By LOGAN KING
Sports Info Solutions (SIS) brings you the second annual edition of The SIS Football Rookie Handbook, with scouting reports and statistical breakdowns on over 280 college football players who are likely to be drafted or signed as rookie free agents in 2020 (a glossary for the below stats can be found here). New features for this year include unique and informative NFL team pages, research deep-dives by the SIS R&D team, and—for the first time —the NCAA version of their flagship football statistic, Total Points.
Coming on the heels of my previous article detailing which teams have improved and regressed the most this offseason from a Total Points perspective, this week’s article focuses on the depth of the 2020 draft class by position, using The SIS Football Rookie Handbook. Each position group summary also includes draft outlooks for the teams which regressed the most through the offseason.
|2020 NFL Draft Position Depth Rankings|
|Rank||Position||Players in Book||Strong Starters||Starter Percent|
Unless players are graded as having Pro Bowl level potential, all grades are treated as the player’s projection for the start of their second season.
Given that a different number of players take the field at each position, position depth is not determined by the total number of players listed in the book nor the total number of players projected to be strong starters at each position. Instead it is determined by the percentage of players at each position who are projected to become strong starters by the start of their second season.
Note: Due to the versatility of the position, edge is included in both the defensive line and linebacker summaries below.
Headlined by Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, this year’s quarterback class ranks 10th in position depth. With only two players projected to become strong starters, quarterback-needy teams may be forced to make moves to grab their next signal caller sooner, rather than later. New England, which has the 23rd pick, could be forced to trade up to replace Tom Brady. However, with proven starters like Cam Newton and Jameis Winston still on the free agent market (unless Bill Belichick believes he has found the future in Jarrett Stidham), the Patriots could choose to go elsewhere with the pick (perhaps addressing their need at linebacker).
Coming in at 8th in the positional depth rankings, this year’s running back class is led by D’Andre Swift and Jonathan Taylor. The Eagles are one team that might be interested in one of these players. While they have seemingly found their workhorse in Miles Sanders, there is a void that was left by Jordan Howard’s departure. Philadelphia shouldn’t feel rushed at this position and given its situation, should be able to rely on a less expensive draft pick to add depth to their backfield.
The only offensive position with multiple blue-chip prospects (Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb), this year’s receiver class earns the 4th place ranking for position depth. San Francisco was highlighted as the team who lost the most at the position this offseason and is in a great position to revamp their receiver room with two first round picks (13th and 31st). Even if the 49ers don’t land either Jeudy or Lamb, six other receivers project to become strong 3-down starters by the start of their second season.
This year’s tight end class ranks last in position depth, with Jared Pinkney as the only player projected to become a strong starter with both Y and H ability. The Panthers saw the biggest loss at the position this offseason with Greg Olsen’s move to Seattle. Owning the 7th pick and already having found their answer under center in Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina looks to be in a good position to fill this need while potentially gaining a few additional picks in the process. However, it should be noted that the Panthers have more pressing needs at defensive line.
The tackle, guard, and center positions rank 1st, 13th, and 3rd, respectively, in position depth. Tackles are led by Andrew Thomas, guards by Ben Bredeson, and centers by Cesar Ruiz and Tyler Biadasz, all projected to become strong starters with two-position flexibility. Having lost the most on the offensive front this offseason, the Lions hold the 3rd overall pick and can potentially address this need early in the first or second rounds.
On the defensive line, edge ranks 5th in position depth, and defensive tackle and nose rank 11th and 9th, respectively. Chase Young leads the edge position. Derrick Brown leads the defensive tackles, both graded as Pro Bowl level talents. Nose tackle is led by Ross Blacklock, who projects to become a strong 3-down starter. Gerald McCoy and Mario Addison headlined Carolina’s losses on the defensive front, giving the Panthers the most depleted D-Line this off-season. The addition of Linval Joseph slightly shores up the defensive interior, however there remain holes across the line. Acquiring Sean Weatherly, who lined up all across the box for Minnesota last season, also helps address this need. Depending how the top of the draft shakes out, Carolina could end up with a Pro Bowl caliber player to further improve the position group at No. 7.
As stated previously, Chase Young and the edge position rank 5th in position depth. Meanwhile, the Mike and Will linebacker positions (ranked 12th and 7th in position depth, respectively) are led by Kenneth Murray and Isaiah Simmons, both projected to become strong 3-down starters. Losing prominent off-ball linebacker Jamie Collins and edge player Kyle Van Noy, the Patriots have big shoes to fill at the position group. While they may be able to wait until the later rounds for a solution at edge, the off-ball linebacker position likely needs to be addressed early on, due to the comparative lack of depth. New England holds 12 picks in the 2020 draft, so it certainly has the capital to trade up if needed.
Corner and safety rank 6th and 2nd in position depth. Graded as having Pro Bowl potential, Jeffrey Okudah headlines the corner class. At safety, Grant Delpit leads the way, projected to become a strong 3-down starter. With heavy losses at corner (Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, and Xavier Rhodes), the Vikings own the most depleted secondary through this offseason. Luckily, Minnesota owns the 22nd and 25th pick in the draft, where they may address this need.