questioned if there should be a season and has had a tumultuous NFL career, to say the least. He even considered retiring in 2017. I predict he will retire from football, citing health concerns or an off-field purpose. You wanted bold, right?

 

16. A rookie QB has three top-five finishes in weeks 14, 15, and 16 in part due to rushing production…

And it’s not Tua Tagovailoa. Justin Herbert will take over for the Chargers after they are eliminated from playoff contention in Week 12 at Buffalo. In Week 13, Herbert will get his first career start at home against New England, and will have some promising moments against a sturdy Pats defense. In the next three weeks, Herbert will average 45.2 rushing yards per game and score three rushing TDs in addition to five scores through the air, helping some owners win their fantasy championships. Herbert ran all over Wisconsin in his final collegiate game. QBs with rushing upside are cheat codes in fantasy football, and I don’t think people realize how athletic Herbert really is.

 

17. ...and Joshua Kelley is his running mate

Kelley has already garnered praise for a stellar camp, and will likely take the 1B RB job from Justin Jackson at some point if he hasn’t already. Kelley isn’t the most gifted athlete, but he’s an instinctive runner whom I believe will earn ample opportunity as a rookie. Austin Ekeler is not going to see the touches volume fantasy owners want, especially in terms of carries. The Chargers also do not project to be a dynamic passing team with Tyrod Taylor, no third receiver, and injury-prone Hunter Henry and Mike Williams. Kelley will get work near the goal line and make the most of his opportunity.

 

18. CeeDee Lamb outproduces Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in the second half of the year

CeeDee Lamb is already drawing rave reviews at training camp and will be moved all over the formation for the Cowboys, including garnering valuable slot targets. Cooper has always been a weird performer with odd disappearing acts. As for Gallup, I just think Lamb is the better player. Rookie wide receivers are better bets in the second half of the season, and that’s when I expect Lamb to truly break out.

 

19. Miles Sanders busts, finishing outside the top 24 RBs.

These can't all be fun, right? While I recognize his upside, there are multiple red flags with Miles Sanders this year. First is the recent history of the Eagles using an RBBC. Since Doug Pederson has been head coach, the Eagles have never featured a workhorse back. Sanders proponents will say that Pederson hasn’t had a back as talented as him, which may be true. But the downside is that it may not be true, or maybe not true enough to change Pederson’s tendencies.

Fantasy drafters see a second-year back with flashy highlights who had some promising moments down the stretch of his rookie year. They also see an above-average Eagles offensive line and the draft capital used to get him. Sanders proponents have not considered the possibility that he just isn’t that good, or at least not good enough to command a workhorse share of volume, which again, would go against the history of his coach’s actions.

After scouting Sanders at Penn State, I noted his athleticism and speed but questioned his transition to the pros with red flags of poor vision and patience between the tackles. I noted, “looked like he belonged on the field with Appalachian State.” My standard for running backs is that they look dominant over the lower competition. Sanders’ rookie year had flashes, but he actually did struggle with vision and adjustment to the pro game. The thought seems to be that Sanders did well when given the opportunity down the stretch, but he actually got more than 10 carries for the first four games of his career and did very little with them. His late-season surge was impressive, and he received almost workhorse volume.

Watching the film closely, he didn’t break that many tackles and benefitted from well-designed downfield pass concepts. He’s also currently banged up. I’ll pass on Sanders this year.

 

20. You will skim this article, reading the titles, and looking to confirm the biases you already have for your own players.

1-for-1. Off to a great start! Thanks for reading and good luck this season.



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Andrew Lalama's Top 10 Half-PPR Rankings

I’m considering David Johnson at six.  Not the sixth round, but at sixth overall.  I’m hoping to land Devonta Freeman or Derrick Henry in the third round, but the decision is a tough one if both are on the board.  For quarterback, I’m either going Aaron Rodgers in the seventh round or waiting until the tenth to grab Lamar Jackson.

Do I sound crazy?  Out of touch?  Of course.  But in the summer of 2019, these were common takes.  Imagine someone drafted Lamar Jackson in the third round last year?  Or Derrick Henry in the first?  Or Dalvin Cook in the top four?  They’d have been ridiculed. Chalk rankings and ADP are not accurate predictors of fantasy production.  Players who are being drafted outside the top 20 at their position will finish within the top 10.  Players drafted in the first two rounds will *gasp* bust.  The actual season never actually happens as the expert rankings tell you it would.  The purpose of my rankings is to accurately predict that chaos.  The ultimate goal here is to get every single ranking correct, but more realistically, nail some that differ from the consensus.  Hopefully, they’ll help you uncover this year's Lamar Jackson.

These rankings are based on half-PPR scoring.  Projections are prorated for 16 games, but injury risks in terms of possible missed games factor into the rankings.  Upside and floor also factor in, which may explain why a player ranked lower may have better projections than a player ranked higher.  Stay tuned in the coming days for rankings 11-20, followed by full QB, RB, WR, and TE rankings.

 

  1. Christian McCaffrey - RB, Panthers

Christian McCaffrey is coming off one of the best fantasy seasons of all time but his situation has changed.  He has a new head coach in Matt Rhule, a new offensive coordinator in Joe Brady, and a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater.  Even though regression is expected, these changes do not make his situation worse.  Bridgewater is an upgrade over Kyle Allen and Joe Brady is a stud young coach who just dominated the college ranks.  His philosophy about using running backs as receiving weapons meshes well with McCaffrey’s skillset.  McCaffrey had a 24% target share in the past two seasons.  While the addition of Robby Anderson could drop that number a bit, his new QB’s propensity for short passes should keep his share over 22%.

The skill that sets McCaffrey apart from all other backs is not his receiving prowess - but his durability.  He handled over 700 touches at Stanford and has played every game in his three NFL seasons.  Every player has some level of injury risk, but McCaffrey has proven to be more durable than most.

Projections: 287 rushes, 1320 yds, 92 rec, 737 yds, 13 TD

 

  1. Saquon Barkley - RB, Giants

There is a strong case to be made for Saquon Barkley as RB1.  He is more freakishly athletic than McCaffrey and averaged 2.8 yards after contact compared to McCaffrey’s 1.8 last season.  The Giants used two premium picks on offensive linemen, including fourth overall, and expect growth from Will Hernandez.  Daniel Jones is coming off a rookie year in which he proved to be a fantasy-friendly player.  New Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett hasn’t called plays in a while but has had success feeding his RB1 as a head coach.  I expect Barkley to be fed.  There is league MVP upside here (I got it at +7000).

Projections: 298 rushes, 1482 yds, 69 rec, 554 yds, 13 TD

 

  1. Ezekiel Elliot - RB, Cowboys

I hate chalk rankings.  They are boring and regurgitate the same things over and over.  The fact that my Top 3 is chalk is frustrating, but that’s what my projections spit out.  Zeke is going to be the top weapon on a high-powered offense with PFF’s third-ranked offensive line.  I actually do not love his ceiling.

I think he is a terrific bet to finish anywhere from RB3 to RB7, but has a fairly low chance to be the RB1 or RB2.  Zeke is a year older with a huge contract while impressive second-year backup Tony Pollard is still on his rookie deal and has earned more than the 20% rushing share he had last season.  Dak Prescott is also a rushing threat and the Cowboys have one of the best receiver groups in the NFL.  Locked in as the RB3 in most formats, there’s no reason to get cute here.  His floor when healthy is too high.  And as a bonus, he’s already had COVID-19!

Projections: 280 rushes, 1242 yds, 57 rec, 485 yds, 14 TD

 

  1. Dalvin Cook - RB, Vikings

A year ago, I compared 2019 Dalvin Cook to 2014 Demarco Murray.  That proved to be an apt comparison, as Cook broke out thanks in large part due to the addition of Gary Kubiak to the Vikings coaching staff.  Unfortunately, untimely injury issues hurt his fantasy owners.  Fantasy players have trust issues with him as a result, which is impacting his ADP.  Cook was rumored to hold out but instead reported to camp.  He is locked in as the featured player on a solid team with a huge role in the passing game.

Cook has been an elite touchdown scorer and backfield receiving option dating back to his days dominating the ACC at Florida State.  Even with expected slight regression in YPC, TD rate, and target share, Cook projects to continue his efficient ways whenever on the field.  The only drawback with Cook as a fantasy asset is his injury risk, having missed 19 of 48 NFL games.  It has always been my philosophy to draft currently healthy players based on talent and ignore past injuries unless there is a scientific reason to doubt their chances of staying on the field.

Cook has yet to play a full 16-game season, but two years removed from a torn ACL, he’s worth the perceived risk.  I would rather have a player miss games on my bench than fail to produce in my lineup.  I have the stomach to handle injury risk players because I have confidence in my ability to fill my lineup with good players if they miss time.  What hurts my soul is a poor performer IN my lineup.

Projections: 259 rushes, 1,140 yds, 62 rec, 511 yds, 13 TD

 

  1. Alvin Kamara - RB, Saints

Slowed by nagging injuries, Alvin Kamara had a relatively disappointing 2019 season, finishing as RB8 after widely being drafted in the top three.  He is due for some serious positive TD regression after hitting paydirt just 6 times in 2019.  He scored 18 and 13 in his first two seasons.  It was evident on film that Kamara was not as explosive in 2019 as he was the two years prior, but that can be blamed on the nagging injuries.  Kamara himself said he played the season “on one leg” and at just 75%.

The only changes in his situation are the additions of Emmanuel Sanders and Ty Montgomery, who hasn’t been relevant in years.  The floor here is so high, predicting injury, which is a fool's errand, is the only reason to pass on Kamara near his ADP.

Projections: 199 rushes, 895 yds, 87 rec, 688 yds, 12 TD

 

  1. Joe Mixon - RB, Bengals

Joe Mixon finished as the RB6 in the second half of last season.  His lack of production in the first half can be explained by a new offense, terrible offensive line, and a curious lack of action in the passing game.  His 8% target share dropped from his 2018 target share of 12%, and because Giovanni Bernard’s did as well, Zac Taylor’s offense clearly did not emphasize utilizing RBs in the passing game.  I expect that to change with a year of Taylor self-scouting and evolving his offense.  Teams that don’t use their backs in the passing game are behind the eight ball in terms of analytics.  It would be foolish to continue to target backs at such a low rate.

Part of the explanation could be the necessity of keeping their backs in protection to help a porous offensive line.  The line will be better, as stud first-round pick Jonah Williams returns at left tackle, and expected growth from Billy Price.  The Rams added a quality tackle the year Gurley broke out.  Offensive line aside, the addition of Joe Burrow points to more targets in the passing game for Bengals RBs after he helped feed Clyde Edwards-Helaire at LSU.  So if Mixon’s targets go up and he remains as effective as a runner, there is big-time upside in an offense that will be much better.  I’m buying the Bengals offense this year.

Projections: 290 rushes, 1,283 yds, 41 rec, 342 yds, 12 TD

 

  1. Josh Jacobs - RB, Raiders

The Raiders ran the ball at the eighth-highest rate in the league last season and return one of the better offensive lines in the NFL.  Josh Jacobs had an extremely impressive rookie season, grading out as PFF’s second-ranked runner, despite battling a shoulder injury. Jacobs has as good a shot as any RB to lead the league in rushing.  His value is dependent on two key factors.  First is his role in the passing game.  At Alabama, Jacobs was frequently used as a pass-catcher, while Damien Harris was more of the grinder.  Jacobs flashed terrific hands and pass pro reps on film, which made his lack of involvement in the Raiders’ passing game last year curious.

The second factor, his questionable durability outlook, is actually related to that lack of volume as a pass-catcher.  The Raiders likely scaled back his workload in terms of the mental side of the game.  Jacobs was not a featured player at Alabama, but the Raiders still saw him as their best pure runner.  So, instead of giving a green rookie a full plate of assignments, they let him succeed as a runner while using Jalen Richard, who isn’t a great runner, to his strengths as a receiving back.  It makes sense that in his second year, Jacobs’ role in the passing game will expand.  In fact, Mike Mayock has already mentioned it.

The potential league-winning question is how many touches can Jacobs handle, considering he's never been a workhorse and has had injury issues.  My projections are aggressive because two old-school football minds spent a first-round pick on him and he’s done nothing but impress when on the field.

Projections: 302 rushes, 1,344 yds, 35 rec, 271 yds, 11 TD

 

  1. Nick Chubb - RB, Browns

The Browns offense underachieved under Freddie Kitchens last season.  Baker Mayfield regressed, the offensive line played poorly, and the talented receivers underperformed.  Nick Chubb still finished as RB7.  Chubb’s production fell when Kareem Hunt returned from suspension, but he was still the preferred running option, and his effectiveness remained elite.  16 games of Hunt is a legitimate concern, but reports have him cross-training at wide receiver, which will allow the Browns to play both on the field at the same time.  Chubb’s 77% rushing share will probably decline, but everything else about his situation looks better.  Kevin Stefanski has had success with running backs, most recently Dalvin Cook.

Both tackle spots have been upgraded, with Jedrick Wills on the left side and Jack Conklin on the right side.  The Browns even added lead-blocker fullback Andy Janovich from Denver.  Chubb averaged five yards per carry last year and has a real chance to approach that number again.  He's currently being drafted with substantial drops in rushing share and efficiency baked in.  The Browns will run more and be a better offense, so I’m buying Chubb everywhere.  My only two concerns are his lack of involvement in the passing game and a chance of a lower TD rate due to all the prolific TD-scorers on the roster.

Projections: 284 rushes, 1,418 yds, 20 rec, 153 yds, 12 TD

 

  1. Michael Thomas - WR, Saints

One of the biggest mistakes fantasy players make is placing too much emphasis on what happened last year.  You aren’t drafting a player and simply getting last year’s stats.  On the other hand, looking back at stats from two-plus years ago is probably even less relevant.  The job of fantasy prognosticators is to project what will happen this year, and in many cases, while that does involve analyzing what happened last year, it is often overstated.  Football factors, such as situation, film, coaching, and schedule are difficult to quantify in projections, but insight into more than just the math can give you an edge.

I try to mix logical football reasons based on film study and a deeper understanding of the game when projecting next season.  There was no 2018 or 2017 data that would suggest Michael Thomas would command 185 targets in 2019.  What could have been predicted was the impact of losing Mark Ingram and the lack of development from potential ancillary receiving options, in addition to the foreseeable uptick in passing attempts.  Keep this in mind when I paint possible scenarios in order to go out on a limb and separate my rankings from the cookie-cutter chalk.  Imagine the backlash a fantasy expert would have gotten for ranking Thomas in the top-five last offseason.

Thomas had a 34% target share last season.  He’s still basically the same player as he was in 2018 when he had a 28% target share, and there is no reason to expect 180+ targets again.  The Saints passed more last year than they did in 2017 and 2018, Drew Brees is a year older, and Emmanuel Sanders is now a legitimate second option.  Thomas has a high floor, but even my projection of 163 targets might be aggressive given his 147 targets in 2018 and 149 in 2017.

Projections: 163 targets, 129 rec, 1,486 yds, 8 TD

 

  1. Jonathan Taylor - RB, Colts

A rookie rounds out my top 10, but not the one you might expect.  Full disclosure: I am a draftnik.  I may tend to overvalue rookies.  And the interesting thing here is that I didn’t even have Jonathan Taylor as a top-three back in my pre-draft RB rankings.  I wasn’t exactly low on him, I just loved Dobbins and CEH, and thought Swift had upside as a pass-catcher.  So why am I ranking Taylor so high?  Let’s look at the facts.

One of the greatest runners in the history of college football was drafted with the 41st pick, the sweet spot for RBs, by the Colts after a trade-up.  The Colts have the best offensive line in football, a bright and productive offensive coaching staff, and a veteran quarterback who has had a ton of success checking at the line of scrimmage and generally utilizing running backs throughout his career.  The elephant in the room is Marlon Mack, who was drafted by the Colts with the 143rd pick in 2017 and has ranked as the 28th, 37th, and 31st running back by PFF in the past three seasons.  Mack is a good player, but the Colts did not use a premium pick on a workhorse with the goal of splitting the workload evenly.  I’m actually more concerned with Hines taking snaps away in full-PPR leagues.

The Colts will finish in the top-five in rushing attempts this season (poor division helps), and Taylor will win leagues.  He’s not a great receiver and I am somewhat concerned that three of my top ten running backs have receiving workload question marks.  Full-PPR drafters can adjust accordingly.

Projections: 282 rushes, 1,316 yds, 21 rec, 178 yds, 12 TD

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for rankings 11-20 and positional rankings in the coming days.



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Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.




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2020 NFL Draft Review - AFC West

The AFC West is the final division in the 2020 NFL Draft review series. Catch up on the other installments of this 2020 NFL Draft review series with the NFC WestAFC SouthNFC SouthAFC EastNFC East, AFC North, and NFC North.

Every year after the draft, I write a way-too-long review of each team’s draft. The purpose of this draft review is to give predictions for the careers of each team’s drafted players. I’ve watched film of each player I’m commenting on. Draft grades are overly optimistic and unrealistic. Unlike the majority of post-draft coverage out there, I will pick busts. Keep in mind that 23.4% of all first-round picks bust.

Let me preface this by saying: predicting the career of an NFL draft pick is a ridiculous exercise. There is so much unknown that goes into whether a player succeeds or fails at the next level.  I can make educated guesses based on team situation, supporting cast, and research about the prospect’s character and work ethic, but there’s a reason teams make so many mistakes every year. You simply don’t know for sure how a player will react to being a pro. Injuries are also a huge factor in the fate of a player and impossible to predict accurately. Nevertheless, this is a fun exercise and gives us a chance to review how each team approached the draft.

 

Overview

Before we start, here are some of my general thoughts on the 2020 NFL Draft.

Quickly on the broadcast - they did a great job given the circumstances. The production quality was great and they did more actual analysis than usual. My main gripe with draft coverage every year is that they don’t show incredible highlights (they somehow didn’t show the Aaron Dobson catch in 2013). This year, they showed more footage of actual football and I appreciated that. The only two negatives for me were the constant tragic stories and Booger McFarland.

Oh, and if any poor soul bet on Justin Jefferson Under 21.5 draft position, ESPN should apologize to you. They showed him on the phone celebrating right before cutting to Goodell announcing the 21st pick - Jalen Reagor to the Eagles. Jefferson was of course on the phone with the Vikings, who took him at 22. Brutal beat.

As for the draft, remember this tweet about mock drafts being “wronger” than ever? Funny, this was probably the chalkiest first-round ever in the internet age. Nothing was truly shocking to me, including the Packers trading up for Jordan Love (more on that here). I had Damon Arnette in the first round in my first mock draft this draft season. I wrote an article lauding Jordyn Brooks as an undervalued commodity. Noah Ibinoghene going in the first was surprising, I suppose. But there was no Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 or Tyson Alualu at No. 10. It speaks to how the media and internet scouts might be catching up to, or God forbid actually influencing the teams.

So here is the next installment of my annual draft review. Each player will receive their career prediction in parentheses following their name. For example: Joe Burrow (5). Here's how the picks break down:

5 – All-Pro: Starter who has performed at an elite level at his position.
4 – Above-Average: Starter who has been among the best at his position.
3 – Solid: Starter or valuable back-up with significant positive production.
2 – Replacement Level: Below-average starter or back-up who made minor contributions.
1 – Bust: Player who didn’t amount to anything positive.

Next up, the AFC West.

 

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders came into the draft with needs at wide receiver and cornerback.  They wasted no time addressing those positions and ended up taking two corners and two-and-a-half wide receivers total.  I think they aced this draft, but not for the reasons you might think.

Las Vegas opted for speed over production by selecting Henry Ruggs III (3) as the first receiver off the board.  Ruggs played a supporting role alongside lead dog Jerry Jeudy at Alabama, but ran a 4.28 at the combine and aced the draft process.  His speed popped on film, as he routinely cribbed slants and ran by people in the SEC.  Ruggs was lauded for his competitiveness and edge, particularly as a blocker, which directly conflicts with my notes of his film.  I noted missed blocks, him getting tossed, and labeled him as “weak.”  Perhaps I watched the wrong games or my standards are too high.

As far as receiving the football, Ruggs was fantastic, making highlight diving catches and using his hops to climb the later and show off his above-average hands.  There are two major unknowns with Ruggs - how he will deal with being the No. 1 option, and how he will develop as a route-runner.  Unfortunately, I do not believe he will live up to his physical attributes.  Derek Carr ranked 25th in Air Yards Per Completion last year, and while accurate, has never excelled at utilizing a deep threat.  I also have a hard time endorsing a player who was not the number one receiver on his own team to be the number one receiver in a loaded draft class.

At No. 19, the Raiders took Damon Arnette (3), which was a surprise to some.  I had Arnette going in the first round in my first mock draft of the year and liked his film more than most.  His skillset is that of a quality starting corner, despite unorthodox technique and tendencies.  Arnette’s play was up-and-down at Ohio State, in part due to being thrown at so much.  He showed weird stances and punches from all different angles and body alignments in press coverage, but generally got the job done.

At the NFL level, if unique individual technique is effective, coaches don’t care.  Arnette is more comfortable in press than off and will give up the inside.  Most importantly, he can get his head around defending vertical routes in man.  He was competitive and alert on film, flying down in run support and showing the necessary swagger and short memory needed from a pro corner.  He’s going to get beat, but I like his transition to the league as someone who’s been picked on a bit but kept getting better.

At No. 80, the Raiders took one of my favorite players in the draft in Lynn Bowden Jr (4).  Lynn Bowden Jr. played quarterback and receiver at Kentucky and is most known for throwing a punch in a pre-game scuffle before the Belk Bowl.  Bowden’s film is that of a grown man with an edge.  His receiver film shows nothing in terms of advanced route-running, but his speed absolutely plays and his hands are good enough.  His quarterback and returner film shows joystick moves in the open field and elusiveness that rivals Lamb and Shenault.  I don’t know if he’s a pro wide receiver (neither do the Raiders), but I’ve seen too many converted quarterbacks have success to bet against his natural football traits.  I expect Jon Gruden to use him all over the field and for him to be one of the most explosive swiss army-knife weapons of this generation.

With the very next pick, the Raiders again took one of my favorite players in Bryan Edwards (4) of South Carolina.  Edwards was the No. 15 overall player on my board so I obviously loved this pick.  Aside from injury concerns and a few miscommunication issues working the boundary with his quarterback, Edwards’ film was outstanding.  He’s technically sound with strong hands, tremendous contact balance, evidence of beating press, and great concentration skills.  As a physical run-after-catch threat, he’s dynamic and strong.  He is the prototype big-bodied NFL receiver in terms of traits, plucking the ball and transitioning as a runner smoothly.  I predict he’ll be better than Ruggs.  He just needs to get and stay healthy.

I think Tanner Muse (2) can be a special-teamer (tripping up J.K. Dobbins was a gigantic play in the National Semifinal), and John Simpson (3) was a steal.  I love mauler guards who fall due to a lack of quickness.  Simpson is physical and sometimes dominant in the run game.  His stance gives away pass or run, but he can be coached and work on his body to develop into a starting guard.

The Raiders took yet another one of “my guys” in Amik Robertson (4) at pick No. 139.  I had Robertson ranked 75th overall and featured him in this article.  Robertson is tiny and his film isn’t without flaws, but I am always a proponent of taking players whose main knock is lack of size.  I think Robertson will struggle with the brute size and strength of NFL football, and I actually don’t think he’s that fast (didn’t run a 40).  But as far as being a pure football player and having coverage instincts and ball skills, Robertson is unbelievable.

Robertson plays big, talks a lot, and backs it up.  He jacked up the 6-6 Collin Johnson at the line of scrimmage and almost mossed No. 16 on Texas.  He’s able to match everything, has a smooth pedal, and gives up almost no separation in man.  Slight jersey tug but disciplined hands play in the league.  His production at the college level was unreal - 14 interceptions, 2 blocked kicks, 3 defensive touchdowns, and an onside kick return for a touchdown.  I worry about his tackling, but I project him to be one of the best slot cover men in the league.

The Raiders chose to stick with Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota, despite having enough draft ammo to move around and take one of the quarterbacks.  I loved what they did with most of their picks.  Carr now has more weapons and zero excuses.  This is a huge year for him.

 

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers came into the draft with primary needs at quarterback and inside linebacker.  They addressed those needs in the first round, selecting the No. 3 and No. 8 players on my board.

The madmen did it.  They took Justin Herbert (4) at 6.  After being inundated with negative Justin Herbert analysis, I went back for a second look at the former Oregon Duck.  In terms of college performance, Herbert’s film is reminiscent of recent busts, including Mitchell Trubisky.  He lacks ideal anticipation, inexplicably misses some throws, and wasn’t always trusted by his coaching staff.  It is also fair to wonder about his transition, coming from a screen-heavy, spread system at Oregon.

However, evaluating NFL prospects is not just about college performance - it’s about projecting traits.  Scouting quarterbacks is difficult, and there’s a reason so many teams miss.  A lot of times teams fall in love with physical traits such as arm talent and are burned because the player struggles with the complexities, speed, and decision-making difficulty of the NFL game.  I believe a critical look at Herbert’s film through the lens of traits-based scouting gets him to potential franchise quarterback level worthy of a high pick.  Like with all prospects, his ultimate NFL fate will come down to a lot of surrounding and unknown factors such as situation, coaching, and intangibles.  I will pick my No. 3 overall prospect to succeed.  His traits are that of a franchise quarterback and his intelligence and athleticism will help his transition.

Arm talent, throwing on the run, short-level accuracy, ball handling, and mobility make Justin Herbert the complete package in terms of traits.  He poorly placed just one throw under five yards in the games I watched.  He has good footwork, touch, and excels with play-action.  The translatable trait that makes me confident is his ability to look like the best player on the field in the face of pressure.  Herbert can move around and deliver strikes on the run or simply use his legs as a weapon.  He also showed the ability to go through full-field "rainbow" reads.  Players with his running ability can afford to not be the most accurate passers in the world.  He showed off his rushing skills in the Rose Bowl win against Wisconsin.

I understand the negatives, but with good coaching, I think Herbert can develop into a franchise quarterback as a mix between Josh Allen and Cam Newton.

After selecting their quarterback at 6, the Chargers traded up for the best inside linebacker in the draft in Kenneth Murray (5).  Murray had a productive and storied career at Oklahoma, displaying all the traits of a great pro off-ball linebacker for the Sooners.  His speed and instincts make him a sideline to sideline threat, and he has the strength on contact of a thumper.  His tackling technique is terrific, pointing to his ability to be coachable.  He’s a little out of control at times, but he’s better than Devin White.  The move up was worth it.

The Chargers want to bring Justin Herbert along slowly, and will look to make the playoffs with Tyrod Taylor as the starter.  The surrounding talent is enough to take them there.  With young stud defenders at all three levels, the Bolts just need to build an offensive line and add weaponry for Herbert to compete with the Chiefs in a few years.

 

Denver Broncos

The Broncos came into the draft with a clear plan - get Drew Lock some weapons.  To say they achieved their goal would be an understatement.  Their haul included my No. 7 overall player and my No. 1 tight end.

Jerry Jeudy (5) suffered from some prospect fatigue as analysts scrambled to poke holes in his game.  While most of his success did come from the slot at Alabama, it’s not like his traits don’t translate to the outside.  In Denver, Jeudy can man the slot primarily, whereas if he went to the Jets he may have had to learn an entirely new position.  The only question about Jeudy is whether or not Drew Lock is good enough to allow him to reach his extremely high ceiling.

Jeudy has amazing quickness, length, and top-notch speed, but is known most for being an outstanding route-runner.  He is the best route-runner I have ever scouted in college.  He understands the nuances of changing speeds, is quick with a plan, and shows an uncommon ability to separate that surely translates to the pro game.  He’ll be a star if Drew Lock proves to be competent.

With their second pick, the Broncos doubled down on wide receiver with K.J. Hamler (2) of Penn State.  Hamler is the prototypical deep threat and an excellent complement to Jeudy and Courtland Sutton in theory.  He might be too small for the NFL, but his college film shows route-running ability on slot fades and out routes that rival most pros.  His main weaknesses are due to his lack of size, as he struggles in contested catch situations and is dominated by strength in terms of ball security.

Hamler made a couple of tremendous sliding catches but does not display much in terms of hands an almost exclusively body-catcher.  It’s a common misconception that receivers are never taught to catch with their body as coaches will teach it in certain situations.  Hamler can succeed in the NFL, but there are too many mouths to feed in Denver for him to be more than a situational deep threat.

Michael Ojemudia (2) has the athletic profile and size to be a starter, but his film doesn’t show the natural football traits of a pro.  He isn’t physical enough and doesn’t show great awareness in zone, letting receivers get behind him.

Lloyd Cushenberry (2) was one of the most overrated prospects in the draft.  He’s a classic case of a decorated collegiate who gets overdrafted due to great character.  He was beaten badly by the Texas nose tackle and generally lacks balance.

McTelvin Agim (1) was overdrafted as a former five-star recruit who didn’t dominate in the SEC.  He has the size and tools to be a rotational defensive lineman, but plays too high and bends at the waist, losing leverage and balance too easily.

Denver's best pick after Jeudy was Albert Okwuegbunam (3). His size/hands mix is rare and his physical ability is special.  After last season I thought he’d be a high pick, but he never seemed to put it together.  He’s an instant red-zone threat as a project with huge upside.

