10 B1G predictions ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft
I have no idea.
Oh, I assumed you asked me the question, “what do you think the NFL Draft will look like?”
I don’t know, man. This is a first for all of us. I’m not sure if Roger Goodell is going to be wearing pants as he announces picks from his basement. I’m not sure if we’re gonna have Zoom calls instead of actual live draft reactions or what. I really don’t know.
What I do know is that it’s a live sporting event that’s going to cover 3 days — beginning on Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET — and make us all feel a lot less bored. And you’re lying if you aren’t looking forward to this now more than ever.
So, let’s dig into some B1G predictions for what could unfold this weekend:
1. The Redskins aren’t passing on Chase Young
And if they do, burn that sucker to the ground. Just kidding. But seriously. I made the case that Young is the B1G’s best draft prospect of the 21st century. What more could you want of a defensive end? That guy was unstoppable, and he balled out against elite offensive lines (don’t just look at the box score for that Clemson game).
The rumors about the Redskins either trading the No. 2 pick or drafting Tua Tagovailoa should be met with a big eye roll. Dwayne Haskins doesn’t deserve the Josh Rosen treatment, and I don’t think he’ll get it. The Redskins aren’t dumb enough to pass on a talent like Young when they already have their franchise quarterback. At least I don’t think they are.
2. Jeff Okudah isn’t the second B1G player picked … because Tristan Wirfs is
My guess all along has been that the Lions trade back to the No. 5 spot with Miami. It feels like the Dolphins are behind a bunch of smokescreens with this stuff about Tagovailoa potentially slipping out of the top 10.
What does that mean for Okudah? Well, if the Dolphins trade up and take Tagovailoa at No. 3, I expect the Giants to draft an offensive tackle at No. 4. The freakishly athletic Wirfs ends up being the guy instead of Jedrick Wills, Mekhi Becton and Andrew Thomas. As tempting as it’ll be for the Giants to roll with the versatile Isaiah Simmons, Wirfs gets the nod.
Life could be worse than blocking for Saquon Barkley.
3. But that means the B1G misses a chance at history
As Dustin Schutte outlined, the B1G is trying to do something that it hasn’t accomplished since the merger in 1970. That is, have 3 of the first 4 picks in the draft. That can still happen, but it would take Young going No. 2 to the Redskins, Okudah going No. 3 to the Lions and Wirfs going No. 4 to the Giants. Daniel Jeremiah did have that playing out in his latest mock draft, but again, any trade would seemingly throw that off.
And hey, if you want to include Joe Burrow in the “former B1G players” category, that would be the top 4 picks! (Just kidding, though I look forward to Ohio State putting out some sort of “developed here” graphic with Burrow in it.)
4. A.J. Epenesa won’t fall out of the first round
There’s been so much talk post-combine about Epenesa slipping that I can’t help but think there’s some jockeying going on. Teams in the latter half of the first round would love to end up with the prolific Iowa defensive end, who tore it up in the second half of 2019 after leading the B1G in sacks in 2018. If the Patriots don’t trade up and make a play for a quarterback, he’d make a lot of sense there, and I could see a team like the Titans or Seahawks going after the solid, pass-rushing Iowa star.
The film doesn’t lie, and in a draft with plenty of teams needing an anchor defensive end, Epenesa will still have a Round 1 market.
5. Seven B1G players will be drafted in Round 1
I’ll even predict them for you:
- Chase Young, Ohio State DE
- Tristan Wirfs, Iowa OT
- Jeffrey Okudah, Ohio State CB
- A.J. Epenesa, Iowa DE
- Zack Baun, Wisconsin OLB
- Antoine Winfield, Minnesota S
- Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State DE
The issue is that 4 of those guys are all expected to be picked in the bottom third of the first round. They could easily slip into the second round and give the B1G something like 4 first round picks. That would be, um, not great for the conference.
Here’s the breakdown of the B1G’s first-round picks by draft the last decade:
- 2010 — 3
- 2011 — 6
- 2012 — 4
- 2013 — 1
- 2014 — 4
- 2015 — 3
- 2016 — 6
- 2017 — 7
- 2018 — 4
- 2019 — 7
That’s an average of 4.5 first-round picks per year, so in all likelihood, this year will at least be considered close to average because of those 3 aforementioned locks.
But dare I say, the B1G will hit that 7th first-round pick for the third time in 4 years. Those 4 are all experienced, proven defensive players who won’t get a general manager fired. Baun or Gross-Matos would make a ton of sense in Tennessee or Baltimore while Winfield could have a market with Dallas or Las Vegas.
