I’m publishing a tier list now mainly for reference. It’ll provide an opportunity to reflect on the impact of the combine.
There’s still so much to be determined and for that reason, I’ve created a tier of players I’m ‘undecided’ on. This is a group that by the end of the combine, we’ll have much more clarity on their standing within this class.
Tier one (the elite eight)
These are the players, in order, that I believe are the very best in this class.
Joe Burrow (QB, LSU)
Jeff Okudah (CB, Ohio State)
Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
Chase Young (DE, Ohio State)
Andrew Thomas (T, Georgia)
Isaiah Simmons (LB, Clemson)
Grant Delpit (S, LSU)
Javon Kinlaw (DT, South Carolina)
Joe Burrow won’t do anything at the combine or his pro-day to negatively impact his stock. He had a college football season for the ages in 2019 and fully deserves to be the #1 pick. He’s supremely accurate and poised but also has the ability to improvise and throw on the run.
Jeff Okudah is the best combination of talent and athleticism at cornerback since Patrick Peterson. He has ideal size, length and height and he’s a 142.56 SPARQ athlete, capable of running a 4.4, a 4.03 short shuttle and jumping a 42 inch vertical. A lot of people refer to Chase Young as the first or second best player in the draft. I think it’s Okudah. He has everything.
Derrick Brown is a top-10 pick any year as a highly athletic, disruptive and disciplined defensive tackle with great size. In the last week I’ve watched players competing against Auburn and it’s incredible how impactful Brown is. He’s so quick and aggressive and always has to be accounted for.
Chase Young has been superb for two years at Ohio State but he’ll need to test well to warrant the hype. He was a terror as an edge rusher, showed an ability to take over games and rightly he’s considered a top-five pick. That said, he was quiet at the end of the season particularly against Clemson in the playoffs. At SPARQ he ran a 4.94 forty and a 4.46 short shuttle. He needs to do a lot better than that in Indianapolis.
Javon Kinlaw could be a Fletcher Cox-type talent in the NFL. Isaiah Simmons reportedly is going to push Okudah to be the star tester at the combine and he has great leadership skills.
I’m not buying the recent negativity about Andrew Thomas and Grant Delpit. Thomas is athletic, well sized, balanced and had a terrific career at Georgia. Delpit does everything well but his tackling is loose. So what? Earl Thomas couldn’t tackle either. His range, read-and-react, ability to come up to the line and play the run and instinct in coverage is excellent. He also has the size, length and athleticism to play corner.
Tier two (first round talents)
This is a group of players who I believe are first round talents. It doesn’t mean they’ll all necessarily go in round one. I believe they have the traits, ability and upside to warrant high grades.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB, LSU)
Jerry Jeudy (WR, Alabama)
Brandon Aiyuk (WR, Arizona State)
Henry Ruggs (WR, Alabama)
Isaiah Wilson (T, Georgia)
Cesar Ruiz (C, Michigan)
Tristan Wirfs (T, Iowa)
Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
Jalen Reagor (WR, TCU)
J.K. Dobbins (RB, Ohio State)
K.J. Hamler (WR, Penn State)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a special talent. He’s a highly explosive, sudden running back with great toughness and physicality. He is a warrior. The only reason I can think people aren’t talking about him as a top-level prospect is the fact he’s only 5-8. Yet he’s capable of a 40 inch vertical, a 4.4 forty and a 4.04 short shuttle. He’s a brilliant receiver and an excellent kick-returner. He is one of the best players in the 2020 draft.
Jerry Jeudy is a terrific route runner. Teams like the Giants, Jets, Redskins and Broncos could do with having a player with his level of polish and consistency. He’ll be a young QB’s dream — someone they can rely on to be in the right place at the right time. If he has a terrific combine, he could be a top-10 pick.
Brandon Aiyuk is the real deal. He has excellent size and turbo speed acceleration. His catching technique, control, ball-tracking, positioning, ability to create easy separation and special teams dynamism makes him a clear first round talent. He makes things happen and has the frame to be a highly dynamic playmaker. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he was a top-tier NFL pass-catcher within three years.
In a receiver class full of lightning-quick players, Henry Ruggs is expected to be the fastest runner. It shows on tape too. He has exceptional acceleration but also builds speed and separates with ease on go-routes. Teams will have to account for him on every snap and that dictates coverage. You want players who force an opponent to game-plan. He’s expected to run a 4.2 and that kind of performance secured a top-10 placing for John Ross in 2017.
Isaiah Wilson is a hulking giant of a man. He dominates in the running game and I think people have forgotten how well Wilson and Andrew Thomas pass-protected for Jake Fromm in 2019. He was a former #2 overall national recruit. There are technical flaws to work on but that’s the case for all offensive linemen coming into the NFL. I suspect NFL teams will love what they see with Wilson and believe his upside to be enormous.
