NFL Draft 2020: What to Watch For This Weekend

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, and Pranav Thiriveedhi

The NFL Draft will commence Thursday, but instead of in the Fountains of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, it is online. Never thought I would be saying those words in my lifetime. Anyways, this year’s draft presents a lot of compelling storylines, such as finding quarterbacks that could be Drew Brees and Tom Brady’s successor, the Justin Herbert and Tua debate, Chase Young to the Redskins, and the plethora of veterans that could be traded for draft picks. Here are the storylines to watch out for in this year’s NFL Draft:

Saransh’s Storyline: Herbert or Tua? Who’s the First QB After Joe Burrow?

Joe Burrow being the Number 1 overall pick is something that has been established for quite a while now, but the quarterback contention after him is what really gets interesting. Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama was the obvious Number 1 overall choice until Joe Burrow and LSU beat them back in November, and then Tua’s chances were completely thrown out the window when he hurt his hip and his season was over for good. Since then, Tua has been fully recovered since February, and had been doing workouts and drills with teams, and was at the Combine. Despite that, scouts and analysts, including myself, still wonder how he will be able to prevent another major injury that could derail his career, as this one nearly did.

The other big-name quarterback heading into this year’s draft is Justin Herbert out of Oregon, whom many thought would have entered the draft last year and could have been a first-round pick. He has now upped his stock and could potentially be a top-5 pick in the draft. While he could not lead the Ducks to the College Football Playoff, he led them to a Pac-12 Championship victory, as well as a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. Having had his best season yet as a college quarterback and winning so many big games after a very rough season for the team the year prior, that along with his Combine and Pro Day showings are having people put Herbert ahead of Tua in their draft boards.

In the top 6 picks of this draft, 3 teams, those being the Detroit Lions at Number 3, the Miami Dolphins at Number 5, and the LA Chargers at Number 6, they all need a quarterback, and Herbert and Tua will be the first guys looked at. While I believe the reports that the Lions are trading down and believe they will trade down, I see Herbert going first over Tua, and going to South Beach and quarterbacking the Dolphins and their young yet exciting offense for the next few years, and Tua going to LA. If the Lions do not trade, however, I expect Herbert in Detroit, Tua in Miami, and then Jordan Love in LA, although speaking of Love, the soft-spoken quarterback of Utah State is someone worth mentioning in this conversation. Love could potentially go higher than both Herbert and Tua, but he could also end up as a late first-rounder, or even early second-rounder, depending on how teams judge him, much like Josh Allen did in 2018, going to the Bills, yet many even thought he could surpass Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold and go first in the draft. Keep an eye out for Love, but Tua and Herbert will be the ones getting all the attention.

Rohan’s Storyline: Where Will Trent Williams Finally Be Traded to and What For?

Trent Williams has still yet to be traded by the Redskins despite publicly demanding a trade in late March, but it could happen in this year’s draft. NBC’s Peter King recently reported that Trent Williams is the most likely player to get traded during the draft. Even though the Trent Williams holdout saga has been going on since June of last year, the Redskins still hold all of the leverage in a potential trade. Under the new CBA, if Trent sits out another year, he will not be able to enter free agency and remain a Redskin. He can either play this upcoming season and show his worth, or sit out and incur a ton of fines. Furthermore, Trent is an All-Pro Left Tackle and is still one of the best offensive lineman in the league, so Washington can still get a decent return. Now, which teams in the league make the most sense to acquire Williams? I am going to go with the Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, and the Minnesota Vikings, with Cleveland being the most likely destination. 

ESPN’s Josina Anderson tweeted this morning that Trent Williams is “still on the table” for Cleveland. If the Browns miss out on or elect to not draft one of the top tackles who include Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton, Jedrick Wills and Andrew Thomas, then I think this significantly boosts the chances of a deal that sends Trent to Cleveland. Baker Mayfield took 40 sacks in 2019, and adding a top tier tackle would shore up the left side of the line for the Browns. The Browns also have offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who worked with Trent his whole career in Washington. I predict the Browns will trade for Trent since they have been the team showing interest for a while now, but as mentioned Los Angeles and Minnesota could trade for him too. I expect the Redskins to start fielding calls after the top 4 tackles in this draft are taken. JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington reported that the Redskins will only trade him for a package of comparable value, but what would that package consist of? I think they are asking for at least a 2nd-rounder, but at this point it seems at least a 3rd-round pick is more reasonable. If a trade with Cleveland were to happen, my prediction is that Washington will receive Pick #74 (3rd-rounder) and Pick #187 (6th-rounder) in this year’s draft. 

