The NFL Draft couldn't come any sooner. NFL and CFB fans alike are desperately awaiting the days in which there is some definite sports excitement in the form of the seven-round virtual draft that will take place from April 23-25. Though the event will not be the same splashy affair that was initially planned to take place in Las Vegas, the same level of hype and buzz will surround the event and signify an eventual return to the football field for the 2020-21 season.
The draft may be of even more importance this year, as it will finally give general sports fans something to consume in the present without resorting to old YouTube videos or ESPN replays. Instead, MLB fans who have been deprived of baseball may shift their focus over to the NFL Draft in order to have some sort of solace during this devastating time. NBA fans who were robbed of their season, and potentially of the entire playoffs, could look to the NFL Draft for a little bit of entertainment. Golf lovers who are usually able to sit back and enjoy the Masters in early April will now be able to devote their full attention to late April's biggest event.
Because of this, everyone should be well-informed on the biggest names heading into the draft. Who are the picks that could shake up the rest of the draft night? Who are the boom-or-bust prospects that could make or break a team's long-term outlook? Who's the very, very best in class in this deeply talented squad of promising players?
We're here to help answer all of those questions. Here are the top 25 players available in this year's draft. Just because they're ranked a certain way doesn't mean that's the order they will or are even likely to be taken in. Based on positional needs, certain stars may be reached for early, while some may drop down the board and become the ultimate steal for a lucky team.
All stats retrieved from Sports Reference and NFL.com.
25. Yetur Gross-Matos, Defensive End | Penn State
Gross-Matos is the full package, especially when you consider that he still has room to grow into his full frame and develop more of the power, speed and athleticism that allowed him to wreak havoc throughout the Big Ten. In 2018, he was one of two players in the conference with 20 or more tackles for loss and ranked among the top ten leaders in sacks with 8.0. Playing in a conference with Chase Young, Zack Baun, A.J. Espenesa and others makes these stats all the more impressive and warrants him with definite first-round recognition.
His inspirational story off the field (video at the top of the page) is another aspect of his draft day profile that makes you believe he can succeed at a professional level.
24. Jonathan Taylor, Running Back | Wisconsin
Three straight seasons of 2,000 yards from scrimmage and double-digit touchdowns (including 26 in 2019) make Taylor a well-oiled machine heading into the 2020 NFL season. Of the likely top-three running backs, Taylor may be the best pure runner in the group, but he began to make more of an impact in the receiving game as a junior in 2019 (26 catches, 252 yards, 5 TD). His breakaway speed was apparent at the combine (4.39 40-yard dash, first among RBs) and makes him the biggest home run threat of all the running backs available.
Deploying a solid jump cut right after the handoff that allows for his breakaway speed to develop, Taylor possesses enough vision, elusiveness and speed to be able to start immediately for one of the RB-hungry teams at the end of the first round.
23. J.K. Dobbins, Running Back | Ohio State
Neck and neck with Jonathan Taylor in the Big Ten in 2020 (quite literally, as both finished with exactly 2,003 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns), Dobbins gets the slight edge from me here due to his ability as a receiver. In the ever-changing NFL, one trend that seems to be one we can definitely rely on to continue is that of the running back being involved in the receiving game. Along with that aspect, Dobbins definitely seems to possess the most strength of the three, in both his ability to lower his shoulder or utilize skill moves to brush defenders aside.
22. Laviska Shenault, Wide Receiver | Colorado
This placement comes with the added qualifier that Shenault plays at an extremely high level when healthy. His injuries will scare several teams away, as the previously unanimous first-round pick may very well end up going later in the draft based on health concerns. Recently, it was reported that he would undergo core surgery to deal with one of his many nagging injuries.
But when Shenault is on the field, he does everything at a high level. Outside receiving on deep routes. Slot receiving on underneath routes. Taking end-arounds. Direct-snap running. Special teams. Speed. Power. Contested catches. Elusiveness.
You name it, Shenault is extremely capable at a high level. Teams that draft him just have to hope his durability won’t be as big an issue as it has been of late.
21. Justin Herbert, Quarterback | Oregon
Kurt Warner may not be as impressed with Justin Herbert as I am, but it’s hard to deny the physical talents he possesses. His frame is huge, his arm strength is mouth-dropping and his potential is through the roof. Potential is key, here, as a good NFL coaching staff can help him to iron out his mistakes and develop him into a more polished professional quarterback.
