Declaration Day 2020: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Every year dynasty fans get excited about the potential and promise of the upcoming rookie draft class. Speed, power, agility, landing spot and the pure excitement these young college football stars possess have us itching to acquire rookie draft picks for the chance to add one of these pieces to our dynasty teams. The 2020 NFL Draft class has been viewed as the pinnacle of draft classes – or at least the best in a very long time top to bottom.
However, things don’t always play out the way we hope and prepare for, and this year is no different. There were some stars born over the course of the 2019 college football season, and we were able to watch them thrive, flourish and take their talents to the next level. We also had some dynamite prospects decide to return to school for another year. Let’s take a look at some of the most significant declaration decisions made this year – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE, RB LSU
I know the popular comparison for Clyde Edwards-Helaire is MJD or Ray Rice but is he more Austin Ekeler 🤔
Either way I want him on my dynasty rosters. https://t.co/z7IAxpkxfe
— Ray G (@RayGQue) January 9, 2020
Coming off of a productive yet uninspiring 2018 campaign, many thought that the highly-touted, five-star running back recruit John Emery Jr. would be the starter in the backfield sooner rather than later for the Bayou Bengals. Not only did those hopes and dreams not come to fruition, CEH dominated the backfield rushing for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging 6.6 yards per carry. He also caught 55 balls for 453 yards and another score. After an outstanding breakout season, CEH said B-Y-E to LSU and we’ll have fun watching him in the NFL.
Rookie draft outlook – late first round pick.
JUSTIN JEFFERSON, WR LSU
You like Route Running?
You like WRs that faced SEC competition?
You like SO & JR season production?
Why draft Jerry Jeudy with a top-3 pick when you can get Justin Jefferson late 2nd in your rookie drafts. He’s the discount version of Jerry Jeudy. pic.twitter.com/wQNNg6wjOM
— Ray G (@RayGQue) December 8, 2019
Jefferson didn’t come out of nowhere this season; he actually had a very productive 2018 campaign going over 800 receiving yards on 54 grabs and six touchdowns. However, in 2019 his stock took off like a rocket. Playing in the most efficient and explosive offense in NCAA history, Jefferson took his talent to another level. 111 receptions, 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns later, he’s looking like a candidate to sneak in to the first round of NFL Drafts. If not the first, he won’t have to wait long into the second round to hear his named called.
Rookie draft outlook – late first/early second round pick.
TUA TAGOVAILOA, QB ALABAMA
Tua Tagovailoa 6’1” 218 – JR, Alabama
We all know he suffered a devastating injury that cut his 2019 season short, but all reports from his recovery have been positive so far.
Let’s take a look at what makes him such a tantalizing NFL QB Prospect. pic.twitter.com/SBT3lfmLJa
— Ray G (@RayGQue) January 11, 2020
We all know how good of a quarterback Tua is. There’s no denying his arm talent, pocket awareness, football IQ, leadership, and competitive toughness. What we don’t know is how healthy he is or is going to be before the start of the 2020 NFL season, or even later down the line. His hip injury has some people in the dynasty community worried and others unwavering. There was a lot of speculation that Tua might return to Alabama for his senior year, but ultimately decided to declare for the draft. All indications point to him being a top pick in the draft so this was the right call by Tua. There was no need to return and risk further injury.
Rookie draft outlook (superflex) – Top-5 pick.
TYLAN WALLACE, WR OKLAHOMA STATE
This one is tough because I don’t believe Wallace would have stayed had he not torn his ACL. He was on an absolute tear when he was injured. Through nine games he accumulated 903 receiving yards on 53 receptions and eight touchdowns while averaging 17 yards per reception. There was some feeling that even if he declared he would have still been a Day-2 selection, leading some to believe that he would jettison Stillwater for the NFL, yet he decided to return to school for his senior season.
What does this mean for Wallace?
He will now compete with what looks like an even more competitive group of wide receivers in the 2021 class, including Ja’Marr Chase, Rondale Moore, Rashod Bateman and Justyn Ross. He will once again be in a position to put up monster numbers in that offense, but you have to wonder just how much more can he improve his draft stock.