The draft community is giving high praise to this Broncos class.  I think they nailed their first pick but wasn’t overly impressed with the rest of the haul.  Denver’s defense is loaded with talented veterans and a returning Bradley Chubb, so Drew Lock’s progress will be an intriguing storyline in the AFC Wild Card race.

 

Kansas City Chiefs

Congratulations to the Chiefs and their fans on winning the Super Bowl.  The World Champs came into the draft without any pressing needs and selected three extremely talented young prospects with their first three picks.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (4) is a perfect fit in Andy Reid’s offense.  My No. 2 running back, CEH reminds me of Maurice Jones-Drew.  His lack of height is a non-issue, if not a positive, as he gives defenders a small target on his way to eluding tacklers and making guys miss.  He's short but sturdy.  His film against Alabama was inspiring, breaking tackles and moving piles against defenders twice his size.  His best trait is his ability as a receiver, showing advanced route-running skills and soft hands.  He’s competitive, fiery, and tough.

While he didn’t quite excel against the Georgia pros, he’s going to have so much space with Patrick Mahomes it’s scary.  His 4.6 40 shows a lack of ideal long speed, but his ten-yard split was among the best for running backs at the combine.  Amazing fit, PPR fantasy points everywhere.

Willie Gay Jr. (3) has very inconsistent film and character red flags.  Andy Reid took a chance on Marcus Peters years ago, who has had a very good pro career.  The Chiefs culture should keep Gay on the right track.  His film in 2018 was better than 2019, as he had more splash plays and tackled better.  In 2019, some of his film showed poor angles and undisciplined missed fits.  His speed plays and if he puts in any work at all his floor is a talented special teamer.  I think Reid gets the most out of him and he starts at linebacker as a rookie.  The burst and pop when he hits people is impressive.

Lucas Niang (3) has a very ugly body, but I liked his film a lot.  He has a small lower half and is fat up top, which teams usually don’t like.  He can be effective and quick, and has functional strength and movement skills despite his odd shape.  I had him at No. 39 on my big board and project him to be a starting right tackle whenever the Chiefs need one.  Solid pick.

The Chiefs have the best player in the NFL and a good enough defense.  They should be favored to win it all again.  The main takeaway from this class is that Andy Reid running backs are fantasy gold and he just got one that fits his scheme perfectly.

That wraps up the 2020 draft review series.  Thank you so much for reading.  On to 2021!

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2020 NFL Draft Review - NFC West

We roll on with a division-by-division rundown of the 2020 NFL Draft with arguably the best division in football, the NFC West. Catch up on the other installments of this 2020 NFL Draft review series with the AFC SouthNFC SouthAFC EastNFC East, AFC North, and NFC North.

Every year after the draft, I write a way-too-long review of each team’s draft. The purpose of this draft review is to give predictions for the careers of each team’s drafted players. I’ve watched film of each player I’m commenting on. Draft grades are overly optimistic and unrealistic. Unlike the majority of post-draft coverage out there, I will pick busts. Keep in mind that 23.4% of all first-round picks bust.

Let me preface this by saying: predicting the career of an NFL draft pick is a ridiculous exercise. There is so much unknown that goes into whether a player succeeds or fails at the next level.  I can make educated guesses based on team situation, supporting cast, and research about the prospect’s character and work ethic, but there’s a reason teams make so many mistakes every year. You simply don’t know for sure how a player will react to being a pro. Injuries are also a huge factor in the fate of a player and impossible to predict accurately. Nevertheless, this is a fun exercise and gives us a chance to review how each team approached the draft.

 

Overview

Before we start, here are some of my general thoughts on the 2020 NFL Draft.

Quickly on the broadcast - they did a great job given the circumstances. The production quality was great and they did more actual analysis than usual. My main gripe with draft coverage every year is that they don’t show incredible highlights (they somehow didn’t show the Aaron Dobson catch in 2013). This year, they showed more footage of actual football and I appreciated that. The only two negatives for me were the constant tragic stories and Booger McFarland.

Oh, and if any poor soul bet on Justin Jefferson Under 21.5 draft position, ESPN should apologize to you. They showed him on the phone celebrating right before cutting to Goodell announcing the 21st pick - Jalen Reagor to the Eagles. Jefferson was of course on the phone with the Vikings, who took him at 22. Brutal beat.

As for the draft, remember this tweet about mock drafts being “wronger” than ever? Funny, this was probably the chalkiest first-round ever in the internet age. Nothing was truly shocking to me, including the Packers trading up for Jordan Love (more on that here). I had Damon Arnette in the first round in my first mock draft this draft season. I wrote an article lauding Jordyn Brooks as an undervalued commodity. Noah Ibinoghene going in the first was surprising, I suppose. But there was no Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 or Tyson Alualu at No. 10. It speaks to how the media and internet scouts might be catching up to, or God forbid actually influencing the teams.

So here is the next installment of my annual draft review. Each player will receive their career prediction in parentheses following their name. For example: Joe Burrow (5). Here's how the picks break down:

5 – All-Pro: Starter who has performed at an elite level at his position.
4 – Above-Average: Starter who has been among the best at his position.
3 – Solid: Starter or valuable back-up with significant positive production.
2 – Replacement Level: Below-average starter or back-up who made minor contributions.
1 – Bust: Player who didn’t amount to anything positive.

Next up, the NFC West.

 

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals dealt their second-round pick for one of the best receivers in football in DeAndre Hopkins.  When you add that acquisition into their draft haul, it’s one of the most impressive in the entire NFL.

At No. 8, the Cardinals went best player available with Isaiah Simmons (4) from Clemson.  There were some rumors that Simmons would fall a bit on draft day due to teams not knowing what to do with him.  Simmons is a quality football player, but not knowing what position room to put him in is somewhat of an issue.  He’s not big enough to bang in the box every down and he’s not as fluid in coverage as the best free safeties.  He made a lot of plays blitzing from depth and taking advantage of his absurd size-athleticism mix at the college level.

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is an extraordinary defensive mind and played him all over the field at every position except defensive tackle.  In Arizona I expect Simmons to line up mostly at the second level, doing most of his damage in coverage against tight ends and blitzing.  Fitting him in might not be so easy after adding De'Vondre Campbell and Jordan Hicks as off-ball linebackers.  I’ll let Vance Joseph figure it out.  Simmons can fly and make plays so it will be hard to screw it up.

With a need at tackle, the Cardinals chose to take advantage of the depth at the position and wait until the third round to grab Josh Jones of Houston.  Jones was the 19th overall player on my board, so I obviously view this pick as a massive steal.  Jones didn’t square off against many marquee pass-rushers, so his film was hard to evaluate in terms of translating to the next level.  He won the vast majority of his matchups, showing sound technique, but few crazy displays of domination.  He surely graded out well and moves well enough for me to endorse him as a quality starting left tackle in Arizona.  People make a big deal about quarterbacks and wide receivers transitioning from spread offenses, but it’s also a whole new game for offensive linemen.  With Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme taking a lot from the college game, Jones will be coached similar techniques to what he was taught at Houston.  Great pick.

A year after making the wise decision to jettison Josh Rosen and draft Kyler Murray, the Cardinals put together a solid draft.  They are talented enough to compete with the heavyweights in the NFC West, but maybe a year away from a playoff appearance.

 

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams essentially used their first-round pick on Jalen Ramsey, who probably would have gone 3rd overall in this draft class.  Dealing a first for a veteran with a huge contract is always risky, especially with a highly (and possibly over) paid quarterback.  They came into the draft needing help on defense.  I don’t think they got much.

When I originally sat down and watched Cam Akers, I became disgusted with the Florida State offense.  To say it was a mess is an understatement.  Akers made mistakes as well, which made me sour on him quite a bit.  I originally ranked Akers 9th in my running back rankings and was met with a fury.  I had to go back and watch.  You were all right.  I had fallen in the same trap I warn draftniks about all the time - valuing college performance too much, and traits too little.

If Cam Akers (4) has any work ethic at all, he’s going to have Pro Bowl seasons with Sean McVay.  His traits are actually good enough that he can be an All-Pro if things break right.  Akers’ fundamentals and technique were subpar at Florida State.  My coaching side also didn’t like his lack of ball security.  However, it’s difficult to blame him with how poorly coached everyone else looked.

Athletic and fast with decent hands, Akers has acceleration and creativity traits that translate to the NFL.  He can break tackles and hit home runs.  He’ll overtake Darrell Henderson right away as the Rams’ 1A back.  I am glad I went for a second look.  He is going to be a fantasy stud in the Rams zone running scheme.

Van Jefferson (2) has the pedigree and route-running skills to be a quality NFL receiver.  When asked to run routes with real breakpoints, he showed the body control and agility that can work in the NFL.  However, the constant issue in his film  is the lack of separation down the field.  When schemed into shallow crosses and screens, Jefferson was productive, showing good hands.  The top-end speed wasn’t there, and he doesn’t project as much of a run-after-catch threat.  There is little evidence on film that he can get off press, but he has the demeanor that could work.  I expect him to become a just-a-guy possession receiver.

Terrell Lewis (2) has traits that play in the league, but he is going to need time to develop.  The scariest thing about Lewis is his injury history.  On the field, he shows dynamic athleticism and ideal twitch.  However, he doesn't execute his gap assignments particularly well and will struggle to defend the run in the NFL.  As a rotational edge rusher, it could work, but a lot of his sacks came on inside stunts.  Lewis is a developmental project who needs to stay healthy and get stronger to make any positive impact.

Straight from my Terrell Burgess (3) notes: “quick and good.”  Burgess projects as a slot corner or sub-package safety.  He has hip fluidity, good feet, and covered tight ends well at Utah.  I don’t expect him to be a plus in run defense.  That Utah secondary was crazy.

The Rams paid Jared Goff and now have to live with the consequences.  The 49ers have the most talent, Russell Wilson isn’t going anywhere, and the Cardinals are young with a franchise quarterback.  The NFC West is probably the best division in football, and if Jared Goff doesn’t play better, the former hottest coach in the NFL will be looking at back-to-back seasons with no playoffs.

 

San Francisco 49ers

The defending NFC Champions traded away DeForest Buckner for the 13th-overall pick, giving them two first-rounders.  They ended up trading down just one spot to No. 14 and actually using their original first to move up to No. 25.  Overall they made just five picks, but with John Lynch’s body of work, fans have reason to be excited.

Out goes Buckner, and in comes his replacement in Javon Kinlaw (4).  Kinlaw was my No. 1 interior defensive lineman and 17th-ranked player on my board.  He’s big and athletic with an inconsistent get-off.  When he times up and correctly leverages his explosion off the ball, he’s very good.  He can penetrate gaps, fight versus doubles, and bench press blockers off him.  He showed a powerful bull rush against the Alabama right guard.  The most underrated aspect of Kinlaw’s game is his ability to get his paws on passes.  He can also block field goals.  The 49ers' defensive line will continue to be a force.

Trading up for Brandon Aiyuk (3) was extremely interesting considering the depth of this wide receiver class.  John Lynch admitted they considered CeeDee Lamb at No. 13, but also would have been fine taking Aiyuk there.  Get your guy, I guess.  I do like Aiyuk, so I won’t bash the move at all.  Aiyuk reminds me of Dez Bryant.  He’s a competitive player with strong hands and good footwork in terms of breakpoints.

My final note: he’s a stud, just needs to clean up some technique.  Unfortunately, I do not believe he will unlock his full potential as the third receiving option in a run-heavy attack.  He takes a while to get going, is a little clumsy, and showed some very sloppy release work at the line.  A related observation: the special teams coordinator at Arizona State was excellent.

The 49ers had a ten-point lead in the second half of the Super Bowl and return most of their starters.  Yes, they lost Joe Staley, but they gained Trent Williams.  Yes, they lost DeForest Buckner, but they gained Javon Kinlaw.  John Lynch is doing a fantastic job.

 

Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks general manager John Schneider had an all-time great draft class in 2012 but hasn’t hit on a single first-round pick since.  He has been below-average at drafting during that time, as Seahawks fans have seen a once-loaded roster deteriorate into essentially a one-man team.  Just as bad, Pete Carroll continues to ignore math and put too much emphasis on running the football (ironic).  Defensively, his tendency to play three linebackers on the field together too much has also hurt them.  So of course with their first-round pick, they took an off-ball linebacker.

I wrote this article about “my guys” before the draft.  Jordyn Brooks (4) was the first guy I featured.  I believe he can be an impact pro, and he actually reminds me of Bobby Wagner a bit.  However, it is tough to defend a Super Bowl contender taking an off-ball linebacker, likely pointing to keeping three linebackers on the field for too many snaps yet again.  I do believe in the player though.

Brooks plays fast, can key and diagnose, and has tremendous power on contact.  When he meets a back in the hole, he drives him back.  They liked to blitz him at Texas Tech, taking advantage of uncommon movement skills and acceleration.  Against Oklahoma, he struggled a bit, primarily used to spy Jalen Hurts.  However, the fact his coaching staff gave him that assignment is telling.  I predict he’ll be an excellent pro.  If they’re going to play three linebackers, at least one of them will be fast enough to keep up with Kyler Murray.

In the second round, the Seahawks traded up for Darrell Taylor (2) of Tennessee.  When I began writing the “my guys” article, Taylor was supposed to be the second player I featured.  I watched his film again simply looking for a highlight to make a gif of and became so unimpressed with Taylor that I decided to write about someone else.  It was mainly Taylor’s film against Alabama that turned me off.  The flip-flopping puts me in a ridiculous spot.  I went back a third time and kind of liked him more again.

Taylor can bend and his profile fits the Seahawks LEO position perfectly.  He showed inconsistent handwork but generally was powerful on the edge with enough speed to keep tackles honest.  He showed an ability to finish plays and force turnovers, something a lot of edge prospects struggle to do.  There was an odd delay getting off the ball on almost every snap against BYU, but he showed a quick get-off in other games.  Only one thing is for sure - he’s better than L.J. Collier.

In the third, the Seahawks took my 92nd-ranked player in LSU guard Damien Lewis (2).  Lewis will likely fit right in with Seattle’s underachieving offensive line.  He’s good on double teams and has good enough feet to mirror but that’s about it.  His functional strength and anchor is below average, getting knocked down by a blitzer and walked back by just one of Derrick Brown’s arms.  Anything powerful gets him off-balance.  There were better players on the board.

The Seahawks pride themselves in trading down and making picks against the consensus.  It has not worked out at all in recent years.  It would be a shame if their mishandling of drafts continues throughout Russell Wilson’s career.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the final division, the AFC West, in the coming days.

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2020 NFL Draft Review - AFC South

We continue with the divisional rundown of the 2020 NFL Draft with the intriguing AFC South. Catch up on the other installments of this 2020 NFL Draft review series with the NFC SouthAFC EastNFC East, AFC North, and NFC North.

Every year after the draft, I write a way-too-long review of each team’s draft. The purpose of this draft review is to give predictions for the careers of each team’s drafted players. I’ve watched film of each player I’m commenting on. Draft grades are overly optimistic and unrealistic. Unlike the majority of post-draft coverage out there, I will pick busts. Keep in mind that 23.4% of all first-round picks bust.

Let me preface this by saying: predicting the career of an NFL draft pick is a ridiculous exercise. There is so much unknown that goes into whether a player succeeds or fails at the next level.  I can make educated guesses based on team situation, supporting cast, and research about the prospect’s character and work ethic, but there’s a reason teams make so many mistakes every year. You simply don’t know for sure how a player will react to being a pro. Injuries are also a huge factor in the fate of a player and impossible to predict accurately. Nevertheless, this is a fun exercise and gives us a chance to review how each team approached the draft.

 

Overview

Before we start, here are some of my general thoughts on the 2020 NFL Draft.

Quickly on the broadcast - they did a great job given the circumstances. The production quality was great and they did more actual analysis than usual. My main gripe with draft coverage every year is that they don’t show incredible highlights (they somehow didn’t show the Aaron Dobson catch in 2013). This year, they showed more footage of actual football and I appreciated that. The only two negatives for me were the constant tragic stories and Booger McFarland.

Oh, and if any poor soul bet on Justin Jefferson Under 21.5 draft position, ESPN should apologize to you. They showed him on the phone celebrating right before cutting to Goodell announcing the 21st pick - Jalen Reagor to the Eagles. Jefferson was of course on the phone with the Vikings, who took him at 22. Brutal beat.

As for the draft, remember this tweet about mock drafts being “wronger” than ever? Funny, this was probably the chalkiest first-round ever in the internet age. Nothing was truly shocking to me, including the Packers trading up for Jordan Love (more on that here). I had Damon Arnette in the first round in my first mock draft this draft season. I wrote an article lauding Jordyn Brooks as an undervalued commodity. Noah Ibinoghene going in the first was surprising, I suppose. But there was no Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 or Tyson Alualu at No. 10. It speaks to how the media and internet scouts might be catching up to, or God forbid actually influencing the teams.

So here is the first installment of my annual draft review. Each player will receive their career prediction in parentheses following their name. For example: Joe Burrow (5). Here's how the picks break down:

5 – All-Pro: Starter who has performed at an elite level at his position.
4 – Above-Average: Starter who has been among the best at his position.
3 – Solid: Starter or valuable back-up with significant positive production.
2 – Replacement Level: Below-average starter or back-up who made minor contributions.
1 – Bust: Player who didn’t amount to anything positive.

Next up, the AFC South.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars had one of the best drafts in the league.  They came in needing to re-tool the defense and added two of my top-15 players.  In the second they took a high-upside playmaker, and capped their day-two haul with one of my favorite run-stuffers in the entire draft.

C.J. Henderson (4) has shutdown corner talent.  He has the innate ability to cover people in man, showing good technique in press, off, trail, and motor.  His coverage instincts and breaks on the ball are on par with Jeff Okudah.  Henderson’s weakness defending the run is partially due to a lack of ideal strength.  If the Jaguars play enough man coverage, it won’t be exposed much.  Henderson’s blazing speed was on display on an unreal hustle play to force a touchback (gif below).  He has very pretty feet.  I’m not Rex Ryan, I swear.

With the 20th-overall pick, the Jaguars selected one of my favorite players in the entire draft in LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson (5).  Chaisson was the 9th-ranked player on my board and epitomizes the traits vs. performance misconception.  In 2015 I endorsed Danielle Hunter as a big-time pass rusher despite tallying just 4.5 sacks at LSU.  It’s coincidental that any critique of Chaisson begins with “lack of production.”  On film, there are instances of being this-close due to technique deficiencies.  He likely did not always great out amazingly with his position coach.  But as far as evaluating translatable traits, and projecting him to the completely different NFL game, Chaisson is oozing with upside at just 20 years old.

Everyone agrees that Chaisson's physical traits are outstanding.  He’s an exceptional athlete, somehow both smooth and twitchy with great balance.  He’s a raw speed rusher who can bend, and has ideal ankle flexion for an edge player.  Against older and more experienced tackles like Andrew Thomas and Alex Leatherwood, Chaisson didn’t always produce or perform well in an NCAA context.  However, he had reps where he won and/or displayed ideal translatable traits in terms of pass-rushing technique, power, speed, handwork, and moves he can develop.  My notes are overwhelmingly positive.  He destroyed a guard on a stunt, stunted over two gaps to explode inside for a sack, showed big hits in space, beat Leatherwood twice off the ball, and showed power against the Oklahoma left tackle.  I was right on Hunter.  Chaisson has even more upside.

In the second round, the Jaguars selected one of the most enigmatic players in the draft in Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr (3).  Shenault was flat-out dominant for the majority of his college career, standing out as the best player on the field in most games.  His power is uncommon for a wide receiver.  As a run-after-catch threat, he’s in the Cordarrelle Patterson mold.  And while he’s undoubtedly a better natural receiver than Patterson, he’s still too raw to start at Z right away.  His stop-start ability is terrific and he’s a threat to take it to the house on hitch routes.  His coaching staff gave him a 4th-and-2 end-around.

As a vertical receiver, his film leaves a lot to be desired, with multiple bad offensive pass interference, lack of separation and ball tracking, and route-running issues.  Simply put, he’s raw.  There’s a lot of projection here, and if he puts it all together, he can be a star.  His lack of timed speed (4.58 40) actually did show on tape.  On the Cordarrelle Patterson-Anquan Boldin spectrum, I predict he’ll land closer to Boldin.  The draft slot disparity between he and Henry Ruggs shows how much NFL teams value speed over college production.  Perhaps they shouldn’t. 

I wrote extensively about Davon Hamilton (4) here.  He’ll develop into one of the best run-stuffers in the league and a top interior force.  I also liked Ben Bartch (3) and even Josiah Scott (2) a bit, while the rest of the draft community thought the enormous Collin Johnson (2) was a steal.  The Jaguars made 12 picks.  If six of them are still on the roster in three years, this rookie class will spark a successful re-build.

 

Tennessee Titans

When the Titans drafted Marcus Mariota, the vast majority of people thought he'd become a franchise quarterback.  I predicted he would max out as an Alex Smith-level player.  The Mariota era is over in Tennessee, as Ryan Tannehill parlayed his late-season surge into a huge contract.  The Titans came into this draft without any glaring holes.  Their first two picks suggest they went with the best player available on their board.

Unfortunately, Isaiah Wilson (1) was nowhere near the best player on my board at No. 29.  I had him ranked 67th-overall despite rumors he would be a first-round pick.  Clearly something was off with the perception of Wilson, as the draft community was much lower on him than NFL teams.  One reason for the disparity is how much the NFL values pure size in the trenches.  At 6-6, 350, Wilson surely looks the part.  I think NFL decision-makers still put a value on “first-guy-off-the-bus” type bodies, which Wilson definitely has.

The actual film shows arguably more pure strength than Mekhi Becton, but not nearly the same athleticism.  He’s a raw right tackle who is good on double teams and shows awesome power when he gets his hands inside.  The issue I can’t get over is his tendency to bend at the waist and miss initial hand placements.  He wasn’t even in the top 100 players on PFF’s big board, which suggests he may not have graded out well. They’ll need to coach bad posture habits out of him and hope he keeps his weight in check.

I was also not a huge fan of Kristian Fulton (2).  Fulton was productive in terms of pass break-ups and one of the top performers at DBU.  But again, projecting to the NFL is not about college performance, it’s about translatable NFL traits.  There’s a reason such a productive college player with ideal speed and measurables fell to 61.  Fulton generally struggled to get his head around defending verticals along the boundary, showing a lack of ideal balance and some clumsiness.  He made a couple of big plays against Virginia, but was “weirdly beat in the red zone.”  I had Fulton ranked 48th overall, but if I could re-do my board after the draft, I’d put guys like Arnette and Robertson over him.

While I didn’t have Darrynton Evans (3) in my top-100 due to positional value, I am always a fan of selecting running backs on day two.  Evans’ speed (4.41), production, and ultimate draft slot all point to future fantasy success.  If he can learn pass protection, he can replace Dion Lewis quite easily.  His film against South Carolina wasn’t great, but that speed plays, and is a great complement to Derrick Henry.

Remember that last year’s first-rounder Jeffrey Simmons started his rookie year fresh off a serious injury.  It is fair to expect him to grow as a player, perhaps developing into an All-Pro.  It will be fascinating to see if Tannehill can repeat his 2019 magic.  If he plays at a high level again, Tennessee has the offensive supporting cast to contend in the AFC.

 

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts came into the draft with needs at wide receiver and defensive back.  After trading for DeForest Buckner, they didn't have a first-round pick.  The biggest Colts storyline going into the draft was the possibility of selecting a quarterback early.  They chose not to, and I agree with that decision.

Michael Pittman Jr. (3) seemingly has it all.  He plays fast (4.52) with great size (6-4, 223) and excellent hands.  He dominated certain games, including Utah, which featured multiple pros in their defensive backfield.  In terms of physical traits, there is no question he has what it takes to be an outstanding pro.  However, a deeper look into his film has me questioning his transition a little.  He's not particularly strong for his size and doesn't possess great balance.  His shoulder pads flop when he runs - it sounds odd but he plays a bit high.  It's understandable for someone his size, but I have to be fair to my notes.

He blocked a punt and has a lot of "college" highlights, mossing poor 5-10 corners and blowing by 2-star recruits.  When I went back for a second look I kind of loved his fluidity.  He could be an outstanding pro or just-a-guy.  The sweet spot for wideouts is typically the second round so I'll bet on him.

So where should an incredibly talented and productive Big Ten running back be selected in the NFL Draft?  A few years ago Saquon Barkley parlayed an ideal frame, 4.4 speed, and tremendous statistical production into being selected second overall.  Jonathan Taylor (3) was routinely thought of as a late-first to earl-second-round pick throughout the draft process, with a similar size/speed/production mix.  The main on-paper differences were receiving production and fumbling. Are those differences worth such a disparity in draft stock?  The point here is to pre-emptively defend my evaluation of Jonathan Taylor.  He was an elite college back, but I do not believe he profiles as a special back in the NFL.  His film is more solid than amazing.

Taylor's positives on film are obvious.  He's smooth with home run speed and tremendous vision.  He understands blocking schemes and is difficult to get down to the ground.  However, his film, specifically against Illinois, is more solid than spectacular.  I do not know if his not-going-down skills translate to the pro game where everyone is bigger, faster, and stronger.  He gets knocked back and doesn't drive the pile way too much.  Perhaps he's picking his spots, which leads to the first of the three frequent arguments against him - tread on tires (probably overrated), too many drops, and fumbling issues.  Going to Indianapolis, he will have the best offensive line in football blocking for him and less pass-game responsibility.  I do not expect him to be an All-Pro back, but I will likely target him early and often in fantasy leagues due to situation.

Julian Blackmon (3) has injury question marks but shows a spirited playstyle and tackling ability that translates.  He has all the football traits, but deep speed is a question mark.  His short-area burst is great, but he had a poor game against USC, displaying some bad angles.  He should be a solid specials contributor and third safety at absolute worst.

I had Jacob Eason (2) ranked in the top-30 on my first big board.  I liked his film a lot.  Against Oregon, he looked like a first-round pick.  The best trait Eason shows on film is his ability to make quick decisions.  He loves slants, will get to his check-downs, and was good against pressure in the games I saw.  Obviously he has the arm, but I noted his deep ball placement as "meh."  Washington had arguably the best offensive line in the country, but Eason didn't have great weapons, as I noted multiple drops by receivers.  Another underrated trait is his ball-handling, as his footwork on play-action shot plays was excellent.  I would have picked Eason to be a good player if I did not read concerning insight into his character in Bob McGinn's Athletic article with quotes from scouts.  That's why he fell so far.  I'll give a good coaching staff a chance to develop him, but playing quarterback is so hard, you can't have question marks surrounding your intangibles for anyone to feel confident in your transition.

The Colts will take a stab at contending this year with Philip Rivers at quarterback, a great offensive line, and excellent coaching staff.  They decided to build on a strength, adding Jonathan Taylor to an already talented running back room.  Analytics folks may not love it, but the 49ers just had a successful year with a run-heavy attack.  With how much nickel and dime teams play, it might be smart to zig when everyone else zags.

 

Houston Texans

The Texans essentially used their first-round pick on stud left tackle Laremy Tunsil, then extended him.  One of the main reasons first-round picks are so valuable is because of how cheap rookie contracts are.  So while Tunsil is clearly worth a first-round pick in a vacuum, it’s not as much of a no-brainer considering the difference in salaries.  They came into the draft needing help on defense.

With the 40th overall pick they selected TCU defensive lineman Ross Blacklock (3), the 59th-ranked player on my board.  While watching Blacklock’s film, I noted he would fit in best as a true nose tackle.  He played his gap well, shooting out of his low four-point stance.  He showed strength at the point of attack and made me think of him as a potential impact run-stuffer.  Then I looked at his measurables.  At just 290 pounds, Blacklock simply does not have the size to be a premier run-stuffer at the pro level.  Blacklock showed a good rip move for a sack against Purdue but showed almost no juice as a pass rusher against Texas.

My Reverse Planet Theory states that the relative worst offensive linemen in college football play inside.  There are only so many quality offensive linemen in the world, and in the NCAA most play tackle.  When lovable penetrating defensive tackles transition to the NFL, they are now matched up against amazing interior talents and converted tackles.  No other position has a jump up in competition like interior defensive linemen.  Blacklock is a potential victim of the Reverse Planet Theory, but his understanding of leverage is what will make him a decent pro.

With their next pick, the Texans took Jonathan Greenard (1) of Florida.  Greenard moves like he has cement in his cleats, and has substandard change of direction ability.  He has some competitiveness and physicality, but not enough juice as a pass rusher to be a true edge dude.  His production was nice at the college level, but I’m not even sure if his traits will allow him to be a rotational asset or special teams contributor.  He wasn’t in my top 100.

Bill O’Brien received a lot of deserved hate after dealing away DeAndre Hopkins.  Personal issues probably played a role, but there is no excuse for only receiving essentially a second-round pick and veteran running back for one of the best receivers in football.  The next few drafts are vital for Houston, as they won’t have much cap space after inevitably extending Deshaun Watson.

Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned for the NFC West and AFC West in the coming days.

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2020 NFL Draft Review - NFC South

If you missed the first three installments of this 2020 NFL Draft review series, you can read the AFC EastNFC East, AFC North, and NFC North.

