There are still several dominos that need to fall over the next six months, starting with underclassmen declaring. Then the all-star game circuit, scouting combine and pro day marathon. But as one NFL evaluator put it to me this week, right now is the “purest time” to scout the college landscape before the outside noise gets louder and everyone debates tenths of a second in the 40-yard dash.
As the draft board expands to the top 100, a few offensive tackles have made the largest jump up the draft board, specifically Alabama junior RT Jedrick Wills and USC junior LT Austin Jackson.
As a first-year starter last season, Wills proved himself as a mauler in the run game, but he is playing with better confidence in pass protection this year, which has allowed his athleticism to be more evident. After making his debut on the September draft board, Wills is now being talked about as a possible top-10 pick. Jackson has also put himself in the first-round mix due to his frame and athletic skill. He isn’t a refined pass protector and needs to get stronger, but his natural movement skills are why he has a chance to crack the top 25.
One other note: this update does not include players who are rehabbing serious injuries that have caused them to miss extensive time (months, not weeks). Until we have “official” updates or see them back on the field, it is impossible to accurately rank players like Alabama LB Dylan Moses (torn ACL), Virginia CB Bryce Hall (ankle surgery), Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace (torn ACL), TCU OT Lucas Niang (hip surgery) and Stanford OT Walker Little (knee surgery). All five would be on this list if not for their injuries.
As always, my rankings are a mix of my own evaluations along with input from a handful of NFL decision-makers, who offer their insight.
*Indicates draft-eligible underclassman
1. *Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State (6-5, 266, 4.76)
This is the third draft board I have done for the 2020 NFL Draft and Young as been No. 1 on each. Spoiler alert – barring an injury, Young will remain at No. 1 through draft night. He has the ability to take over games with his explosive power and technical understanding of how to beat blockers.
2. *Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama (6-0, 219, 4.78)
Tagovailoa has been extremely impressive the last two seasons (70-to-8 TD-to-INT ratio), showing the anticipation and passing twitch to be a high-level NFL quarterback. However, injuries have also plagued him the past two years and durability will be a key factor in his final evaluation.
3.*Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa (6-5, 320, 5.08)
Wirfs moved into the top-five in my last update in September and the Hawkeyes’ tackle has lived up those expectations. Whether at left or right tackle, run blocking or pass protection, Wirfs has been consistently effective, working hard to reset and stay square to defenders through the whistle.
4. *Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia (6-5, 318, 5.11)
The best offensive line prospects are routinely on time no matter what the action requires athletically. That was one of the most important attributes I learned about offensive line play over the years and it describes Thomas very well. The left tackle is very skilled at finding his balance vs. any type of rusher.
5. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU (6-3, 212, 4.88)
With a crucial game in Tuscaloosa looming, there is a lot on the line for Burrow in November. After the first month of the season, the LSU passer moved his name into the first-round discussion. But after the first two months, Burrow has proven to be a legitimate top-10 overall contender. With an impressive final month? The No. 1 overall pick could be on the line.
6. *Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State (6-1, 200, 4.45)
When is the last time the first two defensive players drafted were from the same program? Almost 20 year ago when Penn State’s Courtney Brown and LaVar Arrington went one-two in the 2000 NFL Draft. And it could happen again with Young and Okudah.
7. Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn (6-4, 325, 5.02)
Due to his explosive power, Brown would have competed with Ed Oliver to be the second defensive tackle drafted (behind Quinnen Williams) in last year’s first round. But he returned for his senior year and has looked even better, playing with extra motivation that pops off the film.
8. *Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama (6-1, 195, 4.50)
With extra attention from defenses and so many options in that Alabama offense, Jeudy’s production (13.1 yards per catch) hasn’t been impressive over the first two months of the season. But his electric athleticism, before and after the catch, can be a difference-making trait in the NFL.
9. *Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson (6-3, 228, 4.55)
Is Simmons a better safety or linebacker? Or maybe he’s better in the nickel? Regardless, smart defensive coordinators find a role for his versatile skill set. With his blend of length, athleticism and toughness, Simmons is the ideal modern-day defender.
