It seems like every year, there is a group of underrated NFL prospects who fly under the radar, and the 2020 NFL Draft is no different. Whether you’re a draft analyst by trade or just a fan with a riveting hobby, it takes a lot of effort to evaluate the hundreds of draft prospects that enter the NFL ranks on a yearly basis. You have to watch tape, digest their athletic profile showcased at the NFL Scouting Combine, examine how they do in the interview process, and see what type of numbers they put up at their pro days. This exhaustive approach can cause draftniks to overthink particular prospects.
Once the NFL regular season ends, it is “Draft Season.” It’s a time period when NFL prospects can either help or hurt their draft stock. It seems in scouting circles today, a prospect can elevate his draft status by running an impressive 40-yard dash or putting up big numbers in the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
One prospect that has helped his cause during the 2020 “Draft Season” is Oregon’s Justin Herbert. Herbert entered the 2019 collegiate season pegged as a surefire top-five pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. However, a pedestrian senior season in Eugene had his draft stock tumbling to the middle of round one.
Since the end of the college football season, Herbert was named the Most Valuable Player of the Reese’s Senior Bowl and displayed world-class arm strength at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. Now, Herbert is widely considered a top-five pick, with teams like the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers as potential landing spots.
You may be asking yourself, “what does this have to do with underrated NFL prospects?” Well, when prospects perform well at these events leading up to the NFL Draft, many analysts move prospects up and down their draft boards, causing a certain group of prospects to be overshadowed.
Let’s take a look at three underrated NFL prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Jalen Hurts, Quarterback – Oklahoma Sooners
When it comes to the 2020 quarterback class, the household names you hear are Joe Burrow (LSU), Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Justin Herbert (Oregon), and Jordan Love (Utah State). All of these quarterbacks are marvelous draft prospects, but let’s not forget about one of the most underrated NFL prospects in this draft: Jalen Hurts.
Before we take a look at Hurts, the football player, let’s examine the man himself. An ultimate leader, Hurts is well respected by his coaches, teammates, and opponents. He is highly regarded for his unparalleled intangibles, even missing his grandfather’s funeral to participate in the 2020 Senior Bowl. He had an extremely decorated collegiate career, even finishing second in the 2019 Heisman Trophy voting.
In the modern-day NFL, where athletic quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are thriving, Hurts has traits and athleticism that will have NFL general managers salivating. His 4.59 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine ranked second for the position, only behind Hawaii’s Cole McDonald. Not only is he fast, but he is also elusive and dangerous when the ball is in his hands. There is no doubt that his ability to effectively run the football makes him an intriguing dual-threat option.
As a passer, Hurts is far from a finished product. He needs to learn how to throw with anticipation, get rid of the ball faster, and learn how to become more consistent with his mechanics. With that said, he demonstrates the ability to scroll through his progressions effectively and has good accuracy throwing on the run. He possesses more than adequate arm strength and has strong decision-making ability.
It’s doubtful that Hurts will hear his name called on the first day of the 2020 NFL Draft, but I suspect he won’t have a long wait on day two. He will need time to develop, and should benefit nicely from NFL coaching. Whichever team selects Hurts should do so with the foresight that he will need some grooming, and would greatly benefit from holding a clipboard and play the backup role to a veteran quarterback. Two potential fits that immediately come to mind are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts, as “Father Time” is catching up with Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. Ironically enough, I have the Pittsburgh Steelers selecting him in my recently published 7-round mock draft.
At the end of the day, Jalen Hurts is an electrifying football player and a proven winner. The talent is there, but the question remains, which NFL team will have the boldness and patience to draft Hurts?
Jalen Reagor, Wide Receiver – TCU Horned Frogs
The 2020 wide receiver group is one of the best classes we have seen in NFL history. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr. has stated that he could see as many as 25 receivers go in the first three rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft. Players such as Jerry Jeudy (Alabama), Henry Ruggs, III (Alabama), CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma), Tee Higgins (Clemson), and Justin Jefferson (LSU) headline the list. However, there is far more talent than those players.
Due to extreme depth at the wide receiver position in the 2020 NFL Draft, one player being overlooked is Jalen Reagor. Reagor is a big-play machine, possessing blazing speed and reliable hands. He is dangerous in space, often creating yards after the catch in large chunks. One thing that may surprise you, given his smaller stature, is that he excels at the contested catch. When you watch tape of Reagor, the two things that consistently stand out are his explosiveness and play-making ability.
One knock on Reagor is his limited route tree, but as the clip below will highlight, that wart is completely overblown. In fact, due to his quickness and suddenness, it is likely that he can develop into an effective route runner:
Jalen Reagor of TCU running a “Dino” route
— Receiver Life (@ReceiverLife_) May 21, 2019
For my money, Jalen Reagor is a top-50 selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. He is a play-making machine who will thrive in a vertical passing attack. Teams such as the New York Giants and the Indianapolis Colts would be wise to consider Reagor at the beginning of round two.
Josh Uche, EDGE – Michigan Wolverines
Many consider Ohio State pass-rushing phenom Chase Young as not only the best EDGE defender in the 2020 NFL Draft but the best overall player. Other pass-rushers that are drawing most of the attention in the scouting community are K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU), A.J. Epenesa (Iowa), and Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State). One player not getting enough attention is Michigan’s brilliant pass-rusher Josh Uche.
Uche’s best trait is his burst. He consistently beats blockers with good snap anticipation, a lethal first step, and his tremendous explosiveness off the edge. In addition to his jaw-dropping burst, Uche possesses great length, an impressive motor, ability to bend, and imposing functional strength. He is extremely fluid in space and plays with good pad level. His football intelligence is an underrated quality, which is highlighted by his ability to consistently time blitzes.
Uche isn’t a perfect prospect, as he enters the 2020 NFL Draft with some nagging injuries, underwhelming experience, and is a bit undersized for the position. Due to his smaller frame, when offensive tackles lock onto Uche, he is usually washed out of the play.
Uche is a day two prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft that will serve as a pass-rush specialist early in his career. With coaching and development, he has the tools to develop into an effective NFL starter.