Early Favorites for the No. 1 Pick in the 2020 NFL Draft

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2019

Early Favorites for the No. 1 Pick in the 2020 NFL Draft

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    In back-to-back NFL drafts, Oklahoma quarterbacks and reigning Heisman Trophy winners have gone No. 1 overall. We may not see another Sooner go No. 1 in the 2020 draft, but with guys like Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon's Justin Herbert eligible, we may well see another signal-caller at the top.

    No one will be surprised to see another quarterback go first overall, but there are players at other positions who will emerge as candidates.

    This is an early list that will most likely change as the college season progresses—and someone is likely to emerge from seemingly out of nowhere, as Kyler Murray did in 2018. For now, these are the players who appear to be most likely to compete for the top spot in the 2020 draft. This is based on factors such as player potential, positional value and projected 2019 performance.

          

Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State

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    There are typically two types of players considered worthy of the No. 1 overall pick—quarterbacks and those who can attack them.

    Ohio State's Chase Young is firmly in the latter category, and he's likely to follow in the footsteps of Nick Bosa (taken second overall in 2019) as a top selection. He amassed 9.5 sacks last season and should hit the double-digit mark this year if he stays healthy.

    Young is determined to improve.

    "I need to build on that going into next year. Be a guy who not only beats one-on-ones but can beat double-teams or whatever they throw at me," he said, per Dave Biddle of Bucknuts.

    Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranked Young No. 2 in his list of top 10 prospects in 2020. If the team with the top selection isn't in need of a franchise quarterback, there's a good chance Young will become the pick.

A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

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    Iowa's A.J. Epenesa is another pass-rusher who could be in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick by December. He racked up 10.5 sacks in 2018 and was recently named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list for 2019.

    The Lott IMPACT Trophy is awarded to a defensive player based on both athletic performance and personal character.

    Epenesa has gone from being a situational pass-rusher to one of the best defenders in the country over the past two seasons. There's little reason to believe that he won't take another positive step in 2019.

    "It's just about taking a step and multiple steps forward and show that I can still improve, better my game and be better than I was last season," he said, per David Eickholt of 247Sports.

    If Epenesa again plays at a high level, there could be a debate over whether he or Young is the top pass-rusher in the draft—much like the Bosa-Josh Allen discussion of this offseason.

Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

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    Wide receivers don't often end up in the conversation to be selected at No. 1. In fact, no receiver has been drafted first overall since the New York Jets took Keyshawn Johnson back in 1996—and he was the first wideout drafted No. 1 in more than a decade.

    Yet, Alabama's Jerry Jeudy could put himself in that conversation with another strong season. He's definitely viewed as one of the top 2020 prospects—Matt Miller has him ranked at No. 1, as does ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.

    "Jeudy is a tremendous talent, a natural pass-catcher who can beat defenders on every route," Kiper wrote. "... Jeudy [6'1", 192 lbs] doesn't have the size of Julio Jones or A.J. Green, who were picked in the top six in the 2011 draft, but he's the most talented receiver since that duo entered the NFL."

    Jeudy amassed an impressive 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2018 while averaging more than 19 yards per catch. He can be a legitimate difference-maker, and there's at least a chance that a team will believe he can make enough of an impact to warrant the No. 1 pick.

Grant Delpit, S, LSU

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    Safety is another position that doesn't often get consideration at No. 1—Gary Glick was the last one taken there, all the way back in 1956. Still, LSU's Grant Delpit could have teams pondering the unconventional move.

    Delpit, who is Matt Miller's No. 3 prospect in 2020, is a do-it-all defender and perhaps the best secondary player in the county heading into the upcoming season.

    "The NFL comp for Delpit is easy; it's former LSU safety Jamal Adams, who was drafted No. 6 overall by the Jets in 2017 and is coming off his first Pro Bowl," ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. wrote. "Delpit is a complete safety who is stout against the run and can cover the deep middle of the field."

    Delpit racked up 74 total tackles, five interceptions, 5.0 sacks and nine passes defended in 2018. He has the potential to become the face of an NFL defense early in his career.

    Again, Delpit is a long shot. The team picking first overall would almost have to be set at quarterback and edge-rusher for him to get serious consideration. And if a franchise is set there, it is likely only picking at No. 1 because of injuries. But completely ruling Delpit out would be unwise.

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

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    If the team with the No. 1 pick next April doesn't have at least a top-20 quarterback under center, the choice will probably come down to Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert.

    Of the two, Tagovailoa is coming off the better season. He fell short against Clemson in the College Football Playoff Championship Game, but he had a tremendous season leading up to it. He finished with 3,966 passing yards, 190 rushing yards and 48 total touchdowns.

    "Tagovailoa reminds me a lot of [Baker] Mayfield in college," CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso wrote. "Smaller [6'1", 218 lbs], athletic, pocket-passing quarterback who wants to stretch the field any chance he gets and can get through progressions as well as occasionally throwing with anticipation."

    Barring a complete collapse, it's hard to envision Tagovailoa not at the top of several teams' draft boards next offseason. It's worth noting, though, that critics are likely to spend 2019 searching for flaws in the Heisman runner-up's game—as is often the case with college quarterbacks following one strong season.

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

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    The decision between Tagovailoa and Herbert won't be easy. Herbert wasn't quite as prolific, and he wasn't a Heisman finalist. However, he did have a fine season, passing for 3,151 yards with 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

    Herbert also has a collection of traits that will intrigue NFL decision-makers.

    "He's got size [6'6", 233 lbs], arm strength, better touch than people think, he's athletic for a big man, he can really throw on the run," one NFC executive said, per Albert Breer of The MMQB. "And he's a great kid, has off-the-charts intangibles, wants to be a doctor. He has it all squared away."

    Matt Miller has Herbert ranked behind Tagovailoa in his top-10 prospect list, but he also believes that Herbert would have been the first quarterback drafted had he come out this year. As is the case with Tagovailoa, Herbert should be a serious contender to go No. 1 in 2020 barring some unforeseen regression.

Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    While Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm's stock isn't quite as high as Tagovailoa's or Herbert's—Matt Miller has him ranked behind both—he still has a shot at going No. 1 overall because of the importance of the position. 

    Fromm, who passed for 2,749 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2018, could leapfrog Tagovailoa and Herbert depending on how their respective seasons unfold. Plus, there could already be a team out there that prefers Fromm's mature and businesslike approach to the position.

    "Fromm does as he's asked, which is one thing evaluators love about him," Miller wrote. "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."

    As the New York Giants' semi-surprising selection of Daniel Jones at No. 6 this year clearly shows, not all teams view quarterbacks in the same light. If a quarterback-needy team views Fromm as the top signal-caller in the draft, he'll likely also be the top pick.