2020 NFL Draft Prospects To Watch
We wrapped up the 2019 NFL Draft a few weeks ago and now that the offseason has truly begun, we can look ahead. Next season is slated to be an exciting year for the NFL as a new breed of talent aims to take center stage. However, we in the draft industry can start looking deeper into the next wave coming up. The NFL Draft in 2020 has been highly anticipated thanks to eligible players like Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young.
The names at the top of the list are known but other players who could be drafted in 2020 or 2021, depending on declarations, may be less familiar. We take a look at three players at each position who could be eventual draft picks. Some of them you may know, some of them you may need/want to look into further. Regardless of your familiarity with them, these guys should have impact years for their respective programs.
Jordan Love – Utah State
Love is an athletic quarterback with pinpoint accuracy. He blew up in 2018 with over 3,500 yards while throwing 32 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions. He only tallied 63 yards on the ground but ran it in for a score seven times. Jordan Love could climb into the first round when it is all said and done.
Joe Burrow – LSU
The former Ohio State Buckeye helped LSU to a 10-3 record in 2018. He ended the year with the best game of his career with a 394 yard, 4 touchdown performance in the Fiesta Bowl. The top three receivers from last year are all back for the Tigers so Burrow has a great chance to display his full potential which makes him a darkhorse Heisman candidate.
Nathan Stanley – Iowa
The last two seasons are almost statistically identical for Stanley. He threw 26 touchdowns in 2017 and 2018 but can he keep those numbers after the loss of two first-round tight ends? T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant are now both in the NFL so Stanley must show he can produce with a new cast.
Scottie Phillips – Ole Miss
Every year there are prospects that you love watching on film. Scottie Phillips is an early candidate for my favorite prospect. His vision ranks right up there with the best backs in the country. 2018 was his first year in Division I after spending two years at the junior college level. He was battling an injury the last few weeks of the season and will hopefully be 100% for all of 2019.
AJ Dillon – Boston College
Dillon enters his junior year with two seasons of experience as the starting running back for the Eagles. He rushed for over 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns as a true freshman and in only 10 games last year, still broke the 1,000-yard mark while adding 10 touchdowns. Dillon is a big back at 6’0 and 250 lbs but possesses a rare combination of skills for his size. He has the strength to break tackles at the line of scrimmage but can also make defenders miss in the open field.
Michael Warren II – Cincinnati
The Bearcats found themselves a stud in Warren who exploded onto the scene after a 19 touchdown season. He also amassed over 1,300 yards on the ground. He is a dual threat back, providing a weapon in the passing game as well. He and quarterback Desmond Ridder should lead Cincy to another great season but if Warren has a repeat performance, it will probably be their last one together.
Denzel Mims – Baylor
Mims had what appeared to be a breakout year in 2017 but took a step back in 2018 with Jalen Hurd joining the team. Mims was second on the team with receptions and receiving yards but led the team with eight receiving touchdowns. Mims should see an influx in targets as he enters his final year with Baylor. Mims has the potential to be one of the top receivers in the Big 12 and should test well during the draft process.
Nick Westbrook – Indiana
The receiver from Lake Mary, Florida burst onto the scene during his 2016 sophomore season with 995 yards and six receiving touchdowns. He tore his ACL in the first game of the 2017 season and last year came back for a team-leading 590 yards. He also brought in four touchdowns. He has another year of eligibility in 2019 thanks to a medical redshirt and Westbrook could get back on track. If he does, he has an NFL body and skillset so keep an eye on the Hoosiers this fall.
Marquez Stevenson – Houston
Speedy receivers are highly sought after more than ever and Stevenson has the type of speed teams covet. He broke the 1,000-yard mark for the 2018 season while simultaneously hauling in nine receiving touchdowns. He also found paydirt twice on the ground. He and quarterback D’Eriq King should put on a show in 2019 which could cause Stevenson’s stock to skyrocket.
Harrison Bryant – Florida Atlantic
The Florida Atlantic senior-to-be ranked among the top tight ends in the country statistically last year. He has played with two different quarterbacks in Jason Driskel in 2016 and 2017 and then Chris Robison last year. He will most likely have a third different quarterback in 2019 after Robison’s suspension from the team. Bryant’s true potential may not be reached in college due to the quarterback roulette being played at FAU but come draft time, he will be noticed.