Cesar Ruiz has the full package at center even at such a young age. He anchored Michigan’s line and played as big a part as anyone in helping the Wolverines recover from a slow start in 2019. In pass protection he’s assured and in the running game he’s tough, physical and very willing to progress up to the second level and finish. His backstory is full of grit and determination and he has ideal size.
Tristan Wirfs could easily go in the top-10. The NFL needs offensive linemen, across the board. This class has a decent number of excellent, well-sized athletes. That’s what they want — upside, size and ability. Wirfs is 6-5, 320lbs, comes from Iowa where they coach up offensive linemen as well as anyone and he’s capable of a highly explosive 35 inch vertical and 9-5 broad jump. Coaches will love to get hold of him.
Traits matter. Teams know you need at least a collection of players in your core who look the part. Very few look more destined for the NFL than Raekwon Davis. Yes, his pass-rush production in 2018 and 2019 was a big disappointment. Here’s the thing though. He’s 6-7 and 310lbs. He’s built like Calais Campbell. He plays with terrific leverage, absorbs blocks and defends the run superbly. He can play DE or DT and he has attitude, toughness and he’s difficult to move. Teams will look at his frame, upside, power and athleticism and back themselves to get more pass-rush from him.
Jalen Reagor might not run a 4.2 like Henry Ruggs but he could easily crack the 4.3’s. He can burn off defenders on go-routes but he also catches the ball brilliantly away from his body. He has explosive lower body power which enables him to out-jump cornerbacks and high-point better than anyone else in this class. He jumped a 38 inch vertical at SPARQ.
J.K. Dobbins has everything physically you want in a runner. He’s perfectly sized at 5-10 and 220lbs. He jumped a 43 inch vertical at SPARQ, ran a 4.44 and a 4.09 short shuttle. He’s explosive, has the burst to exploit lanes and a deadly jump-cut to avoid tacklers and break off big gains. His pass-protection is better than most and he can catch the ball out of the backfield.
K.J. Hamler is a diminutive yet rare talent. He has electricity in the open-field and can avoid tackles and make magic happen. He appears to have disproportionately long arms and he’s a threat to score as a returner. He’s such a dynamic receiver.
Tier three (R1-2 picks)
These players warrant grades in the first or second round. Some will clearly go in round one but I feel there are enough question marks to drop them into tier three.
Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)
Tua Tagovailoa (QB, Alabama)
Jonathan Taylor (RB, Wisconsin)
C.J. Henderson (CB, Florida)
Trevon Diggs (CB, Alabama)
Patrick Queen (LB, LSU)
Kenneth Murray (LB, Oklahoma)
Anthony McFarland (RB, Maryland)
D’Andre Swift (RB, Georgia)
Damon Arnette (CB, Ohio State)
Kristian Fulton (CB, LSU)
I put the two quarterbacks in this tier. Justin Herbert is big with a good arm and he can create, improvise and deliver exceptional plays. He’s too erratic though and I think he’ll need a strong supporting cast and a quality offensive mind as a coach to get the best of him. Tua Tagovailoa would be higher but it’s as simple as this — nobody is going to know the full medical picture by the draft and I can’t rank him higher than this with major question marks about his future and his ability to play at the same level we saw pre-hip injury.
Jonathan Taylor fumbles too much but is otherwise a terrific runner with a great second gear and excellent cut-back ability. He has ideal size and ran a 4.42 at SPARQ. He could easily run a 4.3 at the combine and that will make some headlines on day one. He has to fix the ball-security issues though.
C.J. Henderson didn’t have the turnovers at Florida and that will raise question marks on his ability to find and track the football. Yet his coverage ability is second to none and when he runs a sub-4.00 short shuttle at the combine, teams will fall in love with his potential.
Trevon Diggs is an excellent athlete and does a great job tracking the ball in the air. You can work on flaws but generally you can either track the ball or you can’t and Diggs is ready to play. We know he’s a great athlete — just look at his brother.
Patrick Queen and Kenneth Murray both fly around the field with speed and quickness. They’re modern day linebackers. If they run well, as expected, teams will covet them. Murray in particular provides an element of aggressive tone-setting to the field too.
I think Anthony McFarland is one of the most underrated players in the draft. He’s so quick, so electric. He destroyed Ohio State in 2018. He won’t fit every scheme but if he lands in the right place — watch out. D’Andre Swift is regularly listed as the top runner in the class. He’s good — and there’s enough on tape to justify a reasonably good grade. There just aren’t many ‘wow’ moments though and the running backs listed ahead of him all deliver those ‘wow’ moments.
