Host of College Football Impact
It’s almost time for the 2020 NFL Draft, and this April’s edition promises to be anything other than normal. With teams unable to get physicals on potential draftees, let alone watch them work out at their pro days, scouts really only have college film and college film only to go off of. Sure, they can talk to the players via online interviews, and I’m sure their agents have sent plenty of hype reel, but what this situation creates is the potential for some future NFL starters to slip through the rounds and right into some lucky team’s shoulder pads.
Below is a list of can’t miss NFL-talent, that should be taken on Day 1, but will end up falling to the middle rounds for one of the reasons above cause by the Covid-19 pandemic.
AJ Dillon – Boston College – Running Back
At 6-0’, 250lbs, this former Eagle ate up yards and carries in Boston for three seasons. Dillon accumulated 38 rushing touchdowns and 4,352 yards, while escaping the college ranks without any significant injuries. Still, with names like J.K. Dobbins and Johnathan Taylor being drafted ahead of him, Dillon will slip to possibly the 6th or 7th back taken. Some team will call his name in the middle rounds and a year from now be celebrating this steal. He has the potential to be an every-down back who can deliver hits and rack up yards after contact. Think of Derrick Henry, just 2 inches shorter. He won’t catch a bunch of passes (only 21 catches in 35 games), but he will be a monster from scrimmage.
Bryan Edwards – South Carolina – Wide Receiver
Edwards had potentially the biggest draft-stock fall of anyone out there when he broke his foot while training for the NFL combine. The former Gamecock was forced to sit back and watch his competition climb the board as he fell to the middle of the pack. He played in 48 collegiate games, only suffering one real injury, and caught 234 passes for 3,045 in an offense that never really lit up the scoreboard. At 6-3” and 215 lbs., and with four years of SEC competition on his resume, he could really step in on day 1 of camp with an NFL team and make an impact, if he is healthy. And that “IF” is what will cost Edwards to drop from a fringe first round pick to likely a Day-3 steal. Foot injuries are always worrisome for receivers and there is a lot of talent in this draft. It’s understandable why so many teams will pass on him since they can’t get a physical on him with the Covid-19 pandemic going on, but whichever GM takes the gamble and calls his name, will be very happy he did in about 6 months. Fantasy football owners keep him on your radar because he is likely to be a week 1 or 2 waiver wire highlight.
Terrell Lewis – Alabama – Edge
Any starting defensive lineman at Alabama over the past decade is worthy of a Day 1 look as the history of that position speaks for itself. Along with Tide linebackers, it might be the most dependable college to NFL transitional position in football. Lewis will be no different, but because this former top recruit has battled injuries between 2017 and 2018, there is always a concern of his durability. In Lewis’ defense, he did play in 10 games last season as a focal point of Nick Saban’s defense. Lewis took a risk by only competing in the jump portion of the NFL Combine and choosing to wait until the Alabama pro day to really work out for scouts, but because of Covid-19, that day never came about. Still, Lewis has the size (6-5”, 265 lbs.) to cause chaos in the NFL for a long time. With 34-inch arms, Lewis already ranks in the top 15 of all NFL players in that size. His talent screams top 40 pick, but his injuries may drop him out of the top 100.
Jalen Hurts – Oklahoma – Quarterback
One thing that scouts have on Jalen, is film. Plenty of film. Hurts has been in the spotlight for 4 seasons in college football as he enters the draft as one of the top 10 quarterback prospects. I personally have him number 4 on my list behind Burrow, Tua and Herbert, but others have him much further down the line. After 3 years at Alabama, where he earned his degree a year early by the way, Hurts knew he had to find a team that would showcase his throwing ability to take this step. He did just that at Oklahoma, throwing for 3,851 and 32 touchdowns. Add in his running ability, and you have a pure dual threat talent that will take command of any huddle or locker room from the day after the draft. He won’t be a starter week 1, and it might take an injury to get him on the field, but the right coach should develop a package for this kid to control. He is better than Taysom Hill, much better. Hurts was healthy for four years, never had a single word of negativity written about him and by all accounts was a leader from his first day on campus, but with the world the way it is today, teams weren’t able to meet with him and sit down and talk about designing plays and a system around his talents. That right there could cause him to fall. I expect Jordan Love and Jake Fromm to pass him on the draft board, which really is silly.
Brycen Hopkins – Purdue – Tight End
It’s a bad draft for Tight Ends. You’ve heard that, right? Sure, the depth in the draft isn’t there, but the top guys at this position are difference makers in any offense. Cole Kmet, Adam Trautman and Albert Okwegbunam are likely the names everyone knows of by now, but Hopkins has the ability to surpass them all at the next level. At 6-4”, 245lbs, this former Boilermaker finds open space on the field as well as anyone at the D1 level last season. He was a four-year starter in the Big-10 and each year he improved statistically. In 2019 he reeled in 61 passes for 830 yards and 7 touchdowns. Want to know how he did against next level talent? Against Wisconsin’s elite defense he pulled in 8 catches for 127 yards and 2 touchdowns. He played 11 games last season, and in 7 of them he had more than 5 catches. In 9 of them, he caught at least one pass for over 20-yards. He is going to eat up first downs in the NFL and although he will likely fall to the 3rd or 4th round, look for him to be a Quarterback’s best friend for Sundays to come.
Isaiah Wilson – Georgia – Offensive Line
Just like Alabama d-lineman are sure things in the NFL, so too are Georgia o-lineman. Sure, Wilson only has 25 games of collegiate experience, but at 6-6”, 350lbs, this former Bulldog has all the measurables you want protecting a quarterback. In 2019 he was a second team Associated Press All-American yet scouts still have him ranked at the bottom of the top-10 for offensive lineman. He did compete at the NFL combine, and there is plenty of footage over the past 2 years of him blocking Sunday talent in the SEC, but due to an ankle injury that limited him to 11 games last season, teams will be weary of drafting him on Day 1. But make no mistake about it, to start on Georgia’s O-Line, you have to be an elite talent, and that is what Wilson is. I expect him to have a decade long career and make some pro bowls along the way.
Troy Dye – Oregon – Linebacker
Dye took a risk of skipping the combine to prepare for the Oregon pro day, which was ultimately canceled by COVID-19. That will certainly effect his draft position, especially since he played much of the 2019 season with a partially torn meniscus and there are no doctors available for NFL teams to rely on their examinations. At 6-3”, 230lbs, Dye could be used either inside or outside and will eat up tackles regardless of where he stands on the snap. He led the Ducks in tackles for four straight years and has one of the best visions in the draft when it comes to reading the plays. Dye may not fit in every system, and those where he does may not take the risk on a once injured athlete, but somewhere over day 2 his name will be called, and that team is going to get one hell of a return.
Antoine Winfield Jr – Corner Back – Minnesota
One of my favorite players to watch in 2019. When the Gophers were on TV, it was hard not to be impressed by Winfield Jr. He has great range in the backfield, reads the quarterback well and always seems to come up with the big plays when needed the most. His 2 interceptions against Penn State in October are examples of that. At 5-9”, he isn’t the biggest guy on the field, but he makes up for it with his speed. He has a great football IQ and hits the holes quick on run plays and drops back even faster on the pass. He is likely going to be drafted in round 3, somewhere between pick 80-90, but when we look back in 5 years and review the 2020 draft, we are going to be surprised he wasn’t a Day 1 pick.
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