2020 Preseason Award Projections: Thorpe Award

By Charlie Campbell
Send Charlie an e-mail here: [email protected]
Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell for updates.

Heading into the 2020 college football season WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises and the stars of next fall could be the headlining players next April in the 2021 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the postseason awards that are given out to the best of college football.

The Jim Thorpe Award is given to the top defensive back in college football. Last year, we ended up being correct in our prediction that LSU safety Grant Delpit would win the Thorpe Award.

Thorpe Award Winner:

Derek Stingley, CB, LSU

For a time, the majority of Thorpe Award Winners were players who were among the nation’s leaders in interceptions or very productive in that category. That was the case with winners like Iowa’s Desmond King or Gerod Holliman from Louisville, who had 14 interceptions in his final season before being a seventh-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. However, Minkah Fitzpatrick, DeAndre Baker and Grant Delpit did not have prolific seasons producing interceptions when they won the Thorpe Award. Thus, it appears that the Thorpe voters are taking into more account a player’s cover skills and how well he defends the pass. It would not surprise me or any college football observers if Stingley is among the very best defensive backs in college football this fall and is a strong candidate to win the Thorpe Award.

Even though LSU had a returning corner who was highly touted in Kristian Fulton, Stingley took over as the Tigers’ No. 1 corner in 2019. The freshman was phenomenal shutting down receivers and making big plays for the LSU defense. Stingley showed excellent instincts, size, ball skills, and cover ability. His six interceptions and 15 passes broken up was superb production but really incredible considering he was a freshman. Stingley has the ability to end up being a top cornerback prospect in his draft class, but he has two more seasons of college football first. Stingley could dominate again in 2020 and enters the season as the best cornerback in college football. Thus, he is a real favorite to win the Thorpe Award.

Thorpe Runner-Up:

Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

With Alabama consistently featuring a loaded secondary, it can be hard for young players to see the field. Surtain, however, was the exception, as the star recruit got a lot of playing time for a freshman under Nick Saban. Surtain played well in 2018, recording 28 tackles with an interception, seven passes defended and one forced fumble. He looked like he was just scratching the surface of his potential. As a sophomore in 2019, Surtain had 42 tackles with two interceptions, three forced fumbles and eight passes broken up in 2019. Surtain (6-2, 203) has good size and tons of upside. He could easily be one of the top corners in the nation in 2020 and is another heavy favorite to win the Thorpe Award.

Thorpe Dark Horse:

Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Elam (6-1, 287) was fantastic as a freshman, flashing serious ball skills even though he had a part-time role. With C.J. Henderson in the NFL, Elam could emerge as the No. 1 corner for the Gators. He has good height and length with quickness. Elam could stand to fill out his frame, but considering he is only a true sophomore ,he has plenty of time to do it. With his skill set and upside, Elam could explode as a sophomore and junior. He could produce a big 2020 season and end up winning prizes like the Thorpe Award.

Honorable Mentions: Ohio State CB Shaun Wade, Alabama CB Josh Jobe, Stanford CB Paulson Adebo, South Carolina CB Israel Mukuamu, Georgia CB Tyson Campbell, LSU CB Kary Vincent Jr., Central Florida CB Aaron Robinson, Clemson CB Derion Kendrick, Alabama CB Josh Jobe, Georgia CB Eric Stokes, Florida State CB Asante Samuel Jr., Michigan CB Ambry Thomas, Pittsburgh S Paris Ford, Oregon S Javon Holland and Syracuse S Andre Cisco.

2020 Preseason All-American Projections:
QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P

2020 Preseason Postseason Award Projections:
Thorpe Award | Biletnikoff Award | Outland Trophy | Rimington Trophy | Mackey Award | O'Brien Award | Doak Walker Award | Jet Award | Walter Camp Award

2024 NFL Mock Draft - April 9

NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

Fantasy Football Rankings - Feb. 19

NFL Picks - Feb. 12