2020 NFL Draft: Diamonds in the Rough

Brady Podloski | April 23rd, 2020

In every draft, there are a few prospects who fall through the cracks and aren’t given enough recognition. This article illustrates eight of those prospects who deserved more hype. These are the diamonds in the rough, and I expect most to be drafted in the fourth to the seventh round. Some diamonds in the rough from the 2019 NFL draft include Darius Slayton, Gardner Minshew II, and Maxx Crosby.

Jeff Thomas, WR, Miami

Projected Draft Position: Sixth or Seventh Round

Thomas is a burner, but his hands and run after the catch ability allow him to be a successful receiver in the NFL. While he can be a deep threat, he’s also a reliable target for short to intermediate passes. His body control allows him to make highlight real catches on all parts of the field. With improvement to his route running, one team will get a steal in the late rounds.

Antonio Gibson, RB, Memphis

Projected Draft Position: Fourth Round

Gibson should go in the top 100 players, but his limited carries and production will make some teams question his durability. While he only carried the ball 33 times and had a handful of catches, teams will get a legitimate playmaker on all three downs. With each touch, Gibson multiple broke tackles and was a threat to score every play. He’s the modern NFL offensive weapon with speed to score (4.39 40-yard dash) and size for tough situations at 6’3” and 228lbs. We are left with questions regarding his ability to take on a full workload, but he will have success in the NFL.

Omar Bayless, WR, Arkansas State

Projected Draft Position: Sixth Round

Bayless had elite production with 92 receptions for 1,653 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2019. He has ridiculously good ball skills that will translate to the NFL. He makes every catch but also bails his quarterback out when bad throws are made. His impressive body control allows him to make significant adjustments, something that can’t be taught. While he may lack elite athleticism, he can be a starter by improving his routes and ability to read defensive coverages.

Cole McDonald, QB, Hawaii 

Projected Draft Position: Fifth or Sixth Round

The Hawaii system played lots of five receiver sets, where McDonald would sling the ball 35-50 times a game. McDonald has tremendous short to intermediate accuracy which allows him to play in most systems. McDonald’s most impressive skills are his ability to read defenses, make quick decisions, and go through his progressions, all of which are translatable to the NFL. As well, he’s got underrated speed, which showed up in the combine where he ran a 4.58 40-yard dash. His ability to make reads along with his accuracy will make him a back up who could develop into a starter.

Marquese Livers, WR/TE, Kentucky State

Projected Draft Position: Sixth Round to undrafted

Livers is a dynamic playmaker with the versatility to play outside wide receiver or play as a move tight end. He presents a problem for defenders as cornerbacks are too small to cover him, but linebackers are too slow to keep up with him. Livers is a reliable target as he understands defensive coverages and is always in the right position to make a play on the ball. His versatility and intelligence make him a threat to all levels of the field. With Livers’ talent and intelligence, teams get a developmental player who has the potential to become a starter.

Anfernee Jennings, EDGE, Alabama

Projected Draft Position: Fifth Round

Jennings is an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system who rushes the passer effectively with first step explosiveness and power. He gets to the quarterback, as he had eight sacks this past year. What’s impressive is that Jennings got better every game and started to refine the details of his pass-rushing moves. As well, he’s also an excellent run stuffer as he 12.5 tackles for loss in 2019. There isn’t anything preventing Jennings from being a starter in the league, as he’ll be a fine run defender and be able to win one on ones in pass-rush situations. 

Lamar Jackson, CB, Nebraska

Projected Draft Position: Fifth or Sixth Round

No, not the MVP but the massive cornerback at 6’2 and 208 lb out of Nebraska. Jackson has the prototypical length and physicality for the cornerback position. Jackson is a project, but someone who can become an above-average starting corner if he gets drafted to play in a press-man scheme. If he can get his hands on a wide receiver, he gains the leverage to break on routes easier and can make plays on the ball. His rare size and mentality give him a baseline to develop from, meaning if it improves over a year or two, he will become a capable starter.

Javelin Guidry, CB, Utah

Projected Draft Position: Fifth Round

Guidry is a short defender at 5’9″ but his agility and athleticism make up for it as he will play slot cornerback in the NFL. With more three-receiver sets from offenses, teams need starting nickel cornerbacks. He ran an unofficial 4.29 40-yard dash and has insane agility, both of which allow him to thrive in man coverage. He needs to polish his zone coverage skills and once he does that, I’d feel confident starting him. As well, he can start on special teams covering punts and kicks offs. Ultimately, Guidry is projected to be drafted in the fifth round but should go before then. He is one of my favorite prospects and I can see him being a starting corner in the NFL.

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