21. Steelers - Michigan State EDGE Kenny Willekes
In any other conference, Kenny Willekes would be talked about as one of the league's best defenders. In the Big 10, he’s chopped liver existing in the shadow of Epenesa, Young and Gross-Matos.
That’s perception. The reality is that Willekes is one of the nation’s most disruptive players. His stats last year were bonkers: 90.5 PFF grade, 40 hurries, 23 hits, 31 stops. He’s arguably the class’ best at setting the edge and doing his part to shut down the run. His next order of business will be to continue to work on pass-rushing technique and moves.
If Willekes is kept out of Round 1 in the spring, it’ll be because of athletic limitations. He’s a relentless effort player. But Willekes’ two-note pass-rush game (hands, quicks and pray for rain) can get stymied by skilled tackles. Especially if his athletic profile is lacking (this is postulation, we don’t have that information), it’s imperative for Willekes to become a technician. Effort will never be an issue.
22. Packers - Alabama DL Raekwon Davis
I was stunned when Raekwon came back. I thought Raekwon should have declared along with Quinnen, and that Mack Wilson should have returned. Alas!
Raekwon is the guy you target if you already have a disruptive three-tech. He’s the war-daddy who occupies blockers and blows up runs between the tackles. You want your other interior DL shooting gaps and creating havoc, and you want Raekwon knocking heads behind him.
It’s not the sexiest profile — he’s not going to be a top-15 pick unless he makes a leap as a pass-rusher this fall — but it plays. Raekwon has been one of the nation’s best interior linemen against the run for two years running. It’ll be interesting to see if Alabama unleashes him a bit more as a rusher this fall with Quinnen off to the NFL.
23. Cowboys - Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam
Jason Witten’s return is a cute story, but it’s time to get serious about taking care of this position long-term. Okwuegbunam made Drew Lock look quite good the past few years. In only 18 career games, he’s caught 17 TD (with 72 catches and 881 yards).
Okwuegbunam — call him Albert O or Aqua Man, it’s what the rest of us do — is very difficult to cover. He’s long, thick and fluid — and is hell to deal with down the seam. He’s not much of a blocker, but his one trick is pretty nice.
Albert O may not be Noah Fant’s equal as a athlete, but he’s better in traffic and in contested situations. What concerns is the stiffness is changing directions. In the fall, I’ll be trying to ascertain if he’s Fast with less athleticism and more skill, or Alize Mack with shoulder woes substituted for the concussions.
High-variance prospect at this time (which explains all the TEs in the 2020 class, if I’m being honest).
24. Browns - Wisconsin C Tyler Biadasz
With a first-round pick to play with after parting with last year’s for Odell Beckham, Cleveland grabs line help via arguably the class’ premier interior prospect.
Biadasz burst onto the scene with an incredible freshman year in 2017. He upped the ante with an 86.7 PFF grade last fall. Assuming his athletic profile checks out, Biadasz has a really good chance of cracking Round 1. We’ve already seen him handle multiple NFL interior linemen the past few years as a youngster.
25. Raiders - Alabama LB Dylan Moses
*Note: This pick comes courtesy of Chicago via the Khalil Mack trade
Picture the high comedy of Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock taking two Alabama prospects in Round 1 one year after taking two Clemson Tigers and a fellow Crimson Tide star in Josh Jacobs in the top-40 last year.
I have some reservations about Moses. He’s a talented kid with five-star pedigree, but at this time he’s more of a run game guy. He needs development as a pass rusher and in coverage both. Particularly coverage, where he got picked on a bit — Moses gave up a 24-229-2 line on only 38 targets (97.4 rating against).
He’s got the tools to get there, but he’s another guy I’d deem a high-variance prospect. Similar to Mack Wilson, who he should have been playing next to again this fall. Hopefully Moses can learn from Mack’s mistakes and shore up his weaknesses before leaving Tuscaloosa.
26. Chiefs - Utah CB Jaylon Johnson
You may not have heard much about Johnson yet, but he’s one of the nation’s top returning cover men. Because the Pac-12 is stocked with receiver talent this fall, we should get at least a few showcase matchups to pour over during evaluation season.
Circle Nov. 30 on your calendar. That day, the Utes host Colorado. Laviska Shenault vs. Jaylon Johnson is a heavyweight prospect matchup. Johnson has turned out the lights on some intriguing Pac-12 receivers.
In the 2018 matchup between the schools in November, Shenault posted an empty calorie 9-64-0 line in a 30-7 Utah win that turned into a laugher in the third quarter. The Buffs were amid an all-systems-shutdown cratering under a lame duck staff and Shenault was trying to play through a few nagging injuries he'd suffered earlier in the season under heavy, heavy usage.
Shenault wasn't himself, and neither was the Colorado offense as a whole. I’m far more interested in the 2019 matchup. That's gonna be must-watch TV.
27. Chargers - Iowa OL Tristan Wirfs
Wirfs is a mauling right tackle for the Hawkeyes. He projects smoothly to that side in the NFL. But he’s also going to be projected inside. I don’t think it much matters. He’s going to move men in the NFL. I feel good about him at three different spots on the line going forward. Pick one and let him to work.
