clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2020 NFL Draft Sleepers: Offensive, pt. 2

New, comments

Four offensive draft prospects to keep an eye on at the wide receiver, offensive tackle and interior offensive line positions.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2020 NFL Draft approaching, it is prime season for mock drafts and big boards. While these are always a blast to come up with, every year there are prospects who get pigeonholed into rounds and rankings that are lower than where they should be.

Whether it be poor combines, a lack of exposure or scouts and pundits’ misinterpretation of where value lies, diamonds in the rough get overlooked every draft season.

We’ve already covered defensive sleepers, so now let’s look at wide receivers, offensive tackles and the interior of the offensive line.

Wide Receiver

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Johnson


CBS Sports Big Board Rank: Mid third-rounder
Bleacher Report (Matt Miller) Position Rank: 24th-ranked wide receiver
Tankathon Big Board Rank: Late third-rounder
Where I value him: Late first/early second-round

Tyler Johnson is easily one of my favorite prospects in this class. While I’m probably much higher on him than most, it’s for good reason.

This is an insanely good wide receiver class, as we all know, and there are plenty of good receivers falling who would’ve been near the top of last year’s class. Johnson is no exception.

The Minneapolis-native has been a symbol of production in the Minnesota Gophers’ offense since his sophomore year. He’s amassed over 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns over the past three years, and he’s done it by being one of the most complete receivers in the country in that time-span.

The efficiency-based statistics are even more favorable towards him. He’s ranked in the top-five among collegiate receivers in Pro Football Focus receiving grades two years in a row, with a 90.7 grade as a junior and 92.2 as a senior. He’s also has been top 10 in yards per route run both seasons.

From the outside as a sophomore or from the slot as a junior and senior, it doesn’t matter where he lines up. He can run routes from both positions at a high level.

He really doesn’t have many weakness.

Route-running? Check.

He deals with physicality like a professional, and sets up defenders well before his breaks. He hasn’t seen a ton of press coverage, but there’s enough of a sample size throughout a three-year career to take something from. And when he’s seen it, he’s handled it.

Contested catch ability? You got it.

Part of the reason I feel comfortable saying Johnson can handle press is due to his contested catch chops. The guy can create separation in tight coverage and go up and get it, with 34 contested catches since 2018. Only Antonio Gandy-Golden had more in that span, with 36.

There are only two aspects of his game that can be nitpicked, and those would be his speed and hands. But once again, you’re nitpicking.

Johnson dropped too many passes as a junior. There’s no way around that. But he corrected that as a senior, with a drop percentage of 6.5, which was lower than Jerry Jeudy and Tee Higgins.

The First Team All-Big Ten receiver won’t be a burner in the NFL, but he showed the ability to win deep in college.

It’s one of those aspects where I wouldn’t consider it a strength, but I also wouldn’t consider it a weakness. He can get by defenders on double moves and run by some slot defenders, but he’ll mainly be a short-to-intermediate target. And that’s more than fine, considering his effectiveness in that area and that most of a quarterback’s targets will be going there, anyways.

Johnson is a rare prospect where he presents a high floor and a high ceiling as a pass-catcher. At worst, he can be a productive slot option as a no. 3 receiver in an offense, garnering matchups with linebackers and safeties on early downs.

At best, I believe he can be a WR1 for someone, or a high-level WR2. Think Tyler Boyd. That’s the level of crafty route-running and contested-catch ability Johnson could likely aspire to.

If a team can grab that type of player on day two, they should be jumping for joy.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Coulter


CBS Sports Big Board Rank: Early seventh-rounder
Bleacher Report (Matt Miller) Position Rank: 22nd-ranked wide receiver
Tankathon Big Board Rank: Not in top 100
Where I value him: Early fourth-rounder

I know, I know. There are two receivers. But I couldn’t help myself. I loved Coulter and Johnson way too much to leave one off, so I’m going with the two-receiver set here.

Easily one of the most slept-on prospects in the country, Isaiah Coulter‘s draft stock has had to endure being on an awful team in 2019 and dealing with sub-par QB quarterback play.

The junior out of Rhode Island University caught the eye of scouts in 2018 with a scintillating performance against UCONN, grabbing 10 of his 12 targets for 156 yards and a touchdown. This was before an injury sidelined him for the rest of that season.

While this set Coulter back, it was just a matter of time before he broke out again. Despite playing for a team that went 2-10, Coulter put up some good numbers. He racked up 1,036 yards and eight TDs, despite compensating for poor accuracy from his QB.

The FCS product may be slight of frame, but he is a master route-runner and separator. He displayed his speed a the NFL combine.

However, he disappointed in the three-cone drill (7.28) and 20-yard shuttle (4.62). This really didn’t make sense, because his breaks and cuts on tape are beautiful.

Coulter looked all year like he knew what he was doing in the route-running department, and particularly on in-breaking routes, where he ranked T-14th in the country in first down catches.

Watch this move he puts on a Virginia Tech defender in one of his biggest games of the 2019 season.

On a crucial third down-and-short, he runs a double move from the slot. Faking the stick route, he gets the defender to bite down before quickly breaking inside for an uncontested catch.

These types of routes utilizing his quickness in a short area are where he will make his money in the NFL. He can create separation against man coverage all day long, so if a defense is worried about receivers elsewhere and leaves Coulter in single coverage or matched up against a safety/linebacker in underneath zone, he can feast.

And the interesting things about Coulter is that he hardly ever played in the slot in college, which is another example of his skills not being utilized properly. He was almost exclusively an outside receiver at Rhode Island, playing a mere 26 snaps in the slot in 2019.