And if I underestimated and someone like Cesar Ruiz sneaks in there? Then the B1G would have its highest total of first-round picks since it had 8 in 2006.
6. The B1G’s first player taken in the second round will be … Jonathan Taylor
If there aren’t any trades (I realize there will be), there are a handful of teams in need of a running back early in Round 2. Indianapolis, L.A. (Chargers) and Miami have 3 of the first 7 picks of the second round. All of them lack the true workhorse back. Can Taylor be their guy? Absolutely. After how well he ran at the combine, there shouldn’t be any doubt about Taylor as one of the top 3-4 backs in the draft.
The only potential issue would be if teams are concerned about his workload. The guy had 968 touches during his Wisconsin career, many of which were in between the tackles. But he’s one of the best college running backs of the 21st century, and as I’ve said many times, friends don’t let friends tell each other that Taylor is just another Wisconsin back.
I have a feeling much like Nick Chubb went he went a touch earlier than expected early in the second round in 2018, some team will snatch up Taylor early on Friday night.
7. Six B1G teams will have multiple players drafted by conclusion of Day 2
Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin should all have that wrapped up by the end of Day 2. Michigan and Minnesota are the biggest question marks of that group.
Josh Uche and Donovan Peoples-Jones seem to have mid-round projections, though Uche plays the position more valued (his over/under for draft selection by William Hill Sportsbook is 47.5). He could easily sneak into the second round, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Peoples-Jones was off the board in Round 3 after he quieted some doubts with an impressive combine showing.
Minnesota’s chances of having multiple players drafted in the first 3 rounds will come down to Tyler Johnson. Projections for him seem to be anywhere from Round 3 to Round 6. Despite his ridiculously productive college career (3,305 receiving yards and 33 touchdowns), the Outback Bowl MVP has some questions about his athleticism that could bump him into the Day 3 group. But my guess is someone is lured by his production late in Round 3.
8. K.J. Hamler to the Rams
Can’t you just see Hamler replacing Brandin Cooks? I can. The speed in that system (or Kansas City’s) would be ideal. He’s not a traditional slot because his asset is his ability to stretch the field, and his biggest weakness is the drops. But with an offensive mind like Sean McVay, Hamler would be in the perfect position to succeed.
KJ Hamler @PennStateFball
1,745 Total Yards
14 Total TDs
16.9 Yards/Catch Average
6.7 YAC Average (8th)
19.6% of Catches 20+ Yards Down Field (2nd – Tee Higgins)
91.1% of Catches From Slot (2nd – Justin Jefferson)
32% of Team TDs Share
31% of Team ReYDs Share pic.twitter.com/FgPha7aXhs
— The Fantasy Chief (@FantasyChiefFF) April 19, 2020
Plus, the Rams have 2 second-round picks to address their sudden need to revamp their offensive skill positions. The former Penn State star just makes too much sense in L.A.
9. We’ll have to wait until at least Round 5 for a B1G quarterback to be picked
And I’m guessing it’ll be Nate Stanley. I wouldn’t hold my breath on Shea Patterson coming off the board in the first 5 rounds, though I do ultimately think he’ll get picked late on Day 3. Patterson has familiarity with a modern offense and he’s got a wealth of experience to make him worthy of a late-round flier. The issue is that he obviously regressed and didn’t live up to that 5-star billing.
I’ll just assume that Stanley will go to the Bears late because we know they love their Hawkeyes, and in a draft in which they have just 2 picks in the first 130 spots, they could be forced to wait on drafting a quarterback.
A year after the B1G broke its 23-year drought without a first-round quarterback, it’ll be a lengthy wait to see one of the conference’s signal-callers picked.
10. The B1G will finish second in terms of most players drafted
Sorry, but the SEC will inevitably make it 14 years in a row of winning that title. If the combine numbers were any indication, it’s all but guaranteed that’ll happen.
Conferences with the most players invited to the 2020 NFL Combine:
Big Ten: 57
Pac 12: 47
Big 12: 29
Sun Belt: 7
— NFL Draft (@NFLDraft) February 7, 2020
But the B1G should still be in position to finish second for the third time in 5 years. Why is that somewhat important?
Well, conference strength is judged based on 3 things — recruiting rankings, national championships and NFL Draft numbers. Fair or not, that’s reality. Reality is the B1G is playing for second in all 3 of those things this year. For all I know, maybe an all-time weird draft will yield an all-time weird result.
I suppose nothing is a guarantee in the sports world these days.