2020 NFL Draft Sleepers: Don’t Sleep on these Prospects

With the 2019-2020 NFL season officially over, all focus shifts to the NFL Draft, which is loaded with tremendous athletes at each position. This draft class contains some of the best receiving talent NFL scouts have seen in decades. As we inch closer and closer to the NFL draft, there are a ton of wide receivers, like Laviska Shenault Jr. who have astonishingly flown under the radar of NFL fans. In order to stay up to date with some of the best draft sleepers, read the list below.

A.J. Terrell

A.J. Terrell is the most underrated cornerback in this year’s draft class. Standing at 6’1” and 190 lbs, Terrell is arguably one of the most versatile cornerbacks a defensive coordinator can find in this draft class. Even though Clemson is known for developing some of the best defensive talents in college football, Terrell has the capability of being the best cornerback that defensive coordinator Brent Venables has ever worked with.

clemson tigersFor starters, he has the length and agility to stay step for step with any receiver on the outside in man coverage. Moreover, he has the IQ, play recognition, and ball skills needed to be effective in zone coverage. In fact, Terrell’s play recognition is so stellar that the savvy cornerback can diagnose a screen or run play and disrupt it immediately.

When some people hear about Terrell, they automatically think about his lackluster performance against Jamar Chase and the LSU Tigers during the national championship game. While that outing was undoubtedly far from good, it’s important to note that Joe Burrow and the LSU Tigers annihilated literally every secondary that they played. Even bonafide first-rounders like Travon Diggs struggled immensely against the Tigers.

 

However, the most important thing to note about Terrell is that he had never given up 60+ receiving yards to a wide receiver throughout his career at Clemson until Chase. This is extremely impressive because it means that for 37 straight games, Terrell was able to clamp up opposing wideouts for what amounts to almost two and a half NFL seasons worth of games. Therefore, Terrell is arguably one of the most consistent cornerbacks that an NFL coach could develop. In my opinion, Terrell should be selected before the 20th pick in the draft, but if he does fall, the San Francisco 49ers would be an excellent destination for him.

Zach Moss

utah utesUtah running back, Zach Moss is probably the most overlooked player in this draft class. Despite running for 1,000+ yards and 5.0+ yards per carry for three straight years, Moss has been left outside the first round in most mock drafts. Moss has also flashed potential value as a receiving back who has hauled in 66 catches for 685 yards. While these stats show that Moss is productive and dependable back, his value goes even further.

According to Pro Football Focus, Moss was able to force at least four broken tackles in every game he had 10+ carries in. Incredibly, nearly 74% of Zach Moss’s total rushing yardage came after contact, which equates to over 1,000 yards after contact. Moreover, Moss has caused 33 broken tackles after the catch on the 66 career catches he’s caught.

Moss’ ability to shred contact makes him eerily similar to former Alabama running back Josh Jacobs. When Jacobs was in college, he had exhibited similar receiving skills relative to Moss, as well as impeccable vision and balance. Jacobs’ success this season, bolds well for whichever general manager drafts Moss.

J.K. Dobbins

jk dobbinsThe fact that J.K. Dobbins isn’t a consensus first-round pick is ridiculous. After running for 1,000+ rushing yards in his first two seasons, Dobbins erupted for over 2,000 yards on the ground, 21 TDs, and 6.7 yards per carry in 2020. Moreover, he was able to catch 71 receptions for 645 receiving yards in his three seasons at Ohio State.

Dobbins has the combination of speed, elusiveness, and toughness necessary to be an every-down running back in the NFL. On any given play, Dobbins can create a big-time play in both the passing and running game. Additionally, Dobbins has both the blocking and receiving skills needed to be a reliable all-purpose back at the next level.

The best aspect of Dobbins is his vision. J.K. is a very patient running back who waits for his blocks to form and create a hole for him to run through. Then he uses his explosiveness to burst to the second level, even when there is traffic. J.K. Dobbins excels at breaking out of tackles, slipping through defenders, and bursting out 15+ yard runs. Once he is past the hole, he is excellent at keeping his eyes down the field and looking for blockers and running lanes to attack.

One thing that’s remarkable about Dobbins is the fact that he has no glaring weaknesses in his game. He’s not a liability as a blocker or receiver and never wastes an opportunity to maximize a carry or catch. Plus, Dobbins has the toughness necessary to be utilized as a goal-line back. Therefore the Dolphins would be lucky to draft him in order to give a boost to their future franchise quarterback.

Tyler Johnson

tyler johnsonVery few college football players improved more over the course of the 2019-2020 season than Tyler Johnson. During his first game against South Dakota St., Johnson had a tendency to run too high, failed to gain separation, and struggled to locate the football. However, as the season progressed, Johnson became an excellent route runner who uses his agility to gain separation from cornerbacks. In fact, his fluid motion and ability to change directions quickly makes him especially dangerous against man coverage.