Wirfs has some of the best reps of any linemen in this class. He also has some of the worst. This isn’t a talent thing — it’s a consistency thing. Clean that up and he could really take off this fall. He and Jackson are one of the most exciting tackle tandems we've seen in college over the past five years.
28. Colts - South Carolina DL Javon Kinlaw
Kinlaw isn’t getting enough ink right now.
On a per-snap basis, he was one of the country’s most disruptive pass-rushing interior linemen last year. He posted an 88.7 PFF pass-rushing grade with five sacks, 15 hurries and five batted balls. And that was while dealing with a torn hip labrum that kept him out of spring practice, dogged him all year, kept him out of the Belk Bowl, and then required postseason surgery!
The 6-foot-6, 302-pounder is long, athletic, and very aggressive. Fully healthy and featured in South Carolina’s defense, we may see a Jerry Tillery-like leap this fall. If that happens, Kinlaw will become the first Gamecock taken in the first round since Jadeveon Clowney was 1.1 in 2014.
29. Eagles - Boise State EDGE Curtis Weaver
Weaver isn’t getting a lot of Round 1 buzz right now, but I think he’s got a real shot at crashing the party if he tests as an above-average athlete. He was ludicrously productive from the start of his freshman year on.
In fact, with only two years logged as part of a rotation, Weaver already ranks No. 6 on Boise State’s all-time sack list with 20.5. He’s also averaged more than one TFL per game played (28.0 in 27 career games). We should finally see him fully unleashed in 2019, ala Epenesa — Weaver has taken 960 career snaps.
With 47 hurries in 444 career pass-rushing snaps, he’s harassing quarterbacks on more than 10% of his snaps. He posted a 90.3 pass-rush grade last year and has even shown some coverage chops in a small sample. He also improved against the run last year. There’s a lot to get excited about, here.
Forgive me, I had to include this -- I love you, internet:
30. Saints - TCU WR Jalen Reagor
Reagor has sort of been lost in the shuffle among this high-wattage receiver class, in part because TCU’s bumbling quarterback corps didn’t help him out much last year.
Reagor ran a 4.32 in high school and was the Texas state long jump champion during his prep days. He has similar holy-cow athleticism to Jeudy.
If he played at Alabama, Reagor would be getting quite a bit more pub right now. Per PFF, Reagor actually received more downfield targets than Jeudy last year. TCU’s quarterbacks left a ton of yards on the field after Reagor had torched some hapless Big 12 corner.
31. Patriots - Georgia QB Jake Fromm
I really struggle with Fromm. In the first draft of this column, I had him omitted from the first round. I’m going to sneak him into the top stanza in a plausible landing spot (I believe not in Jarrett Stidham!).
But getting there is going to require a lights-out 2019 season. Fromm is short, and slight, and he’s neither a good athlete nor in possession of a big arm. I thought he was overrated heading into last year, and I believed Georgia should have considered playing Justin Fields over him. On both accounts, I was wrong. Fields ended up being the second five-star quarterback that Fromm chased out of Athens.
Fromm took a step forward on the field last fall, and he did it without his baby’s blankets Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. His YPA average remained a sterling 9.0 as he bumped his completion percentage from 62.2 to 67.4. You love the accuracy, you love the composure, and you love that Fromm manages to strain the defense down the field while rarely putting the ball in harm’s way. He’s a smooth operator who oozes confidence.
That probably isn’t a surprise from a guy who played in the Little League World Series as a kid and was a ballyhooed prep quarterback featured on the Netflix documentary “QB1: Beyond the Lights” who went on to unseat five-star Jacob Eason as a true freshman (Eason, who has a Round 1 arm, will resurface at Washington this fall intent on proving Georgia wrong).
I love the accuracy, I love the moxie, and I love that Fromm’s been battle tested from high-level athletic showcases over a period of years and years and years. What I want to see next year to feel good about him as a Round 1 pick is from him to plant his flag as one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the nation.
Fromm hasn’t yet thrown for 3,000 yards in a season. I want to see that along with his trademark pinpoint accuracy. I want to see him take more shots down the field while keeping his interceptions low. Without the ideal NFL frame or athleticism, and without a high-octane arm, he’s got to be dang near perfect. He’s got the stage. Now let’s see him make a run to the Heisman ceremony.
32. Rams - Oregon LB Troy Dye
The Rams, suffering from limited draft capital, failed to address their linebacking need until the seventh round, when they selected Dakota Allen. Dye will jump into Round 1 if he improves upon last year. He’s speedy and versatile, exactly what the NFL wants out of its linebacker prospects.
“Troy is special because he can do more than just make tackles,” nose tackle Jordon Scott said. “He can cover, he can rush the passer, he can fill a gap… Overall, he has control of our defense and that’s one thing that is intangible."
Last year, Dye became the first Duck since Michael Clay in 2011-2012 to have back-to-back 100 tackle seasons. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder is fluid and instinctual. He could stand to bulk up, one of the reasons he (smartly) returned to school. Oregon is going to be back in a big way in 2019. Dye will lead the charge on defense as Justin Herbert does his thing on offense.
I'll be back in June with my top-10 2020 NFL Draft rankings by position, as well as a preseason top-100 big board. In the meantime, I'll be dropping thoughts and videos on prospects throughout the summer on my Twitter feed (@thorku). Football season is only three months away! We'll get through this together.