Every year after the draft, I write a way-too-long review of each team’s draft. The purpose of this draft review is to give predictions for the careers of each team’s drafted players. I’ve watched film of each player I’m commenting on. Draft grades are overly optimistic and unrealistic. Unlike the majority of post-draft coverage out there, I will pick busts. Keep in mind that 23.4% of all first-round picks bust.

Let me preface this by saying: predicting the career of an NFL draft pick is a ridiculous exercise. There is so much unknown that goes into whether a player succeeds or fails at the next level.  I can make educated guesses based on team situation, supporting cast, and research about the prospect’s character and work ethic, but there’s a reason teams make so many mistakes every year. You simply don’t know for sure how a player will react to being a pro. Injuries are also a huge factor in the fate of a player and impossible to predict accurately. Nevertheless, this is a fun exercise and gives us a chance to review how each team approached the draft.

 

Overview

Before we start, here are some of my general thoughts on the 2020 NFL Draft.

Quickly on the broadcast - they did a great job given the circumstances. The production quality was great and they did more actual analysis than usual. My main gripe with draft coverage every year is that they don’t show incredible highlights (they somehow didn’t show the Aaron Dobson catch in 2013). This year, they showed more footage of actual football and I appreciated that. The only two negatives for me were the constant tragic stories and Booger McFarland.

Oh, and if any poor soul bet on Justin Jefferson Under 21.5 draft position, ESPN should apologize to you. They showed him on the phone celebrating right before cutting to Goodell announcing the 21st pick - Jalen Reagor to the Eagles. Jefferson was of course on the phone with the Vikings, who took him at 22. Brutal beat.

As for the draft, remember this tweet about mock drafts being “wronger” than ever? Funny, this was probably the chalkiest first-round ever in the internet age. Nothing was truly shocking to me, including the Packers trading up for Jordan Love (more on that here). I had Damon Arnette in the first round in my first mock draft this draft season. I wrote an article lauding Jordyn Brooks as an undervalued commodity. Noah Ibinoghene going in the first was surprising, I suppose. But there was no Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 or Tyson Alualu at No. 10. It speaks to how the media and internet scouts might be catching up to, or God forbid actually influencing the teams.

So here is the first installment of my annual draft review. Each player will receive their career prediction in parentheses following their name. For example: Joe Burrow (5). Here's how the picks break down:

5 – All-Pro: Starter who has performed at an elite level at his position.
4 – Above-Average: Starter who has been among the best at his position.
3 – Solid: Starter or valuable back-up with significant positive production.
2 – Replacement Level: Below-average starter or back-up who made minor contributions.
1 – Bust: Player who didn’t amount to anything positive.

Next up, the NFC South.

 

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers began the Matt Rhule era by using all seven picks on defense.  More specifically, they focused on the defensive line and secondary.  While I applaud the thinking, I was lower on most of their picks than the consensus.

Derrick Brown (3) will likely be a good pro.  Part of my critical evaluation of him has to do with his position.  Even the greatest interior player of our generation, Aaron Donald, has found himself stuck on some bad defenses.  I know it’s a team game, and I know he’s still impactful and dominant, but it’s fair to question the value of all non-Donald interior defensive linemen.  As a player, Brown flashes dominance in terms of strength and power.  He can bull rush with anyone, and has enough quicks to penetrate for tackles for loss.  The pile-drive versus UCF displayed his power (gif below).

However, some of his positive plays just don’t translate.  He went up against weaker interior offensive linemen, many of whom won’t sniff the NFL.  When he enters the league, he’ll be up against former tackles and the best guards in the world.  Some of his splash plays like fumble returns and hustle sacks, just aren’t transferable to the next level and only slightly help his evaluation.  Also, his stoutness against doubles is usually highlighted as a strength, yet there are some reps against Oregon and Alabama where he is dominated.  There’s a chance he becomes more consistent with leverage and technique and develops into an All-Pro.  I’ll bet he settles in as a quality nose tackle without crazy production.

Yetur Gross-Matos (3) can be a starting defensive end right away.  His strength is setting the edge and playing the run.  He shows the ability to anchor and use his hands to take on blocks, “knockback and peak” to play his gap.  As a pass rusher, he shows quick inside moves, including a rip that took advantage of slower tackles.  Although he played right end at Penn State, he’s simply not much of an edge rusher, and more of an edge setter, inside-move specialist and pure football player.  There’s some upside, but he’s more linear than quick and bendy, and had too many hustle sacks for me to get excited.  He’ll settle in as an average starter.

Jeremy Chinn (2) had some top-50 hype but ultimately went last of all the second-tier safeties.  I thought McKinney, Delpit, Dugger, Davis, and Winfield were all better.  Chinn has the athletic profile of an NFL special teamer, but nothing on his film suggests he’ll make a smooth transition to safety at the pro level.  The Panthers initially listed him as a linebacker, which points to him starting his career as a Deone Buchannon-like sub-package player.  I saw him unable to get out to the No. 1 receiver from center field then let an FCS receiver get behind him.

If they try him at safety, he’s going to let people get behind him.  His film shows a solid football player and pretty good tackler, but his eyes are weird, he isn’t super physical (kind of picks his spots), and generally looked like he fit in well at the FCS level.  You want those guys to leave no doubt that they don’t belong on the same field as those players.  Chinn’s best plays included blitzing from deep and spearing a quarterback on a free run - something that simply does not translate to the NFL.

As for the rest of their draft, I was low on Troy Pride Jr. (1), and nothing else stood out.  The Panthers may have improved their defense, but their 2020 season will come down to the quarterback position.  It would not shock me to see P.J. Walker take the starting gig away from Teddy Bridgewater at some point.  Another somewhat surprising guess - Christian McCaffrey will actually live up to his contract.  His consistent durability is uncommon, and he’s one of the greatest receiving backs in NFL history.  Don’t compare him to Todd Gurley, who had degenerative knees.  I hate being a running back apologist.  I believe in math, I swear.

 

New Orleans Saints

The Saints always draft well.  Part of the reason their draft picks turn into good players is that they coach and develop players as well as any team in the league.  They only had four picks and used three of them on prospects with a fairly high floor.

When creating mock drafts, one of the first places I look at is the offensive line.  Generally, a win-now team will not spend an early pick on an offensive lineman unless there is an open starting spot.  Based on contract situations and PFF grades, the Saints simply didn’t need an interior offensive lineman for 2020.  While I am a staunch proponent of BPA (Best Player Available), even I was surprised by the selection of Cesar Ruiz (3).  The plan is for him to compete with PFF’s 8th-best guard in Larry Warford for a starting job.  Teams don’t draft for just next year, so adding Ruiz makes sense in the long term.  However, it’s fair to question the move given that this will be Drew Brees’ last dance and they are built to win now.

As for the actual player, Ruiz was my top-ranked interior lineman and 31st-ranked player on my board.  My final note is that he’s solid but an unlikely all-pro.  He started the Iowa game quite confused but figured it out as the game went along.  He is stout in pass pro, and does a great job getting up to linebackers on zone runs.  Overall, he’s not a very explosive or powerful player, but he does his job and stays stout and square when he has to.  I expect a solid starter.

Zack Baun (2) falling to 74 is interesting.  If Baun went to a less-successful organization, I may have been tempted to predict him to be a bust.  His tape against the Michigan State tackles is rough.  He’s kept at bay by his length with a one-arm punch forcing him to lose his balance.  He was taken care of by the tight end, and generally didn’t get much going against Michigan State in terms of translatable traits.  Baun is good in coverage and overall solid football player, but he simply doesn’t have the traits or translatable skills of a pro edge rusher.  The Nebraska quarterback hates him, as Baun dominated that game with his athleticism.  There’s a chance he’s schemed into making plays in space, perhaps as an off-ball linebacker at times.  I won’t endorse him as more than a situational and special teams player - which isn’t awful value for the 74th overall pick.

Adam Trautman (2) was my second-ranked tight end and 96th-ranked player on my board.  This tight end class was terrible, but Trautman has some redeeming qualities that make him worth a late pick.  Trautman didn’t belong in the FCS and has the smooth, tough-guy demeanor that plays in the league.  He dismisses and mosses quality FCS players routinely on film.    He could not be walking into a better situation, but the speed change might be too much for him.

The Saints may have wanted Jordan Love given how aggressive the Packers were to move up for him.  With Jameis Winston in the organization, Sean Payton will get a year to groom him, while also keeping an eye out for 2021 talent.  New Orleans has the roster to contend for a Super Bowl.  I like Margus Hunt to be a surprise contributor.

 

Atlanta Falcons

Everyone thought the Falcons would move up for an impact defensive player but instead chose to keep their picks.  I do not believe in the word “reach,” because I believe teams should take their guy regardless of what others think.  However, they probably could have traded down a bit before selecting A.J. Terrell in the first round.

A.J. Terrell (2) was my 8th-ranked cornerback, so I was not a fan of this pick.  The Terrell discussion usually starts with the LSU game, fair or not.  J’Marr Chase may be one of the best receivers in the NFL in a few years, and he dominated the matchup.  Terrell has above-average feet, but his eyes and hands are below-average.  He grabs in trail technique, and his hands are typically all over the place - I can see the flags in his future.  He gets his head around nicely, but lacks physicality and strength, especially at the catch-point.  His height-weight-speed mix is that of a solid pro corner, but the film I saw had a lot of flaws.

Marlon Davidson (2) had interesting film.  At Auburn, he played both standing up and with his hand in the dirt, depending on situation and gameplan.  As a 6-3, 303-pound player, it was kind of hilarious to see him standing up so much.  Davidson has heavy legs and the body of an interior defensive lineman (kind of fat).  He had no chance against speedy running backs in space, and was way too slow-footed to generate much of an edge rush against quality tackles.  Against Oregon, he was so ineffective they moved him inside.  He struggled to post versus tackle-guard doubles, and was the opposite of twitchy.  A lot of his sacks simply won’t play in league - versus Kent State and hustle sacks.  Davidson isn’t a bad football player, and fits best in the NFL as a defensive end, but there is a ton of projection here.  Traits-wise, I suppose he has decent strength and length.  He was my 88th-ranked player.

I was extremely high on Matt Hennessy (4).  Learning from Alex Mack in Atlanta’s offense is a great landing spot.  Hennessy has thin ankles and is a little jittery, but he moves well enough to be stout in pass pro.  He has good enough mobility and excellent balance - the most underrated trait in scouting.   He places his hands well and does a great job on initial contact.  His functional strength is his only weakness.  If he puts the time in the weight room, he can be an All-Pro.

Dan Quinn is on the hot seat and the Matt Ryan window may be closing soon.  The Falcons hope they helped re-tool the defense a bit with this draft, but are likely looking up at New Orleans and now Tampa Bay in the NFC South.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bruce Arians actually lets his coaches spend time with their families, so I love him.  He’s worked with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and now gets a chance with the great Tom Brady.  The Bucs came into the draft needing a right tackle, and wasted no time, using their first pick on arguably the best right tackle in this class.

Tristan Wirfs (3) has all the necessary tools to develop into a quality pro tackle.  He’s incredibly athletic for his size, somehow blazing a 4.85 40 at 320 pounds.  However, the film did not always show the most mobile player.  Against Michigan, Wirfs looked awkward and off-balance way too frequently.  He showed the ability to mirror well, but was jolted back too much.  He’s a little slow in reaction time, and struggled with quickness in the run game.  I went back to Iowa to watch an edge opponent, and was far more impressed the second time around.  His technique needs work, but his size-to-traits ratio is special.  Reportedly a weight-room monster, I really wonder why his film showed so many flaws.  I’m skeptical he’ll be more than an average pro.

Antoine Winfield Jr. (3) is a try-hard.  That can be a good or a bad thing.  It shows his competitive spirit and work ethic, but might suggest he’s reached his ceiling as a football player.  If he has maxed out his ability, he’s going to struggle a bit in the NFL.  In the box, the Iowa tight end took care of him quite easily.  He got run over by a quarterback, and some of his submarine tackles simply might not play in the league.  He’s a bit conservative from deep, taking high angles and giving up yards on chunk plays.  His best skill is man coverage, which is an extremely useful trait for a defensive coordinator to take advantage of.  However, why didn’t he play corner, and why was he a three-star recruit?  As a stud college producer at safety, his transition is most fragile due to a long injury history.  At his size, it’s fair to wonder if he can stay healthy.  Earl Thomas is known for missile tackles, but he’s missed his fair share as well over the years.  Still, seven picks and man coverage skills make him worth a high pick.  I’m fascinated to see how his career unfolds - I just hope he can stay on the field.

Mid-round running backs are tough to scout.  I noted Ke’Shawn Vaughn (2) as “fast enough but not much more than a jag.”  And “can catch and hit it if it’s there,” ultimately labeling him as a 6th-round pick.  I learned my lesson long ago to stick to my initial evaluation.  I had huge question marks about Kevin White and Corey Davis but succumbed to groupthink and gave them positive predictions.  After the high selection, I went back to Vaughn’s film and it confirmed my initial thoughts.  He’s more straight-line and tight than you want, and even though his speed and hands play, a lot of his stuff doesn’t translate.   He made a hobbled Grant Delpit miss, but his LSU film doesn’t offer much more in terms of translatable traits, besides speed and hands, which aren’t separators (except of course for a Brady back like Kevin Faulk and James White...).

Bucs fans hate me so far, but they’ll be pleased to hear I am a Tyler Johnson (4) truther.  Johnson has all the traits of a quality NFL receiver, including unreal ball skills and terrific suddenness.  His performance against Auburn was awesome, as he displayed his amazing hands and natural confidence en route to 12 receptions, 204 yards, and two touchdowns, including this thing (gif below).  He’s a special receiver and fell apparently due to character concerns.  I expect the culture in Tampa to help him become their No. 3 option this year.

The Buccaneers are fascinating.  They have the talent on paper to contend for a Super Bowl, but the Saints stand in their way.  With for-some-reason seven playoff spots, I expect them to make it to the dance.  Antoine Winfield Jr.’s first-year impact is one of the most important rookie storylines this year.  Vita Vea will anchor a tough run defense, so if Winfield can improve the secondary, Brady may have a shot at another ring.

Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned for the final three divisions in the coming days.

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2020 Fantasy Football & NFL Rookies 2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Keepers & Dynasty Ranks Editor Note NFL Analysis NFL Draft RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

2020 NFL Draft Review - AFC East

If you missed the first three installments of this 2020 NFL Draft review series, you can read the NFC East, AFC North, and NFC North.

Every year after the draft, I write a way-too-long review of each team’s draft. The purpose of this draft review is to give predictions for the careers of each team’s drafted players. I’ve watched film of each player I’m commenting on. Draft grades are overly optimistic and unrealistic. Unlike the majority of post-draft coverage out there, I will pick busts. Keep in mind that 23.4% of all first-round picks bust.

Let me preface this by saying: predicting the career of an NFL draft pick is a ridiculous exercise. There is so much unknown that goes into whether a player succeeds or fails at the next level.  I can make educated guesses based on team situation, supporting cast, and research about the prospect’s character and work ethic, but there’s a reason teams make so many mistakes every year. You simply don’t know for sure how a player will react to being a pro. Injuries are also a huge factor in the fate of a player and impossible to predict accurately. Nevertheless, this is a fun exercise and gives us a chance to review how each team approached the draft.

 

Overview

Before we start, here are some of my general thoughts on the 2020 NFL Draft.

Quickly on the broadcast - they did a great job given the circumstances. The production quality was great and they did more actual analysis than usual. My main gripe with draft coverage every year is that they don’t show incredible highlights (they somehow didn’t show the Aaron Dobson catch in 2013). This year, they showed more footage of actual football and I appreciated that. The only two negatives for me were the constant tragic stories and Booger McFarland.

Oh, and if any poor soul bet on Justin Jefferson Under 21.5 draft position, ESPN should apologize to you. They showed him on the phone celebrating right before cutting to Goodell announcing the 21st pick - Jalen Reagor to the Eagles. Jefferson was of course on the phone with the Vikings, who took him at 22. Brutal beat.

As for the draft, remember this tweet about mock drafts being “wronger” than ever? Funny, this was probably the chalkiest first-round ever in the internet age. Nothing was truly shocking to me, including the Packers trading up for Jordan Love (more on that here). I had Damon Arnette in the first round in my first mock draft this draft season. I wrote an article lauding Jordyn Brooks as an undervalued commodity. Noah Ibinoghene going in the first was surprising, I suppose. But there was no Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 or Tyson Alualu at No. 10. It speaks to how the media and internet scouts might be catching up to, or God forbid actually influencing the teams.

So here is the first installment of my annual draft review. Each player will receive their career prediction in parentheses following their name. For example: Joe Burrow (5). Here's how the picks break down:

5 – All-Pro: Starter who has performed at an elite level at his position.
4 – Above-Average: Starter who has been among the best at his position.
3 – Solid: Starter or valuable back-up with significant positive production.
2 – Replacement Level: Below-average starter or back-up who made minor contributions.
1 – Bust: Player who didn’t amount to anything positive.

Next up, the AFC East.

 

New York Jets

The Jets came into the draft with well-defined needs at tackle, wide receiver, and as usual, edge rusher.  They moved around a bit and still filled those needs with the No. 12, No. 24, and No. 53 ranked players on my board.  This Jets draft class will undoubtedly be defined by two of the riskiest boom-or-bust prospects in the entire draft.  Their first and second-round picks arguably have the highest ceilings at their respective positions but are both extremely raw.

Mekhi Becton (4) was my top-ranked tackle in a good tackle class.  His film shows inconsistent technique, somehow getting driven back into his quarterbacks' lap by bull rushes.  Becton's size-to-athleticism ratio is folklore at this point, and he has the physical traits of the best tackle in the NFL.  One of my notes: "you have to teach him everything."  Jets offensive line coach Frank Pollack has his work cut out for him, but Becton will be a dream to coach if he's willing to put in the work.  Joe Douglas' strength is supposed to be offensive line, so in some ways, his reputation is at stake with this pick.  Scouting draft prospects is not just about the film - NFL teams do a ton of research on projecting work habits, character, and intangibles.  My main concern with Becton is keeping his weight in check.  I want to believe in Douglas here.

Trading back to 59 and still getting my No. 24 overall player in Denzel Mims (4) was one of the best moves in the entire draft.  Mims' fall was one of the few things that actually surprised me, and it's interesting that even the team that ultimately picked him passed on him in the mid-second.  I couldn't find any character or medical flags with Mims so why did a prospect who was super productive and aced the draft process fall so far?  After watching his film, I just don't have an answer.  He's sloppy and raw, but scouting is about traits, and he has the traits of a WR1.  They teach the wide receiver position a little different at Baylor - round most cuts, find grass rather than run precise routes - so teams may have been spooked by Corey Coleman and the like.

Mims is going to have to be coachable, but his ceiling is undeniable.  His mix of strength, physicality, and ball skills pops off the screen, with frequent high-points and flashes of tremendous hands.  There are very few reps that display 4.38 speed, but it's not like he's slow on film either.  A huge part of route-running at the pro level is subtle hand fighting and push-offs.  To me his mid-route handwork was advanced, and his traits to use his hands to gain separation make him a potential contested-catch warrior.  The one trait that wasn't elite was his lack of suddenness, but his 6.66 3-cone suggests he has well above-average change of direction.  Someone please explain to me why Denzel Mims lasted until pick 59.

Ashtyn Davis (3) in the third was a curious pick and probably raised some eyebrows after months of Jamal Adams rumors.  However, the draft isn't just about filling needs for the upcoming season, it's about building for the future, and it's clear the Jets are preparing for Marcus Maye to walk in free agency next offseason.  A case can definitely be made that Davis was the best player available at pick 68.  His film showed excellent speed, instincts, and the ability to play center field in single-high looks.  He's a smart player with good tackling technique and showed nice pass-breakups and interceptions on film.  His film wasn't flawless, as he took some bad angles in the Washington game, giving up a 4th-and-1 touchdown to their running back.  I project Davis as a Jim Leonhard-ish starter down the road next to Adams.

The Jets used their final day-two pick on a pass-rusher I wasn't high on in Jabari Zuniga (2).  I also would have liked for them to add another receiver at some point.  For the most part, however, they nailed this draft, mostly because Mims fell so far.  Passing on CeeDee Lamb was probably a mistake, but if Becton and Mims live up to their ceilings, watch out.  In three years it will be clear if Lamb/Josh Jones should have been the move instead of Becton/Mims.

 

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins played the smokescreen game beautifully.  The Chargers basically admitted they wanted Tua, and while there's no proof they had him ranked higher than Justin Herbert, common sense says they were fine with both but preferred Tua.  After all the smoke about Herbert, a tackle, and trade-ups, the Dolphins stood pat at No. 5 and got their franchise quarterback.

Tua Tagovailoa (4) is a fascinating study in draft value as it relates to risk.  Every doctor or agent that came out declaring his injuries as non-stories had an agenda.  There is no doubt that his durability is a huge question mark after suffering a myriad of ailments, including a very serious hip injury, over his short career.  His injury history is horrifying, and if I was a general manager I would have been terrified to take him and terrified to pass on him.  The main reason for concern isn't just about his history, it's about his tendencies on film to hold onto the ball too long or try to make plays that just aren't worth it.

Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray are amazing at not taking unnecessary hits.  They know how to contort their bodies, slide, step out of bounds, and just wisely give up when they need to.  Tua does not have this sixth sense.  The situation reminds me of RGIII coming out.  Amazing prospect, but major concerns about his ability to stay on the field.

As a football player on the actual field, Tua is special.  His best trait is his ball placement, as he mastered the RPO-heavy attack at Alabama, routinely throwing dots to his star-studded receiving corps.  He is athletic and creative outside the structure of the offense, making plays with his eyes downfield.  He also has excellent mechanics which points to coachability. There are some on-field question marks - a terrible pick on the goal line against Tennessee and some missed throws against New Mexico State.  However, his 69.3 career completion percentage and 87/11 touchdown-to-interception ratio are for real.  I don't feel confident predicting his NFL career due to injury concerns as it relates to playing style.  If he's healthy, he'll be a star.

Austin Jackson (2) was a bad pick.  He's young with some upside, but there were much better players on the board at 18.  If any team can afford to take on a project it's Miami right now, but I would have preferred Ezra Cleveland or Josh Jones.  I saw Jackson get beat by a spin move and generally struggle to place his hands.  He has the size and physical ability, but I wanted to see more consistency.  His kickset is natural but he turns his shoulders too much against speed rushers.  I expect him to get victimized early and often.  I don't think he's quick enough.

My final note on Noah Igbinoghene (2): strong and long, get him in zone.  Igbinoghene got beat twice by J'Marr Chase, but also laid the wood on Clyde Edwards-Helaire.  He's physical enough, ran a 4.48, and returned a kick for a touchdown against Arkansas.  His biggest weakness is that he doesn't get his head around down the field.  He'll be much better playing facing the quarterback in zone coverage than in man.  I would have taken one of the safeties over him at 30.

Quick thoughts on their other picks: Robert Hunt (2) could start at guard but isn't powerful enough to be more than average.  Raekwon Davis (3) was highly underrated for stupid reasons like stat production.  He's a starting run-stuffer right away and has all the traits you want.  I thought New England would take him.  Brandon Jones (1) didn't strike me as a pro.  He was a big-time recruit and has some speed, but got beat too much.  I liked Solomon Kindley (2), but his body just might not work, and I noted Curtis Weaver (1) as "one-dimensional, only speed rush" so I'm not hugely surprised by his fall.  He can bend and run the arc, but he has no moves in terms of handwork.  Too jag-ish versus Colorado State for me.

I expect people to warn us about sleeping on the Dolphins, but the reality is they traded a great young safety and great young left tackle that would have been building blocks for Brian Flores.  I expect most of this draft class to underwhelm, but what matters most is Tua's health.  If he can stay healthy, he'll be a franchise quarterback that will keep the Dolphins contending in the AFC East for years to come.  What Flores did with that Miami roster last year was extremely impressive.

 

New England Patriots

My next project is an even more comprehensive updated study on the value of draft picks, which will eventually lead to an evaluation of teams' drafting.  My guess is that it will reveal what I have always thought: Bill Belichick is not a great drafter and is probably below average.  He is the best coach in history and does a phenomenal job of developing a winning culture, but a lot of his draft picks have underwhelmed or busted.  Part of that is due to a small draft board and focus on players that fit their organization specifically.  I did not like this Patriots draft class.  They took a division-two safety, situational edge rusher, the fifth-best player on Alabama's defense, two tight ends, and a probably racist kicker.

Kyle Dugger (3) clearly didn't belong in D-II.  He plays fast, can run and hit, and did some flat-out dominant things on film.  His breaks on the ball were at a different speed, he knocked down tight ends, and had some pick-sixes that made him look like Deion Sanders.  Obviously, it's all about how he'll react to a jump in level of competition.  Dugger's great Senior Bowl week was definitely a huge factor in his ultimate draft slot.  He's not fundamentally there yet, but being mentored by Devin McCourty and coached by Belichick gives him a real chance to develop into a pro bowl player.

I did not see it with Josh Uche (1).  The Iowa offensive line had no problem with him, and the only sack I saw in the games I watched was on a free rush.  Michigan didn't even rush him in big spots.  He's thin with no plan.  His only translatable trait is a great first step, which is not that difficult to mitigate if he has nothing else.  I actually like Anfernee Jennings (2) better.  He's stiff and can't bend, but he's stout at the point of attack and can be a solid stand-up run defender right now.

I thought the Patriots should have taken a shot with one of the quarterbacks, and they drafted two tight ends in a terrible tight end class.  It will be fascinating to see how Belichick fares without Brady, but it wouldn't shock me to see them focus on player development and position themselves for a quarterback in next year's draft.  Their roster just isn't that talented right now.

 

Buffalo Bills

The Bills traded their first-round pick for Stefon Diggs, adding a much-needed weapon for Josh Allen.  They ended up getting huge values, landing the No. 16 player on my board a 54, the No. 54 player on my board at 86, and the No. 65 player on my board at 207!  Teams that draft close to the consensus internet rankings usually end up with better drafts than teams that don't.

A.J.Epenesa (3) has a high floor and terrific film but I wasn't shocked to see him fall to 54.  His poor 3-cone time is extremely disturbing, and teams were clearly spooked by his lack of athleticism.  However, "traits" doesn't always pertain to purely physical attributes, as his football traits are tremendous.  Epenesa looks much twitchier on film than his testing numbers suggest, and his strength is unquestioned.  He walked back the Michigan left tackle, displaying his obvious plus power.  He has a good get-off and his physicality plays in the league.  He can knife in on inside moves and uses his length to make plays.  Probably more of a left end than right end, he's a solid pro edge in the mold of a bigger Patrick Kerney.

Zack Moss (3) made the Utah offense go.  He has the potential to be a true 1A running back for the Bills, but his long injury history clouds his future.  Moss' film is fantastic.  He has terrific burst, change-of-direction, and always falls forward.  His technique is poor but he gets it done in pass protection and as a receiver.  As a pure runner, he's right up there with Jonathan Taylor, and only lacks that home-run long speed.  He's twitchy, patient, and shows quick jump cuts that play in the league.  His lack of production against Texas and Washington did concern me.  I still expect him to unseat Devin Singletary and emerge as a fantasy stalwart assuming he can stay healthy.

I prefer Isaiah Hodgins (3) to Gabriel Davis (2) but I love doubling up on wide receiver in this loaded class.  Hodgins having success would be somewhat of an outlier.  He has the size and tremendous hands, but a lot of his film probably doesn't translate .  He was a double-move beast, but his 4.61 shows.  I'll take a stab with great hands.  Davis played inches off the boundary as an outside receiver at UCF, so he'll need to adjust to real alignments and actual routes at the next level.  He was incredibly productive but doesn't have the speed or technique of anything more than an average pro.  He was schemed for one-on-one matchups against spatially-confused corners.

With a solid head coach and talented roster, the Bills will enter 2020 as the favorites in the AFC East.  Josh Allen's accuracy remains a concern, and with more weapons there will be no excuses.  He needs a big year.  The defense has building block pieces at all three levels and the solid additions of Epenesa and Moss should support the foundation.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more divisions in the coming days.

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2020 NFL Draft Review - NFC East

If you missed the first two installments of this 2020 NFL Draft review series, you can read the AFC North review here and the NFC North review here. Every year after the draft, I write a way-too-long review of each team’s draft. The purpose of this draft review is to give predictions for the careers of each team’s drafted players. I’ve watched film of each player I’m commenting on. Draft grades are overly optimistic and unrealistic. Unlike the majority of post-draft coverage out there, I will pick busts. Keep in mind that 23.4% of all first-round picks bust.

Let me preface this by saying: predicting the career of an NFL draft pick is a ridiculous exercise. There is so much unknown that goes into whether a player succeeds or fails at the next level.  I can make educated guesses based on team situation, supporting cast, and research about the prospect’s character and work ethic, but there’s a reason teams make so many mistakes every year. You simply don’t know for sure how a player will react to being a pro. Injuries are also a huge factor in the fate of a player and impossible to predict accurately. I still write this long prediction article for three reasons:

1 - No one else does it.
2 - It’s more interesting than draft grades.
3 - It’s fun to try to get things right.

