With the early declaration period less than two weeks away, the 2020 NFL Draft class is beginning to take shape. Which naturally has led to some extreme hot takes in the TwitterVerse.
This is one of the more entertaining periods of the year. As evaluators, it is our duty to find the truth! And that is just what I intend to do. In the ever changing NFL Draft landscape, it is time to get down to the nitty gritty.
Let the hot takes fly! It’s time to get the extinguisher out and ready. Let’s put out some fires.
Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins is a poised to unseat one of the assumed top three running backs in the class
Not every Buckeye was a loser following their 29-23 playoff loss to the Clemson Tigers. Junior running J.K. Dobbins back presented the final impression for a rise that had been progressing for some time now. It has long been assumed that D’Andre Swift (Georgia), Travis Etienne (Clemson) and Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin) were the sure bets to sit atop the running back rankings.
Dobbins is making evaluators second guess that assumption big time. This has been a trend that has been manifesting for the better part of the 2019 season. It is Dobbin’s combination of contact balance, no nonsense demeanor and underrated long speed that should allow him a fair shot to hear his name somewhere on the first day, or early Day Two.
The eventual rankings of the four will of course be solely dependent from the team philosophy and offensive system. So for this take, we are going to compare Dobbins to the other three based solely on my personal preference.
Starting off at the top, I am taking D’Andre Swift. The ability to create, and manipulate space is extraordinary. With similar body types, there is a more well-rounded nature to Swift. His ability in the pass game is the big separator. He will be able to occupy so many different types of roles, and excel at them all.
Now let’s compare Dobbins to Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor. This conversation is a lot closer than most evaluators may admit. Taylor is an impressive athlete himself who has rewritten the record backs during his tenure as a Badgers running back. That conversation is apples to oranges.
I am currently leaning Dobbins for his more well rounded skill set. He has shown flashes as a pass receiver, and he is arguably the best pass protection running back in the 2020 NFL Draft class. Add in Taylor’s fumbling issues (18 in three seasons) and we have a small, but decisive margin of victory for Dobbins.
The last battle comes between Dobbins and Travis Etienne. I am slightly leaning Etienne is this battle. His contact balance is absurd for a 5’11” 215-pound back. When he is able to process daylight, good luck catching him. With added improvements in the passing game, Etienne is safe for now as my second rated running back.
So clearly, I am a fan of this take! I personally welcome Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins into the winner’s circle. All of the four will undoubtedly have an opportunity to hear their names called during the first day of the NFL Draft come April. It is an especially talented running back group that should present the next wave of the next NFL elite moving into the future.
Cole Kmet (Notre Dame) declares, and immediately becomes the top ranked tight end
The 2020 NFL Draft tight end class lacks upper echelon talent at the top. Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet intends to prove that opinion incorrect during the draft process. Suiting up for what has a strong case as TightEndU, Kmet profiles as the next in line of great Fighting Irish tight ends in the pros.
With a prototypical build at 6’5” and 250 pounds, Kmet possesses a ton of baseline traits that make him an intriguing option at the professional level. With outstanding length and body control, Kmet is an instant red zone threat the second he steps onto the field. He is a high upside athlete who seems to check all of the boxes from a physical standpoint.
Kmet is a big bodied pass catcher who has some underrated flexibility as a pass catcher, combined with very understated long speed. He is the full package as a pass catcher to multiple levels of the field.
His size profile offers intrigue into intrigue as a run blocker, where he is currently an underwhelming presence who lacks the lower body power to create consistent movement at the point of attack. An occurrence that resembles the rest of the class, receiving upside with limited ability in the run game.
Kmet was clearly a sight for sore eyes added to this class. For the Colby Parkinsons (Stanford), Brycen Hopkins (Purdue) and Hunter Bryants (Washington) of the world, it is time to move aside and slide back a slot in the pecking order. Cole Kmet is the clear favorite to finish as the top tight end in the 2020 NFL Draft class, and I am firmly aboard the hype train.