I like everything about Damon Arnette’s game. He’s excellent in coverage. He has the size. He plays the ball in the air. And he’s very willing to deliver a jarring hit or tackle in the running game. Kristian Fulton similarly is a physical corner who loves to get after it. He can line up outside or at nickel.
The ‘to be determined’ tier
This group has the potential to jump into any of the tiers above. I/we just don’t have enough information yet. They’ve all produced in college but there are question marks such as speed, measurables and agility. The combine will provide answers.
Jedrick Wills (T, Alabama)
Mekhi Becton (T, Louisville)
Austin Jackson (T, USC)
Ceedee Lamb (WR, Oklahoma)
Tee Higgins (WR, Clemson)
Laviska Shenault Jr (WR, Colorado)
K’Lavon Chaisson (LB, LSU)
A.J. Epenesa (DE, Iowa)
Yetur Gross-Matos (DE, Penn State)
Zack Baun (LB, Wisconsin)
Joshua Uche (LB, Wisconsin)
Xavier McKinney (S, Alabama)
Josh Jones (T, Houston)
Willie Gay Jr (LB, Mississippi State)
Bryan Edwards (WR, South Carolina)
Julian Okwara (DE, Notre Dame)
Hunter Bryant (TE, Washington)
Denzel Mims (WR, Baylor)
Ross Blacklock (DT, TCU)
Jedrick Wills is said to be looking great during combine prep and there are flashes of real athleticism on tape. Even so, he doesn’t have an orthodox long tackle frame and we need to see how he tests. Does he have the traits? Yes he’s talent but let’s see his workout to judge just how good he can be. A great combine could secure a very early round one grade. A modest workout will leave some question marks about his ability to be more than a right tackle or guard.
Mekhi Becton is expected to weigh about 360lbs. In 2018, many were touting Orlando Brown to be a solid first round pick. He had similar size and ran a 5.85 forty then jumped a 19.5 inch vertical. His stock plummeted and he ended up being a late third round pick. It’s very difficult to test well at 360lbs. If Becton pulls it off, he’ll earn those high grades. If he struggles, we’ve seen what can happen.
Austin Jackson looks the part of a NFL left tackle. His movement, size and length and general athleticism are tailor made for the pro’s. Like most college linemen though he’s raw and needs refinement. He had off moments, such as a rough day against Iowa in USC’s bowl game. There might be some growing pains early in his career but teams will live with it if he has the upside.
Ceedee Lamb is very exciting and creative with the ball in his hands. Every WR screen turns into a kick return. He can make magic happen. There are some legitimate concerns though about his speed. He ran a 4.60 at SPARQ. You need to be quick and sudden at the next level especially when some of those crazy YAC plays are taken away by bigger, faster defenders at the next level. If he runs a 4.4 he will rightly be ranked among the top wide outs but we have to wait and see.
Tee Higgins is in the same boat. Technically he’s very good. His body control, contested-catch win rate and smooth route-running are all pluses. Unlike a lot of receivers in this draft though, he doesn’t create much easy separation. So he needs to run in the 4.4’s to allay some fears.
Laviska Shenault Jr is caught between a running back and receiver. Teams are going to have to have a plan for him. It’ll be easy for someone to justify that if he has a sensational combine. At SPARQ he only ran a 4.59 and a 4.50 short shuttle. He has to do better than that in Indianapolis.
For all the love K’Lavon Chaisson gets in the media, his pass-rush production was limited at LSU and a lot of the pressures he did have came on stunts. He looks incredible in terms of his frame and there’s quickness on tape. But you’re drafting him based purely on upside and what he could turn into, not what he’s shown at LSU. He only ran a 4.69 at SPARQ and had a 34 inch vertical. We’ll need to see a better performance at the combine including a great 10-yard split.
A.J. Epenesa finished 2019 strongly but he’s big and sometimes looked a bit sluggish. He’s not a speed rusher but has he got sneaky agility and can he combine explosive power with a great short shuttle? If he can, he’ll really promote his stock into round one. If he doesn’t, teams might wonder about his fit and upside.
Yetur Gross-Matos looks the part. He’s long, lean and pretty much what you want a dynamic 4-3 pass rusher to look like. He doesn’t look particularly twitchy though and that’ll matter for his stock. A great combine could get him into round one. Check for the 10-yard split and his agility testing.
Zack Baun and Joshua Uche are very similar. Both played a SAM linebacker type role on paper but at Wisconsin and Michigan respectively they were really aggressive and attacked as pass rushers. Neither is big enough to be a long term EDGE so it’s vital they test well to have teams believing in their ability to play linebacker on early downs and then more into situational pass-rushing roles.