 

Overview

Like NFL teams, I’m going to get things wrong. The greatest football mind in history drafted Ryan Mallett and Chad Jackson. I also like to argue against the consensus when my evaluations allow me to. That has gotten me in trouble with some unpopular predictions that turned out to be hilariously wrong. On the flip side, I don’t think anyone else predicted Lamar Jackson would be the best quarterback of his draft class. All of my picks are rooted in comprehensive film study and a mathematical understanding of what drafts typically produce (spoiler: draft grades are unrealistically generous).

Before we start, here are some of my general thoughts on the 2020 NFL Draft.

Quickly on the broadcast - they did a great job given the circumstances. The production quality was great and they did more actual analysis than usual. My main gripe with draft coverage every year is that they don’t show incredible highlights (they somehow didn’t show the Aaron Dobson catch in 2013). This year, they showed more footage of actual football and I appreciated that. The only two negatives for me were the constant tragic stories and Booger McFarland.

Oh, and if any poor soul bet on Justin Jefferson Under 21.5 draft position, ESPN should apologize to you. They showed him on the phone celebrating right before cutting to Goodell announcing the 21st pick - Jalen Reagor to the Eagles. Jefferson was of course on the phone with the Vikings, who took him at 22. Brutal beat.

As for the draft, remember this tweet about mock drafts being “wronger” than ever? Funny, this was probably the chalkiest first-round ever in the internet age. Nothing was truly shocking to me, including the Packers trading up for Jordan Love (more on that here). I had Damon Arnette in the first round in my first mock draft this draft season. I wrote an article lauding Jordyn Brooks as an undervalued commodity. Noah Ibinoghene going in the first was surprising, I suppose. But there was no Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 or Tyson Alualu at No. 10. It speaks to how the media and internet scouts might be catching up to, or God forbid actually influencing the teams.

So here is the first installment of my annual draft review. Each player will receive their career prediction in parentheses following their name. For example: Joe Burrow (5). Here's how the picks break down:

5 – All-Pro: Starter who has performed at an elite level at his position.
4 – Above-Average: Starter who has been among the best at his position.
3 – Solid: Starter or valuable back-up with significant positive production.
2 – Replacement Level: Below-average starter or back-up who made minor contributions.
1 – Bust: Player who didn’t amount to anything positive.

Next up, the NFC East.

 

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles came into the draft with primary needs at wide receiver and inside linebacker.  In a loaded wide receiver class with some really solid day two inside linebacker prospects, they would have to try to mess it up.  According to some, they did just that.

Jalen Reagor (3) was ranked 20th overall on my board and over Justin Jefferson.  I obviously don't think this pick was a mistake.  Reagor's play style is reminiscent of Antonio Brown because of his twitch and ability to make contested catches at his smaller stature.  Reagor struggled with drops a bit, but also had one of the worst quarterback situations of all the receiver prospects.  His play speed looks closer to the sub-4.3 from his make-believe pro day than the turtle-like 4.47 at the combine.  If you knocked him for that "slow" time, it pretty much proves you didn't watch his film.  He's faster than 4.47 and the red flag is that he didn't prepare enough to execute his 40 at the highest level technique-wise.  Back to actual football, Reagor will make a ton of plays as a pro, but continue to drop passes.

In the second round, the Eagles made one of the more shocking picks in recent memory, selecting Alabama back-up - I mean Oklahoma Heisman finalist - Jalen Hurts (2).  I disagree with this pick for one reason - I do not endorse Hurts as a franchise quarterback.  However, under the assumption that the Eagles view him with that potential, it was a wise choice.  Carson Wentz is always banged up, and there's nothing more valuable than a quality quarterback in the NFL.  I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere - THE EAGLES LITERALLY WON THE SUPER BOWL BECAUSE OF THIS POSITION.  It's insurance with upside at the most valuable position in sports on a team with a constantly injured starter.

As for the actual player, Hurts lacks ideal decision-making, tucking as a runner too quickly and showing almost no ability to go through reads at a pro level.  On the "did Manziel make Mike Evans or the other way around" spectrum I lean towards CeeDee Lamb (watch Texas).  His arm strength also isn't ideal, as a lot of his throws outside the numbers, including simple hitches, take an hour to get there.  He has decent touch and accuracy, but his game is based on rushing ability and improvisation.

I knew he would go fairly high in part due to Lamar Jackson's success.  However, I was incredibly high on Jackson because he was an UNREAL runner.  Hurts doesn't have that type of wiggle, speed, or elusiveness.  He can run the heck out of power read though - expect that to be the staple of his rookie year package.

Philadelphia was one of few teams that actually took advantage of the wide receiver depth in this draft.  There is a very low chance they didn't add a quality deep threat after selecting John Hightower (2) and Quez Watkins (3) in addition to Reagor.  Watkins was one of my favorite speedsters after a highly productive career at Southern Miss.  He fights the ball a bit, but his blazing 4.35 speed with that production plays in the NFL.

Hightower was similar on the smurf turf and has upside.  Jack Driscoll (1) did not impress on film.  He's heavy-legged, gets beat by good handwork, and doesn't show particularly good functional strength.  I would give Prince Tega Wanogho (2), a lump of clay who doesn't know how to play yet, more of a chance to be a decent pro.

Despite getting laughed at by many, the Eagles' reasoning in taking Jalen Hurts in the second makes sense.  I'm a proponent of Reagor over Jefferson and loved what they did in the later rounds, including the tripling up on deep speed at receiver.  This class has the potential to pay huge dividends down the line.

 

New York Giants

It's time to admit that Dave Gettleman is a good drafter.  His schtick is easy to make fun of, but I was in favor of the Beckham trade and the decision to draft Saquon Barkley at 2.  I had mixed reactions to last year's picks but Daniel Jones had a promising rookie year.  The Giants came in with a need at tackle, and Gettleman took the most polished offensive lineman in the draft at 4.

Andrew Thomas (4) fell down media draft boards due to over analyzation.  Looking back, we were silly to believe any other of the technically-developing younger tackles would jump him on the Giants draft board.  I had Thomas ranked as my No. 2 tackle (I love the upside of Becton), but this is one where his ultimate draft spot makes me question my ranking.

Thomas was a stalwart on the Georgia offensive line, and generally performed at an extremely high level.  He mostly won the battle with K'Lavon Chaisson, and showed probably the best awareness picking up stunts in this class.  I noted him as a mauler, and highlighted his length as a positive.  He recovers after an initial punch in pass pro and overall shows better technique than the other tackles.  He plays a little high and shows some waist-bending tendencies, but will likely usurp Nate Solder at left tackle and become a solid starter for many years in New Yor- Jersey.

Xavier McKinney's (3) evaluation boils down to one question: does he have the range to play deep?  His 4.65 is a concern, and the film suggests he's more of a strong safety.  The bottom line is that he projects as a quality player who excels most in the box.  The head-scratching part is where they choose to play Jabril Peppers, because he's more comfortable in the box as well.  A sound gameplan can have them both on the field at once in sub-packages, but McKinney's development as a deep safety is a situation to monitor.

As for the rest of their draft, I wasn't particularly high on Matt Peart (2), Darnay Holmes (1), or Shane Lemieux (1).  Peart isn't strong yet but has good athleticism.  I thought he was more of a guard.  There's upside though.  Holmes projects as a slot corner but has slow reaction time, isn't good in off coverage, and gets tossed around because he's so weak.  Lemieux looks powerful against smaller defensive linemen and on double teams but he doesn't have pro traits in terms of his size-power ratio translating.

The Giants got their top-ranked offensive lineman and top-ranked safety.  This is a huge litmus test for their scouting department because it's not very often you get your top pick at two positions.  There will be some chatter about a sneaky Giants team contending in the NFC East, and it will come down to Danny Dimes.  But don't forget that Saquon Barkley has an MVP-caliber year in him.  With their pedestrian defense, it probably won't matter much.

 

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are getting a ton of praise for following the consensus internet big board to make almost all of their picks.  I used to think teams were so much smarter than media and internet scouts.  However, after studying the draft for the past 15 years, it has become clear that teams that make "weird" picks usually end up being wrong and teams that simply take the consensus higher rated players usually end up doing better.

CeeDee Lamb (5) was ranked 5th overall on my board.  I like Jerry Jeudy, and I see Ruggs' potential, but Lamb is a dog.  He's the quintessential WR1 and probably the best run-after-catch receiver I've ever scouted.  Lamb isn't a freak athlete, but neither is Michael Thomas and neither is DeAndre Hopkins.  The Cowboys needed a slot receiver and lucked out in a big way.  Lamb will relegate Amari Cooper to a WR2 in the near future.

Trevon Diggs (3) is an interesting prospect.  He's the brother of Stefon and a gifted football player in the general sense, having actually earned snaps at wide receiver and punt returner at Alabama.  He surely graded out well as a college corner, but the translatable traits don't pop out as positive on film.  There's an awkward mistimed jump to play the ball, struggling to stay in-phase along the boundary, and an overall theme of probably being more comfortable facing forward than backward.  He plays high and I envision him getting beat a lot early in press, but there's upside there and he'll develop nicely in a zone-heavy scheme.

I wasn't huge on Neville Gallimore (2) (notes read: jag-ish, jolted back too much, spin gets home but that doesn't translate), but based on everyone else's board it's a good value at 82.  I also think Bradlee Anae's (1) ultimate draft slot is telling in a bad way.  His sacks don't translate in terms of athletic traits or technique, and he's not big enough for strength to be his best skill.

I did, however, love the Reggie Robinson (3) pick.  He showed out against Michigan State and Oklahoma State with a "sick" pick (goes back to YouTube), great feet, "sticking to the MSU receiver's hip," and "nice play vs the run."  The Michigan State quarterback stopped looking at him after some great breaks on the ball.  It wouldn't surprise me if he ended up being better than Diggs.  Finally, Tyler Biadasz (3) is a badass.  Injuries made him fall, but I liked him better than Cushenberry.  Just a tough Wisconsin center.

The Cowboys killed it, and they needed to.  Cheap young players on rookie contracts will be all they'll be able to afford after they extend Dak Prescott.

 

Washington Redskins

I was not a big Dwayne Haskins fan last year, so I would have strongly considered a quarterback at 2.  In the end, the deciding factor probably had little to do with Haskins and a lot to do with the absolute monster they chose instead.

Here's some hard-hitting in-depth analysis: Chase Young (5) is going to be good.  He doesn't play with the power of some other elite edge rushers, but his twitchiness is just absurd.  Play recognition, hands, inside moves, ability to run the arc, ability to anchor against the run - he has the makings of a hall-of-famer.  The most underrated trait that can be evaluated on college film is balance.  Chase Young has other-worldly balance for his size.  Rumor has it the Wisconsin coaches burned their film against Ohio State.  To say Young wrecked that game would be an understatement.  You know how Derrick Henry was just largely responsible for a deep playoff run?  Chase Young is the Derrick Henry of defensive ends and will do the same for the Redskins in 2025.

In the third round, the Skins took offensive playmaker Antonio Gibson (3) of Memphis.  Gibson played mostly slot receiver for the Tigers and wasn't exactly comfortable running routes.  He still managed to score 14 touchdowns on just 77 career touches, including an absurd touchdown run versus SMU (gif below).  He's a little tight and struggled against better competition like Penn State, but the SMU tape shows off his 4.39 speed and playmaking ability.  I was surprised how seamlessly Tony Pollard made the transition to running back last year.  I don't know if Gibson has that in him, but as a gadget guy and specials contributor early it's worth it to see if you can develop him.

Other picks included Saahdiq Charles (2) who has character issues but pretty good film, and Antonio Gandy-Golden (3), who was a steal at 142 for his size/production mix.  He'll be a surprise contributor this year on the fantasy scene.

The Redskins can thank Daniel Jones for beating them in overtime last year, as that loss locked up the second overall pick.  They'll go through the motions with Dwayne Haskins, but ultimately Ron Rivera will get his own young quarterback to develop during Chase Young's prime.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more divisions in the coming days.

More NFL Draft Analysis




Categories
2020 Fantasy Football & NFL Rookies 2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Keepers & Dynasty Ranks Editor Note NFL Analysis NFL Draft RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

2020 NFL Draft Review: AFC North

If you missed the first installment of this 2020 NFL Draft review series, you can read the NFC North review here. Every year after the draft, I write a way-too-long review of each team’s draft. The purpose of this draft review is to give predictions for the careers of each team’s drafted players. I’ve watched film of each player I’m commenting on. Draft grades are overly optimistic and unrealistic. Unlike the majority of post-draft coverage out there, I will pick busts. Keep in mind that 23.4% of all first-round picks bust.

Let me preface this by saying: predicting the career of an NFL draft pick is a ridiculous exercise. There is so much unknown that goes into whether a player succeeds or fails at the next level.  I can make educated guesses based on team situation, supporting cast, and research about the prospect’s character and work ethic, but there’s a reason teams make so many mistakes every year. You simply don’t know for sure how a player will react to being a pro. Injuries are also a huge factor in the fate of a player and impossible to predict accurately. I still write this long prediction article for three reasons:

1 - No one else does it.
2 - It’s more interesting than draft grades.
3 - It’s fun to try to get things right.

 

Overview

Like NFL teams, I’m going to get things wrong. The greatest football mind in history drafted Ryan Mallett and Chad Jackson. I also like to argue against the consensus when my evaluations allow me to. That has gotten me in trouble with some unpopular predictions that turned out to be hilariously wrong. On the flip side, I don’t think anyone else predicted Lamar Jackson would be the best quarterback of his draft class. All of my picks are rooted in comprehensive film study and a mathematical understanding of what drafts typically produce (spoiler: draft grades are unrealistically generous).

Before we start, here are some of my general thoughts on the 2020 NFL Draft.

Quickly on the broadcast - they did a great job given the circumstances. The production quality was great and they did more actual analysis than usual. My main gripe with draft coverage every year is that they don’t show incredible highlights (they somehow didn’t show the Aaron Dobson catch in 2013). This year, they showed more footage of actual football and I appreciated that. The only two negatives for me were the constant tragic stories and Booger McFarland.

Oh, and if any poor soul bet on Justin Jefferson Under 21.5 draft position, ESPN should apologize to you. They showed him on the phone celebrating right before cutting to Goodell announcing the 21st pick - Jalen Reagor to the Eagles. Jefferson was of course on the phone with the Vikings, who took him at 22. Brutal beat.

As for the draft, remember this tweet about mock drafts being “wronger” than ever? Funny, this was probably the chalkiest first-round ever in the internet age. Nothing was truly shocking to me, including the Packers trading up for Jordan Love (more on that here). I had Damon Arnette in the first round in my first mock draft this draft season. I wrote an article lauding Jordyn Brooks as an undervalued commodity. Noah Ibinoghene going in the first was surprising, I suppose. But there was no Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 or Tyson Alualu at No. 10. It speaks to how the media and internet scouts might be catching up to, or God forbid actually influencing the teams.

So here is the first installment of my annual draft review. Each player will receive their career prediction in parentheses following their name. For example: Joe Burrow (5). Here's how the picks break down:

5 – All-Pro: Starter who has performed at an elite level at his position.
4 – Above-Average: Starter who has been among the best at his position.
3 – Solid: Starter or valuable back-up with significant positive production.
2 – Replacement Level: Below-average starter or back-up who made minor contributions.
1 – Bust: Player who didn’t amount to anything positive.

Next up, the AFC North.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have historically been pretty good at drafting despite having the smallest scouting staff in the league.  With the first pick in each round, they would have had to try to mess this up.  Instead, they had the single best draft in the entire league, drafting the No. 1, No. 14, No. 52, and No. 69 (nice) players on my board.

Joe Burrow lacks the ideal competitiveness after transfer- just kidding.  The Tiger King just had the greatest season in the history of college football, capped off by a dismantling of a Clemson defense with multiple day-one picks.  Joe Burrow (5) is going to be a franchise quarterback and Zac Taylor is a lucky man.  Joe Exotic is being praised everywhere for his poise, accuracy, touch, and athleticism.  What stood out to me on film was his ability to create outside the structure of the offense.  He is dynamic in that he can scramble to run or throw - a defensive coordinator’s nightmare.  LSU even ran him on designed quarterback draws, an indication they were comfortable with his durability.

Burrow’s 2018 obviously wasn’t great (57.8% comp., 16/5 TD/INT), but it’s not smart to question his ball placement after his 2019 film.  His offensive supporting cast was amazing, but it was overwhelmingly obvious that the game moved extremely slowly for him at the highest level of college football.  When the NFL bullets start flying even faster, Burrow will have an easier time adjusting than most quarterbacks.

Tee Higgins (4) may have been the best value in the entire draft.  Higgins’ perceived draft status on the internet was just odd.  From WRU with 28 career touchdowns and undeniably impressive film, Higgins was widely accepted as the 5th-8th best receiver in this class.  Why?  I don’t care much about his lack of timed speed (4.54) as he played fast enough and has other dominant traits.  The only legitimate reason for the lack of respect is his thin body as it relates to durability.  He came up lame a lot on film, and NFL teams are spooked by medical issues.  I am not going to be shy about endorsing this pick.

Tee Higgins has unbelievable hands, body control, and ball-tracking ability in a 6-4, 216-pound frame.  He didn’t look great against Jeff Okudah and Ohio State but was clearly banged up.  There’s also no shame in struggling against Okudah, who’s probably a top-five NFL corner right now.  Joe Burrow to Tee Higgins will be the premiere QB-WR connection in the league by 2023.

Logan Wilson (3) was one of “my guys” and Akeem Davis-Gaither was close (No. 69 on my board).  Wilson was arguably the best coverage linebacker in the draft and is probably not terrible at tackling, considering he tallied 409 (!) of them at Wyoming.  His film was fun to watch, as an off-ball linebacker with ten career picks.  As for Akeem Davis-Gaither (3), he’s light but lightning fast.  His floor is a contributor on specials, but in a pass-happy league with Lamar Jackson running around, his speed plays on defense as well.  He’s not going to take on blocks in a phone booth but he made some wow plays at Appalachian State, constantly finding the ball and getting tackles-for-loss on the edge from his Sam position.  Doubling up on linebacker with two talented prospects was a great strategy.

The Bengals aced this draft.  Loading up on defense will be the priority for the next few years, as they have one of the best young offensive cores in all of football.

 

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens always draft well and this year was no different.  They selected my No. 11 overall player at 28, my top-ranked running back at 55, and four other players in my top-100.  The legacy of Ozzie Newsome lives on.

Patrick Queen (4) showed some inconsistencies on tape in terms of missing tackles and angles and possibly even taking plays off.  However, his highs on film are as impressive as any player in this class, and in the Ravens organization, they feel confident in coaching him up to play at that level consistently.  Put on the National Championship game and Queen looks like the best defensive player on the field.  Put on Texas and watch the goal-line sequence where he almost scores a 99-yard touchdown on third down and then fits up for a 4th-down stuff.  His Auburn tape isn’t as impressive, getting beat by their running back (No. 3) and blocked in space on screen passes.  In Baltimore, he’ll be kept clean and asked to fly around and hit people.  He could not have gone to a better situation.

J.K. Dobbins (3) was my No. 1 running back in this class.  He is a tougher (love a back not wearing gloves) runner than Jonathan Taylor and plays with great contact balance and low pad level.  He has a stiff-arm, ideal burst, and necessary physicality and creativity.  He’ll be a hammer learning from Mark Ingram in Baltimore.  Again, a perfect fit for the Ravens in real football, but probably not the best landing spot for fantasy, at least in the short term.

As for their other picks, the only one I’m not excited about it is Justin Madubuike (2).  He screams Reverse Planet Theory to me, taking advantage of bad guards with splash plays that don’t translate.  Devin Duvernay (3) can be an actually-explosive version of Willie Snead. Malik Harrison (3) is a thumper who can call the defense and make plays. Ben Bredeson (3) was one of my favorite mid-round guard prospects.  I’m very happy Lamar Jackson won MVP last year, and this class will help keep the Ravens among the elite teams in the NFL.

 

Cleveland Browns

The Browns were easy to mock for going into the draft, with two huge needs at left tackle and safety and a fairly stacked roster everywhere else.  They unsurprisingly filled those needs with their first two picks, grabbing arguably the best prospect at both positions.

Jedrick Wills Jr. (3) was not exactly my favorite tackle.  I noted balance issues, which scare me more than anything else for an offensive lineman.  I saw his head snap back too many times, noted some off-target punches, and really scary attempted shoulder blocks.  His traits are all top-notch, including his uncommon lateral agility for his size.  There are winning reps that highlight his strength (grabbing and throwing guys down on speed rushes), but don’t inspire in the way of translatable technique.  He’s a better prospect than Ereck Flowers, but some of his mis-timed and off-balance punches remind me of the Giant bust.  There’s more risk here than people realize, but coaching can take care of the sloppy technique.

Grant Delpit (4) was my favorite safety.  His 2018 film was tremendous, and his 2019 film showed a clearly banged-up player toughing it out to help lead his team to a championship.  Delpit has tremendous change-of-direction skills and great instincts as a center field player.  He is a little sloppy and all-over-the-place, but again not at 100%.  Bottom line is that he gets it done, and the game is slower for him than most.  He’ll start for years to come and make multiple pro bowls.

As for the rest, I didn’t think Jordan Elliot (2) was big enough to be as not-really-that-quick as he was.  Jacob Phillips (2) called the LSU defense and fills a need, but strikes me as more of a special teamer at the pro level.  Harrison Bryant (1) profiles as a possible TE2 but according to my notes “might just be a college dude.”  He had two touchdowns versus Utah’s exclusively NFL-player secondary though.  Finally, Donovan Peoples-Jones (3) falling to 187 made no sense talent-wise so there must be off-field or medical concerns.  He’s raw and the game didn’t come easy to him, but I liked his activity as a blocker and he ran solid routes (comebacks especially).  He showed good hands and has a ton of potential, perhaps even slotting in as the WR3 this season.  I don’t think Shea Patterson is good.

I was never high on Baker Mayfield, but it's easy to be excited about this Browns roster going forward.  There is no real personnel weakness anywhere.  If Mayfield can be coachable and tone down the turnovers, the Browns have enough talent to compete for one of the for-some-reason seven AFC playoff spots.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers essentially used their first-round pick on Minkah Fitzpatrick, who would have easily been the best safety in the draft.  They came into the draft needing a quarterback, tackle, and cornerback, but somehow didn’t select any of those positions.  I wasn’t a huge fan of their haul, which was headlined by one of the most overrated receivers in the draft.

After being burned by Limas Sweed and Sammie Coates, the Steelers went back to the big-and-fast archetype at wide receiver with Chase Claypool (1).  I ultimately labeled him as an “average pro if that” after noting his below-average ankle flexion, tight hips, and general clumsiness.  Claypool’s large hands are fantastic, and he’s obviously very fast, but I wasn’t feeling his film as translatable to the next level.  I love that he was still on the punt unit but I don’t see a high ceiling as an outside receiver against quicker corners.  There were better receivers on the board.

Alex Highsmith (1) was the first of two Charlotte… uh… Bobcats?... selected this year.  Highsmith attempted to tackle Travis Etienne versus Clemson and was run through like a middle-schooler.  Throughout that film, he was quite easily neutralized by the Tigers' left tackle.  He tries really hard, has a decent first step, and can bend just a little.  I’m a big 3-cone guy for edge rushers, and his 7.32 in addition to poor film against Clemson doesn’t help his case.

Every single Anthony McFarland (2) mention starts with his legendary performance against Ohio State in 2018.  Unfortunately looking closer at the film, they simply missed some fits and he exploded on the edge.  He did show some one-cut ability in the open field, but his tape shows someone who is clearly comfortable on the edge, which doesn’t really fit the NFL at all.  McFarland has traits, but the game is difficult for him, getting stuffed on the goal line by Temple, showing bad ball security, and rarely pushing the pile.  He’s a satellite speed guy, which if schemed right can be valuable.

I'm sorry Steelers fans, but this year could be the last dance for Ben Roethlisberger.  Minkah Fitzpatrick is really, really good at least.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more divisions in the coming days.

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2020 Fantasy Football & NFL Rookies 2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Keepers & Dynasty Ranks Editor Note Featured Football #2 NFL Analysis NFL Draft RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

2020 NFL Draft Review: NFC North

Every year after the draft, I write a way-too-long review of each team’s draft. The purpose of this 2020 NFL Draft review series is to give predictions for the careers of each team’s drafted players. I’ve watched film of each player I’m commenting on. Draft grades are overly optimistic and unrealistic. Unlike the majority of post-draft coverage out there, I will pick busts. Keep in mind that 23.4% of all first-round picks bust.

Let me preface this by saying: predicting the career of an NFL draft pick is a ridiculous exercise. There is so much unknown that goes into whether a player succeeds or fails at the next level.  I can make educated guesses based on team situation, supporting cast, and research about the prospect’s character and work ethic, but there’s a reason teams make so many mistakes every year. You simply don’t know for sure how a player will react to being a pro. Injuries are also a huge factor in the fate of a player and impossible to predict accurately. I still write this long prediction article for three reasons:

1 - No one else does it.
2 - It’s more interesting than draft grades.
3 - It’s fun to try to get things right.

 

Overview

Like NFL teams, I’m going to get things wrong. The greatest football mind in history drafted Ryan Mallett and Chad Jackson. I also like to argue against the consensus when my evaluations allow me to. That has gotten me in trouble with some unpopular predictions that turned out to be hilariously wrong. On the flip side, I don’t think anyone else predicted Lamar Jackson would be the best quarterback of his draft class. All of my picks are rooted in comprehensive film study and a mathematical understanding of what drafts typically produce (spoiler: draft grades are unrealistically generous).

Before we start, here are some of my general thoughts on the 2020 NFL Draft.

Quickly on the broadcast - they did a great job given the circumstances. The production quality was great and they did more actual analysis than usual. My main gripe with draft coverage every year is that they don’t show incredible highlights (they somehow didn’t show the Aaron Dobson catch in 2013). This year, they showed more footage of actual football and I appreciated that. The only two negatives for me were the constant tragic stories and Booger McFarland.

Oh, and if any poor soul bet on Justin Jefferson Under 21.5 draft position, ESPN should apologize to you. They showed him on the phone celebrating right before cutting to Goodell announcing the 21st pick - Jalen Reagor to the Eagles. Jefferson was of course on the phone with the Vikings, who took him at 22. Brutal beat.

As for the draft, remember this tweet about mock drafts being “wronger” than ever? Funny, this was probably the chalkiest first-round ever in the internet age. Nothing was truly shocking to me, including the Packers trading up for Jordan Love (more on that later). I had Damon Arnette in the first round in my first mock draft this draft season. I wrote an article lauding Jordyn Brooks as an undervalued commodity. Noah Ibinoghene going in the first was surprising, I suppose. But there was no Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 or Tyson Alualu at No. 10. It speaks to how the media and internet scouts might be catching up to, or God forbid actually influencing the teams.

So here is the first installment of my annual draft review. Each player will receive their career prediction in parentheses following their name. For example: Joe Burrow (5). Here's how the picks break down:

5 – All-Pro: Starter who has performed at an elite level at his position.
4 – Above-Average: Starter who has been among the best at his position.
3 – Solid: Starter or valuable back-up with significant positive production.
2 – Replacement Level: Below-average starter or back-up who made minor contributions.
1 – Bust: Player who didn’t amount to anything positive.

First up, the NFC North.

 

Green Bay Packers

Everyone is talking about the Packers, and rightfully so.  They traded up for a quarterback and with a need at receiver, didn’t select any in arguably the best receiver class of all time.  They are being widely mocked by football fans everywhere for bungling the draft and quite probably infuriating Aaron Rodgers.  The Packers went to the NFC Championship game last year and Rodgers is 36 years old, so they are as win-now as it gets.  So how can anyone defend them trading up for a quarterback?  Very easily, actually.

If your stance is “I don’t believe Jordan Love will become a franchise quarterback” then you have every right to make fun of the pick. What I find humorous is how many people seem so sure Love will fail.  Surely each person meme-ing and gif-ing on twitter has studied Love's film, right?  Because to be clear - if Jordan Love develops into a franchise quarterback at any point for the Packers, then this pick will have been one of the best in the entire draft.  It’s only fair to criticize the pick because of conviction about the player.  It makes no sense to argue they don’t need a quarterback.  There is nothing more valuable than a franchise quarterback, and again, Rodgers is 36.

So I don’t believe the Packers should be the laughingstock of the league for picking Love.  It is fascinating that the overwhelming sentiment is that they screwed this up, which is funny considering how difficult and unpredictable the draft is.  Jordan Love has tremendous potential, and the Packers took a shot that could result in 10+ years of being set at the most important position.

Having actually done the work on him, I begrudgingly have to agree with the negative feedback because I do not believe Jordan Love (2) will develop into a franchise quarterback.  Love has Mahomes-ish arm talent and athleticism.  He has a smooth delivery, good pocket awareness, and throws well on the move.  The physical traits are there, as few human beings in the world can deliver missiles with a flick-of-the-wrist like Love.  He also processes information quickly enough and shows flashes of progressing through reads quite well.  It is reasonable for a team to watch his film and project that he can make NFL-level reads and decisions.  When you mix that with his arm talent, all it takes is an interview that sells his intelligence (27 on the Wonderlic) and football character for a team to fall in love.

