2020 Rookie Draft: Players 1-36 Part 1

Jeff Haverlack

Recently I gave you my “First Look” of the 2020 NFL Draft with a focus on my top 12 players, broken up into two articles, Part 1 and Part 2.

Now, I’m turning my attention to the top 36 players, again broken up into two different articles.  In Part 1, I’ll briefly recap my top 12, perhaps with an adjustment or two followed by players 13-24.  This gives you my projected depth of rounds one and two for 2020 rookie drafts.  I’ll follow this up with players 25-36 for an attempt at forecasting three rounds.

Before getting into the players, I need to say it again:  It’s VERY early!  So much can change from now until even the end of the year, let alone declaration day, the NFL Combine and, finally, the NFL Rookie Draft.  For this upcoming draft, the top names are mostly college juniors and could choose to return to school rather than enter the draft.  As we’ve seen with Tua Tagovailoa, major injury could shape not only the near-term future of these players, but potentially their careers as well.  This Top 36 list is simply and exercise to help you gauge the depth of the class for late and off-season moves.  Beyond that, it’s just exciting to get into next year’s rookies, is it not?

In future iterations of this article, I’ll have done much more tape review, individual study and be able to affix tiers to the players.  At this very early juncture, it certainly appears as though 2020 is as strong a fantasy draft class as I have ever seen.  This is well known within the fantasy community, but we’re going to do the work anyway because a deep draft class doesn’t carry any level of guaranteed performance for any of the selections.  It simply makes the rookie selections that much more intriguing.

Let’s revisit my top 12 from my earlier articles and see if there are any moves.

Round One

1.  Jerry Jeudy, WR Alabama
6’1/192 Lbs. – Junior

2.  D’Andre Swift, RB Georgia
5’9/215 Lbs. – Junior

3.  Travis Etienne, RB Clemson
5’10/210 Lbs. – Junior

4.  Jonathan Taylor, RB Wisconsin
5’11/219 Lbs. – Junior

5.  Ceedee Lamb, WR Oklahoma
6’2/189 Lbs. – Junior

6.  J.K. Dobbins, RB Ohio State
5’10/217 Lbs. – Junior

7.  Tee Higgins, WR Clemson
6’4/215 Lbs. – Junior

8.  Laviska Shenault Jr., WR Colorado
6’2/220 Lbs. – Junior

9.  Najee Harris, RB Alabama
6’2/230 Lbs. – Junior

10.  Chuba Hubbard, RB Oklahoma State
6’1/207 Lbs. – Sophomore (eligible)

11.  Henry Ruggs III, WR Alabama
6’0/190 Lbs. – Junior

12.  Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR Liberty
6’4/220 Lbs. – Senior


The only changes are positions six through eight where J.K. Dobbins has moved into the top six and Tee Higgins has moved up to number seven overall, both at the expense of Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault.  This isn’t an indictment of Shenault but, instead, due to stellar and consistent play by both Dobbins and Higgins.  I had been puzzled as to why Tee Higgins hadn’t been more productive in that offense with running back Travis Etienne in the backfield, other than Clemson receivers often don’t have great production due to run-game priority.  True to my confusion, Higgins has exploded in recent weeks and is now showing what I had expected to see all year.  Dobbins, as well, just continues to pile up yardage, show three-down ability and is producing against all competition, regardless of ranking.  That must be taken into account.

It should be noted, again, the sheer number of juniors which make up this first round. The extreme youth is a positive but could provide for some surprises as we get to declaration day in early January.

Round Two

13.  Justin Jefferson, WR LSU
6’3/192 Lbs. – Junior

Jefferson has eclipsed 1,000 yards for the first time on 81 receptions thus far and has produced 13 touchdowns in 2019.  Jefferson could elect to return to the #2 ranked Tigers but I’m expecting him to declare for the NFL Draft.  He’s wiry as a receiver but as he gains strength, he has the skills to develop into a WR1 at the next level.

14.  Zack Moss, RB Utah
5’10/222 Lbs. – Senior

Utah’s all-time rushing leader is a power plant with a thick lower body.  I’ll be surprised if he measures in at 5’10” but it won’t impact his draft ranking on my list.  He has upside into the bottom of the first round due to his tangible skill set.  That thick lower base is a trait I covet in running backs and he reminds me a lot of Maurice Jones-Drew with enough speed to get to the secondary quickly and punish inferior-angle tacklers.  He rarely is stopped for a loss.  Zach Moss is going to get lost among other big names in the upcoming draft but he’s an NFL-caliber running back.

15.  Tyler Johnson, WR Minnesota
6’2/205 – Senior

Tracks and adjusts so well with the ball in the air.  A thick 205 lbs., he stems his routes really well and understands how to accelerate out of his breaks.  I’d like to see him high-point a bit more often as he seems to have plus-level leaping skills and strong hands but he knows how to shield to secure the incoming reception.  Johnson has produced well over his past three seasons and has over 150 receptions, 2,300 yards and 23 touchdowns over his past two.  He has the look of a tremendous upside player given his ranking.

16.  Jalen Reagor, WR TCU
5’11/195 Lbs. – Junior

Reagor is hard for me to rank at this juncture and he’s a strong bet to move up from this current placement.  Would like to have seen more production over this three years at TCU though play-making ability is not in question.  While he’s listed at 5’11”, I believe he’ll measure in just below 5’10” but he’s a leaper with speed to burn.  If he gets the ball in space or stacks defenders, he’s a threat to find his way to the end zone.  Reagor is a power-packed receiver only lacking in physical height to be listed among this year’s elite receivers but many have him occupying that space regardless.  More film study on him to come but like Zach Moss above, he’s going to be a value at the back-end of fantasy rookie round one, into the second round.  Drafted situation will be key.