Pranav’s Storyline: Should New England Stick with Stidham, or Find a New QB?

Tom Brady leaving New England to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the biggest storyline of the offseason, leaving the Patriots with a huge problem: filling Brady’s shoes. After a 20 year run, Bill Belichick has to look for a new quarterback in a league with not many options. During the Brady era in New England, the coaching staff had great quarterbacks on the roster to help out when Brady was unavailable, from the 2009 season with Matt Cassel who went 10-6 (somehow missing the playoffs), to the 2016 season where Brady’s suspension from the year before came into effect, giving both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett the opportunity to perform for New England. Both quarterbacks played well under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’s coaching scheme, but due to the threat that they would likely take Brady’s spot as a starter later, owner Robert Kraft shipped them out to other teams. 

The 2020 Patriots are now left with Jarrett Stidham, a young quarterback from LSU, who showed promising features through various training camp meetings, practices, and mostly during the pre season games. The Patriots also hold 12 draft picks for the 2020 NFL Draft (4 compensatory picks), including the 23rd pick. Since this draft has only a few stellar quarterbacks (Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert), who will be taken very early, the New England Patriots would be left with quarterback picks like Jordan Love, who is an above average quarterback from Utah State. If I was Bill Belichick, I would put my money on Jarrett Stidham, giving him a year under center, and letting the first round pick in the draft go to another position in need, such as safety or defensive end. The Patriots have had a lot of success in trusting a no name quarterback to lead the team in the most difficult situations, so maybe Stidham can outperform initial expectations and prove that he was the right choice. You never know, Jarrett Stidham could be the next Tom Brady…  

 

2020 College Football National Championship: ‘Geaux Tigahs’ or ‘Go Tigers’

Coach O vs. Coach Swinney. Burrow vs. Lawrence. Stingley vs. Higgins. ‘Tigahs’ vs. Tigers. This is LSU vs. Clemson. This is the College Football Playoff National Championship that will kick off the new decade. This game has Instant Classic written all over it. In what could go down as the best College Football Playoff ever, with 3 of the 4 teams having come in undefeated, the top 2 offenses (LSU and Clemson) and defenses (Ohio State and Clemson) in the nation featured, and 3 of the 4 best coaches in the game right now (Coach O, Swinney, and Lincoln Riley). It is only fitting that the way this season ends, is with the best matchup possible at every position, coach, stat, you name it. Here is how this heavyweight matchup will be won:

#1 LSU vs. #3 Clemson: Jan 13th, 8:30PM, ESPN/ABC

To win or not to win is the question with two undefeated teams remaining going into the National Championship, the first time that two 14-0 teams have ever met in the College Football National Championship. Since the inception of the Playoff, the higher-ranked team has never won the championship, and Clemson vs. Alabama has been the most frequent matchup. This year, Clemson goes to play a different top dog in the SEC in LSU, and a transcendent talent like no other.

While many people thought that Trevor Lawrence could be the next transcendent QB talent, it was Joe Burrow who stepped into the spotlight after transferring this year from Ohio State to LSU. Burrow’s pocket presence, throwing on the run, accuracy, poise, and winning attitude caught the eyes of many, as he has beaten at the time top-10 teams in Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas. If he were to win this National Championship, he and LSU would have beaten 7 Top-10 teams in the Nation in one season, the most ever in College Football history in one season. All these traits and wins led him to win the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, and now he is on pace to be the most obvious Number 1 pick in the NFL since Jadeveon Clowney in 2014 when the Houston Texans drafted him. Burrow in the semifinal against Oklahoma had 403 yards passing and 7 TDs at halftime, 8 in total, 4 of them to Justin Jefferson, and Ja’Marr Chase added 2 more. Oh, and starting RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire got shut down after the first half and they still put up 63 points. Don’t be surprised if they put up 50 on Clemson.