However, there is one glaring issue in his game that I just can’t get over - his ball placement.  He too frequently misplaces easy throws - flats, bubbles, slants, stick routes - including a bad pick on a corner route against Wake Forest.  He also ended that game with a pick, unable to place the ball over a linebacker.  These missed placements re-occur frequently on his 2019 tape.  His accuracy (think a pitcher’s control) isn’t poor, especially when his feet are right.  But his placement (think a pitcher’s command) is substandard.

For what it’s worth, I had similar concerns with Patrick Mahomes’ inconsistent ball placement coming out.  I just didn’t know he was a football savant.  I don’t think Love is Mahomes but his traits-profile and style are similar.  Any discussion about Love should include the disparity between his 2018 performance (64% comp. 9.4 YPA, 32/6 TD/INT) and 2019 performance (61.9% comp., 6.4 YPA, 20/17 TD/INT).  Losing coaches and talent around him is the explanation, but the contrast is quite jarring.  If I loved Love, I’d be happily defending this pick on all corners of the internet.  I just don’t love Love.  I wonder how fans would have reacted if this pick was Tua instead....

In the second round, the Packers passed on a myriad of talented receivers for a bruising two-down workhorse back.  This pick is less defensible than taking a quarterback, but I try to understand what teams are thinking.  Clearly, they believe A.J. Dillon can be an impact player.  I had Dillon ranked 93rd overall, but I do recognize his skillset as valuable.  He's a 97th percentile SPARQ athlete with home run speed (4.53 40) at 247 pounds.  He has excellent vision and can be punishing in a four-minute offense.  Fantasy players want Aaron Jones to play most snaps and get 25 touches a game, but it makes sense to keep him fresher, use him on passing downs, and sit the plodding Jamaal Williams on the bench.

This picks further fortifies a strong position group, an underrated strategy in the draft.  The arguments against this pick are valid - positional value, lack of passing-game help, other Green Bay needs.  However, it’s also fair to recognize A.J. Dillon (3) as an impact back.  It wasn’t my favorite pick, but to me, the draft is more about player than position, and Dillon will be a solid pro.  I’m also not fully on board with the vocal analytics folks who think running backs aren’t valuable at all.

In the third, the Packers again surprised by adding an H-back/tight end in Josiah Deguara (1) from Cincinnati.  After investing a top-75 pick in Jace Sternberger last year, the Packers again looked towards the future.  Deguara likely won’t do much in 2020, but this pick sets up their 12-personnel for the Jordan Love era.  Deguara can block a bit and catches the ball well, but he wasn’t even in my top 200 players in a poor tight end class.  Draft slot has me thinking a bit, but I’m going to pick him to be one of many non-factors in this draft.

The Packers did nothing to help Aaron Rodgers at wide receiver in a loaded receiver class.  They also failed to improve a run defense that was shredded in the NFC Championship game by San Francisco.  Instead, they chose to address their 2022 offense.  I agree with the overall sentiment that this was a poor draft, but only because I predict Jordan Love will fail.  If he lives up to his potential, then this draft class will go down as one of the best.

 

Minnesota Vikings

Manipulating the draft to make 16 picks was brilliant.  There is so much uncertainty for the upcoming season so the Vikings opted to secure who they wanted rather than relying on the rat-race of remote undrafted free agency.  Depending on when the season begins, adding veteran free agents and having try-outs may be more challenging this year.  Minnesota made the smart move in adding 16 rookies that they can bring up to speed on their terms through potential virtual practices and meetings.  Making 16 picks is also great work because of statistics.  The vast majority of draft picks end up being worthless.  Simply, the more you make, the better your chances of finding contributors.

I ranked Justin Jefferson (2) lower than most (9th-ranked receiver in this class), so I don’t view this pick as some outrageous value.  I had Jefferson ranked as the 32nd-best player in this class, so I wouldn’t even call it a great pick.   Jefferson has the traits of a very good pro receiver, but I fear he may be more Jordan Matthews than people realize.  I consistently ranked Jalen Reagor over Jefferson, and knowing the Eagles did as well leads me to believe I may have been on to something.

Jefferson’s film was dominating at times, but scouting players is about projecting what translates rather than evaluating college performance.  LSU put Jefferson in the slot and let him work the middle of the field on RPOs and embarrass less-athletic safeties, linebackers, and nickels on “be-better” routes like slot fades.  He has good hands and athletic traits, but I don’t see his film translating into a dominant pro.  His route-running needs work, reaching too much on breaks, and there’s little evidence of him beating press on the outside.  50% of all picks from 21-32 result in a replacement-level player or bust.  I’ll go out on a limb and predict a guy I wasn’t super high on underperforms at the next level.

Jeff Gladney (3) was my third-ranked corner and 30th-ranked player overall.  He’s feisty with quick feet and plays with tremendous competitiveness and physicality.  I wrote “Jalen Ramsey” in my notes before looking up his measurables (5-10, 191).  I obviously think he plays much bigger than his size.  Or I need new glasses.  I went back for a second look on Gladney and wasn’t nearly as impressed.  He’s a little clumsy and not much of a technician.  He has success just being a twitchy athlete and aggressive, which isn’t a great sign as he’ll lose that advantage in the NFL.  He also dropped the ball before the end zone after a pick-six a la DeSean Jackson.  Still, I believe he’ll be a solid starter and go to exactly two pro bowls.

Ezra Cleveland (3) was a steal.  He’s glorious in pass protection and has unreal athleticism for his size.  His ability to mirror is unmatched in this class.  Cleveland’s biggest weakness is his lack of strength, but with the right strength program he can improve there.  One of my favorite plays was watching him chase down and tackle a defender after an interception.

Cameron Dantzler (2) was my 8th-ranked corner.  He ran a 4.64 at just 188 pounds and has messy hands, but I liked his film otherwise.  He’s competitive and makes plays, including sacking both Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa for some reason.  He’s thin but doesn’t care.  I just don’t know if he has the recovery speed to start and there were too many missed tackles on film.

James Lynch (3) was a legitimate steal in the fourth round.  He dominated overmatched Big 12 tackles but has the type of strength and power that plays in the league.  He can contribute at five-technique as he puts on more weight.  He’s obviously not a 10-plus sack-a-year type at the pro level.  Troy Dye (2) wore a club in the Pac-12 championship game and is physical.  He’s just not that explosive and is more try-hard than traits-rich.

The Vikings deserve a lot of credit for this haul.  It will be extremely interesting to go back and look at how many of their 16 picks are still there in two years.

 

Chicago Bears

The biggest Bears news of the weekend was the report that they won't pick up Mitch Trubisky's fifth-year option.  Chicago made two franchise-defining moves that used up a ton of draft capital over a four-year span - trading up for Trubisky and trading for Khalil Mack.  Mack came back down to earth after a ferocious first year in Chicago, but should be a force for a couple more seasons.  Trubisky, on the other hand, has regressed and given the team very little confidence.  He'll compete with the enigmatic Nick Foles, who is as bipolar as players get.

The NFL Draft is the most important roster-building day on the NFL calendar, but this Bears class is probably the least consequential of all 32 teams.  If they nailed it, so what?  They get a starting tight end, starting corner, rotational edge player, and rotational deep threat?  And if they bombed it, so what?  What matters is their quarterback competition and head coach performance.

I used to believe prospects were destined to fail or succeed.  I thought how lucky the Steelers were for having players like Big Ben and Heath Miller "fall" to them every year.  The reality is that some programs develop players better.  The Bears are at a crossroads with Matt Nagy, who last season saw his offense regress and defense unable to overcome the loss of Vic Fangio.  Point is, these draft picks may be walking into a lame-duck situation, which isn't good for anyone.

To further annoy Bears fans, I have to be honest that I was much lower on their first three selections than the consensus.  I thought Cole Kmet (2) was the single most overrated prospect in the entire draft.  My notes include the words "weak" and "soft."  He showed poorly as a blocker against Virginia with no pop in his hands, struggled to get off second-level collisions, and lacked great balance - arguably the most important trait for any player.  Kmet is big with good hands but I really don't see his game translating to anything more than an average player.  There's a reason this tight end class was universally knocked as weak.

In the second they went with Jaylon Johnson (1), who I had as my 10th-ranked cornerback. Johnson gained some steam as a potential first-round pick, but I just didn't like his film.  He pretty much lost Utah the game against USC, giving up an early TD because he lost his balance and getting flagged for a game-sealing defensive pass interference because he couldn't get his head around.  His film showed poor balance, late reactions, missed tackles, and worst of all - questionable effort, especially against BYU.  He has the feet and length to stay with receivers, but I want him in cover three and that's it.  Late eyes and questionable balance are deal-breakers for defensive backs.

As for their other picks, I will give Darnell Mooney (3) a shot to be a deep threat.  He can't block and is probably too weak to do anything right now, but his speed absolutely plays.  All he did at Tulane was run slants and go routes so it will take some time.  Trevis Gipson (2) jars the ball loose frequently but everything just looks too difficult versus Oklahoma State and Texas.  Hustle sacks are great in terms of college performance but provide no confidence in terms of translatable traits.

A few years ago, I correctly predicted the Bears would be a surprise playoff team.  You'll be shocked to read that this year I won't.

 

Detroit Lions

The Lions draft class makes it pretty obvious Matt Patricia is fighting for his job this year.  Their first two picks are ready to challenge for rookie of the year from day one, they added a 22-year old edge-rusher and two guards who can play right away.  Help is here and Matthew Stafford is healthy - Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn will not survive another bottom-10 finish.

Jeff Okudah (5) is an NFL shutdown corner right now.  He has it all, including the necessary swagger.  What will separate him at the next level is his physicality and aggressiveness.  He can "motor" (align pressed and stay with his man without making contact with his hands) or shoot his inside hand at the line to throw off timing.  With his traits and instincts, I expect him to be a top-five corner in the league in his rookie year.

D'Andre Swift (3) is as fun as it gets.  My favorite note is that he makes the game look easy.  Certain players are able to be so comfortable at the college level that it is evident on film how slow the game is moving for them.  Swift does some things with the ball that prove that point, like spin out of tackles for loss and cross up safeties in the open field like Allen Iverson.  He's also awesome in the passing game as a receiver and blocker.  The Lions haven't found a foundation back since Barry Sanders and they are hoping D'Andre Swift can be just that.

I think he has that upside, but his film concerns me as well.  Swift is more comfortable in space, taking advantage of huge holes and perimeter stuff that simply won't be there in the NFL.  He's more Sony Michel than Nick Chubb, and didn't show much creativity or tackle-breaking inside.  He'll have no issue being a complementary back, but runners who are comfortable in space often struggle to transition to the pro game where there is none.  No outcome would surprise me but I think a Reggie Bush-like pro career is where he settles in.

I did not love Julian Okwara (2) on film.  He looked good against frumpy tackles, but my notes read "yikes vs UGA."  He was frequently driven back in that game, including by a wide receiver.  His pass-rushing wins were with pure athleticism rather than translatable moves.

Jonah Jackson (3) was good in pass protection and showed ideal aggressiveness.  I didn't see him get enough movement in the run game for me to be excited but he's a possible starter.  Logan Stenberg (4) on the other hand was one of my five favorite prospects in the entire draft.  He has an ugly body and below-average athleticism but his film is fun to watch.  He'll struggle with quickness sometimes but he's tough and strong and showed well against Georgia on film.  He's a huge reason Benny Snell and Lynn Bowden had so much success.  I project him as a quality starter.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the other divisions in the coming days.

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2020 Fantasy Football & NFL Rookies 2020 Fantasy Football Advice Editor Note NFL Analysis NFL Draft RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Day Two NFL Mock Draft (Rounds 2-3)

Welcome to day two of the 2020 NFL Draft. The first round is in the books, but the draft is just heating up. The second and third rounds are opportunities for teams to add potential starters and fill needs.

There are still high-upside prospects on the board, especially at running back, wide receiver, offensive tackle, and safety. Expect more movement on the trade front, as decision-makers will have had all day to make deals.

This mock draft is a projection of what I think will happen tonight.  Click here for my top 100 and undervalued players and here for my top 50 players with write-ups.

 

Round 2

33. Bengals - Cole Kmet - TE, Notre Dame
The Bengals need more weapons for Joe Burrow, especially at tight end. Most believe Cole Kmet is the best tight end in the draft.

34. Colts (f/WAS) - Denzel Mims - WR, Baylor
It's quite surprising that a player with the profile of Denzel Mims fell to the second round. He won't be available very long.

35. Lions - Yetur Gross-Matos - EDGE, Penn St.
The Lions added to the third level of their defense with Jeff Okudah. Yetur Gross-Matos can help apply some pressure on quarterbacks and set the edge in the run game.

36. Giants - Matt Hennessy - C, Temple
After adding Andrew Thomas at tackle with the fourth overall pick, the Giants solidify their offensive line even more with one of the best interior prospects in this class.

37. Patriots (f/LAC) - Raekwon Davis - DT, Alabama
The Patriots had no problem trading down all the way to pick No. 37. They may have been targeting an impact defensive lineman like Raekwon Davis.

38. Panthers - Trevon Diggs - CB, Alabama
Trevon Diggs fell out of the first round but has the talent to develop into a starting corner. Diggs is the brother of Stefon and actually played some wide receiver at Alabama.

39. Dolphins - Jonathan Taylor - RB, Wisconsin
The Dolphins will surely use one of their many picks on a running back. Jonathan Taylor is arguably the best pure runner in this class and should still be available.

40. Texans (f/ARI) - Ross Blacklock - DT, TCU
The Texans traded for Brandin Cooks but still may go receiver here if they move on from Keke Coutee. They also need help along the defensive line, though, so Blacklock makes sense.

41. Browns - Xavier McKinney - S, Alabama
The Browns luck out and have their top-ranked safety in the draft fall into their laps.

42. Jaguars - Michael Pittman Jr. - WR, USC
After addressing the defense in the first round, the Jaguars opt for a big-bodied target for Gardner Minshew.

43. Bears (f/LVR) - A.J. Epenesa - DE, Iowa
The Bears stop A.J. Epenesa's surprising slide. Epenesa's poor 3-cone time is a bad sign but his film shows strength at the point of attack.

44. Colts - Kristian Fulton - CB, LSU
After getting a first-round talent at wide receiver, the Colts fill a need with a highly productive and talented cornerback.

45. Buccaneers - D'Andre Swift - RB, Georgia
The Bucs wanted to go defense here but decide they can't pass on the talents of D'Andre Swift. Swift's pass-catching ability makes him a perfect fit in Tom Brady's offense.

46. Broncos - John Simpson - OG, Clemson
Simpson is not always technique-sound or balanced, but he has mauler capabilities on the inside.

47. Falcons - Neville Gallimore - DT, Oklahoma
Despite rumors they would trade up, the Falcons stand pat and add another talented young piece to an underachieving defense.

48. Jets - Tee Higgins - WR, Clemson
The Jets took the risk with Mekhi Becton in the first round, probably in part due to the receiver depth of this class. Tee Higgins has WR1 written all over him and is slipping due to durability concerns.

49. Steelers - Ezra Cleveland - OT, Boise State
The Steelers need a tackle and did not expect Ezra Cleveland to fall this far.

50. Bears - Antoine Winfield Jr. - S, Minnesota
The Bears could use a safety opposite Eddie Jackson, and Antoine Winfield Jr. can play free safety or slot corner.

51. Cowboys - Jaylon Johnson - CB, Utah
After filling a need at slot receiver in the first round, the Cowboys upgrade the secondary with Jaylon Johnson.

52. Rams - Zack Baun - EDGE, Wisconsin
The Rams need help on the defensive line and at linebacker. There are questions about whether Zack Baun is an edge-player or off-ball linebacker, but there's no denying he's a quality football player.

53. Eagles - Logan Wilson - LB, Wyoming
Logan Wilson had over 400 tackles at Wyoming and the Eagles need help at linebacker.

54. Bills - J.K. Dobbins - RB, Ohio St.
Regardless of the constant debate about running back value, J.K. Dobbins is a quality football player that fits Buffalo's tough, physical style.

55. Ravens (f/NE t/ATL) - Laviska Shenault Jr. - WR, Colorado
It's no secret the Ravens want to keep adding weapons for Lamar Jackson. Laviska Shenault Jr. is one of the most explosive players in this draft.

56. Dolphins (f/NO) - Grant Delpit - S, LSU
Good players will undoubtedly fall further than expected. In this projection, the Dolphins steal a sliding Grant Delpit to be a starting safety for years to come.

57. Rams (f/HOU) - Lloyd Cushenberry - C, LSU
The Rams need a center and Lloyd Cushenberry was the leader of the National Champion LSU Tigers' offensive line.

58. Vikings - Josh Jones - OT, Houston
While the Vikings don't have a glaring need at tackle right now, they can't pass up the value of Josh Jones outside the top-50.

59. Seahawks - Lucas Niang - OT, TCU
The Seahawks need a right tackle. Lucas Niang doesn't have the best-looking body, but he gets it done.

60. Ravens - Cam Akers - RB, Florida St.
Mark Ingram is going to be 31 next season and the Ravens surely don't want to run Lamar Jackson as much as they did last year.

61. Titans - Marlon Davidson - DL, Auburn
The Titans worked on the offensive line in the first round, so go to the trenches on the defensive side of the ball with their second pick.

62. Packers - K.J. Hamler - WR, Penn St.
The Packers add a legitimate deep threat for Aaron Rodgers... and Jordan Love.

63. Chiefs (f/SF) - Bryce Hall - CB, Virginia
Bryce Hall flashes on film.  If he can stay healthy, he can be a starter in the NFL.

64. Seahawks (f/KC) - Lynn Bowden Jr. - WR, Kentucky
In a mild surprise, the Seahawks add to their offensive weaponry with the explosive and versatile Lynn Bowden Jr.

 

Round 3

65. Bengals - Malik Harrison - LB, Ohio State

66. Redskins - Jeremy Chinn - S, Southern Illinois

67. Lions - Prince Tega Wanogho - OT, Auburn

68. Jets (f/NYG) - Chase Claypool - WR, Notre Dame

69. Panthers - Kyle Dugger - S, Lenoir-Rhyne

70. Dolphins - Darrell Taylor - EDGE, Tennessee

71. Patriots (f/LAC) - Jonathan Greenard - EDGE, Florida

72. Cardinals - Bradlee Anae - EDGE, Utah

73. Jaguars - Jalen Hurts - QB, Oklahoma

74. Browns - Julian Okwara - EDGE, Notre Dame

75. Colts - Curtis Weaver - EDGE, Boise State

76. Buccaneers - Josh Uche - EDGE, Michigan

77. Broncos - Willie Gay Jr. - LB, Mississippi St.         

78. Falcons - Akeem Davis-Gaither - LB, App. St.

79. Jets - Alex Highsmith - EDGE, Charlotte

80. Raiders - Netane Muti - OG, Fresno St.

81. Raiders (f/CHI) - Jacob Eason - QB, Washington

82. Cowboys - Ashtyn Davis - S, Cal

83. Broncos (f/PIT) - Terrell Burgess - SCB, Utah

84. Rams - Matt Peart - OT, Connecticut

85. Lions (f/PHI) - Zack Moss - RB, Utah

86. Bills - Reggie Robinson II - CB, Tulsa

87. Patriots - Van Jefferson - WR, Florida

88. Saints - Antonio Gibson - WR, Memphis

89. Vikings - Bryan Edwards - WR, South Carolina 

90. Texans - Damien Lewis - OG, LSU

91. Raiders (f/SEA) - Devin Duvernay - WR, Texas

92. Ravens - Jordan Elliot - DL, Missouri

93. Titans - Terrell Lewis - EDGE, Alabama

94. Packers - Davon Hamilton - DT, Ohio St.

95. Broncos (f/SF) - Donovan Peoples-Jones - WR, Michigan

96. Chiefs - Cameron Dantzler - CB, Mississippi St.

97. Browns (f/HOU)* - Troy Dye - LB, Oregon

98. Patriots* - Amik Robertson - CB, La. Tech

99. Giants* - Alton Robinson - EDGE, Syracuse

100. Patriots* - Antonio Gandy-Golden - WR, Liberty

101. Seahawks* - Justin Madubuike - DL, Texas A&M

102. Steelers* - Josiah Scott - CB, Michigan St.

103. Eagles* - Brandon Jones - S, Texas

104. Rams* - John Hightower - WR, Boise St.

105. Vikings* - Tony Pride Jr. - CB, Notre Dame

106. Ravens* - Jonah Jackson - OG, Ohio St.

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Final 2020 NFL Mock Draft

It’s draft day! Hopeful NFL fans are optimistic and excited, ready for their favorite team to ace the draft. For some fanbases, the reality may be more disappointing. Part of the fun of the NFL Draft is the uncertainty of it. "Chalk" mock drafts rarely turn out to be even remotely accurate.

Creating a mock draft for accuracy is usually an exercise in futility. After the first trade, the whole thing usually crumbles. No matter how much scouting, research, and Vegas line-reading someone can do - mocks are tough. So why make one? Because that's just what draftniks do.

This is my final stab at it. You can also see my Mock Draft 1.0 and Mock Draft 2.0. These NFL Draft projections are what I believe will happen tonight, not what I would do if I were making the picks.

 

Round One - The Top 10

1. Bengals - Joe Burrow - QB, LSU

Joe Burrow is probably on Day 14 of install at this point.

2.Redskins - Chase Young - EDGE, Ohio St.

Chase Young will help give the Redskins one of the best defensive lines in football next year.

Projected Trade – Dolphins get pick No. 3.  Lions get picks No. 5 and No. 39.

3. Dolphins (f/DET) - Tua Tagovailoa - QB, Alabama

It doesn't make any sense for the Dolphins to make this move for anyone but Tua Tagovailoa.

4. Giants - Tristan Wirfs - OT, Iowa

The Giants go with Tristan Wirfs because of his right tackle experience and athleticism.

5. Lions (f/MIA) - Derrick Brown - DT, Auburn

The Lions could go Jeff Okudah here, but reports say they are high on Derrick Brown. 

Projected Trade – Falcons get pick No. 6.  Chargers get picks No. 16, No. 47 and a 2021 1st-round pick.

6. Falcons (f/LAC) - Jeff Okudah - CB, Ohio State

Rumors are swirling about the Falcons trading up for an impact defender.

7. Panthers - Isaiah Simmons - LB, Clemson

The Panthers need help at safety and linebacker.  Isaiah Simmons can play safety and linebacker.

8. Cardinals - Andrew Thomas - OT, Georgia

The Cardinals could go C.J. Henderson here, but decide Andrew Thomas is the best player available.

Projected Trade – Buccaneers get pick No. 9.  Jaguars get picks No. 14 and No. 45.

9. Buccaneers (f/ARI) - Jedrick Wills Jr. - OT, Alabama

The Buccaneers need to protect Tom BradyJedrick Wills Jr. gave up just one sack at Alabama.

Projected Trade – Eagles get pick No. 10.  Browns get picks No. 21, No. 53, and No. 103.

10. Eagles (f/CLE) - CeeDee Lamb - WR, Oklahoma

This draft is deep at wide receiver, but the Eagles jump the Jets for Carson Wentz’s future WR1.

 

Round One - #11-20

11. Jets - Mekhi Becton - OT, Louisville

The Jets miss out on Lamb so go tackle before focusing on receivers on day two.

12. Raiders - C.J. Henderson 

The Raiders have a need at cornerback and C.J. Henderson has shutdown potential.

13. 49ers (f/IND) - Henry Ruggs III - WR, Alabama

The 49ers go with the speedy teammate of Jerry Jeudy due to question marks about Jeudy’s knee.

14. Jaguars (f/TB) - Javon Kinlaw - DT, S. Carolina

The Jaguars wanted Javon Kinlaw all along and add some extra picks in the process.

15. Broncos - Justin Jefferson - WR, LSU

The Broncos need an outside wide receiver and a slot wide receiver.  Justin Jefferson can play both.  Not at the same time, though.  I think.

16. Chargers (f/ATL) - K'Lavon Chaisson - EDGE, LSU

The Chargers move down and pass on a quarterback for a high-upside pass-rusher.

17. Cowboys - Jerry Jeudy - WR, Alabama

The Cowboys are thrilled to land a sliding Leon Lett - I mean Jerry Jeudy.

18. Dolphins (f/PIT) - Xavier McKinney - S, Alabama

The Dolphins add a starting safety with a pick they got for trading a starting safety.

19. Raiders (f/CHI) - Denzel Mims - WR, Baylor

The Raiders can't pass on the dominant traits of Denzel Mims.

20. Jaguars (f/LAR) - Trevon Diggs - CB, Alabama

Trevon Diggs is rising up boards as the Jaguars continue to re-tool their defense.

 

Round One - #21-32

21. Browns (f/PHI) - Ezra Cleveland - OT, Boise St.

Ezra Cleveland lands in Cleveland as the Browns stockpile picks.

22. Vikings (f/BUF) - A.J. Terrell - CB, Clemson

The Vikings have a desperate need at cornerback.

23. Patriots - Justin Herbert - QB, Oregon

In the 2011 NFL Draft, Bill Belichick used the 74th overall pick on Ryan Mallett.  Justin Herbert is like Ryan Mallett, but if he had a scantron.

24. Saints - Kenneth Murray - LB, Oklahoma

Kenneth Murray can step in and call the defense for Dennis Allen on day one.

25. Vikings - Michael Pittman Jr. - WR, USC

In a surprise pick, Michael Pittman Jr. and strong hands go to Minnesota.

26. Dolphins (f/HOU) - Jonathan Taylor - RB, Wisconsin

Brian Flores comes from New England, where a pounding early-down running back has some value.  Jonathan Taylor can be the Dolphins non-terrible version of Sony Michel.

27. Seahawks - Austin Jackson - OT, USC

When this pick turns out to be Cam Akers or Zack Moss, Seahawks fans will still defend John Schneider.  Schneider had an all-time great draft in 2012, but hasn’t hit on a first-round pick once since then.

28. Ravens - Patrick Queen - LB, LSU

Patrick Queen won’t call the defense, but he’ll run really fast and hit people, which fits the Ravens style.

29. Titans - A.J. Epenesa - EDGE, Iowa

A.J. Epenesa’s poor three-cone time might be a bad omen, but his toughness and length fit in well with Mike Vrabel’s smashmouth tendencies.

30. Packers - Jalen Reagor - WR, TCU

The Packers need a deep threat for Aaron Rodgers.  Jalen Reagor has speed to burn.

Projected Trade – Chargers get pick No. 31.  49ers get picks No. 37 and No. 71.

31. Chargers (f/SF) - Jalen Hurts - QB, Oklahoma

Lamar Jackson may have changed the way teams evaluate running quarterbacks.  The Bolts trade up to get the fifth-year option on Jalen Hurts.

32. Chiefs - Cesar Ruiz - C, Michigan

It makes perfect sense for a team that lacks speed like the Chiefs want to move up for Henry Ruggs III.  That turns out to be smoke as they stay put and add yet another slow-footed player to their anemic offense.

