Mel Kiper, Jr. offers his first Big Board for next spring:
Twenty underclassmen and five seniors. Fourteen offensive players and 11 defenders. Eleven prospects from the SEC. And five … wide receivers?
Yes, the 2020 NFL draft class could be quite different from 2019, when only one wideout went in the first round. In fact, my top overall prospect is a receiver. This could be a really fun year as we continue to evaluate the interesting skill-position talent who could enter next year’s draft.
A few notes on my first Big Board for 2020, where I rank my top 25 prospects:
These aren’t detailed scouting reports. I still have a lot of work to do on these players.
Keep in mind that several prospects here have started only one season, so there is a lot of projection involved.
Height and weight are based on what we have from schools. We don’t get official numbers until the 2020 combine next March.
Let’s get to the Big Board, and come back Friday for my position-by-position rankings.
Note: An asterisk denotes the prospect is a rising junior.
1. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama*
Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 192 pounds
Yes, you’re reading that correctly — I have a wide receiver No. 1 in my first Big Board. Jeudy is a tremendous talent, a natural pass-catcher who can beat defenders on every route. He showed elite ball skills last season, catching 68 passes with 14 touchdowns and averaging 19.3 yards per reception. Jeudy doesn’t have the size of Julio Jones and A.J. Green, who were picked in the top six in the 2011 draft, but he’s the most talented receiver since that duo entered the NFL.
2. Grant Delpit, S, LSU*
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 203
The NFL comp for Delpit is easy; it’s former LSU safety Jamal Adams, who was drafted No. 6 overall by the Jets in 2017 and is coming off his first Pro Bowl. Delpit is a complete safety who is stout against the run and can cover the deep middle of the field. He had 74 tackles, five interceptions and nine pass breakups last season. The Adams comp comes in when you watch Delpit make plays in the backfield — he had five sacks in 2018. He’s also a great athlete.
3. Chase Young, DE, Ohio State*
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 265
Young caught my eye as a true freshman in 2017, when he had six tackles for loss while playing in a super-talented Buckeyes defensive line rotation. And after Nick Bosa went down early in 2018, Young was the team’s best defender. He’s a natural pass-rusher with a lightning-quick first step off the ball. He finished the season with 9.5 sacks, 14.5 total tackles for loss and batted down five passes. He has the talent to be the first edge rusher off the board next April.
4. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama*
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 218
You should know about Tagovailoa by now. I wrote about my thoughts on him in December, and he was atop Todd McShay’s debut 2020 mock draft. The reason I don’t have the Heisman runner-up as the surefire No. 1 prospect in next year’s draft? Sample size. He has started only one season, and there were some worrying moments in the games against Georgia and Clemson. Tagovailoa is not a finished product, and he’s playing with the best offensive talent in college football. I want to see more from him this season. Still, there’s a reason he’s my top-ranked quarterback and the favorite to go No. 1 in 2020. He’s an extremely accurate thrower with great athleticism and advanced footwork. The left-handed passer should star again in 2019, and I’m excited to see how he has progressed.
5. A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa*
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 277
Epenesa, one of the highest-rated recruits Iowa has ever landed, was a monster as a sophomore last season, putting up 10.5 sacks, 16.5 total tackles for loss and forcing four fumbles. He has long arms and the 6-foot-5 frame to be great against the run. I wouldn’t be shocked if he had 15-plus sacks this season. He could be an elite NFL pass-rusher.
6. Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State*
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 262
Recent fourth-round pick Shareef Miller got all of the attention going into the 2018 season, but Gross-Matos was the Nittany Lions’ most productive defender. He stood out every time I turned on the Penn State tape. With eight sacks and 20 total tackles for loss, Gross-Matos is a really good penetrator, but he also can finish. That’s what I like most about him. And if you’re keeping track, this makes three Big Ten defensive ends in my top six for 2020.
7. Walker Little, OT, Stanford*
Height: 6-7 | Weight: 313
Little started as a true freshman at left tackle for the Cardinal and has been a brick wall the past two seasons. With stellar size and athleticism, he is the complete package for a blindside protector tackle at the next level.
8. CJ Henderson, CB, Florida*
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 186
The ball skills are what sticks out with Henderson. He has six total interceptions and 11 pass breakups in his two seasons at Florida. At 6-foot-1, he’s a big corner with the athletic traits to be a shutdown defender. Here’s a clip of Henderson picking off 2019 second-round pick Drew Lock when Henderson was a true freshman.
9. Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia*
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 320
Like Little, Thomas started as a true freshman for a big-time program. He played right tackle in 2017, then moved to left tackle last season after Isaiah Wynn entered the draft. Thomas has extremely long arms, and the versatility to play multiple positions will make him stand out to teams.
10. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 233
Herbert was in the top 10 of my Big Board for much of the 2019 cycle, and he could have been a first-round pick if he had entered the draft. I wasn’t surprised he decided to return to school, though, and it could be a great decision for him. He has all of the makings of a No. 1 overall pick — great size, a big arm to make every throw, limited interceptions, good athleticism. But then you watch his games against Bowling Green and San Jose State, in which he completed less than 50 percent of his passes and had four picks. What happened there? Herbert misses some throws that first-round picks just can’t miss. I’d like to see more consistency out of him in 2019.
11. Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 199
A broken foot limited Diggs to only six games last season, but the converted receiver was emerging as a great player in his first season as a starter, breaking up six passes and adding an interception. Diggs, whose brother is Stefon, is fully recovered from his foot injury. He could get some time at Nick Saban’s “star” position in 2019, playing some slot corner and safety. He is extremely athletic with a solid 6-foot-2 frame.
12. Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson*
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 225
We often talk about linebackers who are perfect for the current NFL. That means three-down players who can run, tackle and cover. You don’t see many 250-pound off-ball linebackers anymore, and that’s because tight ends would torch them in coverage. Simmons, a converted safety, is a linebacker who is perfect for today’s pro game. He is extremely athletic and can run sideline to sideline. He had 89 total tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss last season.
13. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma*
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 189
The speedy Marquise Brown, who went in the first round last month, was the receiver who got most of the attention for the Sooners in 2018, but Lamb put up great numbers, too. He is a better route runner than Brown, and he can stretch the field with the best wideouts in college football. He had 65 catches and 11 touchdowns last season while averaging 17.8 yards per catch. Check out Lamb’s body control on this perfect touchdown pass from Kyler Murray in the Big 12 title game last season.
14. Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 325
Brown made a few appearances on my Big Board last year, and he could have been in the mix as a first-rounder in the 2019 class. He broke out in 2017 with nine tackles for loss, and he added 10.5 TFL last season. Brown is still raw as a pass-rusher — he gets into the backfield because of his power more than his finesse — but I’m hoping to see a more refined player after he came back to school.
15. Dylan Moses, ILB, Alabama*
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 233
When Quinnen Williams visited Bristol last month, I asked him to give me the name of the next Alabama defender to dominate. His answer? Moses. Of course, Moses has been on the radar for years, after LSU offered him before he had even started eighth grade. He has developed into an elite athlete and tackler, and he is likely to step into Mack Wilson’s vacated middle linebacker spot in 2019. Moses had 86 total tackles with 10 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks last season.
16. Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson*
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 200
Clemson keeps producing elite wide receivers, and Higgins could be next in line. What stands out is how well he uses his 6-foot-4 frame to take advantage of his mismatch against smaller defensive backs. Here’s an example of Higgins boxing out a cornerback for a touchdown. He did that often last season, catching 59 passes with 12 touchdowns. Higgins is also a stellar athlete who has improved as a route runner.
17. Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa*
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 320
NFL teams want their right tackles to be maulers in the running game. That’s Wirfs, a state wrestling champ in high school who created some buzz in March for doing four hang-clean reps of 450 pounds. He’s powerful on tape, too, moving defenders off the ball and pancaking pass-rushers. Since Kirk Ferentz became the Iowa coach in 1999, no true freshman offensive tackle had started a game. That changed with Wirfs in 2017, when he played at left and right tackle. Wirfs is an ascending talent.
18. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia*
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 220
I was really impressed with Fromm’s poise and decision-making in Georgia’s run to the national title game in 2017. A true freshman leading the way for the Bulldogs’ comeback in the College Football Playoff win over Oklahoma was tremendous to see. Fromm doesn’t have great measurables or a great arm, but he’s accurate, and he doesn’t make mistakes. You could see his improvement in 2018, and I expect him to take another step this season.
19. Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado*
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 220
Shenault is like a big running back playing receiver. He’s dynamic after the catch, and he moves around the formation. Colorado even played him as a Wildcat quarterback at times. He had 86 catches and six touchdowns last season, and he added five rushing touchdowns in only 17 carries. Shenault could play in the slot in the NFL. He’s just fun to watch. Check out this route and catch.
20. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson*
Height: 5-10 | Weight: 200
The lone running back on my Big Board, Etienne is a game-breaker with electric athleticism, quick feet and power to break arm tackles for big games. He rushed for 1,658 yards last season and averaged 8.1 yards per carry, and he’s in line for another monster year in 2019. Where I’d like to see him improve is as a receiver; he has only 17 total catches over the past two seasons. Clemson has a ton of weapons, of course, but first-round running backs need to be three-down players.
21. Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin*
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 319
Biadasz, who has started 27 straight games at center for the Badgers, is a gifted athlete. Wisconsin uses him to pull at times, and it’s fun to watch him get his hands on defenders on the edge. He’s also really strong technically. Biadasz had hip surgery earlier this year and was held out of spring practice, but he’s expected to be a full-go for the season.
22. Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama*
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 183
Ruggs is a speedster. He is the early favorite to be the fastest prospect in the 2020 draft. Jeudy is more explosive, but Ruggs has more straight-line speed. Alabama uses Ruggs on more than just vertical routes, however, as he had 46 catches for 741 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Check out this tunnel screen that he ran in for an easy score. He also averaged 19.1 yards per catch as a freshman in 2017.
23. Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 200
Hall was a breakout star last season — he led FBS with 22 pass breakups, turning those into two interceptions. He’s a physical corner who isn’t afraid to tackle. The question about corners is always speed, and we won’t get his workout numbers until after the season, but after watching Hall closely on film, he sticks to receivers on film. I don’t see any concerns about his ability to run with receivers down the field.
24. Trey Adams, OT, Washington
Height: 6-8 | Weight: 316
Adams ranked No. 13 on my preseason Big Board last year, but he suffered a back injury before the season and missed the first 10 games. He decided to return to school for his senior year, and it was a good decision based on his injury history; he also tore an ACL in 2017. Adams has a massive frame, and he could rise if he stays healthy.
25. Terrell Lewis, OLB, Alabama*
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 256
This is all about projection because Lewis is an enormous talent who hasn’t stayed healthy. After hurting his elbow in 2017 and playing in only four games, he tore his ACL before the 2018 season and missed the entire year. He was going to be a starter on the outside for the Crimson Tide. Lewis has a ton of upside as a pass-rusher, and people inside the program rave about his talent. I’m excited to see him in 2019.