2020 NFL Draft: 25 Predictions with Under a Month to Go

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystApril 8, 2020

2020 NFL Draft: 25 Predictions with Under a Month to Go

0 of 25

    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    Every NFL draft cycle is different. But no one could have prepared for this year's setup, which makes the entire event far more unpredictable than any other in the modern era.

    The 2020 NFL draft will be conducted "fully virtual" from the homes of the league's 32 general managers. They won't be hunkered down in their war rooms. They won't have their support staff around them. The entire setup will be a vast array of telecommunication in which each organization's IT personnel will be the real winners of the event.

    As such, standard operating practices can be thrown out the window (not literally since some general managers might be working in their bedrooms). Surreal might be a better term to describe the setup, but the show will go on because the league and team owners said so.

    The process itself should be fascinating. Decision-makers will likely be more risk-averse and reliant on early evaluations considering the circumstances. Both could be good things. But the typical rumors and scuttlebutt spread during this period have been tampered.

    Even so, the following 25 predictions are locks to occur even in these uncertain times. Phone them in.

               


    Get your NFL draft gear at Fanatics here.

    Bleacher Report has an affiliate marketing relationship with Fanatics. We will receive revenue from your purchase.

Tua Tagovailoa Will Be 4th Quarterback off the Board

1 of 25

    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    Tua Tagovailoa's value has seemingly declined as the months have passed.

    The Alabama product entered the season as the top quarterback prospect with the idea of "tanking for Tua" as a possible strategy utilized by some NFL teams (specifically the Miami Dolphins). Then, LSU's Joe Burrow produced the greatest single season in college football history to become the presumptive favorite for the No. 1 overall pick.

    To make matters worse, Tagovailoa suffered a dislocated hip during a November contest against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. But the idea of the 2018 Heisman Trophy runner-up not being the second or even third quarterback taken involves more than his most recent injury.

    A team scout told Bleacher Report's Matt Miller that his organization knocked "Tua for an all-world supporting cast that often saved him when plays broke down," whereas another scout pointed to "poor interviews and board work during scouting combine meetings."

    The thought of Tagovailoa being the fourth-best quarterback prospect behind Burrow, Oregon's Justin Herbert and even Utah State's Jordan Love continues to grow. One longtime evaluator told AL.com's Matt Zenitz that's exactly how he ranks the incoming signal-callers.

    "Some people feel like Tua's kind of maxed out," he said. "There are definitely some negatives with Tua, including that he's small [6'0", 217 pounds] and that he's been hurt. And it's tricky now when you get into these medicals."

    Uncertainty during a truncated evaluation process only magnifies these concerns. Teams could easily go with who they think is a safer prospect (Herbert) or one viewed with more long-term upside (Love).

Isaiah Simmons Won't Make It Beyond First 4 Selections

2 of 25

    Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

    Clemson's Isaiah Simmons is an anomaly because he's simultaneously a perfect defensive weapon for today's game and doesn't play a premium position. As such, his draft range tends to vary anywhere among the top 10 picks despite an elite physical skill set.

    Value is a funny thing because it varies when discussing individuals. There's no actual substance to the discussion, rather an accepted methodology built over decades. For example, linebacker, where Simmons is slotted to play, isn't viewed as a premium position.

    Well, New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman already showed he's more than willing to take a prospect at a non-premium position if he's a special talent. Ask Saquon Barkley, who became the second overall pick in the 2018 draft.

    Simmons is also special. Yes, he's listed as a linebacker, but he's so much more.

    The 6'4", 238-pound defender with 4.39-second 40-yard-dash speed can play linebacker, both safety spots and nickel, and he can bump all the way outside to corner in a pinch and be a key part of blitz packages.

    Scouts around the league believe Simmons is earmarked to the Giants with the fourth overall pick, according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.

    Don't rule out the Detroit Lions with the third overall pick, either. Simmons' versatility has to be intriguing to head coach Matt Patricia and his New England Patriots-like approach to team-building.

Detroit Lions Will Trade out of 3rd Overall Pick

3 of 25

    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    If the Detroit Lions decide not to draft Clemson's Isaiah Simmons, the organization's best course of action is to create a bidding war for the third overall pick.

