Rang’s Gang – My favorite ‘non-first round’ 2020 NFL Draft prospects on offense
In scouting hundreds of players in preparation for the NFL Draft, it is impossible not to develop some favorites.
Rang's Gang is the collective answer to the question I'm often asked: "If you were running a team and you needed a (insert position), who would you take?"
There's only one rule -- no consensus first-round prospects. Anyone can compile a list of the top players per position and call them favorites. Let’s dig deeper.
This year’s squad joins a historical team including Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins (Class of 2012), Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (2013), Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (2012), as well as more recent standouts like last year’s dynamic rookie receiver Deebo Samuel (49ers) and steady safety Taylor Rapp, who quietly finished among the NFL’s top first-year players in tackles (100) and passes defensed (eight, along with two interceptions), despite starting just 10 games.
Now, let’s introduce this year’s favorites – beginning with the offense.
QB – Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma, 6-1, 218, 4.59
With all due respect to the mettle shown by LSU’s Joe Burrow, no quarterback in this class demonstrated greater intangibles throughout his career than Hurts. He is not currently the pinpoint passer from the pocket most are looking for in the NFL, but he’s shown steady development in this area and is a legitimate weapon as a runner.
RB – Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU, 5-07, 207, 4.60
A human pinball at his best bouncing off of would-be tacklers and making linebackers look foolish in coverage, CEW is the perfect complementary back for today’s NFL. He is fearless, elusive, remarkably balanced through contact and a terrific receiver. A lack of breakaway speed will push Edwards-Helaire into Day Two but there isn’t a team in the NFL who couldn’t use a sparkplug like Edwards-Helaire.
Split End – Michael Pittman, Jr., Southern California, 6-4, 220, 4.52
This year’s receiver class is so deep that I’ve separate into three different positions with Pittman’s size, physicality and competitiveness at the catch point earning him the role of red zone maven and vertical threat on this squad. Pittman’s performance in an upset over a Utah-defense littered with future pros was one of the more dominant individual efforts I saw this past season.
Flanker – Van Jefferson, Florida, 6-2, 197, 4.55 (est.)
Like the afore-mentioned Pittman, Jefferson is an NFL legacy. Scouts in the stands at the Senior Bowl were buzzing with the refined route-running and reliable mitts passed down by his father, former NFL pass-catcher and current New York Jets wide receiver coach, Shawn Jefferson.
Slot WR – James Proche, SMU, 5-11, 196, 4.50 (est.)
This receiver class is loaded with reliable pass-catchers. I’ve highlighted two of the best already in Pittman and Jefferson. For my money, however, Proche has the best hands in this draft. He certainly had plenty of practice, hauling in 301 passes over his career. But it was the finger strength, hand-eye coordination and focus to hang out with big hits looming that has me circling Proche as a late round steal.
TE – Devin Asiasi, UCLA, 6-3, 257, 4.73
The 2020 draft lacks top-end talent at tight end but I am higher on the upside of several players at this position more than many seem to be, with Asiasi a prime example. A former highly touted prep who initially signed with Michigan, he transferred back to his home state of California and flourished as a big, surprisingly mobile weapon in Chip Kelly’s scheme in a breakout 2019 campaign after starting the year with just eight career grabs. This is an ascending Top 100 talent that some in the media are sleeping on…
LT – Saahdiq Charles, LSU, 6-4, 321, 5.05
Most players are this list would probably qualify as “coaches on the field” for their grit and reliability. Charles, on the other hand, comes with character red-flags which must be vetted to warrant a selection anywhere near his talent. But what a talent he is, boasting terrific agility, balance and tenacity to scratch and claw his way to one-on-one wins despite inconsistent technique and just average size. If he commits, Charles could wind up one of the best from this year’s extraordinary OT class.
LG - Ben Bredeson, Michigan, 6-5, 316, 5.20 (est.)
If game tape were all that mattered Bredeson would be a first round pick and quite possibly the first interior lineman off the board. Unfortunately, the measuring tape also matters and Bredeson’s disproportionately short 31 1/8” arms cloud his NFL projection. Not for me, it doesn’t. I see a 10-year starting OG with the smarts to slide inside to center, if necessary.
C – Nick Harris, Washington, 6-1, 293, 5.10
Like Bredeson, Harris is not the body-beautiful prospect scouts would prefer. It is easy to typecast him as overmatched with his sawed-off, almost chubby frame. Harris possesses terrific quickness and balance, however, and is much stronger than he looks, anchoring surprisingly well to bull rushes because of his pad level, lower body power and technique. He won’t be drafted until Day Three probably, but Harris is going to push for a starting role early and keep it.
RG – Hakeem Adeniji, Kansas, 6-4, 302, 5.17
One of the big winners of Les Miles heading to Kansas this year was Adeniji, a four-year starting tackle whose physical nature and legitimate NFL frame might have been overlooked otherwise. After all, the Jayhawks have produced a total of FOUR drafted offensive linemen since the turn of the century, none of whom were selected inside the top 100. Instead, Adeniji was invited to the Senior Bowl, where he stood out immediately at guard. Sure, he’s a bit of a work in progress but in a class lacking top flight guards, Adeniji is one of the few I project as a future starter – and like the KU blockers before him, Adeniji will likely be available outside of the top 100 picks.
RT – Lucas Niang, TCU, 6-6, 315, 5.20 (est.)
Like Bredeson and Harris, Niang may fall on draft day simply because he doesn’t quite look the part. He possesses a relatively square frame which looks better suited inside at guard, though don’t tell that to former Ohio State star pass rushers Nick Bosa and Chase Young, who Niang shut down two years ago. Coming off of season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, Niang is a candidate to slip further down the board than his play warrants. Anything outside of the top 50 for this future starter could ultimately prove a steal.