Projecting 2020 NFL Draft Stock of CFB's Biggest Stars of New Year's Bowls

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2019

Projecting 2020 NFL Draft Stock of CFB's Biggest Stars of New Year's Bowls

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Before LSU and Clemson battle it out in the College Football Playoff title clash on Jan. 13, an exciting slate of games is on tap for New Year's Day.

    The action begins at 1 p.m. ET when a pair of college football blue bloods square off as Alabama takes on Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. Also kicking off at the same time is the Outback Bowl, which will feature upstart Minnesota and a three-loss Auburn team that proved capable of beating anyone this season.

    Those two games are followed by the Rose Bowl at 5 p.m. ET, with Big Ten representative Wisconsin taking on the cream of the Pac-12 crop in Oregon.

    The day's action wraps up with an 8:45 p.m. ET kickoff from the Sugar Bowl, which puts Baylor to the test against a Georgia team that was in the College Football Playoff picture for much of the year.

    Ahead we've taken a closer look at the rosters of each of the eight teams in action on New Year's Day, keeping an eye on future NFL talents. Each team's best 2020 draft prospect is highlighted, followed by a rundown of other notable potential draft picks with every player given a projected range in which he will be selected.

    Let's get started.


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    Jerry Jeudy
    Jerry JeudyKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Top NFL Draft Prospect: WR Jerry Jeudy

    The best NFL prospect on a stacked Alabama receiving corps—and arguably the No. 1 wide receiver in a loaded class—Jerry Jeudy checks all the boxes to be an impact playmaker at the next level.

    The 6'1", 192-pound junior had more yards (1,315) and touchdowns (14) last season, but he's still been plenty productive with a team-leading 71 catches for 959 yards and nine scores. Despite his status as one of the draft's top prospects, he never considered sitting out the Citrus Bowl.

    "I had no second thoughts about it," Jeudy told reporters. "I already knew whatever the bowl game we played in that I would be playing, so I didn't really have no second thoughts."

    Projected Draft Position: Top-10 pick


    Other Notable NFL Draft Prospects

    • QB Tua Tagovailoa1st round (injured, will not play in bowl game)
    • OT Jedrick Wills Jr.1st round
    • WR Henry Ruggs lll1st round
    • CB Trevon Diggs1st round
    • ILB Dylan Moses1st/2nd round (injured, will not play in bowl game)
    • OT Alex Leatherwood1st/2nd round
    • Edge Terrell Lewis1st/2nd round
    • S Xavier McKinney1st/2nd round
    • WR DeVonta Smith1st/2nd round
    • DL Raekwon Davis—2nd/3rd round
    • RB Najee Harris—2nd/3rd round
    • OLB Anfernee Jennings—2nd/3rd round
    • OG Deonte Brown2nd/3rd round
    • DT LeBryan Ray2nd/3rd round (injured, will not play in bowl game)
    • S Jared Mayden3rd/4th round (injured, will not play in bowl game)
    • S Shyheim Carter—4th/5th round


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    Derrick Brown
    Derrick BrownTimothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images

    Top NFL Draft Prospect: DT Derrick Brown

    When Derrick Brown officially announced he would be playing in the Outback Bowl, it set off a chain reaction of sorts with several other key members of the team following suit.

    Brown, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, was a handful for opposing offensive lines all season, racking up 49 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks for a Tigers defense that ranked 20th in FBS against the run.

    That was enough to make him Auburn's first unanimous All-American since offensive guard Ed King in 1990, and he'll almost certainly be one of the first players off the board in the 2020 draft.

    Projected Draft Position: Top-10 pick


    Other Notable NFL Draft Prospects

    • OT Prince Tega Wanogho2nd/3rd round
    • DL Nick Coe—3rd/4th round (will not play in bowl game)
    • DL Marlon Davidson3rd/4th round
    • CB Javaris Davis3rd/4th round
    • OT Jack Driscoll4th/5th round
    • S Daniel Thomas4th/5th round
    • S Jeremiah Dinson5th/6th round


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    James Lynch
    James LynchPeter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    Top NFL Draft Prospect: DL James Lynch

    After taking a significant step forward during a productive sophomore season, James Lynch emerged as one of the most productive defensive linemen in the nation during the 2019 campaign.

    A 3-star recruit out of high school, Lynch piled up 18.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks as the leader of a Baylor defense that helped spark the team to a surprising 11-2 record.

    While the 6'4", 295-pound lineman played on the outside of the Bears' 3-4 defense, he's also capable of moving inside and playing defensive tackle at the next level. He could prove a mid-round steal despite his lack of explosiveness.

    Projected Draft Position: 3rd/4th round


    Other Notable NFL Draft Prospects

    • WR Denzel Mims5th/6th round
    • RB JaMycal Hasty—6th/7th round


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    D'Andre Swift
    D'Andre SwiftKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Top NFL Draft Prospect: RB D'Andre Swift

    With star left tackle Andrew Thomas announcing earlier this month that he would be skipping Georgia's bowl game, we'll pivot to running back D'Andre Swift as the headlining player for the Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl.

    A 5-star recruit in 2017, Swift made an immediate impact, tallying 771 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns as a freshman.

    The 5'9", 215-pound Philadelphia native has followed that up with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons as the featured back in the Bulldogs offense, racking up 1,216 rushing yards and 216 receiving yards in 2019 while scoring eight total touchdowns.

    There's a good chance he will be the first running back taken in the 2020 draft. He's been battling a shoulder injury, but he's expected to play in the Sugar Bowl if he's healthy.