Clemson, on the other hand, had a much tougher matchup against the 3rdundefeated team in the playoff in Ohio State. Looking very lost and lifeless while down 16-7, Trevor Lawrence slid awkwardly and had a helmet-to-neck collision with an Ohio State defender which was called targeting. Lawrence looked gimpy but only sat out one play, and that play ended up being a 67-yard touchdown run by Lawrence to bring Clemson right back in it. The rest of the game ended up being a classic, but the determination from Trevor Lawrence, the big plays down the stretch by Travis Etienne, having Tee Higgins healthy for the right moments (him and Justyn Ross’s health will be key to the Championship Game), and the interception to seal it by Nolan Turner were key. At the end of the day, Dabo Swinney did what he does best, outcoach the opposing coach.

So, the big question rising is, can Dabo outcoach Coach O? Well, yeah, he could outcoach him, but the way LSU has played this year, is outcoaching Coach O enough for you to beat LSU? One thing you have to realize is that LSU has only scored under 35 once, and that was against Auburn. In that game, Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn outcoached Coach O, but then Coach O got LSU’s offense to turn on the jets in the second half with a heavy dose of read option between Edwards-Helaire and Burrow, and once Auburn got down, they couldn’t come back. If Clemson wants to have a chance against LSU, it has to be the players on the field, not the coaches, who find their way to sustain the lead, if they get one. I think Clemson could get off to a hot start, but LSU won’t be slowed down long enough to not win this game. Coach O will have the whole nation saying ‘Geaux Tigahs’. Prediction: 51-41, LSU.

2019-20 NCAA College Football Playoff Semifinals Predictions

The New Year’s Eve fireworks will be arriving a little earlier this year, as the College Football Playoff Semifinals get set to kick off this Saturday. Clemson and Oklahoma return to the stage with Clemson being the defending champion, and Oklahoma returning for the 3rdconsecutive year. This year, however, LSU enters the playoff for the first time and dethrones their SEC counterpart in Alabama, and Ohio State returns to the place they thought they should have been last year. This year also features a new feat, where 3 transfer quarterbacks (Joe Burrow, who transferred from Ohio State to LSU; Jalen Hurts, who transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma; and Justin Fields, who transferred from Georgia to Ohio State), are leading their teams into the College Football Playoff. So, will it be a transfer quarterback leading their team to a championship, or will Trevor Lawrence lead Clemson to a repeat?

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: #4 Oklahoma vs. #1 LSU, 4PM EST, ESPN

The first game to kick off the playoff will be the battle of the Heisman winner and runner-up, Burrow and Hurts. This will be Hurts’ fourth time in the College Football Playoff (technically his third since he was backup and did not play last year, but it is his 4thsince he was with Alabama the past 3 years), with his 7thOffensive Coordinator (he had 5 different coordinators at Alabama and two Co-Offensive Coordinators at Oklahoma), coming off his third Conference Championship win. In terms of winning, overcoming adversity, and constantly playing the underdog role, Jalen Hurts might be the most decorated college football player ever. He is the true definition of a winner. While many scouts believe he is not the most NFL-ready QB, he certainly deserves the shot to be a starter on an NFL team come next season after he is drafted.

On the other side is Joe Burrow, Heisman-winning QB who has broken every SEC passing record in the book by a healthy margin, will be the #1 pick in the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals come April, and will lead the heavily-favored LSU into the Peach Bowl as the #1 team in the country. But things didn’t come that easy for Burrow. Burrow in 2017 was part of the Ohio State College Football Playoff team, where he played backup behind JT Barrett and Dwayne Haskins. At the time, not many people knew who he was, as he was a 3rd-string QB who had been redshirted. In 2018, Ohio State looked to life after Barrett, and then-Head Coach Urban Meyer, chose Dwayne Haskins well before the season began, leading Burrow to go into the transfer process, where LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron, served him to a lobster dinner and got him. Burrow last season led a struggling LSU offense that could barely put up 27 points in a game. This year, under new Offensive Coordinator Joe Barry, he leads the nation’s #1 offense, and has two 1,000+ yard receivers to throw to in JaMarr Chase and Justin Jefferson, and a 1,000+ rusher in Clyde-Edwards Helaire (whom he may not have on Saturday due to injury). The transcendence of Burrow has been one of the most unexpected, but the story is incredible.