PAT FREIERMUTH, TE PENN STATE
Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth doing his best George Kittle impression in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. pic.twitter.com/2gxb3ruATv
— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) December 28, 2019
Scouting the tight end position is tough. A lot of times I look for athleticism and draft capital when determining who I’m going to take a shot on. That philosophy doesn’t always work out, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take unless the tight end prospect checks all the boxes. Freiermuth checked every box. At 6’5” 256 pounds, he not only produced at Penn State, he put out quality film. He was only a true sophomore, but he was granted 2020 NFL Draft eligibility for postgraduate studies he completed after high school which made him three years removed from school. Had he declared, he may have been the runaway number one player at his position.
What does this mean for Freiermuth?
He will now compete with what’s shaping up to be a loaded 2021 class of tight ends led by Miami’s Brevin Jordan, Florida’s Kyle Pitts, and Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar. Right now, I’d slot Freiermuth in at number three among this group.
NAJEE HARRIS, RB Alabama
This one stings. Harris came into 2019 with question marks all over his name. Could he be the lead guy? Was he as good as his high school prep rating suggested? Could he catch the ball? Would he fend off the other talented Alabama running backs. Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes! Najee came to play in 2019 and showed the nation that he was one of the best runners in all of college football.
He led the way with 1,224 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground and sparkled in the receiving game with 27 receptions for 304 yards and seven touchdowns. His return to school was stunning because he was still shaping up to be one of the top rushers off of the board, even with a loaded position grouping.
What this means for Harris:
He will enter the 2021 NFL season at age 23 with even more wear and tear on his body. My fear for Najee is he will be fed the ball at Derrick Henry type levels as his team ushers in a new starter at quarterback. I really don’t know how much more he can improve his draft stock at the position with Etienne and Hubbard both returning as well.
DeVonta Smith, WR Alabama
Smith came into 2019 as the forgotten man among the Alabama pass catchers. Many referred to the talented group as the “Big Three” – often mentioning Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and Jaylen Waddle, while leaving Smith out of the equation. Smith not only stepped up as a reliable weapon, at many times he was the weapon. He led the team with 1,256 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, and was second in receptions with 68.
Smith played his way into a late day one or round two selection depending on who you talked to. Smith should be the unquestioned number one receiving option for the Tide next fall, but will have uncertainty at quarterback, and whoever wins the job will be a downgrade from the greatest signal caller in Alabama football’s history.
What this means for Smith:
Much like Wallace, he will compete for a top spot in a loaded 2021 class. Right now, he sits at the back end of tier one in my devy rankings. Even with a strong season I cannot see myself moving him ahead of some of the top guys. I view this is a low reward-high risk move for Smith.
Travis Etienne, RB Clemson
Travis Etienne 1500 rushing yards 17TDs
– 973 yards & 5.4 YPC after contact
– 84 missed tackles on 181 carries
– 1st Down/TD 37% of carries
– 29 receptions 298 yards
Here’s the real kicker he touched the ball SEVEN (7) times in the 4th Quarter in 2019.pic.twitter.com/sMoIGebgBH
— Ray G (@RayGQue) December 21, 2019
Why Travis, why must you break our hearts? We’ve been waiting patiently since 2017 for Etienne to become draft eligible. Speed, contact balance, toughness, production, and most importantly low mileage. Etienne hasn’t eclipsed 210 carries in any season of his career, while improving in an area of his game each season.
Viewed by most as a top-3 running back for rookie draft purposes, dreams of Etienne donning a Kansas City Chiefs jersey are all but dashed, at least for this upcoming season. With this move he runs the same risk as Najee Harris, another season of wear and tear on the back of a position whose value is relatively short-lived. Reports are he was viewed by the NFL circle as a round two or three back, which quite honestly isn’t horrible draft capital as teams and coaches are opting to wait on running back.
I don’t know how much he can raise his stock in 2020. Even so, he’s got to compete with Harris and Hubbard for the top spot. This move was an ugly one that will shift rookie drafts across the board. Right now Etienne should be the running back one in devy start up drafts over the summer . . . it feels really weird saying that.