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16 non-quarterback prospects to watch in the 2020 NFL Draft

Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy eludes Arkansas defensive

Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy eludes Arkansas defensive back Montaric Brown to break free for a touchdown reception during the first half of an NCAA football game on Oct. 26 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Credit: AP/Vasha Hunt

The top of the 2020 NFL Draft is expected to be full of quarterbacks. Tua Tagovailoa, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert are widely considered top-10 prospects, with some even garnering early top-five buzz. And there likely will be several teams in need of a quarterback this year, such as the Dolphins, Bengals and Titans, to name a few.

But what if you’re the Jets or Giants and already have your presumed franchise guy under center? As it turns out, they may stand to benefit even more.

That’s because an early run on quarterbacks would push down top players at other positions — some who may even grade out higher than the aforementioned signal-callers. With the Giants and Jets in need of help on both sides of the ball, their chances of landing a blue-chip prospect are high.

Here are 16 of those blue-chip non-quarterback prospects, by position group, that may hear their names called early in the 2020 NFL Draft. (Asterisks denote underclassmen who would have to declare.)

Receivers

Jerry Jeudy, Alabama, wide receiver*

The 2020 wide receiver group has the potential to rival the great 2014 class in terms of both talent and depth. Jeudy is the highlight of the group and a likely top-five pick with his well-rounded skillset and overall explosiveness. His combination of route-running, shiftiness and speed after the catch is among the best of any receiver in recent memory, making him an extremely difficult player to cover in even the slightest bit of space. 

Henry Ruggs III, Alabama, wide receiver*

While Jeudy is the more balanced of Alabama's receiver prospects, Ruggs certainly is the faster one. He reportedly clocked a 4.25 40-yard dash at Alabama’s pro day, just .03 seconds off of John Ross’s Combine record. That speed shows up on the field, too, as Ruggs is able to stretch the field and take the top off of opposing defenses.

CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma, wide receiver*

Lamb's 6-3 frame and excellent body control allow him to make tough catches look easy, especially in jump-ball situations, but he also has the quickness to create separation at the line of scrimmage.

Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado, wide receiver*

Shenault has good size at 6-2, 220 pounds, which helps him make physical grabs on the outside. But he also can play like a smaller, shiftier receiver. He has lined up in the slot, as an H-back and even as the occasional wildcat quarterback to highlight his overall athleticism.

Offensive line

Andrew Thomas, Georgia, tackle*

Thomas has been a big reason why Georgia QB Jake Fromm has been sacked just four times in seven games this season. The 6-5, 320-pounder is a technician in pass protection, using his long arms to keep opposing pass-rushers at bay. He also has experience at right tackle.

Tristan Wirfs, Iowa, tackle*

Wirfs has played almost exclusively right tackle in three seasons at Iowa, but he did play a few series on the left side earlier this season against Rutgers. Wirfs (6-5, 322 pounds) has excellent power and strength to open holes as a run blocker and stays balanced in pass protection.

Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin, center/guard*

Biadasz (pronounced bee-AH-dish) has been a critical piece in a Wisconsin offensive line that helped Jonathan Taylor become one of the nation’s top running backs in the last three seasons. The 6-2, 318-pounder is a very tough, smart interior lineman and consistently is solid in both the run and pass games.

Defensive front

Chase Young, Ohio State, edge rusher*

In any other class, Young would be a very strong No. 1 overall pick. But even with QBs expected to fly off the board early, Young still may find himself going in the top three just like former Buckeyes Joey Bosa (No. 3 overall, 2016) and Nick Bosa (No. 2, 2019). The 6-5, 265-pounder has excellent athleticism and speed off the edge, as well as a very explosive first step off the snap and experience as both a 4-3 end and 3-4 outside linebacker. 

A.J. Epenesa, Iowa, edge rusher*

Epenesa is a balanced 4-3 defensive end with great size (6-6, 280 pounds) and length. While he doesn't have quite the same speed, bend or explosiveness that Young has, he makes up for it with sheer strength and power, which he uses to help set the edge very well against the run or bull-rush opposing offensive linemen. 

Derrick Brown, Auburn, defensive lineman

Brown returned to Auburn for his senior season despite the potential to be one of the top interior linemen in last year's class. He's only gotten better since then, using his strength and athleticism to get into the backfield and disrupt both run and pass plays. He has ideal size for an interior lineman at 6-5, 318 pounds, but he also has the versatility to line up at any position along the defensive line.

Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina, defensive lineman

Kinlaw, like Brown, returned to school for his senior season despite considering the jump to the NFL. He's very athletic for a 6-6, 310-pound interior lineman, and his explosive first step helps him create interior pressure and collapse the pocket.

Isaiah Simmons, Clemson, linebacker/safety*

Simmons began his Clemson career as a safety but moved to linebacker in 2018. The 6-4, 225-pounder is the prototypical "moneybacker" for today's NFL, with the athleticism and sideline-to-sideline coverage skills to match up against tight ends and the instincts and tackling ability to stop the run.

Secondary

Jeff Okudah, Ohio State, cornerback*

Five Ohio State defensive backs have gone in the first round in the last four drafts. Okudah could be the next one. The 6-1, 200-pounder has excellent ball skills and athleticism, and because Ohio State's defense calls for a mixture of man and zone, he could fit into either scheme in the pros.

Kristian Fulton, LSU, cornerback

Fulton is LSU's top cornerback after playing alongside future Browns second-rounder Greedy Williams last season. The 6-foot, 200 pounder is a sticky man cover corner with the size and strength to handle press responsibilities. He also has some experience as a nickel safety and as a slot corner.

Trevon Diggs, Alabama, cornerback

Diggs has plenty of experience covering NFL receivers. That's because in addition to going up against college football's top receivers in practice, he's also the brother of Vikings star Stefon Diggs. The younger Diggs, who initially enrolled at Alabama to play receiver, shares his brother's excellent athleticism and hands, and has great length at 6-2, 207 pounds.

Grant Delpit, LSU, safety*

Delpit's game is nearly a carbon copy of former LSU teammate and Jets Pro Bowler Jamal Adams, even earning the nickname "Baby Mal" among Tigers players. Like Adams, the 6-3, 203-pound Delpit is an incredibly versatile safety who can play up in the box to stop the run, patrol centerfield, cover a slot receiver or tight end and blitz off the edge.

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