10. *Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama (6-5, 322, 5.28)
A physically mauling right tackle, Wills not only has the power and hands to displace defenders, but he is an easy mover with the wide base and length to protect the pocket. In his second season as a starter, Wills’ has created a buzz among NFL scouts with his continued development.
11. *CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma (6-1, 192, 4.48)
Lamb entered the season as my No. 2 receiver prospect and No. 11 overall player. And not much has changed. He has been terrific for the Sooners’ offense, averaging 102 yards receiving per game and 22.7 yards per catch. Lamb also is one of only four FBS pass-catchers with 11-plus receiving scores in 2019.
12. *Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama (5-11, 192, 4.32)
Jeudy is a fantastic NFL prospect, but he isn’t the clear-cut best receiver on the Tide’s roster. Ruggs is a big play waiting to happen with his world-class speed and competitive make-up. He also has a nose for the end zone, averaging a touchdown every 3.5 times he touches the ball at the college level.
13. Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina (6-5, 308, 5.06)
Entering his senior season as a projected top-20 pick, Kinlaw hasn’t disappointed in his final collegiate season and could receive top-10 grades from some around the league. He looks like an NFL player with his broad-shouldered frame, length and explosive quickness to be a homewrecker on the interior.
14. Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama (6-2, 202, 4.42)
With his size, speed and pedigree, Diggs is a scout’s dream. The younger brother of NFL receiver Stefon Diggs, he has made noticeable strides with his focus and discipline as a senior, creating opportunistic plays. With his imposing measurables, ball skills and competitive nature, Diggs is going to go high.
15. *Jordan Love, QB, Utah State (6-3, 224, 4.68)
There is no way around it – Love and Utah State have been disappointing in 2019. And from a scouting perspective, it can be tough to separate “reasons” and “excuses” when debating the lack of talent and coaching around him. Despite his struggles, Love is still super talented with untapped potential.
16. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon (6-6, 240, 4.68)
Against USC on Saturday night, Herbert had a rough start in the first quarter (3-for-7 for 27 yards and an interception). But he was outstanding in the final three quarters: 18-for-19 for 198 yards and four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing). Those final three quarters had NFL evaluators sitting up in their seats.
17. *A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa (6-5, 284, 4.75)
Epenesa entered the season with high expectations that he has struggled to match. Through eight games, his tape simply doesn’t have the backfield production for a player with his power and hand tactics, accounting for only 3.5 sacks and 21 total tackles.
18. *Grant Delpit, SS, LSU (6-2, 206, 4.56)
Delpit has been solid this season (43 tackles, five passes defended, one interception), but it has been the negative plays, mainly the missed tackles, that have been disappointing. Delpit checks the critical boxes with his instincts, range and toughness, but he needs to improve as a tackler to be drafted in the top 15.
19. *Jacob Eason, QB, Washington (6-5, 230, 5.06)
It is easy to be seduced by Eason’s size, arm talent and overall confidence, fitting the ball into tight windows downfield. But he is still learning how to anticipate and must improve his consistency when moved from his spot. If Eason declares early with his relatively small sample size, there will be divisive opinions from team to team about his pro future.
20. *D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia (5-9, 215, 4.47)
The SEC-leader in yards per carry (6.2), Swift has lived up to the “RB1” status all season, contributing as a rusher and receiver (12.3 yards per catch). He is much stronger than he looks and has the uncanny ability to make defenders miss, making SEC defenders look silly in space.
21. *Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado (6-2, 224, 4.55)
Based simply on natural talent, Shenault has the ability to be drafted in the top 10. But he has been banged up quite a bit the last two seasons and durability could be the difference between being the second receiver drafted or the fifth in this loaded class.
22. *Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama (6-5, 258, 4.65)
After missing most of the last two seasons due to injury, Lewis entered the season as a question mark. However, when healthy, he is a difference-maker as a pass rusher with his length, bend and speed. Over the last three games, Lewis has racked up 5.0 sacks and numerous other pressures.
