News & Analysis

Early list of PFF's 2020 NFL Draft players to watch

The road to the 2020 NFL Draft begins today. We’ll be providing more comprehensive draft content year-round now at PFF with a preseason draft guide already in the works for next fall. In fact, the film has already been ground on the top-graded guys who will be eligible for the 2020 draft. Here are the ones who I noted as special prospects to keep an eye on next fall.

[Editor’s Note: To view all of Pro Football Focus’ advanced stats and grades for draft-eligible players, check out our 2019 NFL Draft Guide. All EDGE and ELITE subscribers already have access to the guide, and for those who don’t, you can get your copy for as low as $9.99!]

QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

Tua’s arm strength, or lack thereof, will be debated ad nauseam over the next 365 days. His accuracy, however, is on an elite level for quarterback prospects. Tua had the highest percentage of passes in the country with perfect ball placement and the seventh-lowest percentage of passes among Power-5 receivers deemed uncatchable (only Haskins was better in this draft class). Those are outstanding figures when projecting to the NFL.

QB Justin Herbert, Oregon

The game-to-game consistency is far and away Herbert’s biggest question heading into the 2019 season. He would have been in the first round conversation this past season, but it would have been hard to get some of the ugly out of evaluators minds. He had two game grades above 90.0 last season, peppering special throws all over the field, but then had an egregious 30.1 overall grade against Arizona.

WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

Standing at 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, Jeudy may not be as physically imposing as a Julio Jones, but he’s every bit at that level of a prospect. There’s not a single thing about the receiver position that Jeudy can’t already do at a high level. He broke 17 tackles on 68 catches, hauled in 7-of-11 contested, dropped only four passes and caught 14 touchdowns. The 2020 receiver class is going to be a special one.

WR Jalen Reagor, TCU

Give Reagor a legit quarterback and the TCU wideout would be on a lot more radars right now. He combines elite speed (27 catches of 15-plus yards) with elusiveness (11 broken tackles on 71 catches) and physicality at the catch point (15-of-31 on contested catches). That last one is particularly impressive for a 5-foot-11, 195-pound wideout.

WR Laviska Shenault, Colorado

At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, Shenault is more running back than receiver at the moment. He’s far from a complete wideout at the moment, but he has ability in space that you cannot teach. Shenault’s 29 broken tackles last year were the second-most in college football. Much of that came underneath, though, as his 6.6 average depth of target suggests more of a gimmick than a downfield threat.

WR Tee Higgins, Clemson

Higgins is the opposite of Shenault in that he was almost exclusively a downfield threat for Clemson. His average depth of target was 15.3 yards downfield in 2018, and he still managed to break 11 tackles on 59 catches. He also caught 12 touchdowns and 12-of-23 contested catches, which will be the 6-foot-4, 205-pound receiver’s calling card at the next level.

OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia

As a true sophomore, Thomas allowed all of 11 pressures on 314 pass-blocking snaps. Thomas clocks in at 6-foot-5 and holds 320 pounds with ease. You simply can’t teach a man that large to move the way Thomas does. There’s obviously still issues to clean up, but he’ll get tested in the SEC next season.

OT/OG Trist Wirfs, Iowa

Wirfs is as physically dominant a sophomore offensive lineman as you’ll see in college football. He may very well be the strongest offensive lineman in the country and only turned 20 in January. He might profile better to guard in the NFL, but he has absurd athletic traits.

C, Tyler Biadiasz, Wisconsin

Biadiasz not only has the Wisconsin coaching pedigree but also special traits. He’s on the opposite end of the athletic spectrum from Michael Deiter, Beau Benschawel and David Edwards from this past year’s draft class. As a redshirt sophomore, Biadasz was arguably the best center in the country already at blocking on the move. He’s graded out in the top-5 among all centers nationwide in both his seasons in Madison.

DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

Kinlaw personifies the phrase ‘disruption equals production.' The box score says he racked up four sacks and 15 solo tackles last season, but Kinlaw earned an 88.7 pass-rushing grade and 79.5 run-defense grade for his efforts. At 6-foot-6, 302 pounds, Kinlaw is a freaky athlete that has all the pass-rushing tools you could want.

DT Derrick Brown, Auburn

Brown is your prototypical nose tackle with some pocket-pushing ability, and it seems like one of those ends up in round one every year. He’s got size, power, length and is already adept at using his hands. We’d like to see more as a pass-rusher, but his 91.2 run-defense grade will project nicely.

DE Chase Young, Ohio State

There’s a very good chance that Ohio State will have a defensive end drafted in the top-five in back-to-back years. As a sophomore, Young led the entire country with 75 pressures. He’s got ideal size and athleticism with elite production, to boot. Just put him at the top of your draft boards right now.

DE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa

The only thing holding Epenesa back from being mentioned in the same breath as Young at the moment is playing time. The sophomore was a part of a heavy rotation in Iowa and played just 412 snaps as a result. That only makes his 10 sacks and 46 pressures all the more impressive. At 6-foot-6, 280 pounds, Epenesa will be coveted for his versatility.

LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

Simmons won’t get the hype that Jabrill Peppers had his junior season, but the Clemson linebacker/safety hybrid has outperformed his Michigan counterpart in a nearly identical role. Simmons is the ideal modern linebacker who can just as easily cover a wide receiver in the slot as he can blow up a running back as a blitzer. His biggest question mark will be how he plays the run, as he rarely takes on blockers between the tackles in that role. That’s far and away the least valuable part of the linebacker position in the NFL nowadays though.

CB Bryce Hall, Virginia

There’s a good chance Hall would have been the first corner off the board had he declared this past season. Instead, he’s the top dog returning in what looks like a deep corner class. He’s long and athletic with great instincts for the position. The Virginia corner racked up 23 forced incompletions to lead the nation last season.

CB Kristian Fulton, LSU

The grades say that it was Fulton and not Greedy Williams who was the top cornerback for LSU in 2018. There’s a very good chance Fulton ends up drafted higher than Williams’ 46th overall draft slot, as well. Fulton is a more well-rounded corner who boasts high-end speed and movement skills. He allowed 17 catches into his coverage all last season.

CB Darnay Holmes, UCLA

Holmes is still a work in progress, but the high-end plays on his tape are jaw-dropping. He stuck with Marquise Brown for an interception and ran a slant for a pick-six against N’Keal Harry this past season.

Holmes still allowed 580 yards last season and got torched by Dillon Mitchell. If he does come out next year, don’t be surprised if the UCLA corner runs in the low 4.3s at the combine.

CB C.J. Henderson, Florida

Henderson was easily the most consistent defender on the Florida defense last season. Listed at 6-foot-1, Henderson took receivers out of the progression completely. He was targeted only 36 times all last year and allowed 18 catches and zero touchdowns. There’s a good chance he restarts the streak of Florida defenders getting drafted in the first round.

S Grant Delpit, LSU

Delpit has legit range from the deep safety position with the versatility to make plays from quarters or in the box. His nine forced incompletions last year were the sixth most among all safeties in college football while his 13 pressures ranked fifth. He’ll have to clean up his tackling, as he missed 16 on 80 attempts last year.

[Editor’s Note: To view all of Pro Football Focus’ advanced stats and grades for draft-eligible players, check out our 2019 NFL Draft Guide. All EDGE and ELITE subscribers already have access to the guide, and for those who don’t, you can get your copy for as low as $9.99!]

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