College football is back, and with it comes the return of NFL Draft content! Hooray!
The Bears started off their season with a loss at home to the Packers, so they are obviously doomed and fans should prepare for the absolute worst. Everything is falling apart, and a winless season seems imminent.
I’m hoping my sarcasm is apparent through text.
In reality, it is still a very long season with a lot for Bears fans to be excited for. Chicago’s roster is as talented as it has been in years, and they have plenty of time to build themselves back up and re-evaluate their play calling and performance.
This big board is meant more for casual college football fans, as well as the hardcore draftniks, to get a better understanding of which players to watch for on Saturdays. A lot will change between now and next April, so this is far from a finalized product.
That said, though, the 2020 draft appears to have plenty of blue-chip prospects, with loaded groups at wide receiver, edge rusher and cornerback. There are also a handful of potential franchise quarterbacks in a group that already looks better than the 2019 class.
Without further ado, here is my very (very) early big board for the 2020 NFL draft.
2020 NFL Draft Big Board 1.0
|5||Chase Young||EDGE||Ohio State||EDGE1|
|6||Laviska Shenault Jr.||WR||Colorado||WR2|
|7||Henry Ruggs III||WR||Alabama||WR3|
|10||Jordan Love||QB||Utah State||QB2|
|25||Kenny Willekes||EDGE||Michigan State||EDGE2|
|32||Julian Okwara||EDGE||Notre Dame||EDGE4|
|34||J.K. Dobbins||RB||Ohio State||RB2|
|35||Javon Kinlaw||DL||South Carolina||DL3|
|38||Jeffrey Okudah||CB||Ohio State||CB3|
|42||Tommy Kraemer||OG||Notre Dame||OG3|
|43||Yetur Gross-Matos||EDGE||Penn State||EDGE6|
Fan favorites fall short
The two prospects I appear to be lower on than the consensus is Alabama quarterback Too Tagovailoa and Iowa edge rusher A.J. Epenesa.
Seen by many as consensus top-10 players in the upcoming draft class, both prospects are talented in their own right. Tagovailoa is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and he has great velocity behind his throws and flashes of elite deep ball placement, while Epenesa is a productive and powerful pass rusher who uses his hands well.
And yet, I’m not buying them as elite prospects.
While Tua has a fantastic résumé, he still has work to do as a prospect. His poise under pressure needs some work, as his footwork tends to fall apart in a collapsing pocket, which results in his passes being less accurate. He’s a solid athlete, but he needs to do a better job of scrambling outside of the pocket when rushers are crashing in. Like most collegiate quarterbacks, he also needs to do a better job of looking past his first read.
Epenesa’s issues don’t come from a technical standpoint, but rather an athletic one. A stiff-hipped rusher, the Iowa product relies mostly on his ankles to turn the corner, which affects his ability to dip underneath blockers. He struggles with changing direction in space and accelerating coming out of his breaks, so his schematic fit would likely be limited to a base 4-3, as it would limit how often he would play in space. For such a strong prospect, he could still get better at converting speed to power and gaining more explosiveness in his lower body.
Tagovailoa and Epenesa will likely end up as first-round picks in the 2020 draft, and both of them have futures as NFL starters. I just don’t buy them as top-10 guys yet.
If you are a team that needs wide receivers, you will surely find a lot of great ones in this year’s class.
With eight receivers in my top 50—and seven of them in my top 30—this year’s class has the potential to rival the 2014 class in terms of talent. It’s that good.
The group is headlined by Jerry Jeudy, whose blazing speed, route-running expertise and elusiveness in space make him the best receiver prospect I’ve seen in at least the past five years. Laviska Shenault is close behind, with a large catch radius, physicality in tight coverage and great speed for a 6-foot-2, 200-pound wide out. Jeudy’s teammate, Henry Ruggs III, is also a very good route runner who may just be the fastest man in college football.
Just outside of the top 10 we find Tyler Johnson—an immaculate route runner with great body control—and Jalen Reagor, whose textbook route running is complemented by his game-breaking speed. Neither prospect comes from a top-tier team, with their schools being Minnesota and TCU, respectively, but their film indicates they can both be at least high-end No. 2 receivers in most offenses.
A little lower on the list come a handful of physical specimens. Tee Higgins is a physical, 6-foot-4 wide out with fantastic hands, and Denzel Mims is a 6-foot-3 speed demon who is improving as a route runner. They are joined by CeeDee Lamb, who has great body control and impressive acceleration coming out of his breaks.
There are still several talented receivers who failed to make the top 50, and many others whom I will scout and surely enjoy in the months ahead. The Bears don't need new receivers, but any other team who does will fall in love with this class.
In addition to Tua, this year’s quarterback class has a handful of potential starters in store for the league.
My current QB1 is Justin Herbert, who would have run away with the top spot in the 2019 class had he declared for the draft. A strong-armed, tall, accurate and athletic quarterback, he has essentially all of the makings of a top-3 pick. His touch on the deep ball is impressive, he can make smart decisions on option plays, and his upper-body mechanics are sound. His footwork and ability to go past the first read could use some work, but his tape shows a player with franchise quarterback potential.
