Alright, time to be done with that Mahomes post banner. It's social distanced draft time!
Some thoughts of mine on a few draft prospects:
* There are only two QBs that have any business being taken in round 1.
Joe Burrow had perhaps the most amazing season in CFB history last year, but was a mid-round prospect before that. After injury shuffled him out of his turn in the OSU quarterback line, everything broke right for him as a 5th year senior at LSU. I don't think he's a Trubisky-an style one year wonder - he's too accurate for that - but his arm power shows its limitations in tight spots. I'd grade him as a Top 5 pick regardless, but he's not at the Andrew Luck level of prospect.
I'm lukewarm on Tua Tagovailoa. There's the obvious reason for this: an extensive injury history. I'm less concerned about his recovery from the current hip injury than I am about what his next injury will be. Tua does not have a particularly thick or sturdy frame, and more importantly, he has not shown the understanding of how to protect his body. Kyler Murray is smaller, but much more adept at avoiding hits and sliding at the end of runs after taking the yardage that he safely could take.
My biggest concern, however, is his mental game. Alabama ran an RPO-heavy offense under Tua. After Clemson figured out and shut down the Alabama RPO in the 2018 national championship game, Alabama brought back Steve Sarkisian to implement a pro-style offense. However, look at any Tua 2019 highlight video reel, and it's all the same RPO offense as before. Why? According to a scout quoted in The Athletic, Tua struggled to grasp the full-field reads of the pro style attack, and Alabama had to abandon it and return to the RPO scheme Tua was successful in. Pair this with his Wonderlic score of 13, lowest among QBs this year, and there's a lot of reason to be concerned with Tua's mental transition to pro football.
Also, Tua was set up to succeed in Alabama, throwing to potentially four 1st round WRs (we'll get to them in a bit). He also feasted on throwing slants, slants, slants, and his deep throwing accuracy was perhaps his biggest weakness. Granted, in the modern NFL, you can go far by dominating the short and intermediate game, but it's still a limitation to be aware of.
He still has the physical skill set to demand a 1st round pick, but I think his mental game is going to require rebuilding from the ground up. He would really benefit from getting the Aaron Rodgers treatment, letting his body heal and learning the NFL game without immediate on-field pressure in year 1. My grade on him is mid-1st round. I would shy away from using a top 5 pick on him, but if he slides towards the end of the top 10 or even into the middle of the round, the value comes more in line with the risk level, especially if the team picking is one that is not desperate for a 2020 starter.
Now we're into the guys that are going to go in round 1 that I believe should not be taken so highly. I see Justin Herbert as a worse version of Drew Lock. There's a lot of similarities: seniors, 4-year starters under multiple coaches, played in no-huddle spread tempo offenses, tall, best arm in their respective drafts, guys that look like top draft picks in clean pockets and undraftable messes under pressure, significant accuracy concerns.
Lock, however, played in a more "pro-style" spread offense as a senior, getting away from the hurry-up goofiness that he played in before that, and that Herbert played his entire career in. Herbert also missed throws Lock didn't miss. He missed throws badly and often. A disproportionate amount of his offensive production came on screen passes, boosting his numbers.
That said, you can put together a highlight reel package on Herbert that shows a ton of high caliber NFL throws. Still, there is a high Bortles factor here. Like Bortles, the talent on tape is worth grading out as a 2nd round pick, but someone is going to grab him earlier and hope to beat the odds.
Jordan Love is in a similar boat to Herbert. If Herbert is Bortles, Love is Blaine Gabbert. Like Gabbert, Love has every physical tool you want. 6-4, built like a model QB, great throwing release, top level arm strength, more than enough mobility, all of it. And like Gabs, all of his success came as a ball distributor in a spread offense system (something that really showed up in Love's regressive senior year after the coaching staff changed) and he showed insufficient awareness and decision making when asked to run anything more demanding. Those physical gifts got Gabbert drafted 10th overall, and they're the reason he's still in the league. Likewise, I won't be shocked to see Love drafted in the back half of round 1. He gets a round 2 grade from me just because any QB with those tools is worth taking a chance on, but I'm not spending a 1st on it.
