There are no guarantees in professional sports, especially when it comes to the draft.
That said, there are a handful of NFL hopefuls this year who seem pretty likely to avoid the “bust” label.
So without further ado, here is our list, in no particular order, of the safest bets in the 2020 NFL Draft class.
Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Do we really need to sell you on the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner? Burrow is coming off arguably the greatest season ever by a collegiate quarterback in which he threw 60 touchdowns to six interceptions while completing 76.3 (!) percent of his passes. Twelve of those scores came over the course of LSU’s pair of College Football Playoff victories over Oklahoma and Clemson. Burrow has everything you look for in a QB, and the Cincinnati Bengals would be foolish not to grab him at No. 1 overall.
Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
While Burrow might be the top overall player in this year’s class, Young is pretty safely the premier defensive talent. The Buckeyes product was an honors vacuum last season, claiming the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as well as the Chuck Bednarik and Ted Hendricks Awards. Simply put, the 6-foot-5, 265-pounder is an elite disrupter poised to be a franchise-altering player at the next level.
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
The 2020 class is absolutely loaded at wide receiver, and Jeudy just might be the best of the bunch. He hauled in a combined 145 catches for 2,478 yards with 24 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Alabama. While Jeudy boasts great speed — he ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine — arguably his top asset is his precise route-running, which should make him a quarterback’s best friend in the NFL.
Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Brown probably won’t stuff the stat sheet over the course of his NFL tenure, but he’s poised to have a long, successful career given his ability to be an anchor on the defensive line. Taking up space and wreaking havoc in the middle often can be an underappreciated asset, and at 6-foot-5 and 326 pounds, Brown can do it with the best of them. The Auburn product just might be the best run stopper in this class.
Isaiah Simmons, S/LB, Clemson
One might argue Simmons shouldn’t be considered an unequivocal safe bet without a clear-cut position. But the fact of the matter is, the NFL is evolving, and Simmons is the exact type of defender you want at we usher in the new era. The Clemson product can be used as a spy for the game’s top dual-threat quarterbacks, and he also is more than capable as a coverage player. Versatility should be valued now more than ever, and Simmons has it in spades.
Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama
Offensive linemen obviously aren’t sexy picks, but quarterbacks can’t reach their highest of heights without proper protection. Wills is the type of player you want in front of your signal-caller, as his high-end athleticism — as evidenced by his 4.84-second 20-yard shuttle time at the Combine — is matched with his tenacity. Wills features average tackle size at 6-foot-4 and 312 pounds, but he has no shortage of strength. He’s a virtual lock to be one of the first two O-linemen off the board later this month.
Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
The average fan might look at Okudah’s college stats and be rather unimpressed with his three interceptions over three seasons in Columbus. That’s because opposing quarterbacks rarely targeted the talented cornerback, and for good reason. Okudah features ideal size at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds and has the feet to keep up with the opposition’s best wideout. He wasn’t a unanimous 2019 All-American for no reason.
Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Speaking of unanimous All-Americans from last season, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Thomas bestowed with that honor either. The Georgia product can be flat-out nasty in the trenches, and at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds with 10 1/4-inch hands, it’s awfully tough to get past him. Plus, as NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein notes, Thomas is capable of playing either tackle position.
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
If you’re looking for a bonafide home run hitter, Lamb is your guy. In addition to being able to take the top off a defense, the Sooners wideout is a wizard after the catch, making him a nightmare for opposing defenses. At 6-foot-2, Lamb also has the frame to become a lethal goal-line threat should he fill out upon entering the NFL. If Jeudy isn’t the first wide receiver selected this year, Lamb will be.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images