Texas A&M’s Justin Mabubuike is a serious player in the interior defensive line class, and first round prospect
If you follow along closely, you are aware that I’m currently enamored with Texas A&M interior defensive lineman Justin Madubuike. The name was familiar. The reputation was notable, and the skill set was immense.
Just how impressive his 2019 tape was, however, was exciting. I had passed through his 2018 film and had left unfulfilled… I wanted more. There was inconsistent hand usage. Madubuike was a one note gap shooter that lacked the ability to affect the game in multiple areas. The 2019 season was a completely different conversation. We aren’t looking at the same type of player anymore.
He has reshaped his body for the better, and his power profile has fallen suit. Underwhelming at time at the point of attack, Madubuike is just starting to scratch the surface of how good he can become. He has legitimately upside in the pass game with his ability to split gaps with the best of him.
With even further development, Madubuike should be able to fully unlock his outragrous athleticism with an incredibly flexible lower half. It won’t hurt when he runs 4.78 in the forty yard dash at 310 pounds.
Admittedly this is my take. I just slapped a round one film grade on Madubuike, and am here to declare it. He is the second best interior defensive lineman in the 2020 NFL Draft. Book it, write it in pen and screen shot it!
Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray is a potential blue chip prospect and top ranked linebacker
The linebacker class is another deep group that lacks the blue chip prospect up top, especially with Alabama’s Dylan Moses reportedly returning to the Crimson Tide for his senior season. Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray has been an exciting prospect that has seen his name vault to the top of the 2020 NFL Draft linebacker board. It doesn’t take a rocket science to see why.
At 6’2” and 234 pounds, the speed Murray possesses is not ordinary for the position.He fits the modern mold of an NFL linebacker, possessing phenomenal range to make plays sideline to sideline. He is an improving pass defender, showing a huge uptick in production from 2018 until now.
While he is still rounding out as a pass defender, the tools are obviously there to develop into a plus defender in the area. We have all seen highlights of Murray running players down outside the numbers. It is extraordinary. They don’t make athletes of this caliber, this size very often.
The trouble is what Murray does in tighter confines, inside the box. He has a nice trigger, quickly transitioning down hill. There is just a lack of ability to stack and shed. He lacks the prerequisite punch power, hip torque and run fit to defeat blocks and win. With future development, there is no reason to believe that he can not improve his power profile. He can get bigger.
He can become more powerful, but how would that added weight affect his best trait? His speed-range is his biggest selling point, and compromising his potential elite trait. In a linebacker class that is sorely lacking in upper-echelon talent outside of Isaiah Simmons, Murray is a deserving talent to sit atop the class in the end.
Blue chip talent, on the other hand, no dice from me. He is a nice prospect, but is a stretch at any point in the first round.
Akeem Davis-Gaither, Appalachian State, is linebacker 2
The linebacker position is going to be a heavily debated one during the 2020 NFL Draft Cycle. There are some interesting depth pieces and mid round prospects that will add to the class’s intrigue, but with the positional flexibility of Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons and the return of Dylan Moses to Alabama, the top of the class is absent of star power.
That leaves us to comb through the rest of the class to find potential underrated stars. One player who has received his fair share of optimism in the draft community is Appalachian State linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither.
He is an athletic defensive piece who has shown the flexibility to line up all over the defense. Whether that is in a traditional off ball role, in coverage or as a blitzer, Davis-Gaither clearly has an athletic profile that is all the rage in today’s NFL Draft circles. The question is whether this 6’2” 215 pound playmaker has the physical developmental potential and upside to become a substantial defensive piece at the next level.
Opportunity with certainly be there for Davis-Gaither during the process, specifically at the 2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl and hopefully a combine invitation.
For now, I’m selling this type of hype. With his ability as a pass defender, Davis-Gaither should have no problem contributing early as a DIME backer at worst. The big question is just how quickly he can physically develop to the point that he can contribute in a base defensive alignment.
With players like Kenneth Murray (Oklahoma), Markus Bailey (Purdue) and Evan Weaver (Cal) still provided solid options near the top of the class, I look for Davis-Gaither to present more of the “developmental chess piece” label early on. His upside is immense however. His classification amongst the other backers in this cycle could be far different down the road.