College football is a stage where players have the opportunities not just to win football games, but to audition for the NFL. Some of those players, like Trevor Lawrence, for example, are bonafide studs already. However, there are also guys in the midst of a developmental process that will be stepping into more prominent roles or on the brink of a critical year. There are individual college football players with more to gain from the 2020 season than the rest of the field.
So, who can rocket up boards from the 2020 college football season?
QB Jamie Newman, Georgia
The wild card quarterback of the entire draft is Jamie Newman. While not a perfect quarterback, the upside is evident with Newman. He brings high-level athleticism, good arm strength, and has fantastic flashes of elite ball placement, even outside the numbers. Some of the throws that Newman can pull off show off the same upside that a guy like Jordan Love had last year, although I do not think he is as toolsy as Love was.
Newman has to work on his footwork, pocket movement, and pre-snap to post-snap mental processes, but the innate tools are fun. With Todd Monken at Georgia now as offensive coordinator, Newman will benefit an easy rhythm passing game with RPOs that should see him thrive. If he can improve upon his flaws, Newman can catapult his stock into the first round.
CB Paulson Adebo, Stanford
Adebo is a tough one to pin down. Heading into the 2019 season, Adebo was seen as an exciting cornerback prospect with fluid hips, ball skills, and all the natural ability to be a legitimate shutdown cornerback at the NFL level. However, his 2019 was incredibly disappointing and instead saw him plummet down boards. So when putting that into context, Adebo is one of the college football players with the most to gain from the 2020 season.
There are some glaring holes in Adebo’s game. He does not have great functional strength in press coverage, and at the catch point, that matters a lot. Adebo seems to get into too many bully-ball matchups and get outworked at the catch point due to that. The natural length he has is fantastic, but he never uses it. He is not a great athlete and is not overly quick, although he is smooth. The real boost to Adebo’s stock would be bulking up and using his natural tools to rise from the ashes.
LB DaShaun White, Oklahoma
With Kenneth Murray gone, White is going to be the natural replacement for Murray. And wow, is White ever different than Murray in a lot of ways. White has functional strength, length, and tackling issues. That bleeds over into a weakness for shedding head-on blocks as well for White. Still, White’s appeal is all in what he has as a baseline for the modern-day linebacker position.
That baseline I am referring to is tremendous athleticism and exceptional coverage skills. Listen, if you want to get on the field as a linebacker nowadays, just do those two things, and you are mostly on your way there. Still, White is a slippery linebacker and scrapes over the trash often. Also, he showcases good instincts. The concerns will just be the strength and tackling issues. As he steps into a more significant role, if he can improve, White can fly up boards.
OT Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame
If there is a sleeper to be the second offensive tackle off the board behind Penei Sewell, Eichenberg might just be that guy. As such, he is one of the college football players with the most to gain from the 2020 season. With steady hands, quick feet, and immense strength, Eichenberg’s traits are eye-popping. Now, while he has been moved around at times at Notre Dame, Eichenberg’s technique, for the most part, is pretty impressive.
I am not a stickler for mobility in the open field, but Eichenberg’s is a bit average. There is some notable hip stiffness as he navigates on pulls and into the second level. However, quick footwork and expert framing often make up for that fact. Even still, there is apparent technical room to grow with punch timing, pad level, and consistent knee bend. If he can another step forward, Eichenberg’s upside could make him a slam dunk first-rounder.
EDGE Jayson Oweh, Penn State
Out of all the guys on this list, Oweh is by far the freakiest. From a pure athletic, physical tools standpoint, Oweh is elite in all categories. His first step is insane, and it looks like he has rockets attached to his cleats off the snap. The motor he has runs extremely hot, and he can run guys down in pursuit all day. He has the natural strength and length to be a pass rush problem. Oweh’s flexibility is superb.
Those athletic tools do come with the caveat of rawness, however. Oweh does lack a pure pass rush plan and must learn to add more moves into his arsenal. While he has a nice dip-rip currently, a more potent inside move to threaten guys that overset for his speed rush would be nice to see. Besides, there are concerns about his counters. Once he gets stymied, Oweh often fails to disengage. Still, assuming he can make strides with his hand usage, Oweh could be a first-round pick with ease.