 

Round 2

  1. Bengals - Cole Kmet - TE, Notre Dame
  2. Colts (f/WAS) - Jordan Love - QB, Utah St.
  3. Lions - Yetur Gross-Matos -EDGE, Penn St.
  4. Giants - Matt Hennessy - C, Temple
  5. 49ers (f/LAC) - Kristian Fulton - CB, LSU
  6. Panthers - Jordyn Brooks - LB, Texas Tech
  7. Lions (f/MIA) - D'Andre Swift - RB, Georgia
  8. Texans (f/ARI) - Curtis Weaver - EDGE, Boise State
  9. Browns - Antoine Winfield Jr. - S, Minnesota
  10. Jaguars - Isaiah Wilson - OT, Georgia
  11. Bears (f/LVR) - Grant Delpit - S, LSU
  12. Colts - Damon Arnette - CB, Ohio St.
  13. Jaguars (f/TB) - Jonathan Greenard - EDGE, Florida
  14. Broncos - Malik Harrison - LB, Ohio St.
  15. Chargers (f/ATL) - Brandon Aiyuk - WR, Arizona St.
  16. Jets - Tee Higgins - WR, Clemson
  17. Steelers - Jaylon Johnson - CB, Utah
  18. Bears - Josh Jones - OT, Houston
  19. Cowboys - Jeff Gladney - CB, TCU
  20. Rams - Zack Baun - EDGE, Wisconsin
  21. Browns (f/PHI) - Neville Gallimore - DL, Oklahoma
  22. Bills - J.K. Dobbins - RB, Ohio St.
  23. Ravens (f/NE t/ATL) - Ross Blacklock - DL, TCU
  24. Dolphins (f/NO) - Lloyd Cushenberry - C, LSU
  25. Rams (f/HOU) - Terrell Burgess - SCB, Utah
  26. Vikings - Josh Jones - OT, Houston
  27. Seahawks - Cam Akers - RB, Florida St.
  28. Ravens - Laviska Shenault Jr. - WR, Colorado
  29. Titans - Raekwon Davis DL Alabama            
  30. Packers - Logan Wilson LB Wyoming
  31. Chiefs (f/SF) - Clyde Edwards-Helaire - RB, LSU
  32. Seahawks (f/KC) - Darrell Taylor - EDGE, Tennessee

 

Round 3                               

  1. Bengals - Julian Okwara - EDGE, Notre Dame
  2. Redskins - Jeremy Chinn - S, Southern Illinois
  3. Lions - Lucas Niang - OT, TCU
  4. Jets (f/NYG) - Josh Uche - EDGE, Michigan
  5. Panthers - Kyle Dugger - S, Lenoir-Rhyne
  6. Dolphins - Jordan Elliot - DL, Missouri
  7. 49ers (f/LAC) - Justin Madubuike - DL, Texas A&M
  8. Cardinals - K.J. Hamler - WR, Penn St.
  9. Jaguars - Bryan Edwards - WR, S. Carolina
  10. Browns - Damien Lewis - OG, LSU
  11. Colts - Tyler Johnson - WR, Minnesota
  12. Buccaneers - Marlon Davidson - EDGE, Auburn
  13. Broncos Noah Igbinoghene CB       Auburn          
  14. Falcons - Davon Hamilton - DT, Ohio St.
  15. Jets - Lynn Bowden Jr. - WR, Kentucky
  16. Raiders - Jacob Eason - QB, Washington
  17. Raiders (f/CHI) - Chase Claypool - WR, Notre Dame
  18. Cowboys - Ashtyn Davis - S, Cal
  19. Broncos (f/PIT) - Ben Bartch - OG, St. Josephs
  20. Rams - Matt Peart - OT, Connecticut
  21. Lions (f/PHI) - Zack Moss - RB, Utah
  22. Bills - Bryce Hall - CB, Virginia
  23. Patriots - Anfernee Jennings - EDGE, Alabama
  24. Saints - Antonio Gibson - WR, Memphis
  25. Vikings - Reggie Robinson II - CB, Tulsa
  26. Texans - Jason Strowbridge - DT, North Carolina
  27. Raiders (f/SEA) - Jonah Jackson - OG, Ohio St.
  28. Ravens - Jabari Zuniga - EDGE, Florida
  29. Titans - Devin Duvernay - WR, Texas
  30. Packers - James Lynch - DL, Baylor
  31. Broncos (f/SF) - Donovan Peoples-Jones - WR, Michigan
  32. Chiefs - Cameron Dantzler - CB, Mississippi St.
  33. Browns (f/HOU)* - Amik Robertson - CB, La. Tech
  34. Patriots* - Alton Robinson - EDGE, Syracuse
  35. Giants* - Terrell Lewis - EDGE, Alabama
  36. Patriots* - Antonio Gandy-Golden - WR, Liberty
  37. Seahawks* - Nick Harris - C, Washington
  38. Steelers* - Saahdiq Charles - OT, LSU
  39. Browns (f/PHI)* - Akeem Davis-Gaither - LB, App. State
  40. Rams* - Van Jefferson - WR, Florida
  41. Vikings* - Isaiah Hodgins - WR, Oregon St.
  42. Ravens* - John Simpson - OG, Clemson

 

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2020 NFL Draft Prospects: Top 50 Rankings

The 2020 NFL Draft is right around the corner.  This draft class is headlined by a Heisman Trophy-winning signal-caller and a beastly Buckeye defender. There's a potential franchise-changer with durability concerns and a true shutdown cornerback. Deep at wide receiver and offensive tackle, the 2020 class features more future stars than usual.

The purpose of my top 50 is to rank prospects based on how I would set up my draft board if I were an NFL General Manager. These rankings have nothing to do with where I expect players to be drafted. The rankings are original and homemade, as I don't read any other scouting reports before watching the film of each prospect.

My rankings are based on critical film study, research, and statistics. I'm a lifelong draftnik with NCAA coaching experience. My assessments don't always agree with the general consensus, but every opinion is rooted in thorough study of each prospect. Here is my first top-50 list for the 2020 NFL Draft.

 

Top 10 NFL Draft Prospects

1. Joe Burrow - QB, LSU

The Tiger King is the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. He throws a beautiful deep ball, is terrific against pressure, and has the athleticism to be dynamic with his legs. His production speaks for itself and his command of Joe Brady’s offense was nothing short of masterful. A minor nitpick is that he does hold on to the ball too long at times. He had personnel and coaching advantages at LSU, so with a level playing field, the game won’t be as easy for him. Joe Burrow projects as a franchise-changing player and potential league MVP with the right supporting cast.

2. Chase Young - EDGE, Ohio State

Six years ago, Jadaveon Clowney was billed as a generational pass-rushing prospect. Chase Young is better. His quickness and balance are outstanding, and his fast and dismissive hands stand out on film. He wrecked the Wisconsin game and showed some inside moves that were just bananas. He can look human against offensive tackles with length, but college offensive coordinators did not want to leave him 1-on-1 for good reason. All-Pro selections are in his future.

3. Justin Herbert - QB, Oregon

Justin Herbert gets more unfair criticism than any prospect in recent memory. There are legitimate concerns about his inconsistency with ball placement, but he has nearly everything you want in a franchise quarterback. Herbert is huge and athletic with a great arm but misses high a lot, a la Cam Newton at Auburn. Coming from Oregon’s spread offense will be a transition, but by all accounts, Herbert is extremely intelligent. Some scouts have pointed to his intelligence as a possible negative for being “too smart”, which is ridiculous. Others think he underachieved in the leadership department with the talent around him.

The film shows all the physical traits – size, athleticism, arm strength, eye manipulation, ball-handling. More impressive was how much his coaches trusted him, and on certain plays how well he read the full field. Keeping his eyes downfield, throwing on the run, and hitting targets outside the numbers were all positives. Get him a tight end with some height and he’s a potential franchise QB.

4. Isaiah Simmons - LB, Clemson

Isaiah Simmons is the definition of do-it-all defender, making plays at safety, cornerback, linebacker, and nickel for Clemson. He’s a terrific tackler with an uncommon blend of fluid hips and speed for his size. The only question is what position room he’ll be in on day one of minicamp.

5. Ceedee Lamb - WR, Oklahoma

CeeDee Lamb is a run-after-catch master. He is slippery and elusive with the ball in his hands and might be the best RAC receiver I’ve scouted in 15 years. With terrific hands and a nose for the end zone, Lamb should seamlessly transition from a WR1 in college to a WR1 in the pros.

6. Jeffrey Okudah - CB, Ohio St.

Jeffrey Okudah is the premier cover man in this year’s class. He has excellent instincts and football intelligence, and the necessary swagger for a shutdown cornerback. He’s not perfect as there are instances on film of giving up some separation, but all the tools are there to live up to a high pick.

7. Kenneth Murray - LB, Oklahoma

Kenneth Murray’s best attribute is his tackling technique. He applies the clamp, finish, and roll to perfection when bringing ball carriers to the ground. His play speed and instincts are also outstanding. He’s not a perfect player as sometimes he’ll be a little out of control, but he’s a better prospect than Devin White was last year.

8. Patrick Queen - LB, LSU

Some NFL teams won’t have Patrick Queen on their board due to outdated, rigid size requirements. At just 6-0, 229, he won’t stand a chance against most pro linemen in a phone booth. However, his ridiculous speed allows him to mess up offensive line angles and get to spots quicker in the run game. He’s adept in coverage with uncommon ankle flexion and had tremendous tape versus Texas (two goal line stops) and Clemson. His Auburn tape wasn’t up to par but for a run-and-hit linebacker, the traits are there to be a difference-maker in the NFL.

9. K'Lavon Chaisson - EDGE, LSU

K'Lavon Chaisson is a classic boom-or-bust prospect. He has all the tools to be an outstanding pass rusher, but his college production just wasn’t typical of a top prospect. He’s raw and thin with an above-average burst and the highly coveted ability to bend around the edge. As you can see below, he showed power against Oklahoma's left tackle and got to the quarterback on a stunt starting from the C-gap to the A-gap.

He also executed a spin move multiple times. He had a few highlight hits and was terrific at showcasing his ridiculous athleticism in pursuit. It’s important to separate college performance (just 6.5 sacks) from projecting traits. He’s oozing with upside at only 20 years old.

10. Mekhi Becton - OT, Louisville

Scouting NFL prospects is about evaluating player traits rather than college performance. Mekhi Becton is a mammoth ball of clay that a good NFL offensive line coach can mold into an All-Pro. His foot-quickness for his size is unbelievable. 360-plus-pound humans should not be able to move like him. He’s raw but a dream to work with and his film shows obvious promise. I’m not as high on this offensive tackle class as most, but Becton is my No. 1 due to upside. Keeping his weight in check will define his career.

 

NFL Draft Prospects #11-20

11. Tua Tagovailoa - QB, Alabama

Tua Tagovailoa's injury history is horrifying. Fans don’t realize how much NFL teams value availability and durability. Yet at some point, it’s simply worth the risk. Tua has special film and displays the ball placement skills of a franchise quarterback. He is intelligent, audibling at the line to get numbers in the run game. He displays textbook mechanics and he showed well against LSU in a loss. However, it is fair to wonder how he’ll react to a transition from a dream-world Alabama offense to the more difficult NFL.

His tape wasn’t flawless, including a terrible interception versus Tennessee and a few awkward off-target screens. His success will be defined by his ability to stay on the field. If I was picking in the top five, I would be simultaneously scared to pass on him and terrified to take him due to durability concerns.

12. Jerry Jeudy - WR, Alabama

Jerry Jeudy is a route-runner-extraordinaire who understands breakpoints and different types of cuts at the top of routes better than most receivers. Linebackers and safeties can’t touch him with his quickness and he has legitimate deep threat speed. He has easy natural hands and tracks the ball well. Jeudy lacks ideal size and physicality, especially for an outside receiver, and dominated mostly from the slot at Alabama. It’s fair to wonder if a transition to outside receiver full-time would come with some struggles in beating press and working against physical NFL corners.

13. Tee Higgins - WR, Clemson

Tee Higgins has two major question marks. First, his tape against Jeff Okudah and Ohio State is underwhelming. Second, he had some injury issues and seemed to pull up lame way too often with this slender frame. Fortunately for him, most of his tape is outstanding, and teams should know that Okudah is probably a top-five NFL CB in his rookie year. Higgins plays fast enough and has outstanding ball skills. His highlights feature incredible catches, including toe-tapping in the end zone and winning contested catches on the boundary. Higgins has all the tools of a WR1, the key for him will be staying healthy. His film shows a natural, unteachable ability to receive footballs on gameday. It will translate well to the pros.

14. C.J. Henderson - CB, Florida

C.J. Henderson has the feet and eyes of a shutdown corner. He showed the ability to look-and-lean against Justin Jefferson from LSU. He knows how to jam at the line of scrimmage. The major flaw in his game is missing tackles. Defenses that are sound against the run would welcome Henderson with open arms. He can cover inside and outside, just don’t expect much help in the run game.

15. A.J. Epenesa - EDGE, Iowa

A.J. Epenesa is twitchy, big, long, and strong. He’s probably more of a left end than right end in the traditional sense, as his speed rushing chops aren’t elite. He knifes into the backfield frequently on film, and walks back offensive linemen in the run game. He’s an easy NFL starter.

16. Javon Kinlaw - DT, South Carolina

I’m always leery of fun, penetrating interior defensive linemen, especially those with inconsistencies on film. They do all of their work against interior offensive linemen who are the relative worst players on the field in college football. Still, Javon Kinlaw has the traits of a great pro. He’s powerful and plays his gap well in the run game. When his get-off is on time, it’s terrific. He can push back guards, get his hands in passing lanes, but has a lot of reps where he’s stonewalled. My personal favorite play on film was the blocked field goal versus North Carolina. He can definitely start in the NFL.

17. Bryan Edwards - WR, South Carolina

Last year, I ranked Deebo Samuel in the top-16 when most had him in the 40-50 range. Bryan Edwards will make it two years in a row with a South Carolina receiver ranked much higher than the consensus. Edwards broke his foot last season and was unable to perform at the combine, but his film is outstanding. Besides his health, he plays a little high, has poor ball security, and a bunch of miscommunications with his quarterback while working the boundary. That’s about where the negatives end.

Edwards has terrific quickness for his size and is the prototype WR1 in terms of traits. His hands are excellent, he’s above average at tracking the football, and his blocking and run-after-catch prowess separate him from most other receivers in this class. He’s going to be a major steal if he can stay healthy.

18. Jalen Reagor - WR, TCU

Jalen Reagor had a rough combine showing. Drops and missed hand placements in the drills were especially concerning. Many expected him to run sub-4.4, so his 4.47 was disappointing to most. However, running that “slow” is more a reflection on his lack of preparation for the test rather than a damning revelation that he’s not that fast. 4.47 is plenty fast enough, but he plays faster on film. Reagor has play speed that typically leaves Big 12 defenders in the dust and an uncommon ability to win contested catches at his smallish stature. He can leap, track the football, and has the innate playmaker trait. There’s little evidence on film of him beating press and running advanced routes, but his play style is reminiscent of Antonio Brown.

19. Josh Jones - OT, Houston

Josh Jones moves well for his size and has steady tape. He’s not flashy and didn’t have the marquee matchups against the best pass rushers in the country, but did his job well against his competition. He can vertical set well, finish plays, and shows some mobility on frequent screens in the Houston offense. Simply put, he wins his matchups. He should be a pro for a long time.

20. Henry Ruggs III - WR, Alabama

Henry Ruggs III displays his 4.27 speed on tape, especially after the catch as he routinely cribs slants. He’s not a one-trick pony as his large hands and body control allow him to make high difficulty and diving catches on film. He’s a decent blocker with some nastiness to his game and most believe he’ll be more productive as a pro than he was in a crowded Alabama receiver room. As with most receiver prospects, it's fair to question his ability to beat press and run NFL routes. There just isn’t much evidence of those two skills on film.

 

NFL Draft Prospects #21-30

21. Jeff Gladney - CB, TCU

Jeff Gladney is my No. 3 CB mainly due to his standout physicality. Scheme fit is important for most corner prospects, and Gladney would likely excel in a more zone-heavy defensive system. He does a tremendous job as a cover-two corner, getting depth on drops and making plays in the hole on the boundary. Although he’s not a technician, his foot quickness is well above average. He’s constantly communicating on film and shows great effort. His tools remind me of Jalen Ramsey but his flaws remind me of Justin Gilbert.  He plays bigger than 5-10, 191. Get him in a zone scheme and coach him up.

22. Brandon Aiyuk - WR, Arizona St.

Brandon Aiyuk has the innate playmaker trait. He’s a little clumsy and has some sloppy releases at the line, but he’s plenty fast enough for his playmaking to translate to the NFL. Aiyuk has strong hands and knows how to get in and out of breaks at the top of routes. He projects as a solid route-runner with some power in contested catch situations. His style is reminiscent of Dez Bryant.

23. Andrew Thomas - OT, Georgia

Andrew Thomas is a quality football player, but it’s fair to wonder how well his traits translate to the next level. The main concern is his lack of knee bend and how high he plays, even just in his stance. He’s a mauler, but he’s not quick at all. He’s a high-character and steady player, but his best fit might be at right tackle.

25. J.K. Dobbins - RB, Ohio St.

Some guys are easy to scout. It would be shocking if J.K. Dobbins wasn’t a quality NFL back. He’s a hammer who runs with low pads and has a great burst. I love his stiff arms and ability to be creative when the hole isn’t obvious. Not wearing gloves in bad weather is just icing on the cake when scouting a tough runner like Dobbins. There is fantasy value in his immediate future.

26. Grant Delpit - S, LSU

Grant Delpit’s 2018 film was better than his 2019 film in large part due to a high-ankle sprain. He still did enough to help his team win the National Championship and put himself in the conversation for best safety in the draft. Delpit’s feet aren’t super quick and he too often slips and is off balance. Given the ankle injury, it’s not surprising that he’s a little sloppy and all over the place. Directly from my notes: he just gets it done. He’ll be a starting safety in the NFL.

27. Jedrick Wills Jr. - OT, Alabama

Jedrick Wills Jr. is ranked much higher on most other boards. The film shows issues with his technique that brings up bad memories of scouting Erik Flowers. Some of his winning reps show him grab and pull down smaller ends. He’s off-balance with his punch too often. It’s jarring when a possible top-ten pick gets jolted back by smaller defenders. Wills does a good job to reset and moves well laterally, but he's not a slam dunk franchise left tackle. Shoulder blocking and lack of every down alertness are also concerns. His best fit is in a gap-scheme heavy running attack.

28. Derrick Brown - DT, Auburn

Beware the lovable penetrating interior defensive lineman. Most have the disruptive Brown ranked in their top five, but there are some issues on film with consistency and control. Brown is a gigantic force who, when he plays with good technique and low leverage, impacts both the run and pass game. However, a lot of his positive plays just don’t translate. He’s going up against weaker interior linemen, many of whom won’t sniff the NFL. Upon entering the league, he’ll be up against former tackles and the best guards in the world. Some of his splash plays on turnovers and hustle sacks just aren’t transferrable to the next level.

Some point to his stoutness against double teams as a huge positive, yet there are many clips against Oregon and Alabama where he struggles. There’s a chance he hones his craft and lives up to a top-10 selection, the film shows flaws. He could be a nose tackle in the NFL, which isn’t great positional value in the first round. And yes, the pile-driver tackle versus UCF was sweet.

29. Tristan Wirfs - OT, Iowa

Tristan Wirfs is tough to get a grasp on because his athletic traits don’t always marry up to his football traits. For example, his timed foot speed for his size is amazing, yet he labors at times and struggles dealing with quick players shooting gaps in the run game. He displays an excellent ability to mirror, but too many times shows below-average play strength and gets jolted back in pass sets. A lot of his Michigan film is rough. His handwork is on-point and he has loads of potential, but the film doesn’t show great balance which is one of the first things that scouts look for in an offensive lineman prospect.

30. Jacob Eason - QB, Washington

Jacob Eason clearly benefited from a tremendous offensive line, but decision-makers will still love how quickly he gets the ball out of his hands. Coaches will love some of the pro concepts he threw and how well he handled the ball from under center in terms of play-action and footwork. His arm talent is excellent and he loves fitting in his slants. His balls have energy on the back-end.

With his lack of mobility outside the pocket, Eason has a much smaller margin of error than quarterbacks who can make plays with their legs. However, some of his film is very promising and shows an ability to deal with pressure well. Against Oregon, Eason looked like a first-round pick. But his issues with deep ball placement in other games is Dwayne Haskins-like and could cause him to go in the second round.

 

NFL Draft Prospects #31-40

31. Xavier McKinney - S, Alabama

Xavier McKinney is a classic second-round safety who has the potential to start in the NFL for a long time. He is more comfortable in the box than deep but he is a very opportunistic player and most importantly, a great tackler. His 4.63 40 speaks to the main question – does he have the range to be a Pro Bowl player?

32. Denzel Mims - WR, Baylor

Denzel Mims has all the traits teams want and is outstanding at high-pointing the football. He’s physical with great hands and showed flashes of brilliance at Baylor. There’s some risk though, as he’s raw with sloppy technique and rounds a lot of his cuts. His WR1 potential is undeniable based on his traits.

33. Clyde Edwards-Helaire - RB, LSU

Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the second coming of Maurice Jones-Drew. NFL teams will love his skills in the passing game even more than his ability as a runner. He is somewhat of a short-stepper who didn’t show too well against the future pros on Georgia’s defense. But his film versus Alabama was sensational. He showed some nasty tackle-breaking and pile-pushing against the Crimson Tide, highlighting his feistiness and fire. His competitiveness shines on tape – an underrated trait to look for when scouting.

34. Justin Jefferson - WR, LSU

Justin Jefferson’s production and skillset make him a probable first-round wideout with potential fantasy stardom from the jump. His performance versus Oklahoma was legendary, and he ran faster at the combine than most thought he would. However, looking deeper at the tape there are legitimate reasons to question the smoothness of his transition to the NFL. Jefferson played mostly from the slot at LSU, and his coaching staff did a masterful job putting him in situations to just run slot fades and be better than inferior corners, safeties, and linebackers. He made a killing working the middle on RPOs and had some issues with reaching on speed cuts in the quick game. Drafting Jefferson to be an outside WR will take a leap of faith in teaching him better technique and essentially a whole new position.

35. Bryce Hall - CB, Virginia

Bryce Hall needs a medical check but his film shows a potential NFL starter. He’s violent and physical with active hands that he’ll need to learn how to fight with and not get flagged. He executed a late look-and-lean and got his head around to break up a pass along the boundary against Duke. They loved blitzing him at Virginia and he made a ton of splash plays. He’s a long playmaking corner in the Chris Gamble mold.

36. Trevon Diggs - CB, Alabama

Trevon Diggs’ evaluation is simple. His best fit is in a cover three scheme, and he’s going to have his struggles in man coverage. Diggs may have graded out well at Alabama, but it's fair to question how well he can cover pro receivers. He plays too high and mistimes his jumps when the ball is in the air. His length and history as a wide receiver make him a worthwhile project, but expect him to get beat a lot early in his NFL career.

37. Tyler Johnson - WR, Minnesota

Tyler Johnson is a gifted natural receiver. He may not be amazing at creating separation, and he’s not the otherworldly athlete some of the other receivers in this class are. But from a ball-skills, suddenness, and confidence perspective he’s on the Tyler Boyd-to-Larry Fitzgerald spectrum. His timed speed is unknown and he isn’t a dominating physical presence but a team will be lucky to add a pure football player like him to their receiver room. His highlight tape is a clinic in difficult catches.

38. K.J. Hamler - WR, Penn St.

When a player’s only glaring question mark is size, he can be a tremendous value due to outdated positional requirement philosophies. Tarik Cohen comes to mind, and K.J. Hamler is a similar offensive weapon. Hamler is tiny and it’s fair to wonder how much he can produce as a body-catcher who shouldn’t be taking too many hits. His tape is impressive, and his best game came against Ohio State in 2018. He knows how to run slot fades and made some tremendous difficult catches on film.

39. Yetur Gross-Matos - EDGE, Penn St.

Yetur Gross-Matos has some pop in his hands and sets the edge nicely. He’s more linear than quick and bendy but can be a plus run defender. The film shows some good inside rip moves but not much in translatable edge pressures. There’s a lot of hustle sacks that just won’t translate to the next level, but he has the potential to add to his pass-rushing arsenal as he develops in the NFL.

40. Ross Blacklock - DL, TCU

Ross Blacklock’s film screams traditional nose tackle, but he only weighed in at 290 pounds at the combine. He fires out of his four-point stance with great leverage and shows the strength to play his gap. He has a nice rip move inside that he showcased against Purdue, but generally struggled to display much juice as a pass rusher versus Texas. He’s a pro interior defensive lineman for sure.

 

NFL Draft Prospects #41-50

41. Zack Baun - LB, Wisconsin

Zack Baun is a terrific pure football player but doesn’t have the film of a top edge rusher. His projection is based on a defensive coordinator putting him in positions to use his football intelligence and athleticism to wreak havoc and make plays. He may be better suited as an off-ball linebacker because he is too often stifled on the edge versus technique-sound tackles like those at Michigan State. His edge-rushing might not translate to the next level, but his tape against Nebraska shows a penchant for being disruptive. He might get blocked by tight ends and driven back by one-arm punches from stronger tackles, but his athleticism makes him a worthwhile defensive chess piece.

42. D'Andre Swift - RB, Georgia

D'Andre Swift is an elusive back with decent contact balance who excels best in open space. He’s a natural playmaker with added value as a passing game asset as a blocker and receiver. The game comes easy to him as he shows some creativity that can’t be taught including a spin move in the backfield to get away from an unblocked defender and a crossover on a safety to break his ankles in the open field.

While his upside is undeniable, his projection is tricky. He’s more Sony Michel than Nick Chubb in terms of physicality and inside running style, and backs who are more comfortable with a space advantage against slower college players sometimes struggle to be more than situational players in the NFL. Swift has high upside but more risk to underwhelm than J.K. Dobbins.

43. Kristian Fulton - CB, LSU

Kristian Fulton is another example of a prospect with a track record of great college performance but not necessarily that best traits. Fulton got it done as the boundary corner for the best team in college football, but his sloppy technique and inability to get his head around when defending verticals could scare some teams off. He’s athletically gifted but not super strong, getting beat in the red zone too much. There are better corner prospects in this class.

44. Laviska Shenault Jr. - WR, Colorado

Laviska Shenault is Cordarrelle Patterson with better natural receiver skills. Dynamic at Colorado, he has uncommon strength and explosiveness for an outside receiver. His coaches trusted him on 4th-and-2 end-arounds and he was generally the best player on the field in most games. However, his film shows an unpolished player with flaws in his game. He had a few bad offensive pass interference penalties, struggled at times to track the deep ball, and a few concentration drops. The ability is there, but when you add durability concerns with his lack of polish, you get a high-risk prospect.

45.  Jordan Elliot - DL, Missouri

Jordan Elliot ran an impressive 5.02 40 at 302 pounds at the combine. He flashes the ability to shed blockers and make plays in the run game. However, his testing results don’t match the film. Elliot is not big enough to have average-to-below average quickness. He’s too reactionary and didn’t flash much of a pass-rushing arsenal on the inside. His film looks more like a Day 3 than Day 2 pick.

46. Jordan Love - QB, Utah St.

Jordan Love’s physical tools and upside compare favorably to Patrick Mahomes as a prospect. He spins it as well as anyone with tremendous velocity and the ability to create and throw on the run. His awareness and projected ability to read defenses is promising on film as well. The glaring negative is his inconsistent ball placement. He has decent accuracy (think a baseball pitcher’s control) but his placement (think a baseball pitcher’s command) is all over the place, missing easy screens and quick game way too often. For what it’s worth, I had similar concerns with Mahomes coming out. Love’s upside is enormous, but the placement issues might be too much for him to live up to it.

47. Jonathan Taylor - RB, Wisconsin

Jonathan Taylor is an instinctive runner with the natural ability to change speeds and use his vision to find creases. He has home-run speed and incredible college production. However, it will be difficult for teams to go all-in on a player at the most replaceable position in football with his history of fumbling, lack of value in the passing game, and so much tread on his tires. Those who defend him will point to his workload as a positive for being so durable. He's simply not special enough to ignore the question marks. His film, particularly versus Illinois, is more solid than spectacular.

48. Cesar Ruiz - C, Michigan

Cesar Ruiz is an easy pro center with a long career ahead of him. He showed some confusion early against Iowa, but overall, his awareness is solid. He gets up to linebackers on combo blocks well and keeps square and stout in pass protection. It’s unlikely he develops into an all-pro, but his floor is very high.

49. Ashtyn Davis - S, Cal

Ashtyn Davis is ranked highest of the second-tier safety prospects in this class behind Grant Delpit and Xavier McKinney. He’s smooth and instinctive with the speed to break on the ball from his center field spot. He’s versatile and strong enough to show some pop as a blitzer. There are some instances on film that make you question if he has what it takes to be a starting NFL safety, including a bad angle on 4th-and-1 to give up a TD against Washington. He also didn’t run a 40 due to a groin injury, which will impact his stock.

50. Kyler Dugger - S, Lenoir-Rhyne

Kyle Dugger barely edges out Antoine Winfield Jr. for the final spot in my Top 50. The former Division II star has 4.49 speed that plays in the NFL and a special teams floor that NFL coaches will love. He is not on a professional level fundamentally, but as a ball of clay, he can become a starting safety with good coaching. His film shows him moving at a different speed than other D-II players.

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2020 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

With the NFL Draft just one week away, smokescreen season is upon us. Most mock drafters agree on the top three picks, but the draft gets fascinating at pick No. 4.  The Giants could trade the pick to a team looking for a quarterback or sit tight and take the best offensive lineman or defensive player available.

At No. 5, The Miami Dolphins are rumored to covet Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, but many in the media believe Tua Tagovailoa is the better prospect. Rumors about Tua’s medical concerns are swirling, which could result in a surprising draft-day slide.

The purpose of this Mock Draft is to project the selections as I believe they will happen on draft day. These projections have nothing to do with my personal rankings and do not reflect what I would do if I were each team. This article will be updated in the coming days. Remember that shocking picks and trades will inevitably happen. As such, there are a few projected surprises below. You can check out other NFL mock drafts from our RotoBaller staff as well.

 

Round 1

1. Bengals - Joe Burrow - QB, LSU

The Bengals burrowed for Burrow and the Tiger King goes to Cincinnati. Joe Exotic had one of the best single seasons ever for a college QB and will start his career with a decent supporting cast around him. Burrow is fantastic against pressure, throws a beautiful deep ball, and has the ball placement of a franchise QB. A nitpick against him would be that he holds the ball too long sometimes. Carole killed her husband.

2. Redskins - Chase Young - EDGE, Ohio St.

Last year, the Cardinals made the smart decision to jettison Josh Rosen and use a second consecutive top-10 pick on a quarterback.  The position is just too important, and Kyler Murray was too good to pass up.  The Redskins situation with Dwayne Haskins is different for one main reason - Chase Young.  Young is the best edge-rushing prospect since Jadaveon Clowney.  He has incredible traits and was a monster for Ohio State.  If there wasn't a generational talent at the top of this draft, Tua Tagovailoa would have likely been the pick.  Ron Rivera and the Skins will go to battle next season with Dwayne Haskins behind center and one of the best defensive lines in football.

3. Lions -  Jeff Okudah - CB, Ohio St.

After trading away Darius Slay, the Lions have a gaping hole at cornerback. Jeff Okudah is the best corner in the draft and will immediately give Detroit a shutdown presence on the outside. Okudah has advanced man coverage skills and swagger to match.