    With Joe Burrow and Chase Young expected to go first and second overall, the Lions sit at an interesting crossroads at which they can select an elite talent or auction off the pick to another franchise in search of a top quarterback prospect.

    Let's work off what's we know—or think we know—for a moment. Some teams aren't as high on Tua Tagovailoa, and his stock could be slipping to a degree. Multiple teams rank Oregon's Justin Herbert over him, per Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.

    The former Duck certainly fits the bill.

    Herbert is 6'6" and 236 pounds with above-average mobility (4.68-second 40-yard-dash speed). When the 22-year-old gets into a rhythm, he's an excellent anticipatory thrower with the arm talent to deliver the ball accurately and velocity to all three levels. Plus, he's a brilliant young man as the reigning William V. Campbell Trophy (i.e. the "academic Heisman") winner.

    The Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers currently own the fifth and sixth overall picks, respectively. One could get antsy and make a move to ensure it lands its quarterback of choice.

    Sources told the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero the Dolphins had an "increasingly positive view of Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert" dating back to February.

    The Lions should be able to leverage this interest into a trade-down scenario and still land a top defensive prospect such as Ohio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah.

Chargers Pass on Quarterbacks with 6th Overall Pick

4 of 25

    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Both LSU's Joe Burrow and Oregon's Justin Herbert could be off the board by the time the Los Angeles Chargers are finally on the clock.

    Tua Tagovailoa would certainly be an interesting possibility. He's a big name to build around as the face of the franchise for an organization going into a new billion-dollar stadium, which it will share with another team, and the Hawaii native would bring a built-in fan base to the West Coast squad.

    Those are marketing reasons, though. They don't necessarily reflect the type of player the coaching staff wants.

    Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn doesn't need a mobile quarterback, as seen the last three seasons with Philip Rivers behind center, but he sees the way the game is trending.

    "But if you just study high school football, you know the direction of the National Football League down the road," Lynn told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine. "All those quarterbacks are athletes now, and they pass year-round in these seven-on-seven camps. So, now you have athletes that are really good passers and you can do so many things with that."

    Right now, Tyrod Taylor is the Chargers' projected starter. Lynn built an offensive around Taylor's dual-threat capabilities when the two were together with the Buffalo Bills.

    "I'm very familiar with Tyrod," he said, per ESPN's Lindsey Thiry. "I would say right now it looks like he's in the driver's seat, but no position is final until we get to training camp right now."

    A comfort level exists with Taylor that may not with the available quarterback prospects. Thus, the Chargers would be better served to finish their offensive line with a top tackle prospect—Louisville's Mekhi Becton, Georgia's Andrew Thomas or Iowa's Tristan Wirfs—let Taylor take over as the starter and draft a developmental quarterback later in this or next year's draft.

No Wide Receiver Will Be Drafted Among the Top 10 Selections

5 of 25

    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    An interesting juxtaposition should occur within this year's wide receiver class.

    The position itself is viewed as the deepest in the draft and arguably the best in recent memory, yet none of the prospects are necessarily seen as slam-dunk top-10 talents. Quite simply, there's no Julio Jones or A.J. Green among the incoming wide receivers.

    There are exceptionally talented targets, but they lack the same elite physical tools necessary to push into the top 10, especially when the class is loaded up top at other positions.

    Four offensive tackles could legitimately go among the top 10 selections since the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers, Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns could all use upgrades up front.

    Not every one of those teams will select an offensive lineman in said range, of course. But the possibility shows the amount of depth at another top-heavy position.

    Tackle is only part of the equation. LSU's Joe Burrow, Oregon's Justin Herbert, Clemson's Isaiah Simmons, Auburn's Derrick Brown and Ohio State's Chase Young and Jeffrey Okudah are all considered elite talents. That group doesn't even include the curious case of Tua Tagovailoa.

    The free-agent wide receiver market wasn't nearly as strong, either, because franchises know they'll be able to find a starting-caliber target well into this year's draft.

    So, it's hard to envision a scenario in which a team jumps early on a wide receiver when it can address another premium spot and eventually delve back into the deepest position class later in the process.

