Best value picks from the 2020 NFL draft

The 2020 NFL draft is officially in the rear view mirror. It is hard to believe that the first round was already a week ago. That is partially because I almost never what day of the week it is now since social distancing measures have gone into place. While the first rounders gets the majority of the headlines, there were a lot of teams that found incredible value in the later rounds of the draft. Here are my favorite players that last way longer than they should have.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)Josh Jones, OT, Houston – Arizona Cardinals
Draft position: No. 72 (3rd round)
My ranking: No. 21 (1st-round grade)
I don’t think I am the only one who was shocked Josh Jones slid all the way to the third round. I wrote about it as one of the biggest surprises of the first round, and then as one of the biggest surprises of Day 2. He is powerful and athletic. There are certainly areas for improvement when it comes to his base strength. He uses his hands well though, seeks out contact and finishes blocks at the second level. I think he has a real chance to start this season for Arizona.

Saints logoZack Baun, LB, Wisconsin – New Orleans Saints
Draft position: No. 74 (3rd round)
My ranking: No. 29 (1st round grade)
The reason Zack Baun dropped into the third round primarily has to do with his lack of experience as an off-ball linebacker. He showed he could transition to that role at the Senior Bowl. I really like his versatility. He is very comfortable rushing the passer, something he did with regularity at Wisconsin, and is a solid open-field tackler. I think he is also a great fit for this Saints defense. I think he should be in line for a lot of playing time.

Cowboys logoTyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin – Dallas Cowboys
Draft position: No. 146 (4th round)
My ranking: No. 52 (2nd-round grade)
I know I was a bit higher than the consensus on Tyler Biadasz, but there is no way he should have fallen to the end of the fourth round. Biadasz dealt with some injuries in 2019, but he is rock solid in pass protection and works very well as a head-on run blocker. He might struggle if asked to pull and block in space, but overall, I think he also has room for growth from a technical standpoint. He will be in consideration for the starting center role following Travis Frederick’s retirement.

Jets logoBryce Hall, CB, Virginia – New York Jets
Draft position: No. 158 (5th round)
My ranking: No. 24 (1st-round grade)
As a Jets fan, I was thrilled with this pick. Bryce Hall has the size and technique to excel in the NFL. He does not have elite speed, but he knows how to press his opponent to the sideline and tracks the ball very well in the air. Apparently, teams are still worried about the ankle injury that cut his 2019 season short. Once he is healthy, I think we will see him return to his 2018 form, where he led the country in pass breakups. He will likely top out as a serviceable No. 1 corner or a great No. 2 option.

Dolphins logoCurtis Weaver, EDGE, Boise State – Miami Dolphins
Draft position: No. 164 (5th round)
My ranking: No. 55 (2nd-round grade)
There are few players in this year’s draft who had the level of production in college that Curtis Weaver had. He had 34 sacks and 43.5 tackles for loss during his three years at Boise State. He has the size to be a rotational pass rusher right away either as a 4-3 defense end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. I think he will fit really well with Miami, who needs a young edge rusher to develop. He does not have the explosive first step that makes you think he will turn into a game-wrecker, but his pass-rush moves and technique could see him develop into an eight-to-ten sack per year guy.

Cowboys logoBradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah – Dallas Cowboys
Draft position: No. 179 (5th round)
My ranking: No. 59 (2nd-round grade)
I still can’t wrap my head around this one. Bradlee Anae dominated the Senior Bowl and is at the very least a pro-ready rotational pass rusher. He does not have the desired bend some teams are looking for in edge players, but he brings plenty of experience and some very polished pass rush moves. For a team that really needed to find some help getting pressure on the quarterback, this is an absolute steal in the fifth round.

Browns logoDonovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan – Cleveland Browns
Draft position: No. 187 (6th round)
My ranking: No. 65 (2nd-round grade)
Donovan Peoples-Jones is definitely a project, but coming from a big program with poor quarterback play, I will be curious to see how he translates. He has all the physical traits you look for. He has long arms and tore up the combine when it came to testing. He ran a 4.48 40, which is really solid given his size (6’2″, 212 pounds). Peoples-Jones posted a combine-bests in the vertical jump (44.5 inches) and broad jump (139 inches). I get that combine stars don’t always translate and there are questions about his agility. However, I think spending a sixth-round pick on a player with that much athleticism is definitely worth it.

