The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine has come and gone — and one quarterback in particular has left draft experts in disagreement. Utah State product Jordan Love earned some buzz after a solid showing at the league’s annual pre-draft event, but his top achievement after a week of interviews and drills may be the impression he left on ESPN’s Todd McShay.
Love made the biggest leap of any player in McShay’s latest NFL mock draft, bursting out of a potential second-round landing spot and into the Chargers’ lineup with the sixth overall pick. That rise is the product of a combine that saw the former Aggie showcase strong athleticism and, more importantly, make big-armed throws in a stadium filled with NFL scouts.
.@USUFootball QB @Jordan3Love makes it look effortless.— NFL (@NFL) February 28, 2020
: #NFLCombine on @NFLNetwork pic.twitter.com/n1oxH5Beru
McShay is firmly planted on the Love hype train. He even wagered $5,000 against colleague Mel Kiper — to be donated to the Jimmy V Fund — that Love will be selected before Oregon star Justin Herbert. This was in contrast to SB Nation draft analyst Dan Kadar, who actually dropped Love from the 13th pick to a landing spot with the Patriots at No. 23 in his latest mock.
Herbert had a monster performance in Indianapolis and is currently slated to be the third quarterback off the board in Kadar’s projection (No. 5 overall, behind Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa). McShay isn’t as smitten; he has the former Duck and reigning Rose Bowl MVP lasting until the 13th pick to the Colts.
Love isn’t the only player to watch his stock fluctuate at the combine. Here’s who McShay sees rising up his draft board this spring — and who may be in danger of falling out of the first round:
Who else boosted their stock at the combine?
McShay’s top five remained unchanged before Love crashed his party. Only one other new player was able to break into his projected top 10: Louisville offensive tackle Mekhi Becton.
Becton turned heads by running a 5.1-second 40-yard dash, setting a combine record for players weighing more than 350 pounds (he came in at 364 pounds during official measurements earlier in the week).
Mekhi Becton running a 5.1 40 at 364 pounds had Mike Mayock shook @BigTicket73 @UofLFootball pic.twitter.com/lqUHctC38E— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) February 28, 2020
That stunning display was enough to make Becton McShay’s No. 8 pick — the first offensive lineman off the board, to the Cardinals. That’s two spots ahead of where Kadar predicts he’ll land; he’s got Becton as his third-highest OT (behind Alabama’s Jedrick Wills and Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs) and the 10th overall pick for the Browns.
The combine was also kind to playmakers from the SEC. Georgia’s De’Andre Swift stood out among running backs in McShay’s draft despite being overshadowed by Jonathan Taylor in Indianapolis. Swift is projected to go 14th overall — the only first-round RB in the bunch — to a Buccaneers team in dire need of a lead runner. LSU WR Justin Jefferson, (No. 21, Eagles) and Alabama WR Henry Ruggs III (No. 15, Broncos) also made climbs of at least six spots in McShay’s mock after showcasing the speed needed to be deep threats in the NFL.
They help make up a thick core of skill players in the middle of the round — the ESPN expert has seven receivers or running backs selected between picks 11 and 24. Kadar expects a similar run midway through the first and has six wideouts selected between the 12th and 24th picks, though he doesn’t see any tailbacks on his board on Day 1.
McShay’s latest draft featured more fresh faces beyond Love. The Utah State QB was one of eight Day 1 newcomers in his single-round mock but the only one to break into the top 20. Behind him were surging talents like Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk (No. 24, Saints), Penn State edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos (No. 27, Seahawks), and Texas A&M defensive tackle Justin Madubuike (No. 32, Chiefs).
For Kadar, players like Aiyuk, TCU wideout Jalen Reagor, and Georgia tackle Isaiah Wilson each made enough of an impact to earn a spot at the tail end of his first round after failing to make the cut on his previous mock draft.
Whose combine struggles forced their stock to drop?
Wills may have remained a top-five pick for Kadar, but he went from the first offensive tackle selected to the third in McShay’s mock through no real fault of his own. Wills put together a good, if overlooked combine that saw him rank second among OLs in vertical leap and sixth in the 40 (5.05 seconds). Unfortunately for him, the rise of Love, Becton, and Wirfs left him to fall from the sixth pick to 10th.
South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who didn’t work out last week due to a nagging knee injury, also saw his stock tumble. Though his measurements — 6’5, 324 pounds, nearly 35-inch arms — are ideal for an interior lineman, he dropped out of McShay’s top 10 to No. 19. There, he could be a major bargain for the Raiders (Kadar moved him up from 16th to 14th for the Buccaneers in his latest mock).
Iowa pass rusher A.J. Epenesa (No. 23, Patriots), Georgia OT Andrew Thomas (No. 29, Titans), and LSU safety Grant Delpit (No. 31, 49ers) all saw significant slides after lackluster combine showings, though they each remained Day 1 picks.
The arrival of eight new first-rounders meant eight players had to dip to the second round or later. That includes USC OT Austin Jackson, who went from the 20th pick to Day 2 thanks to this year’s rising tide of blockers. Other players like Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun, Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, and Colorado WR Laviska Shenault Jr. may also have to wait a night to hear their names called in Las Vegas.
Kadar’s biggest sliders included players like Alabama defenders Trevon Diggs and Terrell Lewis, and Boise State edge rusher Curtis Weaver, all of whom fell out of his first round.
There’s still plenty of time for players to either boost their stock or fall back to Earth before the 2020 NFL Draft. Each of these players will have the chance to either back up their performances or rewrite their narratives at their respective pro days.
Still, it’s clear who benefitted from working out on a national stage at the combine. For McShay, Love’s a clear No. 1 — followed by Becton and a handful of prospects who proved they’re NFL-caliber athletes in Indianapolis.