Draft buzz: Sunday, April 19

April 18, 2020

It’s still not quite what one would expect less than a week out from the draft, but with just 5 days to go until the first picks start coming off the board, there is little buzz starting to build. Here’s the latest we are picking up from around the league, although as always it comes with the proviso that this is smoke and mirrors season and in the end we won’t know anything for sure until this weekend.

There doesn’t seem to be any change in the notion around the league that Miami’s interest in Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa may have cooled and that the Dolphins, who have the 5th pick overall, have refocused on Justin Herbert of Oregon, while the LA Chargers, who pick 6th, are in fact the team that currently has the most interest in the former Alabama star. Still to be answered is the question whether either the Dolphins or Chargers, or both, will ultimately move up for fear of losing out on ‘their’ guy to a team picking behind them such as Jacksonville at #9 or Las Vegas at #12, who might try to leapfrog them by dealing with the Lions or Giants leaving them essentially empty handed at the position. Certainly, its hard to find anyone around the league who is willing to bet that Detroit, in particular, will be making the 3rd pick overall on Thursday. Meanwhile, you just keep hearing whispers about Utah State QB Jordan Love, who at least according to the consensus in the draft community, has dropped down into the final third of opening grades. Again, hard to find many people around the league who expect him to go anywhere near that late and more than one who still think he’ll go top 10. He’s got holes in his game, but he’s also got arm talent and athleticism that you just can’t teach! One also hears that no one will be surprised if some team with issues at QB, especially longer term concerns, takes a flyer on Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts as early as the middle of the second round.

We are also hearing that nobody should be surprised if there is a run on WRs in the bottom half of this year’s top ten once the top overall 6-7 prospects get sorted out. As we noted before Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, in particular, appears to be getting a lot of top ten interest. And one of the things potentially that may prompt that early run on WRs is that there are several teams with picks in the middle of the 1st round¢ that reportedly are very interested in moving up to acquire a top big-play receiver. Denver and Philadelphia, which pick 15th and 21st respectively, for example, have been talked about for several days in that regard, but it is possible they could be joined by others including Atlanta, which pick immediately after the Broncos at #16.

In fact, one of the storylines of the 2020 draft has been the top-to-bottom strength of the WR position. And it just seems to be getting deeper and stronger. There is a growing buzz, for example, about slash/receivers Lynn Bowden of Kentucky and Memphis’ Antonio Gibson, both of whom are now being talked about as potential mid-to-late second round selections. Bowden is a former high school QB who actually started a bunch of games at the position for the Wildcats this fall because of injuries. In fact, he was named the outstanding all-purpose player in all college football in 2019. He’s still raw as a receiver, but brings tremendous additional benefit as he’s dangerous running jet sweeps and bubble screens as well as returning punts and KOs. Meanwhile, Gibson is a combination receiver-RB-returner who only had 77 total touches in 2019, but still scored 14 times. He really started to build a little drat momentum when he ran under 4.4 seconds at almost 230 pounds at the combine.

While the WRs could go earlier than expected, there is some speculation that the OTs could go a little later than suggested in most mock drafts out there these days. Part of the problem for the OTs is that they may simply be pushed down a little if there is in fact an early run on receivers. And while there still does not appear to be much of a consensus as to which of this year’s top OT group will be selected first, including Jedrick Wills of Alabama, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Louisville behemoth Mekhi Becton and Andrew Thomas of Georgia, the one guy who seems to be getting some extra attention these days is UGA’s Thomas, who if nothing else has the most experience at LT. The other OT who appears to be making a late move is Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland who is starting to generate some legit mid-opening round buzz.

Along with the WRs, one other player who appears to be making a late push to sneak into this year’s top ten is Florida CB C.J. Henderson, especially after running under 4.4 at the combine. Henderson likely will still be the second CB off the board after Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah, but the gap may not be anywhere near as wide as in most projections. We’ve also been told to keep an eye on Minnesota FS Antoine Winfield, especially in the early-to-mid second round. Winfield isn’t all that big and had an injury-plagued college career, but when healthy he was a dynamic playmaker making 88 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 7 picks this past season. And he can run with a 4.45 40 clocking.