17.  Michael Pittman Jr., WR USC
6’4/223 Lbs. – Senior

Really upped his game in 2019 and produced his first 1,000 yard season along with 11 touchdowns thus far.  He produced more receptions (95) as a senior than all other years combined. A true outside receiver with elite-level hand-eye coordination in concert with capable and strong hands outside of his frame including over the shoulder.  He tracks a ball in the air as well as any receiver in this draft.  He’s not a burner and is a bit of a long-strider but he uses his size well to shield defenders to complete the reception.  Like many of the other receivers in 2020, Michael Pittman Jr. is an athletic specimen with a somewhat limited resume’ but showing enough development to bring a level of intrigue at the next level.

18.  Cam Akers, RB Florida State
5’11/210 Lbs. – Junior

A fluid one-cut runner who would excel in a zone scheme in the NFL.  He possesses ideal size for the next level and displays effective hands to press for a three-down role if given the opportunity.  He has struggled against top-ranked competition though the Seminoles have been mediocre of late within the ACC.  He’s a difficult runner to rank given periods of inconsistency but his build when combined with his fluidity is enough to project into the mid rounds of the NFL Draft.  Like many others on this list, drafted situation will be key and I don’t see enough inherent dynamic to push for a starting role early in his career.

19.  Joe Burrow, QB LSU
6’4/216 Lbs. – Senior

A bit of a one-year wonder, Burrow has gone from being a fringe prospect to quite possibly the first overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.  With a completion percentage of 78.3% and a touchdown to interception ratio of 44:6, he possesses adequate arm strength, intelligence and pocket presence of prototypical NFL quarterbacks.  While not overly quick or elusive, he possesses enough agility to slide or pick up yardage via enough mobility to take what is given.  Burrow’s best assets are his mechanics and ability to keep his eyes downfield while delivering crisp and accurate passes even from within a messy pocket.  There is risk due to Burrow’s extremely lackluster 2018 performance but there’s no questioning his improvement in 2019.

20.  DeVonta Smith, WR Alabama
6’1/178 Lbs. – Senior

Smith excels in open space and is dangerous with the ball in his hands.  A master of deep slants and inward-breaking routes, he’s quick off the line showing elite level acceleration.  In the open field, his long striding form is deceptive and but he undoubtedly has the speed to separate.  His 11/274/5 line vs Ole Miss was a performance unlike you will often see.  At the next level, he’ll need to add bulk and physicality off the line of scrimmage.  It’s not out of the question the junior elects to return to school in order to pad his stats in his senior year with fellow receiver Jerry Jeudy certain to leave for the NFL, but all signs point to Smith making the jump to the next level as well.

21.  Brycen Hopkins, TE Purdue
6’5/245 – Senior

A classic “move” tight end with impressive catch-point mechanics and route intelligence, Hopkins isn’t he prospect that T.J. Hockenson was in 2018, but he will provide a field-stretching component to his drafting team.  He possesses confident hands and vertical high-point skills but doesn’t appear to be possess over-the-top long speed.  With the slow integration time of rookie tight ends into the NFL, Hopkins’ value could slide upon further review and after learning his drafted situation.

22.  Albert Okwuegbunam, TE Missouri
6’5/255 Lbs. – Junior

Okwuegbunam has continued his slide into his senior season with another somewhat lackluster season in 2019.  He’s yet to produce more than 75 yards receiving in any game this year and has produced less than 40 yards in six of his last seven.  He possesses tremendous hands but I have concerns about his agility as he heads to the next level.  I’ll be watching his times closely during the NFL Combine and will be tracking more of his early tape toward determining if 2019 was an anomaly or a continuing trend.  He’s a very tenuous late-second round selection at this point in my rankings.

23.  A.J. Dillon, RB Boston College
6’0/245 Lbs. – Junior

At nearly 250 lbs., Dillon still holds a second round grade in my research but could fall after further tape review.  My main concerns revolve around agility and ability to transcend his size from being only a short yardage specialist in the NFL.  Three years of tremendous production at Boston College can’t be dismissed and he does appear to possess uncommon speed for a player of his size.  Few backs of his weight at his listed height produce in fantasy and I’ll need to see something special for him to retain this ranking.

24.  Justin Herbert, QB Oregon
6’6/237 Lbs. – Senior

If not for the extremely unfortunate injury to Tua Tagovailoa, Herbert wouldn’t be found at this ranking, instead falling to round three.  Many believe her possesses the intangibles to be a high pick in the NFL Draft and, while that may be true, that doesn’t immediately equate to being a high pick in fantasy.  He’s in the mix with the aforementioned Tagovailoa and Jake Fromm for second quarterback off the board behind Joe Burrow but unless you play in a super-flex format, I don’t see enough to overweight him in fantasy rankings.


While I’m fairly confident about my first-half of the second round fantasy rankings, I found the second-half challenging to complete.  This is somewhat typical when compared to previous years though I do find myself more intrigued by the talent available as we near pick 20 overall.  As is always the case, more tape review will help flesh out the last half of the second round and the following third round.

NFL Combine performance and drafted situation will be overlaid onto my draft grading to complete my final list shortly following the draft.  Between now and then, I expect many new names are going to appear as I uncover hidden gems that aren’t visibly during my early-phase research.  I hope you’ll continue to follow along as we continue this research into what initially appears to be a very intriguing draft class.

Stay tuned for part two coming shortly where I provide the final 12 players making up my third round.

Follow me on Twitter:  @DLF_Jeff


jeff haverlack