Late Risers You Have To Watch Before 2020 NFL Draft

Photo: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Have you watched any Van Jefferson this year? How about Matt Hennessy, Justin Madubuike or Terrell Burgess?

There are some great players in the 2020 NFL Draft class; if you've only watched the top prospects and haven't worked your way down to the second tier at each position, you're missing out on a deep group. I'd encourage you to go watch those Day 2 picks, even if your team doesn't draft them, they've got exciting film.

If you've already watched them? Well, congrats, you're with family and now in the deep pits of Day 3, where plenty of backups and fringe roster players reside. It can be a daunting challenge that many don't take on, and accordingly, miss the real diamonds in the rough: players taken in the back half of the draft who end up on a roster for five, 10 or 15 years. They aren't always starters but they matter a fair deal.

Here are four players I've watched in April who have at the very least exciting film, and at best, they're intriguing early Day 3 picks with upside to take snaps in sub-packages and rotate with starters. 

Casey Toohill, EDGE, Stanford

It's not enough to say that Casey Toohill is a poor man's Zack Baun; he's a destitute man's Zack Baun but that's still a quality player to have on a depth chart because of the various roles he can fill. Toohill was on-ball more than Baun was but does have good examples of buzzing the flats or sinking underneath curls from both on- and off-ball alignments.

Toohill is a better pass-rusher than expected at first glance; he doesn't have a great length or strength profile but uses his hands well to soften the edge and has good explosiveness up the arc to force quarterbacks off their spot and into the teeth of the pocket. He wouldn't be a high sack player even in a starting role but will serve well as a gadget pass-rush/blitzer on late downs who can still drop in coverage and deny a hot route. 

Toohill reminds me of Peter Kalambayi — another Stanford outside linebacker with coverage drop ability — and projects as an early special teamer who will deservedly hang out at the bottom of the roster.

James Morgan, QB, Florida International

It's important to watch James Morgan, especially if he ends up in your division or on your team. If anyone's likely to have a Gardner Minshew-like rookie performance as a late Day 3 pick, it's Morgan.

That's not to say Morgan is like Minshew as a passer; he isn't. Minshew is a brisk pocket jackrabbit with a quick trigger and average arm. Morgan has an elongated delivery with an occasionally hitchy release, a tendency to hang around in bad pockets and a God-fearing howitzer on his right shoulder. Morgan makes all arm throws that nobody in this class, save for Justin Herbert, can dream of, and at times is even too aggressive attacking tight downfield windows with screaming velocity.

Morgan won't put together a consistent passing offense, much like Minshew didn't, but if he ends up in a spot starting situation, a play-action heavy approach will let him rain passes down the field and string together explosive plays to keep an offense afloat.

Mykal Walker, LB, Fresno State

I'm still disappointed to see the lack of hype for Mykal Walker. Every year we anticipate hype for undersized linebackers with silky and explosive movement skills who have enough toughness to hang among the skyscrapers of the trenches. He projects well to the overhang/WILL role that requires hybrid players.

But in a year where Jeremy Chinn, Isaiah Simmons and Kyle Dugger are all grabbing headlines as hybrid safety/linebackers, it has been quiet for Walker. No matter. I'll gladly take a flier on Walker on Day 3 and be guaranteed a quality special-teamer as he develops into a defined role on defense. Walker should be able to play in sub-packages early as a dime linebacker that presents quality coverage ability while still be able to handle the run.

There's only 2018 film cut up on YouTube, but his performance was still strong during his first season at Fresno State.

Reggie Robinson II, CB, Tulsa

Reggie Robinson II's film was a delight to stumble on in the dreary doldrums of April scouting. He has some serious talent.

Robinson is a heavy-hitting cornerback with NFL-caliber size, strength and density. He loves to deny routes at the line of scrimmage, throwing aggressive and reckless punches to leverage contact into the sideline to immediately cancel release moves and disrupt route timing. Robinson is rough around the edges but has the necessary size and length to win on the outside.

It's the transitions at his size that are really exciting. He has really loose hips when he settles his weight and retains his base to change direction; improved technique and risk management will immediately boost his rate of staying connected, avoiding penalties and making plays on the football. Robinson is a Day 3 pick because he will struggle starting in Year 1, but his Year 2 and 3 projection are quality if he takes to coaching.

Written By:

Benjamin Solak

Senior CFB Writer

Benjamin Solak is a Senior College Football Writer for The Draft Network and co-host of the Locked On NFL Draft podcast.

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