CJ O’Grady – Arkansas
Cheyenne or CJ, whatever you’d like to call him, has had a tumultuous career so far with the Razorbacks. Twice being suspended, once for his whole freshman season after an underage DWI arrest, and a second time for the first two games of 2018 after seemingly breaking team rules. O’Grady has one more collegiate season to figure it out.
If he shows maturation off the field then he will no doubt be a highly coveted prospect on the field. The 6’4 250 lb tight end possesses a blend of skills. His pass catching reliability matches his blocking reliability. Now he just needs to prove his reliability everywhere else.
Noah Togiai – Oregon State
Togiai has dealt with injuries a lot of his time at Oregon State. He is hopeful that 2019 will be different and he can finally put it all together. Togiai was an AP All-Pac 12 Second Team selection following his 2017 season. With only 58 career receptions, he needs to prove he can stay on the field and produce. Unfortunately, not all prospects can stay healthy but Togiai is someone to root for. Keep an eye on him.
Yasir Durant – Missouri
Drew Lock was one of the fewest sacked quarterbacks in 2018 and a lot of that had to do with the man who protected his blind side. Yasir Durant and his 6’7 330 lb frame deserve a lot of credit for keeping Lock upright. He also deserves credit for the Tigers rushing for at least 200 yards per game. He is returning for his senior season and could be the apple of some GM’s eye come the 2020 Draft.
Liam Eichenberg – Notre Dame
The next first round Notre Dame offensive linemen could be Liam Eichenberg. He took over at left tackle for Mike McGlinchey after he was taken by the 49ers at 9th overall in 2018. Eichenberg is only beginning to scratch the surface of his potential and could really explode onto the draft scene in his second full year as a starter.
Charlie Heck – North Carolina
A franchise left tackle has always been a desirable position but right tackles are becoming more and more important. Charlie Heck has held down that position for the Tar Heels the last couple seasons. With that experience, he is bound to be one of the top guys at right tackle in 2019. He is a native of Kansas City where his father is the current offensive line coach for the Chiefs. His dad was also a starter on the 1988 National Champion Notre Dame team so he comes from a great football lineage as well.
Interior Offensive Line
Shane Lemieux – Oregon
Lemieux joined fellow Duck offensive linemen Calvin Throckmorton and Jake Hanson as guys who decided to return to protect quarterback Justin Herbert. The Ducks feel they have a lot of unfinished business and want to finish what they all set out to do together. Lemieux was a second-teamer on the All-Pac 12 conference team in 2018. The Ducks line could be one of the top units in 2019 and Lemieux could garner All-American honors.
Josh Knipfel – Iowa State
One of the main reasons David Montgomery surpassed 1,100 rushing yards the past two seasons was guard Josh Knipfel. The Hampton, Iowa native was an honorable mention for the All-Big 12 team. Knipfel has a lot of competition at his position in the conference but you shouldn’t be surprised if he rises to the top of the list in 2019.
Cesar Ruiz – Michigan
Ruiz took over as the starting center for the Wolverines at the start of 2018 as a sophomore. He will once again snap the ball to quarterback Shea Patterson. An offense starts with the snap of the ball and the connection of Ruiz to Patterson is a good start for Michigan. Ruiz played for IMG Academy, one of the elite high school programs in the country. Now playing for Jim Harbaugh, Ruiz is certainly not lacking in top tier coaching.
Roy Lopez – New Mexico State
The big man from Tempe, Arizona has blossomed into one of the better defensive tackles in all the land. A career year in 2018 put this kid on the radar of a lot of scouts. With four sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 63 tackles, he was a headache for opposing offensive linemen. At 6’2, Lopez has a low center of gravity that proves problematic for the other team to handle. He weighs in at around 315 pounds so he could be a force at the next level as a 4-3 defensive tackle.
Doug Costin – Miami (OH)
The Redhawks defensive tackle has had back-to-back years of solid production. Last year he was responsible for 51 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, and six sacks. Another year of collegiate football will be great for his draft stock but with only one year left, he needs to take full advantage of his opportunities.
