The stars of the 2020 NFL Draft will populate the first round in April. But the draft extends well beyond the first night, and some of the draft's biggest impact players are likely to stem from the middle rounds.
The first round of any draft should come with the expectation of a long-term starter. We all know it doesn't necessarily work out that way, but that's the standard.
The middle rounds of the draft? Those are the money rounds. Picking the right player for the right role in the middle of the draft can turn a lottery ticket into gold. An average drafter yields hits in the first round. A good drafter routinely produces hits on Day 2 of the draft too — and sometimes even on Day 3.
So with the value of the middle rounds in mind, who are some prospects who could make a push to be a big hit for their next team? Here are some standout prospects I've studied this week who I strongly feel are (or aren't) capable of being a booming investment.
STUD: Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton
Adam Trautman was a pleasant surprise when I plugged in his film. Trautman had a booming successful 2019 season — logging nearly 1,000 receiving yards and securing himself an invitation to the 2020 Senior Bowl. The tight end position is notorious for needing an "incubation period" when transitioning from the college level to the pros, no matter what level of competition they're coming from. Trautman may not be any different, but he also brings notable promise with his ability to fill all roles given how he physically dominated the competition at Dayton.
My summary from Trautman's draft profile:
"Trautman is an enticing small school prospect who checks the needed boxes to instill confidence that he will face a successful transition to the NFL level. Trautman has length, burst, dominant reps as a blocker, violent hands and the production you would expect from an NFL talent playing on the smaller competitive fields. Trautman will need time and patience, but he can be a seam busting tight end and red zone threat who can align in traditional alignments or flexed wide."
DUD: James Lynch, DL, Baylor
James Lynch is the most accomplished sack artist in Baylor's history. With that in mind, I was eager to dig into his tape and discover whether or not the production matched the skills on the field. With that said, I'm not certain where Lynch can hang his hat at the next level. His motor runs red hot and that's easy to appreciate. With his play strength, he'll be able to be a pest to blockers at the next level, but I didn't see the pass rush polish I'd hoped to see in looking for a starting role in the NFL.
I'm more comfortable pegging Lynch as a potential late-round target who can be a rotational player with time at the NFL level.
My summary from Lynch's draft profile:
"Lynch projects as a quality rotational defender at the NFL level. His college production is through the roof — but I'm not sold that he'll find translatable wins consistently moving forward as he faces NFL caliber blockers. Lynch wins with effort, some nifty hand fighting at first contact and thrived in an aggressive scheme — he'd be well suited to get reps in a gap penetration role, although his get-off my hinder his ability to find the splash plays he created at Baylor."
STUD: Darrynton Evans, RB, Appalachian State
Darrynton Evans was a super fun study. As a runner, he's like a pitcher — he varies his open-field burst (fastball) with patient running in the backfield and as he turns the corner (off-speed pitches) and routines sets up defenders to create big runs. That kind of nuance was so refreshing to see. Evans isn't a "big" running back, but he's got the savvy needed to be an effective runner at the pro level.
My summary from Evans' draft profile:
"Evans is one of the more exciting rushers in the 2020 NFL Draft. Evans showcases excellent field vision, short-area quickness and tempers his speeds like a pitcher to lull defenders to sleep before slamming on the gas for big gains on the ground. Evans did benefit from some massive holes at App State; so his vision consistency between the tackles is still a bit of a wildcard to his NFL projection. Love what he brings to wide/outside zone rushing offenses. Potential starter."
DUD: Reggie Floyd, S, Virginia Tech
Reggie Floyd entered this season on my radar as a potential mid-round prospect, but he experienced a down season in 2019. There's still a lot of booming hits on Floyd's tape — that's the good news. But I'm not sold on Floyd being an every-down player; he's at his best when he can flash and react to the football. His anticipation against both the pass and the run hasn’t seemed to take the needed steps forward as he has accrued more playing time, and so I'm of the opinion that he'll need to make his impact as a special teams player in the NFL.
My summary from Floyd's draft profile:
"Floyd projects as a depth player in the NFL. Floyd struggles with coverage skills and does not showcase the needed versatility to warrant consideration for a high snap role in the NFL. Floyd's best opportunity to showcase himself will come down to special teams, where he can serve as a kick coverage contributor and put his booming tackling skills to good use. Floyd will face a challenge finding a 53-man roster he can stick on and will likely need to find a niche on defense to do so."
STUD: Harrison Hand, DB, Temple
Harrison Hand transferred from Baylor and shined this past season at Temple. For some teams, he may be considered a cornerback. For others? He may be a safety. But one thing that's certain in either scenario? He's got the length and the physicality to make an impact with some more polish. Hand has the ability to drop the hammer and he's got some impressive flashes of instinct in shallow zones to challenge the football. I liked what I saw — and I'm in on Hand as an early Day 3 target.
My summary from Hand's draft profile:
"Hand is an intriguing early Day 3 option. Some teams will peg Hand as a safety due to some natural restrictions with his transitions in off coverage — but for Cover 3 heavy defenses Hand can be a booming presence to crash into the LOS and play run support. Whether he's a safety convert or a scheme-specific cornerback, there's starter potential here. He's savvy in shallow zones, he's got great length and he'll step up in support and smack you. Like his foundation to develop."