In the league, Coulter will see much more snaps there to utilize his ability to get slot defenders’ hips turned before his cuts.

While his lack of slot snaps in college should be a crime, it did allow him to showcase his capabilities in beating outside/press coverage.

He uses a nifty inside release in the graphic above to use his speed and break open for what should have been a TD. But his QB underthrows it a bit, and he has to dive for the grab.

Coulter may not be the most physically-imposing receiver, but he has the most translatable skill to the NFL a receiver can have: getting open. He wasn’t a contested catch guy in college, even against sub-par competition. It’s just not his game.

However, when Rhode Island played Power-Five competition, Coulter showed up and showed out by consistently gaining separation.

He’d be a steal anywhere past the third round. Pick him up on day three and glad you did.

Offensive Tackle

NCAA Football: Advocare Classic-Auburn vs Oregon Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Calvin Throckmorton


CBS Sports Big Board Rank: Late fourth-rounder
Bleacher Report (Matt Miller) Position Rank: 22nd-ranked offensive tackle
Tankathon Big Board Rank: Not in top 100
Where I value him: Late Third/Early fourth-round

When evaluating offensive linemen, two attributes supersede everything: availability and consistency. No one embodies those two more than Calvin Throckmorton.

The four-year starter out of Oregon University is a machine of productivity. He’s played tackle, guard and center on one of the country’s best offensive lines, and has played them all at a high level.

He topped 87.0 or higher in PFF pass-blocking grades in three out of his four seasons as a Duck, and he’s allowed one sack since the beginning of his sophomore year.

Winning with power and tenacity, Throckmorton has been as steady as the rock of Gibraltar in pass protection.

He has relatively short arms for a tackle at 32.5 inches, so he must win with positioning and strength. He has a powerful strike to the chest of a pass-rusher that, when he lands, can pretty much end the rush there.

He has great balance and doesn’t get overpowered very often at the point of attack. This is true at whatever position he’s manned over the years.

While the 320-pounder is a better pass-blocker than run-blocker, he’s definitely not a weak link in the running game, as long as you’re not making him pull and get in the open field too often. He’s got the strength to work off doubles and put linebackers on the ground.

The All-American tackle has played at least 850 total snaps in every season in his four-year career, with most of them coming at right tackle, over 350 at either guard or left tackle and over 150 at center. There are plenty of linemen who can switch to both tackle positions or both guard positions, both someone who has started games at every single position is rare.

And while his lack of athleticism might result in him moving inside eventually in the NFL, his mental processing is at a high enough level to where that switch shouldn’t be an issue.

Watch him pick up the stunt in the graphic above. It doesn’t seem like much, but being able to pick up and diagnose free rushers off of stunts can make or break linemen in the big leagues.

Throckmorton’s athleticism is a serious concern, and is the only thing keeping him from being a day one or two prospect. He tested horribly at the combine.

The worry with him is that he isn’t long or quick enough to handle edge rushers at the pro level, which even though he handled them pretty darn well for a long time in college, is a legitimate complaint. But even with that being said, his versatility and quality production should be valued early on day three, at the least.

I could see Throckmorton starting as a guard someday, while also providing great depth at at tackle, similar to where Andrus Peat stands on the New Orleans Saints depth chart.

This level of availability and consistency could make him a quality pickup for a team looking for depth in the later rounds.

Interior Offensive line

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff Semifinal-Ohio State vs Clemson Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jonah Jackson


CBS Sports Big Board Rank: Mid third-rounder
Bleacher Report (Matt Miller) Position Rank: 16th-ranked interior O-lineman
Tankathon Big Board Rank: Not in top 100
Where I value him: Mid second-round

Some teams value offensive line prospects who specialize in pass-blocking more than run-blocking. Those teams will love Jonah Jackson.

The left guard out of Ohio State was actually a right guard at Rutgers in 2018, before transferring to Columbus. Unlike a Justin Throckmorton, guard will be the only position Jackson will be playing.

But that’s A-ok, because the kid does not allow interior defensive linemen to hit the quarterback he’s blocking for. Seriously, he allowed only a single sack in 1,020 career pass protection snaps. Not bad.

The First-Team All-Big Ten guard won’t wow people with his athleticism, but he has a strong pass set. His calling card is his excellent balance. Even on his worst reps, he might look like he’s getting abused, but he just refuses to give up his leverage and will be broken in half before he gives up a lane to the QB.

Jackson has had so many darn pass-blocking reps, it’s easy to project that ability to the league. You don’t get that large of a sample size of appearing to be good at something, against a high level of competition, without actually being good at it. And he’s simply good at protecting the passer.

Like Throckmorton, Jackson is also a high-level processor at picking up stunts.

He’s quick to recognize, strong enough to chip the pin-player and balanced enough with good technique to halt the stunt-player coming around the edge in his tracks.

Jackson is no mauler in the run game, but he’s adequate. He’ll carry his own in that regard.

It’s not necessarily a strength, but it’s not a weakness either. Watch him stone the 3-tech on his way to the linebacker on this zone running play. If he doesn’t pin that linebacker so effectively, Dobbins probably doesn’t get through so cleanly for the big gain.

Jackson meets the threshold of the two key attributes I mentioned earlier: availability and consistency. He can play either guard positions and will immediately improve the pass protection for whichever team he lands with.

For this reason, I’d value him pretty highly whenever day one concludes. He could be the first pick of the second round and I wouldn’t think it’s too high.

Pick Jackson and watch your quarterback get hit a little bit less.