Now, to the game. Oklahoma’s wide receiving core, led by CeeDee Lamb, who is regarded by many including me as the best receiver in college football and the upcoming NFL Draft, will cause problems for Derek Stingley and Grant Delpit, the best cornerback and safety in the country, respectively. His speed and quickness is almost Tyreek Hill-like, as he has the ability to take any pass to the house. The problem here for Oklahoma’s offense come with the running backs, who will be led by redshirt sophomore Kennedy Brooks. Brooks is getting the starting nod after Trey Sermon had a season-ending injury midseason against Iowa State, and after Rhamandore Stevenson was one of 3 Sooners players suspended for failed drug tests. Brooks is a great back, but not good enough to lead an already-fringe running game. Hurts will be required to put his head down and run with the ball himself quite a bit, which, as great of a runner as he is, is exactly what LSU wants, is for their linebackers to stop the run and not have to worry about helping out too much in the passing game.

For LSU, the running game will most likely feature Edwards-Helaire (according to Coach O), but even if they don’t have him available, the three backup running backs have had healthy doses of experience in the offense this season and have been very effective in scoring touchdowns, with 9 TDs between the 3 of them. As far as defenses, don’t expect too much of it, this will be a high-scoring game. But as I said earlier, the lack of ability to keep pace could haunt them, much it did for Oklahoma the past few years. Oklahoma is too thin in the run game, and does not have enough talent in the secondary to stop the core of Chase, Jefferson, Thaddeus Moss, and Terrace Marshall. Prediction: 49-41, LSU

Playstation Fiesta Bowl: #3 Clemson vs. #2 Ohio State, 8PM ET, ESPN

The defending champion Clemson Tigers find themselves playing in a playoff game rematch once again, but not against Alabama this time. Clemson instead is squaring off against Ohio State this year, the team with the nation’s best defense and best defensive player in Chase Young. Clemson has been decimated by the media the entire year for having an incredibly weak schedule for an elite Power 5 conference team, yet that criticism hasn’t slowed them down one bit. Coach Dabo Swinney has kept his mouth out of the media trap and instead focused on the field and players and looks to go for back-to-back 15-0 seasons. Trevor Lawrence has had a down year but really picked up last year’s form towards the end of the season, Travis Etienne keeps showing why he could be the best running back in the 2020 NFL Draft, and the Brett Venables-led defense keeps feasting on opposing offenses.

Ohio State, on the other hand, has been Top 2 in the rankings ever since they went into Madison, Wisconsin and won 48-0 on Saturday Night Football back in October. Their electric defense has helped them sport a ball-control oriented offense that is run-first behind JK Dobbins and then uses a lot of 5-wide Spread to pass the ball out of with Justin Fields, a transfer QB from Georgia (Georgia is probably regretting benching him for Jake Fromm, which prompted Fields’ transfer request). Speaking of Fields, another Heisman finalist who has defied odds, he is coming into this game nursing a knee injury he suffered against Michigan back at the end of November, and it hasn’t shown too much improvement since. Fields had a great one-legged performance in the B1G Championship Game against Wisconsin in their 14-point comeback win, however, and despite the knee, looked good for most of the game. Much like in that game, Ohio State will use Dobbins on early downs, and then look towards their Fields and their receivers, such as KJ Hill Jr. and Chris Olave to make plays downfield.

