We have a huge weekend in front of us with a ton of big rivalry games. Several of the top quarterback prospects are facing their biggest tests of the season so far against good teams and defenses. It’s still a crowded group that needs to be sorted out and this weekend will be one to look back on in the pre-draft process after the season.
Now that it’s almost the middle of the season, I will be releasing my first mock draft of the 2020 NFL Draft on Friday. Here’s a sneak peek: half of the first round this year may be made up of quarterbacks, wide receivers, and offensive linemen. We have a long way to go in this process, but it’s certainly shaping up to be an exciting draft.
1) Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
LSU QB Joe Burrow is an emerging star and prospect this season, but he’s also been throwing to good receivers. The best of those is Justin Jefferson, who had another big game on Saturday. He reeled in 9 receptions for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns in LSU’s offensive showcase against Utah State. This was Jefferson’s third game this season with at least 100 receiving yards and he’s scored at least one touchdown in four of LSU’s five games so far in 2019. This is a deep receiver class and Jefferson still has a lot to do to climb to the top, but he’s made great progress so far.
2) Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
Brown completely had his way with Florida’s offensive line on Saturday. Florida ended up with the win and RB Lamical Perine had a great day, but most of his runs were away from Brown. He routinely collapsed the pocket and pushed the offensive guards off the ball. Brown finished the game with 4 tackles, a strip-sack, and 2 fumble recoveries. Brown is the best interior lineman in the 2020 draft class, and I can’t see that changing.
3) Kwity Paye, DL, Michigan
Iowa has a great offensive line, but Michigan’s Kwity Paye came up with several big plays against them. He dominated in the trenches coming away with four tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 2 quarterback hurries. Paye made big plays on crucial third down situations, helping Michigan to allow on 3 points. This defensive line class has a few guys at the top, but it’s wide open after that. Paye can establish himself near the top if this play continues.
1) Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa
I liked Stanley before the season as a mid to late-round developmental prospect. He has good traits that could transform him into a starting QB in the NFL, but his mental makeup worries me. Stanley is certainly an intelligent player, but he makes too many unforced errors. He often throws into air-tight coverage and even with open receivers he leaves the ball hanging allowing the defense to get under it. Stanley’s chances of being a late-round pick are still there, but slowly dwindling.
2) Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Don’t get me wrong, Love has had an astronomical rise as a draft prospect this season. But against a great LSU defense on Saturday, it’s clear we need to pump the brakes. He threw 3 interceptions and just looked really uncomfortable throughout the game. Love has great traits that could still make him a first rounder, but he’s certainly a developmental QB that will need to sit his first year in the NFL.
3) Alaric Jackson, OT, Iowa
One of the most disappointing prospects of the weekend, Jackson probably had the worst game of his college career. He had several holding penalties and gave up a ton of pressures. It’s possible Jackson just had an off day; his feet were slow off the ball and he struggled mirroring defenders. I currently have him ranked as an early second round prospect, but this could be the beginning of Jackson’s fall down the board.
Small-School Prospect Highlight:
Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton
Trautman is the best small-school TE in this draft class. He had a huge game on Saturday with 4 receiving touchdowns. Trautman is a big-time mismatch in the passing game due to his great route running abilities. He is a physical route-runner who attacks the ball at the high-point. A former QB in high school, Trautman is also an intelligent player to go along with his size and athleticism. He reminds me slightly of Adam Sheehan coming out of Ashland in 2017, who was selected in the second round. Trautman has a chance to be near that level.
Top Three Games to Watch this Week:
1) Oklahoma vs Texas – October 12th
Oklahoma is one of the top teams in the country that could easily be ranked first or second. Jalen Hurts is looking like he could be Oklahoma’s next Heisman winner following Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. It doesn’t look like Hurts will be able to rise up to the number one draft spot as Mayfield and Murray did, but he’s looking like a second-round draft prospect at this time. Oklahoma also has receiver CeeDee Lamb, linebacker Kenneth Murray, defensive lineman Neville Gallimore, running back Trey Sermon, and tight end Grant Calcaterra.
Texas won the Red River Showdown last season but lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game. Texas isn’t quite back yet, but they have a handful of guys that will get drafted this year. That list includes receivers Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay, quarterback Sam Ehlinger, safety Brandon Jones, linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch, offensive lineman Zach Shackleford, defensive lineman Malcolm Roach.
2) Florida vs LSU – October 12th
Florida was able to handle Auburn last week and stay undefeated going into a big game with undefeated LSU. Florida is one of the most surprising teams this season and quarterback Kyle Trask is a big reason why. Florida’s top 2020 NFL Draft prospects are cornerback C.J. Henderson, edge rushers Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard, running back Lamical Perine, linebacker David Reese II, and defensive lineman Tedarrell Slaton.
LSU could also stake a claim as the first or second team in the nation. Always being known as a defensive dominant team, LSU’s offense, led by quarterback Joe Burrow, has been lighting up the scoreboard. Beside Burrow, LSU is led by safety Grant Delpit, edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson, cornerback Kristian Fulton, defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence, receiver Justin Jefferson, and linebackers Michael Divinity Jr. and Jacob Phillips.
3) USC vs Notre Dame – October 12th
USC is still wading through quarterback injuries and it’s still unclear who will be starting this week. Their offense still hasn’t really missed a beat, although Head Coach Clay Helton is on the hot seat. Their draft prospects include receiver Michael Pittman Jr., edge rusher Christian Rector, defensive linemen Marlon Tuipulotu and Jay Tufele, and offensive lineman Drew Richmond.
Notre Dame once again feels like a dominant team for the most part but is just a step below competing for a national championship. They lost to Georgia two weeks ago, but the game was a lot closer than most expected. However, if Notre Dame wanted to get back into the playoffs this season, that was a game they needed. Notre Dame is led by edge rushers Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem, offensive linemen Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg, receiver Chase Claypool, safety Alohi Gilman, defensive lineman Daelin Hayes.