Nothing is normal about the 2020 NFL Draft — including the elimination of most pro days, private workouts and facility visits that normally can help (or hurt) a player’s stock during the pre-draft process.
The unique information-gathering process resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic only increases the unpredictability of those 10 to 12 picks at the bottom of Round 1 that always yield a few surprises.
Here are five names you haven’t seen in many Round 1 mock drafts, but that NFL executives, scouts and coaches wouldn’t be shocked to hear called on Thursday night.
Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame
This isn’t regarded as a strong tight end draft, and Kmet is widely seen as the top prospect. "If you want him, you’re going to have to take him late first or early, early second," an AFC coach said. "Big dude, can catch, knows how to use his body. He’s probably one of the top inline Ys in the last couple years. Super smart. High character in every way." Kmet appeared in 35 games (18 starts) for the Fighting Irish, breaking out as a true junior last fall with 43 catches for 515 yards and six touchdowns. He pulled a hamstring on his first 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, which affected his workout, but still ran 4.70 at 6-foot-6, 262 pounds. He just turned 21 in March. "He’s not dynamic as a receiver. But he’s a really big man that plays a physical style of football," an NFC executive said. "He wins contested catches. He’s strong after the catch. He’s not elusive, and neither really was Gronk. I’m not saying they’re the same player, but the physicality with which Cole plays — and granted, he hasn’t played a lot of football, it’s really this year and a little bit of last year — I could see his play style being really intriguing to guys."
Julian Okwara, Edge, Notre Dame
The younger brother of Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara has all the physical tools and recorded 12 sacks over the past two seasons, despite missing the last four games of his senior year with a broken fibula. Okwara’s calendar has been booked up with video interviews as teams try to answer their main question: How committed is he to reaching his immense potential on a daily basis? "I already counted him to be a clear 1," an NFC personnel director said. "He’s a bright kid and he’s got other interests. But I think athletically, he can run and bend like no one else coming off the corner." Another exec compared him to Vikings Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr in terms of being able to rush the passer and drop into coverage. Okwara (6-4, 252) did not work out at the combine, but the physical ability isn’t in much doubt. "You just question his wiring," another NFC exec said. "I would say he’s a lesser version of (Penn State edge Yetur) Gross-Matos in that they’re both athletes and neither one of them play through people. Work the edges, finesse, use their length. How much dog do either one of them have in them?"
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
After the big three (Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs) and probably LSU’s Justin Jefferson, it’s anyone’s guess who the fifth receiver will be off the board. Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk and Baylor’s Denzel Mims have been popular names in recent mock drafts, but there’s also some love for Reagor (5-11, 206), who had 148 catches for 2,248 yards and 22 touchdowns in 39 games (25 starts) over three seasons despite substantial challenges around him. "He’s a really good player," an NFC coordinator said. "He played with possibly one of the worst college football quarterbacks I’ve ever seen in my life. That makes his film pretty bad." Echoed another coordinator: "The Reagor kid is interesting because his quarterback play was so atrocious. It’s hard to put that on him. But he wasn’t consistent either. He’s got return ability, too, so that’s where he separates himself a little bit." Reagor scored twice on 15 punt returns last season. He ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at the combine, where he showed off freaky athletic ability with a 42-inch vertical and 11-6 broad jump.
Robert Hunt, OL, Louisiana
In a weak interior O-line class, Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland and Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz have surfaced most often in recent mock drafts as first-round possibilities. But don’t overlook the enormous Hunt (6-5, 323), whom some scouts rank as the best guard and/or the fifth-best tackle in the class. "He’s interesting, because he’s a big, massive kid," an AFC coordinator said. "He’s probably a guard and probably going to be a good guard. The hard part is he missed (seven) games with a groin. That’s where you’re a little concerned about, can he hold up? ‘Cause he’s physically not developed enough. He is a good player. He’s a mean, nasty dude, too." Hunt started 45 games at three positions (left guard, left tackle and right tackle) over four seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns, earning first-team All-Sun Belt honors in 2019 despite missing the last seven games. He had surgery in mid-December and didn’t work out at the combine. But he’s recovered now and recently sent clubs a video of him going through drills. "Good player. Probably more of a right tackle/guard combo guy," an AFC scout said. "I would see [him as] more of a Day 2 guy — but tackles go."
Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State
There’s a lot to sort out with Arnette, who has "been a wild [child] for a long time," according to an NFC scout who did extensive background work on him. Entering his senior year with the Buckeyes, Arnette (6-0, 195) had a reputation going back to high school as a handful for coaches — cocky, prone to running his mouth — and a guy they worried might struggle managing his life once he left the facility. But the word out of Ohio State this spring is Arnette matured under the wing of Jeff Hafley, who spent one season as the Buckeyes’ co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach before taking the head job at Boston College. Arnette became a father and seems to have more of a purpose now. "To the kid’s credit, maybe it’s in his past. That’s what you’re banking on if you take him that high," an AFC executive said. "What his saving grace will be is he f—ing loves ball." Arnette earned second-team all-Big Ten honors last season despite playing the entire season with a broken wrist. He’s tough, experienced (53 games, 38 starts) and plays with more swag than some of the other candidates to be the third cornerback off the board behind former Buckeyes teammate Jeff Okudah and Florida’s CJ Henderson. Regardless of when he’s selected, Arnette has the skills to become an immediate starter, either outside or at nickel. Said an NFC personnel director: "I could see someone taking him late in the first round, just because he’s a talented kid, and [they’re] willing to oversee some of the character stuff."
Follow Tom Pelissero on Twitter @tompelissero.
Source: Read Full Article