We’ve heard rumors that some teams may value Herbert higher than Tua Tagovailoa due to the latter’s injury concerns, but health can’t be the only factor that plays into such an evaluation. Herbert’s rocket of an arm was on full display at the combine while Tua was unable to partake in the drills, and that also may have given him a leg up. Another showing from Oregon’s Pro Day was equally as impressive.
That looked effortless, and that’s not a skill you can teach. If Herbert can convert some of his raw talent and physical gifts into technique and smarter play, he can be a franchise quarterback for years to come and a potential top-10 or even top-five pick.
20. D’Andre Swift, Running Back | Georgia
Swift will soon join Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel on an impressive list of Georgia alumni taken within the top 40 picks in order to man an NFL backfield. His career 6.6 yards per attempt ranks above all three of those running backs and ninth all-time in the SEC, an indication of just how much patience, vision and elusiveness Swift has. He’s not going to blow you away with speed, though his 4.48 40-yard dash ranked within the top-eight running backs at the combine. He’s not necessarily the most imposing bruiser, either, but often won’t need to rely on initiating contact.
Another plus aspect of his game is his receiving ability, something he does better than Taylor and arguably Dobbins, as well.
19. C.J. Henderson, Cornerback | Florida
He’s perhaps the most athletic defensive back in the entire draft, posting a top-three 40-yard dash time and a top-five bench press. This athleticism allows Henderson to thrive in a man coverage scheme, and though his presence in a zone defense isn’t at the same level, he can make up for any of those lapses with his elite athleticism.
One thing that he’ll have to work on is his tackling, as most experts point to his inconsistency and decision making as hindrances to his ability to make clean tackles. However, as long as the ball is still in the air, there may not be much of a better option in the draft at the cornerback position.
18. Patrick Queen, Linebacker | LSU
Though Queen doesn’t have as large a sample size as some of the other defenders in the draft, what he did in that sample size is enough to give us confidence that he can produce at a high level. Queen was one of the main stars on the national champion LSU Tigers, finishing with 12 tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery and a pair of passes defended.
The play above showcases his ability to read and recognize a play, recover after a slow start and utilize the brute strength that he possesses as he forces the opposing running back out of bounds and barreling toward the bench.
17. Xavier McKinney, Safety | Alabama
Following along with the theme of good versatility, McKinney’s ability to play multiple roles in Alabama’s defense (whether as a safety, a slot corner, a deep linebacker or a weakside blitzer) without too much confusion in the mental department when separating the roles makes him a special commodity in this draft. The positionless factor that is valued so highly by certain NFL defenses will love someone of McKinney’s frame and athleticism.
Some of those aspects are on display here, as he was able to use his blitzing prowess to force the quarterback into an uncomfortable position, and recover in order to chase down the quarterback and strip him of the football in a high-IQ play. He was the only player in the SEC with four forced fumbles.
16. K’Lavon Chaisson, Linebacker/EDGE | LSU
If Queen was good at LSU, Chaisson was great. His sophomore year -- he was a redshirt sophomore after an injury in 2018, but showed no signs of slowing down -- he led the team in sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (13.5). One of them, shown below, showcases what makes him such a beast.
He has finesse, technique and the dogged approach to the game that enabled him to make that tackle. Of course, his 6’3”, 254 lb. frame doesn’t hurt in enabling him to make big time plays, but he’s also an elite athlete that has unstoppable timing and burst off the edge.
If confidence is something you’re looking for, there’s also no shortage of that here.
15. Kenneth Murray, Linebacker | Oklahoma
Kenneth Murray impressed in many ways at the combine, finishing in the top-10 in practically every on-field drill and sharing a poignant story about how he performed CPR and saved a woman’s life before leaving the scene so as to avoid recognition for his deed. If that’s not the ultimate act of humility, I don’t know what is.
He’s got the build to be a successful linebacker in both the passing and running game, as his speed allows him to move all over the field and his height and long arms allow him to close gaps quickly and effectively.
If a certain Clemson linebacker wasn’t stealing the spotlight with his versatility, Murray and his unique skill set would likely be lauded as the best in class at the position.
14. Mekhi Becton, Offensive Tackle | Louisville
Getting past Mekhi Becton is not an easy task. Just ask anyone who’s been made look silly while attempting to move past the 6’7”, 364 lb. giant. You can’t go through him because, well, you just can’t go through something that big. If you try, this might happen.
