2020 NFL Draft: Day 2 surprises and best players available

We are two days in, but still not even halfway through the NFL draft. This class is loaded with talented players that found their NFL homes on Friday. While the first round gets the biggest billing, this is where teams make their money. If you can find value in the middle rounds of the draft, you are going to be a very successful franchise. The teams that do this best (Seattle, New England, Baltimore) seem to always have players ready to step in when injuries strike or players leave in free agency. That’s because they find the diamonds in the rough.

I will talk about my favorite prospects still on the board, but first, let’s talk about some of the most shocking developments from rounds two and three. Check out day one’s biggest surprises here.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma vs UCLA, Sept 14, 2019, Pasadena, CA
Hurts was the runner-up for the Heisman in 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

Eagles take Jalen Hurts
Wait … what??? Philadelphia signed Carson Wentz to a mega-extension worth north of $100 million prior to the 2019 season. So logically, at pick 53, the Eagles selected Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. Sure, the team could use a reliable passer to backup Wentz, who has a history of injuries. However, drafting a quarterback in the second round feels like a very odd decision given the cirumstances. Philly needs help at corner, linebacker and wide receiver, even after taking Jalen Reagor in round one. Howie Roseman has often been one of the general managers capable of finding talent in the later rounds, but his draft plan in 2020 is a mysterious to most outsiders. On back-to-back days, the Eagles made headlines for who they decided to draft, but not for ideal reasons.

Josh Jones slides … again
Well I definitely overestimated how much the NFL would like Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones. I had him going 18th overall to the Dolphins. Instead, he stayed on the board all the way until pick 72 for the Cardinals (who have had a great draft so far if you ask me). He is definitely a little raw, but he is a solid offensive tackle and there are tons of teams who were rumored to be interested in help at the position. He was my fourth-ranked player at the position, but was the eighth selected. This is just one fan’s opinion, but I was shocked to see Jones fall so far. Maybe that’s less of a reflection on him as well. After six offensive tackles went in the first round, only Ezra Cleveland went in round two and Jones was the first one off the board in the third.

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Swift went 35th overall to the Lions on Friday night. (Wikimedia Commons)

Teams reaching on running back
After Clyde Edwards-Helaire went with the last pick of the first round, there was some buzz that we could see a run on running backs. Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift and J.K. Dobbins all went as expected in round two, along with Cam Akers. What was surprising was to see A.J. Dillon and Antonio Gibson come off the board soon after. I like Dillon a lot, but I thought the Packers, once again, had bigger needs at receiver and linebacker. Dillon was still a bit of a ways down my board as well. Gibson was a stunner. I didn’t have him in my top 150 prospects and as my 12th running back overall. I wasn’t alone in the skepticism on Gibson either, Bleacher Report had him 164th overall, 98 spots later than he was selected by Washington. Green Bay’s decision is a bit more forgivable. Washington’s follow up to Chase Young was definitely a bit underwhelming.

Broncos double up on receivers
I applaud Denver for waiting and landing the best receiver in this draft. Getting Drew Lock a receiver to pair with Courtland Sutton made a ton of sense. I think Jerry Jeudy will have a great career in Denver. The surprise here was that then the Broncos dipped back into the position group to take Penn State’s KJ Hamler. Hamler is a speedster out of the slot with tons of big-play ability. I am not a huge fan of him as a prospect given his size and issues with drops. I was surprised to see the Broncos passing on either a corner or offensive lineman (although they did fill both positions later.) I didn’t think Denver really needed another receiver with Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton already in the fold prior to the draft, but they clearly want depth at the position.

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Prior to 2019, the Jets were the only team with which Bill Belichick had never traded. (Wikimedia Commons)

Jets and Patriots make a trade
This definitely caught me by surprise. Very rarely do these franchise negotiate trades, but maybe it really is the sign of a new era in New England. The Jets and Pats actually brokered a trade early in the 2019 season that sent Demaryius Thomas to New York in exchange for a 2021 6th round pick. This latest trade between the two teams that saw the Patriots acquire the 101st pick, which they spent on Virginia Tech tight end Dalton Keene. As part of the deal, the Jets landed two fourth rounders this year and New England’s 2021 sixth-round pick. Believe it or not, the two teams have now just swapped 2021 sixth rounders. If you are still reading at this point, know that I appreciate your love for football and quirky draft nuggets.

Through three rounds, there is a lot of talent still on the board. I actually see a ton of prospects in my top 100 available, 21 to be exact. Considering there have already been 106 selections, I am really positive about the players still on the board. Some quality defensive options, a bunch of lanky receivers and a pair of former Georgia quarterbacks highlight the group. Here are my favorite remaining prospects:

24. Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
52. Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
55. Curtis Weaver, EDGE, Boise State
56. John Simpson, G, Clemson
59. Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah
62. Ben Bartch, OT, St. John (Minn.)
65. Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
66. Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn
67. Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame
73. Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech
80. Troy Dye, LB, Oregon
81. Leki Fotu, DL, Utah
84. Larrell Murchison, DL, NC State
86. Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
87. Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State
88. K’Von Wallace, S, Clemson
89. Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU
91. Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State
92. Ben Bredeson, G, Michigan
93. K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State
100. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
101. Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue
102. Collin Johnson, WR, Texas
104. Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
105. James Lynch, DL, Baylor
106. Logan Stenberg, G, Kentucky
109. Solomon Kindley, G, Georgia
110. Trevon Hill, EDGE, Miami
113. Evan Weaver, LB, California
114. Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF
116. Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State
117. Jason Strowbridge, DL, UNC
123. Quintez Cephus, WR, Wisconsin
124. A.J. Green, CB, Oklahoma State
125. Francis Bernard, LB, Utah

2018 Heisman Hopefuls are Hard to Find

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Only quarterbacks and Alabama running backs have won the Heisman dating back to 2000. (Wikimedia Commons)

After five weeks of action in the 2018 college football season, the shortlist of contenders for the Heisman Trophy is shrinking. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, West Virginia’s Will Grier and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray are the clear front runners at this stage. All four of them are undefeated quarterbacks playing on Power 5 conference teams ranked in the top 10. At this stage, any of them could win the award, but it seems like there is not much chance anyone else manages to get their name into the running. Let’s break down who else was supposed to be in this race.