Even when Johnson is struggling to shed tight coverage, he is still able to be an exceptional pass catcher. When he’s covered, Johnson knows how to seal off the defender and utilize his height and large catch radius to haul in contested catches better than most receivers. As a result, Johnson is an excellent target in the red zone and could become a young quarterback’s favorite wideout in that area.

One thing to note is that Tyler Johnson is never going to blow NFL scouts away with his speed. He’s not a speed demon like Desean Jackson or Tyreek Hill, who will burn cornerbacks with his speed. Although Johnson doesn’t need to have breakaway speed to excel at the next level. Johnson’s playing style has a place in today’s NFL because he is eerily similar to Michael Thomas. Both Thomas and Johnson excel with slant and post routes and are viewed as possession receivers who help to move the chains and find the end zone. Therefore quarterbacks like Aaron Rogers, Lamar Jackson, and Derek Carr would benefit from utilizing Tyler Johnson as a safety valve next season.

A.J. Epensesa

aj epenesaNobody in this year’s draft class has been more overshadowed by Chase Young than A.J. Epenesa. Despite being a consensus first-round pick, his draft stock has oddly fallen significantly, even though he is more powerful than anyone else in this year’s draft class. According to Pro Football Focus, Epenesa was a top-two edge rusher for the majority of the season. In a league where pass rushers are one of the most valuable players on the football field, teams would be crazy to let Epenesa fall outside of the top ten.

As mentioned earlier, Epenesa’s best trait is his power. When he is on the edge, A.J. uses his strong hands and lower body to push offensive linemen back towards the QB and create pressures. Furthermore, he can be relied upon to keep contain on the outside on run plays, while also performing well with gap control. As a result, he was able to have a monster campaign in which he put up 22 sacks and 30.5 tackles for a loss during his Sophomore and Junior years.

Considering that Epenesa has mysteriously fallen below the top seven picks in most mock drafts, the Arizona Cardinals have a terrific opportunity to grab him. Despite Chandler Jones generating 19.0 sacks in 2019 (second-most in the NFL), the Cardinals failed to have another defensive player with at least six sacks. If the Cards were to draft Epenesa, they could place him on the opposite side of Jones as a 3-4 DE or put him at DT on passing plays.

Laviska Shenault Jr.

colorado buffaloesAmongst a receiving class that includes phenomenal athletes like Jerry Jeudy, Tee Higgins, and Ceedee Lamb, Laviska Shenault Jr. is someone who has failed to attract as much hype. During his tenure at Colorado, Shenualt lined up all over the place due to his combination of size and speed. The 6’2” junior wideout from Colorado has the physical tools necessary to dominate shorter corners on the outside. Plus, Shenault has the speed and shiftiness to excel in the slot as well.

Laviska Shenualt Jr. is a great football player on and off the field. He is a dynamic receiver who can run a complete route tree during a game, and then look to help out a struggling teammate during the next practice. This will help him build a great rapport with whichever quarterback he plays with at the next level. Speaking of the next level, Shenault would excel with a quality play-caller like Greg Roman, who would maximize his versatility and size in Baltimore. Likewise, an elite quarterback like Aaron Rogers would also benefit from Shenault’s big-play capability.

K’Lavon Chaisson

Similar to A.J. Terrell, K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU is one of the most intelligent and versatile defenders in this draft class. Chaisson’s IQ is so stellar that he can read and diagnose a play and react with one of the quickest first steps in college football. This is especially true on screen-passes, where Chaisson finds the primary receiver and snuffs out the play quickly.

lsu tigersChaisson’s play recognition is also impeccable against the run game. He can quickly realize when run plays will occur and react with an explosive first step, without being fooled by draws. As a result, Chaisson repeatedly does a great job of keeping contain and gets in the backfield rather quickly to disrupt the play. As he is reacting, Chaisson is disciplined enough to complete his assignment without any renegade behavior that could compromise the play, especially run plays.

As a pass rusher, Chaisson has the potential to surprise many fans and scouts. Despite having low sack totals throughout his career, Chaisson excels with both finesse and power moves due to his length and agility. Consequently, he is able to out-muscle or create separation from blockers on any given play. Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising if Chaisson accumulated double-digit sack seasons early in his career.

There are not many red flags to Chaisson’s game. Aside from a devastating ACL tear he suffered early in his college career, Chaisson’s performance on and off the field has been great. Given that the Dallas Cowboys are in desperate need of finding an edge rusher to complement Demarcus Lawrence, it would be wise for them to select him if he falls.

  
I am a junior at Morehouse College, majoring in economics. I have experience as a data analyst at Pro Football Focus and as a football scouting intern at Fanteractive.com. I enjoy scouting and analyzing NCAAF and NFL games, especially quarterback and running back play.

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