With Week 1 of the 2019 college football season set to premiere on Saturday, it’s the perfect time to look ahead to the 2020 NFL Draft and explore which position groups might be the deepest and which players are worth watching. Today, we begin with the offensive side of the ball.
Unlike last year, which saw only one running back and two receivers drafted in the first round, the 2020 Draft promises to be talent-rich at the skill positions. Obviously, it’s still early, but this year’s class boasts both elite top-level talent and depth. On the flip side, the tight-end class lacks any real punch and additional interior offensive linemen will need to emerge during the year for the group to be considered anything more than mediocre.
At this early stage, the 2020 batch of quarterbacks looks very similar to 2019. Two players look like sure-fire first rounders: Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert. Herbert has massive athletic potential while the Crimson Tide signal caller flashes superior accuracy from the pocket. Beyond those two, Georgia’s Jake Fromm looks like the most pro-ready passer of the draft, even if his ceiling isn’t very high. There are a handful of others that could rise given the right circumstances. That list includes the 6’6”, 227-lb Jacob Eason. After getting beat out by Fromm at Georgia, Eason transferred to Washington in hopes his talent would be better appreciated. Finally, internet draftniks have been falling in love with Jordan Love’s tape. The Utah State quarterback plays well within the system and, similarly to Eason, checks all the physical boxes.
With only Josh Jacobs taken in the first round, 2019 wasn’t the greatest year for elite running backs. 2020 looks completely different. Clemson’s Travis Etienne looks like a bigger C.J. Spiller—an elite home-run hitter. The Georgia Bulldogs’ D’Andre Swift is a shifty third-down tailback in the mold of Alvin Kamara. Finally, Najee Harris is the next complete specimen from Alabama. All three players have the look of first rounders. Lower down the tier list (but not by much) is THE Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins and Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Both players look like complete backs with good vision. That’s five tailbacks with first- or second-day potential.
This year’s group has the potential to be similar to the legendary 2014 group. It’s headlined by another Alabama player in Jerry Jeudy. His speed, hands and route-running ability make him virtually uncoverable. Laviska Shenault Jr. from Colorado looks like a Sammy Watkins clone, if a tick slower. CeeDee Lamb is the successor to “Hollywood” Brown at Oklahoma and shares his elite deep speed. So does Henry Ruggs III from Alabama. Jalen Reagor from TCU and Donovan Peoples-Jones from Michigan are both explosive athletes at the position as well, even if they need more finesse. If your team is looking for more firepower at receiver, this is the time to pick it up.
Last year being deep at the tight-end position virtually guarantees that this year will be lacking. Grant Calcaterra is a typical Oklahoma tight end in that he’s solid catching the ball but can’t block. Albert Okwuegbunam for Missouri has immense physical talent, but doesn’t always play like it. It’s unlikely Stanford’s Colby Parkinson becomes anything more than a safety net, despite being well-built for the position. A few lower-tier prospects are flashy and here’s hoping one of them rises through the process.
Another poor grouping last year, the incoming tackle class looks much improved as well. Most analysts have crowned Walker Little and Andrew Thomas, from Stanford and Georgia respectively, as the premier talents in the class, but outside of those two is a vast middle ground with players like Washington’s Trey Adams together with Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs, both Iowa tackles. Adams is coming back from season-ending back surgery and is out to prove he can stay healthy for an entire season. Jackson and Wirfs being Hawkeyes means they are both as polished as they come. All five have the potential to be starters in the league.
Interior Offensive Line
Don’t expect many difference makers at guard or center in 2020. Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz and Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey are as good as it gets at the center position, although Texas’ Zach Shackelford has a good amount of hype. Then at guard, Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood and Oregon’s Shane Lemieux hold court. One dark-horse player who could emerge this season, though, is Georgia’s Solomon Kindley. The junior was rated highly for his pass blocking by Pro Football Focus and is a massive interior presence at 6’4” and 335 lbs.