The Preseason Hopefuls
There were several other players who were supposed to challenge for the highest individual honor in the college game. Stanford running back Bryce Love and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor headline this group. Love was the runner up for the award last season when Baker Mayfield took it home. Taylor finished sixth in the voting. The pair finished second and third in the nation in rushing respectively behind Seahawks first round selection Rashaad Penny. This season Taylor is fifth in the country for ground yardage, but hasn’t scored in either of his past two games and Wisconsin lost to an unranked BYU squad. Love has missed time with some nagging injuries.

Also in this group is Shea Patterson of Michigan and Kelly Bryant of Clemson. The two quarterbacks had rough starts to the season. For Patterson, he lost his season opener to Notre Dame and failed to throw a touchdown pass. He only has seven through five games this year. On the other hand, Bryant actually lost his starting job to freshman Trevor Lawrence and announced he plans to transfer.

The Sleeper Picks
Every year, there are a bunch of dark horse candidates to win the Heisman. 2018 was no different. The most popular sleeper pick this year had to be Penn State’s Trace McSorley. A true dual-threat quarterback, the senior has thrown for over 1,000 yards and rushed for over 450. Normally, that would put you right in the heart of the conversation. However, McSorley sustained a heavy blow to his candidacy with PSU’s loss to Ohio State at home. On top of that, he has a woeful completion percentage of 52 and had two games where he failed to eclipse 200 yards passing.

Alongside McSorely were Drew Lock and Jarret Stidham, two SEC quarterbacks with first round potential in the upcoming NFL draft. Lock was always going to have a tough road to the award being on an unranked team. He opened the season on fire, but came back down to Earth when Georgia drubbed Missouri. Lock failed to complete 50 percent of his passes against the Bulldogs, threw no touchdowns, one interception and for under 250 yards. For a quarterback who doesn’t run much, that pretty much ended Lock’s campaign. Stidham’s candidacy turned out to be mostly hype. Through five games, the Auburn quarterback has only thrown five touchdowns, lost at home to LSU and topped 200 passing yards twice.

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Mayfield became the first senior to win the award since 2006 and translated it into the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. (Wikimedia Commons)

Still Could Join the Party
I have bashed the depth of the hopefuls pretty thoroughly, but it is still early and there a are a handful of players who could make some noise and draw Heisman attention before the season is over.

The first is Justin Herbert. The Oregon quarterback is making a case to be the first quarterback selected in May at the NFL draft. He could also sneak into the Heisman conversation, but it feels like he missed his best chance to assert himself. It will be hard for voters to shake the memory of him throwing four straight incompletions to lose at home to Stanford in overtime. He also has a couple of ugly statistical games on his record where he tossed multiple interceptions and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes.

There is no way that only quarterbacks finish as finalists either. Travis Etienne of Clemson has a chance to thrust himself into the conversation before the season is out. He is currently seventh in the country in rushing with an outrageous 8.1 yards per carry. The sophomore running back also has eight touchdowns so far. Additionally, Etienne might have just had his Heisman moment as he carried Clemson to a comeback in Death Valley over Syracuse with the team’s third-string quarterback under center. He rushed for 203 yards and three touchdowns to keep the Tigers undefeated. Being the lead back on a team likely to make the playoff and having your starting quarterback transfer, Etienne has everything in place to take a stab at this.

One last one that is a bit of a unique case is Ian Book. The Notre Dame quarterback took over as the starter in the third game of the season. He threw the game-clinching touchdown against Wake Forest and has thrown for 603 yards and six touchdowns over his last two starts. He torched what is a good Stanford defense and has a stellar 74 percent completion rate. On top of all of that, he hasn’t thrown an interception. The Irish sit at sixth in the AP poll and have a chance to make the College Football Playoff. If Book puts up similar numbers and leads Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season, he could be in the mix.

The Longshots
Just because you aren’t at a big school doesn’t mean you can’t make some noise. Now, Kentucky is a big school, but you probably know them for basketball. However, Ben Snell Jr. is having an impressive year running the ball. He is fourth in the nation in both yards and touchdowns. Kentucky is also 5-0 and up to #13 in the AP Poll. He will get a chance to play some great competition as Texas A&M and Georgia are still on the schedule. He could be a late riser.

Even more of a long shot is John Ursua of Hawaii. He really doesn’t belong, but he leads the nation in receptions, yards and touchdowns. He is on pace to finish with 100 catches, 1500 yards and 24 touchdowns. That kind of production usually catches the eyes of Heisman voters, but the best team Hawaii has played all year is Army. Unless Ursua can step it up and start shattering some records along with Hawaii winning out, he won’t really draw much attention.

One last name to throw around is Steven Montez from Colorado. The Buffaloes are 4-0 this season for the first time in 20 years. Montez is completing 75.8 percent of his passes, which leads the nation. Colorado is 21st in the polls and has road games against USC, Washington and Cal. Montez has thrown for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns in four games so far. He still has two-thirds of his games left in his season. It will be interesting to see what he can do with it.

The season is far from over, but it seems like the majority of the whittling down for the Heisman Trophy has already occurred. We might get some fireworks by season’s end, but this feels like a four-man race with a lot of people wondering what could have been.