2020 NFL Draft Stock – Bowls

This new section highlights which players have improved or worsened their 2020 NFL Draft stock as the draft approaches.

By Charlie Campbell.
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2020 NFL Draft Stock Up

Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Burrow only needed two quarters to put Oklahoma away, dominated the Sooners’ Big XII defense. By halftime, he had thrown for seven touchdowns and 403 yards in a video game-like performance for the LSU offense. Burrow finished completing 29-of-39 passes for 493 yards with seven touchdowns through the air and one on the ground.

This semi-final tape will help Burrow to be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, as he decimated one of the best teams in college football. Burrow has the ability to play at the next level as he has quality size with a strong enough arm, accuracy as a passer, and some functional mobility with a knack to pick up critical yards on the ground. This season, Burrow has displayed good decision making and developed field vision to work through his progressions while reading defenses well. That could be seen against Oklahoma, as Burrow’s decisions were superb. He didn’t miss open receivers and even had good placement on underthrown passes.

Burrow has been a superb distributor of the ball to his loaded offense of play-makers this season. Team sources who have scouted Burrow in person say he has some physical limitations. They say his arm strength and overall skill set are similar to that of Andy Dalton or Derek Carr. Burrow also is a 1-year wonder as a multiple team evaluators have pointed out, but regardless of all of that, his amazing season has him as the heavy favorite to be the No. 1 pick next April and his performance against Oklahoma gave further proof of that.

Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
The opening round of the college football playoff will definitely help Jefferson’s draft grade, as he had his way with the Oklahoma secondary. On LSU’s opening possession, Jefferson caught a slant and then powered through a tackle from a few yards out to reach the ball over the goal line for a 19-yard touchdown. After a dropped pass, Jefferson caught another touchdown pass, running straight by a safety to get open for a 35-yard strike. Early in the second quarter, Jefferson notched his third touchdown, adjusting well to a pass along his back shoulder to reel in the score from just over 40 yards out. Jefferson caught his fourth touchdown after an Oklahoma interception, adjusting to an underthrown pass with the cornerback having his back to the ball. Jefferson hauled in the ball and then backpedaled into the end zone.

Against Oklahoma, Jefferson totaled 14 receptions for 227 yards and four touchdowns. He overwhelmed the Sooners’ secondary with his size, quickness, body positioning, and late hands. The 2020 NFL Draft is absolutely loaded with wide receivers so Jefferson may not be a first-round pick, but this tape improves his chances of going on Thursday night and, at the very least, should help him to be a more secure second-round pick.

K’Lavon Chaisson, DE, LSU
The draft-eligible sophomore Chaisson helped the Tigers jump out to huge lead over Oklahoma, contributing a pair of critical sacks. On his first sack, Chaisson shed the block of a tight end to hunt down Jalen Hurts. Later in the first half, Chaisson bull rushed through the Oklahoma left tackle to get his second sack. On the next play, Chaisson showed his great speed by helping to chase down Sooners wide receiver CeeDee Lamb downfield. Chaisson totaled six tackles to go with his pair of sacks, and the Oklahoma tape will help Chaisson by demonstrating his versatility. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder should return to school and get stronger before going to the NFL, but he has a serious combination of speed and athleticism with upside for the next level.

Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Simmons looks like a top-16 pick next April, and he showed why with a huge turnover to help propel the Tigers to a comeback victory. While lined up as a deep free safety in the third quarter, he followed Justin Field’s eyes to fly to the sideline. Simmons jumped the route and picked off the pass with an excellent hands catch. Later in the fourth quarter, Simmons made a shoestring tackle on J.K. Dobbins to prevent a long run when Dobbins had a lot of open field past Simmons.

With the NFL being a passing-driven league, defenses need linebackers who are capable of contributing to pass coverage. Simmons is that kind of linebacker, as he is a true asset to defend passing attacks while also being a good run defender in the middle of the field. While he has the size of a linebacker, Simmons has the cover skills of a safety and does some very unique things in pass coverage. His performance against Ohio State gives more proof of that, and he looks like a selection for the top half of the first round next April.

Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Even though Ohio State shut down the Clemson rushing attack, Etienne was the prospect who helped himself the most in this semifinal grudge match, coming through with two huge plays as a receiver that made the difference in Clemson returning to the National Championship.

Etienne had a nifty touchdown run in the second quarter, breaking a tackle by safety Jordan Fuller in the flat, darting past a few defenders, and then banging over the goal line after absorbing a hit from Jeff Okudah. In the third quarter, Etienne caught a screen pass and exploded down the field for a 53-yard touchdown. With less than two minutes remaining, Etienne snuck behind the line and got open for a dump-off pass. He exploded down the middle of the field after making the catch for a 34-yard touchdown to give Clemson the win. He ran for 36 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, but as a receiver, he was dynamic with three receptions for 98 yards and two scores. His three touchdowns carried Clemson to the National Championship.

The passing-driven NFL will love seeing what Etienne can do in space with his natural receiving skills and ability to turn a check down into a game-changing play. Even though he is not big and powerful, Etienne could get late first-round consideration in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State
During his senior year, Arnette really helped himself with his play on the field. Scouts say that Arnette is instinctive, tough and versatile. They like that he can play inside at nickelback or line up outside with the ability to play man or zone. Arnette is very physical and has a feisty style of play that comes out with him being super competitive. He challenges every throw and never makes it easy on receivers to make a catch. On top of having cover skills to stay with receivers, he is a very good tackler who doesn’t hesitate to hit. Arnette has the ability to be a No. 1 cornerback and Pro Bowler at the next level if he focuses on football and works hard to be the best he can be.

A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
Against USC in Iowa’s bowl victory, Epenesa totaled four tackles with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. The game makes for an excellent tape for Epenesa, showing his ability to get after the quarterback while taking on a future starting NFL offensive tackle in Austin Jackson. On multiple plays, Epenesa got the better of Jackson to record sacks, plus Epenesa knocked USC starting quarterback Kedon Slovis out of the game on a clean hit. Epenesa showed quickness to get upfield and functional strength to shed blocks. With his sturdy build, Epenesa is tough to move in the ground game, maintaining his gap integrity while contributing to tackles on running backs. On top of an excellent game against USC, Epenesa was superb in other games to close out the 2019 season. The bowl game performance will help Epenesa to get top-20 consideration next April in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Wirfs played well in 2019, impressing pro evaluators. The junior has a good skill set with size, strength, athleticism and quickness. He is a strong run blocker who sustains his blocks well. With his speed and agility, Wirfs is very good in space to get in position and hit blocks in the open field. In the pass rush, he has the ability take on speed rushers and the strength to anchor against power. Wirfs has the ability to bend at the knee plus sets up well. There are a few places in whichh Wirfs could improve his technique, and as a result, he is probably more of a candidate to go in the back half of the first round rather than as a top-16 choice. If Wirfs returns to Iowa and improves as a senior, he could be a potential top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

2020 NFL Draft Stock Down

Austin Jackson, OT, USC
In USC’s bowl loss, Jackson showed his first-round skill set, but he had some ugly plays against A.J. Epenesa. There were plays on which Epenesa used his strength to shed Jackson, and the USC tackle could have had better hand placement to make it more difficult for Iowa’s star defensive end to shake free. Jackson also set up too far to the outside and inside at times, letting Epenesa get after the quarterback. Epenesa racked up 2.5 sacks versus Jackson while also knocking Jackson’s quarterback out of the game.

The tape against Iowa could hurt Jackson in how he is ranked compared to other first-round tackle prospects like Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood and Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs. This game shouldn’t hurt Jackson to the point of dropping him out of the first round though, as teams know he is somewhat raw while needing development.

Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
Starting with Georgia’s overtime loss to South Carolina in early October, Fromm slumped in the back half of the 2019 season, turning in a number of underwhelming games, including the last five games – Missouri, Auburn, Texas A&M, Georgia Tech and LSU, over which he completed less than 50 percent of his passes. With Fromm’s arm strength being is average at best and not being a running quarterback, Fromm could slide if he enters the 2020 NFL Draft. The best decision for him would probably be to return for his senior year to improve and produce a better season before moving on to the next level.

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