As for other QBs, Jacob Eason is maddening, because he's not NFL ready. He could have climbed draft boards next year with another year of development (assuming CFB even happens this year, which complicates things). Kind of like how the Patriots drafted Jacoby Brissett in round 3 as a project, if I'm a team with an established but aging starter and I want to develop a potential future guy, I'd consider spending a mid/late 3rd round pick on him, and the further he slides, the more teams that should consider him.
* On to the top wide receivers:
My clear cut #1 WR is CeeDee Lamb. I have more confidence in him than with either of the two Alabama players. Even though he played against Big 12 defenses, we have tape on him doing damage in playoff losses against 3 teams that played in the national championship the very next game.
Lamb is a day 1 "X" (split end) receiver. He has the size, good (albeit not great, 4.50 40) speed, very reliable hands, strength, and open field elusiveness. He's a Davante Adams type, and those kind of guys that can win battles out on the boundaries are the hardest ones to find.
Playing with inaccurate passer Jalen Hurts last year actually helped Lamb's tape, showing him having to react to badly placed balls and still secure the catch.
I grade Lamb towards the end of the Top 10.
The two Alabama players are a lot more complicated to place. My choice for the #2 spot is Henry Ruggs III over his more highly touted teammate. Assessing the Alabama receivers is hard. Not only are these two 1st round picks, but their two teammates, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, are already in the discussion of potential 1st round WRs in 2021 and 2022. Alabama routinely had all 4 of these guys on the field at the same time, and so the workload was divided between a group of WRs who all could have justified more targets.
Ruggs got some of the short end of that workload split, catching for only 746 yards last year. Watching Alabama, I think that was largely a function of scheme and the quarterback. Ruggs was one of the two outside receivers, and his job was to stretch the field and open up everything underneath. That opened-up underneath is where Tagovailoa feasted, while the deep routes Ruggs ran is where Tua's accuracy waned.
What you need to know about Ruggs is that he has Tyreek Hill speed - he ran a 4.27 40 at the Combine. He's THAT kind of field-tilting, game changing, blazing speed that makes defenses change gameplans. At 5-11 and 190 lbs, he's a little bit bigger than Hill, but still obviously in that small fast guy WR mold. He doesn't have a particularly big catch radius, nor is he someone who wins in tight contested catches. He's a guy that needs to win with his speed, and some good route running.
Ruggs is no Ted Ginn though, he's not a guy who can only run the 9 ("go") route. Nor is he a Tavon Austin, who did all his work in touch pass jet sweeps. When called upon, he was successful all over the route tree, and thanks to his 10 1/8" hands, he had one of the lowest drop rates in college football.
Jerry Jeudy is held by many as the top WR in the class, but he's only at #3 on my list. That said, his grade is basically neck and neck with Ruggs. Jeudy comes into the NFL with almost the same scouting report as Amari Cooper. He's the superior route runner of the class, one of the most superior route runners of the last few draft classes (probably the best since, well, Amari Cooper). He wins both with his route running and his 4.45 40 speed.
It's hard to overstate Jeudy's route running prowess. There's just not a lot of guys that can move like this. The way he can extend his leg outand move his whole body when taking a jab step at the line of scrimmage, getting the DB to turn towards the step while Jeudy pushes off and moves in the other direction... it's very Chad Johnson. It's hard to imagine a scenario where Jeudy isn't able to create separation against NFL cornerbacks.
At Alabama, Jeudy played almost entirely in the slot. And while Ruggs was keeping safeties pushed back, Jeudy enjoyed the benefit of the extra room underneath. So while he showed incredible tools, he also got to feast on favorable matchups snap after snap.
Finally, completing the Amari Cooper comparison, Jeudy's hands are not the most reliable. His 8.3% drop rate last year is more than you want to see from someone at this point in the draft (for comparison, Lamb's was 4.5%, and Ruggs' was 2.4%).
Unlike Cooper, though, Jeudy is slight of build, which brings us to his last negative mark. At 193 pounds, he's only 3 pounds heavier than Ruggs, while being 3 inches taller at 6-1. That shows up in some contested catch struggles. Jeudy had one of the lowest rates of contested catches in college football, which on one hand is a good thing (better to be open than to have to fight for a catch while being covered), but how much of that was due to scheme with those other 3 WRs (especially Ruggs and his speed) opening things up for Jeudy in the slot?
