With the 2020 NFL Draft completed, teams feel confident about the selections they’ve made and the contributions the players can make to their football team. However, some teams have made selections that will have many people questioning why they passed on that player. In this article, we take a look at the top five value picks from the NFL Draft.
Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor to the New York Jets (2nd Round, 59th overall)
A three-year starter at Baylor, Denzel Mims quickly emerged as their top wide receiver after an irrelevant first season. He amassed over 2,900 yards in his three years as a starter along with 28 touchdowns. The 22-year-old has proven himself against top tier competition, by recording the most yards against any opponent throughout his career against college football powerhouse Oklahoma.
As if that wasn’t enough, Mims’s workout at the NFL Combine further solidified his athleticism. It was a performance that was reminiscent of DK Metcalf’s workout from a year prior. Weighing in at 6’3 and 207 pounds, Mims ran a 4.38 40 yard dash, tied for 4th best overall at the combine. Additionally, he also had the fastest three-cone drill out of all participants, clocking in at 6.66 seconds. Mims projects to step right into a starting role after the offseason departure of Robby Anderson, who went to the Panthers. He needs to work on using his athletic advantage to the best of his ability. If he can maximize his potential, Mims has all the traits to be a fantastic receiver in NFL for years to come.
Zach Baun, EDGE, Wisconsin to the Saints (3rd Round, 74th overall)
Given that Zach Baun was a borderline first-round pick coming into Day 1 of the draft, it was astonishing to see him fall to the early 3rd round. He did notify all teams that he tested positive for a diluted sample; however, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, under the NFL’s new CBA, this would not count as a strike against him. Despite all of that and his undeveloped skills as a true pass rusher, Baun could prove to be a top 10 player in this draft.
After redshirting his first year, he amassed 30.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks over his next three years. In 2019 alone, he had 19.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks, both good for top 10 in the country. He is a violent tackler and has demonstrated excellent coverage skills for a linebacker. Saints current linebackers Demario Davis and Kiko Alonso both will be on the wrong side of thirty years old when the season starts. This gives Baun a good chance to begin his development into the linebacker of the future for the Saints this upcoming season.
Josh Jones, OT, Houston to the Cardinals (3rd Round, 72nd overall)
Considered to be the fifth tackle after the big five (Thomas, Wills, Becton, and Wirfs) and a borderline first-round pick, Jones was selected as the seventh tackle off the board. Part of that may be due to his lack of length, meaning some teams may convert him to guard. However, his tape as an offensive tackle is very solid.
As a team captain and four-year starter at Houston, Jones flashed good pass protection along with the athleticism to get to the second level in the run game. At 6’5 and 319 pounds, he demonstrates remarkable balance and body control. Jones should have a good chance of beating out current Cardinals right tackle Marcus Gilbert. Gilbert has suffered from injuries his entire career with the Steelers. His injuries followed him to the Cardinals as he was placed on IR due to a torn ACL before the season started and subsequently missed the entire year. Jones projects to have a big role in protecting quarterback Kyler Murray for years to come.
AJ Epenesa, DE, Iowa to the Bills (2nd Round, 54th overall):
In a class with defensive ends Chase Young and Klavon Chaisson, two of the most talented edge rushers in recent memory, Epenesa slid out of the first round. However, it cannot be ignored that Epenesa’s talent is worthy of a first-round pick. Throughout his three year career in Iowa, Epenesa had 36 tackles for loss and 26.5 sacks. He has a varied skill set that allows him to win in many different ways and has an astonishingly quick first step for a man who is 6’5 and 275 pounds.
Epenesa’s 5.04 40 yard dash, tied for 10th-worst amongst all defensive lineman, may have scared teams off who don’t feel like he has the top-end speed to win against NFL tackles. However, that doesn’t project to be an issue as he utilizes his technique as a pass rusher in such a way that it doesn’t require him to have that elite edge rusher speed. Some tackles went as far as to say that Epenesa was at the same level of difficulty to block as generational talent Chase Young. Epenesa will presumably start the season behind veteran edge rusher Jerry Hughes on the depth chart. However, Hughes will be 32-year-olds once the season begins, and his lackluster 4.5 sacks last season may not be enough to retain his job against the promising Epenesa.
Jacob Eason, QB, Washington to the Colts (5th Round, 122nd overall)
Quarterback Jacob Eason could have ended up with many different teams in the 2020 NFL Draft. However, getting drafted by the Indianapolis Colts was the best option for him since he’ll now get the opportunity to play under head coach Frank Reich. Eason started his collegiate career in Georgia, winning the starting job and throwing for upwards of 2,400 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first year. He was quickly displaced the next year by incoming freshman Jake Fromm, who was picked after Eason, going 167th overall to the Bills. However, Eason wasted no time, transferring to the Washington Huskies. He once again took the starting job and proceeded to perform even better than his time with the Bulldogs. He threw for 3,132 yards with 23 touchdowns and a 64.2% completion percentage, a number greatly improved to his 55% during his time at Georgia.
Eason’s frame and arm strength are elite, and he provides excellent poise in the pocket. He is not a threat to run the ball and struggles with throws outside the pocket, but his frame and arm talent make him too enticing to pass upon. He falls into a perfect situation in Indy as well. After the shocking retirement of former quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts traded for Jacoby Brisset. After three years and 0 division titles, the front office went out and grabbed Phillip Rivers from the Chargers, bringing him in on a one year, 25 million dollar deal.
Eason will benefit from not having to be rushed into action right away. Instead, he will be able to learn under a veteran like Rivers, who can teach him the ins and outs of the game. That way, when his number is called, he can feel confident in his ability to compete on the NFL level. Eason is a player to watch as his situation and physical talent suggest Indy may have found their franchise quarterback.