Xavier McKinney was used as a blitzing safety at Alabama so often and he won’t be able to do that as much at the next level unless he’s playing for Todd Bowles. He has to prove he has speed and range. At SPARQ he only ran a 4.59.
Josh Jones had good and bad moments at the Senior Bowl. Like the other offensive tackles here, the way he tests is so important. If he has upside, teams will take a chance on ironing out the kinks.
Willie Gay Jr jumped a 40 inch vertical at SPARQ, pushed his forty towards the 4.4’s and ran a 4.26 short shuttle. He’s such a playmaker and a good combine will get people talking about him.
Bryan Edwards should be talked about more. He’s excellent and a big part of this ace receiver class. He recently tweeted about people thinking he’s slow. He isn’t and he’s very capable of running a 4.4. If he does it, he will shoot up boards.
Julian Okwara looks so quick on tape. With this draft severely lacking in speed rushers, he can jump into a round one grade with a great workout.
Hunter Bryant ran a 4.35 short shuttle at SPARQ and he looks incredible in pre-combine testing. With this being a weak draft for TE’s, he could lock himself into the top-50 with a great combine.
Denzel Mims is a contested catch dynamo with a pissed off for greatness attitude. The question is — can he run at this size? He needs to run a 4.4 to max out his stock.
Ross Blacklock is almost too busy at times at the LOS looking for entry points into the backfield but his quick feet and athleticism are on show. Can he convince teams of his upside with a good forty and short shuttle?
Value players in rounds 2-4
This is a group who could provide some value between rounds two and four.
Kyle Dugger (S, Lenoir-Rhyne)
Rashard Lawrence (DT, LSU)
Damien Lewis (G, LSU)
Logan Stenberg (G, Kentucky)
Prince Tega Wanogho (T, Auburn)
Lloyd Cushenberry (C, LSU)
Matt Hennessy (C, Temple)
Shane Lemiuex (G, Oregon)
Tyre Phillips (G, Mississippi State)
Hakeem Adeniji (G, Kansas)
John Simpson (G, Clemson)
Solomon Kindley (G, Georgia)
Lucas Niang (T, TCU)
Alex Taylor (T, South Carolina)
Zack Moss (RB, Utah)
Devin Asiasi (TE, UCLA)
Jabari Zuniga (DE, Florida)
Kyler Dugger has the size, he’s expected to test well at the combine, he’s a star special teamer and most importantly — he’s a true alpha. The Seahawks need some dogs and Dugger fits the bill. Expect a top combine performance.
Rashard Lawrence equally just plays with a fire and intensity that you need in the trenches. As a former #12 overall recruit, he has a chance to test well.
The more I’ve watched of Damien Lewis the more I’ve liked. He’s a terror blocking in the run game, he recovers well and is very difficult to beat. He looked very polished and accomplished at the Senior Bowl. I’m also a huge Logan Stenberg fan for the simple reason that he absolutely batters opponents and is a true finisher. He reminds me of Alex Boone.
Prince Tega Wanogho has ended up becoming one of the most underrated players in the draft. With great size he was tipped to a run a 4.95 but it’s since been revealed he won’t workout at the combine. If he falls, he’ll provide value.
Lloyd Cushenberry did a good job at the Senior Bowl and along with Matt Hennessy, warrants some consideration as a possible center option for the Seahawks if they cut Justin Britt. The more I watched of Hennessy at the Senior Bowl the more impressive he looked. Thank you Jim Nagy for posting the full practise videos. Hennessy was one of the top performers in Mobile having been able to make a full assessment. He could easily go in round two. Shane Lemieux is aggressive yet controlled and was mightily impressive on tape.
Tyre Phillips is massive. He has the kind of size, length and attitude the Seahawks like. Every time I watched Hakeem Adeniji I thought he was impressive in Mobile. John Simpson has some iffy moments with his footwork but his size, tenacity and aggressive blocking style has some appeal. Solomon Kindley’s frame is a bit sloppy and he’s on the deck too often but he’s a menace in the running game and is light on his feet despite his size.
Lucas Niang is a forgotten man of the class due to injury but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he entered the league and quickly became a starting right tackle or guard. Alex Taylor is long and thin but I think there’s potential to work with.
I need to see how Zack Moss tests but on tape he’s happiest ploughing into a defender to gain yards after contact and we know the Seahawks love physicality in the running game.
Devin Asiasi is a very clean catcher of a football and while he appears heavy there’s no doubting his quickness and athletic elegance at tight end. I have a feeling Jabari Zuniga will test well at the combine and could be someone who, a few years down the line, ends up being a mid-round steal.
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