2020 Rookie Draft: First Look

Joseph Nammour

With the regular season now in the rearview mirror, dynasty players have shifted their focus to the offseason, which means a number of things: trading, rookie draft preparation, and careful roster construction.

With some holding the opinion that 2019’s rookie crop is weaker than the last couple classes, I’ve seen many ask about potentially shifting their 2019 picks for 2020 picks. With that in mind, I hope to provide a first look at some of the players that make the 2020 rookie class incredibly impressive on paper.

Note: These are just my personal ranks and tiers. For a look at where these players stand for all of our rankers at DLF, check out our composite devy rankings here.

All statistics from sports-reference.com.

Tier 1

1.01: D’Andre Swift, RB Georgia

Another first-round Georgia running back? You bet. Swift is incredibly fun to watch, combining plus athleticism, vision, balance, and hands into the complete package, and is everything you want in a running back. Swift stood out as a true freshman in a backfield with Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Elijah Holyfield for his utilization in the pass game and only continued to excel in his sophomore campaign.

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1.02: Travis Etienne, RB Clemson

Etienne’s acceleration is absurd, but he’s not just fast. His tape is littered with plays where he’s running hard, falling forward, and breaking tackles. He was one of college football’s top scorers this year and somehow became more efficient than his freshman season despite carrying the ball twice as many times.

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Tier 2

1.03: Jonathan Taylor, RB Wisconsin

Taylor would probably be the 1.01 in other years, but he’s the headliner of the second tier for me in 2020. He’s been one of the most productive rushers in college football and shows no sign of letting up. Taylor is a tank and has terrific vision and power, frequently brushing off arm tackles and gaining yards after contact. Despite all the positives in his game, he has a very legitimate ball security problem. He has fumbled 12 times in two seasons, losing ten. This is something he will have to work on as he matures.

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1.04: Jerry Jeudy, WR Alabama

Jeudy is probably the best route runner in college football, and smooth and experienced route runners typically transition to the NFL seamlessly. He’s shown varied releases against press coverage, can make men miss in the open field, and tracks the ball well over his shoulder downfield. In a class with many terrific wide receivers, Jeudy is my favorite.

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1.05: Laviska Shenault, WR Colorado

Shenault may be a bit of an unknown on the national stage right now, but he won’t be for long. He’s a threat at all levels of the field and is an all-purpose weapon that has been utilized as a rusher, returner, and receiver. Shenault was a monster to begin the 2018 season but battled turf toe down the stretch, which limited his effectiveness and availability.

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1.06: Cam Akers, RB Florida State


Cam Akers is a well-known name in devy circles due to his billing as a former five-star recruit. Unfortunately, a brief look at his stats make his career appear to be going in the wrong direction, but this is mostly a byproduct of Florida State’s horrific 2018 season. Akers runs with tremendous power and has very good vision, but rarely has holes to run through behind a terrible offensive line.

Per the linked tweet, 1,065 of Florida State’s 1,093 rushing yards in 2018 came after contact. That’s 97.4%! Akers is a very good route runner and if the offensive line repeats another abysmal performance in 2019, he will be a better pro than what his statistics currently show.

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1.07: Eno Benjamin, RB Arizona State

Benjamin is a player who wasn’t on many radars entering the 2018 season, but he was truly incredible across the board last year. There isn’t a single box he didn’t check in his breakout season. He’s shown the ability to catch passes, run between the tackles, handle a massive workload, and score from all levels of the field. This ranking may look a bit low by the time next year’s draft rolls around.

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1.08: J.K. Dobbins, RB Ohio State

Dobbins had an incredibly impressive breakout true freshman campaign in 2017 and is one of the most complete runners in the nation. He’s an accomplished receiver, and like others in this class, plays with plus contact balance and runs decisively. Dobbins doesn’t have exceptional straight-line speed, but it’s one of the only true holes in his game. Yards per carry is a flawed statistic on its own, but his efficiency on a per-touch basis is the only area I’d like to see him improve next season.

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1.09: CeeDee Lamb, WR Oklahoma

Lamb has been fortunate enough to catch passes from two consecutive Heisman winners, but don’t let that affect your opinion of him. Yes, he benefits from an effective scheme and terrific quarterback play, but Lamb is incredibly athletic and shows elite upside himself. He doesn’t yet run the full route tree, but the traits he displays in his route running (particularly his footwork) are impressive. He is a threat as a short and intermediate receiver that can devastate after the catch and also excels downfield. Lamb is truly a nightmare to defend.