Henry Ruggs III Becomes 1st Wide Receiver Drafted

6 of 25

    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    Once a wide receiver's name is finally called, the person attached to that selection may come as a bit of a surprise.

    Throughout most of the draft process, two wide receiver prospects—Alabama's Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb—have been viewed as options 1A and 1B. Both should be off the board within the top 15-20 selections.

    However, Alabama's Henry Ruggs III and his speed should pull ahead of both and become the first wide receiver selected in the 2020 NFL draft.

    "I think he's the best one in this draft," an anonymous evaluator told Al.com's Matt Zentiz. "I'd take him over Jeudy. He's got a rare trait. When you look at Jerry Jeudy—height, weight, speed—he's above average pretty much in all those areas. And Ruggs has a rare trait of speed and he's not your typical speed receiver."

    Ruggs simply has a different gear compared to everyone else. His 4.27-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine was seen as a slight disappointment even though he was clearly the fastest prospect in attendance because a thought persisted that the 188-pound target could break the event record with a sub-4.22-second effort.

    More importantly, the receiver's play-speed matches his timed speed.

    The 21-year-old isn't just a vertical threat. He's a complete route-runner who can make contested catches. As good as the previously mentioned others are, Ruggs can do everything they can while adding that extra something defenses will fear because opposing units won't be able to account for his speed.

7 Offensive Tackles Will Be Chosen in the 1st Round

7 of 25

    David Banks/Associated Press

    Wide receiver might be the deepest and best overall position class found in the 2020 NFL draft, but offensive tackle takes the cake for the most first-round potential. The class is absolutely stacked at the top with at least seven prospects expected to go within the first 32 selections.

    Four offensive tackles—Alabama's Jedrick Wills Jr., Georgia's Andrew Thomas, Iowa's Trista Wirfs and Louisville's Mekhi Becton—could wind up in the top 10 overall. At worst, the quartet should all be off the board within the top 15 selections since the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos join the previously mentioned tackle-needy teams within the first 10 picks.

    Beyond that point, the grouping gets quite interesting because four more options could be chosen during the opening frame.

    Houston's Josh Jones played at an extremely high level throughout his career. According to Pro Football Focus, the four-year starter received the highest pass-blocking grade among tackle prospects last season.

    Boise State's Ezra Cleveland impressed with an outstanding combine performance after starting 40 career games for the Broncos.

    USC's Austin Jackson is a silky-smooth pass protector, but he's the most inconsistent of those already included. His overall development might be a step or two behind the others.

    Georgia's Isaiah Wilson is the latest addition to the group. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah reported at least two general managers believe this mountain of a man (6'6", 350 lbs) will be selected during the opening frame.

    Seven offensive tackles in the first round might be a slightly conservative estimate.

South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw Works His Way into Top 10

8 of 25

    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    Edge-rusher is generally considered one of the most valuable positions in the NFL, but the league is changing. Teams are searching for prospects who don't just work off the edge or a quarterback's blind side. An interior defender capable of consistently collapsing the pocket is just as valuable.

    They're also tougher to obtain.

    As such, Javon Kinlaw's skill set will be in high demand once teams are finally on the clock and considering their options. The South Carolina product has the highest overall grade among interior defenders since the 2018 campaign, per Pro Football Focus.

    The 6'5", 324-pound defensive tackle is far from a polished prospect, which makes his potential so exciting.

    "Once I get the right coaching, the sky is the limit," the 22-year-old defender told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine.

    Two teams at the back end of this year's top 10 selections should have plenty of interest in Kinlaw for varying reasons.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars, who own the ninth overall pick, moved on from Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus this offseason. Kinlaw could slide right next to Taven Bryan and replenish the Jags' defensive front.

    At least one scout believes the Cleveland Browns, who currently sit in the 10th position, could target Kinlaw, per Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. Cleveland's intrigue could also be an attempt to create leverage for a potential trade-down scenario.

Cleveland Browns Will Trade Down, Still Land Tackle Prospect

9 of 25

    Steve Conner/Associated Press

    Thanks to yet another regime change, the Cleveland Browns are taking a different approach to their offense.