Eagles LogoPrince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn – Philadelphia Eagles
Draft position: No. 210 (6th round)
My ranking: No. 66 (2nd-round grade)
A medical red flag on his knee caused Prince Tega Wanogho to plummet. I can understand teams being wary to spend a high draft pick on a player with an injury history. That being said, I think by the 210th pick in the draft, finding a player who, when healthy, is probably worth spending an early third-round selection on is worth the risk. If Tega Wanogho can get on the field, he is a developmental tackle that moves well and has a lot of experience at left tackle in the SEC. In the short term, he can provide some depth for a team that saw veteran stalwart Jason Peters end his 11-season tenure with the franchise.

Chargers logoK.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State – Los Angeles Chargers
Draft position: No. 220 (7th round)
My ranking: No. 93 (3rd-round grade)
There were several players that should have gone in the third round that fell into the seventh. However, K.J. Hill is the most understandable of the group to drop. He did not test well at the combine and this was an incredibly deep receiver class. However, if you go back and watch his film at Ohio State and the Senior Bowl, you will see a crafty slot receiver with more than enough speed to make it at the next level. He definitely has his physical limitations, but I could see Hill developing into a Danny Amendola-type receiver in the right offense. I think the Chargers would be thrilled to get that out of a seventh-round pick.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State – Arizona Cardinals
Draft position: No. 222 (7th round)
My ranking: No. 91 (3rd-round grade)
I was a bit more surprised to Eno Benjamin slide this far. He did have a lot of touches in college, and his sophomore season was more impressive than his junior one, but the talent is still there. He caught 77 passes over the past two years, so he is definitely comfortable as a receiver. Benjamin has the makings of a great rotational back. Someone you can rely on to touch the ball 10-15 times a game and be productive with those touches. I think he will be a great fit in Arizona.

Vikings logoKenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State – Minnesota Vikings
Draft position: No. 225 (7th round)
My ranking: No. 87 (3rd-round grade)
How does a redshirt junior return to school and put up the same number of tackles and register more sacks and drop in the NFL draft? Beats me. Perhaps teams were not as high on Willekes because of his age. There also seems to be a misconception that he is not very athletic. Watch this video and tell me you still think that. I don’t expect Willekes to set the world on fire in the NFL, but he deserved to be drafted much higher than this. Minnesota found themselves someone who will likely compete for Everson Griffin’s spot at defensive end as a rookie.

Bills logoDane Jackson, CB, Pittsburgh – Buffalo Bills
Draft position: No. 239 (7th round)
My ranking: No. 148 (4th-round grade)
He was definitely a bit of a sleeper, but Dane Jackson was one of my favorite late-round grabs. He was the last player I gave a fourth-round grade to, so I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him slip into the fifth or even sixth round. The Bills getting him in the seventh makes this great value. Jackson looked really solid at the Senior Bowl. I was impressed with how he competed against the top receivers in this class. He was a three-year starter at Pittsburgh. He tackles well and is aggressive in closing to break up passes. I think he has a good shot to carve out a role on this Buffalo defense.

Check back in Friday for the biggest reaches of the 2020 draft.

Biggest risers and fallers of bowl season

Is it just me, or does it feel like conference championship games were forever ago? Bowl season was a long slog, but we made it out the other side. Our patience was rewarded with an entertaining, if not always super competitive, College Football Playoff. While some of these bowl games certainly felt pointless, it is an excellent opportunity for players to put together game tape in front of a national audience heading into the pre-draft process. Unfortunately, it also means some players will walk away with a less-than-stellar end to their season and potentially tank their draft stock. It’s hard to blame some of the top prospects for skipping these games.

With bowl season done though, it is time to review the big risers and fallers from the past month. Before you get on me about players like Jerry Jeudy or Joe Burrow, they obviously played great games. However, their draft stock is pretty well cemented. There really isn’t a whole lot higher they could possibly climb. Let’s take a look at some players whose bowl performances made a real difference in their draft stock.