Herbert and Tagovailoa have been closely linked so far in the draft process, so it may be surprising to some people that I have a Group of 5 quarterback not only ahead of Tua, but in the top 10, too. Yet, Utah State’s Jordan Love is my No. 10 overall prospect.
His touch is arguably the best in the class, as he is able to blend raw arm strength with fantastic timing and anticipation. He has shown that he can look past his first read to find the open man, he has good upper-body mechanics, and he’s a very good athlete for a 6-foot-4, 225-pound signal-caller. His hip rotation coincides with his arm motion in a clean pocket, but he will need to be more consistent in doing so under pressure. His base can also be a bit wide when he drops back, and he is guilty of trusting his arm a bit too much sometimes. However, Love is a legitimate NFL starting quarterback, and if you turn on the tape, you will “love” him as much as I do.
A late addition to the board is LSU’s Joe Burrow. I tried my best to not to be too influenced by his hot start to the season, so I watched some of his 2018 tape to try and even things out. Still, I came away impressed with what I saw on film.
Burrow throws with a great sense of anticipation and timing, placing most of his passes right where the receiver is going to be. His accuracy is unfazed in a collapsing pocket, and he is able to keep his cool under pressure to deliver dimes in the shadows of oncoming defenders. He has good velocity on his passes and is able to throw well from awkward body angles, and his upper-body mechanics are crisp. He isn’t a stellar athlete, which limits his mobility when scrambling outside of the tackles, and his accuracy on the run needs some work. When digging into his tape from last year, his decision making wasn't all that consistent. Though it’s hard to crown him as a legitimate early-round pick just yet, his work to kick off the 2019 season indicates he could rise up draft boards in a hurry.
Mitch Trubisky started off the 2019 season with arguably his worst game since his rookie year, but the reality is that even in a doomsday scenario, the Bears likely wouldn’t consider adding a new quarterback until 2021. Still, this year’s class is definitely one worth watching.
Pass rushers aplenty
Today’s NFL is a passing league, which means that aside from actual quarterbacks, the most important players are those who can rush the passer. The 2020 class appears to have many of those.
At the head of the pack is Chase Young, an athletic and violent player who has great hand usage and can shed blocks on a regular basis. He projects as a top-10 lock barring unforeseen circumstances. A.J. Epenesa, whom I mentioned earlier, is a talented player who will see his fair share of first-round looks, but I also really like Kenny Willekes. He plays with a high motor, he has good hip flexibility when turning the corner, he accelerates well off the snap, and he uses his hands very well. He projects as a future starter. especially in a 4-3 scheme.
The rest of the edge rushers in my top 50 consist heavily of athletic defenders with high ceilings. Julian Okwara is a versatile, speedy and fluid rusher who has great bend and is a natural athlete in space. Darrell Taylor rushes with great pad level, has great flexibility when turning the corner and plays hard on every down. Yetur Gross-Matos needs to add some more pass-rushing techniques to his game, but his body control and athleticism in space, as well as his 6-foot-5 and 262-pound frame, give him high upside.
Nick Coe is a bit of a hybrid pass rusher, as he can also slide inside and play as a 3-technique defensive tackle. He may not have a clear-cut position at the next level, but he has a strong upper body and is surprisingly fluid for a 282-pound player. The big wild card is K’Lavon Chaisson, who is coming off of torn ACL in the first game of the 2018 season. He is a quick-twitched athlete with fluid hips in coverage and very good speed off the edge, so if he can stay healthy and build up anchor strength, he could potentially rise into the first round.
Leonard Floyd is coming off of a spectacular first game of the year, but with his contract set to expire after the 2020 season, there’s a chance the Bears might not be able to afford to bring him back. Even if the plans are for him to stick around long-term, the team could use some depth at edge rusher, so don’t be shocked if they invest in the position with a pick fairly early next year.
Deep group of cornerbacks
The 2020 class is famous among draftniks for its deep group of cornerbacks. I’m not as high on the class as others, yet I still have six cornerbacks in my top 50. That says a lot about the depth of this class.
Leading the way on my board are Paulson Adebo and C.J. Henderson. Adebo is a lengthy, intelligent and athletic corner who has great ball skills and knows how to read the eyes of a quarterback to time his jumps and attack the ball. Henderson’s fluidity and athleticism make him a valuable prospect, though his physicality in tight windows shouldn’t be discounted, either.
The class drops off a little bit for me there, but I see a lot of early Day 2 talent in the bunch. Jeffrey Okudah is a long corner with incredibly fluid hips and a good blend of speed and physicality whose stock has the potential to rise like crazy if he makes an intellectual leap in 2019. Jeff Gladney is a fluid off-man corner who has some of the best instincts I’ve seen at the position in this class. Bryce Hall’s speed, length and physicality combination make him a valuable asset, while Jaylon Johnson is a fluid defender with burst coming out of his breaks and solid jamming ability in squat-press coverage.
This group in particular could be of interest to the Bears, as they are on track to hold two second-round picks and could use one on a replacement for Prince Amukamara. With how much talent the cornerback class will have in 2020, they would be smart to consider using an early pick on one.