Matt Miller's Top 10 NFL Draft Prospects in 2020May 21, 2019
Matt Miller's Top 10 NFL Draft Prospects in 2020
One year ago, a stunningly high number of evaluators and analysts' projected top 10 picks of the 2019 draft became the actual top 10 picks.
Nick Bosa, Ed Oliver, Devin White, Josh Allen, Clelin Ferrell and Devin Bush were all considered among the top players at their position groups. Of course, Kyler Murray and Quinnen Williams surprised us en route to becoming dominant prospects and top-three selections, but for the most part, the good players are identifiable in advance. Which brings us to the top 10 players for the 2020 draft.
A few of the players on this list will change, especially if first-year starters rise up like Williams and Murray did last season, but largely it will remain the same barring injury. These are the names to start your own evaluation process with—if you're into that sort of thing—or at least be aware off once the college football season kicks off in late August.
10. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
Jake Fromm doesn't have the arm strength of Jacob Eason. He doesn't have the agility of Kyler Murray. He doesn't have the size (6'2", 220 lbs) and upside of Justin Herbert. What he does offer is a high football IQ, very good accuracy and a floor that's higher than any other prospect's in the 2020 draft class. That's why evaluators have loved him since he took the job from Eason as a freshman at Georgia.
Fromm will be labeled as a game manager or system quarterback, but so much of that is what he's coached to do. Georgia isn't like the NFL where quarterbacks often have the freedom to break outside the system and make plays on their own. Fromm does as he's asked, which is one thing evaluators love about him. He is smart, conservative and accurate, with one AFC area scout telling me he's very similar to Jared Goff and Andrew Luck coming out of college.
Fromm needs to bounce back from poor showings in 2018 against LSU and Texas, but in what should be his final year in Athens, he has the mental makeup to make himself QB1 in a loaded draft class.
9. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Justin Herbert had a tough decision to make in January 2019. Stay in college and get a chance to play with his brother, an incoming tight end recruit, while working on his game or head to the NFL where I believe he would have been the first quarterback drafted.
Herbert chose college, which is his right, but in doing so he may have opened himself up to questions from evaluators. Even before Herbert announced he would stay in school for his senior season, rumors had been stirring in the scouting community about his personality, which was often described as "weird." Herbert isn't a bad person—no one said that—but as one evaluator told me: "He's just kind of soft and aloof. Another year will hopefully toughen him up."
Herbert's on-field game leaves almost no questions. At 6'6" and expected to be around 240 pounds this season, Herbert has awesome size to go with his touch and accuracy. He's also a mobile quarterback with the ability to move in and out of the pocket to evade the rush.
These tools are the reason I believe had Herbert entered the 2019 draft, he would be a member of the New York Giants and Daniel Jones would have been a late first-round pick.
Herbert needs the next year to quiet his critics about his mental makeup, which his accuracy, arm talent and athleticism could quickly take care of.
8. Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Too many times in previous college football seasons we've seen a top tackle get immediately downgraded because of a lack of size. Connor Williams in the 2017 season was knocked and told to move to guard. Jonah Williams in the 2018 season heard the same talk before being drafted No. 11 overall—and just recently Paul Dehner Jr. of The Atlantic reported he would play left tackle for the Bengals.
Finally we have a left tackle prospect who should lead the rankings in the preseason and actually be drafted to play his natural position even though Iowa's Tristan Wirfs lines up on the right side currently.
Wirfs, at 6'5" and 320 pounds, has enough height and length to handle outside speed but also has the power to anchor and sit down on bull-rushers and strong defensive ends. He's also tested in the Big Ten (and in practice every day), which should give evaluators comfort about his ability to project to the pros.
The early buzz on Wirfs is great, which means a left tackle being drafted in the top 10 again is likely to become a reality.
7. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Tua Tagovailoa is the most popular player in college football. Like Shaq or Zion, he's on a first-name basis with fans and analysts. But how does the 6'1", 218-pound quarterback stack up as an NFL prospect?
There are a lot of positives. Tua is stunningly accurate, throwing with beautiful touch on passes to every level of the field. When he rolls out of the pocket to his left and launches a spiral 30 yards downfield to the perfectly outstretched arms of Jerry Jeudy, you're left wondering if Steve Young and Jerry Rice have been recreated in Tuscaloosa.
Tua is smart, accurate and mobile. He's also been banged up, is way too patient in the pocket and doesn't have elite arm strength. Injuries heal, though, and pocket awareness can be coached. Tua has the poise and accuracy that teams should crave when it's time to draft a quarterback in 2020.
6. Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
The wide receiver talent in the 2020 class is ridiculous. Three receivers are in my top 10, with others like CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma), Collin Johnson (Texas), Henry Ruggs III (Alabama) and Donovan Peoples-Jones (Michigan) all potential Round 1 players.
Leading off the receiver group is a player who in a "normal" class would be considered the top receiver. Laviska Shenault Jr. doesn't have Jake Fromm or Trevor Lawrence throwing him the ball, which makes what he's done at Colorado all the more impressive.
The 6'2", 225-pounder is built like Alshon Jeffery and plays like JuJu Smith-Schuster. As long as he answers speed questions throughout the season and at the NFL Scouting Combine, Shenault could easily find himself drafted in the top 10.
5. Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but Clemson is really good at developing wide receiver talent.
DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, Mike Williams—and now Tee Higgins to be followed soon by Justyn Ross (a true sophomore).
Dabo Swinney, who played wide receiver at Alabama and has shown an excellent eye for recruiting and developing the position alongside receivers coach Jeff Scott, has another top-10 talent in Higgins. The 6'4", 205-pound Higgins can beat defensive backs down the field, which makes him an excellent vertical threat. He knows how to beat cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage with his hands, feet and speed. He's a threat to impact the game immediately as a rookie wide receiver, which is why he'll be drafted early in the 2020 class.
Even if Higgins doesn't end up with the eye-popping numbers of Ross and running back Travis Etienne, teams should take notice of his traits and talent and not get too caught up staring at the stat sheet.
4. A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
Iowa is once again loaded with prospects along the offensive and defensive lines. Tristan Wirfs got mention at No. 8 overall, but it's right-side defensive end A.J. Epenesa who is the most exciting prospect coming out of Iowa City for the 2020 class.
Epenesa quietly dominated the Big Ten in 2018. The 6'6", 280-pounder went off for 10.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss in 2018 while being overshadowed by Anthony Nelson at the same position. This year will be his season, though, and NFL scouts are already excited about Epenesa's potential. Said one NFC area scout: "He's perfect for the league. Big, strong, smart. Great kid, too."
The Hawkeyes might not take home a conference title this year, but they are the most represented Big Ten team on this list.
3. Grant Delpit, S, LSU
If you liked Derwin James and Jamal Adams, get in line for LSU's Grant Delpit.
The junior safety has already received raving reviews from the coaching staff in Baton Rouge for his leadership, maturity, versatility and athleticism. Like James or Adams before him, Delpit will come into the NFL ready from a technical, physical (6'3", 203 lbs) and mental standpoint. He'll be ready to perform at an All-Pro level within his first two seasons.
Delpit will be typecast as a strong safety, but his tape has shown that he's rangy enough to handle coverage duties if matched up in the slot or on tight ends. And as the NFL shifts to starting more quarterbacks capable of tucking the ball and running, Delpit is perfect to assign as a spy to the Lamar Jacksons and Kyler Murrays of the league.
Safeties traditionally aren't drafted in the top five, but Delpit could change that.
2. Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Another Ohio State pass-rusher sits near the top of big board rankings heading into the 2019 season, and Chase Young might end up better than Nick Bosa was before the San Francisco 49ers drafted him No. 2 overall in the 2019 draft.
Young doesn't have Bosa's strength, but he has more explosion off the ball. The 6'5", 265-pounder is quicker around the edge and shows more bend and dip in his hips and shoulders. Young will have to work to play with the same expert-level technique that Bosa showed, but his natural gifts are better, and he's more scheme-versatile with an ability to play in a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker position.
Depending on team needs when the 2020 draft order is set, Young will have a chance to be drafted first overall if he continues to play like he did in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
1. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
How good is Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy?
He's the next Odell Beckham Jr.
As a sophomore, Jeudy won the Biletnikoff Award for the best wide receiver in college while turning Alabama into a passing team. As a junior, he enters the season as my No. 1 overall prospect. At 6'1" and 192 pounds, Jeudy can roast defenses with deep speed and awesome body control to track the ball vertically or switch it up and start shaking cornerbacks in man coverage with his light feet and smooth route-running ability.
Jeudy is the modern NFL receiver. Big enough, blazing fast but more agile and explosive than big or straight-line fast. If he can stay healthy in 2019, Jeudy has a legitimate chance to be the first wide receiver drafted No. 1 overall since Keyshawn Johnson in 1996.