    Projected Draft Position: First round


    Other Notable NFL Draft Prospects

    • OT Andrew Thomas—Top-10 pick (will not play in bowl game)
    • QB Jake Fromm—1st/2nd round
    • OG Solomon Kindley—2nd/3rd round
    • LB Monty Rice—3rd/4th round
    • S Richard LeCounte3rd/4th round
    • OT Isaiah Wilson4th/5th round (will not play in bowl game)
    • OG Ben Cleveland4th/5th round (will not play in bowl game)
    • S J.R. Reed4th/5th round (will not play in bowl game)
    • DL Tyler Clark—6th/7th round (will not play in bowl game)
    • K Rodrigo Blankenship—6th/7th round
    • ILB Tae Crowder—7th round/undrafted


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    Donovan Peoples-Jones
    Donovan Peoples-JonesBrett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Top NFL Draft Prospect: WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

    There's a reason Donovan Peoples-Jones was a 5-star recruit and the top receiver in the 2017 recruiting class after a standout prep career at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan.

    His mix of size and speed is rare. And while he has not developed into the elite pass-catcher many expected him to be at the collegiate level, there's still a world of potential in his 6'2", 208-pound frame.

    He has 33 catches for 404 yards and six touchdowns this season. All told, he's tallied 102 receptions for 1,293 yards and 14 touchdowns in 36 games for the Wolverines. Expect him to be one of the stars of the combine.

    Projected Draft Position: 1st/2nd round


    Other Notable NFL Draft Prospects

    • OG Ben Bredeson2nd/3rd round
    • WR Tarik Black3rd/4th round
    • WR Nico Collins3rd/4th round
    • CB Lavert Hill3rd/4th round
    • OLB Josh Uche—3rd/4th round
    • OLB Khaleke Hudson—3rd/4th round
    • S Josh Metellus—5th/6th round
    • OG Michael Onwenu5th/6th round
    • QB Shea Patterson6th/7th round


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    Tyler Johnson
    Tyler JohnsonBruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Top NFL Draft Prospect: WR Tyler Johnson

    Minnesota employed a run-heavy offense for most of the season, averaging 42.9 carries against just 24.4 pass attempts per game. But that didn't stop Tyler Johnson from having another stellar year.

    A 3-star recruit as a dual-threat quarterback in 2016, Johnson has developed into one of the nation's most productive receivers. He hauled in 78 catches for 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior, then he returned to tally another 74 catches, 1,114 yards and 11 scores in 2019, solidifying his place among a deep crop of wide receiver prospects.

    He's scored a touchdown in six straight games and averaged 109.2 receiving yards per contest during that span. A big outing against Auburn in the Outback Bowl could push his draft stock even higher.

    Projected Draft Position: 2nd/3rd round


    Other Notable NFL Draft Prospects

    • S Antoine Winfield Jr.—3rd/4th round
    • OLB Carter Coughlin4th/5th round
    • ILB Kamal Martin—4th/5th round (will not play in bowl game)
    • RB Rodney Smith—7th round/undrafted


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    Justin Herberg
    Justin HerbergAmanda Loman/Associated Press

    Top NFL Draft Prospect: QB Justin Herbert

    Justin Herbert could already be playing in the NFL if he had decided to forego his senior season at Oregon. After throwing for 3,151 yards and 29 touchdowns as a junior, he was one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2019 draft class.

    Instead, he came back and led Oregon to an 11-2 record, throwing for another 3,333 yards and 32 touchdowns while raising his completion percentage from 59.4 to 66.7 percent.

    The uncertainty surrounding the health of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa could be enough to make Herbert the second signal-caller off the board in the 2020 draft after Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow.

    With a 6'6", 237-pound frame and a rocket arm, Herbert certainly looks the part, and a strong showing against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl could be a major boon to his draft stock.

    Projected Draft Position: Top-10 pick


    Other Notable NFL Draft Prospects

    • OG Shane Lemieux2nd round
    • ILB Troy Dye—2nd/3rd round
    • OC Jake Hanson—3rd/4th round
    • TE Jacob Breeland—3rd/4th round
    • WR Juwan Johnson—3rd/4th round
    • CB Deommodore Lenoir4th/5th round
    • OT Calvin Throckmorton—4th/5th round


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    Jonathan Taylor
    Jonathan TaylorJustin Casterline/Getty Images

    Top NFL Draft Prospect: RB Jonathan Taylor

    It's a flip of the coin between running back Jonathan Taylor and center Tyler Biadasz.

    Either could become the first Wisconsin player to hear his name called in the 2020 draft. Both could sneak into the back end of the first round, though it's more likely they will be selected in the second.

    Taylor is arguably the No. 2 running back in the class behind the aforementioned D'Andre Swift, and he's been one of the most productive players in college football history. With 1,909 yards this season, he's now at 6,080 rushing yards in his three years with the Badgers, and his 21 touchdowns in 2019 give him an even 50 for his career.

    He's also become more of a factor in the passing game, catching 24 passes for 209 yards and five touchdowns this season after tallying just 16 receptions for 155 yards during his first two years on campus.

    Projected Draft Position: 2nd round


    Other Notable NFL Draft Prospects

    • OC Tyler Biadasz2nd round
    • OLB Zack Baun—4th/5th round
    • ILB Chris Orr—5th/6th round
    • DL Isaiahh Loudermilk—6th/7th round
    • WR Quintez Cephus—7th round/undrafted
    • OT Cole Van Lanen—7th round/undrafted


    All stats courtesy of Sports Reference, unless otherwise noted, while recruiting information comes via