    This time, new head coach Kevin Stefanski is leading the way and bringing the zone-stretch with him. Much like Kyle Shanahan's approach to offensive play-calling, his entire offense will rely heavily on zone-blocking. The wide zone will be the base of everything else the team does.

    In order to make the transition, certain personnel are needed up front.

    The Browns already have a solid offensive interior with Joel Bitonio, J.C. Tretter and Wyatt Teller. The team immediately targeted and signed the top available offensive tackle, Jack Conklin, in free agency.

    Left tackle remains a void.

    Despite a tremendous incoming tackle class, not every prospect is an ideal system fit. Lateral mobility and overall movement skills are a priority. Depending on how the Browns rate those individuals, they might be in a position where none of the preferred options are available with the 10th overall pick.

    If that's the case, new general manager Andrew Berry should do the smart thing by trading down, acquiring more assets and targeting an ideal fit for the scheme.

    Houston's Josh Jones and Boise State's Ezra Cleveland are the obvious possibilities.

    Jones is an easy mover, and it showed when the Cougars coaching staff consistently asked him to pull and block in space. Cleveland shows exceptional athleticism and lateral quickness. The two-time first-team All-Mountain West performer tested among the top five linemen at the NFL Scouting Combine in the 40-yard dash (4.93 seconds), bench press (30 reps), short shuttle (4.46 seconds) and three-cone drill (7.26 seconds).

Trent Williams Will Be Traded During the Draft

10 of 25

    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    The continued staredown between the Washington Redskins and Trent Williams is pointless. Eventually, someone will budge.

    A second-round pick remains Washington's asking price for the seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle.

    "They're not being stubborn," one source said of trade talks, per NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay.

    Some flexibility exists within the team's demands. Washington doesn't need a straight second-round pick in exchange for Williams' services. The front office is willing to look at package deals that are essentially the equivalent of that value.

    "It's a willingness to be creative," another source told Finlay.

    The cost remains prohibitive, but it doesn't necessarily fall entirely on the organization. Williams wants a new contract, and the offensive lineman's agent, Vince Taylor, said during an interview on 106.7 the Fan that a deal worth $16 million annually "would not be a holdup for us."

    Still, a suitor must pay the initial price in a trade and then give Williams an extension. That double-whammy has prevented interested teams from making the move.

    However, desperation could set in during the draft as offensive tackles come off the board and certain squads don't land their preferred blockers. Williams will become far more intriguing at that point, which is why a trade will ultimately happen during the event.

Cesar Ruiz Will Be Drafted Higher Than Last Year's Top C, Garrett Bradbury

11 of 25

    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    Last year, the Minnesota Vikings chose center Garrett Bradbury with the 18th overall selection. That's relatively high for the position since the top prospect usually lands somewhere between pick Nos. 20-32 or even in the second round.

    The Los Angeles Chargers' Mike Pouncey is the only center in the last 27 years to hear his name called among the opening round's first 16 selections. Michigan's Cesar Ruiz has an outside shot of being the second, and he has a much better chance to go higher than Bradbury did a year ago.

    The reason is simple: The 20-year-old is arguably the most complete center prospect coming out of the collegiate ranks in quite some time. The underclassman is powerful at the point of attack with exceptional movement skills, and the Wolverines coaching staff regularly pulled the pivot and used him as the lead blocker in the run game.

    The Denver Broncos own this year's 15th overall selection. Last year's starting center, Connor McGovern, left in free agency. Wide receiver may be a bigger priority near the top of this year's draft, but Ruiz is a solid alternative.

    The Dallas Cowboys are also intriguing with the 17th overall pick. Five-time Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick retired this offseason. The team re-signed Joe Looney, but the position could use an upgrade. After all, the organization got the last laugh after being chastised for its decision to select Frederick much higher than expected during the 2013 draft.

Xavier McKinny Will Be 1st Safety Drafted in Top Half of 1st Round

12 of 25

    Ric Tapia/Associated Press

    Generally speaking, Alabama's Xavier McKinney is viewed as a second-half-of-the-first-round-type talent even though he's arguably the best pure safety prospect in this year's class.

    That viewpoint should probably change because those within league circles view the early entrant quite differently.