4. Giants - Tristan Wirfs - OT, Iowa

The Week 16 overtime win against the Redskins was the highlight of Daniel Jones' rookie campaign.  Unfortunately, that win will likely cost the Giants Chase Young.  General Manager Dave Gettleman rarely trades down. This slot is prime real estate for teams vying for a quarterback, but expect the G-Men to stay put and draft the top offensive lineman on their board. In this projection, it’s Tristan Wirfs. The former Iowa Hawkeye has experience at right tackle, which will allow Nate Solder to stay at left tackle. Wirfs is athletically gifted and has big-time upside if he can clean up some technique.

5. Dolphins – Justin Herbert – QB, Oregon

The Dolphins have a ton of draft capital and a need at quarterback. If any of the teams picking in the top four want to trade down, Miami can easily move up to secure their preferred non-Burrow QB.  Herbert has almost everything teams look for in a franchise QB, and may be suffering from some prospect fatigue having been a big name at Oregon for three-plus years. His mobility and arm talent make him a potential star, but questions about his transition from the Oregon spread offense and inconsistent ball placement linger.

6. Chargers - Isaiah Simmons - LB, Clemson

The decisions the Chargers make in this draft will determine the fate of the franchise for years to come. Head Coach Anthony Lynn is reportedly high on current starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, but it’s very possible the Chargers go with a QB here.  In this projection, they choose to wait on quarterback and take the best player available in Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons. Simmons is a defensive chess piece that can play linebacker, safety, or nickel.

7. Panthers - Derrick Brown - DT, Auburn

The Panthers have a huge need on the defensive line and Derrick Brown is commonly ranked as the top defensive lineman in this draft. He showed flashes of dominance at Auburn and can disrupt both the run and pass. In a rebuilding year, Carolina should look to add a building block regardless of position. This just happens to be a case where value matches up with need.

8. Cardinals - Jedrick Wills Jr. - OT, Alabama

After stealing DeAndre Hopkins from the Texans, Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals add a potential franchise left tackle. Protecting Kyler Murray and adding defensive talent should be their two main goals for this draft. Jedrick Wills Jr. is by no means a perfect prospect, but he has the tools to develop into a quality blindside protector for the dynamic, diminutive Murray.

9. Jaguars – C.J. Henderson – CB, Florida

Gardner Minshew showed flashes (and stashes) as a starter for the Jaguars last year, but if Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa is on the board, they may not be able to pass.  In this projection, they go with one of the steadiest risers in this class.  C.J. Henderson is a smooth cover-corner with lockdown potential.

10. Browns – Mekhi Becton - OT, Louisville

The Browns have a gaping hole at left tackle and Mekhi Becton would fill it and then some.  Becton is enormous in stature and upside. He is insanely athletic for his size and shows flashes of brilliance on film. Keeping his weight in check will define his career.

11. Jets - CeeDee Lamb - WR, Oklahoma

The Jets have glaring needs at outside wide receiver and offensive tackle. They will likely select the best receiver or tackle on the board, and in this projection, it’s CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma. Lamb is a run-after-catch machine with off-the-charts production and competitiveness. He can immediately step in and be Sam Darnold’s No. 1 weapon.

12. Raiders – Henry Ruggs III – WR, Alabama

The Raiders will likely target a wide receiver with this pick, especially if C.J.Henderson is off the board.  Henry Ruggs III has incredible speed (4.27 40), and a nice mix of strong hands and tenacity. He played second-fiddle to Jerry Jeudy at Alabama but has the tools to blossom into a WR1 with Derek Carr in Las Vegas.

13. 49ers (f/IND) - Jerry Jeudy - WR, Alabama

After trading away DeForest Buckner, some believe the 49ers will target defensive line with this pick. They could also use a receiver, and Jerry Jeudy is an immediate upgrade in the slot. Jimmy Garoppolo has a strong rushing attack, George Kittle, and Deebo Samuel, but little else in terms of weapons. Jeudy is a route-runner extraordinaire with great hands, speed, and quickness.

14. Buccaneers – Andrew Thomas – OT, Georgia

Many expect the Buccaneers to focus on right tackle in the first round. Andrew Thomas of Georgia is a sound, high-character player who can step in and start right away.

15. Broncos – Justin Jefferson – WR, LSU

The Broncos need wide receivers and no pass-catcher has upped his stock more than Justin Jefferson of LSU. Jefferson dominated at Oklahoma and pleasantly surprised scouts with a 4.43 40. He operated mostly out of the slot at LSU, but has the potential to be an outside threat as well for Drew Lock.

16. Falcons – A.J. Epenesa – EDGE, Iowa

It seems that every year the Falcons need help on defense. A.J. Epenesa from Iowa is big, strong, and twitchy, and has the motor and pass-rushing skills to help bolster the Falcons Defense.  The Matt Ryan window is slowly closing, and Epenesa can help right away.

Projected Trade – Dolphins get pick No. 17. Cowboys get picks No. 26, 56, and 173.

17. Dolphins - K'Lavon Chaisson - EDGE, LSU

The Dolphins trade up to add a potential star for Brian Flores’ defense.  K’Lavon Chaisson is the second-best edge player in the draft. He possesses all the physical traits of a disruptive pro pass-rusher and is oozing with upside at just 20 years old.

18. Dolphins (f/PIT) – Josh Jones - OT, Houston

After adding a franchise quarterback at No. 5, the Dolphins use No. 18 on his blindside protector. Laremy Tunsil was traded to the Texans so there is a huge hole at left tackle in Miami.  Josh Jones of Houston was solid against relatively mediocre college competition but possesses all the traits that translate to the pro game.

19. Raiders (f/CHI) – A.J. Terrell – CB, Clemson

The Raiders have a need at cornerback but with C.J. Henderson and Jeff Okudah off the board, they may have to reach a bit. Last year General Manager Mike Mayock drafted Clemson EDGE Clelin Ferrell much higher than expected. He could do the same this year with Clemson corner A.J. Terrell. Terrell was exposed a bit versus the beastly receivers at LSU, but generally shows good press-man skills on film.

20. Jaguars (f/LAR) - Javon Kinlaw - DT, S. Carolina

It’s crazy that just three years ago the Jaguars were a missed call away from beating the Patriots in the AFC Championship. Blake Bortles and Tom Coughlin are gone, but somehow Doug Marrone has survived. Finding a quarterback should be priority No. 1, but re-tooling the defense is a close second. Javon Kinlaw is a penetrating defensive tackle with great burst and the ability to shoot gaps in the run game. He has added value as a potential contributor on special teams, having flashed the ability to block field goals at South Carolina.

Projected Trade – Patriots get pick No. 21.  Eagles get pick No. 23 and a 2021 3rd-round pick. 

21. Patriots (f/PHI) – Tua Tagovailoa - QB, Alabama

In this projection, Tua Tagovailoa falls the same way many quarterbacks have before him. If the Dolphins truly prefer Justin Herbert, Tua sliding is not out of the question. The Raiders could choose to roll with Derek Carr, while the Jaguars and Chargers appear to be high on Gardner Minshew and Tyrod Taylor respectively. Obviously, the main factor in a Tua free-fall would be his medical history.

If there was ever a time for Bill Belichick to trade up, this would be it. The Belichick-Nick Saban connection is there and Tom Brady is gone. Tua has the film of a franchise signal-caller, but his draft day destiny is clouded by injury concerns.

22. Vikings (f/BUF) – Denzel Mims - WR, Baylor

The Vikings traded Stefon Diggs to the Bills and have a glaring need at receiver. Denzel Mims isn’t the most polished prospect, but his tools are tantalizing. Mims has the potential to develop into a beastly outside complement to Adam Thielen in the slot for Kirk Cousins.

23. Eagles (f/NE) - Kenneth Murray - LB, Oklahoma

Kenneth Murray of Oklahoma is a pure football player. Eagles fans may not love the positional value of an off-ball linebacker in the first round, especially in a great receiver class. However, Philadelphia can take a receiver in the second round after adding one of the best linebackers in this class. Their current linebacking corps is nothing to write home about, and Murray can play on all three downs.

24. Saints – Jordan Love – QB, Utah St.

The Saints will surely add a quarterback-of-the-future at some point in this draft. In this projection, they select Utah State’s Jordan Love with their first pick. Love has all the tools of a franchise quarterback, including ridiculous arm talent that is reminiscent of Patrick Mahomes. However, he is coming off a down year and struggled with bouts of inaccuracy and turnovers. The potential is clearly there, and there’s no better situation for a young quarterback than learning from Drew Brees and Sean Payton in New Orleans.

25. Vikings - Isaiah Wilson - OT, Georgia

Rumors are swirling that NFL teams expect Isaiah Wilson to be drafted in the first round. The former Georgia Bulldog is a raw prospect who looks the part but has inconsistent film. When he gets his hands inside, he's very powerful and he's good on double teams. However, he needs to be coached out of his waist-bending tendencies. For the Vikings, he would slot in at right guard.

26. Cowboys (f/HOU t/MIA) – Antoine Winfield Jr. – S, Minnesota

After trading down, the Cowboys make a somewhat surprising pick with Antoine Winfield Jr. of Minnesota. Dallas needs a safety and Winfield’s game has shades of Earl Thomas in it. He’s a ballhawk (seven interceptions this season) who submarines ball-carriers and has an NFL pedigree.

Projected Trade – Chargers get pick No. 27.  Seahawks get picks No. 36 and 71.

27. Chargers (f/SEA) – Jalen Hurts - QB, Oklahoma

In a shocking move, the Chargers move up for quarterback Jalen Hurts of Oklahoma. Lamar Jackson’s success in Baltimore has definitely impacted Hurts’stock, as some believe he won’t fall out of the second round. With the Colts and Steelers looming, the Chargers choose to secure their preferred quarterback-of-the-future. Hurts doesn't always make great decisions, but his film shows a dynamic dual-threat. He had a 69.7 completion percentage for the Sooners in 2019.

28. Ravens – Patrick Queen – LB, LSU

The Ravens need a linebacker and Patrick Queen is one of the best off-ball linebackers in this class. Queen is a fast, play-making defender who flashes on film.  He jumped off the screen in the National Championship against Clemson.

29. Titans – Yetur Gross-Matos – EDGE, Penn St.

The Titans have become a smashmouth, physical football team under head coach Mike Vrabel. Yetur Gross-Matos can set the edge as well as anyone in this class in the running game and displays devastating inside moves as a pass-rusher. If he can develop more on the edge, he can become a disruptive force for the Titans as they chase the Chiefs in the AFC.

30. Packers - Tee Higgins - WR, Clemson

Tee Higgins has some injury concerns and isn’t the strongest or fastest receiver prospect in this draft. However, his ability to receive footballs in football games is unquestionable. The Packers need a complement to Davante Adams at receiver and Higgins can be an outside threat while Adams plays more slot. Higgins’ game matches up so well with Aaron Rodgers it’s scary. The Lambeau Leaps after toe-tapping sideline grabs and high-point fades could be glorious in Green Bay.

31. 49ers - Damon Arnette - CB, Ohio St.

After going receiver earlier, the 49ers could choose to improve their secondary with a potential starter opposite Richard Sherman. Damon Arnette was the counterpart to Jeff Okudah at Ohio State, and likely saw more targets thrown at him because of it. Arnette is competitive and alert, who explodes to ball-carriers in the run game and can play press-man on the outside.  He is unconventional with his stances and punches, but has enough man coverage skills to be an adequate NFL starter.

32. Chiefs - Cesar Ruiz - C, Michigan

The Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs (sounds good, right Chiefs fans?) have a need at center. Cesar Ruiz is the best center prospect in the draft. Running backs are commonly mocked here for the Chiefs but the top runners in this class lack the passing game skills Andy Reid usually covets. Ruiz can be a starter from day one as the Chiefs look to defend their title.

 

Round 2

33. Bengals - Ezra Cleveland – OT, Boise St.

After adding their franchise signal-caller in the first round, the Bengals invest another high pick in a quality tackle to help protect him.

34. Colts (f/WAS) - Jeff Gladney – CB, TCU

The Colts need help at corner and Jeff Gladney has the quick feet and aggressiveness of a quality pro.

Projected Trade: Bills get pick No. 35.  Lions get pick No. 54 and 86.

35. Bills (f/DET) – Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah

In this projection, the favorites in the AFC East trade up to add the talented Jaylon Johnson to their already formidable secondary.

36. Giants - Matt Hennessy – C, Temple

The Giants need a center and Matt Hennessy has the makings of a plug-and-play pivot on a revamped offensive line.

37. Seahawks (f/LAC) - Zack Baun – EDGE, Wisconsin

After trading out of the first-round altogether, the Seahawks add a play-making presence at EDGE in Zack Baun.

38. Panthers - Kristian Fulton – CB, LSU

Re-tooling the defense continues as the Panthers select the best corner from the National Champion LSU Tigers.

39. Dolphins - Grant Delpit – S, LSU

The Dolphins get a discount on the best safety in the draft after he struggled with injuries during his senior season.  Grant Delpit still did enough to lead his team to a title and would be a starting safety for Brian Flores for years to come.

40. Texans (f/ARI) - Ross Blacklock - DL, TCU

The Texans need defensive line help and Ross Blacklock plays with great leverage and gap integrity.

41. Browns - Xavier McKinney – S, Alabama

With a need at safety, the Browns take the opportunistic Xavier McKinney from Alabama. His range is not elite but he is comfortable in the box and has the instincts of a productive pro.

42. Ravens (f/JAC) - Jonathan Taylor – RB, Wisconsin

In this projection, the Ravens trade up to grab a sliding Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin.  Mark Ingram is going to be 31 next year and the Ravens surely don’t want to run Lamar Jackson as often as they did last season.

43. Bears -Michael Pittman Jr. – WR, USC

Whether it’s Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles at quarterback, a skilled receiver with size like Michael Pittman Jr. would make for a terrific complement to Allen Robinson.

44. Colts - Jalen Reagor – WR, TCU

Jalen Reagor struggled with drops, but has speed to burn and could learn a lot under T.Y. Hilton in Indianapolis.

45. Buccaneers - Curtis Weaver – EDGE, Boise State

After adding a right tackle in the first round, the Buccaneers look to defense in the second, selecting a productive edge-rusher in Boise State’s Curtis Weaver.

46. Broncos - Malik Harrison – LB, Ohio St.

The Broncos need an inside linebacker and Malik Harrison has been a terrific performer in his two years starting at Ohio State.

47. Falcons – D’Andre Swift – RB, Georgia

With Devonta Freeman gone, the Falcons could choose to keep D’Andre Swift in state. Swift has the pass-catching skills to be a productive 1A running-back in the Atlanta offense.

48. Jets - Austin Jackson – OT, USC

The Jets have clear needs at wide receiver, offensive tackle and edge-rusher.  Austin Jackson has the size and mobility of a potential franchise left tackle.

49. Steelers - Jacob Eason - QB, Washington

After a disastrous display at quarterback in 2019, the Steelers take the plunge on Jacob Eason, who has the arm talent of a franchise quarterback. His issues with ball placement are evident in most games, but he looked like a first-round pick against Oregon.

50. Bears - Marlon Davidson – DL, Auburn

Marlon Davidson can play standing up or with his hand in the dirt and shows the ability to play his gap in the run game.  He is a bit heavy-legged but makes up for it with hustle and tenacity on the edge.

51. Cowboys - Laviska Shenault Jr. – WR, Colorado

While dependable slot receivers and cornerbacks were considered, the Cowboys decide they can’t pass on the electric play-making of Laviska Shenault.

52. Rams - Jordyn Brooks – LB, Texas Tech

With Corey Littleton gone, the Rams find his replacement in Jordyn Brooks of Texas Tech. Brooks flashes on film but didn’t have his best game spying Jalen Hurts versus Oklahoma. He plays fast and can key and diagnose well enough to be a solid off-ball linebacker in the pros.

53. Eagles - Brandon Aiyuk – WR, Arizona St.

Brandon Aiyuk falls due to medical concerns and the Eagles steal a potential WR1 in the second round.

54. Lions (f/BUF) John Simpson – OG, Clemson

The Lions have a need at guard and John Simpson is an experienced and physical interior force who shows flashes of dominance in the run game.

55. Jaguars (f/NE t/ATL t/BAL) - Kyler Dugger - S, Lenoir-Rhyne

The Jaguars need a safety and former Division II star Kyle Dugger has the athletic traits that translate to the pro game.

56. Cowboys (f/NO t/MIA) - Neville Gallimore – DL, Oklahoma

In a strictly best-player-available move, the Cowboys add to their defensive line with Neville Gallimore, who shows pass-rushing moves inside on film.

57. Rams (f/HOU) - Ashtyn Davis - S, Cal

The Rams could use a young safety and Ashtyn Davis of Cal has the range and instincts of an NFL starter.

58. Vikings - Darrell Taylor - EDGE, Tennessee

Darrell Taylor is one of the best edge-rushers in an underwhelming class.  He’s powerful, fast, and can bend.  The Vikings need an edge threat opposite Danielle Hunter.

59. Seahawks - Lucas Niang – OT, TCU

The Seahawks signed a bunch of fringe veteran offensive linemen in free agency but should use at least one of their first four picks on an OL. Lucas Niang has an ugly-shaped body but functional strength and quickness.

60. Ravens - Ben Brederson – OG, Michigan

The Ravens are set at tackle but could use help at guard.  Ben Brederson is an underrated prospect with steady film.

61. Titans - Raekwon Davis – DL, Alabama

Beefing up the defensive line even more, the Titans add a classic Alabama nose tackle prospect in Raekwon Davis.

62. Packers - Logan Wilson – LB, Wyoming

The Packers need an inside linebacker and Logan Wilson has the coverage skills and speed that translate to the pro game.

63. Chiefs (f/SF) - Clyde Edwards-Helaire – RB, LSU

Clyde Edwards-Helaire fits perfectly in an Andy Reid offense.  He’s terrific in the passing game and has inspiring tape versus Alabama.

64. Seahawks (f/KC) - Lynn Bowden Jr. – WR, Kentucky

Lynn Bowden Jr. is a versatile playmaker who started at quarterback and wide receiver at Kentucky.  He needs to learn how to run better routes but he has run-after-catch ability and enough speed and twitch to develop into a starter.

 

Round 3

  1. Bengals - Bryce Hall – CB, Virginia
  2. Redskins - Jeremy Chinn – S, Southern Illinois
  3. Lions - Jordan Elliot – DL, Missouri
  4. Jets (f/NYG) - Julian Okwara – EDGE, Notre Dame
  5. Panthers – Jonah Jackson – OG, Ohio St.
  6. Dolphins - Lloyd Cushenberry – C, LSU
  7. Seahawks (f/LAC) - Trevon Diggs – CB, Alabama
  8. Cardinals - Bradlee Anae – EDGE, Utah
  9. Jaguars - Donovan Peoples-Jones – WR, Michigan
  10. Browns - Shane Lemieux – OG, Oregon
  11. Colts - K'Von Wallace – S, Clemson
  12. Buccaneers - J.R. Reed – S, Georgia
  13. Broncos - Terrell Burgess – SCB, Utah
  14. Falcons - Noah Igbinoghene – CB, Auburn
  15. Jets - K.J. Hamler - WR, Penn St.
  16. Raiders - Tony Pride Jr. – CB, Notre Dame
  17. Raiders (f/CHI) - Damien Lewis – OG, LSU
  18. Cowboys - Cole Kmet – TE, Notre Dame
  19. Broncos (f/PIT) - Jonathan Greenard - EDGE, Florida
  20. Rams - Jabari Zuniga – EDGE, Florida
  21. Lions (f/PHI) - Brandon Jones – S, Texas
  22. Lions (f/BUF) - J.K. Dobbins – RB, Ohio St.
  23. Patriots - DaVon Hamilton – DT, Ohio St.
  24. Saints - Troy Dye - LB, Oregon
  25. Vikings - Cameron Dantzler – CB, Mississipi St.
  26. Texans - Isaiah Hodgins – WR, Oregon St.
  27. Raiders (f/SEA) - Bryan Edwards – WR, S. Carolina
  28. Ravens - Antonio Gibson – WR, Memphis
  29. Titans - Logan Sternberg – OG, Kentucky
  30. Packers - Justin Madubuike – DL, Texas A&M
  31. Broncos (f/SF) - Ben Bartch – OG, St. Josephs
  32. Chiefs - Reggie Robinson II – CB, Tulsa
  33. Browns (f/HOU)* - Amik Robertson – CB, La. Tech
  34. Patriots* - Van Jefferson – WR, Florida
  35. Giants* - Alton Robinson – EDGE, Syracuse
  36. Patriots* - Akeem Davis-Gaither – LB, App. State
  37. Seahawks* - Cam Akers – RB, Florida St.
  38. Steelers* - Prince Tega Wanogho – OT, Auburn
  39. Eagles* - Tyler Johnson – WR, Minnesota
  40. Rams* - Devin Duvernay – WR, Texas
  41. Vikings* - Chase Claypool – WR, Notre Dame
  42. Jaguars (f/BAL)* - Josh Uche - EDGE, Michigan

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2020 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

There are less than two weeks until the 2020 NFL Draft. The league is gearing up for an unprecedented virtual experience, with some teams concerned about the security of the technology being used.

Football fans are particularly excited, as a sports-starved nation looks for an escape from current events. Even without the in-person fanfare, the NFL Draft is one of the most important days on the NFL calendar.

The purpose of this Mock Draft is to project the selections as I believe they will happen on draft day. These projections have nothing to do with my personal rankings and do not reflect what I would do if I were each team. This article will be updated with added rounds and projected trades in the coming days. Remember that shocking picks and trades will inevitably happen. There are a few projected surprises below. You can check out other NFL mock drafts from our RotoBaller staff as well.

 

Tigers Get Their King

1. Bengals - Joe Burrow - QB, LSU

The Bengals burrowed for Burrow and the Tiger King goes to Cincinnati. Joe Exotic had one of the best single seasons ever for a college QB and will start his career with a decent supporting cast around him. Burrow is fantastic against pressure, throws a beautiful deep ball, and has the ball placement of a franchise QB. A nitpick against him would be that he holds the ball too long sometimes. Carole killed her husband.

2. Redskins - Chase Young - EDGE, Ohio St.

Last year, the Cardinals made the smart decision to jettison Josh Rosen and use a second consecutive top-10 pick on a quarterback.  The position is just too important, and Kyler Murray was too good to pass up.  The Redskins situation with Dwayne Haskins is different for one main reason - Chase Young.  Young is the best edge-rushing prospect since Jadaveon Clowney.  He has incredible traits and was a monster for Ohio State.  If there wasn't a generational talent at the top of this draft, Tua Tagovailoa would have likely been the pick.  Ron Rivera and the Skins will go to battle next season with Dwayne Haskins behind center and one of the best defensive lines in football.

3. Lions -  Jeff Okudah - CB, Ohio St.

After trading away Darius Slay, the Lions have a gaping hole at cornerback. Jeff Okudah is the best corner in the draft and will immediately give Detroit a shutdown presence on the outside. Okudah has advanced man coverage skills and swagger to match.

4. Giants - Tristan Wirfs - OT, Iowa

The Week 16 overtime win against the Redskins was the highlight of Daniel Jones' rookie campaign.  Unfortunately, that win will likely cost the Giants Chase Young.  General Manager Dave Gettleman rarely trades down. This slot is prime real estate for teams vying for a quarterback, but expect the G-Men to stay put and draft the top offensive lineman on their board. In this projection, it’s Tristan Wirfs. The former Iowa Hawkeye has experience at right tackle, which will allow Nate Solder to stay at left tackle. Wirfs is athletically gifted and has big-time upside if he can clean up some technique.

 

Tua in Teal

5. Dolphins - Tua Tagovailoa - QB, Alabama

The Dolphins have a ton of draft capital and a need at quarterback. If any of the teams picking in the top four want to trade down, Miami can easily move up to secure their preferred non-Burrow QB. Tua Tagovailoa has major durability concerns but the film of a franchise QB. Reportedly fully healthy, Tua has the ability to change the complexion of the AFC East for years to come.

6. Chargers - Isaiah Simmons - LB, Clemson

The decisions the Chargers make in this draft will determine the fate of the franchise for years to come. All of their options include a plan at the quarterback position. They can sign Cam Newton, trade up for Tua, or sit tight and draft Justin Herbert. In this projection, they choose to wait on quarterback and take the best player available in Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons. Simmons is a defensive chess piece that can play linebacker, safety, or nickel. If they do add a healthy Cam Newton, the Chargers can contend this year.

7. Panthers - Derrick Brown - DT, Auburn

The Panthers have a huge need on the defensive line and Derrick Brown is commonly ranked as the top defensive lineman in this draft. He showed flashes of dominance at Auburn and can disrupt both the run and pass. In a rebuilding year, Carolina should look to add a building block regardless of position. This just happens to be a case where value matches up with need.

8. Cardinals - Jedrick Wills Jr. - OT, Alabama

After stealing DeAndre Hopkins from the Texans, Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals add a potential franchise left tackle. Protecting Kyler Murray and adding defensive talent should be their two main goals for this draft. Jedrick Wills Jr. is by no means a perfect prospect, but he has the tools to develop into a quality blindside protector for the dynamic, diminutive Murray.

 

Jags Throw a Curveball

9. Jaguars - Justin Herbert - QB, Oregon

Gardner Minshew showed flashes (and stashes) as a starter for the Jaguars last year, but if Justin Herbert is on the board, they may not be able to pass on him. Herbert has almost everything teams look for in a franchise QB, and may be suffering from some prospect fatigue having been a big name at Oregon for three-plus years. His mobility and arm talent make him a potential star, but questions about his transition from the Oregon spread offense and inconsistent ball placement linger. Jacksonville takes the risk in this projection.

10. Browns - Andrew Thomas - OT, Georgia

The Browns are in dire need of some stability and leadership. They also have a gaping hole at left tackle. Andrew Thomas happens to be a high-character blindside protector who can be a mauler in the run game. He plays a little high and doesn’t have great knee bend, but he should be a steady pro.

11. Jets - Ceedee Lamb - WR, Oklahoma

The Jets have glaring needs at outside wide receiver and offensive tackle. They will likely select the best receiver or tackle on the board, and in this projection, it’s CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma. Lamb is a run-after-catch machine with off-the-charts production and competitiveness. He can immediately step in and be Sam Darnold’s No. 1 weapon.

12. Raiders - Patrick Queen - LB, LSU

The Raiders have built a fairly strong roster and have few glaring positional needs. They seem to be at a crossroads with quarterback Derek Carr, so don’t be surprised to see them target a signal-caller at some point in the draft. A falling Justin Herbert or Jordan Love are possibilties. If the Raiders go elsewhere, Patrick Queen makes sense as a playmaking defender. Last year General Manager Mike Mayock shocked everyone in taking Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 overall. Queen would be a mild surprise as another player from the championship-winning defense.

 

Jerry's a Good Name for a Niners WR

13. 49ers (f/IND) - Jerry Jeudy - WR, Alabama

After trading away DeForest Buckner, some believe the 49ers will target defensive line with this pick. They could also use a receiver, and Jerry Jeudy is an immediate upgrade in the slot. Jimmy Garoppolo has a strong rushing attack, George Kittle, and Deebo Samuel, but little else in terms of weapons. Jeudy is a route-runner extraordinaire with great hands, speed, and quickness.

14. Buccaneers - K'Lavon Chaisson - EDGE, LSU

Even if current franchise player Shaquil Barrett is signed long-term, the Buccaneers could use another edge-rusher. K’Lavon Chaisson is the second-best edge player in the draft. He possesses all the physical traits of a disruptive pro pass-rusher and is oozing with upside at just 20 years old. Tom Brady should help improve the offense, so expect this draft to focus on bolstering the defense.

15. Broncos - Henry Ruggs III - WR, Alabama

There is an outside chance a team falls in love with Henry Ruggs and he is the first receiver off the board. His floor is No. 15 to the Broncos. Pairing him with Courtland Sutton would give the Broncos one of the best dynamic young receiving duos in the league. Ruggs has incredible speed (4.27 40), and a nice mix of strong hands and tenacity. He played second-fiddle to Jerry Jeudy at Alabama but has the tools to blossom into a WR1 with Drew Lock in Denver.

16. Falcons - C.J. Henderson - CB, Florida

It seems that every year the Falcons need help on defense. C.J. Henderson is the second-best corner in this class and has shutdown potential. He needs to work on his tackling but should slide in as an immediate starter in Atlanta. The Matt Ryan window is slowly closing, so the Falcons need to add players who can help right away. Henderson can improve their pass defense the day he steps foot into the building.

17. Cowboys - Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

The Cowboys have done a good job building a roster with few glaring positional holes. They could use a slot receiver and tight end on offense, and some edge and secondary help on defense, but their talent level is well above average. Expect them to look hard at receivers to play the slot, especially LSU’s Justin Jefferson. In this projection, they go with TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney. Gladney projects as a solid zone corner with some playmaking ability. Once Dak Prescott gets paid, hitting on draft picks will become even more important for the Cowboys.