23. *Austin Jackson, OT, USC (6-6, 308, 5.08)
Last month, I wrote an article about five “underrated” prospects who weren’t being talked about as possible first rounders, but had a chance at cracking the top 32. And Jackson was the top player on that list. It doesn’t always look pretty, but his issues are fixable and the upside is tremendous.
24. *Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama (6-5, 320, 5.30)
Leatherwood is a highly intriguing player. His move from right guard to left tackle this season has brought mixed results, but his natural talent is clear. Despite some of his struggles, Leatherwood has yet to allow a sack in 2019, using his base strength and length to corral rushers.
25. Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU (6-0, 194, 4.46)
True freshman Derek Stingley has been the best cornerback in LSU’s secondary, but Fulton isn’t far behind. He needs to get better with his adjustment skills downfield to make plays on the ball and avoid penalties, but Fulton’s size, speed and awareness are why he projects as an NFL starter.
26. *CJ Henderson, CB, Florida (6-1, 196, 4.43)
Henderson’s strengths are easy to spot: he has outstanding speed, length and footwork to stay in-phase up and down the field. However, while he plays like a top-10 pick for the first 80% of the play, it’s the final 20% that is the issue. Henderson has struggled to make plays on the ball and will get caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
27. *Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin (5-10, 218, 4.53)
Taylor is one of only three FBS running backs with 1,000-plus rushing yards and 15-plus rushing scores through the first two months of the season. Although he was bottled up vs. Ohio State, his improvements in the passing game (17 catches, four touchdown grabs) have been a positive development for his NFL evaluation.
28. *Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson (6-3, 205, 4.47)
Although he must mature as a route-runner before he is ready for NFL man-coverage, Higgins is a big play waiting to happen with his lithe, athletic adjustment skills. With his quick-twitch reflexes and ball skills, he is able to use every inch of his frame to expand his catch radius.
29. *Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State (6-5, 264, 4.67)
Similar to his sophomore tape, Gross-Matos is still developing his pass rush setup and sequence to be a more efficient edge player. But the raw talent is easy to spot and has led to rush production, leading Penn State with 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks through eight games.
30. *K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU (6-3, 239, 4.64)
After missing almost all of last season (torn ACL) and a few games in 2019, durability is the main concern with Chaisson’s NFL Draft grade. But there are no questions about his edge speed and ability to wrap the corner to affect the pocket. Chaisson also has the athleticism to drop and cover in space.
31. Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame (6-5, 242, 4.56)
While he looked outstanding on the Virginia tape (3.0 sacks, two forced fumbles), the rest of Okwara’s season hasn’t been as impressive with only one sack. Although the production hasn’t been there, his athletic traits are really impressive for his size, which is something that will shine at the combine.
32. *Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU (5-10, 196, 4.42)
A sudden athlete in space, Reagor has outstanding speed and the elusive moves to force multiple missed tackles on the same play. His lack of size will show at times in coverage, forcing the quarterback to be more accurate, but Reagor does an excellent job isolating and attacking the football.
33. *Creed Humphrey, OC, Oklahoma (6-4, 328, 5.29)
After an impressive redshirt freshman season in 2018, Humphrey continues to get better in his second season on the field. His competitive toughness, smarts and intangibles are exactly what NFL teams covet at the center position as the nucleus of the offensive line.
34. *Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia (6-3, 224, 4.78)
For Fromm, he checks the first two boxes on my quarterback “must have” list: mental processing and accuracy. However, everything else is average at best and that simply won’t be for everyone. Fromm will challenge evaluators because his mind, accuracy and intangibles translate well to the NFL game, but is that enough?
35. *Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State (6-0, 195, 4.47)
A former five-star recruit, Wade was one of the prizes of the Buckeyes 2017 recruiting class. After redshirting and showing flashes last season, the Florida native is playing much better in 2019, showing the natural traits and raw cover skills that will make him an appealing NFL prospect.
36. Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State (6-0, 203, 4.45)
One of the biggest senior risers this season, Aiyuk is the top senior receiver prospect on my board and is a darkhorse contender for the first round. After two seasons at the JUCO level and spending last year in N’Keal Harry’s shadown, Aiyuk is ascending at the right time, especially with his ability after the catch.
37. *Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah (5-10, 194, 4.45)
Whenever I catch up with West Coast scouts, Johnson’s name inevitably comes up as a player who will go higher than most think. While size isn’t a strength, he has terrific speed and loose hips to turn-and-run or drive on throws – just like he did Saturday, intercepting Washington’s Jacob Eason for a pick six.
38. *Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson (5-9, 212, 4.52)
After averaging 8.1 yards per carry last season, Etienne’s stats would understandably take a slight hit this year, right? Not yet. Over the first two months, he leads the FBS with 9.0 yards per carry and recently became Clemson’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (48).
39. *Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State (6-4, 318, 5.20)
Wilson has been a player on a mission this season, collapsing the pocket with consistent interior disruption. He had NFL size out of high school, but has done a nice job developing his strength and purpose to tear through blockers and force offenses to game plan for him.
40. Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State (6-0, 195, 4.47)
The third Ohio State defensive back in the top-40 picks, Arnette is having an impressive senior season, showing much better discipline in 2019. He has outstanding feet, swivel hips and the long-speed to stay attached to receivers in coverage – and he isn’t shy attacking downhill as a run defender.
41. *Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington (6-2, 244, 4.63)
After missing most of his first two seasons due to injury, Bryant finally looks near full health and is translating that athletic skill to football production. He won’t test as well as Evan Engram, but Bryant will be close and projects as a similar player with a high impact potential.
42. Zack Moss, RB, Utah (5-9, 218, 4.52)
I don’t type the word “elite” very often because it should be reserved for special use. But Moss is going to make me use it because he has elite contact balance. He has the lateral quickness to avoid defenders, but when he attacks contact, Moss has the unique ability to keep his feet. The medicals are key here, but his talent is top-50 worthy.
43. *Xavier McKinney, SS, Alabama (6-1, 204, 4.60)
Alabama’s leading tackler (56), McKinney has been the consistent, veteran force that Nick Saban was hoping he would be for a relatively young defense. He is at his best near the box with his angles to the ball and tackling, but when asked to cover, McKinney hasn’t disappointed, allowing only one catch.
44. *Carlos Basham, EDGE, Wake Forest (6-5, 278, 4.78)
Similar in ways to L.J. Collier (first round pick of the Seattle Seahawks last season), Basham isn’t a top-tier athlete off the edge. But his heavy hands and ability to force his way through gaps allow him to consistently pressure the pocket.
45. Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma (6-2, 302, 4.92)
There are very few 300-plus pound humans on this planet who have the speed and redirection skills like Gallimore. The production hasn’t always been there, but he is frequenting the backfield more in 2019 (5.5 tackles for loss) and the traits (burst, power, speed) are certainly present on film.
46. *Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame (6-6, 255, 4.68)
The best all-around tight end prospect on this list, Kmet lines up both inline and detached for the Irish and displays a physical presence as both a blocker and receiver. After zero touchdowns to his name entering the season, he has scored in five of the six games he has played in 2019.
47. Jonathan Greenard, EDGE, Florida (6-3, 265, 4.84)
A grad transfer from Louisville, Greenard was viewed as a possible top-100 pick entering the season so he hasn’t come from nowhere. But he is playing his best football at the right time, both rushing the passer and setting a hard edge, and has put himself in the top-50 discussion.
48. *Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma (6-2, 243, 4.67)
With his aggressive play style and sideline-to-sideline range, Murray is a fun player to watch hunt. There are some questions about his tackling strike zone and ability to shed blocks, but his energy directly leads to production.
