Transfers With NFL Draft Potential In 2020

Photo: © Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

On the latest episode of Locked On NFL Draft (holla!), Trev and I discussed some intriguing 2020 options at QB as we skim through the upcoming class. Names included? Shea Patterson, Brian Lewekre, Jake Fromm, and Jacob Eason.

If you lived under a rock until last year, you'd recognize three of those names -- the last one, Eason, didn't take a single snap in 2018. He was ineligible, having transferred from Georgia to Washington in 2018, when Fromm took his starting job.

That little detail got me wondering: what transfers, either ineligible from 2018 or immediately eligible for 2019, have NFL Draft aspirations with their new squads? I grabbed nine players, broken up by category, to highlight some players we are perhaps forgotten or under-appreciated due to their recent transience.

The Big Names

Jacob Eason, QB: Georgia → Washington

As I alluded to at the top, Eason is a huge name to watch this season. The decision to move on from him in favor of Fromm was not a consensus choice, as Eason has more desirable physical tools.

Reports from camp indicate that Eason may not yet be comfortable in Washington's system, but Washington won a Pac-12 title with Jake Browning under center, and Eason is a markedly better player. If he settles in, the Huskies' surrounding cast could make him shine, and spark a playoff run.

Important to note: Eason has two years of eligibility remaining, but if he's able to graduate in December, he will be a candidate for the all star circuit.

Kelly Bryant, QB: Clemson → Missouri

I don't know just how much NFL Draft potential Bryant has shown from a traits perspective, but everything about Bryant as a competitor and leader screams for NFL attention. Bryant's athletic ability and play demeanor alone will make him of interest for NFL teams, particularly those who already employ mobile quarterbacks.

Missouri's new system under OC Derek Dooley bore fruit for Broncos rookie QB Drew Lock, in terms of improved footwork and rhythm -- perhaps the same will be true of Bryant, who must develop as a passer to make noise in the early round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Bryant lost the starting job last season to the freshman phenom and eventual national champion Trevor Lawrence. But because he only accrued four games of play, he is immediately eligible to play in 2019 per the NCAA's new transfer rules.

Juwan Johnson, WR: Penn State → Oregon

A popular breakout candidate for the 2018 CFB season, Johnson failed to deliver on sky-high expectations as the primary target for the Nittany Lions. He suffered a lower body injury, struggled with drops, and simply couldn't uncover regularly for QB Trace McSorely -- who, admittedly, isn't known for his accuracy.

Johnson graduated and is immediately eligible for 2019, though his stock is in total limbo, with so much 2017 promise evaporated in the blink of a disappointing 2018 season. He does get a much better QB in Oregon's Justin Herbert, and will likely remain the primary receiving option in Oregon.

If he can't produce here, he can't produce in the NFL.

The Unknowns

Jaelan Phillips, EDGE: UCLA → Miami*

A disappointing career for Phillips in UCLA: only 11 games played through two seasons, both of which ended with injury. Phillips medically retired from UCLA after concussions ended his 2018 campaign, but now he makes his way to Miami -- along with a slew of other transfers -- and is immediately eligible in 2019 under the four-game redshirt rule.

Phillips was only flashy at UCLA, his inconsistency likely a product of spotty playing time and little development. It remains to be seen if he will start for the 'Canes, but if he can remain healthy, players with his talent -- Phillips was the No. 3 overall recruit in 2017 -- always find a way onto the field.

*There are conflicting reports on whether or not Phillips will medically participate in the 2019 NFL season.

Demetris Robertson, WR: Cal → Georgia

I'm kinda fudging it with Robertson, who transferred from Cal in 2018 but was immediately eligible for the 2018 season. The Savannah native ended up in Georgia with Kirby Smart, who had recruited him hard in 2016 -- Robertson instead ended up in Cal's Air Raid offense that vanished after Robertson's freshman season, when HC Sonny Dykes was fired.

But Robertson barely played in 2018, as the Goergia WR depth chart had a ton of talent in front of him, and he was only granted eligibility in August, right before the season began. Robertson lost most of the 2017 season to injury and essentially redshirted 2018, so we haven't seen his electric play since that strong 2016 season for the Golden Bears.

I'm fascinated to see what he has in the tank -- and apparently Georgia is loving what they're seeing in practice.

Hunter Johnson, QB: Clemson → Northwestern

Remember this guy? I don't, really -- and that's because Johnson only threw 27 balls during his freshman season at Clemson. That's what'll happen, when you're going up against Kelly Bryant. (Of course, Bryant eventually fell to Lawrence, as we detailed above. Must suck to have multiple 5-star QBs to fight over the starting job, huh, Clemson fans?)

Johnson was the No. 2 QB recruit in 2017, and is the highest ranked QB to ever play for the Northwestern program. Johnson redshirted last season, but that didn't stop the Wildcats and Eagles rookie QB Clayton Thorson from winning the Big 10 West -- with Johnson in play, the Wildcats figure to have a more dynamic offense and make another run at the Big 10 title.

What does Johnson have in terms of pro potential? We don't really know. On the list of unknowns, he's the most intriguing.

The Sleepers

Trevon Hill, EDGE: Virginia Tech → Miami

The team here at TDN near lost their minds, watching that early-season Virginia Tech v. Florida State match-up and seeing No. 94 in white absolutely wreck the Seminole offensive line. We had a post up on the guy by the next day.

You don't find players that can bend the edge as effortlessly as Hill behind every door -- but HC Justin Fuente eventually dismissed Hill from the Hokies program following an Old Dominion game that Virginia Tech disappointingly lost. Hill left an impression on the Virginia Tech coaching staff that he lacked maturity and self-control, but he'll have an opportunity to reset the narrative, now that he's graduated and transferred to Miami for his final season of eligibility.

Hill is a name to star. Talent almost always wins out.

KJ Osborn, WR: Buffalo → Miami

Yet another Miami transfer! Our third on this list, which doesn't include ex-Ohio State QB Tate Martell and the retention of WR Jeff Thomas, who tried to transfer to Illinois. New HC Manny Diaz won the transfer market this year, gang.

Osborn is impossible to miss, when watching 2018 Buffalo film for QB Tyree Jackson and WR Anthony Johnson -- and he was only a touch behind Johnson on most production measures as well. Osborn is an explosive route runner with great vision as a ball-carrier, and led the MAC last season in punt return yards accordingly.

Osborn has graduated and is immediately eligible, and will compete with the aforementioned Thomas for the lion's share of Miami's targets. With Martell eligible for 2019, the improvement in Osborn's QB play could spell a sudden rise in draft stock.

Riley Neal, QB: Ball State → Vanderbilt

Neal had a bit of a cult following during the 2019 NFL Draft cycle, but I think he wisely chose to grad transfer to a Power 5 program and produce at a tougher competition level. Neal diced up MAC defenses over 34 career games with the Cardinals, but needs a tougher test to prove to NFL teams he's worthy of an early selection.

He couldn't have landed in a better spot. Vanderbilt returns some stellar weapons on offense, including TE Jared Pinkney (good), RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn (very good), and WR Kalija Lipscomb (really, really good). Neal has the weapons to succeed, even against SEC defenses, if he truly has the NFL goods.

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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