18. Dolphins (f/PIT) - Mekhi Becton - OT, Louisville

After adding a franchise quarterback at No. 5, the Dolphins use No. 18 on his blindside protector. Laremy Tunsil was traded to Houston so there is a huge hole at left tackle in Miami. Mekhi Becton is enormous in stature and upside. He is insanely athletic for his size and shows flashes of brilliance on film. Keeping his weight in check will define his career.

 

Welcome to Vegas, JJ

19. Raiders (f/CHI) - Justin Jefferson - WR, LSU

The Raiders at No. 18 will likely consider a quarterback. If they choose to wait, adding a receiver for whoever is under center is a good idea. This draft is rich with wide-outs and few have upped their stock more than Justin Jefferson of LSU. Jefferson dominated at Oklahoma and pleasantly surprised scouts with a 4.43 40. He operated mostly out of the slot at LSU, so with Hunter Renfrow on the roster, he might have to shift outside full-time in Las Vegas.

20. Jaguars (f/LAR) - Javon Kinlaw - DT, S. Carolina

It’s crazy that just three years ago the Jaguars were a missed call away from beating the Patriots in the AFC Championship. Blake Bortles and Tom Coughlin are gone, but somehow Doug Marrone has survived. Finding a quarterback should be priority No. 1, but re-tooling the defense is a close second. Javon Kinlaw is a penetrating defensive tackle with great burst and the ability to shoot gaps in the run game. He has added value as a potential contributor on special teams, having flashed the ability to block field goals at South Carolina.

21. Eagles - Kenneth Murray - LB, Oklahoma

Kenneth Murray of Oklahoma is a pure football player. Eagles fans may not love the positional value of an off-ball linebacker in the first-round, especially in a great receiver class. However, Philadelphia can take a receiver in the second round after adding one of the best linebackers in this class. Their current linebacking corps is nothing to write home about, and Murray can play on all three downs.

22. Vikings - Brandon Aiyuk - WR, Arizona St.

Brandon Aiyuk may slide a bit due to a core muscle injury. However, there’s no denying his talent. The Vikings traded Stefon Diggs to the Bills and have a glaring need at receiver alongside Adam Theilen. Aiyuk has the size, strong hands, and run-after-catch ability to be one of Kirk Cousins’ favorite targets.

23. Patriots - Jacob Eason - QB, Washington

This will be a controversial projection. Patriots fans swear the team is willing to go to battle with Jared Stidham at quarterback, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Jacob Eason is not short on talent, as he was the top pro-style quarterback recruit coming out of high school. His college career was somewhat tumultuous, but his film last year showed a lot of promise. The Patriots will undoubtedly love how quickly he gets the ball out of his hands. He has the arm talent, the only question is if he stands up to New England's stringent standards. If he’s on their draft board at all, there is a chance Jacob Eason is a Patriot.

 

Mims the Word

24. Saints - Denzel Mims - WR, Baylor

The Saints will surely add a quarterback-of-the-future at some point in this draft. At No. 24, Jacob Eason and Jordan Love will be in play. If they choose to go elsewhere, bolstering their receiving corps with a best-player-available approach is a possibility. Denzel Mims isn’t the most polished prospect, but his tools are tantalizing. New Orleans develops players as well as any program in the NFL, so Mims could be a beastly outside complement to Michael Thomas in the slot.

25. Vikings (f/BUF) - Isaiah Wilson - OT, Georgia

Rumors are swirling that NFL teams expect Isaiah Wilson to be drafted in the first round.  The former Georgia Bulldog is a raw prospect who looks the part but has inconsistent film.  When he gets his hands inside, he's very powerful and he's good on double teams.  However, he needs to be coached out of his waist-bending tendencies.  For the Vikings, he would slot in at right guard.

26. Dolphins (f/HOU) - Yetur Gross-Matos - EDGE, Penn St.

With their third pick in the first round, the Dolphins go to the defensive side of the ball with Yetur Gross-Matos from Penn State. Gross-Matos can set the edge as well as anyone in this class in the running game and displays devastating inside moves as a pass-rusher. His edge-rushing reps might not translate into 10-plus sacks a year, but he can become a solid starter at the next level.  The Dolphins have a defensive-minded head coach but are lacking in young talent on that side of the ball.

27. Seahawks - Josh Jones - OT, Houston

The Seahawks haven’t had much success in the first round in recent years. They are always a candidate to trade down, but if they stay put expect an offensive lineman to be the pick. Current left tackle Duane Brown is getting up there in age, and they don’t have much quality experience at right tackle either. Josh Jones of Houston was solid against relatively mediocre college competition but possesses all the traits that translate to the pro game. He can start his career on the right side and eventually take over for Brown to protect Russell Wilson’s blindside.

 

Taylor Made for Baltimore?

28. Ravens - Jonathan Taylor - RB, Wisconsin

This is another controversial projection that will likely annoy some Ravens fans. There is a chance Ravens brass falls in love with Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin. The Ravens already boast the best rushing attack in the league, but the draft isn’t only about filling holes, it’s also about building upon strengths. It’s quite possible the Ravens see a selection of Taylor as an opportunity to add one of the most talented runners in the league to their potent ground attack. Mark Ingram will be 31 next season and the Ravens surely don’t want Lamar Jackson to handle as many carries as he did last year. There are always surprise picks in the NFL Draft. This could be a big one.

29. Titans - A.J. Epenesa - EDGE, Iowa

The Titans have become a smashmouth, physical football team under head coach Mike Vrabel. A.J. Epenesa from Iowa is a perfect fit. Epenesa is big, strong, and twitchy, and has the motor and pass-rushing skills to help bolster the Titans Defense. The entire AFC is trying to build a roster to slow down Patrick Mahomes. Adding quality pass-rushers makes sense for Tennessee.

30. Packers - Tee Higgins - WR, Clemson

Tee Higgins has some injury concerns and isn’t the strongest or fastest receiver prospect in this draft. However, his ability to receive footballs in football games is unquestionable. The Packers need a complement to Davante Adams at receiver and Higgins can be an outside threat while Adams plays more slot. Higgins’ game matches up so well with Aaron Rodgers it’s scary. The Lambeau Leaps after toe-tapping sideline grabs and high-point fades could be glorious in Green Bay.

31. 49ers - Damon Arnette - CB, Ohio St.

After going receiver earlier, the 49ers could choose to improve their secondary with a potential starter opposite Richard Sherman. Damon Arnette was the counterpart to Jeff Okudah at Ohio State, and likely saw more targets thrown at him because of it. Arnette is competitive and alert, who explodes to ball-carriers in the run game and can play press-man on the outside.  He is unconventional with his stances and punches, but has enough man coverage skills to be an adequate NFL starter.

32. Chiefs - Cesar Ruiz - C, Michigan

The Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs (sounds good, right Chiefs fans?) have a need at center. Cesar Ruiz is the best center prospect in the draft. Running backs are commonly mocked here for the Chiefs but the top runners in this class lack the passing game skills Andy Reid usually covets. Ruiz can be a starter from day one as the Chiefs look to defend their title.

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NFL Draft - Top 15 Running Back Rankings

The 2020 NFL Draft features a well-rounded running back class. Opinions differ on the top back in the class, but most agree there is a first tier of four backs – D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and J.K. Dobbins.

Fantasy players should be excited to see where backs are drafted, as opportunity directly correlates to fantasy value.  Depending on league format, some backs may be more valuable than others due to receiving skills.

The purpose of these rankings is to rank running backs as if I were a general manager.  Projections are rooted in comprehensive film study and statistical analysis. As a little background, I have more than five years of experience coaching offense at the NCAA level.  You can also check out my Top 50 Draft Rankings, Mock Draft 1.0, Mock Draft 2.0, and Top 30 Wide Receivers. I hope you enjoy it and thanks for reading!

 

Running Backs #1-5

1. J.K. Dobbins - RB, Ohio State

J.K. Dobbins fits the pro game better than any back in this class. He lacks ideal workhorse size at just 5-9, 209, but plays much bigger.  Dobbins’ best attribute is his toughness.  He runs hard with low pad level and physicality.  He flashes a nasty stiff arm and has terrific balance.  While not a freakish athlete, Dobbins shows enough creativity to make defenders miss.  He has potential in the passing game, tallying 71 catches and 5 receiving touchdowns during his three years at Ohio State.

His upside may be capped somewhat due to a lack of home-run speed, but he’s a low-center-of-gravity hammer with literally every other trait teams want in a pro back.  When scouting an offensive skill player, there's always a bonus for not wearing gloves.

2. Clyde Edwards-Helaire - RB, LSU

Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the premiere pass-catching back in this class (55 catches in 2019).  Some teams may knock him down a bit for his lack of ideal height (5-7), but in some ways, it’s a positive.  He gives defenders nothing to hit and has a stout lower body and low center-of-gravity.  At 209 pounds, the Alabama film shows a back who clearly fits in today’s NFL.

His film in that game was inspiring, highlighting his competitiveness - a highly undervalued trait.  He struggled a bit against the pros in Georgia's front seven, with his speed deficiency (4.6 40) more evident in that game.  CEH doesn’t have the same home run speed, but his style is reminiscent of Maurice Jones-Drew.  He’s a tremendous route-runner and pass-catcher, which puts his floor as a third-down back.  He could be the second-best passing-catching back in the league in a few years.

3. D’Andre Swift - RB, Georgia

D’Andre Swift is typically considered the top back in this class.  He may have the most upside due to athleticism and home run speed (4.48 40).  He ranks higher than Jonathan Taylor because he’s a better pass-catcher (73 career catches), and even more importantly shows some great pass protection reps on film.  He flashes a spin move, can cross safeties up like a basketball player, and knows how to get skinny through the hole.

He’s more comfortable in space than on the inside, which is somewhat of a concern.  Overall, his game is more Sony Michel than Nick Chubb, and he lacks the ideal tackle-breaking skills of a top back.  The most glaring positive of his game is that when you look past inconsistencies with running tough and breaking tackles, Swift just makes it look easy and smooth.

That usually translates into success in the NFL and makes him a high-upside player.  However, there is risk, as backs who are more comfortable in space sometimes struggle with the transition because there is simply way less space in the NFL.

4. Jonathan Taylor - RB, Wisconsin

Jonathan Taylor is an instinctive runner with the natural ability to change speeds and use his vision to find creases. He has home-run speed and incredible college production. However, it may be difficult for teams to go all-in on a player at the most replaceable position in football with his history of fumbling (18 total, 15 lost), lack of value in the passing game, and so much tread on his tires (968 touches).

Those who defend him will point to his workload as a positive for being so durable. He's simply not special enough to ignore the question marks. His film, particularly versus Illinois, is more solid than spectacular.

5. Zack Moss - RB, Utah

Zack Moss was the engine that made Utah’s offense go.  His film was mostly terrific, showcasing his balance, patience, and vision, especially on zone running plays.  He cut all the way back away from the call on outside zone, and was able to hit the opposite A gap on inside zone numerous times on film exactly how they coached it.  He’s twitchy with the jump-cut move down pat.  More of a power back (5-9, 223), Moss is somewhat easy to tackle but always falls forward.

He lacks elite long speed (4.65 40), but shows good initial burst and the ability to stop on a dime and accelerate forward.  He wasn’t great against Texas or Washington but always fell forward and showed power and moves that translate.  He’s willing in pass protection and solid as a pass-catcher transitioning to a runner with no thought.  The main concern with Moss is his injury history.

 

Running Backs #6-10

6. A.J. Dillion - RB, Boston College

A.J. Dillion is limited in the passing game and has a ton of tread on his tires (866 touches), but is one of the best pure inside runners in this class.  He surprised scouts with an impressive 4.53 40 and 41-inch vert at 247 pounds at the combine.  His mix of power, inside vision, and home-run ability make him a potential bargain in the later rounds.

7. Anthony McFarland - RB, Maryland

Anthony McFarland’s most impressive tape was versus Ohio State in 2018.  He had two amazing long touchdown runs and almost had a third.  His athleticism shines on tape, as his 4.41 speed is evident on numerous big gains.  McFarland projects as a role player at the next level as he’s somewhat weak and prefers to be on the perimeter.  He is more finesse than teams would like and is not exactly a grinder or complete back.

8. Darrynton Evans - RB, Appalachian State

Darrynton Evans has home-run speed (4.41 40) that plays in the league and knows when to lower his head and get what he can.  His lack of ideal size and power was evident on film against South Carolina, as he didn’t find the same space he was used to against other opponents.  In the right situation, he can be a starter, but his film is that of just-a-guy.

9. Cam Akers - RB, Florida State

It was tough to evaluate Cam Akers as the Florida State offense was an absolute mess on film.  Akers himself didn’t do much to elevate himself above the disaster, showing poor awareness in pass pro, a drop, and a bad fumble.  He has a Kenyan Drake-like style and plus athleticism, but Akers doesn’t break many tackles.  He’s athletic and fast enough, but his body control isn’t there yet.

10. Eno Benjamin - RB, Arizona State

Eno Benjamin struggled to stand out in an offensive shootout versus Michigan State (10-7 ASU).  He was able to score the winning touchdown, but his offensive line was unable to help him find any space.  He also struggled in the passing game with drops and missed-timed screens.  He fights the ball a bit as a pass-catcher and is a little too reactionary overall in confined spaces.  While not a straight-line speedster, he has quicks (6.97 3-cone) and elusiveness that make him worthy of a late-round pick.

Running Backs #11-15

11. Ke’Shawn Vaughn - RB, Vanderbilt

12. Joshua Kelley - RB, UCLA

13. Deejay Dallas - RB, Miami Fl.

14. Mike Warren - RB, Cincinnati

15. Levante Bellamy - RB, Western Michigan

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NFL Draft - Top 30 Wide Receiver Rankings

The 2020 NFL Draft features arguably the best receiver class this decade. These dynamic playmakers come in all different shapes and sizes with strengths ranging from run-after-catch skills to physicality in winning contested catches. It will be interesting to see how many receivers go in the first three rounds and how far teams are willing to wait due to depth.  I personally have 20 receivers in my top 100 players.

Fantasy players should pay close attention on draft day, as landing spot for receivers is a huge factor in projecting statistical success. There is a real chance this crop of pass-catchers produces the most fantasy points of any rookie receiver class ever.

The purpose of these rankings is to rank wide receivers if I were a general manager.  Projections are rooted in comprehensive film study and statistical analysis. As a little background, I have more than five years of experience coaching wide receivers at the NCAA level. You can also check out my Top 50 Draft Rankings, Mock Draft 1.0 and Mock Draft 2.0. I hope you enjoy and thanks for reading!

 

Wide Receivers #1-10

1. Ceedee Lamb - WR, Oklahoma

CeeDee Lamb is a run-after-catch savant. He is elusive and slippery in the open field. He’s an excellent athlete and has a nose for the end zone (32 career touchdowns). Lamb has terrific hands and projects as a dynamic WR1 in the pros. He'll have to work on not pushing off as much but his physicality and competitiveness are huge positives.

2. Jerry Jeudy - WR, Alabama

Jerry Jeudy is a route-runner extraordinaire. He understands the nuances of gaining separation by changing speeds and using his eyes. He is long, twitchy and quick with enough long speed (4.45) to threaten defenses vertically. The only concern with Jeudy is that a lot of his production came from the slot at Alabama. He has shown the ability to get off press when out wide, but feasting on linebackers and safeties for a lot of his production isn’t ideal when projecting his transition.

3. Tee Higgins - WR, Clemson

Tee Higgins has the production and film of a top-10 pick. His film versus Jeff Okudah of Ohio State wasn’t up to par, but he repeatedly came up lame during that game. His durability may be questioned but he has the potential to continue his dominance at the next level. While not an athletic freak (31-inch vertical jump and 4.54 40), his 6-4 frame and unbelievable hands surely play in the NFL.

4. Bryan Edwards - WR, South Carolina

Injury issues cloud Edwards draft stock, but his film was tremendous. He uses his 6-3, 212 body well, especially at the line of scrimmage against press and running after the catch. He is a little high out of his breaks but plucks the ball with his large, strong hands and transitions into a runner quickly. Like most receivers, he will need to develop more press release plans and learn how to dip his hips and use his eyes on his break-points. A team is going to get a massive value if he can recover from injury.

5. Jalen Reagor - WR, TCU

Jalen Reagor struggled with drops during the season and at the combine. His supposed unofficial 4.22 40 likely isn’t 100% accurate, but his speed on film looks closer to that than the official 4.47 he ran at the combine.  Reagor is by no means a perfect prospect. There is little evidence of him running NFL-caliber routes or beating press on film, but his playmaking looks translatable to the next level. At his smallish stature, his ability to win contested catches is uncommon and Antonio Brown-like. With the right mindset and work-ethic Reagor can surely shed the Corey Coleman comparisons and excel at the next level.

6. Henry Ruggs III - WR, Alabama

Henry Ruggs played second-fiddle to Jerry Jeudy at Alabama, but teams reportedly love his competitiveness. Ruggs flashed on film when he got the chance, showcasing legit 4.27 speed while cribbing slants and torching defenses vertically. His hands are terrific and he made some of the best high-difficulty catches of any receiver in this class. He’s not an advanced route-runner and plays weak at times. Very few receivers become a WR1 in the NFL after not being the alpha dog on their college team.

7. Brandon Aiyuk - WR, Arizona St.

Brandon Aiyuk has injury concerns and may slide a bit on draft day. The team that selects him on the second day will be getting a steal. Aiyuk is a little clumsy and takes a while to get up to full speed. He makes bad cornerbacks look bad but didn’t have great games versus the pro-caliber defensive backs at Utah or Michigan State. However, his competitiveness shines on film.  There are shades of Dez Bryant in his game and he is a plus route-runner with above-average run-after-the-catch ability.

8. Denzel Mims - WR, Baylor

One of the most polarizing prospects in the draft is Denzel Mims of Baylor. Mims had a good senior bowl week and blew up the combine, but didn’t always play up to his testing numbers at Baylor. However, scouting prospects is about projecting traits to the next level as opposed to critiquing college performance. Mims wasn’t amazing at creating separation on routes, but he showcased his physicality and terrific hands on film. Sometimes he rounds his cuts when they are supposed to be sharp and he is definitely raw. In the right situation, he has the upside to be a beastly pro. His high-pointing ability plays in the red zone in the NFL.

9. Justin Jefferson - WR, LSU

Justin Jefferson torched Oklahoma and was the preferred inside target for Joe Burrow at LSU. He surprised people by running a 4.43 40 at the combine and has steadily moved up draft boards. Jefferson has the tools to excel on the outside in the NFL but his best film came from reps from the slot in college. A lot of his production came in the RPO game and on “be-better” slot fades against inferior defenders. Jefferson’s transition to the pro game may not be as smooth as some other outside receivers who had to deal with more press coverage from pro-level corners. Jefferson has most of the traits to excel in the NFL, but he may be more similar to Jordan Matthews than most think.

10. Tyler Johnson - WR, Minnesota

Tyler Johnson is unquestionably a great wide receiver. However, there are many concerns with how his traits translate to the next level. He doesn’t have elite speed and was unable to run a 40 during this draft season. There are many instances on film of him struggling to separate against Auburn. He’s more sudden and smooth than twitchy and explosive. However, every other aspect of his game is natural and confident.  He’s a solid route-runner with great hands and competitiveness that shines on film.  He projects as a Tyler Boyd-like slot receiver.

Wide Receivers #11-20

11. Laviska Shenault Jr. - WR, Colorado

Laviska Shenault Jr. has the run-after-catch ability of Cordarrelle Patterson with better natural wide receiver skills. He’s raw with some risk but some of his film is dominant and the traits translate.

12. Lynn Bowden Jr. - WR, Kentucky

The most versatile player in college football last season was Lynn Bowden Jr. The former Kentucky quarterback, receiver, and returner has the speed and athletic traits to make people miss in the open field no matter his alignment. He doesn’t know how to run routes yet but the tools are all there.

13. Michael Pittman Jr. - WR, USC

Michael Pittman Jr. has terrific hands and great size. He doesn’t possess great balance and a lot of his highlights are taking advantage of non-pro defenders, but he doesn’t drop passes and has a higher floor than most other receivers.

14. Isaiah Hodgins - WR, Oregon St.

Isaiah Hodgins having success would be somewhat of an outlier because of his 4.61 speed and limited ability to defeat press. However, he has great hands and was a double-move beast at Oregon State.

15. K.J. Hamler - WR, Penn St.

K.J. Hamler is a tiny body-catcher with speed to burn. He fits in the NFL as a deep threat role-player. Michigan safeties had no answer for his speed.

16. Donovan Peoples-Jones - WR, Michigan

Donavan Peoples-Jones shows flashes of brilliance on film. However, he is raw and he makes the college game look too difficult for him at times. There’s a ton of potential but his lack of elite balance makes him risky.

17. Devin Duvernay - WR, Texas

Devin Duvernay lacks ideal size and has an uncommon stout lower body for a wide receiver. He struggles with pattering feet versus re-routes down the field and isn’t a great route-runner right now. However, his 4.39 speed shows on film and he definitely looked like he belonged on the field against the LSU pro defensive backs.

18. Antonio Gibson - WR/RB, Memphis

Antonio Gibson might transition to running back but he primarily lined up in the slot at Memphis. He’s a developmental project with tight hips and limited route-running skills but his 4.39 plays in the NFL and he had some unbelievable runs against SMU.

19. Van Jefferson - WR, Florida

Van Jefferson is arguably the second-best route-runner in this class and has NFL bloodlines. However, there are instances of poor balance and weakness against physicality on film.

20. James Proche - WR, SMU

James Proche is a shifty, crafty slot receiver who can run routes and has natural hands.  He has fixable issues with taking too many steps at the line, but his catch-in-traffic ability is pro-ready.

 

Wide Receivers #21-30

  1. Quez Watkins - WR, Southern Miss.
  2. Chase Claypool - WR, Notre Dame
  3. Antonio Gandy-Golden - WR, Liberty
  4. Jauan Jennings - WR, Tennessee
  5. John Hightower - WR, Boise St.
  6. Gabriel Davis - WR, UCF
  7. Darnell Mooney - WR, Tulane
  8. Trishton Jackson - WR, Syracuse
  9. K.J. Hill - WR, Ohio St.
  10. Collin Johnson - WR, Texas

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2020 NFL Draft - Top 100 Big Board and Undervalued Prospects To Watch

The beauty of the NFL Draft is that people can watch the same prospects and come to different conclusions. NFL teams may have certain players ranked higher than others due to scheme fit, size standards, or character research.

I’ve already put on record how much I like wide receivers Tee Higgins, Bryan Edwards, Lynn Bowden Jr., and James Proche. I would also bang the drum for J.K. Dobbins, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Zack Moss if my team needed a running back.

The purpose of this article is to highlight players other than receivers and running backs that I like more than the consensus. These could be players worth watching or drafting in IDP leagues or that could boost a team's offensive line or defensive unit.

 

NFL Draft - Top 100 Prospects

With the 2020 NFL Draft just days away, here is my Big Board of the Top 100 rankings:

Five Undervalued Prospects - "My Guys"

Jordyn Brooks - LB, Texas Tech

Big Board Rank: 42nd

Jordyn Brooks was incredibly productive as a college player and was named All Big-12 honorable mention his first three years at Texas Tech.  As a Senior he was named first-team All Big-12 and second-team All-American.  Brooks is the prototypical off-ball linebacker with enough size (6-0, 240) and the athletic makeup (4.53 40) to fit in almost any scheme.

Against the run, he displays the ability to key and diagnose as well as anyone in this class, and uses his quickness to shoot gaps.  His instincts as a ball-seeker are excellent, despite being used as a spy and the quarterback player against zone reads often.  He’s sideline-to-sideline, but his best attribute is his strength on contact.  When Brooks fits up a back in the hole, he knocks him back.

He was not asked to be a coverage linebacker in the traditional sense, as he was more manned up against backs and in some cases used as a spy.  His film against Jalen Hurts and Oklahoma wasn’t great, as he missed angles and failed to impact the game.  However, scouting prospects is more about evaluating traits that translate rather than critiquing college performance.  Against Oklahoma, there were still instances on film where his athleticism and instincts popped off the screen.

Besides a lack of experience in zone coverage (a skill that can be taught at the next level), Brooks’ main weakness is his inability to get off blocks.  He needs to work on using his hands to not be a block magnet for offensive linemen.  Brooks fits in best on a defense that can keep him clean and allow him to be aggressive and run in space as opposed to trying to win in a phone booth.

Overall, he is a high-upside prospect with traits to be a very productive pro.  His style compares favorably to Bobby Wagner coming out.

 

Logan Wilson - LB, Wyoming

Big Board Rank: 52nd

Logan Wilson amassed 409 tackles during his four-year career at Wyoming.  However, his most impressive statistical accomplishment was his ten career interceptions, including four as a senior.  Wilson returned two for touchdowns and added a third career defensive touchdown on a scoop-and-score.

Wilson fits the pro game because he can play zone coverage as well as any linebacker in this class.  He shows an ability to be the deep middle player in a tampa-two scheme or carry verticals as an outside linebacker.  He does an excellent job breaking on the ball and clearly has a knack for big plays.  His 6-2, 242-pound frame is suitable for the NFL because of his 4.63 speed and instincts.  Wilson is not the most powerful player, but he knows how to tackle with leverage and finish plays.

Wilson missed a few tackles against San Diego State but overall showed well, displaying his strength by knocking back offensive linemen in the run game.  He is not the most technically sound player in terms of hopping out of his stance and misreading some keys, but the traits are there.  For an off-ball linebacker, his skillset translates to the pro game on all three downs and his college ball production is rare.

 

Amik Robertson - CB, Louisiana Tech

Big Board Rank: 75th

Amik Robertson is just 5-8, 187, but plays like he’s 6-2, 210.  Robertson was incredibly productive at Louisiana Tech, compiling 14 career interceptions, 2 blocked kicks, 3 defensive touchdowns, and an onside kick return for a touchdown.

Robertson projects as a slot corner at the next level and has an unteachable ability to cover.  His feet are incredibly quick, and his kinesthetic sense in terms of staying with guys is top-notch.  He is especially adept at covering in-breaking routes, allowing himself to undercut slants and digs for pass breakups.  Against LSU in 2018 he matched future first-round picks stride-for-stride and almost mossed a 6-foot Texas receiver in 2019.  His swagger and confidence are obvious on film and necessary for the next level.  After an interception or pass breakup he loves to let the receiver hear about it.

Robertson’s biggest weakness is his lack of strength.  He picks his spots against the run, at times knifing in for shoestring tackles behind the line of scrimmage.  Mostly he shows poor technique and a lack of power, which is not surprising for his small stature.  He is unwilling to stick his nose in on every down.  This is especially a concern for a player projected to play inside.

Overall, a player with his ball production and innate cover skills has a chance to help an NFL team.  He likely won’t be drafted until the third day, but he will immediately factor in on special teams and in sub packages.

 

Logan Stenberg - OG, Kentucky

Big Board Rank: 79th

Logan Stenberg doesn’t have the best-looking body but his film is terrific.  He moves his 6-6, 317-frame well despite not exactly looking like a Greek God.  He started every game for the past three years at Kentucky, helping pave the way for Benny Snell and Lynn Bowden Jr.

Stenberg is hardnosed and tough, and his film against Tennessee features multiple pancakes.  He’s an efficient mover both as a puller and on combo blocks working up to the second level.  His hands are active and shorter arms sometimes allow him to get his hands inside and jolt back defensive linemen.  In pass protection, he’s sound and effective whether on the man side or the slide side.  He doesn’t give up ground and is stout and aware.

His hands aren’t always placed well, and sometimes he reaches because his feet don’t move quick enough.  There are also instances of him whiffing in space on screens.  He’s not the best athlete, so quick inside moves from athletic three-techniques will give him some trouble.

Overall, Stenberg lacks the ideal body type and athleticism of an NFL offensive lineman.  Fortunately for him, he has every other football trait teams look for, including tremendous toughness and balance.  Sternberg will be a great pick in the mid-rounds and a quality starting guard at the NFL level.

LG #71 ^

LG #71^

 

Davon Hamilton - DT, Ohio State

Big Board Rank: 82nd

Davon Hamilton played nose tackle for Ohio State and recorded 6 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss this past season.  He has the size (6-4, 320) to play nose or three-technique depending on scheme at the next level.  Hamilton was not the biggest name on the Ohio State defense, but his presence was a huge factor in the Buckeye run defense.

Hamilton’s film shows a potential impact piece on an NFL defense.  He has enough quickness to pick his spots and take chances against slow-footed guards, and enough power to post up and be stout against base blocks.  He was overpowering at times against Miami Ohio and Indiana, using his hands to rip through attempted blocks and make plays in the backfield.  There are instances on film of tremendous effort and mobility, including during the playoff game versus Clemson tackling a runner six yards down the field.  He also had dominating reps against the Clemson center, walking him back into Trevor Lawrence’s lap.

However, there are inconsistencies on film against the Tigers.  Hamilton has a few reps where he is high and out of position and gets demolished by double teams.  He definitely needs to work on playing lower at the next level.  He’s also not exactly Chase Young as a pass rusher, with too many reps of low-energy stalemates.

Overall, Hamilton is not the flashiest prospect and probably won’t amass that many statistics at the next level.  However, he projects as a quality interior defensive lineman due to his football traits, strength, and athletic profile.  He can be a rotational asset right away in the NFL.

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