The 2020 National Football League Draft is one week away – April 23-25. The three-day event will be much different this year than in years past. The names will not be called, and then the player walk out to shake hands with the commissioner and to pose with the jersey of the team that selected him.
Nope, none of that will be the same. It will be more like the commissioner sitting in his office in New York will get the name of the player a team selects by email, instant message, or FAX machine and announce that player’s name. The cameras will shift to the player’s home or wherever he is to get a couple of words from the player. The commentators will be sitting in their homes, or in a studio somewhere, and they will still complain that some teams “Just don’t get it” when it comes to the selection of players for their teams.
Really, it will be as close to normal as possible with everyone in the country observing social distancing due to fear of the coronavirus which has changed our lives over the past two months. It has changed the player’s lives, commentators’ lives and commissioner’s life as well. And all this may be being done with the possibility the players selected will not play in the NFL for two years. Yes, there is still a possibility there will be no football season this fall.
If you ask my opinion on whether there will be a season or not, I am going to be optimistic. I believe we will be able to attend high school, college, and professional football games this fall. If we are able to attend games this fall, I think it will be in record numbers. The nation is hungry for sports – any sports – at this time. If we cannot attend games, some have suggested there will be another civil war. I really doubt that will happen.
Anyway, the draft is a week away and I want to get you primed for the event by telling you who I see as the top skill prospects that you will see drafted. I will start with the most important position – quarterback:
The top prospect in my opinion is Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. Forget the hip. He is fine. He still has a great arm, is very athletic and he has the intangibles to make him a franchise player who can take a team to the Super Bowl. While I picked Tagovailoa as the top quarterback, LSU’s Joe Burrows will no doubt be the first player selected in the draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. Burrows is coming off the best season of any quarterback in NCAA history. He has great touch, timing and anticipation. After these two, the position gets no weaker with Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Utah’s Jordan Love and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts rounding out the Top 5. I think the first two in the sentence above will be selected in the first round and Hurts will fall into the second round. But, do not be surprised if other quarterbacks are selected ahead of these three.
At running back, the top player is Georgia’s D’Andre Swift. Swift has speed and soft hands which could make him a dangerous weapon immediately for some team. Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins is my No. 2 at running back. Dobbins has strength and stamina to carry the load for a team. He also has explosiveness coaches love. The rest of the running backs to make my list are Florida State’s Cam Akers, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor and LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
The wide receiver position is going to produce a lot of good players. My top pick at wide receiver is Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III. Ruggs is the fastest guy in the pack. He has great start-stop quickness and the burst of speed to make him an open target on any play. Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb has the great hands, probably the best of any receiver in the draft this year. He has a knack of getting the ball into the end zone. Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy entered last season as the best prospect at the wide receiver position. While I ranked him as my No. 3 among the Top 5, he could easily slip past the two guys I ranked ahead of him. He is the top route runner in the group. LSU’s Justin Jefferson and Clemson’s Tee Higgins round out my Top 5.
At tight end, flip a coin and decide the order of the Top 5. Whether you feel it’s Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant, Dayton’s Adam Trautman, Washington’s Hunter Bryant, Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam or Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet, you will not be making a mistake. All five of these guys know how to play the position and all five could easily be the starter at the position for their future teams.
Well, there you have it. These are the guys I feel are the Top 5 at these skill positions. I think you will find these are the guys the scouts have rated the highest at these positions. The only questions that remain are where each will be selected and by which teams.
Mark Clark is a local sports writer for The Citizen of East Alabama.