    One NFL evaluator compared McKinney to seven-time Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas III, who became the standard-bearer for the position during his time with the Seattle Seahawks, according to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer.

    "One of the best safeties I've ever watched," another evaluator told Breer.

    McKinney is a "premium" prospect in a draft that lacks top-end talent along the defense's back line.

    The Nick Saban protege is similar to Clemson's Isaiah Simmons, albeit much smaller—McKinney is 6'0" and 201 pounds. The comparison stems from usage.

    Like Simmons, McKinney can be used all over the field. He's effective playing near the line of scrimmage or dropping deep. Alabama used him as a blitzer and nickel corner. He's also an effective tackler in open space.

    The value of safeties continues to increase with each passing season because more is asked of the position than ever before. They can't be one-dimensional. Those with complete skill sets create flexibility throughout the secondary and see their price driven up.

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team to watch with the 14th overall pick after fielding last year's 30th-ranked pass defense.

Southern Illinois S Jeremy Chinn Will Be Top Non-FBS Draftee

13 of 25

    Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

    Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn is set to join the ranks of Tytus Howard, Darius Leonard, Adam Shaheen, Carson Wentz and Jaquiski Tartt as the highest-selected small-school prospects from the previous five draft classes.

    Like others previously mentioned, Chinn's versatility, combined with fantastic natural gifts, places him on the inside track to hear his name called before other non-FBS options.

    "I have a cornerback background, but I have the size to play linebacker, and obviously, I play safety," he said, per the Indianapolis Star's Joel A. Erickson. "I can play three positions on the football field."

    He isn't just saying he can do these things; he's showed the capability to do so. Chinn performed well in Mobile during Senior Bowl week. He locked up tight ends and showed good ball skills along the back end.

    Then, he obliterated combine testing.

    At 6'3" and 221 pounds, Chinn tested among the 99th percentile of NFL safeties in SPARQ (speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness), according to Three Sigma Athlete's Zach Whitman.

    The FBS consensus All-American doesn't just look like the top available small-school product; he has the makings of a first-round draft pick.

Fewer Than 7 1st-Round Trades Will Occur

14 of 25

    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    This year's draft could be a disaster from an operational standpoint, especially when a team is on the clock and its general manager is contemplating potential trade opportunities.

    The logistics of trying to orchestrate a deal without the help of those within the front office will likely be prohibitive. Not only will general managers have to field all the calls themselves, but they'll also need to do so while trying to determine whether they're receiving excellent return value. Once a deal is agreed upon, both teams will still have to call and confirm the transaction.

    Some general managers may just avoid making trades altogether so they don't have to deal with the headaches.

    So, a prediction of fewer than seven first-round draft-day trades serves as a callback to last year. Seven trades took place during the previous two drafts. 

    Knowing how this year's process will be turned upside-down due to potential communication issues, counting on far fewer moves being made, as a whole, seems like the logical approach.

Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa Will Experience a Draft-Day Tumble

15 of 25

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Never say the NFL combine doesn't matter. It certainly does.

    Ask Dalvin Cook, DK Metcalf and Orlando Brown Jr. Each of them heard their name called a round or two later than expected after concerning performances within the confines of Lucas Oil Stadium.

    The combine shouldn't be the determining factor behind an individual's draft standing. What they put on film says more about their capabilities than what occurs in spandex on field turf in front of hundreds of NFL scouts and decision-makers.

    With that said, a disastrous performance in Indianapolis will affect a prospect's stock.

    Cook and Metcalf displayed poor change-of-direction times. They both fell a round lower than their play and previous standing dictated. Both should have been first-round picks, and they've proved as much during their professional careers. Brown looked sloppy, slow and unathletic.

    "I'm here to tell you to pay attention to his film..." Brown said in a series of tweets arguing how an individual plays the position should matter more than his performance at the combine.

    All of this now applies to Iowa's A.J. Epenesa. His draft stock took a hit after an uninspiring combine performance. The edge-rusher didn't look explosive or all that athletic during his performance. The 6'5", 275-pound defensive end posted a 5.04-second 40-yard dash and average-to-poor change-of-direction times.

    This will have an effect and likely drop him into the second round, even in a weak edge class.