Risers

A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
A.J. Epenesa capped off a huge second half to the season with a dominant showing in the Holiday Bowl. Going up against a likely top-50 pick in Austin Jackson, Epenesa consistently got pressure, often times in different ways. He showed a wide array of pass rush moves and good burst off the edge. I think he should find himself in the top 10 come draft day, but there is a lot to happen between now and then. He will definitely be in the draft after declaring on Tuesday.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU
Man this kid can run. I’ve been saying he reminds me of Maurice Jones-Drew. Some of that is size profile, but Clyde Edwards-Helaire also brings that same kind of elusiveness mixed with power. He definitely lacks breakaway speed, but he could he effective in the right offense. With Chuba Hubbard and Najee Harris returning to school, he is now up to RB5 and I thinking solidly into the Day 2 conversation. I’m worried his stock will dip if he doesn’t run super well at the combine, but he should develop into a starter in the NFL.

Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah
I have loved what I have seen from Bradlee Anae over the past few months. He has incredible burst and timing off the edge and actually does a decent job setting the edge against the run. He still has a long way to go in terms of disengaging bigger blockers and varying up his pass rush moves. From a physical traits stand point, he has what teams want. That was on display against Texas, even if it doesn’t show in the box score. He finished with half a sack, but had a bigger presence than that.

Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame
Chase Claypool balled out against Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl. He showed a good ability to go up and make plays in traffic. His body control was impressive. His size is great too and you can’t coach that. Claypool sits behind a long list of guys right now on my big board because of how stacked this draft class is at the receiver, but his tape left a very positive impression heading into the Senior Bowl.

Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
I was resistant to putting Tyler Johnson here because I have heard so many mixed reviews, but wow he balled out against Auburn. I went back to rewatch the tape of Marlon Davidson and Johnson stood out every time. He showcased great athleticism and an impressive ability to adjust to the ball in the air on a few spectacular catches. I know there are scouts who are knocking him down because he didn’t get a Senior Bowl invite, but he looked the part of an NFL receiver in the Outback Bowl.

Fallers

Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
That was a really tough way for Jalen Hurts’ college career to end. Hurts simply looked inaccurate against LSU in the CFP semifinal. He showed out as a runner, but he is built more like Tim Tebow than Lamar Jackson. The truth is, Hurts reminds me of Tebow, but with slightly better mechanics. He lacks great arm strength, often times having to float balls over the middle, rather than hitting receivers on a line. We will see Hurts as part of a loaded quarterback group at the Senior Bowl though, so maybe he can start to rehab his value.

A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
You had to know this was coming. His last game was brutal. A.J. Terrell got smoked by JaMarr Chase. Chase has made a lot of defenders look foolish this year, but Terrell looked was completely overmatched. He showed he does not have the top line speed to run with top-end receivers or the physicality to make up for that. This might force him to go back to school for another year; he is just a junior. If he does come out, I expect him to be a fringe second round player at this point.

Austin Jackson, OT, USC
The reason why Austin Jackson is on this list is because A.J. Epenesa is one of the risers. Jackson got a big test facing the Iowa edge rusher. I actually pegged him as one of the players who could help his draft stock the most given the opportunity. I think to say he failed is extreme, but he also didn’t pass with flying colors either. There were moments where he flashed franchise tackle potential. I think it is going to take some good coaching and a bit more seasoning for him to get up to NFL speed for him to reach his ceiling. Jackson might still find his way into the first round, but should not be thought of as a day-one starter.

Marlon Davidson, EDGE, Auburn
Auburn got pushed around a bit in the Outback Bowl by Minnesota. Marlon Davidson was no exception. He was undisciplined against the run a lot in that game. He didn’t make much of a mark as a pass rusher either. Auburn likes to kick him inside next to Derrick Brown. I see him as more of a 3-4 or 4-3 end, but he will need to improve his gap discipline and work on reading his keys before he can make an impact at the next level.

Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
The athleticism is there. The frame is there. The production and presence are not. Raekwon Davis flashed some moments of creating good leverage, but he spent much of the game simply locked up and ineffective. He looks like a project player who has the physical tools to develop into something special. The problem is, he has looked like that for two years, failing to take the next step. Alabama’s Citrus Bowl win over Michigan was just the latest example.

For more NFL Draft coverage, check out the Aftermath’s NFL Draft Podcast, with new episodes every Thursday.