What if I told you that I could part the clouds of uncertainty that obscure tomorrow from today? Give you a fleeting glimpse into the future?
Well, I can't. Keep believing it if it'll make you read my CFB Futures column, but I'm just one step above dart-throwing in the dark.
That said, I've been doing this for a few years now, and while I can't exactly predict the future, I can tell you that the same tired storylines, same narrative arcs, and same evaluation crutches are utilized, year after year after year. Even as I watched prospects during the summer, I found myself remarking: "Oh, this'll be the guy they say X about," or "Everyone's going to act like they were first on Y prospect over the next few months."
So I wanted to take a stab at predicting some narratives that will inevitably dawn, as national media becomes more acquainted with players who are growing into new roles, over-estimated by current projections, or are just flat unknown at this point.
Just call me Nostradraftmus.
October 10th: Utah State Quarterback Jordan Love Ready To Shock The First Round
Okay, so let me first say this. I don't think Jordan Love will end up a first-round QB. He might! There's a chance! But I don't think he will.
What matters is that the chance is there, and because the chance is there, inflating that chance to a critical mass for the sake of clicks...well, that's the honeytrap that we writers can never avoid.
Love -- currently the fourth QB on the TDN Big Board, and third among NFL executives recently polled by Daniel Jeremiah -- is more than just a toolsy summer darling. With excellent touch to the intermediate levels and a great sense of vision and timing when attacking zone spacing, Love regularly elevates his weapons by hitting them in stride, protecting them from big hits, and giving them advantageous chances on jump balls down the field. He isn't the most developed downfield passer in the class, and regularly discards deep safeties from his mental processing with audacious indifference -- but he can execute an offense on time and with accuracy, much like Georgia QB Jake Fromm, while bringing better physical tools to the table.
Love's pushing that second tier of quarterbacks, which exists behind Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon's Justin Herbert. Both are bonafide first-rounders barring catastrophe in terms of injury or off-field conduct. But the NFL is rarely sated with just two quarterbacks in the first round, especially with the valuable fifth-year option evaporating after Pick 32. Love is nowhere near the favorite for QB3 -- not yet at least -- but after a strong opening to the season and some more national attention for his production, expect NFL buzzing about Love to increase, and subsequently lofty predictions to follow.
For my money, Love is closer to the Cole McDonald/Jacob Eason tier of quarterbacks than he is to Fromm, though he's clearly a notch above those players as well. I had him in my preseason Top-5 at the position, and I'm fine with that for now. But Love is the name most likely to rise in this class, and I don't think it will take long to see the ascension begin.
November 15th: NFC Personnel Executive: "This CB Class Rivals 2017"
In the early goings of 2020 evaluation, you've likely heard exultations of the QB, RB, and WR classes -- each is stronger than the 2019 class that proceeded it, and with QB and RB specifically, the deficit is large.
However, it's worth noting that the fantasy community skews attention onto those position groups. Simply put, significantly more work is done on underclassmen running backs and wide receivers than is done on defensive tackles and corners, so when we get into the preseason scouting for a new draft class, the body of preexisting work sheds disproportionate attention onto the offensive skill position players.
So it's easier to speak with some authority on those particular positions. But a deep dive into the 2020 cornerback class bears an evident truth: this group is as solid as we've seen in a long time.
We're guaranteed two blue-chip senior declarations, as UVA's Bryce Hall and LSU's Kristian Fulton both returned to school despite early-round consideration in the 2019 class. The top senior talent doesn't end there, as Alabama's Trevon Diggs, TCU's Jeff Gladney, and Michigan's Lavert Hill are all plus talents with Top-100 -- maybe even Top-50 selections -- written all over them. Don't be shocked when Diggs starts pushing Round 1 after a dominant year for the Tide.
The underclassmen, while harder to bank on, really inform the potential of this 2020 group. Stanford's Paulson Adebo headlines the group as a Top-5 player on my board, while Jeffery Okudah (Ohio State), C.J. Henderson (Florida), A.J. Terrell (Clemson), and Jaylon Johnson (Utah) all enter the national scope with Round 1 potential as they grow into their second or third year as starters.
The 2017 class saw five corners selected in Round 1: Marshon Lattimore, Marlon Humphrey, Adoree' Jackson, Gareon Conley, and Tre'Davious White. Four of those five have already panned out nicely for their teams, while Conley remains a question mark given spotty health in his first two seasons -- when on the field, he's had the flashes. Beyond that group, the depth -- 18 corners went in the first 101 picks -- truly made the 2017 group an unprecedented classes of cover men.
But with timely underclassmen declarations, this 2019 group should have the strength to go five-deep in the first round, and again put more than 15 players in the first three rounds. Keep an eye on early sleepers like Trajan Bandy (Florida), Jaron Bryant (Fresno State), and Myles Bryant (Washington) as nationally-silent players who have more than enough talent to sneak into that Top-100.
Quick Hitters For The Road
December: Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace Pushes Into WR Top-5
February: Troubled but Talented: Miami EDGE Trevon Hill Puts NFL Evaluators In Tough Spot
March: Henry Ruggs III breaks Combine 40-yard dash record; AFC Executive: "Lock for first round."
April: The Draft Network sets record for NFL Draft coverage (we'll write that one, I'm sure of it)