This game comes down to running back play, Dobbins vs. Etienne. Whichever team can control the line of scrimmage better in this one will win the game, as ball control and clock management will be vital. Clemson often goes for this approach in semifinal games, and. Ohio State will need to use this in order to keep Fields healthy, because unlike in 2017, they do not have a Jalen Hurts or Joe Burrow-type guy on their bench that can come in and perform on the big stage. While on paper this matchup would favor Clemson, the Chase Young-led pass rush might be too much for Lawrence and could force him into throwing interceptions, something he has done often this season compared to last. Predcition: 34-31, Ohio State

2019 Heisman Watch: Does Chase Young Deserve Heisman Consideration?

Yesterday marked a day in which this year’s Heisman contenders shined brightest. LSU QB Joe Burrow hit 4,000 yards passing for the season and became the 4thSEC QB to do so after torching Arkansas for 327 yards and 3 TDs. Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts kept playoff hopes alive for the Sooners with 173 yards and 2 TDs rushing, along with 145 yards and 2 TDs through the air in a gutsy 28-24 win over TCU. Oregon QB Justin Herbert ended all consideration for himself winning the award with a loss to the lowly Arizona State, despite his 304 yards and 2 TDs. The biggest standout from yesterday was the most dominant player in college football, Ohio State DE Chase Young, who after a short suspension over a loan from a family-friend cost him a few games, came back in full force, with 9 tackles, including 3 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. Despite his dominance, which has featured 16.5 sacks and 7 forced fumbles for him throughout the season, will he get Heisman consideration, and does he deserve it despite being a defensive player? Here are my 3 candidates for the Heisman and who I believe will win.

Player Profile: Chase Young

College football’s most dominant player has simply everything you could ask for in a defensive lineman. Size, speed, power and finesse moves on the edge, and a strong tackling ability. Well Chase Young has that and then some. As I mentioned earlier, his season has been shortened by 2 games due to the suspension, so he has put up all of these stats in just 9 games. Numbers like that are almost unheard of from any defensive end in college, which brings up the point of the Heisman Trophy. The last defensive player to win a Heisman was Desmond Howard, but him also having played a little wide receiver helped him out in his case for the Heisman. But other than Howard, no defensive player has ever won the trophy, and only 3 non-quarterbacks have won it. So, while he most definitely deserves to at least be one of the 3 Heisman candidates, do not expect him to win it.

Player Profile: Joe Burrow

My, oh my, has Joe Burrow been terrific. Going into this season as the reigning Fiesta Bowl MVP and having led the Tigers to a 10-3 season, the expectation was more of the same from Burrow and Co., but Burrow had other ideas. LSU currently sports the No. 1 rank, an 11-0 record, and the deadliest offense in football, with 1 4,000-yard passer in Burrow, a 1,000-yard rusher in Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and 2 1,000-yard receivers in JaMarr Chase and Justin Jefferson. Burrow also has the 3rd-most TDs thrown by an SEC QB with 41 already this season (he needs 4 more TDs to break the single-season TD record), and his passing yardage total puts him 4thAll-Time amongst SEC passers (he needs just 262 more yards to break the single-season passing yardage record). With these records he is about to break, he is the clear front-runner and should probably win the Heisman. If Chase Young wasn’t suspended for 2 games and he could have a chance to break records, then the race between them would be closer. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

Player Profile: Jalen Hurts

If you asked me before the season who my Heisman pick was (aside from Tua), I would have said Jalen Hurts, and everyone would have thought I was crazy, but Hurts has had a Heisman-candidate worthy season. He has thrown for 3,184 yards, 30 TDs, 6 picks, is 4thin the nation in QBR, and has run for 1,156 yards and an outrageous 17 TDs, all of these numbers are a career-best in any full season he has played. Oh, and he has been the ‘Comeback King’ of the season, including the illustrious 28-3 comeback last weekend at Baylor. Hurts has proven every doubter wrong and goes into the NFL Draft this coming April as a guy who teams can build around yet wait until the 2ndor 3rdround to get. Very comparable to the career Dak Prescott had at Mississippi State. As far as his Heisman chances, had guys like Burrow and Young had seasons like this in another year, then he would be the frontrunner, but unfortunately not this year.

My Heisman Pick

Joe Burrow. The way he came out of nowhere into the Heisman conversation, the fact that the SEC QB record books will have his name all over it, and the lack of love defensive players get in the Heisman consideration, he’s the clear frontrunner.