49. Trey Adams, OT, Washington (6-8, 304, 5.27)
It has been great to see Adams back on the field this season. He isn’t quite the same player that he was, but at least he appears fully healed after back-to-back injury-riddled seasons. The health of his knee and back remain a critical factor in his draft grade, but on the field, Adams has used his power to overwhelm defenders.
50. *J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State (5-9, 219, 4.56)
Dobbins has had a Heisman-worthy season thus far, averaging at least 6.5 yards per carry in each of the last seven games. He has a similar run style as Nick Chubb – trust the play design, run with low pad level and be productive on any down. Dobbins is a high-floor running back prospect.
51. *A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson (6-1, 192, 4.49)
52. *KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State (5-9, 174, 4.44)
53. *Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville (6-7, 365, 5.47)
54. Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama (6-6, 315, 5.14)
55. *Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest (6-3, 224, 4.56)
56. Leki Fotu, DT, Utah (6-5, 332, 5.07)
57. *Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State (5-9, 205, 4.46)
58. Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU (5-10, 184, 4.43)
59. *Cam Akers, RB, Florida State (5-11, 214, 4.48)
60. *Jordan Elliott, DT, Missouri (6-4, 325, 5.20)
61. *Trey Smith, OG, Tennessee (6-5, 330, 5.27)
62. Jared Pinkney, TE, Vanderbilt (6-4, 250, 4.78)
63. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma (6-1, 223, 4.61)
64. *Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State (6-2, 184, 4.48)
65. Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin (6-2, 227, 4.69)
66. *Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas (6-7, 302, 5.10)
67. Khalid Kareem, EDGE, Notre Dame (6-4, 262, 4.84)
68. *Curtis Weaver, EDGE, Boise State (6-3, 254, 4.79)
69. *Netane Muti, OG, Fresno State (6-3, 311, 5.18)
70. Darrell Taylor, EDGE, Tennessee (6-3, 259, 4.67)
71. *Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State (6-1, 211, 4.49)
72. Kyle Dugger, SS, Lenoir-Rhyne (6-1, 218, 4.45)
73. Josh Jones, OT, Houston (6-5, 309, 5.31)
74. *Lloyd Cushenberry, OC, LSU (6-3, 312, 5.21)
75. *Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M (6-3, 303, 5.17)
76. *Tyler Biadasz, OC, Wisconsin (6-2, 322, 5.26)
77. *Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington (6-3, 288, 5.04)
78. John Hightower, WR, Boise State (6-2, 184, 4.41)
79. Ashtyn Davis, FS, California (6-1, 201, 4.44)
80. Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina (6-3, 218, 4.52)
81. *Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF (6-3, 214, 4.54)
82. Josh Uche, EDGE, Michigan (6-2, 242, 4.78)
83. *DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama (6-1, 178, 4.46)
84. *Nico Collins, WR, Michigan (6-3, 215, 4.56)
85. Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah (6-4, 264, 4.76)
86. Jabari Zuniga, EDGE, Florida (6-3, 256, 4.79)
87. Marlon Davidson, DL, Auburn (6-3, 286, 4.88)
88. *Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon (5-10, 204, 4.45)
89. Prince Tega-Wanogho, OT, Auburn (6-5, 307, 5.23)
90. Michael Pittman, WR, USC (6-4, 223, 4.55)
91. *Matt Hennessy, OC, Temple (6-3, 293, 5.05)
92. Trevon Hill, EDGE, Miami (Fla.) (6-3, 248, 4.59)
93. *Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU (6-3, 192, 4.53)
94. *Najee Harris, RB, Alabama (6-1, 232, 4.57)
95. *Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri (6-4, 264, 4.76)
96. Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State (6-2, 210, 4.54)
97. Collin Johnson, WR, Texas (6-6, 221, 4.56)
98. Terrell Burgess, SS, Utah (6-0, 194, 4.50)
99. Robert Hunt, OT/G, Louisiana-Lafayette (6-5, 314, 5.35)
100. Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton (6-5, 256, 4.76)