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2020 WR Class: OT, CB, RB and Edge also has depth in the draft

We’ve already heard ad nauseum about the potential upside of the 2020 wide receiver class, with some touting it as the best since 2014. So how will this impact the rest of the 2020 NFL draft?

Through statistical analysis and research, Fanspeak tried to answer that question.

Below is Fanspeak’s series on the 2020 WR class. Part 4 examines the quality and quantity of the draft at other positions.

Even though Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson is tearing up the league as a mobile quarterback who can hurt you through the air or with his legs, the NFL is still very much a pass-driven league.

So, you’d think the wide receiver position is at a premium, right?

Not necessarily. That’s because it’s harder to find, for example, a quality offensive tackle or pass rusher than it is a wide receiver – and history bears that out. The same can be said of quarterback, which is why QBs are often drafted higher than their actual rankings suggest.

From a receiver’s perspective in the 2020 NFL draft, that could be bad news. That’s because it’s reasonable to assume that several wide receivers will wind up going in rounds 4 or later due to the sheer depth at the position, while in previous years, those same players could have been drafted much higher.

But from a team perspective, this draft should include lots of great value picks at the position.

CB, OT, RB and Edge has talent

Wide receiver, though, isn’t the only position whose cupboards are full.

This is also a fairly deep draft at cornerback, offensive tackle and running back. And, despite only one true blue-chipper (Chase Young) at the position, 2020 is shaping out to be sneakily deep for quality pass rushers.

“I think edge rusher will be fine, because I see a fairly strong top 10 to 15 guys being available in the draft,” said Steve Shoup, creator and co-founder of Fanspeak On the Clock draft simulator. ”The position is so important as well, and around the league, you can point to a number of teams with a major need. So I think we will see the typical  5 or 6 go in the first round and 15-plus edge rushers go in the top 100 picks.”

The cornerback position, meanwhile, doesn’t necessarily have a true blue-chip prospect, although Ohio State’s Jefferey Okudah is widely regarded as the best CB in his draft class. Still, by Fanspeak estimates, cornerback is relatively top-heavy, as there are between 13 to 15 CB prospects who could be drafted among the first 100 picks.

The real loser here is the running back class of 2020. Because of the depth at other, more-valued positions and because of the depth of the RB class itself, names that were once thought to be sure Day 1 or Day 2 picks could wind up hearing their name called on the final day of the draft.

How many will go in the first?

Break it all down, and here’s what you’re likely going to see in the first round of the 2020 draft:

  • Three to five QBs;
  • Five to six WRs, offensive tackles and edge defenders
  • Four to five CBs
  • That’s already between 22 to 27 players just for those five positions. The rest of the first round could be filled out with:
  • 1 to 2 DL;
  • 1 to 2 IOL;
  • 1 to 2 safeties;
  • 1 to 2 “traditional” LBs;

It’s possible that only one running back goes in the first round, due to the depth and the overall devaluation of the position. It’s also just as likely that the first RB doesn’t get selected until Day 2.

And if your team needs a Day 1 starter at tight end, this probably isn’t the year for that, as it’s highly unlikely that a TE goes in the first round. In fact, it wouldn’t be a shock if a TE doesn’t go until Round 3.

Breaking it down further, here’s how the unusual distribution of talent could look:

  • QB: Nothing changes here. If your team must have a QB, then it better do everything it can to nab him in the first or high in the second. This is true for every draft.
  • OT: Your team could wait until the second or even the third round to find a potential starting OT. It gets a bit dicier after that, although there should still be a handful of potential starters in the fourth round.
  • Edge: If your team needs a true “No. 1,” double-digit sacks every year edge rusher, then the first round is almost always your best bet. However, if you miss out in the first or even the second round, you should still be able to find at least an immediate contributor at the position within the top 100 picks.
  • CB: Although only a handful will go in the first round, there’s lots of quality in the second round to early third round. However, this is also a position primed for “reaches,” as the quality drops off after the first 100 picks.
  • WR: You can find a starter – a quality, No. 1 or No. 2 receiver – all the way through the late fourth, early fifth rounds. That also means there will be a few other receivers who slip through the cracks in the final two rounds who wind up contributing immediately. Simply put, this is shaping out to be one of the deepest WR drafts in recent memory.
  • LB, TE, Safety and IOL: Those aren’t considered premiere positions, so you’ve always been able to find gems in later rounds. However, this year is particularly low on quality and depth at those positions, so if your team needs a walk-in starter, you better draft him in the first (LB, safety and IOL) or second round (tight end) or fill those needs internally or through free agency.

The Cleveland example

This is where the best player available vs. position of need gets interesting.

Cleveland, for example, will likely pick somewhere near the middle of the draft, and it’s possible that some or all of the top WRs are still available, thanks to the abundance of quality and quantity at the position.

But WR is not a position of need for Cleveland.  In other words, Henry Ruggs III of Alabama might be the true “BPA” when Cleveland is up to draft, but unless he can play left tackle, Ruggs likely won’t be the pick.

The offensive line and secondary, though, need to be addressed.

In any other draft, logic would say Cleveland leans toward offensive tackle in the first round – but this isn’t a “normal” draft, thanks to the talent depth at certain positions and the dearth of it at positions of need for Cleveland.

So, while tackles like USC’s Austin Jackson, Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood or Houston’s Josh Jones would all represent immediate upgrades for Cleveland, drafting any of them could make it much harder to find a starting-caliber center or safety in the second round – a round in which you should be able to find a Day 1 starter.

Luckily for Cleveland, OT is fairly deep in the 2020 NFL draft, plus the team has two picks in the third round.

An Alex LeatherwoodCameron Dantzler first- and second-round pairing would likely get high marks and fill immediate needs for Cleveland, but it could also hurt them in later rounds because of the unusual way the talent is spread out in this draft. Remember: Although a Leatherwood-Dantzler combo sounds exciting, it’ still the fourth- or fifth-best OT paired with the 10th– to 12th-best CB.

On the other hand, a combo of LSU safety Grant Delpit and Tennessee guard Trey Smith would pair the best safety with one of the best guard prospects, if Smith’s medicals check out.

Again, Cleveland is still getting Day 1 starters at two positions of need.

But now the team has a stronger chance of adding at least one more starter at cornerback or offensive tackle in the third round.


Coming tomorrow: What does the talent at the WR position mean for your team in the 2020 NFL draft?

Part I: A look back at the historic 2019 DL class

Part 2: Examining the 2017 pass rusher class

Part 3: Why teams miss despite quality at a position

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