You can’t really go around him, either, as he has light feet -- or as light as feet can be for a player of his size -- and great reaction times. You’re not going to stop him when he’s leading a running back downfield. And don’t worry about him lagging too far behind a running back or slowing up the play as it gets downfield, as he ran an impressive 5.10 40-yard dash.
However, there is clear risk in drafting someone like Becton, as size like this often results in injuries, trouble with superior athletes and other issues.
13. Henry Ruggs III, Wide Receiver | Alabama
A “disappointing” 4.27 40-yard dash time is what we got to see from Henry Ruggs at the combine, who also wowed analysts with his massive hands and his impressive vertical (42.0 inches). But nothing is more representative than what Ruggs brings to the table than his unbelievable speed.
You can’t forget about his other attributes, though. He’s a different receiver than just someone who possesses speed, such as John Ross. He also possesses tremendous catching abilities and route running skills.
A comparison that hasn’t been made all too often because of the injury history behind the player is that of Kevin White, who ran an impressive 40-yard-dash (4.35) and was drafted inside the top 10 by the Chicago Bears before his career was completely ravaged by injuries. Ruggs has the ability to be what Kevin White couldn’t be and, as White was a former top-10 pick, the ceiling is thus extremely high.
12. Javon Kinlaw, Defensive Tackle | South Carolina
Kinlaw was able to play straight bully ball throughout his college career, using his overwhelming strength and tremendous burst to power through opponents en route to a consistently dominant career. As with most of the highly-touted linemen in this draft, someone of his frame just shouldn’t be able to achieve the physical feats he’s been able to accomplish. Take this play, for instance.
What’s impressive to me about that play, outside of the obvious, is his recognition to immediately detach and his confidence, without any deliberation, that he would be able to make that play. That’s something you want in a potential defensive powerhouse.
11. Jerry Jeudy, Wide Receiver | Alabama
It’s hard to be a much better receiving prospect than Ruggs throughout all of college football, but one of the two players who was able to do this was his own teammate, Jerry Jeudy. Boasting elite route-running skills and an NFL level of professional awareness and poise, Jeudy can and will be a WR1 in the NFL from the moment he steps on the field. He’ll do whatever a team asks of him, be it using his 4.45 speed to beat defenders deep, using his extensive arsenal of routes to go underneath or using his high IQ to find gaps in a zone.
It’s not only his ability to get open that makes him so scary, though. What he does after the catch is equally impressive and really helps demonstrate that there aren’t many holes in his game.
In terms of the highest-floor option, Jeudy seems to be an obvious pick.
10. Tristan Wirfs, Offensive Tackle | Iowa
Watch the below video, and help me to explain how this athleticism is possible.
Yeah… I don’t get it either. Obviously, offensive linemen aren’t leaping all over the field, but it’s that lower body strength that Wirfs possesses that made him stand out in a Big Ten conference loaded with talented defensive linemen and pass rushers.
Wirfs’ aforementioned vertical at the combine, along with his 40-yard dash time and broad jump, led all offensive linemen that partook in the workouts, and all of that athleticism played a big part in allowing Wirfs to capture the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year award.
9. CeeDee Lamb, Wide Receiver | Oklahoma
Jerry Jeudy may be the safest pick, but CeeDee Lamb has a higher ceiling in my opinion. DeAndre Hopkins is the best receiver in the NFL right now, and that’s Lamb’s most frequent comparison. Impossible catches, dazzling after-the-catch plays and supreme confidence all play into Lamb’s top-10 potential. Even in this incredibly deep wide receiver class, it’s plays like this one that place Lamb at the top of my list.
I’ve used this clip in all of my articles that mention Lamb. I don’t care if he was in or out of bounds, or if he made this catch while playing in college, high school or elementary school. Anyone who can somehow make that catch is on a different level in my book.
8. Andrew Thomas, Offensive Tackle | Georgia
Jake Fromm’s comparisons to Drew Brees point not only to his skill set, but also to his stature. Luckily, he had Andrew Thomas protecting him. D’Andre Swift is one of the best running backs available in the draft after an extremely strong outing last season, but he was fortunate to have Thomas paving the way.
So much of Georgia’s offensive success came from Thomas’ ability to block in a variety of different plays and schemes. Check out just how much time he gives Swift on this play before shoving the defender.