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Tier 3

1.10: Bryan Edwards, WR South Carolina

I am a bit lower on Edwards than the rest of my DLF cohort, but there’s plenty to like about his game. I wish he declared for this year’s draft rather than returning to school, but he should benefit from being the top dog in his offense rather than sharing targets with Deebo Samuel in 2019. He’s still extremely young and will enter the NFL as a 21-year-old after playing four full seasons at the college level. Edwards is a good route runner with strong hands, but isn’t an exceptional athlete.

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1.11. Tee Higgins, WR Clemson

Higgins really broke out in his true sophomore campaign. He’s a bit lanky at 6’4”, but his catch radius is impressive and Higgins displays tremendous concentration at the point of attack. He could use a bit of development as a route runner, but his ceiling is really exciting.

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1.12: Tyler Johnson, WR Minnesota

Like Edwards, Johnson is a player I really wish declared for this year’s draft. He’s someone who both tape and analytics guys love because he shows all the traits that indicate success at the professional level on film and combines them with top-tier market share, dominator rating, and breakout age.

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Tier 4

If you want an idea of how deep this class is, I would rank each of these next seven players inside the first round of 2019 rookie drafts.

2.01: A.J. Dillon, RB Boston College

Dillon is a complete wrecking ball at the position and dominates his ACC competition on a weekly basis. He needs to work on his ability in the pass game, but that’s all that separates him from being a feature back at the next level.

2.02: Jalen Reagor, WR TCU

Reagor has been one of my favorite receivers in the country since debuting two years ago. He’s a little small, but he’s polished, incredibly quick out of breaks, and a terrific athlete. Reagor is a nightmare with the ball in his hands.

2.03: Najee Harris, RB Alabama

Another former five-star Crimson Tide player, Harris is a huge running back with surprising agility for his size, as well as terrific vision, power, and balance through contact. Due to his competition in a loaded backfield, Harris has never broken out and has extremely limited experience as a pass catcher. If he continues to grow with Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs departing for the NFL, he could rise a few spots in my ranks entering the 2020 draft.

2.04: Kylin Hill, RB Mississippi State

Hill burst onto the scene this year with a very strong sophomore season for the Bulldogs. He has a three-down skill set and is an intelligent runner. The one thing missing are feature back touches – he’s yet to exceed 139 touches in a single season, so he hasn’t shown he can withstand a heavy workload – but he also doesn’t have much tread on the tires.

2.05: Henry Ruggs, WR Alabama

Ruggs pops off the tape whenever you watch Alabama and is one of the fastest players in college football. He’s still learning the wide receiver position, so the majority of his flash plays come from defenses having to respect all the other five-star recruits all over the field. Still though, Ruggs’ ceiling is elite. If he puts all the pieces together, he could become the best receiver in this stacked class.

2.06: Tylan Wallace, WR Oklahoma State

Wallace was a Biletnikoff finalist this year, so he was one of the most productive receivers in the country despite being somewhat anonymous. Totaling nearly 1,500 receiving yards this season, he excels at tracking the ball over his shoulder downfield and has strong hands at the catch point.

2.07: Trey Sermon, RB Oklahoma

Sermon isn’t a great athlete, which could drop him down NFL draft boards come 2020. He is a ferocious runner that will be a weapon in short yardage situations and the leader of a backfield committee.

Tier 5

2.08: Collin Johnson, WR Texas

2.09: Tua Tagovailoa, QB Alabama

2.10: Tamorrion Terry, WR Florida State

2.11: Albert Okwuegbunam, TE Missouri

2.12: Justin Herbert, QB Oregon

There are a number of players I considered including in this group, but that speaks to the depth of this class. It’s a special group. See the names below for those who just missed the cut.

Honorable Mention

Chuba Hubbard, RB Oklahoma State

Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR Michigan

Stephen Carr, RB USC

Kennedy Brooks, RB Oklahoma

Tyler Vaughns, WR USC

Anthony McFarland, RB Maryland

Thoughts? Comment below or find me on Twitter @jnammour24.