We’re about two weeks clear of the 2020 NFL Draft, and while many analysts have given either their draft grades or their diagnosis on what happened, one thing I wanted to look at was how well each player played — measured by how valuable each player was to his college team — in 2019.
With this goal in mind, I used our wins above average (WAA) model to assess the average value of each team’s draft pick to his 2019 college team. While WAA does a pretty good job tracking to draft position, it is backward-looking, and hence this ranking will be a little different than those that try to predict how these players will go on to perform at the NFL level. Enjoy!
[Editor’s Note: Check out PFF’s 2021 Mock Draft Simulator as well as 2020 NFL Draft grades for all 32 teams. And if you haven’t already, be sure to pick up a copy of PFF’s 2020 NFL Draft Guide by subscribing to PFF EDGE or ELITE.]
Joe Burrow (2.95 WAA in 2019) has been the most valuable player we’ve ever charted since 2014, and 32 picks later, they got one of the best players on the team Burrow defeated in the title game in Tee Higgins (0.63).
The Bills continue to build a good roster, and this draft’s most-valuable player, Jake Fromm (0.79 WAA), gives them insurance in case Josh Allen struggles for the third consecutive year.
People will understandably drag the Ravens for taking a linebacker and running back with their first two picks, but wide receivers James Proche (0.73 WAA) and Devin Duvernay (0.57) were great picks for them.
Running backs matter a little bit in college. And that is how Jonathan Taylor (0.54 WAA), the team's second pick, was worth more to Wisconsin a season ago than first pick Michael Pittman (0.42) was to USC.
Second-overall pick Chase Young (0.57 WAA) was very valuable to one of the best college football programs in the country last year, but Washington also got good performers late in Antonio Gibson (0.61) and Antonio Gandy-Golden (0.56).
Jalen Hurts (1.42 WAA) was a great draft pick in the second round, earning almost a full win more than the third and fourth quarterbacks taken in the draft combined in 2019. K’Von Wallace (0.43) and John Hightower (0.42) were also both very productive at important positions in 2019.
11. Cleveland Browns
Justin Herbert (0.36 WAA in 2019) isn’t exactly the kind of quarterback you want to take in the top 10 of the draft, but if variance hits, we could be eating our words a few years from now.
14. Detroit Lions
15. Miami Dolphins
After playing poorly in 2018, Nate Stanley rebounded nicely in 2019 (0.78 WAA) for Iowa. LSU’s Justin Jefferson (0.68) was also one of the most valuable non-quarterbacks in the country a season ago for the national champions.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (0.82 WAA in 2019) was the most valuable running back in college football last year.
20. Los Angeles Rams
21. Seattle Seahawks
Damien Lewis (0.26 WAA in 2019) and Darrell Taylor (0.22) were moderately valuable players in college football in 2019, but all of their draft picks were above-average college players last year, which helps them here.
22. Atlanta Falcons
First-round pick A.J. Terrell (0.30 WAA) performed well a season ago, and while he was not as valuable as some of his contemporaries, this was a good pick for the Falcons, as was Matt Hennessy (0.21).
24. Houston Texans
27. Chicago Bears
28. Denver Broncos
29. New York Giants
None of their picks were below average — A.J. Dillon (0.33 WAA) was actually a pretty productive running back in 2019 — but their ranking here is warranted given the average WAA value generated by first-round pick Jordan Love.
32. New York Jets
Denzel Mims (0.36 WAA in 2019) will help as a second-round pick, but two of their draft picks were below-average college players a season ago.