When it comes to the NFL Draft, every year we see players who elevate their draft stock during the process and drastically improve where they are selected. Whether it’s jaw-dropping performances in a bowl game or putting up outrageous numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine, there are many ways where draft prospects are given the opportunity to impact their draft stock. The reality is that many NFL scouts act on recency bias and are willing to ride the wave of a draft prospect’s momentum.
There are only four bowl games remaining in the college football season. After that, it’s time for the East-West Shrine Bowl and the Reese’s Senior Bowl, which are big events in the scouting community. From there, it’s pro days and the NFL Scouting Combine. One thing is for sure, at the conclusion of all of these draft events, some players will hurt their draft stock and some will elevate it.
Every year, we see NFL teams fall in love with the hot prospect. At this time last year, we were talking about whether Kyler Murray would opt to pursue a career in Major League Baseball or take a chance on being a day two pick in the NFL Draft. For those keeping score at home, Murray was selected first overall. Additionally, players such as defensive end L.J. Collier, offensive lineman Tytus Howard, and offensive tackle Kaleb McGary ended up becoming first-round selections, after being given day two grades by many in the draft community.
This year will be no different, as players that are currently being ignored as first-round picks in any mock draft you might read will rise and ultimately become first-round selections in the 2020 draft. Three players in particular, all hailing from the Big Ten, possess the ability to soar into the first-round conversation.
J.K. Dobbins, Running Back, Ohio State (5’10”, 217 pounds)
Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins was one of the best players in all of college football during the 2019 season, and he headlines the list of late risers for the 2020 NFL Draft. Dobbins finished 3rd in the nation with 2,003 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns, while averaging an impressive 6.7 yards per carry. Just one season ago, Dobbins was splitting carries with Mike Weber, but in 2019, he proved he doesn’t need to be sharing the load with anyone.
When you watch film on Dobbins, you are reminded of former Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice. Dobbins has a compact build and runs very low to the ground. He runs with good balance, above-average vision, and absolute physicality. He runs with a rare blend of power and speed, paired with upper-echelon acceleration, which allows him to run for yards in chunks and create big play after big play.
Dobbins announced his intention to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft after a dominating performance in a losing effort to the Clemson Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl. In this game, Dobbins rushed for 174 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown run.
In the clip below, you will see Dobbins brilliance as a runner leading him to bust free for the aforementioned 68-yard touchdown run. The cut he makes in the open field to spring himself for the long touchdown run is special:
JK DOBBINS TO THE HOUSE! pic.twitter.com/jn1HATD68J
— Barstool OSU (@BarstoolOSU) December 29, 2019
Upon watching many hours of film on Dobbins, the thing that impresses me most is his ability to run angry and run with power. In the clip below, the ability to create yards after contact is evident:
2020 Draft Eligible
JK Dobbins – @Jkdobbins22
I do my best to remove my bias, so I went in trying to nitpick and still came away so impressed. There’s 3 things that make this kid really good
1. Pass Catching
2. Running with Power
3. Elusiveness pic.twitter.com/ldNRkIEAGz
— Garret Price (@DynastyPrice) July 16, 2019
When the draft process is over, it will not surprise me at all if J.K. Dobbins is considered the best running back in this class and is selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He is a special runner with an NFL build, who will be able to contribute at a high level immediately. If you would like a deeper dive into J.K. Dobbins’ rise up NFL draft boards, check out my colleague Matt Valdovinos’ in-depth look at Dobbins.
K.J. Hamler, Wide Receiver, Penn State (5’9″, 176 pounds)
Another player who recently declared for the 2020 NFL Draft and is on the list of late risers is the explosive Penn State wide receiver K.J. Hamler. Outside of Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III, Hamler might just be the fastest player in the 2020 NFL Draft. When watching film on Hamler, two current NFL players come to mind: Baltimore Ravens’ Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Kansas City Chiefs’ superstar Tyreek Hill. Simply put, Hamler has elite speed and acceleration, which will make him a bonafide weapon in the NFL.
In 2019, he caught 56 passes for 904 yards and 8 touchdowns, while averaging 16.1 yards per reception. He is a player that commands the attention from the opposing defense, with his rare ability to create separation with ease, and his elusiveness in the open field. He is an above-average route runner, skilled with a developed route tree.
However, there are some warts when it comes to Hamler’s game. First, his size is a concern. Hamler has a small frame, and as we have seen with Hollywood Brown, when smaller receivers get hit, it has a severe impact on their availability. Secondly, Hamler has missed two seasons due to a torn ACL. With that said, there will be a great deal of NFL teams, such as the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers, that would love to draft a player with the caliber of K.J. Hamler to add a dynamic weapon to their passing attack.
When I said that K.J. Hamler possesses special speed, I wasn’t kidding. Take a glimpse at the clip below and watch Hamler catch a slant on first-round prospect Shaun Wade, then accelerate into a mind-blowing gear for a 93-yard touchdown:
KJ Hamler kicked it into another gear 😳
93 yards to the HOUSE
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 30, 2018
The reason K.J. Hamler will be a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft is his ability to create yardage after the catch. In the video below, his speed and ability to move like a human joystick allows him to turn an ordinary play into a game-changing touchdown:
KJ Hamler. House call. The run after the catch is why he’s one of the most dynamic weapons in college football pic.twitter.com/xIqlGyVjij
— Chase Senior (@Chase_Senior) September 28, 2019
Brycen Hopkins, Tight End, Purdue (6’5″, 245 pounds)
While Bryce Hopkins isn’t one of the 32 best prospects, he is still one of the late risers for the 2020 NFL Draft, and a player that could escalate his draft stock into a round-one selection. Outside of George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, and Zach Ertz, the talent at the tight end position in the NFL is fairly weak. Also, the 2020 draft class isn’t overly impressive when it comes to tight ends. The main reason that a player like Hopkins might be able to sneak into round-one would be due to position scarcity. One team in particular, who will be drafting towards the end of the first round, is in desperate need of a tight end. That team is the New England Patriots.
But let me be clear, Hopkins is no slouch. In fact, he is the best tight end prospect in the draft class. Hopkins enjoyed a productive senior season, catching 61 passes for 830 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. He is a very fluid athlete, with strong route-running ability, and comes with some explosiveness as well. Hopkins will present a matchup nightmare to linebackers that are tasked with covering him. He is an adequate pass-catcher who needs to find more consistency with his hands, however, Hopkins will make his money as a vertical seam threat.
One huge bonus with Hopkins is his ability to block. He tends to be stronger than he appears, and is a willing and able blocker in the running game.
The clip below will give you an example of the explosiveness Hopkins brings to the table. He is able to climb the seam quickly, beating the linebackers covering him for a 72-yard touchdown:
— Isengard Wizards 🧙🏽♂️ (@IsengardWizards) November 30, 2019
Hopkins should be able to further help his draft stock by putting up impressive numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine. While he is far from a round-one lock, the NFL is desperate for explosive playmakers at the tight end position, which might help Hopkins’ draft stock a great deal.