Some will come true. Some will look ridiculous by the end of draft weekend. Here are my 10 bold predictions for the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft.
Despite all the hype, Tua Tagovailoa will not be a Top-5 pick
The draft media ameliorating concerns about his durability and the almost willfully ignorant reporting on Tua's size -- he's almost the exact same height/weight as Johnny Manziel -- have led most fans to cling to the strong belief the Alabama lefty will be the No. 2 overall pick, either by Washington or a team trading up. I don't buy that NFL teams are going to trust an undersized QB who played with as many as four 1st-round WRs behind an OL that featured at least four future NFL starters and still suffered three serious injuries in two years. Two surgeries for high-ankle sprains, an injury that almost never requires surgery? You'd better believe NFL team doctors are going to be wary of that.
There is precedent, of course. Sam Bradford was a china doll at Oklahoma, couldn't work out for teams because of surgery on his throwing shoulder (for the second time) and still went No. 1 overall in 2010. But guess what? Bradford remained in chronic need of bubble wrap in an underwhelming NFL journeyman career. I'm betting that teams have learned from experiences like Bradford and apply it to Tua. He might be worth the risk, but with a viable alternative (Justin Herbert) also available, I can't see Washington or Miami pulling the trigger on Tua in the top-5. The Chargers at No. 6 make the most sense.
Henry Ruggs will be the first WR off the board
Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb and Crimson Tide teammate Jerry Jeudy are the odds-on favorites to go earlier, but my money is on Alabama's Henry Ruggs to be the first wide receiver selected. His ludicrous speed and better-than-advertised route running will be too irresistible for NFL coaches and GMs looking for a true impact at wideout. Speed matters more than anything else at wide receiver. See: John Ross, Will Fuller and Ted Ginn. Ruggs is faster than any of them and a more skilled all-around receiver to boot.
Houston OT Josh Jones gets drafted before Georgia's Andrew Thomas
Thomas entered the 2019 season as the consensus top offensive tackle prospect and was widely projected as a top-5 talent. But an inconsistent season with inconsistent technique has thrown questions into the Thomas evaluation.
Jones has quickly arisen from late-round project to first-round phenom. His impressive rise began during Senior Bowl week. Jones was the best tackle in Mobile, showing the athleticism and length teams covet in the blindside protector.
Thomas and Jones are ships passing in the night. One player cannot rise without another falling. Jones will be selected sometime in the teens, while Thomas unexpectedly plummets into the bottom third of the first round.
The technical issues of a remote draft raise their ugly heads on Saturday
Thursday night's first round will go off without a hitch. It will be awkward but quickly tolerable to watch, and teams will have little trouble adapting. Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday will be trickier but still proceed as close to normal as possible.
Saturday will be a different story. The more rapid-fire pace of the picks and rampant trading of Day 3 selections will stress the bandwidth of some teams. It will certainly strain the patience of GMs who cannot get prompt answers or decisions under the tighter selection windows. At least one pick will be skipped over because the confluence of tighter deadline and more choices causes a team to miss the window.
It's like going to a crowded bar, sitting down and immediately being asked what you want to drink. You don't know the tap list, you can't see all the options and your uncultured neighbor blurts out "Bud Light". You hate Bud Light, you hate their ads and their broad commercial appeal for their oddly-flavored water. But you panic in the heat of the moment and stammer out a panicked "Bud Light" too. Every vile drop that passes your parsed lips produces drool of regret as the guy crammed to your other shoulder with the oddly perfect hair enjoys a wonderful barrel-aged stout. Take your time and get the order, err, draft right.
Tee Higgins will be Mel Kiper's best player available for over 40 picks
At his last update, Kiper pegged Clemson WR Tee Higgins as his No. 20 overall prospect and 4th-best wideout. The NFL will not share Kiper's enthusiasm for Higgins, who is not a great athlete and dominated poor CBs on contested catches in college. With so many other wide receiver options available, Higgins plummets into the middle of the third round before the Los Angeles Rams break his fall.
No running backs go in the first round
On the heels of a free agency period where nobody paid more than bargain-basement rates for running backs, the trend carries into the draft. Completely irrespective of the talent level of the RB prospects, no NFL team will be interested in spending a first-round pick on any rusher.
The top tier all being clustered together and not having a distinguished top dog amongst the likes of J.K. Dobbins, Jonathan Taylor, D'Andre Swift and Clyde Edwards-Helaire adds to the lack of impetus to spend such a valuable resource on any of them. Why spend No. 30 on a player who isn't markedly better than the player you can get at 60? That's the word draft analysts are getting from all NFL angles.
The NFL will announce the 2022 NFL Draft will be in Las Vegas
This year's edition was supposed to be in Las Vegas, heralding the arrival of the Raiders and showing off the new stadium. But the coronavirus pandemic changed everything. Like pretty much everywhere else in the world, Las Vegas is closed for business.
The 2021 draft has already been committed to Cleveland, and logistical planning is already well underway in Northeast Ohio. It's too late to relocate. So the NFL will do the Raiders and the city of Las Vegas a solid and announce over the draft weekend that the 2022 selection extravaganza will be in Vegas.
Washington will draft Chase Young at No. 2 and then make a trade
Chase Young will be the No. 2 pick and it will be Washington making the pick. With Young being their fourth first-round defensive linemen in as many years, Riverboat Ron Rivera will make his mark on his new team by engineering a trade of one of those other superfluous firsts.
Young and last year's first-rounder, Montez Sweat, are very similar players who are best-suited to play the exact same role. But this being Washington, they'll keep Sweat and instead trade away 2017's edition, Jonathan Allen. In return, Washington will get back the second-rounder they traded away last year to move up and grab Sweat. The Cleveland Browns at No. 41 or the Chicago Bears at 43 both make sense as trade destinations.
Seven offensive tackles in the first 33 picks
It's a great offensive tackle class, at least on paper. Since that's all we've got these days, the paper gets written with seven offensive tackles being selected in the first 33 picks (my apologies to the late Mrs. Taylor, my fantastic 11th grade English teacher at Columbus Northland HS for that sentence structure).
How they shake out is anyone's best guess. So here's mine:
Mr. Irrelevant projection
Because one of these years I'm going to successfully forecast the final pick of the draft. It’s fun to try and predict who will be Mr. Irrelevant. This year's pick: Eli Hanback, DT, Virginia. He put on a show in the Hoos' game against Louisville and has enough desirable traits to get the nod.