    But Epenesa is a two-time All-Big Ten performer with very good power and an all-around game. Like those before him who tested poorly, the 21-year-old prospect can prove everyone wrong once he's in the NFL.

XFL Standout Will Be Day 2 Selection

16 of 25

    XFL/Getty Images

    While other XFL standouts already signed with NFL franchises after the neophyte league shuttered its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenny Robinson Jr. bid his time. He already put in the work. Now, he just needs to hear a team call his name.

    Robinson's path is different than everyone else's. He became the first player in the modern era with remaining eligibility at the collegiate level to play for an upstart professional league.

    The 2018 first-team All-Big 12 safety intended to transfer before he decided to join the XFL and help support his mother as she battled cancer.

    Robinson managed 21 total tackles and two interceptions while playing free safety for the St. Louis BattleHawks. More importantly, he learned how to be a professional.

    "I feel like [the XFL] gave me a great opportunity to learn a lot of things from the other guys on the team,” Robinson said, per NJ.com's Mike Kaye. "Things on the business side and just how to always keep working. There's no limit to getting better."

    The 21-year-old defensive back showed he was an outstanding college player during his time with the West Virginia Mountaineers and got a "low-key head start" on other prospects by playing in the XFL.

    Now, teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles are interested in his services, per Kaye.

    Don't expect Robinson to be on the board for too long. He should be considered a top-six safety prospect in this year's class.

Alabama CB Trevon Diggs Will Be Day 2 Draft Selection

17 of 25

    Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

    Cornerbacks almost always go higher than expected because teams are in a never-ending search to improve the position in today's pass-first game.

    Alabama's Trevon Diggs could be an exception because of poor decisions throughout the predraft process.

    Diggs chose not to play in the Crimson Tide's bowl game this year, as numerous top prospects do. The defensive back then turned down an opportunity to compete at this year's Senior Bowl. The 6'1", 205-pound cornerback did participate during on-field drills at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he didn't complete a full workout.

    Everything built toward a pro day that, unfortunately, never happened.

    "I'd be shocked if he went in the first round," an anonymous evaluator told AL.com's Matt Zenitz. "I could see him going in the third more than I can see him going in the first. There are questions about his speed. People don’t know how fast this guy is. There are legitimate questions about how fast he is. And then you have questions about his work ethic and you have questions about his inconsistency on tape."

    Diggs' game is built upon being physical at the line of scrimmage and using his length to win. Without a proper 40-yard-dash time on the books, teams will be wary of his overall quickness, or lack thereof.

    The 2019 first-team All-SEC performer made choices he thought were best for him. Those backfired.

    Now, lingering questions regarding his skill set can't be answered, and franchises will almost certainly consider other cornerbacks until Diggs' potential becomes too much to pass up at some point during Day 2 of the draft.

Mississippi State LB Willie Gay Jr. Will Be Drafted Sooner Than Expected

18 of 25

    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    No prospect needed to crush the interview portion of the draft process more than Mississippi State's Willie Gay Jr.

    The 243-pound linebacker's skill set is not in question. Gay is a true sideline-to-sideline defender with a dynamic burst to the football because of his 4.46-second 40-yard-dash speed. His ability to track down ball-carriers and arrive with nasty intentions makes him an ideal second-line defender in today's game because he's physical and comfortable working in space.

    His coverage grade ranked best among linebackers against Power Five competition since 2017, per Pro Football Focus.

    But evaluators had to worry about potential off-field transgressions after Gay missed the first eight games of the 2019 campaign due to a suspension for academic fraud involving a tutor. He apparently quelled those concerns during team meetings.

    "His interviews have been really good and he's extremely explosive on tape," NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah tweeted.

    As long as a team is comfortable with Gay, there's no limit to his on-field potential. Instead of being a mid-round pick, he should now be viewed as an early Day 2 option.

New England Patriots Find Next QB Outside of 1st Round

19 of 25

    Ray Carlin/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots own only one pick in this year's first and second rounds. That's quite a change of pace since head coach/de facto general manager Bill Belichick usually hordes second-round selections like he's Gollum with his precious ring.