Still, both Ruggs and Jeudy get Top 20 grades from me, and probably both make it into the top 15.
* Let's talk offensive tackles:
This is an unusually good offensive tackle draft, although not quite as good to me as it is in the eyes of some, as I project one of the top players to guard instead. Let's get to it.
Number 1 is Alabama's Jedrick Wills. Let's do his negatives first: he played right tackle exclusively in college, and he isn't the most powerful, dominating run blocker.
Why he never switched to left tackle, though, is because his QB, Tua Tagovailoa, is left handed. So when Jonah Williams left to the NFL and vacated the left tackle spot, Alabama preferred to keep Wills on Tua's blind side. Wills' skill set, however, translates directly to left tackle play in the NFL. The concern, as with any tackle side flips, is just him overcoming years of built-up muscle memory and rebuilding it in the opposite direction.
Wills' feet and hips are absolutely stellar (phrasing!). His feet are so quick and effortless, and he's able to decouple his feet/hips movement from his torso movement, getting back into an angle drop while keeping his chest squared to the line of scrimmage. His body control is so good, he should be expected to be up to the task of mirroring the league's deadliest edge rushers. I banged the drum for his ex-teammate Jonah Williams last year, who was the first tackle taken even as mock drafts had him down as 2nd or 3rd, and I think I like Wills even better. He gets a Top 5 grade from me, though mocks have him going more often in the latter part of the top 10.
Georgia's Andrew Thomas comes in next. Some have him down as the 3rd or even 4th offensive tackle, and that's lunacy to me. He is a big, strong, ridiculously long armed left tackle.
Thomas' biggest issue is that he doesn't know how to use his hands. Georgia seems to teach their linemen to reach over and outside, rather than getting their hands inside. This does a disservice to Thomas and his 36 1/8" Inspector Gadget telescoping arms. Thomas should be using that length to punch defensive linemen in the chest, who should never be able to beat Thomas in the battle of who-gets-hands-on-who. Instead, too often on tape, we see his technique letting pass rushers get into his body. That's concerning, but because the behavior is consistent with other Georgia linemen, it seems more like they were coached that way. NFL coaching should undo that.
Thomas with correct hands technique is a Pro Bowl player. There's a little projection there, but not nearly as much as the next player on our list. I have enough faith in him that I grade him as a Top 10 player.
The wildcard of the offensive line class, Louisville's Mekhi Becton. He's 6-7, 364 lbs, has arms only a little shorter than Andrew Thomas, and ran an absolutely unbelievable 5.10 40 at the Combine. That was the 5th fastest among offensive linemen, and puts him in the 81st percentile for his position at Mock Draftable, and he's THREE HUNDRED SIXTY FOUR POUNDS.
Becton is the kind of mountain of a human being that makes other offensive linemen look small. On tape, he looked like a high schooler playing football with 6th graders, just throwing bodies around. He really has no technique at all. He's just bigger and stronger than everyone else.
There's a LOT of projection that goes into Becton as a prospect. He's going to need a lot of coaching. But kind of like with Trent Brown, when you're that massive and you can just swallow people up, the battle is halfway won already. But concerns about his work ethic, and his Combine drug test getting flagged, means there's a high bust factor here. Still, considering how awful tackle play is across the board in the NFL, you spend a 1st round pick on Becton because if you can get his technique up to even mediocre levels, his big body takes care of the rest, and you've got another Bryant McKinnie.
Iowa's Tristan Wirfs is considered by some to be one of the top two tackles in the draft, but I don't think he's a tackle at all. As a guard, however, I'd grade him a Top 15 pick, very much in the Brandon Scherff mold.
Wirfs is a powerful, explosive, superior athlete of an offensive linemen. He can pull, he can move people in the run game, he's great at making blocks at the second level. Where he struggles is out in space. While he has the quickness to play tackle, which is why many have him as one, his technique paired with his shorter arms means he struggles. He's much more successful operating in a phone booth.
It's possible that future development could give Wirfs the technique to succeed at tackle, but I think you can plug him in at guard right now and improve your offensive line. If I'm drafting him, it's with the thought that he's a guard now, and maybe in a year or two, I could consider working him at tackle and seeing how it goes.