The NFL Draft has come and gone for the 2020 season. For the most part, there weren’t too many surprises outside of Jordan Love to the Packers and Jalen Hurts to the Eagles. Most teams stuck with their game plans and got their guys. First rounds are usually the easy part for NFL teams. The tough part is finding players outside the first round who can make an immediate impact. Here is a list of five players picked outside the first round who could be potential stars.
Potential Stars: Cam Akers, RB, LA Rams: Round 2, Pick 52
Todd Gurley is out of LA and the Rams were needing a running back to replace him. Second-round pick Cam Akers from Florida State should be the guy to step in his place. Akers is a hard runner who can fight through first contact. He doesn’t have the best hands in the passing game, but can still make plays when he is needed. The explosive plays aren’t there for him, but his offensive line in Florida State were not the best run blockers. He seemed to always be productive when the blocking wasn’t there for him.
Rams head coach Sean McVay will make the most out of Akers in the offense. Akers was a quarterback in high school which could have McVay’s creative mind at work for trick plays. He should get plenty of carries with a subpar backfield in Los Angeles. Malcolm Brown is the top returning back, but never had outstanding numbers running. Darrell Henderson and John Kelly are lacking in experience as they rarely run the ball.
Akers should be the starter for the team as they don’t appear to be bringing anyone else in to compete. He’s young, but is one of the few running backs from the draft who is ready to start. LA has a solid offensive line and plenty of weapons to still make big plays. If Akers is able to protect the football and contribute more in the passing game, he could have a long NFL career.
Potential Stars: Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals – Round 2, Pick 33
The Bengals made sure to find their quarterback of the future in Joe Burrow. They also gave him some help at receiver by picking up Clemson receiver Tee Higgins. Higgins was stuck in a deep receiver class that prevented him from going in the first round. Cincinnati might have gotten a steal with Higgins in the second round of the draft.
Experts have compared him to his new teammate AJ Green. Not a bad player to be compared to. What makes him similar to Green is his height gives him an advantage against small corners. Higgins will be seen as a threat in the red zone on fade routes. He has great ability of going up and making the tough catch. Route running skills will need some work to be more natural, but Green can work with him on that.
Joe Burrow had to be excited about getting another great receiver to help in his rookie season. The Bengals are already loaded with Green, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross. Higgins will have a chance to battle for playing against those receivers in camp. The advantage for Higgins is Burrow will develop a chemistry with him and build off of it for several years. Burrow and Higgins could be a dangerous duo through their NFL careers.
Potential Stars: Xavier McKinney, S, New York Giants: Round 2, Pick 36
One of the biggest steals of the draft was the Giants drafting Alabama safety Xavier McKinney in the second round. McKinney’s talent set actually has most experts projecting him in the mid-first round range. His drop was a surprise, but gave New York a gift by getting one of the potential stars outside the first round.
New Giants head coach Joe Judge is a former Nick Saban assistant coach and knows how talented Alabama is. McKinney is a playmaker who reads the quarterback’s eyes well. While he didn’t have too many interceptions in his career, McKinney is great in coverage. He can tackle well and will be good to send on blitzes from the outside.
With Jabrill Peppers looking to be the starter at strong safety, that leaves the door open for McKinney to be a day one starter at free safety. McKinney is young and will need game day reps to get used to the speed of the NFL. The talent is there though and should be able to become a solid NFL starter within a couple of years playing the game.
Potential Stars: Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Washington Redskins – Round 4, Pick 142
Meet one of the most interesting prospects and potential stars of the NFL Draft. Liberty receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden was drafted in the fourth round by Washington in the hopes of giving Dwayne Haskins another weapon. Gandy-Golden proved his high IQ from his love for rubik’s cube to his football skills.
From his sophomore year at Liberty until the end of his college career, Gandy-Golden was the team’s top target. He finished his college career with 3,722 yards and 32 touchdowns. Gandy-Golden has great size with ability to go up and make spectacular catches on deep passes. Even though he doesn’t have blazing speed, Gandy-Golden is a threat to make big plays.
The biggest adjustment for Gandy-Golden is taking on top talent in the secondary. He didn’t perform as well against better teams in college so Gandy-Golden will need to get used to playing against the best of the best. It may take him time to adjust to the NFL, but his potential could make him a great NFL receiver.
Potential Stars: Tyler Bass, K, Buffalo Bills: Round 6, Pick 188
A kicker seems to be a crazy thought for being one of the potential stars, but Tyler Bass has the potential of being a solid NFL kicker. Picked in the sixth round, Bass proved early to be one of the best kicker prospects in the NFL Draft. From 30 to 50 yards, Bass hit 93 percent of those field goals. His accuracy from that range is outstanding and can grow from it. Bass is a weapon on kickoffs only allowing nine returns in his career. Good luck trying to get a return from a Bass kickoff.
Some weaknesses he suffers from is his accuracy from over 50 yards. His lack of consistency from that range dropped his overall field goal percentage to 77 percent. If Bass can fix his long range field goal game, he could easily become one of the best kickers in the league.
Bass will have to battle for a kicker job with long time NFL kicker Steven Hauschka. The good news for Bass is Hauschka has only hit about 78 percent of his field goals the last two seasons. That could bold well for Bass wanting to win a spot on the roster. Even if Bass isn’t able to earn a roster spot on the Bills, he should be able to prove that he’s ready to start on any NFL team.