    But the organization decided Mohamed Sanu's addition would be a bigger boost for the 2019 campaign than an early-round draft pick would be for the future. The Patriots were wrong with that assessment.

    Now, Belichick and Co. must find a way to acquire another quarterback option with limited resources near the top of the draft.

    The 23rd overall selection might provide an opportunity if Utah State's Jordan Love is still on the board. If that's not the case, a potential trade-down scenario with a specific quarterback in mind should be the preferred course of action.

    A drop-off exists once the first four quarterbacks are selected. Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts is the next-best prospect. He is also the ideal fit to be Tom Brady's successor.

    New England trading out of the first round is old-hat. The organization can acquire further assets with Hurts as its primary target. Even if Hurts is drafted by the Indianapolis Colts or the Los Angeles Chargers near the top of the second frame, the Patriots should consider other possibilities like Georgia's Jake Fromm or Washington State's Anthony Gordon.

    Either way, the Patriots can't leave this year's draft without another quarterback option to challenge and possibly surpass last year's 133rd overall pick, Jarrett Stidham.

LSU's Grant Delpit Will Be 5th Safety Drafted

20 of 25

    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    No top prospect experienced a fall down draft boards quite like Grant Delpit did this season.

    Usually, a significant decline in draft value is caused by a major injury or off-field concerns. Neither is the case for Delpit. He simply didn't reach the expected level of performance, though he was still very good in spots.

    The LSU safety was thought of as a potential top-10 talent during the early portions of the 2019 campaign.

    Inconsistency, mainly as a tackler, is now the biggest concern.

    The reigning Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation's top defensive back, Delpit missed 44 tackles over the last three seasons, including 20 a year ago, according to Pro Football Focus. The problem stems from an inability to consistently break down. Instead, he plays at 100 mph without fully embracing varying tempos.

    On top of that, LSU sources told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein that "NFL teams won't be getting the alpha leadership Jamal Adams provided for the Tigers."

    One NFL general manager has both of the small-school safeties—Southern Illinois' Jeremy Chinn and Lenoir-Rhyne's Kyle Dugger—ranked ahead of Delpit, according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.

    Delpit basically became a victim of expectations. He's a quality prospect who many overvalued earlier in the process. Now, he likely falls behind Alabama's Xavier McKinney, Minnesota's Antoine Winfield Jr., Chinn and Dugger in the safety hierarchy.

No Tight Ends Will Be Selected in First 2 Rounds

21 of 25

    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    This year's tight end class is easily the worst among all of the position groups (not including fullback and specialists).

    A year ago, T.J. Hockenson became only the second tight end in the last decade to emerge as a top-10 pick. Similarly, he and Noah Fant were only the second pair of tight ends to be drafted in the first round during the same span.

    This year, the exact opposite will happen. A tight end prospect will be lucky to hear his name called within the first two rounds.

    Notre Dame's Cole Kmet and Dayton's Adam Trautman are this draft's top options. Kmet is a solid Y-tight end, but he lacks explosive qualities in the passing game. Similar concerns can be attributed to Trautman, who is also making the leap from a lower division.

    The problem revolves around the lack of skill found at the position.

    Intriguing options do exist, and a couple of prospects will almost certainly help a team down the road. Yet, draft value is built on one of two things. Either a tight end is a complete option, like Hockenson, who can help in the passing game and be a legitimate in-line option, or he must be an excellent athlete who can create mismatches as a receiver, like Fant.

    No one quite fits in either of those categories, and it shows in the overall quality of the incoming group.

Steelers Will Target, Draft Ben Roethlisberger's Eventual Replacement

22 of 25

    Gene Puskar/Associated Press

    Pittsburgh Steelers brass is hopeful quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be back and better than ever after requiring elbow surgery on his throwing arm. The team is forced to be optimistic because it doesn't have any other options at the moment.

    Neither Mason Rudolph nor Devlin Hodges showed anything last season to warrant confidence as Roethlisberger's heir apparent. Instead, the organization must rely on the 38-year-old's recovering wing and hope he returns to form.

    "I have no doubts I'm going to be able to come back and play well—none," Roethlisberger said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Cook. "I have complete confidence in that. I'm throwing without pain for the first time in years."

