The College Football bowl season is well underway, and a host of 2020 NFL Draft declarations have followed. Within the past week, we have learned more about the landscape and makeup of the draft and some big names emerged once again during Tony Pauline’s Live Blog this past Saturday.
Note: At the time this article was published, several underclassmen listed below had not yet declared. However, over the past week, numerous players have made their decision. For the most up to date list, check out our 2020 NFL Draft Underclassmen Tracker.
These names included Ohio State’s Shaun Wade and Jeffrey Okudah, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, Creed Humphrey, and Kenneth Murray, Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz, Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz, LSU’s Justin Jefferson, Grant Delpit, and Jacob Phillips, Stanford’s Paulson Adebo and Colby Parkinson, Oregon’s Thomas Graham, Arizona’s Lorenzo Burns. Saturday was arguably the most critical news day to date, and there were tons of nuggets to digest.
Below, I will take a look at these names and where they could land in the 2020 NFL Draft. Some of these players are sure-fire first-rounders, while others on this list are hoping to slip into the second day.
First-round of draft gets heavy upfront
Many of the nuggets from on Saturday related to prospects that could end up selected in the draft’s opening day. Players like Delpit, Lamb, Murray, and Okudah have previously been mentioned by Pauline as possible early entries, and those names came up again on Saturday. These guys are all likely first-rounders. To take that a step further, I would be surprised to see any of these players slip out of the top 20 picks.
In Weeks 14 and 15 I discussed Humphrey following Pauline’s Live Blogs, and Pauline now puts the redshirt-sophomore at “about an 85% likelihood” to “make the jump” to the NFL. Humphrey will battle Biasasz as the top center available, but both could hear their names called in the first round.
Another player that could join the top center discussion is Michigan’s, Cesar Ruiz. Pauline stated that his sources had told him that as it pertains to Ruiz, it’s “80/20 the talented center leaves Michigan for the NFL after the team’s bowl game.” Ruiz has been a road grader for the Wolverines upfront for the past two seasons and could be ticketed for an early selection if he declares. His presence upfront has been crucial for senior quarterback Shea Patterson as well as star freshman tailback, Zach Charbonnet. I expect Ruiz to hear his name called immediately after Humphrey and Biadasz. The Miami Dolphins would be a logical fit, as they currently have a need at the position, and owner Stephen Ross is a former Michigan alum.
Cover men leaving school early
Along with the big men up front, there were quite a few mentions of 2020 NFL Draft underclassmen declarations among cover men this past Saturday. The biggest name here is OSU’s Okudah, who made his draft entry official in a letter to his late mother published at The Players Tribune.
Okudah’s teammate, Shaun Wade, was also mentioned in the blog and could be eyeing an early exit from Columbus. Wade is a former five-star recruit for the Buckeyes who made his presence felt this season in a trio of very talented OSU corners in 2019. Wade is a redshirt-sophomore that recorded four interceptions in two years for the Buckeyes. He is a big, outside corner with some experience in the slot who could make a case for the first round. His official decision should come within the next few days.
Stanford’s Adebo is another new name on this list. He is a big and physical corner in the mold of a Richard Sherman. However, Adebo struggled some this season and would probably be better suited to return to Stanford for his senior season. Adebo’s talent is undeniable, as he collected four picks this season and is a borderline first-rounder when he chooses to leave school. Pauline said Saturday that Adebo is “now expected to enter the draft.”
Two other Pac-12 corners that Pauline mentioned as “leaning” towards the 2020 NFL Draft are Oregon’s Graham and Arizona’s Burns. Pauline graded Graham as a sixth-rounder entering the 2019 season, while Burns could fall into the same territory. The Wildcat corner does not have great size, but he comes with a ton of experience on the boundary. The 175-pounder has started three seasons in Arizona since his redshirt-freshman season.
LSU Tigers off to the NFL
In addition to star safety Delpit, two other LSU Tigers made news on Saturday as potential 2020 NFL Draft entries. Both linebacker Phillips and wide receiver Jefferson have been instrumental pieces in LSU’s National Title run this season, and now it appears they will take their talents to the next level. Pauline reported Saturday that both players look set to enter the NFL Draft. A decision will likely follow their upcoming game against Clemson.
Phillips could be selected as early as round two, while Jefferson has an excellent chance to hear his name at the end of round one. The Tigers’ big-play WR finished the regular season with 14 touchdown receptions before adding four more against Oklahoma on Saturday. Take a look below at the barrage of big plays made by the LSU receiver against the Sooners.
Only 6 players have ever caught 4 TDs in a bowl game.
Justin Jefferson did it in ONE HALF.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 28, 2019
Additional post-Saturday draft news
As expected, Miami Hurricane playmakers DeeJay Dallas and Trajan Bandy decided to forgo their final year of eligibility and join the 2020 NFL Draft declarations. I discussed the two previously, and their decision comes as a shock to no one, given the state of the Miami program. Bandy is probably a late-round flyer, while Dallas could go at the beginning of the third day. Dallas becomes the next in a long line of Miami running backs to declare early. Last season, junior Travis Homer also left the Hurricanes for the 2019 NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining at Miami.
Penn State receiver K.J. Hamler was discussed previously as an underclassman likely to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft and that was confirmed this week. The explosive playmaker will come off the board within the first two rounds.
Other players who have been confirmed this week as forgoing their remaining eligibility include Notre Dame’s Alohi Gilman and Tony Jones Jr., OSU’s J.K. Dobbins, Texas A&M’s Quartney Davis, and Michigan State’s Josiah Scott.
Dobbins is the biggest name to emerge within this group. The junior running back exploded this season alongside starting quarterback Justin Fields. The duo led Ohio State to the College Football playoffs, where Clemson defeated them on Saturday. Dobbins has a chance to be the first running back off the board in April.
Scott is another player that could intrigue NFL decision-makers. He was mentioned as a possible early declaration in my recap following week 12. The remaining names will be fighting for positioning within the draft’s final rounds.