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Tony Pauline Mailbag: NFL Draft news on Andrew Thomas, AJ Epenesa and more

Tony Pauline Mailbag: NFL Draft news on Anthony Thomas, AJ Epenesa and more
Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Every week, I open up the mailbag for anyone to send me their questions on the current college football season, the NFL, or the 2020 NFL Draft. As the NFL’s regular season comes to a close this week, the Week 17 mailbag is packed with NFL Draft news and notes on edge players Yetur Gross-Matos and AJ Epenesa, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, running backs Jonathan Taylor and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, and much more. But we kick things off with some thoughts on the top offensive tackle in the draft, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas.

Do you have a question you want to send to me? Send it to [email protected], and we’ll be sure to include it in an upcoming mailbag column.

The Tony Pauline Mailbag

Where does Georgia left tackle Andrew Thomas rank in terms of draft grade among offensive tackles relative to the top offensive tackles that have come out over the past five years?

The only tackle who may have ranked higher than Thomas is Lane Johnson, and he was the third tackle selected in 2013.

No tackle drafted in the past five years compares to Thomas athletically. The closest I can think of is Greg Robinson, and that was six years ago, but Thomas was a much more polished prospect at the position.

Which EDGE player has the most to gain during the draft process: Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos or Iowa’s AJ Epenesa?

They both have a lot to gain, assuming Epenesa declares for the 2020 NFL Draft. I can’t put one over the other.

Gross-Matos needs to show he can add weight to his frame and has the body to hold up at the next level.

With Epenesa, things such as shuttle and three-cone times are important as teams are wondering if he’s a true edge rusher. Remember that terrible shuttle and three-cone times are part of the reason why Jaylon Ferguson slipped into the third round despite the fact that the field during his Pro Day was slick as grease.

At the moment, what is the likelihood Alabama wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs declare for the 2020 NFL Draft?

I’d put Jeudy at 90% with Ruggs about 60% to enter the draft.

What should fans know about the Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam? Is there a lot to be excited about?

From an athletic point of view and what NFL teams want at the tight end position these days, I say definitely. He’s smart on and off the field, finds a way to stretch the seam, and plays the tight end position like a big receiver.

There have always been questions surrounding or concerning his passion for football. He’s academically gifted and I was told last year he wants to enter the medical field – which is why he did not enter the 2019 draft. That’s not a bad thing – but teams might wonder if things don’t work out or there are major bumps in the road, will Okwuegbunam stay with football or say “I’m out of here” and become a doctor.

Is Mekhi Becton truly a tackle or can he play guard? What is his ceiling at the next level?

I’m not as big on Becton as many others. I believe he’s a right tackle and can line up at guard as well. He could develop into a solid starter in time.

What difference is there between a running back like Jonathan Taylor and a back like Ke’Shawn Vaughn?

Taylor is a better downhill runner, plays with more power, and can handle more carries. He’s a better fit for a power gap running scheme.

Vaughn is better around the corner and perimeter, more adept at creating yardage, and is a better pass catcher. He’s a terrific fit for a zone running scheme.

Tony Pauline is Pro Football Network’s NFL Draft Analyst and Insider. Follow him on Twitter @TonyPauline. Follow PFN on Twitter @PFN365

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