    That's all well and good, but the Steelers can't build a long-term plan around an aging quarterback with a significant injury history.

    "They can't risk what happened last year with no one behind Ben," a rival general manager told Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.

    The Steelers don't have a first-round pick to immediately address the quarterback position. However, they can do so a little later in the process. Washington's Jacob Eason and Florida International's James Morgan are logical mid-round options.

Jacksonville Jaguars Will Make 2 Major Trades

23 of 25

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    This is the two-for-one portion of the article.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars should be quite active throughout the draft. The team owns 12 draft picks, including a pair of first-round selections (Nos. 9 and 20). General manager David Caldwell should also be expected to swing not one, but two trades during the weekend.

    Clearly, Yannick Ngakoue is not happy with the front office's decision to use the franchise tag and retain his services.

    "Was never about the money Duval. My situation was handled piss poor," the 25-year-old pass-rusher tweeted.

    Instead of forcing Ngakoue to stay for a season, Caldwell should take the smart approach and do exactly what the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks did last season when they traded their young edge-rushers, Dee Ford and Frank Clark—both of whom previously received franchise tags—for significant draft assets.

    "It's obvious my time is up in my current situation. Let's both move on [Jaguars]," Ngakoue also tweeted.

    The Seahawks, currently in the back half of this year's first round, make the most sense since the organization hasn't been able to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney.

    But another logical trade exists for the Jaguars.

    The Cincinnati Bengals continue to hold onto Andy Dalton. The 32-year-old veteran had his most productive seasons under the supervision of Jay Gruden, who is now the Jaguars' offensive coordinator.

    Dalton has one year left on his current deal at $17.7 million, none of which is guaranteed. He would be the ideal mentor/insurance plan for Gardner Minshew II and probably wouldn't cost the Jags more than a late-round draft pick.

At Least 35 Wide Receivers Will Be Drafted

24 of 25

    Tim Warner/Getty Images

    NFL front offices already know they'll be able to get a starting-caliber wide receiver through at least the first three rounds of this year's draft.

    "This group of receivers should be deep and last through the first three rounds with guys who can really help teams," an anonymous scout told Athlon Sports' Michael Bradley.

    A typical wide receiver class produces 25-30 draftees. A good class falls between 30 and 35. A great class pushes beyond 35 selections. Last year's crop, for example, featured 28 draft picks, and it was considered deep through the middle rounds.

    This year's class could push toward uncharted territory with 40 or more wide receivers coming off the board during the three-day event.

    It's not simply about the prospects who can immediately help. Depth extends beyond those first three frames.

    In total, 55 wide receivers were invited to attend this year's NFL Scouting Combine, where third-day options such as Florida's Tyrie Cleveland, Virginia's Joe Reed, Washington State's Dezmon Patmon and Oregon State's Isaiah Hodgins, among others, tested and performed well. Normally, those prospects would likely go a round or two higher than they're currently projected, but it's just such a good crop.

    Wide receiver isn't an immediate need for every team. Even so, all 32 franchises should look to take advantage of an outstanding group and select one at some point.

Overall Number of Small-School Draftees Will Plummet

25 of 25

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    The section of prospects who will be hit hardest by the operating procedures of this year's draft and its lead-up involves the least known.

    Every year, small-school prospects impress at pro days and finally get the face time necessary to garner enough interest from teams to be drafted.

    A year ago, 17 non-FBS individuals heard their names called during the draft, including the Houston Texans' Tytus Howard and the Los Angeles Chargers' Nasir Adderley, both of whom were selected in the first two rounds.

    This draft's top small-school options won't be hurt by a lack of pro days.

    Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn, Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger, Dayton tight end Adam Trautman and St. John's offensive tackle Ben Bartch participated in both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine. All four should be chosen by the end of Friday's selections.

    However, only 13 non-FBS prospects attended this year's combine. Not all of those individuals will be drafted. On top of that, others didn't even have a chance to show their stuff in front of NFL scouts and decision-makers.

    Teams will almost certainly trend toward those with film against superior competition and those who were more extensively scouted during the earlier portions of the process rather than take a chance on a prospect with far more questions surrounding his game and how it translates.