7. Jedrick Wills, Offensive Tackle | Alabama
Wills makes defenders look harmless.
They legitimately look helpless when he’s using his 6’5”, 320-lb. frame to shove them aside and clear the path for the running back. He’s the best pass blocker in the draft in my opinion, though he also certainly makes a case against Thomas to be the best run blocker as well.
When it comes to straight-up flattening defenders, Wills is the imposing force that does this at the highest level.
6. Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle | Auburn
Versatility isn’t usually a trait you look for in an interior defensive lineman, but it’s something that makes Brown such a special commodity in the upcoming draft. He has the typical size and power of a defensive tackle, but possesses such an elite level of speed and burst to really hurt you in a variety of ways. He sometimes gets creative when the play calls for it:
Can’t get to the quarterback yourself? Just do what Brown did, which is shove an offensive lineman so hard and with such force that the quarterback falls down as a side effect.
5. Tua Tagovailoa, Quarterback | Alabama
Tua Tagovailoa could be number one on this list. It’s not outside the realm of possibility. His ceiling is higher than Joe Burrow’s in my opinion, and the issue that has made up around 95% of his draft day concerns, his health, has only really received positive news as of late. Most recently, ESPN reported that his medical recheck came back with “overwhelmingly positive” results.
Durability remains a concern, but with accuracy, leadership and playmaking skills matched by few in recent memory, you’d have to think that Tua’s NFL career is full of immense potential right now. One thing that I do think has some legitimacy is the fact that he was surrounded by a ton of talent at Alabama.
Even the best talent can hold you back, though.
4. Jeffrey Okudah, Cornerback | Ohio State
This is your premier, shutdown cornerback of the 2020 NFL draft class. Okudah is a near-unanimous top-five pick, likely heading to Detroit barring any draft day trades and becoming a day one cornerstone in the defense. Teams shouldn’t be afraid to deploy him in a number of coverage schemes and situations, as his 6’1”, 200-lb. frame is big enough to match up with even bigger receivers, thanks to his long arms and 41.0-inch leaping ability.
I mean, honestly, does that video not look sped up to you? With feet like that, there doesn’t seem to be a single route that could throw him so far off the play that he can’t stick with the receiver or at least recover in minimal time.
3. Isaiah Simmons, Linebacker | Clemson
I’ve used the word versatility a lot throughout this article, but using it on other players before Simmons makes me want to come up with some other word that describes what the Clemson product is capable of. If those other players are versatile, then Simmons’ versatility is on another planet. A 4.39 40-yard dash time is a good indicator of why this athletic freak can do more than just play linebacker, which in itself is a position that calls for a ton of versatility. He can play safety, can line up in slot coverage (and maybe even outside coverage… who knows?), act as an edge rusher and so many other things.
“Linebackers” aren’t supposed to make plays like this. They’re also not supposed to put up the aforementioned 40-time, but as we’ve mentioned, Simmons doesn’t do what normal athletes are supposed to be capable of.
2. Joe Burrow, Quarterback | LSU
In all likelihood, Burrow will be the No. 1 overall pick. And in all likelihood, he’ll produce at a really high level for a number of years and fulfill that value. Nothing seems to suggest otherwise. He showcases tremendous accuracy, phenomenal decision-making, uncanny awareness and almost every other attribute you want in your franchise quarterback. Imagine if Andrew Luck didn’t hang ‘em up early after sustaining injury after injury. That’s how I see Burrow’s career unfolding.
One thing scouts don’t love about Burrow is that he doesn’t have the same rocket of an arm as some other NFL quarterbacks do. But when you combine solid arm strength -- it’s by no means weak -- with the impeccable accuracy and decisiveness that Burrow possesses, it makes for a special package.
1. Chase Young, Defensive End | Ohio State
There isn’t too much debate on this one. With nine-time Pro Bowler and likely Hall of Famer Julius Peppers acting as a fairly safe comparison, there’s a chance that Chase Young’s NFL career is an historic one. Like, a Michael Strahan- or Reggie White-type of historic. Last season’s showing was a good example: in 12 games, Young had 16.5 sacks, 21.0 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles. I know, I’d want to fact-check those numbers also.
I genuinely don’t know what a quarterback is supposed to do in that instance. Young gets to the quarterback with such ease and consistency that he’s a one-man wrecking crew capable of completely derailing an opponent’s offense on his own. There aren’t many players in the NFL with that type of impact.