Justin Madubuike – Texas A&M
Madabuike has laid a foundation to build great things upon. He can emerge in 2019 as an elite defender in college football. He will only be a junior this fall so could play another two seasons if he chooses to do so. However, if he does breakout I won’t be surprised if he is an early declaration for the 2020 Draft. He played with two 2019 NFL Draftees in Kingsley Keke and Daylon Mack but now he is the man along the Aggie defensive line.
Jonathan Garvin – Miami (FL)
Garvin was a highly recruited four-star defensive end out of Lake Worth Community High School in Florida. He had a ton of offers but landed at The U. He has grown into a 6’4 250 lb rusher who accumulated 60 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks in 2018 as a sophomore. He has a chance to take over the ACC as the top rusher with guys like Clelin Ferrell, Brian Burns, and Zach Allen now gone.
Rashad Weaver – Pittsburgh
Weaver was used in different spots across the entire defensive line last year but he looked best at the defensive end spot. He provides a lot against the running game but still has a decent pass rushing capability. He had 14 tackles for loss and also 6.5 sacks. He knocked down four passes along with forcing two fumbles and recovering three.
Carlos Basham Jr.– Wake Forest
The third ACC pass rusher on our list but Basham is another guy who could make an even bigger name for himself in 2019. Basham is another big guy who makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. He totaled 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. He utilizes his strength to disengage blockers and can use a swim as well but he needs to improve his bend in 2019.
Pete Werner – Ohio State
Ohio State pumps out top quality NFL players every year and I don’t anticipate that trend coming to an end. Werner gets lost in the shuffle with the rest of the names on the roster but he could be one of the first Buckeye names taken in the draft. He has the size of a linebacker with the speed and athleticism of a safety.
Colin Schooler – Arizona
119 tackles in 2018 were good enough for Schooler to garner honorable mention on the 2018 All-Pac 12 team. Schooler absolutely exploded onto the scene as a sophomore for the Wildcats. He could be an early favorite for a slot on the 2019 All-American team and it is well deserved.
Nate Landman – Colorado
I am not usually one to make comparisons but it is hard for me not to see Luke Kuechly watching Landman’s film. The Danville, California native is a sure tackler who can read and dissect a play with the best in college football. With a defensive-minded head coach in Mel Tucker and Tucker retaining highly regarded linebacker coach Ross Els, Landman should have a career year.
C.J. Henderson – Florida
Cornerbacks are and always will be a top priority for any NFL team. Henderson will be in the conversation for the best cornerback in the draft. He is a well rounded defensive back who is dependable in run defense. One of the better athletes in football.
Kevin McGill – Eastern Michigan
The 2018 Second Team All-MAC performer did not allow a single touchdown all year and hauled in three interceptions on the season. McGill was not a highly recruited corner coming out of Westlake High School in Waldorf, Maryland but after three solid years at Eastern Michigan enters his senior year as one of the top talents at his position. He has the makings to be one of those guys with a really cool underdog story.
Tino Ellis – Maryland
Primarily recruited as a receiver out of high school, Ellis shifted over to the other side of the ball to start playing corner. The switch has worked out so far and last year recorded his first career interception. Ellis could have his best year on the field as a senior playing for the Terrapins.
Kekoa Nawahine – Boise State
Nawahine’s 2017 season was his best with 108 tackles, three interceptions, and four passes deflected. He was not able to follow up on that season and in 2018 only recorded 71 tackles and two passes deflected without any interceptions. Hopefully, a bounce-back season is in store.
Brandon McKinney – Washington
Washington has produced some talented defensive backs recently that have found great success in the league. Three were drafted in 2019 alone. Brandon McKinney filled in during the Rose Bowl when Washington was without Taylor Rapp. That was his first taste of being a starter and should be the guy moving forward.
Bryce Torneden – Kansas
The Jayhawks defense was a turnover machine last year. Torneden is one of the best playmakers on the KU defense. He is all over the field and has a little bit of Tyrann Mathieu in his game. New head coach Les Miles knows a thing or two about the Honeybadger’s skillset. Torneden played nickel and safety last year. He may not be a high draft pick, or may not even get drafted at all, but the kid is a player. Get used to his name.